Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Facts, New or Not

Salt, cameos, food labeling, tomatillos, child prodigies, and birds. What can I say? I'm curious, and I hope you are, too, as you read through this latest assortment of subjects for this newest edition of "Facts, New or Not". 

✦ We all know about throwing salt over our shoulders, right? But sleeping on a bed of salt? Eating on a salt table? No fooling. Bolivia not only has the distinct honor of claiming the world's greatest expanse of salt flats (and a huge store of lithium, half the world's supply, this article indicates); it also offers adventuresome travelers their own guest accommodations. . . in salt. Go here to read about and see photographs of the unique "Hotel de Sal". For more images, go here.

✦ The value of cameos — all the rage during the 16th, 18th, and 19th Centuries — is based on rarity, and not age, according to this informative and illustrated DesignSponge post, "Past & Present: Cameos + DIY Project & Cocktail Recipe". 

✦ If prunes are now called "dried plums", can you guess what "low erucic acid rapeseed oil" became,  thanks to a labeling change allowed by the Food and Drug Administration? You'll find your answer toward the end of this article articulating the reasoning for the current drive to rename high-fructose corn syrup.

✦ Tomatillos are related to the cape gooseberry, and are not small green tomatoes; when you remove their husks, you'll find they are sticky. Most people will agree they make up a mean salsa verde. ("Cooking with a Mexican Favorite, the Tomatillo", The New York Times' Recipes for Health) So, you might wonder, from what does the name tomato derive? According to this article, the word comes from tomatl, a generic Nahuatl term for "globose fruits or berries which have many seeds, watery flesh and are sometimes enclosed in a membrane."

✦ Until now, I wouldn't have recognized his name on a list of child prodigies. He's Gregory Smith, born in 1989, who at age 12 was nominated for the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize (he also was nominated in 2003 and 2004) and at age 13 graduated with honors from Virginia's Randolph College (formerly, Randolph-Macon Woman's College) with a B.S. in mathematics (plus minors in history and biology). His too-numerous-to-mention accomplishments he says he owes to "a special gift which gives me the incredible capability to learn and retain what I have learned." (My thanks to Robert McDowell at Three Intentions whose post "Prodigies" made me curious enough to click his links.)

✦ I wouldn't expect anyone reading here to conjure up personal memories of messages being sent by passenger pigeon. Any number of you, however, may be familiar with novelist James Fenimore Cooper's take on the noble bird, whose character Natty Bumppo predicted its extinction, and the fascination the animal evoked in naturalist and artist John James Audubon and naturalist and novelist Gene Stratton-Porter. These individuals' wonder at the creature is detailed here, along with a nod to "Martha", the last passenger pigeon in captivity (she died in 1914), and environmental blogger Tina Butler at MongaBay, who writes here about the bird's role in "environmental interference" and spread of disease.

6 comments:

Kathleen said...

I love your facts! Thank you! Also, it's rarity and not age that determines the value of books, too!

shrinkingthecamel.com said...

Maureen, you are truly full of surprises! THanks for these interesting tidbits - I have a feeling that I will be referring to one or more of these at an upcoming dinner party! In fact, these are the perfect ice-breakers for occassions such as that! People love to talk about these curiosities. Thanks for the factoids!

katdish said...

So, those aren't little tomatoes? They make a great green sauce, that's all I know.

And my dad graduated from Randolf Macon college, but it was an all men's college. Small world.

Brian Miller said...

randolph college is just up the street, cool story though...wonder if i could train a pigeon to blog...

S. Etole said...

you've piqued my curiosity ...

Joyceann Wycoff said...

These are always a delight and stimulated a piece for my blog tomorrow. Thanks!