We’ve got a long road ahead of us. Read this article when you’ve almost run out of things to say.
Aren’t you tired of talking about this virus? I am tired of feeling tired of talking about it. But at the same time, it’s hard to stop. The tests, the numbers, the new reality of take-out only. It’s such a jumble of speculation and empty grocery store shelves that talking about anything else just seems like a waste of time.
But we’re all cooped up at home with each other for the indefinite future, which means we’ll need some fresh material. So I wanted to take a minute to share some of the non-corona things that have been on my mind this week.
Read on, and then at some point, when you’re about to open your mouth to bring up that same news headline for the tenth time, talk about these things instead.
You won’t win any awards for genius or reach an elevated state of consciousness. But at least nobody will want to smack you for repeating that same news headline for the fourteenth time.
Maybe you don’t need this article yet. But you will. So bookmark it, save it, print it out for Grandma. Desperate times are ahead.
Topic 1: Let’s start things off by talking about the Elegant Sandwich Loaf Recipe from 1st Edition Printing of Betty Crocker’s New Picture Cookbook.
Spending all this time at home has me thinking about food a lot. This morning, I pulled the old Betty Crocker off the shelf and flipped through the pages. There are a lot of weird recipes in it, but there was one that just really knocked my socks off.
It’s a recipe for an Elegant Sandwich Loaf and I’ll do my best to explain what it is. You slice a loaf of bread horizontally into four long, flat slices. Then you lay one on a tray and spread half a cup of soft butter over it. On top of the butter, you smear a shrimp and egg salad filling.
Layer the next bread slice on top and cover it with another half cup of butter. On top of that, smear another filling made with cream cheese, pineapple and pecans.
The third layer of bread goes on next and gets smeared with another half cup of butter. This time, the filling is made with bacon, mayonnaise, chicken and pimento all sloshed together.
Top with the last bread slice and then ‘frost’ the whole thing with cream cheese and sour cream whipped together.
The decorate the whole loaf with olives, sliced almonds, radishes or anything your heart desires.
Refrigerate, slice, and congratulate yourself on being so elegant.
All day I have been thinking about this sandwich loaf. I have never laid eyes on such a food. We give these little sandwich shops such credit for putting avocado slices or some fancy mustard on a sandwich, but they have nothing that can hold a candle to this monstrosity of saturated fat and flavor.
I wanted to try to make it today, but when I got to the grocery store, all that was left were gluten free hot-dog buns. So I’m left to only talk about it and wonder why we so rarely make sandwiches with 2 full cups of butter these days!
Topic 2: Let’s follow the dairy product thread on to the origins of cheese.
I grew up in a small town with a population of less than 600. But at it’s peak, my town was home to three different cheese factories!
If I made a cheese pyramid with all the people I know, at the bottom would be the people who love cheese with abandon. This includes most people I know and pretty much everyone I really like. In the middle are the people who low-key enjoy cheese but try not to eat too much. Above that are the lactose intolerant people who apologetically can’t eat cheese. And at the top is this one guy I know named Joe who genuinely thinks cheese is gross.
It’s funny because most of these cheese-loving folks actually have no idea how cheese is made.
Here are the basics: it all starts with milk. Milk is a mixture of water, proteins, sugars and fats that is the perfect food for babies. When babies swallow milk, it mixes with enzymes that cause it to curdle, or form chunks. This is why babies drink milk but puke chunks.
Those chunks (sorry) are basically cheese. Long ago before glass jars and plastic, people used to carry milk around in calf stomachs. They started to observe that the leftover enzymes in the calf stomachs turned liquid milk into a solid that could be preserved much longer than the milk.
Those solids were cheeses, and although the process is significantly different today, the principle is the same.
So while you’re trapped in your kitchen enjoying a homemade pizza, you might want to bring up the fact that the cheese on it is actually partially digested baby food.
At least you’re not talking about Corona!
Topic 3: Let’s follow the farm animal theme and talk about chicken teeth.
When I was a kid and I asked for something that was out of the question, my dad would say, “Do chickens have teeth?”
I never really thought about it until I was dissecting a chicken as part of an animal science class in college.
You probably know that chickens don’t have teeth. But they can still ‘chew’ their food. Otherwise, they couldn’t digest it and release the nutrients from it.
They do it with their gizzard. A gizzard is a shiny, muscular bag that your grandma might have used to make gravy.
But it’s also a hollow muscular sac that squeezes and flexes as food moves through it. Even more fascinating, chickens swallow little pebbles and rocks that get stored in the gizzard. That way, as food particles move through it, they get ground up into tiny, digestible particles by the grinding action of the small rocks.
So no, chickens don’t have teeth. But yes, they can still chew. So now can I have a pony, dad?
Topic 4: Speaking of birds, WTF is up with the Cuckoo bird?
A cuckoo — yes, like the clock — is a bird that strategically lays eggs in other birds’ nests. She does it at just the right time so her baby hatches just before the other babies do.
When the cuckoo baby hatches, in an instant, it starts working to guarantee it’s chances of success. It uses it’s ugly little skin-wings to push all the other eggs out of the nest.
Then the cuckoo baby mimics the would-be cries of the now-dead baby birds that should have rightly inhabited the nest. The parents, driven by the sound of the cries, fetch endless amounts of food for the cuckoo baby.
The baby cuckoo grows quickly — often even larger than the parents that are feeding it. Even so, they run themselves ragged trying to keep this big, fat, imposter baby full. Meanwhile, the cuckoo mama is off having cocktails and looking to get laid again so she can drop some eggs in somebody else’s nest.
Evil genius or brilliant reproductive strategy?
Topic 5: Speaking of feeding needy children, let’s circle back and talk about where all that food goes.
Many animals — especially complex ones like mammals — are basically a tube that food passes through. On it’s way through, nutrients are extracted and used for energy, and then the waste is passed out of the body as poop.
We generally try to think about, look at and talk about poop as little as possible. But considering how attached we are to toilet paper right now, maybe it’s worth exploring the true nature of poop a little more.
You can look at the shape of an animal’s poop to figure out the shape of its large intestine. Cats have a short, smooth large intestine and their poop looks like long, skinny tubes. The large intestine of a bunny is riddled with little holes and pockets, hence their tiny, pellet-shaped poops.
Generally, carnivores eat food that is easier to digest, so it passes through the body more quickly, resulting in smoother poops.
Herbivores eat plants, which are much harder to digest. Their food travels slowly through the digestive system, so they often have lots of diversions and cul-de-sacs in their large intestine which gives them more time to get nutrients out of the food.
What does this mean for you? If you take a look at the Bristol Stool Chart, you’ll see that there are descriptions for all kinds of human feces. Our large intestine is somewhat lumpy. If our poop passes through it slowly, it gets packed tightly into the little pockets and we have lumpy, little nut poop.
On the flip side, poop that travels quickly through our intestine has a smooth shape, or in the case of diarrhea, no shape at all. If you’re running low on toilet paper, you may want to look in Betty Crocker for some new, cheesy recipes that will put your poops back in that low-number, easy wipe range.
Which of course, brings me back to Corona. I can’t stop talking about it, remember?
When I called my mom at the start of this whole fiasco, she put her sunny spin on it, as usual.
“If we’re going to experience a global pandemic,” she explained, “at least it’s not one whose symptoms are diarrhea and vomiting…that would be much worse.