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High From A Holiday Spice?

Nov 27 2014 @ 7:55pm

Deborah Blum separates fact from fiction when it comes to having fun with nutmeg:

In the 1965 book, “The Autobiography of Malcolm X,” the activist describes purchasing it from inmates in a South Carolina prison, concealed in matchboxes, and stirring it into water. “A penny matchbox full of nutmeg had the kick of three or four reefers,” he wrote.

Toxicologists say that description is somewhat misleading, an overly romantic account of nutmeg’s generally unpleasant effects. It takes a fair amount of nutmeg — two tablespoons or more — before people start exhibiting symptoms. These can include an out-of-body sensation, but the most common are intense nausea, dizziness, extreme dry mouth, and a lingering slowdown of normal brain function. Dr. Gussow said nutmeg experimenters have compared it to a two-day hangover.

“People have told me that it feels like you are encased in mud,” said Dr. Edward Boyer, professor of emergency medicine and chief of the division of medical toxicology at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. “You’re not exactly comatose, but you feel really sluggish. And your remembrance of events during this time period is incomplete at best.”

Dreher actually tried it:

Teenage Home Experiment here. Let’s say you are a 17-year-old boy living in a residential high school in Natchitoches, Louisiana, and you and your friends are bored out of your minds.

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Thank God, Or Not

Nov 27 2014 @ 6:29pm

Emma Green contemplates why “secular, Thanksgiving-flavored gratitude seems so fuzzy”:

Religions from Christianity to Hinduism to Wicca all emphasize the importance of thankfulness, especially as a form of prayer. This is because they rely on the premise of an other, some sort of non-human being that has some sort of control or influence in the world who you can thank for the world and the good things in it.

“One of the things that’s really interesting about the human mind is that we seem to want to see agency in the world, almost intuitively,” said Michael McCullough, a psychologist at the University of Miami. “The mind really craves an explanation for the good and the bad, in terms of agency.” By “agency,” McCullough means something along the lines of “a force that can act in the world and cause events to happen.” In crude sociological terms, people give thanks to the forces that act in the universe—God, or god, or gods—as a bid for cosmic benevolence, whether that means making it rain or preserving a loved one’s health or bringing a baby into the world. But these thanks are also an implicit metaphysical claim: Humans owe their existence, their longevity, and perhaps even their daily fortunes to a being beyond ourselves.

While expressing gratitude for the good in her life, Kate Cohen confesses that “as an atheist, I don’t ever ascribe these gracious gifts to God; I never believed a supernatural being to be the source of the bounties that I enjoy”:

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So, Friendsgiving Is A Thing

Nov 27 2014 @ 5:01pm

Kay Steiger explains that she and her pals inaugurated a tradition of non-family get-togethers “because we all thought we could make better versions of Thanksgiving food and it’s more fun to get drunk with your friends anyway”:

[F]or all the cleverer recipes and the fancier food, what actually matters is getting everyone together for another year – which was the point of the family Thanksgivings we all either couldn’t or didn’t want to go back to our hometowns for. We aren’t related by blood, but we’re still a family.

The idea of Friendsgiving isn’t particularly unique to us, but it is quietly radical in its way …. The conservative view is that your second family starts with a marriage between one man and one woman, preferably long before the ages we all our now – and, until then, your original family Thanksgiving should take top priority. But creating – and celebrating – families with the people you like rather than the people you might feel stuck with provides a lot of people more reason to give thanks.

But not everyone is so Friendsgiving-friendly. Foster Kamer insists it’s “the ne plus ultra of dumb, idiotic, made-up, fake holidays created exclusively for the most middlebrow human beings intent on perpetuating middlebrow, capital-b Basic culture”:

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The Waning Glory Of Gobble?

Nov 27 2014 @ 1:11pm

The Guardian Food editors offer a taste of the very first Thanksgiving:

Robert Krulwich looks back at how the turkey became the holiday’s leading entrée:

[Writer Andrew] Beahrs gives his biggest props to a 19th century magazine editor named Sarah Josepha Hale. She and her magazine, Godey’s Lady’s Book, campaigned for a national day [of thanksgiving], wrote letters to governors, to every member of Congress, even to the president, and when she wasn’t lobbying, she was writing novels that romanticized turkeys in that over-the-top drooling-with-her-pen way that may make you laugh … but it worked. Here’s a passage from her 1827 novel, Northwood:

The roasted turkey took precedence on this occasion, being placed at the head of the table; and well did it become its lordly station, sending forth the rich odor of its savory stuffing, and finely covered with the froth of its basting. At the foot of the board, a sirloin of beef, flanked on either side by a leg of pork and loin of mutton, seemed placed as a bastion to defend the innumerable bowls of gravy and plates of vegetables disposed in that quarter. A goose and pair of ducklings occupied side stations on the table; the middle being graced, as it always is on such occasions, by the rich burgomaster of the provisions, called a chicken pie.

That’s turkey, then sirloin, then pork, then lamb, then goose, then duck, then chicken pie, all in one sitting! … It took 300 years or so, but eventually the turkey knocked off every other contender and is now center stage, by itself, gloriously supreme, stuffed, adorned, triumphant. Viva la turkey!

Jessica Grose regrets that her family won’t be eating turkey this year, but Betsy Woodruff would rather see the bird sidelined once again. She writes that “turkey’s problem isn’t so much that it tastes bad as that literally any other meat tastes better”:

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“Death To Turkeys!”

Nov 27 2014 @ 12:34pm

So exclaims John Oliver, shaking his head over the annual tradition of presidential turkey pardoning:

“I issue this challenge to President Obama and all future presidents,” the Last Week Tonight host says in a new YouTube video [above] with his show on holiday hiatus. “If you want the world’s respect, just once, show up at a White House turkey pardoning with a cleaver and administer the justice these birds so clearly deserve.”

Obama has opted to ignore Oliver’s challenge; yesterday, he defended the pardon as an “action fully within my legal authority”. Dahlia Lithwick, tongue firmly in cheek, ponders the implications of the president’s policy, wondering if it will “start a wave of unauthorized poultry immigration”:

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It’s All Relative

Nov 27 2014 @ 11:47am


How are you related to all those supposed cousins of yours, anyway? Nathan Yau created the above chart to have you covered at family gatherings:

Here’s how it works. Figure out the common ancestor between two relatives. Then select the relationship of the first relative to the common ancestor in the top row. Move down to the row that corresponds to the relationship of the second person to the common ancestor. The result is the relationship of the second person to the first.

For example, say the first person is the grandchild of the common ancestor, and the second person is a great-grandchild. Therefore, the second person is the first cousin once removed from the first.

Meanwhile, Jessica Goldstein recently investigated how closer familial connections play out during the holidays. She talked to Frank Sulloway, author of Born to Rebel, about how birth order affects family dynamics into adulthood:

“The biological fact that you’re first, second, or third, it doesn’t have any causal influence. What’s causal is, if you are first, you’re bigger, older, stronger, and you have certain privileges you don’t have when you’re younger,” he said.

Time for more fun with stereotypes:

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When Ragamuffins Roamed The Streets

Nov 27 2014 @ 11:00am


Linton Weeks reflects on the scrappy history of Thanksgiving, which “in turn-of-the-20th century America used to look a heckuva lot like Halloween”:

People — young and old — got all dressed up and staged costumed crawls through the streets. In Los Angeles, Chicago and other places around the country, newspapers ran stories of folks wearing elaborate masks and cloth veils. Thanksgiving mask balls were held in Cape Girardeau, Mo., Montesano, Wash., and points in between. …

In fact, so many people participated in masking and making merry back then that, according to a widely distributed item that appeared in the Los Angeles Times of Nov. 21, 1897, Thanksgiving was “the busiest time of the year for the manufacturers of and dealers in masks and false faces. The fantastical costume parades and the old custom of making and dressing up for amusement on Thanksgiving day keep up from year to year in many parts of the country, so that the quantity of false faces sold at this season is enormous.”

In 2012, Greg Young noted that the “custom was mostly frowned upon by polite society as a distraction from the historic and somber traditions of Thanksgiving”:

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This week, the FDA released new rules on calorie labeling:

The changes are sweeping: Any restaurant with 20 or more locations, movie-theater chains, amusement parks, meals sold in grocery stores, and vending machines will all be required to label calorie amounts on food options. There is no exception for alcohol ordered from a menu (mixed drinks ordered at the bar, however, will continue to not have calorie information). The rules take effect a year from now, although vending machine operators will have two years to comply.

In response, Jason Millman highlights research on caloric ignorance, including the above chart:

Do people eat healthier when they can see calorie counts? The evidence so far seems mixed. The impact seems to be greater when the calorie count is much higher than what consumers expect. What does seem clear from past studies is that people really are terrible judges of how many calories they consume when they dine out.

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Divided We Thank

Nov 27 2014 @ 7:39am

Kenneth C. Davis credits Lincoln with issuing “the first two in an unbroken string of presidential Thanksgiving proclamations,” but notes that “the elevation of Thanksgiving to a true national holiday [was] a feat accomplished by Franklin D. Roosevelt.” He reminds us that Americans initially found Roosevelt’s holiday politically polarizing:

In 1939, with the nation still struggling out of the Great Depression, the traditional Thanksgiving Day fell on the last day of the month – a fifth Thursday. Worried retailers, for whom the holiday had already become the kickoff to the Christmas shopping season, feared this late date. Roosevelt agreed to move his holiday proclamation up one week to the fourth Thursday, thereby extending the critical shopping season.

Some states stuck to the traditional last Thursday date, and other Thanksgiving traditions, such as high school and college football championships, had already been scheduled. This led to Roosevelt critics deriding the earlier date as “Franksgiving.” With 32 states joining Roosevelt’s “Democratic Thanksgiving, ” 16 others stuck with the traditional date, or “Republican Thanksgiving.” After some congressional wrangling, in December 1941, Roosevelt signed the legislation making Thanksgiving a legal holiday on the fourth Thursday in November. And there it has remained.

Josh Zeitz elaborates:

Though Republicans were louder in articulating their opposition, the split between Thanksgiving and “Franksgiving” states was not strictly partisan; rather, it was ideological.

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These advice columns are becoming a genre unto themselves. The stock villain: crazy right-wing uncle, the jokes about stuffing. But I recognize them by what they unwittingly emulate: guides for religious evangelism. The gentle, righteous self-regard, the slightly orthogonal response guides, the implied urgency to cure your loved ones of their ignorance. Your raging uncle will know the truth, and the truth will set him free.

That’s a problem. Our politics are taking on a religious shape. Increasingly we allow politics to form our moral identity and self-conception. We surround ourselves with an invisible community of the “elect” who share our convictions, and convince ourselves that even our closest and beloved relatives are not only wrong, but enemies of goodness itself. And so one of the best, least religious holidays in the calendar becomes a chance to deliver your uncle up as a sinner in the hands of an angry niece.

I’m as guilty of this as anyone.

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