Thursday, April 30, 2009


I'm going on a trip. I'll be back in about a week & a half. In the meantime, here are some songs for your entertainment. They might also have something to do with where I'm going. I selected some of the less obvious choices in the hopes of finding something you might not already know about.

You could watch one every few days or so to tide you over until I return. You could post a comment and tell me what your favorite California song is. You could peruse a past entry of mine about vacations.

Or you could use the time while I'm away to tell me what ideas for Daily Apples you encounter. If something strikes your curiosity button, post a comment to this entry with your question, and I'll do an entry about it when I get back.

Gipsy Kings - Hotel California, 1990

Marlena Shaw - California Soul, 1969

(Sorry about the Garfield. It goes away eventually.)

Kings of Leon - California Waiting, 2006

Joni Mitchell - California, 1970

Wolf Parade - California Dreamer, 2008

Hey Ocean - A Song About California, 2008

However you choose to spend your time while I'm away, you can be sure that, for my part, I'll be compiling items that make me curious and that I'll want to investigate for you. So stay tuned to see what your fellow Daily Apple readers and I want to learn about!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Apple #382: Honey

Honey has come up in conversation a couple of times in the past few days. So it's time to learn a few things about honey, methinks. It's pretty miraculous stuff.

(Photo of honey from Bitterroot Restoration)

  • To make one pound of honey, bees may visit more than two million flowers to gather enough nectar.
  • A worker bee may visit 50 to 100 flowers before going back to the hive to unload the pollen.
  • One worker bee produces 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey in her entire lifetime. She only lives for 36 days, but still.
  • Honey can vary quite a lot in terms of its color, flavor, and sugar & water content, depending on what flowers the bees visited to make it. In the United States alone, there are over 300 different varieties of honey that are produced and sold on a regular basis.
  • Lighter colored honeys are generally milder, while darker honeys are more robust in flavor. Darker honeys also contain more antioxidants.

Bud Ashurst's honeys, showing how different varieties vary in color. Left to right are alfalfa, clover, orange, and sage. He sells each 12 oz. bear for $15.

  • Fireweed honey has a citrus flavor. Tulip poplar honey is fruity. Tupelo honey is spicy.
  • Even though honey isn't entirely sugar, depending on the variety, it can be up to 1.5 times sweeter than granulated sugar.


  • Honey is made of
  1. Glucose (sugar)
  2. Fructose (sugar)
  3. Water
  4. Sucrose, maltose, kojibiose, turanose, isomaltose, maltulose (more sugars)
  5. Oligosaccharides (carbohydrates)
  • Nutritionally speaking, there are also essential proteins and amino acids in honey, as well as antioxidants, a few vitamins and minerals, and enzymes that help to break down the sugars.
  • Because liquid honey is only 20% water, it is supersaturated. The stuff it is supersaturated with is sugar (70%).
  • Because of all that sugar, honey will eventually crystallize.
  • If stored at room temperature, crystallization may happen in months or even weeks. If your honey has crystallized, you can re-liquify it by warming it gently to about 140 degrees.
  • Careful not to heat it up too much, though, because if it gets too warm, the honey will break down, and it can ferment or even begin to grow bacteria.
  • You can keep honey from crystallizing in the first place by storing it at temperatures cooler than room temps or by keeping it in air-tight containers.

Leslie, pouring honey she and fellow beekeeper Bill have collected from their hives.
(Photo from the Green Grower. The rest of this page has a lot of photos about beekeeping and making honey.)

  • A lot of people like to say, "They found honey in the pyramids and it was still good! That's how you know it never goes bad!" Except nobody says in which tombs or who found it, or when. Which makes me wonder if this information may have gone bad as it's been passed all around. Because, as we have just learned, honey can actually go bad, if it's not stored properly.
  • In one particular pyramid, the honey that was found had been stored in a corked container -- the archaeologists opened the vessels, so who knows if the honey is any good now -- and they described it as "almost liquid," and that it has "preserved its scent." No idea whether they tasted it or not.


These dark honey cookies are made with honey and sugar. Available from Madeira Shopping for €4,20 per bag.

  • If you want to use honey instead of granulated sugar, here's how:
  • If the recipe calls for one cup or less than a cup of sugar, you can use equal amounts honey as sugar. If it needs more than a cup of sugar, substitute 3/4 cup honey for each cup of sugar.
  • Also reduce another liquid in the recipe by 1/4 cup
  • Also add 1/4 teaspoon baking soda to neutralized the acid in the honey
  • Also reduce oven temperature by 25 degrees to keep the your goodies from browning too quickly.

  • Honey may also contain the spores of a toxic microorganism, Clostridium botulinum. You may know it by its more common name, botulism. This microorganism shows up in dirt and "raw agricultural products" (I'm pretty sure that means poo), and the wind can blow that around and it could get on flowers that the bees then pollinate. So it's possible that the bees' honey contains some of that botulinum.

Clostridium botulinum. The stuff that, in large doses, gives you botulism. The same stuff that people get injected into their skin.
(Image from Softpedia)

  • Adults have enough bacteria-fighting stuff in their intestines, they're not bothered by it. Infants, however, don't have the "microflora" in their intestinal systems yet, so they can be very susceptible to the bad old Clostridium botulinum. So honey producers and doctors alike recommend not feeding honey to infants until they are one year old.
  • Infant botulism is extremely rare. But if it strikes, it's really bad. First the babies cry more weakly usual, they get constipated, they'll be very feeble about eating, and they'll get an all over muscular weakness.
  • If it's not caught in time, the baby can become paralyzed. So if you see this happening in your baby and you think he or she might have eaten honey, take that baby to the doctor immediately.

  • C botulinum may be one of the few microorganisms that honey is powerless against. Because honey contains all sorts of antimicrobial properties that kill off other microorganisms.
  • In fact, Roman soldiers used to put honey on their wounds to help them heal. People have also used it for centuries to treat burns and ulcers.
  • The reason honey works to heal wounds is that it sucks up water. When put on a wound, the honey will draw the water out. When the wound is dried up, the bacteria and yucky stuff can't thrive in the wound.
  • Additionally, when combined with water, an enzyme in honey called glucose oxidase forms hydrogen peroxide, which is a mild antiseptic that keeps wounds clean.
  • Even the antioxidants in honey have antibacterial properties. They have been found to be effective at keeping away such nasties as E coli and Candida.
  • Some doctors say you could apply regular old supermarket honey to a minor cut or burn and expect to have results similar to or perhaps better than an antibiotic. Some varieties of honey are better at wound healing than others -- one variety from New Zealand called Manuka is supposedly the best of all -- so you might get better results from the darker varieties.

One company is making a wound treatment product (bandage) called Medihoney that uses "medical-grade" honey along with some other ingredients that form it into a gel that stays in place. So far, their clinical trials have yielded promising results.

I had a photo up here of the bandage, but it's kind of unpalatable because there's also a rather large wound in the picture. But if you're interested, you can click to see honey bandage at Apitherapy News.

  • Research has also shown that a teaspoon of honey can help relieve a cough. In one study, coughing children between the ages of 2 and 18 who were given honey saw significantly better improvement over those given a store-bought cough suppressant.

  • The fact that honey attracts and retains moisture (the word for that is humectant) has made also made it a very popular cosmetic ingredient for centuries.
  • Cleopatra used to take honey and milk baths to keep her skin soft.

See? Look how smooth Cleopatra's skin is!
(Photo from Suzanne Cross' hard-to-read site, Princeps)

  • The last mistress of King Louis XV, Madame du Barry, used to put honey on her face in a mask and then she'd lie down for a while as it moisturized her skin.
  • Queen Anne of England and Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, used concoctions that included honey on their hair to keep it sleek and shiny.
  • I used to have some stuff to put in the bath that had honey in it, and it did make my skin feel very soft afterwards.
  • So the next time you're looking to entice Mark Antony, maybe try a honey & milk bath first.

  • Comb honey -- this is the comb and honey together, both of which are edible

Comb honey photo from The National Honey Board, who can help you find people who sell comb honey in your area.

  • Cut comb -- most of what's in the jar is honey, but there are also chunks of comb as well
  • Liquid honey -- what we typically buy at the store
  • Crystallized honey -- liquid honey that's been allowed to crystallize over time
  • Creamed honey -- a.k.a. whipped honey, this honey has been crystallized but in a controlled way so that the crystallized honey can be whipped into a spreadable form, like butter.

Creamed honey, from the Honeybee Centre in Canada. They sell their creamed honey for $3.99 CAD for a 250 gram jar. They can only sell to customers in Canada at the moment.
(Photo from the Honeybee Centre)

National Honey Board, Honey: A Reference Guide to Nature's Sweetener, Infant Botulism Fact Sheet, Beauty and Honey, Honey Trivia
The World's Healthiest Foods, Honey
Hsiao-Ching Chou, "On Food: How sweet it is: The secret life of honey," Seattlepi, September 3, 2003
Health Benefits of Honey, Honey and Death
Adam Voiland, "The Healing Power of Honey," US News & World Report, October 7, 2008
Charles Downey, "Doctors turning sweet on healing with honey,", March 8, 2000
Carolina Country, Carolina Honey, Which kind of honey tastes best?
Mark Andrews, "The Private Tomb of Yuya and Tjuyu in the Valley of the Kings," Tour Egypt
eHow, How to Substitute Honey For Sugar in a Recipe
The Cook's Thesaurus, Sugars

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Apple #381: Blisters

This weekend, it was really nice and sunny here, so I decided to do some yard work. Nobody ever raked up the leaves from last fall, and when the guys come to cut the grass every few weeks, they leave all the clippings so those pile up too. So even though my backyard is quite small, I had a lot of raking to do. And I got a blister on the inside of my thumb. Two of them, actually, one on each hand in almost the exact same spot. But the one on the left hand showed up first and was far worse.

After the blister tore and opened up, smart me started pulling up dandelions, getting my hands good and dirty. Of course I wasn't wearing gloves. And of course I got dirt in that open blister. I thought, ah, that'll wash off.

But two and a half hours later when I was done and washing my hands, though I could get the dirt and mud off of everything else, I couldn't get it to come off of that spot of exposed skin. I tried water, soap and water, hydrogen peroxide, Neosporin. It wouldn't budge.

I slathered on the Neosporin, bandaged it up again, and went about my day. Hours later, it was throbbing. I took off the bandage and looked at it and it was all gooey and bright pink. I touched a Kleenex to the places where the dirt was, and the goo came off and so did the dirt. So I got as much of the dirt off that way as I could, washed it all again, more hydrogen peroxide, more Neosporin, another bandage.

I didn't bandage it up overnight because I remembered my mom saying things about blisters needing to "breathe." (I think now that she must have said this about burns, not blisters.) That turned out to be a bad idea because any time I turned over in my sleep, I managed to brush that open blister against a fold of pillow or sheet and the wincing pain woke me up every single time. Did smart me get up and put a bandage on it? No. Smart me kept trying to sleep like that.

Now today, I kept bandaged it up all day. Felt much better, except when something bonked the place where I have that blister. The skin all around it is quite tender. When I took the bandage off, I saw that the open spot is now a deep, angry red.

Wait a moment! I now have a brand-new digital camera! And I can actually show you what this looks like, instead of trying to find somebody else's photo that is only an approximation!

There it is! That's my thumb! And its blister. On display for the whole world to see. It feels a little strange, actually, showing everybody my thumb. Not that people can't normally see it in real life. But you know what I mean. This is different.

But I shall press on! In the name of science and knowledge and education and all those good things, I show you my thumb!

The blistered place looks even more red and angry in person.

So I want to know, is there anything special about taking care of a blister that I don't already know? Apart from getting a lot of dirt ground into that tender, underneath skin, was there something I did in my blister ministrations that I shouldn't have?

  • For pressure blisters, it's best if you can avoid breaking the blister. The liquid under the skin is called serum. It's what's in your blood minus clotting agents and red blood cells. It acts as a cushion and it contains all sorts of helpful stuff that aids in healing and helps keep away bacteria.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water before touching a blister. Blisters can get infected pretty easily, even if they are unbroken.
  • Most blisters will eventually break on their own, and they are supposed to do that.

Unbroken blisters that developed after walking about 3 miles. Probably in uncomfortable shoes.
(Photo by leeives on Flickr)

  • If a blister is really giving you trouble and it hasn't broken yet and it's painful because it's swollen with fluid, you can break it yourself. If you do that, make sure to use a needle that you've sloshed with alcohol or passed through a flame to sterilize it first.
  • Do not break a blister that has blood in it.
  • Once the blister is broken, wash your hands first (check), apply an antibiotic ointment (like Neosporin, I did that), and cover with a bandage or gauze (I did that, too).
  • Change the bandage any time it gets wet or dirty. (I've gone through lots of bandages because it's hard to get them to stay on my thumb.)
  • A few first aid sites say to remove the flap of dead skin, which is called the "roof," by the way. But most say to leave it alone because it will help to prevent further infection.
  • You should allow the blister about 7 to 10 days to heal.
  • If the blister develops pus, swelling, red streaks leading away from the wound, increasing pain, or gets warm, that is a sign of infection.
  • If it gets crusty and "drains honey-colored fluid," or if you get a fever and chills and vomiting, that's the sign of an especially bad infection, and you'll want to call your doctor ASAP.
  • To prevent getting a blister in the first place, you can apply moleskin (I could never get moleskin to stay stuck for any length of time at all) or you can get these things called blister plasters. Blister plasters are supposed to help protect the skin from friction, or if you already have a blister, they'll also work like a bandage and keep it from getting dinged up any more and promote healing.

Blister plasters are more widely available in the UK. This particular kind is made by a company called Afmeting and sells for €9.95 for a pack of 20 from Happy Steps.

  • Blister plasters are supposed to be especially good at sticking, so you can put them in curvy or complicated spots like the side of a toe or your Achilles heel or the inside of your thumb. If you warm the plaster between your hands for about a minute before applying, it sticks better. The plaster isn't supposed to peel off, even if it gets wet, but some people say it does anyway.
  • Or as my friend Elaine pointed out, I could have worn gloves. That probably would have helped.

Mayo Clinic, Blisters: First aid
WebMD, Blisters - Home Treatment
Sports Injury, Blisters, Intro and Blister treatment, Blister First Aid and Treatment
Sportsactive: Actively tested: Blister plasters,
The Independent, September 31, 2001

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Apple #380: The Hokey Pokey

While I was at home for the Easter weekend, I took a bath. I only have a shower here, no bathtub, and because I do enjoy a nice hot bath with lots of bubbles, I take advantage of the bathtub whenever I'm at my parents' house.

I assure you, by the way, that your Apple Lady always bathes in the complete and appropriate bathing attire.

(Photo from the Library of Congress LC-USZ62-120028-1902, sourced from

So there I was in the bathtub, fully enjoying the relaxing steaminess. I even put my face in the water and that was relaxing too. As I did so, the words from part of the Hokey Pokey came to me: "You put your whole self in, you put your whole self out. . . ." As I leaned back in delicious comfort, I sighed and said, "That's what it's all about."

As I continued to relax and enjoy my steamy soak, the words from the Hokey Pokey played themselves over and over in my brain. Then I suddenly paid attention to what they were saying. And I had an epiphany. The Meaning of the Hokey Pokey was revealed to me.

It's all about how to live, I realized. Or, it's a description of how we live and learn. First we try things out, a toe or a leg or an arm at a time. Then we get the head into it. But it's not until we throw our whole selves into it that we really get it. That's what it's all about.

I am truncating the extent of my realization. Believe me when I say my steam-inspired revelation went into great detail. I interpreted the song line by line. I thought, that's why we do the Hokey Pokey at weddings, because you have to throw your whole self into a marriage if it's going to work. I imagined issuing a call that we should do the Hokey Pokey at all major life events, not just weddings but baptisms, first days of school, first days of a new job, moving into a new house, maybe even the opening ceremony of the Olympics.

Now that I am dried off and well away from the bathtub, I recognize the, uh, head-over-heelness with which I embraced that idea.

But I do have some lingering questions. Where did that song come from, anyway? Does it have some other meaning that I'm not aware of?

Guests at a wedding in Ohio, putting their right arms in. And sort of tentatively, at that.
(Photo from Chris Glass' journal)

It turns out, this simple question about what I thought was a simple song has overturned a rock and revealed everything from lawsuits to bigotry to cocaine. And ice cream.

  • The Hokey Pokey was written by a man named Larry LaPrise, originally from Detroit.

(Image from goodworksonearth)

  • He was a musician with a group called the Ram Trio. LaPrise along with his two bandmates made up the song while the Ram Trio were performing for a bunch of skiers at a resort in Idaho.
  • The song was such a hit, they recorded it in 1949.
  • In 1953, another bandleader named Ray Anthony bought the rights to the song and put it on the B side of the Bunny Hop.
  • In the 1960s, Roy Acuff's company bought the rights to the song, and that's when the song really took off.
  • LaPrise went on to work for the US Postal Service.
  • In 1992, LaPrise said of the song, it's "like a square dance, really. You turn around. You shake it all about. Everyone is in a circle, and it gets them all involved."

This bride and groom are doing the Hokey Pokey with feeling.
(Photo from the blog English Rules)

  • Now, over in England, they have a version of the song called the Hokey Cokey. The lyrics are strikingly similar to the Hokey Pokey, and you're supposed to do the same kind of leg in, leg out, etc. dance. It was very popular with the servicemen during World War II.
  • Some people have said that "hokey cokey" is a bastardization of a phrase that is said in Latin at Catholic masses. The phrase is hoc est corpus meum, or "this is my body," which the priest says when elevating the eucharist.
  • People claim that "hocus pocus" is a phrase that Puritans used to make fun of the Catholic mass and the Latin-speak that priests used, and that "hokey cokey" is another such phrase.
  • They say that the Hokey Cokey song and its motions was intended to make fun of priests and the various gestures they used during the eucharistic prayers.
  • Just recently, in fact, people in Scotland and England have been calling for legislation to ban the song and to include punishments for people who sing and dance it in public as committing a hate crime. Apparently some fans of one Scots football team were singing it in a jeering fashion at fans of another Scots football team. Then this business about how it's supposedly an anti-Catholic song got brought into the mix.
  • Well. This sounds like a lot of going overboard to me.

At Gulliver's Theme Park in Milton-Keynes, England, Gully Mouse and his friends are doing the Hokey Cokey. This doesn't look like a hate crime to me.
(Photo from Gulliver's Theme Park)

  • When I delved into it further, I discovered that the grandson of the guy who wrote the Hokey Cokey said it didn't have anything to do with Latin or priests or Catholicism or any of that. It is about ice cream.

Al Tabor, at the left, and his band at the club where they first played the Hokey Cokey.
(Photo from the Hokey Cokey Man, website of the play about Al Tabor's life)

  • This guy, Alan Balfour, said his grandfather, Al Tabor told him that ice cream sellers used to go up and down the street chanting, "Hokey pokey, penny a lump, have a lick, make you jump!" to sell their ice cream. (He lived in London's East End where people used to talk like that. Except if you're cockney you say 'okey pokey.) So he used that phrase to write a song that he thought would cheer people up during a world war.

Hokey Pokey is also a vanilla ice cream with toffee bits that's very popular in New Zealand.
(Photo from Jeremy & Andrea on Flickr)

  • Then a Canadian officer said Tabor should change it from "hokey pokey" to "hokey cokey," because "cokey" means "crazy." So he did.
  • He first performed the song the Hokey Cokey with his band in 1940.
  • In the meantime, we have yet that other songwriter in the mix, Jimmy Kennedy. He was a well-known Irish songwriter in the 1940s, and he wrote a song called the Cokey Cokey in 1942.

Jimmy Kennedy, renowned Irish songwriter and creator of the Cokey Cokey.
(Photo from Culture Northern Ireland)

  • His son says his dad told him he wrote the song based on a Canadian folk tune sung by coal miners, who were proclaiming the wonders of cocaine. So "coke" would have a triple meaning here -- coal/coke, cocaine/coke, and as we learned just a bit ago, crazy/cokey. Except Kennedy, Jr. said his son wrote on the back of the original sheet music that "'cokey' means 'dope-fiend.'"
  • Kennedy, Jr. also says his dad told him how he came up with the song. He said he was watching a bunch of Canadian soldiers, stationed in Britain, singing and dancing at a nightclub in London and having a great time. He said when he got back to his hotel, he wrote a chorus based on the feet and hand movements of the soldiers. Over the next couple of days he wrote some more lyrics and made some adaptations, but in the end he had the Cokey Cokey. A song to cheer people up during wartime, as he'd intended.
  • He originally published the song as the Cokey Cokey, but the name was later changed to The Hokey Cokey.
  • When our old friend the Hokey Pokey was recorded, Kennedy sued LaPrise (but not Tabor -- why, I don't know) for copyright infringement. The two wound up settling out of court.
  • If you try to buy sheet music of the Hokey Cokey, it's got Jimmy Kennedy's name on it.
  • Copyright for the Hokey Pokey is still listed as Acuff-Rose Music from when Roy Acuff bought it.

Guests hokey pokeying at a wedding in 1990. This is what it's all about.
(Photo from paulbavol at Flickr)

"The Hokey Pokey Man Is Dead at 83," The New York Times, April 11, 1996
Stuart MacDonald, "Hokey Cokey: no Catholic dig," The Sunday Times Online, January 11, 2009
Auslan Cramb, "Doing the Hokey Cokey 'could be hate crime,'" Telegraph, Decmeber 21, 2008
Randy Boswell, "Canada's Hokey Pokey cause of England dust up," Canwest News Service, February 6, 2009
Fred R. Shapiro, The Yale Book of Quotations, Jimmy Kennedy entry, page 419
The BS Historian, What if the Hokey Cokey IS what it's all about?

Friday, April 10, 2009

Happy Easter

(Photo from Sotirov's brother.)

Mahalo has lots of instructions for coloring Easter eggs, from simple to fancy.

Apple #379: Dandelions

Another sign of spring: dandelions blooming in the yard.

(Photo by Ron Schott)

  • Dandelions were introduced by Europeans to the Midwest to provide spring food for the honeybees they'd also brought over from Europe. Those Europeans, dragging their crap around with them everywhere.
  • As you probably have learned at some point, the name dandelion is a run-together version of the French Dents de Lion, which means teeth of the lion. People aren't sure whether the teeth are supposed to be the jagged points on the leaves or if it's the golden yellow flowers which are reminiscent of a golden lion that appears in heraldry.
  • Here are some other names for dandelions:
  1. Swine's snout
  2. Irish daisy
  3. Blowball
  4. Priest's crown (for when there are no seeds left)
  5. Monk's head (ditto)
  • Dandelions produce a huge amount of nectar. Scientists have observed 93 different kinds of insects visiting dandelions to collect it.
  • Dandelions are weeds because they are wild and they crowd out other plants. Their large leaves block other, smaller plants from getting the sun they need, and they absorb nutrients from the soil that other plants need.
  • Dandelions grow in lawns where the soil is acidic and weak and there isn't much competition from the grass. One of the best ways to combat dandelions is to improve the soil. In the autumn, spread mature compost over the yard. That will help to reinvigorate the grass come spring.
  • Also, if you spread lots of grass seed to keep the grass growing thickly, there won't be as much room for the dandelions.

This is Taffy the dog, who seems a little bemused among the dandelions. I don't know how well you can see this, but the grass is sort of patchy, which makes it easier for the dandelions to grow.
(Photo from bionicdan's blog, which has a ton of huge photos and is slow to load.)

  • You can also pour boiling water over the individual plants to knock them out one by one. Corn gluten meal works, too, and so does vinegar. Careful, though. Any of the three sloppily applied could kill other stuff nearby.
  • You could spray them with Round-Up or your favorite herbicide. But then you wouldn't be able to eat or steep any part of the plant. This is important because there are so many things you can do with dandelions:
  • Make rubber. The gooey white stuff inside the dandelion stem, which is latex, was used to make rubber during World War I. Science Project Ideas has instructions for making a rubber band from dandelions. (If you're allergic to latex, you'll want to pass on this one.)
  • Make wine. You don't need any fancy equipment to make it, just the blossoms, some sort of container to put the liquid into, and the time and patience to stir it each day until it's fermented. Collect the flowers when they've just bloomed, which is usually in the spring. Be sure to remove any green bits at the base of the flower because those are especially bitter. Then follow a recipe for dandelion wine. Here's one recipe that also uses oranges, lemons, and cloves. This one uses raisins and banana as well as lemons and oranges, and there's a photo of preparing the blossoms.

A glass of dandelion wine, made with lemons and oranges in the Coke bottle standing nearby. Photo and wine by donosborn, who has says it's probably around 10% alcohol and its flavor improves after the first year or two. He's got a link to more info about how he made his wine.

Dandelion Wine is also the title of a book by Ray Bradbury. It's about Douglas Spaulding, who is 12 and is waking up to the wonders of the world around him. It's beautiful and joyous. I loved it when I was a teen-ager.

  • Make coffee. In the fall, pull up the big, fat taproots, clean them, and dry them. Roast them until they take on the same color as coffee, and then grind them up. Put them in your coffee maker the same way you would regular coffee. Since dandelions are very similar to chicory, I expect the dandelion coffee would taste like chicory used as coffee.
  • Eat the leaves. They are hugely nutritious, with all kinds of iron (better than spinach) and beta carotene (better than carrots) and a host of other vitamins. Best collected in early spring before the flowers bloom, the leaves can be used raw in salads, or steamed or sauteed and eaten the way you'd eat any green vegetable like spinach or Swiss chard. Here's a recipe for dandelion greens sauteed with garlic.
  • They do have a bitter edge to them. One way to reduce that bitterness is to boil them in water, change the water, and boil them again.

This is what you pick. Only pick leaves you're sure have not been sprayed with herbicide!
(Photo from Budget Gourmet Kitchen)

This is what they'll look like after you've sauteed them.
(Photo by madball911)

  • You can also eat the big, fat taproot. Boil it, change the water, boil it again, or simmer it slowly for a long time. You can eat them the same way you'd eat other root vegetables (like potatoes) or the same way you'd eat the greens.
  • Make tea. Collect and wash the greens. You can use them right away when fresh and steep about 4 greens in boiling water for 20 minutes. Or you can dry them first in a low-heat oven and then make your tea. Use one teaspoon of the dried leaves per cup of boiling water per person. Either way, it's best with a slice of lemon.

Or you could buy a box of somebody else's dandelion tea and steep that. This box of 30 tea bags from NOW foods will set you back only $2.87.

  • Here's another caution: one word in French for dandelion is pissenlit. It means "wet the bed." This is because dandelions are a diuretic. That might be something you want since it does help to cleanse the kidneys. But it's also something to keep in mind when you're considering whether to have a cup of dandelion tea right before a big road trip, say.
  • Tell time. When the blooms have gone to seed, puff on them to make some of the seeds blow away. Keep doing this and count with each puff one o'clock, two o'clock, three o'clock, etc., until all the seeds are gone. Supposedly the time you end on will match up with whatever time it actually is. Supposedly.

(Photo from Meg Roberts' blog)

  • Put your thumb at the base of the dandelion blossom, chant, "Mama had a baby and her head popped off," and on the word "head," flick your thumb to pop off the head of the dandelion. Great fun, isn't it?
  • I looked everywhere to find out where that little game comes from and nobody knows -- at least, nobody online at these here free Internets. People from all over the country and in England too say they played it as children, but none of them can say what it means or where it came from.
  • Different people do use different pronouns in there. Some people say "her head," some say "his head," and some say "its head" (often inserting the incorrect apostrophe). For those of us who say "her head," the "her" refers to the baby, since that is the closest noun to which the pronoun can refer. A lot of stressed-out moms out there feel like it should refer to the mom, but it's actually the baby's head that's popping off.

P.S. If you're curious about Easter-related topics, check out the links under Ripe Apples at the top right corner. Happy Easter!

Alex Russel, A Dandelion is a Weed, All About Lawns
Marion Owen, Seven ways to get rid of dandelions . . . Organically!
Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides, Dealing with Dandelions
Compact Oxford English Dictionary, weed
Wildman Steve Brill, Common Dandelion
Dandelion tea, Dandelion tea recipe, Dandelion

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Apple #378: The Third World

Regular Daily Apple reader Jason wants to know:

  1. Where did the phrase "Third World" come from? Who decided what's part of the Third World and what's not?
  2. What are the First and Second Worlds and why don't we ever use those terms?
Good question, Jason. The phrase originated relatively recently, so you would think that would mean there is a clear answer about where it came from and who first said it and why. Unfortunately, who came up with it first is a bit muddy. And as it turns out, the answer to the second question is contained in the answer to the first.

  • First of all, the term Third World typically includes countries that are by and large economically depressed and politically repressed: countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Oceania. Sometimes China is included, sometimes not.

In this depiction of the three "worlds," China is included as part of the Second World -- an ally of the Soviet Union.
(Map from Nations Online)

  • A few people say the phrase was first used in the 1920s to indicate a "third way" of political governance -- that is, not capitalism and not socialism. I find this argument less compelling, since the phrase used here tends to be "third way" not "Third World."
  • Most people say the phrase emerged during the early days of the Cold War, but they tend not to provide a date. During this period, the world was pretty much split politically between the US and its NATO allies versus the Soviet Union and its allies. "Third World" was meant to identify all the leftover countries that weren't specifically aligned with either one of those two powers. But nobody seems to know for sure who among the Cold War folks was the first one to say it.

Could the phrase "Third World" have originated at Yalta? My friend Jacki's history professor said it did, but I couldn't find anything to verify this.
(The Big Three, seated l. to r., are Winston Churchill of England, Franklin Delano Roosevelt of the United States, and Josef Stalin of the Soviet Union. Photo from the National Archives)

  • Some people say that a French historian named Alfred Sauvy first coined the phrase in an article in 1952. He said that, like the Third Estate, which was all the commoners in France who had hardly any political power, these countries were "ignored, exploited and despised" and wanted to "become something" -- meaning that one day there would be revolutions among those countries.
  • By 1955, the phrase had gained widespread acceptance. During this particular year, representatives from 29 African and Asian countries got together in Bandung, Indonesia to talk about their mutual interests in economic and cultural freedom from colonial oppression. The attending countries called themselves "Third World" countries, as did people reporting on the conference.

African and Asian leaders who attended the Bandung Conference in 1955. The conference was organized by China, and the Chinese premier Zhou Enlai was very much in attendance. So some people include China in their use of the term "Third World," while others do not.
(Photo from Xinhua)

  • By 1989, however, Sauvy said we should stop using the phrase because it was no longer accurate, and it didn't reflect at all the diversity of political and cultural situations in the countries included in it. In 1991 when the Soviet Union was dissolved, the First, Second, and Third World designations seemed even more useless.
  • Many people now generally agree that the phrase is derogatory, imprecise, dismissive, and all in all bad form.
  • I have heard the term used less and less often. Most of the time, when I've come across people carving up the world into big political or economic hunks, the designations I've seen are the United States, the EU, China, Japan, and the Rest of the World. Sometimes Latin America, Russia, or Japan are included as separate categories.

Where I've come across the phrase "Rest of the World" (abbreviated ROTW) most often is in charts like these in market research reports. The charts like these that do indicate the ROTW are generally telling you that markets like the US or the EU or China are far more lucrative places to try to sell your product than anywhere else.
(Chart from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada)

  • That "Rest of the World" phrase is also toss-everything-into-the-same-bin-ish, and many people object to it as being too dismissive.
  • As for why nobody says "First World" or "Second World" anywhere near as often as "Third World," I couldn't find much about that, but I can make some guesses:
  1. The original names (United States, Soviet Union) are more commonly known
  2. The phrases stand for individual countries, not groups of countries, so there's really no need for a nickname
  3. There is no Soviet Union anymore, only Russia, so the phrase "Second World" is no longer accurate
  4. Those in power get to decide their own names.
  • Generally speaking, those who win the wars get to write the history. Similarly, those with the power get to name everything. If the United States doesn't want to be called the First World, perhaps because it is smacks of an unpleasant kind of global dominance and maybe reminds people too much of "First World War", then nobody calls them the First World.
  • You might counter by saying, "Ah, yes, but remember how in 1955 all those little countries got together and called themselves the Third World." Well, yes, but somebody else called them that first. And I'm going to speak generally again and point out that once the underdogs get branded with some name, often they later take it on themselves and in so doing try to invest it with meanings that indicate their control over their own destiny. This has happened with lots of racial slurs that I won't mention.
  • Brian Friel's very fine play Translations dramatizes this concept of to-the-victor-go-the-names.

Here is the world. Now name its parts. As soon as you do, you'll probably reveal more about yourself than you will about the places you name.
(Map from Uppsala Universitet)

Nations Online, Countries of the Third World
Infoplease Encyclopedia, Third World and Bandung Conference
Gerard Chaliand, Third World: definitions and descriptions, Third World Traveler
History of Ideas vol. 6, Third World - Origins, Third World
Alain de Benoist, Language Usage: "Third World" vs. "Developing World," Stanford World Association of International Studies, November 20, 2008
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China, Chairman Mao Zedong's Theory on the Division of the Three World [sic] and the Strategy of Forming an Alliance Against an Opponent, November 17, 2000