Monday, December 16, 2013

Coming Soon

I regret that I have not been able to finish my Daily Apple for Sunday.  I have one in the works, but as I've also been baking cookies like a fiendish baker all weekend and packaging them up to send out for Christmas presents tomorrow, I haven't been able to get back to the Daily Apple.  Hopefully I'll have the entry done tomorrow night.

In the meantime, here's a clue:

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Apple #654: Eggnog

One of the enduring mysteries of Christmas is egg nog.  I know it involves liquid eggs and the optional alcohol, and I've even drunk some a time or two.  But it was the stuff from the grocery store so I wonder, how representative of true egg nog is that?  What is the nog?  And how did someone come up with the idea of drinking eggs as a festive thing, anyway?

If the nutmeg on top of your eggnog looks like this, you have too much time on your hands.
(Photo from Why'd You Eat That?)

The Nog

  • Nog comes from an old English word that refers to a strong beer or ale.  There's also the word "noggin" which means "head." As in your noodle (brain) and your noggin (head).
  • It's possible that "noggin" and "nog" are related -- but not in the way you think (drink nog/strong ale and your noggin/head gets fuzzy).  "Noggin" actually means "small cup, or small drink."  Which means that the ale in your eggnog is strong stuff, so you'd better have only a little bit of it.
  • The ancestor of eggnog is something called posset, which is a mixture of eggs, milk, and ale or sherry. At first they made it like a drink, but as time passed and people got better at making it, they let it thicken and they added honey and breadcrumbs and possibly almonds.  The result looked a lot like creme brulee, except posset was thick enough to slice.  And then they added brandy.

Posset.  The name sounds totally unappetizing, but when you see it here with candied orange peel on top, you have an entirely different reaction, don't you?  This is the ancestor of eggnog.
(Photo from Why'd You Eat That?)

  • So maybe people thought, hey, posset is so good, I want to drink it.  And let's make it sweeter besides.  So eggnog's components are:
    • Eggs beaten with sugar
    • Milk or cream or both
    • Some kind of alcohol (in the US, this is often bourbon but back in the early days it was rum)
    • Most people in the US also add nutmeg.
  • Above all, eggnog is supposed to be rich and thick, and strong if you're going for the alcoholic version -- which is the historically accurate option.
  • Eggnog was first dreamed up in the 17th century.  No refrigeration.  Most people couldn't afford a lot of eggs, especially if they were city-dwellers.  If they saw one glass of milk, it was a rare month.  So, a drink that included multiple eggs and milk and cream -- whooee, that's the stuff for the uber-rich.
  • A fancy, expensive drink like this you wouldn't have all that often.  You would reserve it for special occasions.  Like Christmas.  Thus, eggnog for Christmas.
  • Apparently, the uber-rich back in the 17th century also liked to tie one on.  Because eggnog back then and now packed a punch (pun).

Store-Bought versus the Home Version

  • One mixologist says the eggnog you get in the grocery store is "so overly-pasteurized and full of preservatives that it would be anything but enjoyable to slug down at a Christmas party."
  • Ah, here are the ingredients in one grocery store eggnog: "milk, high fructose corn syrup, regular corn syrup, mono and diglycerides, tetrasodium phosphate, guar gum, carrageenan, artificial vanilla, egg base."  Yeah.  So pretty much any eggnog you make yourself might take you some more time, but is bound to taste better.
  • His recipe does sound good (his name is Jeffrey Morgenthaler).  He uses eggs and sugar (you're supposed to blend these together before you do anything else), add nutmeg, brandy, spiced rum, and whole milk and heavy cream. Yowza.  That would be one thick eggnog.  If you're trying to watch your dairy intake, this is not the drink for you.

Eggnog Safety

  • About that business of pasteurization.  It is kind of important, especially if you're going to be selling your eggnog to other people.  If you're going to make your own at home, it might be a good idea to take a few steps to protect yourself from possibly getting salmonella from the eggs. 
  • All commercially-raised eggs are washed with a special liquid that helps kill salmonella, but it's possible that trace amounts could slip through.  The CDC estimates that 1 in 20,000 eggs have some salmonella contamination.  Not many.
  • If you want to be extra-cautious with your eggnog, slowly heat the eggs and half of the milk together in a pan, stirring constantly, until the liquid reaches 160 degrees Fahrenheit.  Then add the sugar, then chill. Once it's cooled down to refrigerator temperature, then add any other ingredients and the alcohol.

In this recipe, she combined her eggs, milk, and sugar, then heated to 170-175 F.  She said it took about 25 minutes for it to reach temperature.  And you must stir constantly.
(Photo from Tasty Kitchen)

  • You could also use eggs that have been pasteurized, or heat-treated, to kill salmonella.  If you use these, you don't have to worry about salmonella, and don't have to heat your eggs before making your nog.
  • But one cook says that he tried pasteurized eggs, and "they did not work. They didn't separate well and the whites did not froth up at all."  He said the next year, he used organic eggs, and they made the frothiest, foamiest eggnog ever. (His grandfather's eggnog recipe is available here.)
  • Alcohol will not kill salmonella.  Sorry, folks.

Versions of Eggnog

Another eggnog by Morgenthaler.  This one uses tequila and Amontillado sherry.  Yes, the stuff in the Edgar Allan Poe story.
(Photo from Jeffrey Morgenthaler)

  • Like any good food or drink, there are a million different ways to make eggnog.
  • Martha Stewart makes hers with whole milk and heavy cream, like Morgenthaler, but she uses boubon and rum and cognac.  I think Martha's going to get a little tiddly.
  • Elise at Simply Recipes makes hers with only the yolks, plus cloves, cinnamon, vanilla, and nutmeg, any kind of milk you prefer and cream, and bourbon + brandy or boubon + rum.
  • Emeril's recipe isn't all that unusual -- milk and cream, vanilla and nutmeg, bourbon and brandy. He also adds a pinch of salt, which is probably a good idea.

Eggnog for the beach: the nog plus vodka and Kahlua over ice.
(Photo and recipe from A Beach Home Companion)

  • Esquire gives a mixture of good and bad advice (also par for the course).  Their recipe uses cognac and rum, and they say to separate the yolks from the whites.  They mix the yolks with the sugar first and then the alcohol and they say, "Pouring the liquor into the yolks has the effect of cooking them more lovingly than any stove could," which besides being kind of ridiculous is a lie.  They add the eggs whites and nutmeg at the end. They say if it's too sweet, add more cognac.  That last bit is probably about right.
  • Charles Mingus' eggnog recipe "calls for enough alcohol to put down an elephant." One egg yolk, two sugars, one shot of brandy and one shot of 151 rum for each person, plus some milk and vanilla ice cream and a lot of nutmeg. Instead of rum, he might use rye or Scotch. "Depends on how drunk I get while I'm tasting it."
  • Gluten-Free Cate heats her eggs for safety, and she also heats her milk and vanilla bean, cinnamon stick, and cloves in a pot first.  I bet that would smell fantastic.  Plus nutmeg, bourbon, and rum.

Gluten-Free Cate's Laite de Poule (French for eggnog) with bourbon and rum and cinnamon.
(Photo from Girl Cooks World)

  • Bobby Flay makes his eggnog semi-Puerto Rico-style.  He uses whole milk and coconut milk and heavy cream, vanilla bean, cinnamon, nutmeg, and golden rum.

Puerto Rican eggnog, or coquito, is made with rum and coconut milk.  The coquito pictured here was also made with evaporated milk.
(Photo from Always Order Dessert)

  • Mexico's eggnog is called rompope and also uses rum (or else grain alcohol -- yikes!) and a whole lot of cinnamon.
  • In Peru, eggnog is called pisco and is made with Peru's pomace brandy.
  • Dutch eggnog is Advocaat, which uses eggs, sugar, and brandy.  Nigella Lawson doesn't make eggnog; she gets a bottle of Advocaat.
  • Japan's closest thing to eggnog is Tamagozake, which is sake with sugar and a raw egg. It's sometimes called sake-nog.
  • By the way, I've looked at some non-alcoholic eggnog recipes.  I thought they might say to add more nutmeg or something to make up for that missing flavor, but they don't seem to.  They seem the same as the alcoholic versions, just without the the alcohol.  So you could use a recipe that calls for alcohol and omit the liquor part.  You might want to double the amounts, though, so you have more of it to serve to your guests.

Non-alcoholic eggnog.  Pretty much the same but sans liquor.  How you make that little whipped cream castle, the recipe doesn't say.  Probably it's all in the wrist.
(Photo and recipe from

Online Etymology Dictionary, nog
Nanna Rognalvdardottir, History of Eggnog, What's Cooking America
Jeannie Nichols,, Make your eggnog safe
University of Minnesota Extension, Handle eggs properly to prevent salmonella

Monday, December 2, 2013

Apple #653: Vince Guaraldi

Greetings, faithful Daily Apple readers!  Now that our calendars have turned the page to December, I can start giving you Christmas-related posts.

Who is this Vince Guaraldi guy and how is this a Christmas-related post you ask?  Hit play and within one second, you'll know.

Guaraldi the Jazz Musician

  • Vince Guaraldi was very much a San Francisco dude.
    • Born in San Francisco in 1928
    • Graduated from Lincoln High School in SF
    • Went to SF State College
  • He started playing jazz piano in public while he was in college.
  • His first real performances were at the Jackson's Nook, the hungry i, and the legendary Black Hawk (closed in 1963), all  in San Francisco.

Vince Guaraldi early in his career, or at least, before he adopted the facial hair.
(Photo from Derrick Bang's Five Cents Please)

  • Any time people talk about jazz, they get all name-droppy, which always bugs me.  For those of you not well-versed in multitudinous jazz musicians, suffice to say that Guaraldi played with some pretty heavy-hitters early in his career.  For those of you who want the names, here are some of the guys he played with:
    • Sonny Criss
    • Bill Harris
    • Chubby Jackson
    • Art Tatum
    • Woody Herman's Thundering Herd
"It was more than scary," Guaraldi said of working for Art Tatum as an intermission pianist. "I came close to giving up the instrument, and I wouldn't have been the first after working with Art Tatum."
  • Guaraldi's early recordings include sessions with vibraphonist Carl Tjader (1953), and some other recording sessions with trios he played with at various live venues throughout San Francisco.
  • Among his live performances was playing piano in  Carl Tjader's Quintet at the first Monterey Jazz Festival in 1958.  The Quintet got a standing ovation.
  • One heavy-hitter in the jazz world, Jon Hendricks, said of Guaraldi:
"Vince is what you call a piano player. That's different from a pianist. A pianist can play anything you can put in front of him. A piano player can play anything BEFORE you put it in front of him."

I'm not sure when this was taken, but now we're getting into the facial hair.  Perhaps it was around this time that fellow jazz musicians started to call him Dr. Funk.
(Photo from Derrick Bang's Five Cents Please)

  • There's one name-droppy person you need to know.  Fellow San Francisco native Ralph Gleason stopped in at the clubs where Guaraldi was playing.  Gleason was the music critic for the San Francisco Chronicle and one of the founders of Rolling Stone.
  • Gleason liked what he heard, and he was also intrigued by Guaraldi's style.  He said that Guaraldi had "stubby, thick, tough little mitts" for hands.  The size of his fingers meant that Guaraldi played the piano physically differently than most people:
"Vince is always pulling splinters from his fingers, driven in when he claws at the wooden baseboard, behind the keys. His fingernails are perpetually split and ragged from hitting that wood. He fingers all wrong when he makes runs and plays chords. All wrong, that is, from the standpoint of efficiency and ‘piano technique.’ He doesn’t make the runs the way it says you should in the Czerny exercise books. He makes the runs the way it fits his stubby little hands. And if he finds shortcuts, and ways to play something with this thumb that ought to be played with his middle finger, he plays it with his thumb. But I’ve noticed over the years in jazz that almost all the good ones do it all wrong, because it’s the sound that matters—and the sound, with Vince, is beautiful and moving." 

Guaraldi's Road to Peanuts

  • In 1959, a French/Portuguese movie called "Black Orpheus" was released.  It was a re-telling of the story of Orpheus and Eurydice, set during Carnival in Rio. (It won the 1960 Oscar for Best Foreign Film, by the way.)  The film prominently featured a couple of songs in the bossa nova style, one of which was called "Samba of Orpheus."  
  • Here's the song from the movie:

  • Guaraldi wrote his own arrangements of the songs from this film, in particular the "Samba of Orpheus."  Here's his version.  Once the piano kicks in, you will recognize his style instantly.

  • Guaraldi and his trio recorded the songs he adapted from the film soundtrack along with a few others, and they were released on a 1962 LP.  To promote the LP, Guaraldi's producers also released a single which featured "Samba of Orpheus" on the A side.  They couldn't decide what to put on the B side for the longest time, and finally they settled on a piece that Guaraldi wrote, nothing to do with that film.  The B-side song they chose was a little tidbit called "Cast Your Fate to the Wind."
  • Don't recognize it, do you?  But I bet as soon as you push play below, you will know the tune immediately.

  • The single was released to radio stations and it got quite a lot of play in the N California area.  Some inquisitive DJs in Sacramento turned the single over and played the B side, and "Cast Your Fate to the Wind" took off.
  • The song won a Grammy in 1963 and audiences clamored for it. Guaraldi became something of a fixture in the San Francisco music & television scene, producing various jazz-related programs that aired on local TV stations.

It was after "Cast Your Fate" became a hit that Guaraldi began to make all sorts of recordings.
(Photo from Dadrock)

  • OK, so now we here we are in 1963.  "Cast Your Fate to the Wind" is a hit in the San Francisco area.  TV producer Lee Mendelson is in San Francisco to work on a documentary about the also-popular comic strip Peanuts, penned by Charles Schulz, who also lived in Northern California.
  • Mendelson was in a taxi, and "Cast Your Fate to the Wind" was playing on the taxi driver's radio. Mendelson liked the song so much, he contacted the music critic for the San Francisco Chronicle, who happened to be Ralph Gleason, who happened to have heard Guaraldi play many times and admired his dexterity with his stubby fingers.  
  • Mendelson asked Gleason if he knew the guy who wrote that song he'd heard on the radio, and of course Gleason said he did.  He set up a meeting between Mendelson and Guaraldi and the two met for lunch.  Mendelson told him about the documentary and asked if Guaraldi would be willing to write music to be the background for the show.

Television producer Lee Mendelson. You wouldn't take this guy to be a jazz lover, would you?
(Photo from The Bluegrass Special)

  • Guaraldi said he loved reading Peanuts and would be thrilled.  A few days later, he called Mendelson and said he had something. He was so excited, he played the tune to him over the phone.
"I was blown away!" Mendelson said. "It simply SOUNDED like the characters in Peanuts. He finished playing and got on the phone. 'What do you think?' he asked.'"It's sensational, perfect! Do you have a name for it yet?' 'I thought we should call it "Linus and Lucy,"' he replied. Little did Vince and I know what that would mean to our futures." (from Snoopy and the Gang)
  • The documentary was called "A Boy Named Charlie Brown" -- not to be confused with the animated feature.  The documentary was never released, never shown to the public.  Mendelson couldn't get anyone to buy it.
  • Mendelson also made a pilot TV show about the world's worst baseball player, Charlie Brown.  The pilot was rejected by all three networks, and that never went anywhere either.
  • Coca-Cola somehow got wind of either the pilot or the documentary, or something, but anyway they had the idea that a Charlie Brown Christmas special might go over well.  They contacted Mendelson and asked if he would be interested in making that, and said that Coca-Cola would be its sponsor.
  • Mendelson asked Schulz to put together an idea (a.k.a. a "creative treatment"), and the next day, the two of them gave Coke a single-page, triple-spaced description of what this Peanuts Christmas special might be like.  In reply, Coke sent Schulz and Mendelson this telegram: 
  • When Mendelson began working on this Christmas special, he contacted Guaraldi again and asked if they could use is music for the special.  Rumor has it that Schulz did not much like jazz, but he went along with what the producers wanted -- which was Guaraldi's music.
  • The rest, as they say, is history.

This iconic moment from A Charlie Brown Christmas would soon be in everyone's future.
(Photo from Houston Press)

Guaraldi "captured something about the lilting quality of the kids," remembers Jean Schulz, Charles' widow. "The way they walk and bounce a little bit — he captured that in his music." 

  • Even after all the success of the multiple Peanuts specials that were made over the years, Guaraldi still performed live in Northern California, sometimes for no cover charge.

1970s Guaraldi
(Photo from Derrick Bang's Five Cents Please)

  • In fact, the night he died, February 6, 1976, he played a gig at Butterfield's in Menlo Park, CA. One reader of a blog about Guaraldi describes his final night this way:
"After concluding the first set at Butterfield's Nightclub in Menlo Park, California, Guaraldi and drummer Jim Zimmerman returned to the room they were staying in that weekend at the attached Red Cottage Inn, to relax before the next set. In Zimmerman's words, 'He was walking across the room and just collapsed. That was it.' His cause of death has been variously described as a heart attack and/or an aortic aneurysm. Guaraldi had just finished recording the soundtrack for It's Arbor Day, Charlie Brown earlier that afternoon."
  • Guaraldi had even had a check-up only a few weeks before. The doctor gave him an EKG and the results were good enough that the doctor didn't think he had any heart problems.  The doctor said that the stomach problems and tiredness he was experiencing were probably ulcers.

(Album cover and album itself from All Music)

"I don't think I'm a great piano player," Guaraldi once said, "but I would like to have people like me, to play pretty tunes and reach the audience. And I hope some of those tunes will become standards. I want to write standards, not just hits."
  • I think he got his wish, don't you? 

Derrick Bang, The Official Site of Vince Guaraldi, "A Few Words about Dr. Funk"
All Music, Vince Guaraldi Artist Biography
IMDb, Black Orpheus
Snoopy and the Gang! Vince Guaraldi
Coca-Cola, The Secret History of Charlie Brown's Christmas
Saber Point, Searching for Answers: the Death of Vince Guaraldi (Continually Updated)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Apple #652: Presidential Turkey Pardon

So, you know that bit of tom-foolery (pun) where the President "pardons" a turkey so it won't get killed and eaten for his Thanksgiving dinner?  Everybody says that's such a tradition, and isn't it clever and also humane, and there's all this ceremony around it.

Barack Obama pardoning the turkey -- or is he blessing it?
(Photo from

Well, as traditions go it isn't that old, and in my opinion, it's kind of dumb.  Here are the facts:
  • People have presented turkeys to the White House for a long time, this is true.  The National Turkey Federation has donated turkeys to the WH each year since 1947. But the first 2 Presidents to receive their donation from this group (Harry S Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower) didn't "pardon" the turkeys at all.  They said thank you and ate them.
  • JFK did not "pardon" any donated turkeys, either.  He did say of one that it wasn't big enough so it should be sent back to the farm: "We'll just let this one grow."  Which suggests that after it's had time to grow some more, then we'll eat it.  News reports used the word "pardon," but JFK did not.

Nobody talks much about LBJ's turkey.  I have the feeling that's because it went quietly onto his table.
(Photo from Corbis at Bon Appetit)

  • Ronald Reagan was actually the first President to use the word "pardon" in reference to the donated turkey.  But he wasn't even saying anything like, "I hearby pardon this turkey which has been donated...."  Nope.  He was in the middle of being grilled about the Iran-Contra scandal.  When he was asked if he would pardon Lt. Col. Oliver North and ex-national security advisor John Poindexter, Reagan dodged the question by saying if that year's donated turkey had not already been destined for a petting zoo, "I would have pardoned him."
  • Not sure how that could have satisfied the reporters, but politicians are good at dodging questions.

Ronald Reagan and his helpful press conference prop, the turkey.
(Photo from All This Is That)

  • The first President who used the official pardon in reference to a turkey was George H. W. Bush (the first George Bush).  This was in 1989.  At the turkey press conference -- a function which had started to become an annual thing -- GHWB said of the turkey he had been presented, “Let me assure this fine tom he will not end up on anyone's dinner table. Not this guy. He's been granted a presidential pardon as of right now, allowing him to live out his days on a farm not far from here.”

GHWB and his officially pardoned turkey.
(Photo from Getty at Bon Appetit)

  • Every year since, the sitting President has followed GHWB's lead and said he was "pardoning" the donated turkey.
  • But the turkeys that are donated are raised specifically to be eaten.  That is, they're bred to be enormous, nearly 3x the size of their wild-turkey-relatives.  They're raised to be so large that their skeletons can't even support their own weight.  They suffer all sorts of medical maladies due to our now-typical turkey-to-table breeding practices.
  • As a result, nearly all the turkeys that are pardoned die within a year of the pardon anyway.
  • Finally, the true Presidential pardon exists to exonerate someone of a crime.  These turkeys committed no crime.  Animal rights activists might even argue that the crime was committed against the turkeys.
  • I say, If someone gives you a turkey, you first of all say thank you.  And if you're going to breed and raise a turkey to be eaten, you should eat it.  

In Minnesota, the governor pardons the live turkey -- for one day.  The Minnesota Turkey Growers, who provide the live turkey, also donate some 1,180 frozen turkeys to food pantries.
(Photo by Laura Durben at Minnesota Turkey, sourced from MinnPost)

P.S. There is no period after the S in Harry S Truman.  He did not have a middle name, only a middle initial.  Since the S does not stand for anything, using a period is pointless. (pun)

Related entries: Grateful vs. Thankful, Turkeys, Thanksgiving

Snopes, The Ungobbled Gobbler
Mental Floss, Free Bird: The History of Presidential Turkey Pardoning
The Washington Post WonkBlog, The turkey pardon is America's dumbest tradition
LA Times, Presidential turkey pardon far from a storied tradition, Credit GOP for the first official turkey pardon

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Apple #651: Day/Night Rear-View Mirrors

 I've had a request!  Daily Apple reader Jeroboam wants to know, when you switch your rear view mirror to the night-time view so the reflection from headlights doesn't beam straight into your eyes, how does that work?

I've always suspected mirrors are involved, but I didn't know exactly how, so I thought this was an excellent question.

Most cars' rear view mirrors have a button or a lever at the bottom that allows you to adjust the mirror to reduce the glare from headlights at night.  Pushing that button or tripping the lever does help -- but what exactly is happening with the mirror?  Why does this work?
(Image from Mobile Magazine)

  • Lots of people try to explain how this works and I'm sure they do a fine job of it, but the words just aren't sinking in for me.  I need diagrams.  Pictures.
  • I found a video of a physics lecture given by Bill Layton of UCLA, and he drew pictures on the blackboard.  Those, I get.
  • So I will reproduce for you, using my very rudimentary skills, his diagrams.
  • For all you physics purists out there, these diagrams are not to scale, and the angles of reflection are not in any way mathematically measured or anything like that.  They're only meant to demonstrate the general process.
  • The first thing to know about your rear view mirror is that it isn't like the mirror you have in your bedroom.  It's not a piece of glass laying flat over a silvered surface.  Your rear-view is made of a piece of glass and it is in front of the silvered surface, but they are at different angles to each other.

In these diagrams, you are sitting to the left of the glass, and the right edge of the silvered mirror is the back of the rear view mirror.
(Diagram by the Apple Lady)

  • The fact that the glass and the silvered surface are at angles to each other is why this type of rear view mirror is sometimes referred to as a prismatic rear view mirror.
  • The fact that the glass is less reflective than the silvered surface is also crucial to how the whole thing works.  
  • When light from the headlights comes streaming into the car and strikes the glass, that light is reflected back off the glass.  But the reflection is relatively weak, so in the daytime, you don't perceive that reflection.

Also in the daytime, the angle of the glass relative to your eyes is such that the reflection bounces off in a direction not aimed at you.  So that's another reason why you don't perceive the reflection of the headlights off the glass.
(Diagram by the Apple Lady)

  • The light from the headlights doesn't stop there, of course, but continues on to strike the silvered surface at the back of the rear view mirror.
  • That silvered surface gives back a stronger reflection than the glass will (though slightly less strong than the original beam of light), and it bounces back at an angle that's pretty close to the same angle at which it traveled to the mirror. 
  • So the headlight reflection that you perceive during the daytime is the reflection that's bouncing back off the silvered mirror.

Here's the whole process in action, during the daytime.  The light from the headlights is bouncing off the glass, but weakly, and at an angle not aimed at you.  The light is also bouncing off the silvered surface, but to a stronger degree than that off the glass, and at an angle aimed closer to your eyes.  So you are perceiving only the reflection bouncing off the silvered surface.
(Diagram by the Apple Lady)

  • At night, when you tilt the rear view mirror, you're changing the angle of the glass and the mirror relative to your eyes.  
  • When it's tilted for night-time use, the glass is is at the same angle that the silvered surface was.  Now, the glass is angled so its reflection will bounce back toward you, while the mirror will be angled so its reflection bounces away from you.

The day/night rear-view mirror in its night-time orientation.
(Diagram by the Apple Lady)

  • Now when the light comes streaming into the car, when it bounces off the glass surface, even though that reflection is weaker, since everything else is darker, you'll be able to perceive that reflection.  And it will be angled toward your eyes.

Even though the reflection off the glass is relatively weak, because it's dark out and there isn't as much light competing with it, you will be able to see that reflection.  Also, the reflection off the glass is now angled in your direction.
(Diagram by the Apple Lady)

  • Once again, the light from the headlights doesn't stop when it hits the glass but continues on to the silvered surface.  Now, when it bounces off that, even though that reflection is stronger, it is angled in a different direction, away from your eyes, so you don't perceive it.

Though the reflection off the silvered surface is stronger than that off the glass, it is angled away from your eyes, so that's not the reflection that you see.
(Diagram by the Apple Lady)

  • When I tilt the rear view to its alternate angle at night, I've sometimes noticed maybe the ghost of a reflection, or almost two images of headlights.  I've been sort of distracted by that, and I've been curious about why that is.  Now that I now how the rear-view works, I'll see if adjusting the angle of the mirror as a whole helps get rid of that ghost/mirror reflection.
Thanks for asking the question, Jeroboam!

Here's the video of the physics lecture, if you want to see the professor draw and explain the diagrams for you.  The informative stuff starts at about 1 minute 15 seconds in.

Other Sources

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Apple #650: Hot Cocoa vs. Hot Chocolate

 It's a blustery day, and that's got me thinking about hot chocolate.

Or is it hot cocoa?

What's the difference, if there is one?

Can you guess which of these is hot chocolate and which is hot cocoa?  By the end of this entry, I bet you'll be able to.
(Photo from fine cooking)

  • The difference is in the ingredients.  Cocoa and chocolate are 2 different things.
  • You don't go to the candy store and buy a tin of powdered cocoa and eat it plain, right out of the package.  Nope, you buy a bar of chocolate.  The difference there is what is behind the difference between hot chocolate and hot cocoa.

The chocolate is the squares, the cocoa is the powder beneath.  The difference between those two is what makes the difference between hot chocolate and hot cocoa.
(Photo from Texas Cooking)

  • Hot chocolate is made -- unsurprisingly -- with chocolate.  Chocolate is made of
    • Cocoa solids -- the brown, bitter, powdery thing that makes chocolate taste like chocolate. Cocoa powder and cocoa solids are often the same thing.
    • Cocoa butter -- a rich fat that is the cocoa solid's very good friend
    • Sugar
    • Often, vanilla.  (It's one of those seemingly contradictory truisms of life that chocolate tastes better with a little vanilla added.)

  • Hot cocoa is made, as you have probably already guessed, with cocoa powder. Which is primarily just the cocoa solids. Cocoa powder has none of the fat, sugar, or vanilla that chocolate has.
  • The result is that hot chocolate has more of a creamy, luscious texture. If you use a lot of the hot chocolate, you might get something closer to a thick chocolately syrup.

Now that's a gooey cup of hot chocolate. The recipe for this Cioccolato Caldo calls for 6 ounces of dark chocolate.
(Photo from What's Cooking America. Scroll almost to the bottom of the link for the recipe)

  • Hot cocoa, on the other hand, doesn't have that creaminess already built in.  But without that extra fat in there to coat and smooth the cocoa solids, the chocolate flavor will stand out more.
  • In a lot of ways, the difference between the two is similar to milk chocolate versus dark chocolate.
  • That said, a lot also depends on your recipe.  What kind of chocolate are you using?  Is it cheap-o chocolate chips?  Or are you shaving bittersweet baking chocolate?  Or are you using the most gourmet dark chocolate that is 75% cocoa solids?  
  • If you're going the hot cocoa route, are you using generic cocoa powder?  Or will it be gourmet organic unsweetened cocoa powder?  Or are you using Dutch-processed cocoa powder, which reduces the acidity of the cocoa solids?
  • And what kind of milk are you using?  2% milk?  Whole milk? A mixture of milk and cream?  All of these decisions will affect what your hot chocolate / hot cocoa tastes like, and which of the two you might prefer. 

This cup of hot cocoa has whipped cream, sprinkles, and a peppermint stick on top. But the important part is that it's made with a combination of half & half and whole milk.  That'll get you some creamy hot cocoa.
(Photo and recipe from Real MOM Kitchen)

  • Other food bloggers have investigated this duo, and they've done side-by-side tests.  But very few say which of the two they prefer.  One blogger said that her hot chocolate was thicker and creamier, but it was also sweeter, maybe even too sweet.  So her preference fell on the side of hot cocoa.  But it wasn't a runaway victory.
  • Then she added up the calories.  Her mug of hot chocolate had 375 calories; her hot cocoa had 150.  I think that tipped her scales (pun) for certain in the direction of hot cocoa.
  • I'm guessing that, in general, both are delicious, and which one you make will probably depend more on what ingredients you happen to have in the house.


  • I can't talk about these things without giving you recipes.  Here are recipes for hot chocolate and hot cocoa from one blogger at FoodHappy who said these recipes are about as comparable as it gets on a cup-by-cup basis.  So if you want to do your own side-by-side taste test, these might be the 2 recipes to use: 

FoodHappy's Hot Chocolate by the mug

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1.5 oz to 2 oz semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped or grated
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  1. 1.5 oz of chocolate yields a "standard-tasting" cup of hot chocolate.  2 oz yields a more "indulgent" cup.
  2. Combine milk and salt in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan. (A thick-bottomed saucepan will help keep the milk from scalding.) On medium heat, bring to a simmer.
  3. Remove from the heat, add chocolate.
  4. Let the chocolate do its own melting thing for about a minute. Then whisk until the chocolate has fully melted and combined with the milk.
  5. Whisk in the vanilla extract and serve.

FoodHappy's Hot Cocoa by the mug

  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 to 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  1. 1 tablespoon of brown sugar makes a somewhat sweet mug of hot cocoa.  2 tablespoons makes it quite sweet.
  2. In that small, heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine 2 tbsp of the milk, cocoa powder, brown sugar, and salt. Whisk over medium heat until the cocoa powder and brown sugar have dissolved.
  3. Then add the rest of the milk and over medium heat, bring to a simmer.
  4. Remove from heat, whisk in the vanilla extract, and serve.

Now here are a few more hot chocolate & hot cocoa recipes, in case one strikes your particular fancy:

Yasmeen Health Nut's Easy & Organic Hot Chocolate

  • 2 cups reduced fat organic milk
  • 1/2 cup or 4 oz high-quality dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
  1. Combine the chocolate and the milk in a saucepan and heat together over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Takes about 10 minutes. Serve.

An Educated Palate's Easy Creamy Hot Cocoa

  • 2 tsp Dutched cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp cream, not heated
  • 6 oz boiling water
  1. Combine cocoa powder and sugar in the mug you'll be drinking from.  Mix well.
  2. Add the cream and stir into a smooth paste.
  3. Add boiling water and stir until smooth and well-blended.  Drink.

From Scratch Club's Spiced Hot Chocolate for 4

  • 2-1/2 c whole milk
  • 4 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1-1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  1. In a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan, warm the milk over medium heat until it's hot and a bit frothy.
  2. Whisk in chocolate and sugar, and keep whisking until sugar has dissolved.
  3. Whisk in vanilla, cinnamon, and cayenne pepper.  Serve.

This mug of spiced hot goodness is made using both cocoa powder and semi-sweet chocolate, plus cinnamon and nutmeg and cayenne pepper and espresso.  Yowza.
(Photo and recipe from OMFG So Good)

Jo and Sue's Single Serving Hot Cocoa

  • 2 tbsp baking coca powder
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/3 c water
  • 2/3 c 1% milk
  1. In a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan, mix cocoa, brown sugar, and salt.
  2. Slowly stir in vanilla and water.  Then turn on heat.
  3. Heat over medium heat until boiling.
  4. Reduce heat to medium-low and keep on a slow boil for 2 minutes, stirring the entire time.
  5. After 2 minutes, add milk.  Heat to desired temperature, being careful not to allow it to boil.


Of course you can add all sorts of things to your hot cocoa or hot chocolate for further deliciousness:
  • Marshmallows
  • Homemade marshmallows (if you have a whole lot of time)
  • Whipped cream
  • Cinnamon stick
  • Peppermint stick
  • Bailey's Irish Cream
  • Brandy
  • Nutella
 I wonder if sliced bananas would be good. Oooh, maybe sliced bananas coated in chocolate....

Hot chocolate with Nutella
Photo & recipe from Honey, What's Cooking?)

Monday, November 4, 2013

Apple #659: Fear of Clowns

For Halloween this year, I dressed up as Raggedy Andy.

Raggedy Ann and Andy were dolls that came to life in books from the 1920s. They had nice little adventures like getting in pillow fights and roasting marshmallows and having the marshmallows get stuck to their soft cotton hands.
(Image from

You could also get soft, stuffed dolls made to look like the drawings in the books. This is a Raggedy Andy doll. 
(Photo from I Found My Childhood on eBay)

My costume was one my mom had and gave to me several years ago. I had worn it once about 10 years ago, and I thought this year, why not break it out again. Nobody I know now has ever seen me wear it, so it will be new to them.

Admittedly, my costume is only an approximation of the original doll. Also, while I remembered there were triangles on the face, I remembered them wrong so when I painted my face, it didn't quite look like Raggedy Andy's. The result was, people assumed I was a regular old clown.

And several people said they were therefore afraid of me--or my costume.

Really? THIS is scary?

The number of people who said they were afraid of my costume was rather surprising. More people said they were afraid of me this year than when I wore the costume 10 or so years ago.

First of all, I personally don't get the whole fear of clowns thing. It's a person wearing make-up and baggy clothes. Wooo, scary. So I'm wondering, especially since more people seem to be afraid of clowns--or more people are saying they're afraid of clowns--is this like bacon? I mean, is fear of clowns increasing the same way love of bacon has become so widespread, if you say "bacon," 15 people will start drooling immediately? Is fear of clowns becoming that pervasive, so now if you were to say, "Hey, a clown," 15 people would duck under a table and another 5 would say, "Totally. Love the bacon. Hate the clowns."

  • There is a name for a phobia of clowns. But first, let's get our levels of fear straight.
  • There's "I don't think clowns are funny." This is me. Not afraid, but not entertained, either. Clown humor is slapstick. "Oh! Look at my enormous shoes! Oh, I fell down! Oh, I squirted water out of my stupid fake daisy!" To me, slapstick is more annoying than funny. Like America's Funniest Home Videos. Physical humor and nothign more. Boring after about 30 seconds, annoying after about a minute. 
  • The next level is, "I don't like clowns." At this level, you just don't care for them. You wouldn't put a clown picture on your wall, you might even be tempted to punch such a picture, but you wouldn't run and hide from it either. 
  • Next we have, "I'm afraid of clowns." You see a clown and you get a little heart-poundy, a little nervous. You're not really sure what that clown is going to do, and you don't really want to find out. If you saw a clown in a haunted house, you would get scared, solely by virtue of the fact that it is a clown. 
  • Finally we have clown phobia. You see a clown and your heart races. You break out in a sweat, your hands shake, you feel nauseous, you have trouble breathing, you feel panicky. Full-blown, out of control fear. 

(Image posted by BlackTequilaKiss at

  • People say the phobia-word for this is coulrophobia. Literally, that means fear of stilt-walkers. Because apparently the Greeks, from whom we get most of our -phobia words, don't have a word for "clown." 
  • It isn't a term accepted by any psychological association, nor is it in the DSM-5, nor is it in a lot of dictionaries. Apparently the word has only been around since the 1980s or so -- which suggests to me that this fear of clowns thing may be recent in origin. 
  • But for some people, fear of clowns can be quite real. Like a fear of spiders, or a fear of snakes, or any other phobia, it can affect people's lives in very definite ways. Some people will even avoid eating at McDonald's because they don't want to see any images of Ronald McDonald. 

To me, if anything, this is only mildly annoying. But for some people, this instills fear.
(Photo from the Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Four States)

  • Very guessy estimates say clown phobia is much more prevalent in Western society, and that anywhere from 5% to 12% of adults have some fear of clowns. 
  • People who have studied this say that what instills the fear is the fact that the faces are painted. 
  • The reason people -- especially children -- find this disturbing is because even babies know that the painted-on face is not an authentic expression of what the person under the make-up is actually feeling. The children & babies (and adults) are reacting to the fact that the face paint is telling an obvious lie. 
  • Because the paint says one thing and the person's demeanor says another, you don't trust them. And since they seem to be trying very hard to tell you they're happy, that makes you even more suspicious. Why the heck do they want so much for you to believe that they're happy? What else are they going to do that I'm supposed to ignore and think that means happiness too?
  • So instead of happy giggling children, you get suspicion, distrust, and fear. 
"We found that clowns [were] universally disliked by children," said one researcher who studied whether using clown images to decorate a children's hospital ward would be a good idea. 

Children actually don't like clowns -- something to consider the next time you're planning a child's birthday party.  
(Photo from Rap Genius)

  • OK, this is making sense. I'm not going to feel your clown-fear with you, but now I understand where it's coming from. 
  • But this raises other questions. Are people just as afraid of sad clowns? Do people think the sad clowns are also lying and are therefore suspicious? Or are they not afraid of fake sadness in the same way they're afraid of fake happiness? 
    • (Personally, I loathe sad clown art. Detest it. I don't think you can even call it art.  I think you call it a cultural splinter in the eye. So I am not going to post any images of sad clowns.)
  • Some people say they are less afraid of sad clowns than happy ones. But other people say the sad clowns disturb them even more than the happy ones. Still others are not afraid of the happy ones at all, but are only afraid of the sad ones. 
  • Thus, apparently it's not just the fake-happy emotions that people distrust, it's any fake emotions. (researchers agree with this).  Perhaps which fake-ness you distrust more may depend on your personal make-up (pun), or perhaps on your own childhood experiences.

I wondered if people were afraid of rodeo clowns too. I thought maybe not, since they help the rodeo contestants. But this guy, Keith Isley, who is a rodeo clown -- they prefer now to be called bullfighters -- said one of the parts of his job is helping people get comfortable with his clown-ness. One of the ways he does that is to let them see him put on his make-up, and even let them put some of it on him themselves.
(Photo by Michael Cavazos at the Longview News-Journal)

  • People who treat patients for clown phobias -- I'm talking the debilitating, affects-your-life level of fear -- say that it's similar to lots of other phobias: clown phobia originates at some point in childhood, when the child experienced something negative or traumatic involving a clown. The person never had cause or reason to let go of the fear, so it only intensified over time. 
  • The best way to treat clown & any phobia is to bring the person into contact with the feared thing gradually, a little bit more over time. The person can cope with the anxiety at relatively low levels while they learn that the thing they're afraid of won't actually harm them. 
  • Popular culture may actually not be helping that effort. 
  • There have been lots of happy clowns that people used to like, or seemed to like.  There was Clarabell the Clown, who was Howdy Doody's silent sidekick. (The first guy who played Clarabell was Bob Keeshan, who later became Captain Kangaroo.)

L to R: Buffalo Bob, Howdy Doody, and Clarabell the Clown
(Photo from The Fifties Web)

  • There was also Bozo the Clown, who was so popular by the mid-1960s that there was a 10-year wait to get tickets to see his show.
We had a Bozo the Clown show at our local TV station.  One of the meteorologists played him.  I got to be on his show with the rest of my Bluebird troop.  He had a game where a lucky kid from the audience had to throw a ball into one of several circles, with the best prizes in the farthest circle. My friend Jill got to be the lucky kid, and she won a huge container of Tootsie Rolls that lasted her 2 years.  I don't remember anyone ever saying they were afraid of Bozo.
(Photo from Infinity Dish TV Blog)

  • But then came a whole raft of evil clowns.  The first one was the real thing.
  • John Wayne Gacy, a real-life guy who dressed up as a clown for children's parties and was also a serial rapist and murderer. 
  • Then came the movies:
    • Poltergeist (1982) - a boy's clown doll comes to life and tries to drag him under the bed
    • It (1986) - Stephen King's Pennywise the Clown is actually a demon who attacks children
    • Clownhouse (1989) - escaped mental patients disguise themselves as clowns and murder-slaughter all sorts of people in a rural town
    • Batman movies featuring the Joker. Jack Nicholson's Joker looked, to me, like Jack Nicholson with green paint on his face.  Heath Ledger's Joker, on the other hand, is a different story.  He is scary-looking, for sure. (But isn't that what you want in a villain?)
    • Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988) - OK, really?  Some people include that one their list of scary clown movies?  The thing was a spoof!

Their weapons are popcorn that turn into spider-like insects, and cotton candy that gets spun into a suffocating cocoon of sugar-death. There's also something about the whipped cream pies that I can't remember.
(Photo from Pop-Break)

  • But you see the point.  Movies have taken the clowns-can-be-unsettling thing and worked and worked it until they made clowns into fear-worthy icons.
  • So I see it as no accident that, with the influx of evil clown movies beginning in the 1980s, that's when we started to see the coulrophobia word appear.  And the people who said they were afraid of my costume?  They were not people who grew up with Howdy Doody, but younger.  People who would have seen those evil-clown movies in the theaters when they came out.
  • My final question is this: those of you who are afraid of clowns, are you afraid of KISS too?  Were you afraid of them in their heyday?  Eh, probably the people who are afraid of clowns didn't make it far enough into the entry even to see this question.

KISS: scary clowns or rock icons? They wore white face paint too, you know.
(Photo from Huff Post Entertainment)

NPR, Fear of Clowns: Yes, It's Real, August 6, 2013
Linda Rodriguez-McRobbie, The History and Psychology of Clowns Being Scary, Smithsonian Magazine, August 1, 2013
Krystal D'Costa, Why Are We Afraid of Clowns? Scientific American, October 31, 2011
Bill Briggs, No laughing matter: Fear of clowns is serious issue, NBC News, April 20, 2012
Joseph Durwin, Coulrophobia & the Trickster, Trinity University
Coulrophobia: the Fear of Clowns
World Wide Words, Coulrophobia
Charles Bryce, 2011 Stock Show & Rodeo: Clowning Serious Business, San Angelo Standard-Times,February 12, 2011