Monday, February 23, 2015

Apple #703: Pink Lemonade

I got the idea this weekend that pink lemonade cookies might taste good.  I thought they might seem light and refreshing and their color welcome in the middle of what has become a snowy winter.  So I looked around for a decent-looking recipe, and I'm making some tonight.  I've got a sheet's worth in the oven right this very minute.

While we're waiting for them to finish baking, let's find out about pink lemonade.

Strawberry pink lemonade.  It's kind of funny that people get all highbrow fancy about pink lemonade, once you know its origins.
(Photo and recipe from Fine Cooking)

  • The fact that it's called "pink" lemonade as opposed to some specifically-named fruit lemonade leaves the door open for whatever ingredient you want to use to make it turn pink.
  • Depending on your taste, you might want the pink in your pink lemonade to be made from:
    • Raspberry
    • Strawberry
    • Cranberry
    • Cherry
    • Cinnamon red hot candies
  • Here are some varying recipes for pink lemonade, to prove my point:
CHOW's raspberry lemonade
(Photo and recipe from CHOW)

  • But which, you might wonder, is the "real" pink ingredient?  How was the original pink lemonade made?
  • Well, there are all sorts of stories about the first pink lemonade.  As is often the case in identifying firsts, no one is exactly sure which version came first, or which one is the truth.  But all the stories have the whiff of the much-embellished about them.  So I will present all of them to you and leave it to you to decide which one you like best.
  • Just Plain Dyed -- in 1857, a guy named Pete Conklin who sold lemonade and other beverages at a circus concession stand happened to run out of water to make his lemonade.  Being an enterprising sort, he dashed about the tents looking for more water. In his search, he came across a woman named Fannie Jamieson, one of the women who rode horses on bareback.  She had just put her pink tights to soak in a vat of water, and the aniline dye from her tights turned the water pink.  

This is the sort of bareback rider we're talking about.
(Saturday Evening Post cover image by Norman Rockwell, from the Normal Rockwell Museum)

  • Mr. Conklin took the vat of pink water back to his concession stand, mixed up more lemonade, and sold it as "fine strawberry lemonade." He did a rousing business.  
  • Some versions say he didn't notice the water had turned pink until he'd already mixed a batch; other versions suggest he knew it was pink all along.  Either way, by the second batch, he knew what he'd done, but he kept right on mixing more.
    • I want to note here that it was quite common for a long time for lots of food and drink to be adulterated -- milk to be watered down, butter to be made of watery milk and marigold dye, all kinds of stuff like that.  It wasn't until the early 20th century when lots of regulations were passed that said the food & drink you sold had to contain what you said it did, and no toxic stuff either.  So it wasn't much of a stretch for Mr. Conklin to sell lemonade dyed with dirty tights-water as "fine strawberry lemonade."
  • Red Hot Lemonade -- Another circus fellow, Henry E. Allott, better known as "Bunk Allen," was a Chicago saloon-keeper, a gambler, and a circus promoter. He was something of a public figure, in the sense that he got arrested a lot, because the New York Times ran his obituary when he died in 1912.  There, they reported that Bunk invented pink lemonade when he was a teenager (which would have been around the 1870s).  One fateful day, while mixing up the original yellow lemonade, he somehow dropped in a bunch of red-dyed cinnamon candies by accident. "The resulting rose-mixture sold so surprisingly well that he continued to dispense his chance discovery," the NYT obituary said.

Try putting a bunch of red hots like these in your lemonade, and let me know if it's at all edible.  Or drinkable.  Cinnamon pink lemonade is the one variety I couldn't find a recipe for.
(Image from Wikipedia)

  • Sounds to me like this guy was a rum-runner during Prohibition, and he started his life of selling the illegal hooch early, when he was a teenager.  The lemonade was probably a mixer for something a little more potent -- gin, maybe.  The cinnamony-pink lemonade would have been a novelty to his customers, who might also have been looking for something to disguise the harder stuff mixed into it.  "Relax, Copper, it's only pink lemonade."
  • That previous paragraph is all my reading-between-the-lines supposition, of course. 
  • It is reported, however, that Bunk Allen said on his deathbed that he didn't want a priest, but that "When I'm planted, I want everybody to have a drink on me."  

Where Bunk was planted.  And where we should all have a drink?  Bunk Allen's gravestone in Forest Home Cemetery, Forest Park, IL.
(Photo from Find a Grave)

Perhaps what we should drink on Bunk Allen's grave should be a glass of Rachael Ray's pink lemonade with gin and ginger ale.
(Photo and recipe from Every Day with Rachael Ray)

  • Whoops, I Dyed it Again --  Another circus dude, this one named W. H. A. Tobey, said he came up with pink lemonade by accident, in the 1860s.  His story is remarkably like Conklin's pink-tights-dyed lemonade, except Tobey's story removes him from some of the blame of selling an adulterated substance, and it has more signs of the tall tale about it. 
  • His story goes that he was working with a circus called Forepaugh's, and they were touring the Southwest.  Water was so scarce ("How scarce was it?") they didn't have enough water to sell lemonade. When he went to check on the horses, he got an idea.  He says a red blanket had fallen into their water trough, dyeing it pink, and the horses wouldn't drink the water.  So he brought the pink horse-blanket-water to the lemonade salesman, they mixed up a batch of lemonade with it, and sold it as colored lemonade.  Horses wouldn't drink the water, but people sure drank the pink lemonade.  It was such a hit, Tobey and the lemonade man made their pink lemonade at every stop after that.

Poster for Forepaugh and Sells Brothers Circus.  Lots of bareback riders of all sorts. Presumably, none of these horses would drink the pink water -- but people watching them would.
(Image from Wikimedia Commons)

  • Dye it One More Time -- Yet another circus man said he was the one who came up with pink lemonade.  This time, it was a guy named William Henry Griffith (not the Welsh-Anglican cleric), and his story removes him almost entirely from blame.  He says he had a batch of lemonade all mixed up and ready to go when, lo and behold, what should occur but a pair of a circus performer's red tights blew off a clothesline and into his vat of lemonade.  
  • What was he to do?  Should he have fished out the tights and mixed up a new fresh batch?  Never!  The tights must have dyed the lemonade instantly, rendering it impossible for him to undo the damage, and a customer must have happened by at that very instant, parched from thirst, begging for life-restoring lemonade immediately, and hang it all if it was dyed pink, the customer must have that essential lemonade.  And what do you know, the customer found it delicious, rejuvenating, even, and so what choice did Griffith have but to sell that red-dyed lemonade?  It was never his fault at all the lemonade wound up dyed, no sir.  
  • Again, I embellish.  But only to point out the latent but too-obvious ridiculousness of his story.

Pink tights, hanging up to dry. Are these the real inventors of pink lemonade?
(Photo from Rori roars)

  • Well, it seems pink lemonade has a none-too-savory past.  (Which makes sense, since it's very sweet, har har.)  But it does seem likely that pink lemonade was first mixed by some circus beverage-seller, and that its popularity spread across the country as the circus(es) made their rounds.  Which would explain why no one is exactly sure where it appeared first or most memorably.
  • Now for the cookie update.  Alas and alack, my cookies are turning out like crap.  They're hard little knobs that won't spread out on the cookie sheet, and they don't have much flavor.  I suspect this is my fault, not the fault of the recipe.  Because I monkeyed with it.
  • I doubled the recipe, first of all, which doesn't usually create problems.  But then I wanted more lemonade flavor, so I added some lemon juice.  Not quite enough lemon flavor, so I added some lemon extract.  That helped, but it seemed overly sweet, so I added a quarter teaspoon of salt, which I thought brought out the tartness.  The extra lemon juice seemed to have made the batter too moist, so I added some extra flour.  And I think this is where I ran afoul.
  • So I will spare you photos of my sad knobby little cookies.  Instead, I will direct you to the recipe I used and instruct you to adhere to the recipe more closely than I did.  I'm sure your cookies will turn out better than mine. 
Pink Lemonade Cookies, recipe from Better Homes and Gardens

This is what the BHG cookies should have looked like.  The cookies in this picture were made according to Betty Crocker's recipe, which calls for a sugar cookie mix.  I don't like using mixes, but if you do, this might be a good choice for you.
(Photo from Betty Crocker)

Mental Floss, Why Is Pink Lemonade Pink?
The Huffington Post, Pink Lemonade: The Story Behind Its Pink Color, 4/15/2014
Josh Chetwynd, How the Hot Dog Found Its Bun: Accidental Discoveries and Unexpected Inspirations that Shape What We Eat and Drink, pp 116-117
Odd Loves Company, National Radio Day, National Lemonade Day!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Apple #702: 3D Printing

The university where I work recently acquired two 3D printers, and they sent out a call to any students or faculty to submit requests for objects to be printed on it, for free.  This deal was supposed to last for 2 months, and they've already had over 500 requests, more than they can fulfill in the 2 months.

When I first saw the notice go out, I thought I'd like to submit a request, and I thought I'd pick something really hard, but also something I actually wanted.  Like a piano.  I thought that would really knock them for a loop.  But then I found out that people have already made pianos with this 3D printing technology.  Incredible stuff.

I don't really understand the whole 3D printing thing, so I'm going to try to find out how it works.  I'm sure I will miss the nuances of the technology, but I'll try to give you (and me) a basic overview, a starting point.  Off I go to do my research. . . .

This dress was printed using 3D technology. It is made of links of material that interlock together on tiny hinges. The pieces can be custom-assembled so the dress fits anybody. MoMA thought the idea was so cool, they bought the technology immediately.
(Photo from ecouterre)

3D Printing is Rapid Prototyping

  • 3D printing has actually been in use since the 1980s.  1984, or 1986 or thereabouts.  But it wasn't something the general public knew about; it was a technique manufacturers used, and they called it "rapid prototyping."  You might have heard this phrase before without really knowing what it means.  I know I did. 
  • Rapid prototyping/3D printing allowed manufacturers to create a model of a part or some specialty piece that they weren't sure how it would work and test it out.  They could make one of these things, without having to go through a huge assembly line and make a ton of them, so they could customize whatever part and try out, without a lot of overhead.  This is the "prototype" part.  And, since they were only making one, it could be done quickly -- the "rapid" part.  It's not part of the name, but this one-off method was also a whole lot cheaper than making a batch of parts they weren't sure would work or not.
  • So manufacturers leaned a lot from the parts they made using rapid prototyping -- what we now call 3D printing.

In the past, this is how rapid prototyping was mainly used: to create customized, detailed parts, pretty much on a one-off basis. These bits and pieces are used on airplanes.
(Image from IFExpress)

  • An additional benefit is that it builds a product in a completely different way than old manufacturing techniques.  The older methods would basically take a big sheet of metal or plastic and punch holes into it or cut details out from it.  3D printing uses  a computer to build a custom shape out of the materials and pile the materials on top of each other. Think of a chain link fence, for example.  That has to get made as wire, which is then cut and bent and molded into shape. With 3D printing, you could basically build a chain link fence from the bottom up, not from bits of wire folded together, but from layers that are fused to form one solid object that is your fence.
  • In the past couple of years, this technology is getting used for more and more things -- everything from space station parts to prosthetics. As it's becoming more commonly used, we general-public, non-manufacturer people are starting to hear about it.  Since the technology is used not just for manufacturing test parts, but for entire objects, "rapid prototyping" isn't really an accurate phrase anymore.  It's much broader than that.  So people are now calling it 3D printing.

Now, 3D printing is being used not just to make test parts for vehicles, but to make entire chassis components, functional elements in the engine or drive train, and even to make the entire vehicle.  I'm not sure if this company made this entire motorcycle using 3D printing, but I think they made at least most of the parts with it.
(Image from CRP Technology)

The CAD Part

  • But, OK, you want to know, how the heck does it work?
  • In brief, it is lasers or some other really hot technology that zaps little bits of plastic to fuse them together according to a computer-programmed plan, and what you wind up with is a three-dimensional plastic object. 
  • Because the technology relies on a computer to tell it what to do, you first need a program.  Or a plan.  This you get from CAD (Computer-Aided Design).  Using CAD, you make a computer-rendered three-dimensional representation of the object you want to create.  This is the blueprint for your object of choice.
  • It used to be, to make a CAD drawing, you needed to buy really expensive CAD software. Not these days, and not for 3D printing.  There are lots of places online where you can design your own 3D objects to be 3D printed -- for free.  TinkerCAD is one of those places.
  • Here are some examples of people's CAD designs:

CAD drawing of a Mayan pyramid
(Image and plan by Ally Zhao on TinkerCAD

CAD drawing of Santa Claus
(Image and plan by Ally Zhao on TinkerCAD)  

The Notre Dame in Paris
(Image and plan by Ally Zhao on TinkerCAD)  

A Lego brick
(By TheFireBlast1 on TinkerCAD

A GoPro mount
(by dodgrr on TinkerCAD)

  • Starting to see the possibilities?
  • On a lot of these sites, not only can you make your own CAD design, but for those of us who are less 3D-minded, you can also download designs that other people have already made.  Sometimes there's a fee, but usually, you can download the design for free.
  • The next thing to do is send your CAD design to a 3D printer.  There are some 3D printers available for you to buy at home, but based on the little I've read, they're still pretty limited and small, and if you want to make something substantial like a piano or a guitar or a saxophone, you're better off having an industrial-sized machine print it for you.
  • How do you find a 3D printer that will take your CAD design?  Well, TinkerCAD will also 3D print your design for you -- for a fee, of course.  But there are many other places that offer 3D printing, including:
    • UPS stores -- when they first rolled out their 3D printing services in 2013, it was only for small businesses, start-up companies, and retail businesses near San Diego. They've now expanded to over 100 locations.  You'll want to find out if your location will serve anybody, or if you have to be a business to use the service.  It could be cost-prohibitive for individuals.
    • Shapeways -- seems to specialize in small objects like gadgets, jewelry, toys, and, yes, My Little Ponys

This Kosmoceratops will set you back $120 to have it 3D printed with rose gold plating.
(Design by David Krentz on Shapeways)

    • i.materialize -- lets you upload your designs, but also has a team of designers on hand who make and post new designs regularly, so there are often new products to choose from.

The egg man is a little ceramic orange guy who holds your egg for you. This will set you back $23.11 + tax.
(Design by Bert De Niel on i.materialize

    • Sculpteo -- they don't have a lot of designs to start with, but mainly support you and your designs that you can upload to their site, get a quote, and ask them to print them for you.  They will even tell you if there's something wrong with your file, and fix the problem for you.
  • These are only a few of the many 3D printing services out there.  To find a 3D printing service near you, check out 3D Hubs

The Printing Part

    • How does the printing actually work?  This is where things get more technical.
    • Basically, a 3D printer makes layers on top of layers of plastic that get fused together so you wind up with a solid plastic object at the end of it.  That's why this is sometimes called additive manufacturing, because it's adding one layer on top of another.
    • That is a very simplified explanation.  For more details, read on.
    • There are several different methods of achieving a 3D-printed object.
      • Selective Laser Sintering -- the key word here is laser.  This type of 3D printing uses a laser, beamed at a heap of powder, which can be made of plastic, or ceramic, or glass, or metal.  The laser, following the CAD instructions, zaps the powder to create a thin, solid layer of the object. Then it spreads another thin layer of powder on top of the first layer and, again, according to the CAD instructions, zaps that to melt the powder into another layer.  Repeat until the object is complete.  This method seems to be the most commonly used.  You can see how the process works in the video below.

    Video of selective laser sintering starts at about 3:20. Includes lots of interesting description of how the product is cleaned up and painted as well.

      • Fused deposition modeling -- picture a glue gun, but one that melts plastic instead of glue.  This uses a filament (long thin strand, like a wire) of plastic or metal, which is fed into a nozzle that heats the plastic or metal, and can be directed either by hand or by computer.  Industrial versions of this method layer the extruded lines of plastic or metal one on top of the other to create a solid object.

    This guy is trying out a 3D printing pen for the first time. The pen uses fused deposition modeling.  He has trouble getting it to do what he wants, but I think it's because he's not layering the plastic, he's drawing individual lines with it like you would do with a pen.

    This video gives you a better sense of how fused deposition modeling works on a more industrial scale. The music is super-over-dramatic, and the camera gets out of focus a lot, but you get a good sense of how the machine puts down the layers. Unfortunately, his knife can't really cut paper, but that's probably due to the design, more than the technology.

      • Stereolithography -- this method also uses a laser, but instead of zapping powder, it zaps liquid.  The liquid is a special polymer that will change in response to light -- in this case, it will harden when zapped with a laser.  A polymer can be lots of things (rubber, silicone, PVC, nylon, even silk or wool), but I think the special liquid polymers they use here are mainly plastics.

    A rather old-school animation showing how stereolithography works. I suspect this method is not one that has found its way to more customer-facing applications but is rather still used mainly by large industrial concerns. i.materialize has a ginormous stereolithography printer, but they use it to print entire batches of an object all at once.

    • There are a couple of other methods, but they are mainly variations on those 3.  I'm sure as use of this technology expands, engineers will develop still more techniques and refinements.
    • Now you know the basics of how 3D printing works.

    More Applications

    I didn't start to get excited about this until I saw some of the things you could make with it.  And I think seeing these 3D-printed objects helps you get another sense of how it all works.  So here are some more applications for you to noodle over.

    Video of 2 guys from Fender talking about how they're using 3D printing, and how they hope it can help them to uncover new tones and sounds. They're also playing some of their 3D-printed guitars. Pretty cool.

    The guy who made the guitar with stars in the body also made a saxophone. This is his first crack at it, so the results are imperfect. But I'd say it's pretty good for a first try. He says it's made of nylon, and it weighs about 1/4 of what a typical saxophone weighs.

    I seem to be especially interested in musical instruments, but there are all sorts of other applications. Prosthetics is one area that's seeing a lot of 3D printing. Prosthetic limbs need to be highly customized to each person in order to fit correctly, and it's much easier to achieve that customization with 3D printing than with conventional manufacturing methods.

    Prosthetic leg exoskeleton, being shown how the pieces fit together, made of titanium powder fused a laser sintering printer.
    (Image from Gizmag)

    This prosthetic hand combines robotics and 3D printing to make a lightweight plastic hand that is flexible, durable, and customizable. The video mainly discusses the robotics, but you can see how it was 3D printed. It looks like the 3D printing method used is fused deposition modeling. The video turns into a fundraising message, but you can quit watching at that point because the fundraising campaign has ended.

    These two guys just ate 3D-printed food. They can't get over it. The 3D food printer is loaded, not with plastics, but with edible ingredients. It takes some attention to detail, not because of the intricate shapes it can produce, but because different ingredients have different textures, consistencies, and temperatures. But ever since NASA 3D-printed a pizza, lots of companies have started taking a whack at this.  Sources say to expect 3D food printers available for purchase by the end of 2015.

    Here's the 3D pizza printer at work. There's no sound in this video.  But you can see how the crust is layered, then the sauce, then the cheese. The result is a bit sloppy, but apparently the whole thing is cooked in the process of being printed.

    There are also people who are making 3D-printed guns and knives and other weapons that have varying degrees of efficacy. 

    But I would rather end with Derby the dog, who got a pair of prosthetic paws.

    Ohio State's offer of free 3-D builds big following, The Columbus Dispatch, February 15, 2015
    3D, What is 3D printing?
    3D Printer, What is 3D Printing? An Overview.
    3D printed Exo-Prosthetic leg designed to be affordable - and beautiful, Gizmag, December 22, 2014
    "Foodini" machine lets you print edible burgers, pizza, chocolate, CNN, December 31, 2014

    Monday, February 9, 2015

    Apple #701: The Shape of the Heart

    Valentine's Day approacheth.  I've already done an entry about the origins of Valentine's Day -- which, by the way, is far more bloody and insane than anything our capitalism-saturated culture could have come up with today.

    Since I've already done that, I thought, what about the heart shape that we draw?  It bears pretty much zero resemblance to our actual anatomical heart in our body.  I know that we were drawing the heart shape long before we had an inkling what our anatomical heart looks like, so it's no surprise that the two have little relationship to each other.  So where did we get the idea for that shape? 

    Heart symbol                                                  Model of an anatomical heart
    (Image from Wikipedia)                                   (Image from Heart Research UK)

    Well, so I've done some reading. 

    How we came to draw the shape of the heart the way we do, and how it came to be imbued with all sorts of metaphor and symbology -- my heart, my love, my sweet, my dear -- is one of those things that happened slowly, over time, and yet also in so many different ways, nobody can put a precise time stamp on what happened when, or first.

    So we don't really know exactly how we came to draw that heart shape and call it what we do.  We just keep drawing it and equating it with love.  But, every once in a while, people like me get curious about where that symbol came from, and they try to figure it out.  They come across the multitude of theories but settle on one or two that they like the best.

    It is my theory that the story you think is the most accurate about where the heart shape came from actually says a lot more about how you define the nature of love than it does about history or facts or anything like that.

    So, of the theories I am about to present, which one will you decide is the most accurate?

    Greek Ivy

    • A cardiologist -- I am not making this up -- named Dr. Armin Dietz who is also interested in these sorts of things says that the earliest pre-cursor of the heart shape was on Greek tombs and in Greek vase painting (amphorae).  He says people covered their vases & tombs with depictions of ivy, which was supposed to be symbolic of eternal love.  

    Ivy in real life: green, stubborn, persistent, hard to eradicate. A good metaphor for love?
    (Image from Wikimedia)

    • If you think about the properties of ivy, this would seem to make sense.   Ivy is constant, will attach itself to a thing and not let go.  It is very hard to kill. You can cut away the leaves and stems but it will simply begin growing again.  You can imagine someone saying to his or her loved one, with that ivy plant, "So too my love for you."
    • This is an intriguing thought, but based on things I've read elsewhere, I think this cardiologist dude might be a little off track.  Because ivy was associated with Dionysus.  The god of wine and theatre and debauchery and all that.  Where he's connected with ivy is that it's a symbol of life, vibrancy, passion, and immortality.

    Here's Dionysus, god of wine and theatre and ecstasy, crowned with a wreath of ivy.  Note that the shape of the ivy leaf is similar to our heart-shaped symbol today.  Note also the pine cones to his left and right.  Pine cones will come up again later.
    (Image from

    • This last bit about immortality is the important part.  Because archaeologists have found various ancient Greek wreaths made with ivy or coins depicting people wearing crowns of ivy, and they are not generally described as being expressions of someone's undying love.  The wreaths were either intended to be worn during a Dionysian festival, or for a funeral.
    • The idea, so far as I understand it, was that the ivy was supposed to represent a wish that the person who had died would enjoy immortality -- literally, enjoy it with Dionysus and lots of wine and so on -- rather than that the living person's love would be immortal.
    • So I think this cardiologist dude might be a little off the mark.  But in missing the mark, I think he's probably expressing his own ideas about what love is:  Immortal.  I would think a cardiologist would unfortunately see a lot of people die, so he's probably hoping that true love would outlast even that.

    Medieval Allegorical Hearts

    • The postscript to the whole ivy idea falls in this part of history.  Dr. Dietz and others say that early Middle Ages monks who were illuminating manuscripts turned the ivy leaf upside down and changed the color from green to red, to symbolize warm blood, good health--oh yeah, and love.  He says you can see that transformation happening on religious manuscripts and also on playing cards.
    • So one theory about this time period is that the monks were copying the Greeks, just updating the ivy with their new favorite color, red.
    • But I'm not sure that theory holds because different monks/artists were making their hearts look like all different kinds of shapes, depending on where they lived or what they were writing about.
      • One of the earliest-known drawings of a heart is in the illuminated letter S shown below. This is from a French manuscript made some time around 1250 A.D., and it shows a kneeling man offering his heart to his lady-love.

      From the 1250-ish French manuscript, Roman de la Poire, here depicting a lover kneeling before the woman he loves, offering her his heart.
      (Sourced from Wikipedia)

      • That's a weird looking heart by today's standards, isn't it?  It's kind of flesh-colored, he's pointing the pointy end at her, and it's rather unappealing all the way around.  It looks like he went out, killed a goose, pulled out its liver, and that's what he's presenting to his lady-love.  In response, she's saying, "Ew! What the hell? Get away from me with that thing!"
      • But the more I look at it, the more I think this depiction is kind of great.  Our love is human, and therefore of the fleshy realm, and sometimes it can be embarrassing or unwanted or unpleasant.  But it is still the very core of us, the thing that makes us live as nothing else does.  
      • The theory about this shape is that it's based on very rough ideas of the heart's anatomy plus what emotional properties people attributed to it, so it is some combination of the anatomical/physical and the spiritual.  Most of these early depictions of love were allegorical -- as this one is -- so the monks were combining earthly love for people with the concept of spiritual love.  So I suppose it makes sense that their hearts would look like something combination of the fleshly and the imaginary. 

      Medieval Upside Down Hearts

      Adrea Pisano's Charity (Caritas), one of the bronze panels on the Baptisterium in Florence, c. 1337.
      (Image from Wikipedia)

      • Another early depiction of someone holding their heart is on one of several bronze panels on a door, in Florence, made around 1337.  Here, Charity is shown holding her heart in her right hand.  It is upside down by our reckoning, and cone-shaped.  
        • (What she's cradling in her left arm I have no clue.  It looks like a dragon, but I think, based on things I've read elsewhere, it might be a water lily. The lily was sometimes a symbol for motherhood, and Charity was often shown suckling children at her breasts. But I'm totally guessing here.)
      • This point-up orientation started showing up in the 1300s, but went away again in the next century when people went back to drawing hearts with the point down. 
      • The explanations for the point-up orientation are extremely varied and, I think, probably our modern-day perspective laid on top of what the monks were actually thinking.  Because many of the point-up theories are sexy-dirty.
      Naked Body Parts 
      • There are all sorts of various theories that our heart today looks the way it does because it resembles some part of the loved one's body -- her breasts, or his testicles, or her bottom, or her genitalia from the mons to the labia and the clitoris. 

      Imagine this turned upside down so the point is pointing up. OK, now think of various bits of naked anatomy.
      (Heart shape from The Graphics Fairy)

      This is a Renoir painting, done in 1918-1919, so much, much later than when the Medievalists were making their manuscripts. But this gives you several possible sources of the heart shape in one painting.  Could the heart be based on the shape of a woman's bottom, as shown at right?  Or is it perhaps the shape of her breast, like the one that comes to a very defined point at left?   Or could it be based on both breasts together, as shown at center?
      (Renoir's Grandes Baigneuses from France This Way)

      HEY! GOOGLE CENSOR MORONS! THIS IS FROM ONE OF THE FINEST WORKS OF SCULPTURE OF ALL TIME! MICHELANGELO'S DAVID! You idiots.  OK, readers, if you want to see the image -- no, wait, they put up the censor thing over the original source image too. Jackasses.

      I don't want to leave out the male anatomy from this discussion.  Here is a zoomed-in shot of a reproduction of Michelangelo's David's specials. If you imagine the heart shape turned point up, you can see how the bulges at the bottom of the [I'm going to use a phrase that won't attract prudish people's attention] pair of round items might correspond with the bulges of the heart.
      (Photo from Colors Magazine)

      Now I'm going to post another photo that has nothing to do with anything.

      Here is a perfectly ordinary bit of sculpture.

      • The thing is, with all these body parts arguments, I'm not sure they apply to the monks and artists of the Middle Ages.  I'm sure there are those who would say, oh, those monks, since they were celibate and all, they were probably horny like crazy, so they were probably thinking dirty thoughts all the time.  So they were just looking for an excuse to draw dirty things and then cover that up by calling it religious or spiritual.
      • Well, maybe.  But that argument seems pretty far-fetched to me. And I think we're putting our modern-day sexy thoughts on top of what people were thinking about in the 1300s and 1400s.
      • Especially since these theories about the heart shape depicting naked body parts were not proposed until the 1960s or so.  When people were thinking a loooooot about sex.

      Like a Pine Cone

      Giotto's allegory of Caritas, from his fresco depicting the life of Christ, circa 1305. She is giving her heart to God above and demonstrating this by giving food to people below.
      (Image from Wikipedia)

      • Here's another depiction of Charity (Caritas), this time by Giotto.  She's holding up her heart, and again, it's got the shape of a smooth, spherical pine cone.  Nothing about her looks especially sexy, and neither does her pine cone heart.
      • There's that pine cone shape again.  What's up with that?
      • In the 1300s & 1400s, people were verbally describing hearts as being shaped like pine cones.  This was based on people having seen actual anatomical hearts in cadavers. But maybe they only sort of saw the actual hearts.

      Here, again, is what an anatomical heart looks like.
      (Image from Heart Research UK)

      And here's your typical pine cone.
      (Image from Wiktionary)
      • I'm not seeing that much of a resemblance, are you?
      • I haven't found anyone who explains why it was necessarily a pine cone, as opposed to some other natural object, which people used to describe the shape of the heart.  
      • Could it be, they were thinking of Dionysus and his pine cones?

      (Image from

      • Nah. Probably not. Most likely there's no buried psychology here, only an effort to try to liken this weird, bloody, no longer pulsing thing to anything else they knew of in nature, and the nearest thing they could come up with was a pine cone.
      • So I would say these pine cone-heart-depictors were doing their best to try to be as realistic as possible.  They were mainly drawing or painting these hearts in a religious context, so I'd guess they were trying to say, look, here's what this very human thing which also has the rather amazing capacity to love spiritually looks like.  And here's what it looks like to give this human pine cone love-thing to God. Or to one of His representatives.

      Right-Side Up Hearts from Medieval Times Onward

      • Depictions of the heart got flipped around so the point was pointing down some time in the 1400s. One of the earliest depictions like this comes from Francesco de Barberino's illustrated text, Documenti d'amore, first published around 1320.

      Title page from the Documenti d'amore, c. 1320, a collection of poems and other literature about love, taken from various authors including Dante etc., along with illustrations in miniature.
      (Image from Google eBook version)

      • Yes, that overlaps in time with the upside-down depictions, but society in those days wasn't like it is today, where everybody sees the same thing almost instantly and everybody immediately starts copying the new fad.  This was one of the first instances of the pointy-end down heart, that also had kind of a pinched-in curve to it.  It was this shape that became the predominant one going forward, rather than the spherical pine cones.
      • Perhaps the reason this is the shape that took hold is because this one is most closely associated with earthly, romantic love between people.  It's not about allegorical love for God, or some wish for immortality; it's a straight-up, I Love You heart.
      • There were still depictions of religious hearts -- the Sacred Heart of Jesus, for example -- but more and more, these were drawn or painted with two bulges on top and the point at the bottom.

      Depiction of the Five Wounds of Christ, from the Waldburg-Gebetbuch in Stuttgart.  Looks like contemporary art, you say?  Nope.  1486.
      (Image from Wikipedia)

      Heart-shaped book of hours, from either the 15th or 16th century (the page where this was posted is not clear about which image goes with which caption).
      (Image from Damien Kampf)

      • But more and more, depictions of the heart were used in situations that were less religious and more often romantic or secular.  And they all used the shape we've all now come to expect.

      Sheet music for a love song, "Belle, bonne, sage," in the shape of the heart as we draw it today, from The Chantilly Manuscript, c. 1350-1400.
      (Image from The Public Domain Review

      German deck of playing cards, 1545.  Note that the heart suit looks like a heart, while the I'd guess to be spades looks like ivy. 
      (Image from Wikipedia)

      Emblem of two hearts on fire, from Devises et Emblemes Ancienees & Modernes, in 1699. This might be another one of my favorite depictions of love. We are our hearts on fire, traveling over everything and zooming through space and time together.
      (Image from The Public Domain Review

      • So the upshot is, I don't really have a hard-and-fast, historically verified explanation for you.  Disappointing, I know.  The best I can offer you is a depiction of what happened to the shape in artwork over time.  
      • But I think, having reviewed that progression, that it does boil down to the same thing: it's all an effort to represent the heart as some combination of the physical, anatomical thing that the organ is inside us, as well as a symbolic depiction of the emotion we feel.  Whether it's spiritual love for God, or drooling lust for someone's shapely body, or a burning desire for another person's inner being, we've found a way to represent that. And we've managed to do so with one shape.  I think that's pretty cool.

      (Vector from All-free-download)

      Listverse, 10 Theories on the Origins of the Valentine's Heart, February 8, 2013
      Skeptics Stack Exchange, Is the heart symbol based on female anatomy?
      Heart Symbol & Heart Burial
      Theoi Greek Mythology, Dionysos
      Art & Critique, Giotto, Virtues and Vices: Charity
      Tumblr, Greek Ivy Wreath and the captions thereon
      James Peto, The Heart, pp 28-29
      Keelin McDonell, Slate, The Shape of My Heart, February 13, 2007
      PBS American Experience, Timeline: Heart in History

      Monday, February 2, 2015

      Apple #700: Avocados & Guacamole

      A whole lotta people watched the Superbowl tonight.  And a whole lotta those people ate guacamole.  So I thought now would be a good time to talk about guacamole.

      Guacamole served in one of those trendy, so-called authentic volcanic mortar bowls.
      (Photo and recipe from the California Avocado Commission)


      • Guacamole, as I'm sure you know, is made from avocados.  So let's start there.
      • Avocados are native to Mexico.  The Aztecs who lived in Mexico before it was colonized by Spain were cultivating avocado trees as long ago as 500 B.C. We have evidence that the Incas in Peru were cultivating avocados as far back as 750 B.C.
      • The avocado trees were growing in Mexico, just on their avocado-own, as long ago as 5,000 to 7,000 B.C.

      Avocados grow on trees, like this.  A single tree can produce anywhere from 150 to 500 avocados in one year.
      (Photo by joeysplanting, sourced from The Garden Lady, who can tell you how to grow an avocado tree)

      This is how an avocado seedling sprouts from that giant pit inside.
      (Photo from Reclaim Grow Sustain)

      This is how avocados hang from the tree. Like a pair of testicles.
      (Photo from AnandTech forums)

      • The word "avocado" comes from the Nahuatl (the language spoken by the Aztecs) word "ahuacatl." Which means "testicles."
      • So perhaps this is why the avocado is sometimes considered an aphrodisiac.  (Something to consider this Valentine's Day.)
      • Spanish priests arriving in Mexico did not find the joke funny at all. In fact, they took it so seriously, they prohibited their flock from eating the avocado.
      • Maybe this is why it took 300 years for someone to bring avocados north from Mexico into California.  The Spaniards arrived in Mexico in the 1500s; the first avocado trees weren't planted north of Mexico, in California, until 1871.
      • Even then, it took a really long time for avocados to catch on with the American public in general.  In the early 1900s, Americans were calling avocados "alligator pears" because of their shape and the way the skin is green and bumpy.  Doesn't sound very appetizing, does it?

      Or, maybe now, people think the name "alligator pear" is cute.  And perhaps more appealing to children than "avocado."
      (Image from FruityCuties on Flickr)

      • It was the California Avocado Growers' Exchange who started calling them "avocados," deriving the word from the original Nahuatl in 1920.
      • With lots of help from the California Avocado Growers' Exchange -- marketing and PR pieces and so on -- more people over the years began to get more familiar with the avocado.  But the fruits were expensive to buy outside California, so they were considered something that rich people ate, or something that was served at fancy parties.  Kind of like the way people talk about arugula now.
      • Then, when prices were beginning to come down a bit and people were getting a little comfier with the avocado, the whole fat-is-bad thing hit in the 1980s and doctors started telling everybody "Don't Eat Fat."  Since avocados have a lot of fat, especially for a fruit (yes, avocado is a fruit.  And yes, 85% of its calories come from fat), people took this to mean that avocados are bad for you and will give you a heart attack or something terrible like that.
      • It is true, avocados are relatively high in fat, but they've got the monounsaturated kind, the kind that may help chip away at your cholesterol. In addition, their particular kind of fats can also help to reduce inflammation, a benefit that people with arthritis have experienced.  They also have 4 grams of protein per fruit.  How many pieces of fruit can you think of that contain protein?  So avocados and their fats are actually quite healthy-friendly.
      • We've also learned since the 1980s that one cup of fresh avocado can increase your body's absorption of beneficial carotenoids & other antioxidants by anywhere from 200% to 400%.  Let me put it this way: Spinach has all kinds of good stuff for your body.  Put a little fresh avocado on that, and your body will extract even more goodness from that spinach.

      Nutrition Facts for 1 cup of raw avocados. More info available from

      This might be a better way of demonstrating how the fat in avocado really isn't so bad, compared to other fatty foods.
      (Diagram from Smart Living)

      The most nutritious part of the avocado is just beneath the skin, in the darker green flesh. So avocado growers recommend using the "nick and peel" method to take off the skin, which will help preserve the nutrient-est part of the fruit. That method is demonstrated here: 

      • But we didn't know any of that in the 1980s.  We just thought avocados were expensive and decadent and kind of bad for you.  
      • So in the 1990s, the California Avocado Growers started making commercials. There was one showing Angie Dickinson eating an avocado with a spoon, another one featuring an avocado named Mr. Ripe, whose purpose was to show people that ripe avocados are not bright green but rather a dark greenish-black.  In other words, they were trying to promote the heck out of avocados.
      • Then they found out that a lot of people were eating guacamole -- among other things -- on Super Bowl Sunday.  Here, I have to pause for a minute and show you this quote from Olga Khazan, writing for The Atlantic:
      Americans did with the big game what we’ve done with seemingly every national event: Turn it from a day centered on a specific purpose to a day of consuming thousands more calories than our stomachs will comfortably fit. Super Bowl Sunday became less about football fanaticism and more about chips and seven-layer dip. In recent years, Americans have consumed 1.23 billion chicken wings on Super Bowl Sunday and eaten 15 million pizzas.
      • Pretty sharp, eh?
      • Well, the Avocado Growers (now the California Avocado Commission) took advantage of this, big-time.  In the days leading up to 1992's Super Bowl, they showed football players on TV eating guacamole.  They got football players and their families to submit recipes for guacamole and had a tasting competition.  At the game itself, they had PR people handing out samples of guacamole to fans at the stadium and to reporters.  They did this sort of thing for a couple years running and pretty soon, guacamole and avocados became a companion story, along with the new of the game itself.
      • And boy, did their efforts pay off.  In 2012, we Americans ate 12 million pounds of avocados on Super Bowl Sunday.  Yes, all those avocados on just one day.
      • The only other days of the year when we eat as many or more avocados are on Cinco de Mayo -- a holiday we didn't pay much attention to as a country until recently -- and Independence Day.  The avocado, a Mexican fruit once banned for its testicularity, has now become an American staple.
      • Today, an estimated 43% of US households purchase avocados.
      • That's a huge uptick from back in the 1960s, but it looks like there's more room to grow, doesn't it?  Avocado growers in Mexico apparently agree because they're getting in on the marketing game, now too.  I noticed -- and maybe you did too -- their commercial for avocados during this year's Super Bowl.

      • 90% of the avocados we buy here in the U.S. come from California -- specifically from an area covering 52,000 acres from San Luis Obispo to San Diego.  I guess the avocado growers in Mexico want to put a dent in that 90%. 


      • But we don't really care about marketing and commercials, do we?  What we really care about is guacamole.  Because it's gooooood.  

      Guacamole. Once you start eating it, you can't stop.
      (Recipe & photo by Quentin Bacon at Real Simple)

      • The Aztecs, who grew those avocados way back in the B.C. days, made guacamole too.
      • If you'll remember, their word for avocados was ahuacatl (testicles, yes). Their word for guacamole was ahuaca-mulli, or avocado sauce or avocado mixture.
      • I suppose, translated literally, that would be testicle sauce.
      • Traditionally, guacamole is made from 5 ingredients:
        • Avocado
        • chiles or hot peppers
        • onion
        • tomato
        • salt
      • I know, you cilantro-lovers are saying, what about the lime and the cilantro?  Most of us add those 2 ingredients today, but guacamole purists say that's not the truly traditional way to make guacamole.  They say the lime & cilantro spoil the flavor.  I know a few cilantro-lovers who might disagree with that.
      • One other thing to note about these ingredients.  I've always used jalapeño peppers because that's what's most readily available.  But most of the recipes I've checked for this entry say to use serrano chile.  
      • Serranos look like jalapeños, but they are smaller and more slender. Like any pepper, they start out green when they are least ripe, and they slowly darken and get spicier through yellow to orange to red.  The greener the pepper, the milder the heat.
      • Serranos are hotter than jalapeños, but not as hot as cayenne or habanero peppers.  One site describes the difference in heat levels this way: In a strong man contest, habaneros can lift an 18-wheeler, serranos a VW van, and jalapeños a Vespa scooter.  So if you think  spicy, you'd probably better not upgrade to serranos.

      Left to right: Habanero, serrano, jalapeño. Hottest, hotter, hot
      (Photo from

      •  As with any truly good recipe, there are a million slightly different ways you can make it, according to your preferences.  Same is true for guacamole.

      Anjali at The Pickyeater makes her guacamole according to the recipe in a cookbook called Must Have Been Something I Ate (which I think is a terrible name for a cookbook).  This recipe calls for extra spices, including cumin & coriander, the juice of both limes and lemons, and instead of fresh peppers, uses chili powder and cayenne.
      (Photo and recipe at The Pickyeater)

      • (By the way, adding your favorite salsa to a bowl of chopped or mashed avocado is the shortest short-cut to guacamole.)
      • If you want to make the traditional guac but also with cilantro & lime, Simply Recipes has your recipe.
      • (I would show you photos of their guac, but these people have their copyright watermarks all over their pictures. So, no free photo PR from me.)
      • If you really want to get wacky with it, Avocado Central has guacamole recipes like
        • Bacon guacamole
        • Buttermilk Ranch guacamole
        • Mango guacamole
        • Mariachi guacamole (does it really have ground-up mariachis in it?)
        • Pistachio guacamole
        • Tomatillo guacamole
      •  For a selection of more "authentic" or traditional recipes, check out the recipe options available at -- where else? -- the California Avocado Commission.

      The recipe for this guacamole won the California Avocado Commission's recipe for Best Guacamole Ever -- in 2010.
      (Photo and recipe from the California Avocado Commission)

      Hey, I almost forgot.  This is my 700th Apple.  It's late and I don't know what to say about that at the moment other than, 700 is a fairly big number.

      Mother Nature Network, Who invented guacamole? June 19, 2013
      Olga Khazan, The Selling of the Avocado, January 13, 2015
      Online Etymology Dictionary, guacamole
      Guyot, Top 10 Romantic Foods: Avocado
      California Avocado Commission, Fun Avocado Facts
      The World's Healthiest Foods, Avocados
      Live Science, Avocados: Health Benefits, October 23, 2014
      Gourmet Sleuth, Guacamole - Recipe Ingredients and History
      Eat More Chiles, Serrano, Habanero vs. Serrano vs. Jalapeño