Blah Blah Blog by Jessica Harper by Jessica
decorative flourish

Archive for October, 2009

More On Killer Biscuits

Saturday, October 31st, 2009

custardcreme_1533

In a follow-up to my recent post about Killer Biscuits, I have some good news about Custard Crèmes.

You’ll recall that these innocent looking cookies were rated the most likely to cause bodily harm while you eat them, scoring a whopping 5.63 on the Biscuit Injury Evaluation Scale. (By comparison, the Ginger Nut Biscuit ranked a measly 3.78.) Being the devil-may-care, caution-to-the-wind kind of gal that I am, I decided to do a little evaluating of my own.

I found a British goods store in West L.A. that carries the hard-to-find Custard Cremes. I purchased three boxes, and, just to be on the safe side, I hired a PIAL (personal injury accident lawyer), before I opened the deceptively charming gold and red packages of pale yellow cookies.

I’m happy to report that a) they are delicious and b) although I ate a hefty number of them (I’m very thorough when conducting a study), I was unharmed by the little buggers, if you don’t count the weight gain.

 

Halloween

Friday, October 30th, 2009

bigstockphoto_Witch_Cap_1240344(2)

Halloween is the easiest holiday to hostess: all you have to feed people is store-bought candy.

I take a lesson from my own childhood when it comes to Halloween handouts. My siblings and i did not care for people who gave you apples. One lady in our neighborhood gave them every year. You’d say a sullen thank you when Miss Gulch (that may or may not have been her name) dropped one in your bag, and then, as soon as she closed the door, you’d chuck it in her yard. I imagine her going out to get the paper the next morning and seeing her front lawn littered with rejected fruit. You’d think she’d have taken the hint after about a decade of this.

Once in awhile you’d get a caramel apple. While these were not quite as poor a choice as apples, due to the caramel factor, they were trouble: what were you supposed to do with them? You couldn’t toss them in the bag with the other stuff; they were way too messy. You couldn’t stop and eat them, because that’d take several minutes in an evening that’s all about urgency. You couldn’t bring yourself to throw them on the lawn, like you would a plain, bio-degradable apple. That was against our anti-littering upbringing. So we did the honorable thing and ditched them in a garbage can, up the street and out of view of the caramel apple donor.

While we liked most treats that were sugar-related, when we got a house that gave out full-sized candy bars, we felt like we’d won the lottery. Word would fly up and down the street: “Go there! That brick house! Big candy bars!”:

I always imagined the people who lived in the Big Bar houses to be wealthy beyond anything, calmly lounging in clothing that was not machine-washable, their hair perfect, sipping Scotch from crystal tumblers, casually distributing what I thought must have been thousands of dollars worth of candy to low-life scroungers like me.

Once, figuring they would be too rich to care or notice, I, in a frenzy of greed, hit the same house twice. But the lady of the house called my bluff: “I believe I’ve seen you tonight already, haven’t I?” I retreated, in a paroxysm of embarrassment, resolving that the following year I’d dress as a ghost instead of as a freaking Trick-or-Treat bag: an innocuous costume might make double hits at Big Bar houses easier.

Tonight I’ll be going to my friend Lynn’s house for a pre-Halloween party. As I’ve done in past years, I’m dusting off my witch’s hat (and attitude). Speaking of excellent Halloween handouts, Lynn’s are the best: martinis.

 

The Dead Salmon Study

Monday, October 12th, 2009

Just when I thought the Killer Biscuit study was the juiciest piece of research I’d heard of in months, along comes the Dead Salmon study.

Some post-grad researcher at UCSB propped up a dead, 18-inch salmon and showed it photos of humans “in social situations.” He asked the salmon what emotion the subject of each photo must’ve been experiencing. While the post-grad (let’s call him Brad), did not, I assume, get a satisfactory verbal response to his questions, apparently the salmon’s brain lit up on the scanner.

Brad says this proves that you can get false positives in neuro-imaging, but I’m tempted to draw more interesting conclusions:

1. Maybe the salmon was not in fact dead,but unconscious, a victim (like my husband) of an exceptionally boring Philadelphia Eagles game.

2. Maybe the salmon was stimulated when he overheard Brad discussing the recipe he intended to subject the poor fish to later that evening.

3. Maybe the “social situations” in the photos were hot enough to wake the dead. Or maybe the people in them were eating lox. Or both.

It’s worth noting that Brad also tested a pumpkin and a Cornish hen. (Brad is nothing if not thorough.) The hen, like the fish, was dead. (Or maybe only dead-ish?) The pumpkin, of course, was in its usual vegetative state. Brad got nothing from these subjects, not a blip. So maybe the salmon is an exceptionally sensitive species, while pumpkins and Cornish hens are emotional lightweights. Food for thought.

By the way, here’s a recipe for broiled salmon, much like Brad might have used after interviewing his dinner. If you do use this recipe, don’t discuss it in front of the fish until you have given it a few pokes to make sure it is really, truly, doornail dead.

 

The Marshmallow Study

Monday, October 5th, 2009

I’m having a rather significant birthday right around now. Given my advanced age, you’d expect me to behave with more maturity than I did last week when I got an advance birthday gift from my friend Valerie. I promised to save it for the actual B-day, and then I sprinted to the car and ripped off the tissue even before I’d buckled up. (It was a beautiful scarf–thanks V!)

A few days later I saw a video of a study in which children, one after the next, are seated at a table with a marshmallow placed in front of them. A lady tells them they’ll be left alone for a time, and that if they can resist eating the marshmallow, they’ll get to eat two marshmallows upon her return. In the video, you see children exercising varying levels of restraint, from squirmy resistance to instant caving.

The researchers posited that the kids who were best able to postpone gratification were more likely to be successful later in later life. But if I’d been one of the subjects, I’d have fooled all those smug, marshmallow-hugging scientists. I’d have been a model of restraint, breezing through to a double portion, but only be because I don’t like marshmallows. (If they’d put a Junior Mint on the plate I’d have been toast.)

They’d have had me pegged as the next Ruth Bader Ginsberg or Beyonce. (My husband would’ve preferred the latter.) Instead, of course, I grew up to be just another tissue-tearing marshmallow-hater.

Click here to see the video of the Marshmallow Study. (Luckily YouTube has no humiliating footage of me ripping Valerie’s wrapping.) And if you’re having a really immature moment, check out this video, which also features a marshmallow.

P.S. Whether you are a marshmallow-hater or -hugger, you will love Scotchmallows: check ‘em out.