I consider myself a bit of a foody. Maybe it’s because I worked in the restaurant business years ago. Or perhaps it was because I was married to a chef for over a decade. Or maybe it’s simply because I like food. A lot. Whatever the reason, I am amazed by certain eatables.
Take peanut butter for example. Now, most of us have, on occasion, bitten into a rotten peanut, which can taste pretty yucky. So then why is it that peanut butter almost never goes bad? It can get hard, yes, but add a little oil, mix it up, and everything’s fine. Even open, no refrigeration is necessary. As I purchase peanut butter without preservatives, I was confused as to how it manages to keep for years. Scientists say the high-fat content and an abundance of vitamin E, a natural antioxidant, give peanut butter its longevity. What’s really interesting is that even if peanut butter gets rancid and tastes bad, it still can’t hurt you. So, buy a few cases, in the event of a zombie apocalypse.
Chocolate is pretty magical, too. Not just for its incredible deliciousness, but because, like peanut better, it almost never goes bad. Now don’t tell me that the white bloom that sometimes appears on chocolate means it’s bad. It’s not. Just melt your discolored chocolate, stir, and, voila, all better.
One of the most fascinating foods is honey. Humans have loved the stuff for a very long time and have been buried with it for at least 5,500 years. Archaeologists discovered 3,000-year-old honey in the tomb of King Tut which was supposed to keep the boy pharaoh happy on his journey into the afterlife. Another tomb of the same age turned up more honey, which archeologists sampled and found perfectly eatable. The explanation: honey is low in water and high in sugar, so bacteria is unable to grow on it. (As an aside, note that the Egyptians often used honey on wounds and to treat skin and eye infections, since it worked kind of like an antibacterial bandage.)
There are also other amazing foods. White rice has been known to keep its flavor and nutrient content for up to 30 years. Popcorn is also a forever-type of food. Yes, I know those little microwave packets have expiration dates, but the corn cornels themselves are eatable pretty much forever. Neither salt nor sugar go bad, nor—thank goodness— does hard liquor. One caveat, here. Cream-based booze that is so lovely in coffee on a cold night will go bad. But have no fear of stocking up on liquor, should you plan to abscond to a deserted desert island or are entering witness protection and must reside in a remote wooded cabin in the Arctic wilderness.
Some other foods are not quite so magical, in my opinion, and have prompted questions. For example, I wonder about the first person who slid an oyster down their throat. Just how hungry were they? And what maniac invented Australia’s Vegemite and then convinced people to eat it. And who felt the need to create the one-hundred-year-old egg, which is considered quite the delicacy in China. For those who are uninformed, the dish is lovingly described as a preserved egg with a greenish and cheese-like yolk and a transparent, gelatinous body that can range from brownish-yellow to black. Yum! And why do people eat live octopuses, ant caviar, fertilized eggs bearing baby birds, bull penises, fried whole guinea pigs, and puffer fish which, if not prepared just right, can kill you.
It’s clear we humans are up for putting just about anything in our mouths. And I guess I should be glad, since there are so many foods out there that enrich our daily lives with sustenance, flavor, and beauty.
So, I will now do my best to stop thinking about foods that don’t sound the least bit magical.
The past and present collide when a tenacious reporter seeks information on an eleventh century magician…and uncovers more than she bargained for.
February 2, 2022
In 1939, archeologists uncovered a tomb at the Northern Arizona site called Ridge Ruin. The man, bedecked in fine turquoise jewelry and intricate bead work, was surrounded by wooden swords with handles carved into animal hooves and human hands. The Hopi workers stepped back from the grave, knowing what the Moochiwimi sticks meant. This man, buried nine hundred years earlier, was a magician.
Former television journalist Kate Butler hangs on to her investigative reporting career by writing freelance magazine articles. Her research on The Magician shows he bore some European facial characteristics and physical qualities that made him different from the people who buried him. Her quest to discover The Magician’s origin carries her back to a time when the high desert world was shattered by the birth of a volcano and into the present-day dangers of archeological looting where black market sales of antiquities can lead to murder.
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