Archive for the ‘Miscellanea’ Category

To begin with, you want two kinds of relief from heartburn. The first is the extinguishing of the fire by the simple device of neutralizing the acid that threatens to burn its way straight out of the front of your chest. Any alkalizing agent, of course, will cut the acid in your stomach; but only one that is swallowed in solution will be effective in the esophagus. Pills will prevent further heartburn; but half a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda in half a glass of water is present help all the way down: It deals with the heartburn you have. Furthermore, as everyone should know, baking soda is one of the greatest sweetening and deodorizing agents in the world. It renders the added service of killing odor as well as flame. Almost instantly it makes a man bearable again, not only to himself, but to others.

The second kind of relief for which heartburn cries out is the restoration of the ability to belch satisfactorily. As a matter of fact, the most characteristic torment of the whole situation lies in the tension between a growing certainty that one good belch would set things right and a gnawing suspicion that you may never in this world belch again at all. A pill sent down to remedy that distress is worse than useless. It goes quietly, as an undercover agent; it does its work and is never heard from again. All that you, as its principal, know is that at some unspecified point, things imperceptibly begin to get better. You are denied the satisfaction of dramatic changes joyfully proclaimed.

With baking soda, however, a mere one minute’s wait rewards you with a glowing, not to say resounding report. The relief, so long awaited, comes in force: not little by little like spies in the night, but all at once, like an army with banners and shouting. Add to that the fact that bicarbonate of soda has no particular flavor other than a bland saltiness—and that it is cheaper than any pill you can buy—and you have more than enough reasons for preferring it to pills right now. It has no delicious mintiness to stick in the back of your throat for hours and remind you of indigestion the next time you eat candy. It just works fortiter suaviterque, mightily and sweetly, like the Wisdom of God; and like the same Wisdom, it courteously lets us get about our business without backward looks or second thoughts. It is hard to ask for more.

Nevertheless, you get it without asking. Baking soda is so much more than a digestive that the mind boggles. Your roll of pills will do one thing and one only; your box of sodium bicarbonate will do a hundred and still have talents left to spare. Since this book is above all a celebration of the material and the common, I would like at this point to enter baking soda as a candidate for the title of Most Extraordinary Ordinary Thing in the World. Firmly convinced that it will win hands down over all comers, I take the liberty of composing the citation to be read in the ceremony at which the title is bestowed.


Longtime and steadfast retainer of the human race, your many names betokening not only varied talents, but also innumerable kindnesses for which men hold you dear: Friend of the flatulent, Soother of the savage, scotch-soaked breast, and blessed Bestower of peaceful sleep after four beers, two heroes, and a sausage pizza;

Sweetener of life in general and of organic disagreeabilities in particular: Cleanser of vile coffeepots and putrid refrigerators, Tamer of gamy bones, Purifier of school lunch vacuum bottles whose milk has turned to cheese, Polisher of teeth, Gracer of breath, Remover of smells from diapers, nursing bottles, smoking pipes and old hair brushes, Deodorizer of floors made foul by messing cats, Sweetener of urine-soaked mattresses, and Restorer of freshness to automotive interiors rendered uninhabitable by retching children;

Leavener, and nearly omnicompetent Lifter of the otherwise forlorn flatness of our lives: Raiser of biscuits, muffins, cookies, cake, and bread, and faithful member, in this capacity, of many committees—notably of Baking Powder- and Self-Rising Cake Flour;

Last, but far from least, sovereign Extinguisher of conflagrations of all sorts, from the metaphorical burning in the stomach to the literal flaming of the fat that falls in the fire: Soother of sore throats and bee stings, Cooler of prickly heat and sunburn, Smotherer of grease fires, Protector of the home and Very Present Help in all our troubles;

We who stand so deep in your debt praise your generosity; we who play not more than two instruments, who understand only four languages and can hardly express ourselves in any of them, salute the range of your abilities; we who require praise and publicity for what little we do stand in awe of your humility;

ACCEPT, THEREFORE, at our hands, this ORDER OF MERIT which we, though unworthy, bestow: If we were half as faithful as you have been, we would be twice as good as we are. May God hasten the day.


— Robert Farrar Capon, The Supper of the Lamb: A Culinary Reflection

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My whole life I’ve been a fraud. I’m not exaggerating. Pretty much all I’ve ever done all the time is try to create a certain impression of me in other people. Mostly to be liked or admired. It’s a little more complicated than that, maybe. But when you come right down to it it’s to be liked, loved. Admired, approved of, applauded, whatever. You get the idea. I did well in school, but deep down the whole thing’s motive wasn’t to learn or improve myself but just to do well, to get good grades and make sports teams and perform well. To have a good transcript or varsity letters to show people. I didn’t enjoy it much because I was always scared I wouldn’t do well enough.

— “Good Old Neon”, David Foster Wallace

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Quite another

To treat your facts with imagination is one thing, to imagine your facts is quite another.

— John Burroughs

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Double Your Fun

(via ayjay)

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If you steal another person’s shoes and put them on and I tell you I don’t like them, you’ll feel insulted; the same goes for ideas.

Nicholas Carr

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