A bit cracked … (Part 1)

After my contribution on Corona, hoarding toilet paper and a resulting anal-ysis of symptom-associated know-it-alls, I was asked several times to expand on this topic. I confess, it was more fun than work. Enjoy the new squad of know-it-alls and smart alecks.

Candlelight, mulled wine and cracking nuts: all these remind me of childhood, are an integral part of winter and yes, it’s Christmas time. To ensure that feel-good factor, White Christmas is a permanent feature in the department stores and on the radio Chris Rea sings his way back into the hearts of truck drivers (and their wives, of course) every year with Coming Home for Christmas.

Everything alright? You know it was the same every year and you already know what’s coming. Do you really? It will be quite different this time what with Corona and without Christmas markets. Let’s start with the first bunch of experts, those who have always had something against Christmas and a good mulled wine. These Advent grouches have always rejected family celebrations, Christmas carols and mulled wine at the Christmas market as a superfluous myth. Were they better informed and are we just too stupid to recognise this truth? Is Christmas and peace in the houses really just a fantasy and buying presents are only commercialism?

Well, maybe there is no sharp dividing line between a Christmas BELIEF/MYTH and its KNOWLEDGE. Even Donald Trump has pointed out (mostly involuntarily) his dilemma between knowledge, news, fake news and “alternative facts”.

Maybe he is even a little bit right and myths can be a real part of our life, if – yes, if – we allow it. In this way Christmas spirit is on the same level as the excitement of a good thriller, the anxiety before your first time, or the hope for a corona vaccine. If pictures on the television and vague conceptions appeal to our feelings, why not candlelight, mulled wine and cracking nuts?

Let’s take a closer look and draw an event card – crack a real nut and don’t pass go (to the Christmas market)!

Now everybody knows what a nut is, right? To be on the safe side I will jog your memory. By definition, a nut is a fruit in which the seed is surrounded by a hard shell. Of course, otherwise you wouldn’t need a nutcracker.

But that‘s exactly where our problem starts with KNOWLEDGE + FACTS versus MYTH + BELIEF. To start with a word of caution: most of the “nuts” we are familiar with are botanically not nuts. Nutmeg, coconut, brazil nut, cashew nut, pecan, almond and pistachio are all kinds of things in the botanical sense – just not nuts. Peanuts unfortunately only belong to legumes and those tasty pine nuts are the naked seeds of a Mediterranean conifer.

So much for conventional KNOWLEDGE about nuts. Or did what we thought we knew about nuts not perhaps belong more to “alternative facts”? Whoever still believes in HIS KNOWLEDGE about nuts and has not given up, please turn over the event card where it says: ” … the many special forms of nuts include  the “aggregate fruit of the rose family”: Strawberries, raspberries and all kinds of pomaceous fruits (apples, pears…). Hubs, who would have thought that?

At this point I expect the first interjections in the spirit of  “I already knew it! Another smart-ass!” But patience, this is where the real fun begins.

Let’s take nutmeg as an example, previously a nut, now a plant species from the Myristicaceae family. The word nutmeg is derived from the Latin “nux muscata” meaning “musk-scented nut”. Yes, still a nut – the Romans were simply not brighter than we are!

The fruits of the nutmeg tree were probably brought back Europe by the crusaders. But even the first reliable accounts warned against excessive consumption “because it damages the bowels.” These days, nutmeg is mainly used as a kitchen spice, but it is also used as an intoxicant by indigenous peoples. As early as 1563, the Portuguese doctor Garcia da Orta published a paper on hallucinogenic plants in which, in addition to cannabis and opium, the effects of nutmeg were also described.

From the hippie and student culture of the 60s and 70s, there are entertaining accounts of the use of nutmeg as a cheap and easily obtainable substitute drug. As along with the intended effect, there are also always unpleasant side effects such as nausea, vomiting, headaches and beware! – diarrhoea –  occurred, this form of use in Europe was reserved for young, inexperienced students and so that gives us the educated nutmeg smart-ass.

The second part of this article will be published next Friday, 18th December.

Original text: UTO
English translation: BCO

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