Thursday, November 01, 2007

Choclate Bug Bites and the Utility of Names

In general, I am not likely to observe the feast days of the Catholic calendar, but let me tell you about a little custom for the eve of the day of all souls: Children show up at your house, and you give them candy. Now there is just nothing not to like about that practice. Well, maybe one little thing. For many years there has been very narrow overlap between stuff kids actually want and foods I am willing to have in my house, even for a few hours. This year I made a big hit with organic chocolate bug bites. Each bug bite has a tiny bar of very good milk or dark chocolate and a collectible insect card with valuable bug-lore on the back. You can trade them like chocolate frog cards. Of that bombycid moth (top right) we learn that

[s]howing beauty through simplicity of design, this male moth displays a fine pair of feathered antennae. The Zen-like design displays a peppered frosting of yellow scales towards the wing tips that ware mirrored in the yellow hairs that cover its feet.

Well, I didn’t know that. Yet another insect in which to rejoice! Remember this passage from Through the Looking-Glass? I was remembering the bit about rejoicing in insects, but I had forgotten that Alice and the gnat continue to the utility of names, another subject dear to my heart.

`I know you are a friend, the little voice went on; `a dear friend, and an old friend. And you won't hurt me, though I AM an insect.'

`What kind of insect?' Alice inquired a little anxiously. What she really wanted to know was, whether it could sting or not, but she thought this wouldn't be quite a civil question to ask.

`What, then you don't -- ' the little voice began, when it was drowned by a shrill scream from the engine, and everybody jumped up in alarm, Alice among the rest.

[. . . ]

` -- then you don't like all insects?' the Gnat went on, as quietly as if nothing had happened.

`I like them when they can talk,' Alice said. `None of them ever talk, where I come from.'

`What sort of insects do you rejoice in, where YOU come from?' the Gnat inquired.

`I don't REJOICE in insects at all,' Alice explained, `because I'm rather afraid of them -- at least the large kinds. But I can tell you the names of some of them."

`Of course they answer to their names?' the Gnat remarked carelessly.

`I never knew them do it.'

`What's the use of their having names the Gnat said, `if they won't answer to them?'

`No use to THEM,' said Alice; `but it's useful to the people who name them, I suppose. If not, why do things have names at all?'

From Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass, Chapter Three, Looking Glass Insects

The Yiddish word for moth is מאָל (mol)
The Yiddish word for gnat is מוק (muk)



Blogger zoe p. said...

that's so neat.

maybe not quite as neat as when i thought you were handing out chocolate covered bugs. but still.

last year (when i lived in part of a house) i had a bowl of plastic bugs on hand, just in case we had kids with allergies or something. but, as it turns out, most kids like plastic bugs, not just kids with peanut allergies!

speaking of not living in part of a house, i have a question for you -

Dear Chocolate Lady,

Do you have any recommendations for the best thing to do when you have an oven that tends to brown things (banana bread, poundcake) quickly without cooking them through? And does this mean that the oven is hot? Or cold? Or fast? Or slow? Or just poorly insulated?

I thought you might know.

Yours ever, zp

5:10 PM  

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