Two Puns

The Web helps you check if your ideas are original. Recently I’ve come up with two puns that proved to be unoriginal but still surprisingly uncommon.

Ronald McDonald is the Lord of the Fries.

The famous fantasy role-playing game should always be referred to as Dung & Drag. It amazes me that I haven’t thought of this before. Now I have this vision of greying drag queens in printed dresses and rubber boots, cleaning out the manure, shearing sheep and driving tractors.


Swedes Do, Normal People Don’t

Writes Dear Reader Bruce Paulson of Gillett, Wisconsin:

Your article the other day about rutabagas whet my appetite so on Friday I went to the local grocery store with a friend who was staying for supper. I unloaded three of them at the checkout counter where a teenage clerk started to examine them for an identity sticker. There was none. So she turned to her 65 year old supervisor and said, “What is THIS?” The supervisor said, “That is what they call a Swede turnip. Swedish people eat them, but normal people don’t.” The clerk then started to check the produce price list for Swede turnip and not finding it listed, stuck them in a bag and said, “With my compliments.” Being free they were especially good.

You just can’t put a price sticker on rutabagas.


i-5829652f66bd6fa183ab85e0f11b4a54-rutabaga.jpgEverybody knows that English has borrowed the words ombudsman and smorgasbord from Swedish. But did you know that rutabaga is another Swedish loan? And that it was borrowed from a rural Swedish dialect, not standard Swedish?

“Rutabaga” is an American word for the kind of turnip known to Englishmen and Australians as swede. Indeed, the plant hybrid probably once arose in Sweden. In standard Swedish, though, it’s called kÃ¥lrot, “cabbage root” — which is botanically speaking exactly what it is. “Rut-” in “rutabaga” is simply rot, “root”. Bagge (“-baga”) means “ram”, and my speculation is that the big mean turnip was compared affectionately to the bigger meaner kind of sheep. But standard Swedish wouldn’t put that extra -a- between rot and bagge. Unsourced statements around the web suggest that the word rotabagge originated in Västergötland province.

I rarely eat rutabaga. When I do, it’s diced with other veggies in broth soup, or mashed with potatoes to produce the wonderfully sweet and orange rotmos. Or rutamus, as I guess Americans would call it.

I was inspired to write about this by Norm Sherman’s sobering and chilling gangster lyric for his song “Rutabaga“. Their words were all splurred when they sloke!

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Smarter Grocery Shopping

Today I did something that, had I been a truly rational consumer, I would have done 20 years ago.

Fisksätra has two grocery stores. One is a big chain store and the other is a typical turkbutik, a mom’n’pop store run by immigrants from the Near East. Whenever possible, I have favoured the little store. I have often gone there first and then gotten only the stuff they don’t carry from the chain store.

The little store does not carry superior wares. Its assortment is far smaller than the big store’s, and there are very few items there that you can’t get at the chain store. I have shopped there for emotional and aesthetic reasons, just to favour the little guy, and I have had no idea if there is a price difference.

Now, the keeper of a small shop is of course no more noble than the owners of a store chain. He would in all likelihood prefer to own a chain, he just hasn’t quite gotten there yet. Neither store is a co-op. My choice is strictly between a large capitalist and a small one. Both stores employ immigrants who live in the area.

Today I bought two bags of groceries from the little store. Then I took the receipt to the big store and compared prices for the first time. Eleven of the objects I bought have close or identical equivalents at the big store. Six are cheaper at the big one, three are cheaper at the little one. The whole two bags of groceries cost 291 kronor at the little store and would cost 250 at the big one, that is, 86%. And on top of that, the chain store sends us refund cheques in relationship to how much we spend there.

So I guess mom’n’pop won’t be having me much as a customer anymore.

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Home-Made Sausages


Part of the Swedish Christmas celebrations is that many people turn to traditional cooking. Yesterday my dad’s wife & mine made sausages. They were really nice, way better than their limp and grey pre-cooking appearance suggested. But they were hardly traditional, containing mouflon and elk in addition to the pork (“whatever’s in the freezer”) and being seasoned liberally with garlic.

Why Malt the Barley for Beer?


Dear Reader, usually the deal here on Aard is that I tell you what to think and you reply, zombielike, “Yes… Master… Kill… Kill…”. But today, let’s turn the tables. I’m going to ask a question about a simple scientific-culinary matter that has baffled me for decades. And I hope someone out there knows enough about yeast to enlighten me.

  1. When starved of oxygen, yeast turns sugar into alcohol.
  2. When germinated, barley grains, by means of the enzyme amylase, turn some of their constituent starch into sugar. This process is called malting.
  3. In order to make beer, you must malt the barley. This suggests that yeast cannot make alcohol out of starch.
  4. But Swedish vodka is made from potatoes, which are very high in starch but cannot be malted. This suggests that yeast can make alcohol out of starch.

So here’s my question: if yeast can make alcohol directly out of starch, why bother malting the barley before making beer? Couldn’t you just mix barley flour with water and yeast and put a lid on the slop?

Update same evening: Dale P and other Dear Readers solved the conundrum för me. Yeast cannot in fact ferment starch. To ferment potato mash, you add enzyme-containing barley malt to it!

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Marzipan Gold Hoard

i-c60ec11ec5ce3edcef8694229f8b1871-22 806.jpg

In 1995 a gold hoard was found at Vittene in Norra Björke parish, Västergötland. Its contents had been amassed over two centuries, and it was committed to the earth in the 3rd century AD. A fine book on the find and subsequent settlement excavations has recently been published and is available in full on-line.

Below is a picture of the Vittene hoard. Above is a picture of a replica of the hoard made of marzipan and gold leaf by Sören Elmqvist for the 1995 Christmas market at the county museum.

Thanks to Niklas Ytterberg for the tipoff.


Motte and Bailey and Limburger Cheese


I type this in the hotel lobby while waiting for the train just across the street that will take me to Brussels. The conference closed at 13, I had sandwiches with my colleagues and then set out again for the countryside south of town to grab me a geocache. On the Mergel ridge I saw a motte (an 11th/12th century fortification mound), and I suppose the remains of its bailey might also have been visible if I had entered the pasture it sits in. I’ve only seen one of those before, in Oxford.


Then I crossed the Jeker stream on a foot bridge by a mill and entered farmland. Apple orchards, pastures full of cows, vineyards, fields of maize and sugar beets. And at St. Lambert’s spring I finally found what I had been looking for, signed the little book, grabbed an effigy of Homer Simpson that wanted to travel, and returned to town on tired feet.

Stocking up on food for the afternoon and evening, I bought some of the famed local Limburg cheese as well. I’ve never had it before, but it seems to be potent stuff. I was scanning the display at the super market for something slablike or brickish, but when I found the Limburger the largest package turned out to be just a small 200 g cube. Breakfast tomorrow, and damn the consequences.

Update next morning: Airport security agrees: Limburger is a potential safety risk, so they confiscated it. Instead I bought some Chimay, which is nice but very mild.

Velvet Bolete Orgy


My wife and I made a short mushrooming excursion to Lake Lundsjön after lunch. Little more than half an hour in the woods garnered us only four species, but huge amounts of one: velvet bolete. We went home early simply because we didn’t need more mushrooms. I’m stewing them with cream. Never had shingled hedgehog before.

  • Velvet bolete, Sandsopp, Suillus variegatus
  • King bolete, Stensopp/Karl Johan, Boletus edulis
  • Red russula, Tegelkremla, Russula decolorans
  • Shingled hedgehog, Fjällig taggsvamp, Sarcodon imbricatus