Remarkable AspirinSarah got me an aspirin book several months ago (Aspirin: the remarkable story of a wonder drug) from the local half-price bookshop. It spans aspirin’s history from ancient Egyptian/Sumerian times to the present with large portions devoted to political and economic implications of scientific and market research. Fascinating stuff, if a bit dry.

We learn early on about willow bark compounds and the salicylic acid they contain which acts as a pain reliever but must be combined with other chemicals to made ingestible (for most people) without nasty side effects. But the real mind-blower comes in the last couple pages, after taking us through two and a half centuries of politics and economics and hopeful science. We come back to the salicylic acid that started it all. It’s not only found in willow bark, but also in lots of fruits and vegetables. Or at least it was — maybe it’s not so prevalent anymore. Its function is to help diseased parts of the bodies commit suicide before causing infection to the rest of the plant. But breeding crops to be resistant to disease or controlling environmental aspects through pesticides may have resulted in lower salicylic acid levels in the foods we ingest — which makes you wonder whether our industrial farming has deprived us of cancer-fighting abilities. After all, in theory, a cancerous cell is one that goes haywire and fails to commit suicide before coming a danger to the rest of the organism. Great food for thought.*

Romantic Pumpernickel?Speaking of food for thought, Sarah and I spotted this sexy loaf and were so intrigued we I just had to buy it. I’d been thinking about a loaf of this stuff before seeing the packaging, and that sealed the deal for me. It’s the kind of stuff my great-grandfather’s brother used to bake himself. It’s got so many nuts and seeds and stuff in the “dough” of the bread (if you can call it that) that a 500g package is only a few inches deep. Dense stuff.

The odd thing is, there’s nothing at all on the packaging we could find that hinted in the least as to what the embracing couple on the front has to do with the product on this inside. Weird, huh? Still, this brand was much cheaper than other similar ones in the same aisle. I made a bologna sandwich out of it (well, as much as I could — Mortadella is a close bologna approximation) and it was good, but not that good.