Friday, May 7, 2010

Things to Ponder and Other Wise Cracks

If you take a look at the side bar of my blog, you will notice two very succinct boxes with quotes in them.  “Funny Things to Ponder” and “Wisdom Quotes” .

These are particularly interesting for me; since this is the first thing I read whenever I log in.  I am always curious to see what those are, since they change every time one logs in.  This morning the following was listed: Funny Things to Ponder ~ If cheese is made of milk why is it Yellow? And Wisdom Quotes ~ A prudent question is one half of wisdom.

I particularly like both of these quotes, which is why I’ve chosen to write about them.

Why indeed does cheese have different colours?  The simple answer is this: It's orange because they dye it orange. You knew this, of course. The question really should be, Why orange as opposed to, say, a nice taupe? As near as cheese historians can make out, the practice originated many years ago in England.  Those poms can be an astute bunch, don't you think?

Milk contains varying amounts of beta-carotene, the yellow-orange stuff found in carrots and other vegetables. Milk from pasture-fed cows has higher beta-carotene levels in the spring and summer, when the cows are munching on fresh grass, and lower levels during the fall and winter, when they're eating hay. Thus the natural color of the cheese varies over the course of a year.   (Now will everyone get off my case about not eating vegetables?  Clearly you can see there’s a huge quantity of the good stuff in cheese – and I eat heaps of this)

Anyway, so cheese makers began adding coloring agents. Nowadays the most common of these is annatto, a yellow-red dye made from the seeds of a tree of the same name. Dyeing the cheese eliminated seasonal color fluctuations and also played to the fact (or anyway the belief) that spring/summer milk had a higher butterfat content than the fall/winter kind and thus produced more flavorful cheese. Figuring if yellow = good, orange = better, some cheese makers began ladling in the annatto in double handfuls, producing cheese that looked like something you'd want to carve into a jack-o'-lantern.

In recent years some smaller operations have rebelled and stopped using colorants. Be forewarned--according to one cheese making text, uncolored cheese is a "sordid, unappetizing melange of dirty yellow." But at least it's real.

Now for my take on the Wisdom Quote…. You remember of course when your children were born – or if you don’t have any children, you will remember hearing a little child’s inquiring mind ticking away every time s/he asked a question like “Why are the clouds white?” “Where do birds come from?” etc.  At times like these it is wise to use prudent thought processes before answering the questions….  Imagine if kids thought carefully before asking most questions?  I wonder if they would arrive at a better conclusion and therefore be able to ask a more prudent question, like for instance “if clouds are a build-up of evaporated water or humidity held up in suspension in the air, then what is the process that takes place for those clouds to transform from clouds to water dropping down onto the land?”

It’s a whole new topic for investigation, however it has been thought of from a different angle – in fact there has been thought process involved in the question… a simple question like why are clouds white has no thought whatsoever behind it and deserves one good answer:  “I don’t know.”  Why bother answering it if there was never any thought behind the question in the first instance.  Perhaps a rhetorical question is better to use in an answer:  “That’s a very interesting question, why do you think the clouds are white?”

Makes for an interesting conversation and debate!

So why are clouds white? In much the same way as why skies are blue, clouds are white because their water droplets or ice crystals are large enough to scatter the light of the seven wavelengths (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet), which combine to produce white light. Clouds will appear dark or gray when either they are in another clouds shadow or the top of a cloud casts a shadow upon its own base.
The darkness of a cloud also depends on the background sky. A cloud will look darker when it is surrounded by a bright sky and lighter when it is in front of darker ones. Not always will a dark cloud mean rain.
More often, the reason we experience dark rainy days is because clouds are blocking the sunlight. Some of the whitest, most pure light can be observed when dark clouds "break apart" and sunlight filters through.

I could go on forever, but I reckon I have to stop at some stage.  I think I deserve a chocolate now, don’t you?

~ Vanessa

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