The Language of Food

Posted in Uncategorized on February 25, 2015 by frankbures

LOFFrom The Rotarian:

Sitting in a pub and ordering a basket of fish and chips may feel so British that you can practically hear “God Save the Queen” playing in the background. Asking for a side of ketchup might feel rebellious, as if you are Americanizing your meal.

Yet what you’re really doing is putting a Chinese fish sauce on a favorite delicacy of the Persian kings: Fish and chips is the direct descendant of a dish known as sikbāj, which became ceviche in Spain, aspic in France, and tempura in Japan. Ke-tchup means “preserved-fish sauce” in the southern Chinese language of Hokkien.

In his new book, The Language of Food: A Linguist Reads the Menu (W.W. Norton & Company, 2014), Dan Jurafsky takes us on a journey tracing culinary words across cultures. This is great fun if you want to win the next round of dinnertime trivia, but there are serious lessons here too. As Jurafsky points out, common wisdom has it that China closed itself off from the world around 1450. But the linguistic evidence of ketchup’s spread shows this wasn’t the case.

Read the rest here.

Many Globes, Many Hits

Posted in Music on January 26, 2015 by frankbures

Came back from Mexico humming this tune. Can’t believe this wasn’t on every radio station in America. (A little context here.)

The Art and Science of Hope

Posted in Africa, America, Clips, Culture, Parenting, Science, Travel on January 7, 2015 by frankbures

CutlerHopeFrom The Rotarian:

A few years ago, I was passing through the northern Nigerian city of Kano when I stopped at a roadside stall for some tea. The proprietor asked me where I was from. I told him.

“I want to go to America!” he told me, smiling. “We are just suffering here in Nigeria. If I go to America, I will not come back to Nigeria again.”

“Not even to see your mother?” I asked.

He laughed. “I will send her some money.”

I thanked him and drank my tea. After I left, I wondered if he was serious or just talking.

As I traveled through the region, I met several people headed north, on their way to Europe. It was a difficult and dangerous journey that tens of thousands of people set out on each year, many of them never reaching their destination. I often marveled at the confidence a person must have to embark on a trip like that, to leave everything behind, to be certain of somehow making it.

Like most people, I’d always assumed these travelers were the most poverty-stricken, the most hopeless. But now I can see that this isn’t the case – at least not entirely. Often, the people who leave their villages are the brightest and most ambitious ones, the ones with the biggest dreams. As one poet from Cameroun wrote after arriving in Spain, “No money in the pockets/But hope in the heart.” Hope, as much as anything else, drives them.

Hope may be our most important asset as a species. Hope is the thing that drew us out of our caves and around the world. Hope is what gets us out of bed in the morning. Hope lets us imagine our lives as more than they are. Yet when we talk about hope, we usually mean the vague feeling that things will get better. But that is not hope.

Read the rest here.

Wanderers

Posted in Travel on December 31, 2014 by frankbures

This beautiful short film by Erik Wernquist, set to the words of Carl Sagan, sums up so much of what I believe about the world. Happy New Year to wanderers everywhere!

On Wealth, Isolation and Giving

Posted in America, Clips, Science on December 24, 2014 by frankbures

Cutler-kindnessFrom The Rotarian:

Down the road in front of me, the light turned red. As our car slowed, from the corner of my eye I saw a man standing in the middle of the street with a sign that said he was homeless and needed money. My wife and two daughters were in the car with me. I looked straight ahead.

From behind me, a small voice spoke. “Can we give him some money?” It was my eight-year-old daughter. I didn’t answer. The light turned green, and I drove on. The voice spoke again.

“Why are you so mean, Daddy?” she said.

“Yeah,” my wife chimed in, smiling. “Why are you so mean?” She was sort of joking, sort of not.

My daughter continued: “How would you feel if you were a poor person and all you had was scraggly clothes and people just drove past you?”

“I don’t know,” I said. And honestly, I didn’t know how I would feel – let alone how that guy felt. In fact, I hadn’t thought about that sort of thing for some time. Back in college, for a senior project about homelessness, I’d played a homeless person in a movie. And I’d done some volunteering here and there, but in raising children lately, everything extraneous has been swept away.

For most of the year, it’s easy to get absorbed in our own lives. But the holidays are supposed to be different. This is the time when our thoughts are supposed to turn to others – to the people we buy gifts for, to those less fortunate than us. Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol plays on stages across the country. Every year, ghosts visit Ebenezer Scrooge and show him how hard his heart has become, and how little happiness all his wealth has brought him.

Read the rest here.

Pieces of You: Organ Donation, Altruism & Why We Give

Posted in America, Clips, Science on December 2, 2014 by frankbures

MH12.14In the December 2014 issue of Men’s Health is a story I did about living organ donors, people like Dan Coyne who donated a kidney to a woman at his local grocery store. People like Todd Musgraves who didn’t even know who he donated his kidney to, but who knew that someone needed it. It’s a fascinating story full of compelling people, and it raised questions about what we give to others and what we receive in return. The piece is online here and can listen to an interview I did for Men’s Health Live on iTunes here:

Would you donate an organ to a complete stranger? We discuss the growing phenomenon of living organ donors with MH Writer Frank Bures.

And here:

How will your life change if you donate an organ? MH Writer Frank Bures talks about all the rewards of being an organ donor; including greater satisfaction and happiness in life!

If you would like to become a living donor, contact a transplant center near you, or find out what kidney donation involves at the Living Kidney Donor Network. To donate bone marrow, visit Be The Match.

Read the story here.

The Science of Risks, Rewards and 100 Things To Do Before You Die

Posted in Books, Clips, Science, Travel with tags , , on November 20, 2014 by frankbures

100mainFrom the Jewish Journal (originally from The Rotarian).

In 2008 in his Los Angeles home, a man named Dave Freeman fell, hit his head and died. This wouldn’t have been big news, except that the 47-year-old Freeman had launched what became an entire genre of books when, in 1999, he and a friend published “100 Things to Do Before You Die.” In it, they exhorted people to get out and experience things like the Namaqualand wildflower bloom in South Africa, or a voodoo pilgrimage in Haiti, or the Fringe Festival Nude Night Surfing competition in Australia.

Before his death, if I thought about Freeman at all, it was to dismiss his book as a gimmicky Christmas present you might get from an aunt who doesn’t know you very well. But since his demise, I have found my thoughts returning to him and his project.

“This life is a short journey,” Freeman wrote in the introduction, then told the reader to “get off your butt and create a fabulous memory or two” before it was over. It was a call to arms against complacency, a prod to approach life as a beast to be wrestled to the ground rather than one to be led placidly to the stockade.

Read the rest here.

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