New Orleans Mensa

La Plume de NOM for December 2014

The Magazine of New Orleans Mensa Information and Entertainment


By Bart Geraci

Well, December 1st marks the end of the 2014 Hurricane Season. We are all thankful that we were spared another year.

December 13th, Lovie and I will host the end of the year NOM Night Celebration. There is a detailed article about that. We hope that you will attend.

Our group needs to fill some positions. The position of Historian is someone who records group events through photographs and maintains historical records of the group. We also need a New Member Coordinator to welcome new members into our chapter and help them to become more active in our group.

This time of the year, the houses and stores are all decorated in lights. There’s caroling in the French Quarter.

Also this time of the year, the local hotels have “Papa Noel” room rate specials. So consider playing tourist by staying in a hotel one weekend, walk around and see the sights.

The weather has been changing frequently, going from jacket-cold to shorts-warm in just a few days. I’ve been leaving my jacket in the car just in case it’s colder than I thought.

Saints haven’t been doing that well, and the Pelicans are just getting started. So let’s go Saints and Pelicans!

And peace on Earth and goodwill to all men.

So the Story Goes Like This

By Bart Geraci

I was out in West Texas and one of my many jobs was working at a company making animations. Even though we were an American company, our training was done using Japanese-style animations (called “anime”).

One day the company president came in with good news - we had received a grant from the state to produce an education cartoon about the history of Texas. After a few months of work, we came up with a 22 minute nice summary of Texas’s long history. After sending our product back to the state offices, we heard from them a few weeks later. They told us that we did such a nice job, that a lot of the school districts were going to use our film in classes.

We took the animation to an international convention where we won 2nd place. They honored our company, but we pointed out that the cartoon was done thanks to funding provided by the citizens of Texas. So in a sense, it really belonged to them.

In other words our film was …

… an anime of the state.

News & Notes for Young Mensans

Lisa Van Gemert

Happenings & Celebrations

December 6: Saint Nicholas Day

In many countries in Europe it’s customary for children to leave their shoes out on the night of December 5th so that when they wake up on Saint Nicholas Day on December 6th they will have treats or small gifts left by Saint Nicholas. You can read more about the real Saint Nicholas here: and make a paper shoe to leave out in the hope of treats with this pattern:

December 7: Letter Writing Day

In addition to the obvious (write someone a letter), celebrate Letter Writing Day by reading a book with letters. For younger readers: The Jolly Postman; Click, Clack, Moo: Cows that Type; Dear Mrs. LaRue; and Dear Mr. Henshaw. More mature readers (teens) may enjoy The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie.

December 21: Winter Solstice

Mensa’s Youth & Education Ambassador shares how to celebrate the Solstice here:

December 31: New Year’s Eve

There are some great ideas for celebrating New Year’s with kids at and


December has a number of traditional birthstones. If you’re born in this month, you can pick your favorite from turquoise, blue topaz, tanzanite, zircon, lapis, onyx, ruby, or chrysoprase.

It’s Your Birthday!

If you were born in December, you share your birthday month with:

Martin Van Buren, the 8th President of the United States and Walt Disney (5th), poet John Milton (9th), poet Emily Dickinson and John Dewey, creator of the Dewey Decimal System (10th), Mary Todd Lincoln (13th), anthropologist Margaret Mead and Beethoven (16th), Sir Isaac Newton and Clara Barton (25th), Presidents Woodrow Wilson (28th president and born on the 28th) and Andrew Johnson (17th president born on the 29th), author Rudyard Kipling (30th) and painter Henri Matisse (31st).

Benefit Highlight

Do you like TED talks? Have you ever heard of them? If not, you’re in for a treat, and we’ve got something to add to it. TED Connections take interesting TED talks and add questions you can dig your teeth into and extension activities to help you discover even more. You can find them at


Lisa Van Gemert Youth & Education Ambassador |

get resources:

find more:

From the RVC

By Roger Durham, Region 6 Vice Chair

On December 6th I will be joining the other members of your national Board of Directors in San Diego for our winter meeting. At this meeting, the most significant item on the agenda is a dues increase for the coming year. This was on the agenda for our fall meeting in Texas, but because the Finance Committee had chosen to propose an outrageous 10% increase next year, with yet another increase the following year, a coalition of virtually all the Regional Vice-Chairs plus a few other directors defeated the motion at that time. Now we are confronted with a new proposal, this time for an increase to $75 per year.

I would like to tell you that I will oppose this increase as well, but I cannot. There are several factors driving this decision, one of them being simple inflation, but the largest and most urgent was the decision of Mensa International Ltd (MIL) to increase yet again the amount American Mensa (and other national Mensas) must contribute every year to be a part of the world-wide organization. That decision virtually guaranteed a dues increase, since at the current rate we could not find another $50,000 or so in the budget to send to MIL without seriously impairing our own operations. We must also begin to provide funds for upgrading our computer system at the National Office, which a recent outside audit found to be at serious risk of failure, due to outmoded software and obsolete equipment.

The good news is that, for the first time in a decade or so, our membership is on the increase. Following an extremely successful Mensa Testing Month in October, we now expect to report a year-over-year increase of nearly 1,000 members when our fiscal year ends on March 31, 2015. Barring any unforeseen developments, this should enable us to get through both 2015 and 2016 in the black, and if the growth continues, I hope we can avoid another increase for 2017 and 2018 as well.

In any case, please accept my best wishes for a joyful holiday season and a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year.

End-of-the-Year NOM Night Celebration

By Bart Geraci

Date and Time: December 13th, 7:00 p.m.

Food and Drink: We will have our large variety of food that is sure to accommodate people’s preferences. If you are following dietary restrictions, please send an email to before December 6th, so we can make sure that you’ll have enough to eat.

As usual, we will have cheeses from the St. James Cheese Company. We are grateful for their knowledge of cheeses and their expertise in selecting a variety for the party.

We do not provide any alcoholic beverages at the party, but you may bring your own.

Attire: In the spirit of the season, we encourage people to dress up for the party, and many people do. Nevertheless, dressing up is not a requirement for admission.

Cost: Free! Many years ago, there used to be a guest fee at the end-of-the-year party. That is no longer the case.

RSVP: All members and their guests are invited to attend. We would appreciate it if you can let us know in advance how many people are coming by sending us an email at Of course, notification is not mandatory.

This is a special event that a lot of people look forward to, including Lovie and myself.

BrainFork: A Mensan Talks About Food

By Bart Geraci


“It was deep in the woods
When I heard a clear voice
Singing and repeating three times
An enchanting little ditty
With the air of a mirliton”
- Paul Cezanne, “Unpublished Poem” (1858) -

Let’s talk about the versatility of the mirliton:

It’s a hat!

“Hélie also raised his mirliton in solidarity, but after the initial hooray and bravado, he felt a deep sense of dread.”
- John-Paul Sinclair Lewis, “The Tricolor and the Scimitar” -

The mirliton hat is shaped like a cone with a flat top, similar to an elongated fez.

It’s a kazoo!

“Whistles, mirlitons, flutes, trumpets or horns, clarinets, and oboes are all played in one or more parts of the continent.”
- Francis Bebey, “African Music: A People's Art” -

Actually, a mirliton is any instrument that produces sounds by vibrations across a thin membrane. One of the most famous mirliton instrument is the kazoo. In the famous Nutcracker ballet, the “Dance of the Reed Flutes” is also known as “Dance of the Mirlitons”.

It’s a squash!

“I got ba-na-na, watermelon, peaches by the pound,
Sweet corn, mirleton, mo' better than in town…”
- Chris Smithers, “No Love Today” -

But this is a food article,so let’s talk about the squash version.

Kingdom Plantae
(unranked) Angiosperms
(unranked) Eudicots
(unranked) Rosids
Order Cucurbitales
Family Cucurbitaceae
Genus Sechium
Species S. edule

The Cucurbitaceae Family is called the gourd family consisting of squash, cucumber, watermelons.

Even though the mirliton fruit is the most commonly used part in food, the roots, stems, seeds, and leaves are all edible. The tubers are treated like potatoes while the shoots and leaves are used in salads and stir-frys. The seed is said to have a nutty taste. Mirlitons contain aglycone flavonoid poly-phenolic antioxidants (such as apigenin and luteolin). These compounds help remove harmful free radicals from the body.

The mirliton is a plant that can be grown on the ground, but it is best grown as a climbing vine. The many chain-link and other wired fences in New Orleans provide a nice place to grow them.

So what’s in a name?

“Indeed, the 2006 edition of the Joy of Cooking, which is said to bring back some of the recipes of the beloved 1975 edition, retains mention of the mirliton and even uses it by its New Orleans name, thus aligning itself with this city rather than the other places where the chayote is served.”
- Susan Tucker, “New Orleans Cuisine: Fourteen Signature Dishes and Their Histories” -

The word mirliton is more common to the New Orleans area; it is called chayote elsewhere. In France it’s called a christophene; Australia – choko; Brazil - chuchu or xuxu; Indonesia - labu siam; Philippines - sayote. It’s also referred to as a vegetable pear. So let’s get some of these similar names straightened out:

vegetable pear mirliton
alligator pear avocado
pear pear
pair two

The shape of the mirliton is somewhat like a pear, so the term vegetable pear is appropriate.

It’s a festival!

“But I [Dr. Lance Hill] had a neighbor who had a single mirliton vine that would produce over 150 mirlitons. Abundance makes you generous. Neighbors who don’t even talk to neighbors will show up at the front door with sack of fifty mirlitons and say, ‘Do you want them?’”
- Poppy Tooker, “Louisiana Eats” -

Dr Lance Hill founded, which is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the Louisiana heirloom mirlitons. In 2008, he started the Adopt-A-Mirliton project to distribute free heirloom mirliton plants to growers throughout the region.

The Bywater region of New Orleans in 1989 decided they wanted to have their own festival. They decided that since there was a festival for just about everything else, why not mirlitons? Hence, the Mirliton Festival was born, and has been going on for 25 years.

These Are Recipes!

“He's been crisscrossing the neighborhood all morning, his voice deep, strong and melodious: ‘Mirletons, I got ya mirletons,’ he sings, with feeling.”
- Jim Gabour, “Undercurrent: Life After Katrina” -

(1) This recipe is based on a few local cookbooks.

Stuffed Mirlitons

Mirlitons - cut in half, remove seed, and boil in salted water until tender; it’s tender when you can scrape out the pulp with a spoon. So scrape out the pulp, (to go back in with our mixture), but leave enough pulp in the shell to remain intact for stuffing.

Mixture - chop some or all of (garlic, onions, celery, tomato, green pepper, green onions, olives, hard-boiled eggs). Saute in pan with spices and mirliton pulp.

If using ground beef, add it at the start of the cooking time; if using shrimp, add it at the end of the cooking time.

For a little more body to the recipe, you can add some bread soaked in milk to the pan (at the start) or you can add some breadcrumbs to the pan (at the end).

Fill mirliton shells with a mound of the mixture. Bake 20-30 minutes at 350 or until tops are browned.

(2) This next recipe comes from Brazil and uses mirlitons raw.

Salade de Xuxu

Peel & seed mirlitons. Rub them under cold water to remove stickiness, then grate them into a large bowl. Peel and supreme oranges, keeping any juices that leaks. Add oranges segments to the bowl. Make a dressing using olive oil, lime juice, and reserved orange juice. Season with salt and pepper and add the dressing to the bowl. Add some sliced green onions, and let the mixture chill for at least 30 minutes. Before serving, toss it again and optionally add some fresh parsley / cilantro / mint to the mix.

(3) Finally, mirlitons candied

Candied mirlitons

Parboil mirlitons in salted water until tender. When cooled, slice in half, remove seeds, and cut pulp into large dice. Saute in butter for a while, then add a little bit of salt, pepper, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and brandy (or other liquor). Put mixture in buttered baking dish. Use another pan to heat up some sugar and liquor and spices, then pour on top of the mixture. Bake at 350 for 30-45 minutes, then stick the pan under the broiler for just a little while to get a nice appealing glaze on it.

New Orleans Mensa Executive Committee Meeting Minutes

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Home of Bart Geraci

Members present:

Bart Geraci, Claudia D'Aquin, Phil Therrien, Gerry Ward, Robert Myers, Summer McKnight, Loretta Levene, Kevin Chesnut

Meeting called to order at 5:10 PM.

Old Business:

Bart presented the minutes from the August meeting. The minutes were accepted.

New Business:

  1. Summer reported that the tee shirt sales brought $84.60 in Funds raised. Phil suggested that the chapter purchase the remaining 10 tee shirts from Summer, @$20.00 each, to sell to members in the future. This motion was agreed to, and Phil gave Summer a check for $200.
  2. Treasurer's report: Current balance: $10,393.28 as of 11/8/2014
  3. National Mensa is offering free review of prior evidence to qualify for membership, during the months of November and December. Claudia will ask Rene' to let all current prospective applicants know this.
  4. The recent death of Helga Cernicek was noted. Helga was our new members chairperson and also co-coordinator of our Friday night "Celebration" SIG. Her death was announced in our newsletter and Bart has notified national. At Helga's request, a simple remembrance was held at last month's celebration. No other services are planned.
  5. We are in need of a new historian for our chapter. Bart will announce this in the Plume. Summer mentioned that she will start to keep things in an online album, until we have a new historian.
  6. Smart Set Lunch SIG is currently on hold while the coordinator Mary Leonard is in graduate school.
  7. We began discussion of planning another RG. We have agreed to hire Lovie Geraci as coordinator/planner. We will negotiate appropriate compensation for this work over the coming months. Lovie will begin the process of checking venues and dates.
  8. Our first open house was in City Park, Oct. 18, in City Park. Some people came. Summer met some prospective members. Next open house will be April 18; we will begin planning this.
  9. We will continue to offer each member who attends NOM night one beverage at our expense. This has been successful, seems to encourage attendance.
  10. Summer reported on the member participation survey. She will send it to Bart for distribution, via all of our methods.

Next ExCom meeting will be February 21, 5 PM, Bart's house.

All business being concluded, the meeting was adjourned at 6:10 PM.

Submitted by

Claudia D'Aquin, Secretary

Back to the La Plume de NOM main page.

These pages and all content Copyright (c) 2014 by New Orleans Mensa, all rights reserved. Mensa ® and the Mensa logo (as depicted for example in U.S. TM Reg. No. 1,405,381) are registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office by American Mensa, Ltd., and are registered in other countries by Mensa International Limited and/or affiliated national Mensa organizations. Mensa does not hold any opinion or have, or express, any political or religious views.
Last edited: 9-Dec-2014. Webmaster Bart J. Geraci can be reached at