New Orleans Mensa

La Plume de NOM for February 2013

The Magazine of New Orleans Mensa Information and Entertainment

So The Story Goes Like This

Bart Geraci

So one time I left West Texas to go on an African safari. I stayed with a group of Chinese visitors, and I got paired with a person named Chu. Midway through the trip, I gave him a pair of cowboy boots as a token of our friendship. What I remember is later that evening when we came back to camp, we were told that a lion was found in camp and it put big holes in Chu's boots.

While we were not allowed to shoot any old animal, the consensus was that the lion was crazy in the head to come into camp, so we were allowed to hunt him down and kill him. Now Chu and I did not see the lion, but a young man in our group did and he was confident that he could recognize it in the wild. So we asked him to join us looking for the lion the next day.

So the three of us went to look for the lion. Suddenly I heard a noise and turned my head. There was a lion, but was it THE lion? I tapped the young man to get his attention and I said...

“...Pardon me boy, but is that the cat who chewed Chu's shoes?”


By Bart Geraci

It's that time of the year where I'm wearing shorts and T-shirts, but I'm keeping a coat in my car at all times. It's been evenly cold and warm these past few days.

At the time of this writing, the city is bracing for the Super Bowl. There are posters and graphs of which streets are closed and when. Every day as I drive downtown to work, I wonder which lane of the interstate will be closed, where the traffic jam will be, and constantly thinking about alternatives to every road that I am on. Anyway congratulations to San Francisco and Baltimore. Hmm... Dungeness Crabs vs. Crab Cakes. And congratulations to the winning Super Bowl coach, Mr. J. Harbaugh.

Once the Super Bowl is over on February 3rd, then Mardi Gras is around the corner (February 12th). So there's more traffic negotiations and avoidances as the parades take to the streets. Now that both my daughters are in college, this will be the first time in about 5 or 6 years that I do not have chaperon duties walking with my daughter in a parade. Ash Wednesday, February 13th, marks the start of Lent. A lot of people in New Orleans start their New Year's Resolutions on this day rather than January 1st. And the day after that is Valentine's Day. What a busy week!

The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival just announced the list of performers (see They include Billy Joel, Fleetwood Mac, Maroon 5, Widespread Panic, Dave Matthews Band, The Black Keys, Hall & Oates, Willie Nelson, Jimmy Cliff, B.B. King, Jimmy Cliff, Patti Smith, Jeffrey Osborne, Maze, Stanley Clarke, Los Lobos, Marcia Ball, Pete Fountain, Amanda Shaw, Allen Toussaint, Irma Thomas, Dr. John, Chris Owens, Theresa Andersson, Cowboy Mouth, Terence Blanchard, BeauSoleil w/ Michael Doucet and Jo-El Sonnier, and I'm stopping here because I have no intention competing with James Joyce on a longest sentence competition.

Within our chapter, we've got a special Dinner Club meeting at Snug Harbor this month. It'll be a meal followed by watching Tom Saunders' Tomcats perform. You can get an idea of the music the Tomcats play from these YouTube videos:

We've got an EXCOM meeting at my house Saturday February 9th, 5:00pm. This is not a social event. This is a business meeting to plan the next few months of our local chapter. Nevertheless, any member in good standing may attend.

And we also have the Greater New Orleans Science and Engineering Fair on Wednesday, February 27th, 9am-noon. Our chapter has given out special awards for many years now. If you want to help judge, let me know at so I know to wait for you.

On Sunday April 28th, our Brains on Bourbon team will compete in the 2013 CultureQuest. It'll be from 3:00 to 4:30pm. It's a 90 minute closed-book trivia quiz. We've done well enough in the past few years to receive money from National. If you are interested in competing, send me an email to to let me know.

Let's Go Hornets/Pelicans !

From the RVC

Roger Durham, Region 6 Vice Chairman

Well, the holidays are over, which means it’s time to start thinking about the Annual Gathering. This year’s AG, as I’m sure you know by now, will be in Fort Worth, so most of us don’t have very far to go to take part in American Mensa’s biggest and best event. The main hotel is already sold out, but there are two others that still have plenty of rooms, and the AG Committee is working feverishly to ensure that there are lots of exciting programs and activities for you to enjoy. Just go to the national website,, and click on Attend – Annual Gathering – AG Locations – Culture in Cowtown.

Between now and the AG, of course, we’ll have one last chance to rehearse our gathering skills at the Gulf Coast Mensa Regional Gathering, SynRG 2013. Don’t pass up the opportunity to party with our Houston-area members over the Memorial Day weekend.

Mensa isn’t only about gatherings, of course, and one of the most important things in any local group is (or certainly should be) the testing program. All across the country, dozens of Mensans give up a couple of hours every now and then to administer the Mensa Admission Test to prospects in their area. We at the national level have tried for years now to find an affordable way to out-source our testing so that Mensa membership can be available even where we don’t have volunteer test proctors, but so far our search has been fruitless. Which means that it’s vitally important for your local group to have an adequate testing program. Last year I made a couple of visits to Shreveport, hoping to help revitalize the Northern Louisiana group, which appeared to be on its last legs. We were fortunate to find a member to volunteer for proctor training, and with the help of their neighboring group in Baton Rouge they now have a proctor again, after many months of inactivity. I was delighted to see that in just a couple of months they have been able to increase their membership by over 10% through an aggressive testing schedule. Many thanks are due to new Proctor (and long-time Treasurer) Sara Burroughs and new LocSec William (Doc) Halliday (along with Interim LocSec Royal Tyler) for getting this group back on its feet. If your local group isn’t testing at least once a quarter (or preferably once a month), please consider volunteering to train as a test proctor. It isn’t hard, it doesn’t take much time, and it can be a lot of fun.

In the meantime, membership renewals are due next month, so don’t forget to get your renewal in to the National Office as soon as possible. Early renewals save money for Mensa that can be used for the support of valuable membership services.

Roger Durham

BrainFork: A Mensan talks about food


Bart Geraci

“It's a blue world
It takes somebody to help somebody”
-Moody Blues "Blue World"-

So this month, I'll talk about Blue cheese. But first, let's talk about cheese.

Smile for the Camera

“Only peril can bring the French together. One can't impose unity out of the blue on a country that has 265 different kinds of cheese.”
-Charles de Gaulle-

Cheese starts off with milk. Some milk sources that can be used are cow, goat, sheep, camel, water buffalo, and yak.

For the first step, you use a starter culture, often Streptococci and Lactobacilli. This will convert the lactose sugar into lactic acid and bring the mixture to the right pH level. The next step is to curdle the milk using a rennet, traditionally obtained from the 4th stomach of a cow. The enzyme that does the processing is called chymosin, and it clips off the part of the casein particles that make them naturally repel against each other. Once this part is clipped off, the casein particles clumps together to form a curd. Nowadays, rennets are synthesized, but it's been found that the stigmas of the thistle flower can also curdle milk.

Once the milk is curdled, you allow it to firm up, which takes anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours. The concentrated curds are cut up, the whey is drained off, and depending on the variety of cheese, can be cooked, pressed, or cut coarsely. Salt is used to dehydrate the curds, inhibit bad bacteria, and allows the aging process to take place.

Now what makes it blue?

A Fungus Among Us

“Max: Here, your Blueness... have some nasty medicine!”
-Yellow Submarine (Movie)-

What makes blue cheese blue is a fungi. Here's the taxonomy:

Classification Name
Kingdom Fungi
Division Ascomycota
Class Eurotiomycetes
Order Eurotiales
Family Trichocomaceae
Genus Penicillium
Species P. roqueforti, P. glaucum

So the Penicillium roqueforti (or Penicillium glaucum) is added to the cheese when they are placed in draining molds. This is what gives those blue/green veins.

And where do we find the fungi? In the case of Roquefort made in France, the bakers make loaves of rye bread from the local wheats, allow the breads to harden and get moldy, then use the mold to mix into the curd mixture. Furthermore, some blue cheeses have holes injected in them to allow the fungi to thrive.

A Matrix of Blue Cheeses

"This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill -- the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill -- you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes."
-The Matrix-

Oh boy, a matrix of Blue Cheeses!

Cheese Country Milk Source Penicillium
Bleu d'Auvergne France cow P. glaucum, P. roqueforti
Bleu de Bresse France cow P. roqueforti
Bleu de Gex France cow P. glaucum
Bleu de Causses France cow P. roqueforti
Cabrales Spain goat / cow / sheep mix P. roqueforti
Gorgonzola Italy cow or goat P. glaucum
Maytag USA, Iowa cow P. roqueforti
Rogue River USA, Oregon cow P. roqueforti
Roquefort France sheep P. roqueforti
Stilton UK cow P. roqueforti


“Go find a jukebox and see what a quarter will do
I don't wanna talk I just wanna go back to blue.”
-Lucinda Williams “Blue”-

I know that blue cheese is not everyone's favorite cup of tea (and even though I love it, I wouldn't try making tea with it either). My mother-in-law (as well as myself) really enjoyed blue cheese salad dressing, so eventually I would make it using Threadgill's recipe. The actual recipe notes that dressings found in stores (especially those un-refrigerated ones) usually have to be heated at a high temperature to make the product shelf-stable, thus killing off the flavor found in the blue cheese.

Blue Cheese Dressing (based on Threadgill's Cookbook)

To make the spices disperse more evenly, mix spices & peppers with the vinegar first. Then mix in the mayo/sour cream blend, and Liquid spices until you have a nice background flavoring. Add some blue cheese and mix again. Do both a taste test and an visual test. Too thick? Thin it with a little bit of buttermilk at a time. Too sweet? Well, the buttermilk may help with that too, or a little more vinegar. Do you want more green parsley flakes in mix? Do you want a little more heat from a hot sauce? Did you want a normal amount of blue cheese (4 oz), or do you want to ratchet it up to the high side (8 oz)?

“Chief Meanie: It's no longer a blue world, Max. Where could we go?
Max: Ar-gen-ti-na?”
-Yellow Submarine (Movie)-

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Last edited: 03-Feb-2013 . Webmaster Bart J. Geraci can be reached at