New Orleans Mensa

La Plume de NOM for February 2015

The Magazine of New Orleans Mensa Information and Entertainment


By Bart Geraci

Well, it’s February and it’s time to pay attention to street closures due to the Mardi Gras parades. Also affected by the Mardi Gras date is our monthly NOM Night (and EXCOM), which will be on the third Saturday this month.

At the end of the month, our group will participate in judging at the New Orleans Science and Engineering Fair. It will be held Wednesday, February 25 at 9 a.m. For more details, contact me at

On Sunday April 26 (First Jazzfest Sunday), our group will participate in CultureQuest, a 90-minute, closed book, team-of-five trivia competition against other Mensa chapters. I will be leading the Brains on Bourbon team again. Last year, we finished in 14th place. If you are interested, contact me at For our Mensa youth, you too can participate against other Mensa youth - only the captain needs to be a member; the other 4 members do not. Again contact me if you are interested.

Speaking of Jazzfest, can you believe the lineup this year? Elton John, The Who, Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga, No Doubt, Chicago, Steve Winwood, Wilco, Widespread Panic, Jerry Lee Lewis, Pitbull, Jimmy Buffett and many, many more. One of the nice things about Jazzfest is that sometimes a musician will drop by and join the band on stage for a few songs. I’m the type of person who would rather walk around all day and listen to as many bands as I can, rather than stake out a seat for a single band performance.

I have heard from a member who is willing to host a NOM Night. Many years ago, it was the norm for members to host NOM Nights (instead of meeting at a restaurant). We welcome people hosting NOM Nights. To encourage this, we will reimburse hosts $100 for their purchases.

Let’s Go Pelicans!

So the Story Goes Like This

By Bart Geraci

I was visiting a friend of mine over in West Texas and he was showing me his new aquarium and his collection of fishes and shrimps. He then proceeded to tell me that he’s been having a problem in that the fishes didn’t look like they were getting enough food.

So with me in tow, we decided to see what was happening when we added more fish food to the tank. To our amazement, the pair of shrimps came out of their hiding place and shoved the fish away. Then the shrimps began to eat up as much of the food that they could and only left a little bit of food for the fishes to share.

“I see your problem,” I said. “Your pair of shrimps …”

“... are two shellfish.”

News & Notes for Young Mensans

Lisa Van Gemert

Happenings & Celebrations:


Here’s how to say “February” in some other languages

It’s Your Birthday!

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

Charles Lindbergh (4th); Ronald Reagan (6th); Charles Dickens (7th); Thomas Edison (11th); Abraham Lincoln (12th); Charles Darwin (12th); Pierre Renoir (25th); Levi Strauss (26th); and John Steinbeck (27th).

Benefit Highlight:

Youth in Mensa get free digital access to Scholastic’s Super Science magazine. Email for details..


Lisa Van Gemert Youth & Education Ambassador |

get resources:

find more:

From the RVC

By Roger Durham, Region 6 Vice Chair

I can’t believe it’s been six years already. Yes, it was in February 2009 that I reluctantly agreed to be nominated for Regional Vice Chairman for the first time. I had just been elected to another term as treasurer of my local group, North Texas Mensa, and my interest in Mensa was very much limited to my own group and a few others nearby. I knew very little about Mensa on the national level, and frankly, I didn’t much care. My first national Board meeting was a real eye-opener. I realized immediately from the comments of the other Board members that the Mensa experience is very different in various parts of the country. Things that pass unnoticed in Region 6 can cause major upheavals elsewhere. My service on the Board has definitely been an education.

From the very first, controversial issues have come before the Board, and I have done my best to contribute clarity and restraint to their discussion. Sometimes the right thing to do has been obvious to me, at other times I have sought your input, but through it all the time has flown by and now I am coming to the end of my third and last term as your RVC. Next month I will attend what may be my last Board meeting, and by coincidence it’s in Indianapolis, just like my first one. I have thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to represent you in this way, and I hope I have earned your confidence sufficiently to merit your support in my quest to move up to national Treasurer. You’ll be hearing more from me about this as the national election season progresses.

In the meantime, membership renewals are due next month, so please 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.

It’s also time to make plans to attend this year’s Annual Gathering in Louisville, KY. I know that for many of you, spouses, kids, jobs, and a host of other obligations make it hard to fit in a trip to the AG, but honestly, you’re missing the best part of Mensa if you don’t go. We have nearly 60,000 members in this country, but only about 2,000 of us make it to the AG each year, and fewer than 100 of those are from Region 6, unless the AG is held somewhere in our region, as it was in 2013. I’ve been to at least 15 AGs over the 40 years I’ve been in Mensa, and I wish I could have gone to all the others. You don’t have to go every year, but you really should try to make it occasionally, particularly when it’s relatively close by, as it is this year.

As always, if you have any comments or questions about American Mensa or Region 6, please feel free to contact me by email at

BrainFork: A Mensan Talks About Food

By Bart Geraci


”"When I had a job catering, I catered a wedding for the Smashing Pumpkins bassist in Indiana. And I served Billy Corgan shrimp off a tray."
-Amy Poehler-

Let’s talk about shrimp, jumbo or otherwise.

Shrimp, Prawn, and Scampi

“Homer: When I found out shrimp cocktails had no alcohol, I really lost interest.”
- The Simpsons, “A Test Before Trying” -

The word “shrimp” comes from the Indo-European word “skerbh”, which means “to turn / bend / shrink.”

A shrimp is defined as a small free-swimming crustacean with an elongated body. A prawn is a crustacean which resembles a large shrimp. So the simple difference is of size.

There is one more difference, and that has to do with which side of the “pond” you are on. In the United Kingdom (and related countries), they prefer the word “prawn” whereas in the states the preference is “shrimp”. Some people will use prawn to refer to freshwater crustaceans and reserve the word shrimp for saltwater ones. Clearly the advantage of the word shrimp is that it gives rise to the oxymoron “jumbo shrimp”, whereas “jumbo prawn” doesn’t quite the same effect.

OK, so where does “scampi” fit into all this?

Scampi is not the Italian word for shrimp (it’s actually “gambero” or “gamberetto”). It’s not an animal, but a preparation, in the same way “Florentine” involves spinach. There is a crustacean called Nephrops norvegicus, aka the Norway lobster, aka langoustine. In the UK, the legal definition of “scampi” only applies to preparations on this species. Meanwhile in the USA, scampi is mostly used to refer to shrimp in garlic butter and white wine.

Decapods of the World Unite Unite Unite Unite Unite

“These things are just plain annoying. After all the trouble you go to, you get about as much actual “food” out of eating an artichoke as you would from licking 30 or 40 postage stamps. Have the shrimp cocktail instead."
- Miss Piggy -

The taxonomy:

Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Arthropoda
Subphylum Crustacea
Class Malacostraca
Order Decapoda

Decapoda level, we’re talking about 10-footed animals (still small, though, and nowhere near ten feet tall), so this includes lobsters, crawfish, crabs, as well as shrimps. So at this level, we still have about 15,000 species. So let’s focus on just two major species found in Louisiana. Continuing our table...

Suborder Dendrobranchiata
Superfamily Penaeoidea
Family Penaeidae

Finally, we have two separate Genus / Species combos:

So what’s the difference? White shrimps are usually larger and have a milder flavor; brown shrimps are smaller, but have a stronger flavor. In terms of texture, the brown shrimps are much firmer, while white shrimps are more likely to absorb the flavors of the soaking liquids.

Shrimp and Religion

“Juliet: Are you going to eat that fried shrimp?
Rory: I think I am.
Juliet: Oh God, can I watch?”
- Gilmore Girls, “Jews and Chinese Food”-

Some religions prohibit the consumption of shrimp and other shellfish. Judaism is the most commonly known example. Its prohibition comes from Leviticus 11:9-12 where only fish that have fins and scales are permissible to eat. In Islam, Sunni Muslims are allowed to eat shellfish, but Shi’ite Muslims are not. Also prohibited from eating shellfish are the Seventh-Day Adventists. In addition to these three religions, some faiths are vegetarian altogether, such as Buddhism and Jainism.

Shrimp and Allergies

“Buffy: I'm not entirely sure that we can trust our memories. Anya, tell them about the alternate universes.
Anya: Oh, okay. Say you really like shrimp a lot or we could say you don't like shrimp at all. “Blah, I wish there weren't any shrimp”, you'd say to yourself --
Buffy: Stop! You're saying it wrong. I think that Jonathan may be doing something so that he's manipulating the world and we're all, like, his pawns.
Anya: Or prawns.
Buffy: Stop with the shrimp! I'm trying to do something here.”
-Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “Superstar”-

Eight food items are responsible for as many as 90% of all severe allergic reactions. Shellfish is one of them; it’s been estimated that 2% of the population is affected.

There are subdivisions of shellfish allergies. Shellfish is composed of two large divisions, crustaceans (shrimp, crawfish, crab, lobster) and mollusks (oysters, clams, mussels, scallops). It has been found that some people who are allergic to crustaceans will not have a reaction to mollusks, and vice versa. In Louisiana, there are some people who are allergic to brown shrimp but can eat white shrimp and vice versa. As a reminder, a fun article on food is no substitute for a physician’s visit or professional medical advice.

Any More Shrimp Quotes Before the Recipe?

“It took me years to eat a lot of shellfish. I was probably 20 years old before I had even seen a shrimp cocktail. I like oysters, but fried.”
- Dolly Parton -


“He showed his mama and papa, the shrimp newspaper he read
An invitation to all the shrimp and this is what it said
Free ride, New Orleans, stay in grand hotel
Big Creole gal who help you come out of your shell”
- Song of the Shrimp”, Elvis Presley -

Up north, lobsters are a pretext to consuming large amounts of melted butter. Down here, it’s BBQ shrimp.

Okay, I’ll get the grill started …
Er, we don’t need that.
Um, okay let me get the KC Masterpiece sauce out the fridge …
Er, we don’t need that either.

BBQ Shrimp - 1 Step version:

This recipe is one step and it comes from the collection of recipes from the New Orleans Public Service Inc. I remember years ago taking the bus and they would have a little newsletter, which would contain one of these recipes. So I tried this adaptation the other night:

Get large pan, add all things to it, and bake it at 350 - 400 degrees for some length of time. Get lots of French bread to soak up the juices.

NOW, having said that…

  1. Actually, go by the shrimp color and peelability of the shrimp, rather than following the time and temperature exactly. The shrimp color should be pink and it should peel easily -- too long and it gets hard to peel.
  2. Also add a lot of spices to this, the butter really mutes the flavors.

So shrimp cook relatively fast, and it seems that we want to get a deeper flavor than just butter, so …

2-step version

Melt butter on stove, add spices and lemon juice, maybe Worcestershire sauce, and other spices. Once it’s at a flavor level and thickness level that you enjoy, add the shrimp in and cook until pink, which may take only 4-5 minutes.

And if you’re getting some head-on shrimp and you get some shrimp shells, why not do …

3-step version

Peel the shrimp, saving the heads and shells for the stock. Gather the heads and shells and place in pot with water and optional stuff like onions, celery, bay leaf, garlic, and/or lemon. Bring to a boil, simmer stock for about an hour, skimming impurities off the top every now and then. Freeze whatever stock you’re not using. Then add rest of ingredients. Then when that’s at a stage you like, add the shrimp last.

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Last edited: 7-Feb-2015. Webmaster Bart J. Geraci can be reached at