New Orleans Mensa

La Plume de NOM for March 2012

The Magazine of New Orleans Mensa Information and Entertainment

From the Editor

Peter Salomon

Basketball and St. Patty’s Day and more, New Orleans in March!

Once more the eyes of the sporting world will be focused on us...

So The Story Goes Like This

Bart Geraci

One day, during my single days, I stopped by the grocery store on the way home and picked up a fish for dinner that night. I started to get some ingredients out for supper, when I got a phone call from a cousin I hadn't seen in a while. He was in the city and wanted to get together. I told him to come on over and we'll eat. He said that he had three of his friends with him and I told him that would be fine. So I started boiling water for some pasta.

Then I got another phone call from a friend I haven't heard from in a long time and he and his wife and two kids were in town. I told him to come over to the house for supper and started getting more vegetables out for the feast. Plus some garlic bread.

Now looking at the single fish, I had to figure out how to extend it for 8 other people. I went to some of my trusty cookbooks and I found a recipe involving fish, herbs, vegetables, and a poaching liquid. As I was reading the directions, I said to myself, “Perfect....”

“...a fish in thyme serves nine.”


Roger Durham

If you are a local officer, either elected or appointed, or if you’ve ever thought about serving as a local officer, I hope you will consider registering for South Texas Mensa’s one-day Leadership Development Workshop scheduled for March 17 in San Antonio. Attendance, including lunch, is free for the day, which starts at 8:30am with remarks by Bob Bevard, American Mensa’s Development Officer, followed by presentations by local member Steve High, national Executive Director Pam Donahoo, and then yours truly. After a catered lunch, the session continues with a presentation on testing by STM Local Secretary and Testing Coordinator Roy Huff and one on conflict resolution by Betsey Garland. The day will end with a wrap-up by Bob Bevard, then you can head either for home or for Bob’s justly famous Partyon- the-Patio at Hills-n-Dales. Although this is sponsored by STM, members of other local groups are cordially invited. For more information, contact coordinator Sherrie Reimers at

Another thing I hope you will consider is to make plans to attend the 2012 version of SynRG, the Regional Gathering of Gulf Coast Mensa, taking place over Memorial Day weekend in Houston. Contact for details.

And on another subject altogether, if you’ve ever served on your group’s bylaws committee, you know that American Mensa requires several things to be included in all local bylaws. These provisions are considered so important that they are deemed to be included in all local by-laws whether they are actually adopted by the group or not. One of these is a requirement that all local groups have an Ombudsman, to help resolve disputes between members or between members and local officers. Despite this requirement, over one-third of local groups nationwide have never filled this office, including four here in Region 6. Our national Ombudsman is very concerned about this situation, and has urged all 10 Regional Vice- Chairs to appoint regional Ombudsmen to step in where no local Ombudsman is available.

Consequently, I have appointed Randy Brack, currently Ombudsman of North Texas Mensa, to the post of Regional Ombudsman. If your group does not have a local Ombudsman, please feel free to contact Randy ( if you need an impartial third party to help resolve a dispute with another Mensan arising out of Mensa activities. Local group officers can also use his services in the event of a conflict with another group, should such a thing occur. If your local Editor was able to find the space for it, an introductory column by Randy may appear elsewhere in your newsletter.



Bart Geraci

This month we have Mensa Testing on March 17th (St. Patrick's Day).

We still need a new assistant editor for the newsletter. This involves mainly folding, labeling the newsletter, and dealing with the post office regarding bulk mailing. Thanks to all those that have changed their preferences from mail to electronic for the newsletter.

I am also looking for a volunteer to serve as coordinator for Northshore activities.

If those positions don't appeal to you, then consider some of these other options:

If you have a passion about something, and you want to show others, then suggest an event. You may be amazed to find that some of your fellow NOMs are interested in the same things you are.

There's a weekly email subscription called the "Weekly Brainwave" from American Mensa that looks interesting. You can go to and browse some past issues and decide whether you want to subscribe to it or not. In a recent issue they had stories on a 14-year old achieving nuclear fusion, how to make freezedried astronaut ice cream, and the laws of physics as it applies to hair.

Even though we've had a mild winter in New Orleans, I am looking forward to Spring this month. It means that snowball stands open up again and the festival season gets started in high gear.

Let's go Hornets!

BRAINFORK: A Mensan writes about food

By Bart Geraci

Brainfork: Pancakes

[in a pancake restaurant]
Charlie Babbitt: Okay, Ray, we've got blueberry, buckwheat, all flavors, what kind do you want?
Raymond Babbitt: Pancakes.
Charlie Babbitt: I know, but what kind?
Raymond Babbitt: Pancakes.
-Rain Man (1988)-

Pancake Day

In New Orleans, we celebrate the day before Ash Wednesday as Fat Tuesday with costumes, parades, and other merriment as the end of the Carnival season. In the UK, Canada, and other places, this day is called Shrove Tuesday and is also known as Pancake Day.

Why pancakes? During the Middle Ages, Lent was a period of abstaining from not just meat, (the word “Carnival” refers to the act of saying farewell to meat until Easter Sunday) but also from dairy and egg products as well. Pancakes became a common way to use up milk, butter, and eggs.

The International House of Pancakes, better known as IHOP, has hosted its National Pancake Day celebration since 2006 by offering a free short stack of pancakes and asking diners to consider leaving a donation for charity.

A Day at the Races

In Olney, England in 1444 a housewife was still busy frying pancakes on Shrove Tuesday when she heard the local church bells for services. She ran out of her house with her frying pan and pancake still in it to church. This even started the tradition of having a “pancake race”. There are two towns, Olney and Liberal (in Kansas), that compete in the International Pancake Race since 1950. Racers must must flip a pancake at the starting signal, run about 1/4 mile (with frying pan and pancake), and flip the pancake again after crossing the finish line. The current record time was set in 2001 at 58.1 seconds.

Leavening Agents

The laziest man I ever met put popcorn in his pancakes so they would turn over by themselves.
-W C Fields-

What makes pancakes light and fluffy? A lot depends on the leavening agents and their interaction with other ingredients.

Baking soda

This is also called sodium bicarbonate. The chemical formula NaHCO3. In the presence of heat alone, it breaks down into NaOH + CO2. The first compound is sodium carbonate, which leaves a rather “soapy” taste in the food, once the CO2 is dissipated.

Baking soda can be used as a fire suppressant. Weird, huh? At about 160 degrees Fahrenheit (or 70 Celsius), 2 units of sodium bicarbonate are split into: 2(NaHCO3) → Na2CO3 + H2O + CO2. The Carbon Dioxide generated will smother the oxygen that the fire needs, and the remaining solids will coat the fuel, like a blanket. At about 1000 degrees C, the Na2CO3 will split into: Na2CO3 → Na2O + CO2.

Baking soda is a “base” in the “acid-base” spectrum. So in the presence of an acid H[x] (where [x] is rest of the acid compound) and some heat, we generate the compounds Na[x] + H2O + CO2. Because the rest of the acid binds with the Sodium element, we have less sodium carbonate remaining in our food and therefore less of that “soapy” taste.

So there needs to be a delicate balance of the amount of acids in the recipe and the amount of baking soda to balance it out. Gee, I wish someone would come up with an easy to use product with the elements in balance. (Guess where this is leading....)

Baking Powder

Baking powder is composed of about 25% baking soda, some solid acids, and a mess of cornstarch to keep the soda and acids from premature interaction. The types of acids used can either be fast-acting, which means it dissolves rapidly, or slow-acting, which dissolves slowly or at higher-than-room temperatures. And double-acting means that it has some of both – the best of both worlds! WOOHOO!

The most common fast-acting acid is potassium hydrogen tartrate ( KC4H5O6 ), also known as cream of tartar. Cream of tartar occurs in wine casks during the fermentation of grape juice, and can precipitate out of wine in bottles. Another type of fast-acting acid is monocalcium phosphate ( Ca(H2PO4)2 ).

Among the slow-acting acids, there's Sodium Aluminum Sulfate ( NaAl(SO4)2 ), Dimagnesium Phosphate ( MgHPO4 ), and Dicalcium Phosphate ( CaHPO4 ). Now the first compound was fairly commonly used in baking powder, but concern over consumption of Aluminum has lead people to ask for Aluminum-free baking powders, so the other 2 compounds are more common today.


Okay, so something named “butter” “milk” should be incredibly high in fat, but the traditional method of creating buttermilk is to use the liquid that remains after churning the butter out of cream. In order to get the cream to rise to the top, the milk had to sit for a period of time. During that time, the lactic acid bacteria converts the milk sugar (lactose) into lactic acid. This lowers the pH of the milk (making it more acidic) and the milk protein (casein) causes the milk to curdle and clabber ; this is why buttermilk is more sour and more thicker than regular milk.

So the “butter” in its name reflects what is missing rather than what is there. Almost like the way Greenland isn't overly green and Iceland isn't overly icy.

It's All About Balance

Carla: Why is there a pancake in the silverware drawer?
Turk: Man, why is there silverware in the pancake drawer?!
-Scrubs TV show-

Quite often, a recipe will call for baking powder, since it has the balance of baking soda to acid already set up nicely. If a recipe has some additional acid, it may call for a little bit of baking soda to balance it out. The classic example of an acid in pancakes is buttermilk. For 1 cup of buttermilk, you need about 1/2 tsp baking soda to balance out the acids and bases.

At this point, the pancake enthusiast (if they're still reading this and neither in the kitchen nor on their way to a local pancake joint) may think that by adding more baking powder, bigger bubbles will be generated, hence more tender pancakes. This is not the case: if there is too much CO2 in the pancake mix, the bubbles will be big enough to break through the pancake and pop, so instead of nice sized bubbles trapped in the pancake, you are left with rather dense layers of flour without bubbles.

Speaking of balance, one internet meme has a picture of a cute little rabbit with a pancake balanced on its head. The “Pancake Bunny” was a rabbit named Oolong that was owned by Hironori Akutagawa in Hokkaido, Japan. Hironori trained Oolong to balance small light objects on his head and took pictures to post on his website. Oolong died in 2003.


Dr. Jules Hilbert: Hell Harold, you could just eat nothing but pancakes if you wanted.
Harold Crick: What is wrong with you? Hey, I don't want to eat nothing but pancakes, I want to live! I mean, who in their right mind in a choice between pancakes and living chooses pancakes?
Dr. Jules Hilbert: Harold, if you pause to think, you'd realize that that answer is inextricably contingent upon the type of life being led... and, of course, the quality of the pancakes.
-Stranger Than Fiction (2006)-

For a simple buttermilk pancake recipe:

Wet ingredients: 2 eggs, 1.25 cups milk, 3 Tbsp butter/oil, vanilla extract

Dry ingredients: 1.5 cups flour, 3/4 tsp salt, 2 tsp baking powder, 2 Tbsp sugar


Mix dry ingredients by themselves.

Mix wet ingredients by themselves. Some variations will separate out the egg yolks and whites – you would mix the yolk with the rest of the wet ingredients and whip up the whites into peaks separately, then fold the whites back in after resting.

Gently combine them. If beaten until the batter is smooth, then you've released out a lot of the gases that you need for fluffiness.

Let the mixture rest about 5-10 minutes ; this will give some time for the leavening agent to work and for the flour to absorb the liquids. If you can let it sit in fridge for an hour, the big lumps of flour will dissolve. You can prepare the batter the night before and let it sit in the fridge overnight. If a recipe called for separating the egg whites and yolks, you don't want to beat the whites (and fold it in) until you've taken it out of the fridge and are ready to start cooking.

Fry using a hot pan. Serve with real maple syrup (not that “pancake syrup with maple flavoring” stuff).

Variations: (a) replace 2 Tbsp sugar with 4 Tbsp malted milk powder. (b) Replace milk with buttermilk, but add 1/2 tsp baking soda for each cup of buttermilk ; also be aware that buttermilk is thicker than regular milk, so you will need a little bit less flour to get that batter consistency. (c) Before cooking, stir in fruit, chocolate chips, nuts, anything you can get your hands on. (d) Substitute some whole wheat flour for regular flour. (e) Substitute pastry flour for regular flour. Pastry flour has less protein than regular flour, so that will add a bit of tenderness. (f) If you don't have real maple syrup, you can top it with powdered sugar, or fresh fruits, or banana slices and Nutella, or even (as I saw one day on the TV) BBQ pulled pork


Bart Geraci

I will be leading our team, Brains on Bourbon, to tackle this year's CultureQuest. It's going to be on Sunday, April 29th. (The first Sunday of Jazzfest. The good news is that the Beach Boys will be at Jazzfest on Friday April 27th, so no conflict there. Whew!) It's a 90 minute, 5-member team, closed book trivia test. For more information, see If you want to join our team contact me at

Good Wine Cheap (and good food to go with it)

John Grover

Real men do eat quiche. This month’s recipe entails bacon, eggs, cheese, onions and green peppers. What else could make a more manly snack during the intermission of your favorite basketball or hockey game. And, if you want to break away briefly from the Molson’s, we have a wine that should complement the dish very nicely.

The wine this month is the 2009 Morgon from Les Vins Georges Deboeuf and is produced in Beaujolais region of Burgundy, France. Morgon is one of ten villages that have the Beaujolais Cru designation and a well deserved reputation for very good wines. This red wine has a fruit laden nose which is followed by tastes rich with cherry, plum and a hint of black pepper. There is an earthy quality to this wine that ends with a very smooth finish. When tasting, try leaving a little on your tongue while breathing in through your mouth for the full effect. This is a wonderful wine for between $11 and $14 a bottle.

Bacon and Green Chili Quiche (from June 1996 Bon Appetit magazine)

Ingredients: 1 refrigerated pie crust (room temperature); 8 strips bacon; a 4 ounce can of diced green chilies, drained; 4 green onions, chopped; 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese (about 4 ounces); 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese; 1 ¼ cups half and half; 4 eggs; ½ tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 425 F. Unfold crust. Using wet finger tips, press together any tears. Press crust into 9 inch deep dish pie plate. Press foil over crust to hold shape. Bake 5 minutes. Remove from oven; remove foil. Reduce temperature to 400F.

Cook bacon in heavy skillet over a medium high heat until crisp and brown. Transfer to paper towel and drain. Crumble bacon. Sprinkle bacon, chilies and green onion over crust. Combine the cheeses and sprinkle over crust. Beat half and half, eggs and salt in a bowl to blend; and add this mixture into crust.

Bake quiche until knife inserted in center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Let quiche stand 5 minutes. Cut the quiche into wedges and serve. Serves 6 as a main course or 12 as an appetizer.

I hope that you will contact me with your comments and your favorite wines at I will be happy to share them with the broader Mensa group.

John Grover is a member of Mensa of Northeastern New York.

Reality Show Opportunity

Note: I've received this information from American Mensa. They have verified the validity of the organization and the opportunity, and they reminded us that American Mensa have no control over nor involvement with the show itself or its production.

Are you a strategic thinker? Do you always have to come out on top, or at least argue your point? Are you the smartest person in the room and want people to know it? Would you like the chance to win $250,000 by defeating others like yourself in this mind-blowing competition show for ABC?

We are currently on a nationwide search looking for dynamic, competitive, energetic and outgoing individuals to compete in a new and exciting reality show.

In-person interviews will be held in Boston. Please email David Polanzak your name, age, contact information, photo and a brief description of why you’re perfect for this show.

If you cannot interview in Boston, you can still apply for the show! Simply email and include a brief description of yourself, your contact info, and two recent photos.

For more information, use the following email addresses:

Boston: email Dave at

Phoenix: email Marc/Heather at

Austin: email Shawn at

Los Angeles: email Marc/Heather at

EXCOM meeting, February 11, 2012

Claudia D'Aquin

home of Bart Geraci
Officers present: Bart Geraci, Claudia D'Aquin, Phil Therrien, Rene Petersen. Other members: Gerry Ward.

Meeting was called to order at 6:15 PM.

1. Treasurer reported that there were no new expenditures since the last meeting. He also reported that he has opened a separate checking account for the RG; it is to be used only for RG-related expenses. Signatories on this account are Bart Geraci, Local Secretary (president) and Phil Therrien, treasurer.

2. Rene` Petersen reported that we will administer the Mensa Admissions test on March 17, at Canal Presbyterian Church.

3. Bart announced that the NO Regional Science Fair will be February 29. NO Mensa provides judges and also cash prizes for 1st and 2nd place winners in senior and junior high divisions. Prizes are $100 for first place, $50 for second, for a total of $300. He requested a check for this amount from the treasurer.

4. Bart announced that he received a communication from Mensa National stating that our monthly income for the local chapter's portion of member dues is an average of $185/month.

5. Bart reiterated the need for a new assistant editor for the newsletter. This involves mainly folding, labeling the newsletter, and dealing with the post office re: bulk mailing. He is currently handling these duties, but will put a notice in the newsletter to ask for a volunteer.

6. We are also still looking for a volunteer to serve as coordinator for Northshore activities. Bart will also put this in the newsletter.

7. Culture Quest is April 29. Bart usually chairs this and hosts the event, but may not be available on April 29. We may not have a team to participate this year. He will update us on this at the next meeting. (Note: A few weeks after this EXCOM meeting was held, Bart decided that he will be able to host it and field a team)

8. RG updates: We need someone to serve as registrar for the RG. Gerry Ward is willing to consider doing this, but wants more info before committing. Bart will forward to her some details and contact info for registrars of some other groups' RGs.

Other updates: Claudia reported that 2 speakers have agreed to make presentations so far: 1) Sandy Rosenthal of will present on the topic of Katrina flooding, corps of engineers, etc. 2) Kalila Smith, local writer who specializes in local paranormal phenomena, hauntings,etc., will present on this topic. Claudia will meet with her soon to fine-tune the ideas.

Claudia also reported that an event page for the RG has been created on Facebook. This was posted to the New Orleans Mensa Facebook page and also to the American Mensa Facebook page.

The next EXCOM meeting will be held on May12, 2012, Bart's house. We will each report back on our respective assignments for the RG.

There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 7 PM.

Submitted by Claudia D'Aquin, Secretary

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Last edited: 03-Mar-2012 . Webmaster Bart J. Geraci can be reached at