New Orleans Mensa

La Plume de NOM for March 2015

The Magazine of New Orleans Mensa Information and Entertainment


By Bart Geraci

Well, Mardi Gras is over and it’s the time of the year when all the fast food restaurants are touting their fish sandwiches.

The Mardi Gras parades are over, but long time natives know that this month will have St. Joseph and St. Patrick parades. And instead of beads, we catch cabbages, potatoes, onions, oranges, and all sorts of produce.

New Orleans Mensa currently pays for your first drink at NOM Night at the Chateau Coffee Cafe. We are now doing that for our monthly Coffee Night as well.

This month marks the anniversary month of our Dinner SIG, hosted by Gerry Ward, which is one of the most attended groups that we have. Per tradition, we will have it at II Tonys, which moved from Bucktown to over by Russell’s Marina Grill a few years ago. I’ve enjoyed this place at both locations.

In April, we will have our first NOM Night in a while hosted at a member’s house. The member- hosted NOM Nights were the norm many years ago so it’s nice to see them return. For those unfamiliar with the new rules of hosting NOM Night:

So it’s easy as that. Contact me if you want to host an upcoming NOM Night.

Starting in April, we will have the Games SIG meeting on the 2nd Wednesday of the Month instead of the first. “The Goodnight Show”, which is a local favorite, has changed from being the last Wednesday of the month to the first Wednesday of the month, so we are moving our date so people can go to both.

Let’s Go Pelicans!

So the Story Goes Like This

By Bart Geraci

So I was over in West Texas when a friend called and asked if I wanted to come spend the weekend with him again. We had a good time and then I went with him to his local church.

It wasn’t that long ago when I went with him last to his church, but I noticed that the guy leading the services wasn’t the same one as before.

Afterwards I asked my friend about this. He said that there’s a seminary nearby and when they graduate, his local church board offers the position to a new graduate. That way the seminary can easily do follow-up checking on their graduates.

“Oh, so your church…”

“... is looking for greener pastors.”

News & Notes for Young Mensans

Lisa Van Gemert

Happenings & Celebrations:


It’s Your Birthday!

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

Mikhail Gorbachev (2nd), Alexander Graham Bell (3rd), Michelangelo (6th), Yuri Gagarin (9th - first person in space), Ruth Bader Ginsburg (15th), Andrew Jackson (15th), Johann Sebastian Bach (21st), Sandra Day O’Connor (26th), and René Descartes (31st).

Benefit Highlight:

All contributors to Young Mensan Magazine are entered into a drawing for a free YM2 t-shirt. Just one more reason to submit your ideas!


Lisa Van Gemert Youth & Education Ambassador |

get resources:

find more:

From the RVC

By Roger Durham, Region 6 Vice Chair

It’s March once again, and an election year in Mensa, and soon you will be inundated with candidates’ materials asking for your vote. I hope you will read and consider them carefully (especially mine!), but I would ask that you contemplate each candidate’s agenda as you read. Unfortunately, there is no requirement that candidates, or their supporters, be entirely truthful in their claims. Letters have already begun to appear for or against certain candidates, and a common theme seems to be that Mensa is somehow “broken” and needs to be fixed. This is heard every election season, but seems to be particularly prevalent this year.

The truth is, of course, that Mensa is not broken, it just isn’t being run to suit those who are complaining about it. As an elected member of your national Board of Directors, I have heard the anguished complaints from various members, some of them very prominent in the organization, about the way things are being done recently, and how it’s the fault of the Board for doing them that way. The fact is, though, that what they are generally complaining about is that things have changed in Mensa, and they don’t like it. Well, friends and neighbors, I’m sorry, but it’s not 1980 anymore. The legal and economic climate has changed over the years, and Mensa has had to change with it. I don’t like some of these changes either, but they are mostly unavoidable.

There is one area, though, where I think previous Boards have taken a wrong turn. Our outgoing Treasurer, Nick Sanford, has allowed our expenses to run out of control, relying on regular dues increases to fund the excessive growth of the budget. That’s why I am running for national Treasurer: to put a stop to constant dues increases and insist on cost reductions wherever possible. The current Board has already made a start in this direction, rejecting the Treasurer’s outrageous dues increase proposal for 2015 and requiring a very conservative budget for the coming year.

But when you read that there is a huge conspiracy by your elected officers to ruin Mensa, or that the national staff is somehow hoodwinking the Board into listening to them instead of the membership, please take these claims with more than just a grain of salt. Your elected Board members work hard and give up a lot of their time to represent you at the national level. They are committed to maintaining a vibrant, exciting, and financially stable organization for your enjoyment. Please don’t be fooled by people who just want to have their own way, no matter what. (OK - end of sermon.)

Finally, as always, please remember that if you have any questions, comments, or concerns, you can always reach me by email at


BrainFork: A Mensan Talks About Food

By Bart Geraci


“I know this English guy who was driving around in the South. And he stopped for breakfast one morning somewhere in southeast Georgia. He saw ‘grits’ on the menu. He’d never heard of grits so he asked the waitress, ‘What are grits, anyway?’ She said, ‘Grits are fifty.’ He said, ‘Yes, but what ARE they?’ She said, ‘They’re extra.’ He said, ‘Yes, I’ll have the grits, please.’ ”
- Laurie Anderson “New Jersey Turnpike” -

So what are grits (and why is it plural)?

“Anything I could do? I could make a tea, or is that not American enough? How about some grits? What are grits anyway?”
- Doctor Who “The Sound of Drums” -

Grits are simply ground corn. But it’s not as simple as that….

First, there are many varieties of corn (Zea mays):

And a few more not listed. These subspecies differ in amount of starch. So a sweet corn is used for putting butter on it and eating off the cob. The popcorn has its own characteristics as well as the other varietals.

And grits are plural in the same as spaghetti is plural. When you talk about a plate of spaghetti, you’re not talking just one strand, you mean many individual pasta pieces.

Grits vs Everything Else

“If I don't love you baby
Grits ain't grocery,
Eggs ain't poultry,
And Mona Lisa was a man”
- Titus Turner “Grits Ain’t Groceries” -

We can take corn in two directions: dry-milling or wet-milling.

Dry-milling grits are corn that are (traditionally) ground on a stone mill. The size of the final results give us these variants:

Polenta is not an ingredient, it is a dish preparation. In the past, polenta has been made from many other ingredients, such as farro, chickpeas, and chestnuts. Today, the word polenta often refers to the dish made from cornmeal size grains.

Wet-milling takes an extra step called nixtamalization. This process soaks the corn in an alkali bath, cooks it, and removes the outer shell, or hull, before being ground. The alkali bath can be lime water (which is a saturated solution of calcium hydroxide Ca(OH)2 ), lye ( which is made from either sodium hydroxide NaOH, or potassium hydroxide KOH), or any other basic solution.

This process has been used for thousands of years and has many benefits:

Hominy is the name of the corn that has gone through nixtamalization. At this point, the kernel has grown to twice its size.

Hominy Grits is hominy that is dried out and ground to grits size. Now most processed grits you buy today are hominy grits, having gone through this wet process.

Masa is the Spanish word for “dough” and can refer to any product, not just corn. But in common usage, it is short for “masa de maiz” or “corn dough”. In this context, masa is the result of grinding the hominy.

Masa Harina (or masa seca) is the result of taking masa, drying it out, and reducing it into a fine powder to make it easier to be used in making tortillas.

Stone Ground, Quick and Instant

“Mr. Tipton: No self-respectin' Southerner uses instant grits. I take pride in my grits.
Vinny Gambini: So, Mr. Tipton, how could it take you five minutes to cook your grits, when it takes the entire grit-eating world twenty minutes?
Mr. Tipton: [a bit panicky] I don't know. I'm a fast cook, I guess.
Vinny Gambini: I'm sorry, I was all the way over here. I couldn't hear you. Did you say you were a fast cook? That's it?
[Mr. Tipton nods in embarrassment]
Vinny Gambini: Are we to believe that boiling water soaks into a grit faster in your kitchen than on any place on the face of the earth?
Mr. Tipton: I don't know.
Vinny Gambini: Well, perhaps the laws of physics cease to exist on your stove. Were these magic grits? I mean, did you buy them from the same guy who sold Jack his beanstalk beans?”
- My Cousin Vinny -

The differences are:

GRITS as an Acronym

“Now she loves her mama, daddy, and the Lord to death.
Acting innocent and playing hard to get
With her girls tonight, man, they're out on the town.
Grits, man – a girl raised in the south.”
- Brantley Gilbert, “G.R.I.T.S.” -


“That's all a grit is, a vehicle. For whatever it is you rather be eating.”
- Kathryn Stockett, “The Help” -

So while grits are a breakfast staple and are eaten by itself, it has recently been used as a starchy backdrop for savory dishes, just as say rice, or mashed potatoes, or noodles.

Stone-Ground Grits with Sauteed Mushrooms

One night, my wife and I went to a fundraiser for Crescent City Farmers Market. While I am an omnivore, my wife is allergic to shellfish. So while I was served shrimp and grits, my wife got her grits topped off with some wild mushrooms on top. I actually preferred her version to mine, it was so good.

With stone-ground grits, it’s a bit coarser than instant grits. Therefore it takes both (a) more time and (b) more liquid than regular grits.

Liquid to Grits Ratio: 8 to 1

So for 1 cup of grits, you need 8 cups of liquid. You can do half water and half milk, or any combination thereof.

Bring liquid to a boil first (with or without some butter), then add the grits. Bring to a simmer, and stir occasionally. Expect around 20, 30, or 40 minutes. If you take a lot less time, you’ll find the grits to be, well, gritty. The longer time is needed to soften the grits until it becomes almost like a mashed potato texture.

When done, you can add some more butter or some shredded cheese.

Sauteed mushrooms – well, I would start off with some butter in a pan, add some mushrooms and saute it a while, then add some green onions chopped. For a little bit of saltiness and liquid, I like using soy sauce. Maybe a little bit of stock and black pepper. What I would be looking for here is not a dry saute, but a consistency where I could take a bowl of grits, top with some mushroom pieces, then pour a little bit of the liquid to have it run down the side of the grits pillow.

New Orleans Mensa Executive Committee Meeting Minutes

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Home of Bart Geraci

Mensa Excomm Members present:

Bart Geraci, Claudia D'Aquin, Phil Therrien, Gerry Ward, Robert Myers, Summer McKnight

Meeting called to order at 5:15 PM.

Old Business:

  1. Bart presented the minutes from the November meeting. The minutes were accepted.

New Business:

  1. Phil issued checks to cover $50 Culture Quest entrance fee and to cover science fair awards. Bart received these and will distribute.
  2. Treasurer's report: Current balance: $10,170.92 as of 2/20/2015. Summer sold another T-shirt; this $20 will be deposited.
  3. Bart presented a form received from National which asks for all info relative to our chapter's social media activity. Summer will handle this; she will complete the form and return it to Bart.
  4. Testing update: we continue to try to test every 2 months. There was a session scheduled for today, but all the prospective candidates asked to reschedule. So, no test administration today.
  5. The idea of our participation in a carnival parade next year was discussed. Bart will contact a friend who is active in Krewe de Vieux, to find out what might be possible.
  6. We are in need of a new historian for our chapter. Bart announced this in the Plume. However, our long-time historian, Sharon Kirkpatrick, has rejoined and Bart will check with her about resuming this role.
  7. April NOM night will be hosted by Ben Rausch on 4/11
  8. Science Fair is 2/25; we supply some judges.
  9. RG update: Bart contacted National to ask if they have chosen a site for their winter meeting. Waiting to hear if they are interested. Lovie has begun the process of checking venues and dates. We liked the hotel we used last time, so will try for that one.
  10. We will continue to offer each member who attends NOM night at the coffee shop one beverage at our expense. This has been successful, seems to encourage attendance. We will also offer this for coffee night.
  11. Summer announced that game night will change to the second Wednesday of each month, beginning in April.

Next ExComm meeting will be May 9, 5:00 p.m., Bart's house.

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

Submitted by

Claudia D'Aquin, Secretary

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