New Orleans Mensa

La Plume de NOM for November 2010

The Magazine of New Orleans Mensa Information and Entertainment

Thanksgiving in New Orleans

Peter Salomon, Editor

So much to be thankful for, as always, here in New Orleans: beautiful weather, Saints winning, and the holidays, 2011, and Mardi Gras to look forward to! Take a moment to breathe it all in, absorb it, enjoy it....back so soon? Take another moment. It's worth it. We'll still be here when you get back...


A new 'tall tales' feature for La Plume de NOM by Bart Geraci.

One time I was working at a bakery in California (but not at the palindromic Yreka Bakery). The owner, Penny, specialized in classic French breads, made with various pre-ferments. A fellow coworker was named Y-followed by a bunch of letters I couldn't remember, so we all called her "Y".

One time after a hectic weekend, Penny was looking for some yeast starter that wasn't in its usual place. She had us looking for it while she went to prepare some other bread in another room. Y and I split up, and after about 10 minutes, Y found the container. I called to our boss with the good news...

..."Penny! Y's found poolish!"

From the RVC

Roger Durham

At the meeting of the American Mensa Committee this summer at the Dearborn AG, a motion came up to instruct the Finance Committee to place a motion on the agenda for our November meeting to increase dues next year by a sufficient amount to avoid the necessity for another increase for at least two years. The motion was strictly "pro forma" -- in order to increase dues the matter has to appear on the agenda at two consecutive AMC meetings.

No dollar amount was specified. It was explained that the motion does not have to pass both times; it just has to appear on the agenda. That being the case, we had no hesitation about postponing the matter to the November AMC meeting, at which time we will know more about our financial condition for the 2010-2011 membership year. Now the November meeting approaches, and an actual dues increase looms. Expenses have been cut, but that's not enough.

Now, let me say first that there is really no question about the need for a dues increase. Our membership numbers do continue to grow, but not at a sufficient rate to offset even the negligible amount of inflation we are experiencing. Dues have not been increased since 2008, and if we want to keep up with inflation until 2013, an increase of just over 6% will be necessary. Rounded to the nearest whole dollar, that translates to a dues amount of $63, starting in April of next year. Logic and foresight dictate approval of a reasonable increase at this time.

However, logic and foresight sometimes have to take a backseat to reality, and the reality is that many of our members are having a great deal of difficulty in justifying a payment of even $59 under the current economic conditions. We are losing, not just inactive members, but local group officers in some places, who say they just can't afford to keep up their memberships any more. What a slap in the face it would be to those who are struggling with un- or underemployment, if we demand that they dig into their pockets for even more money next year!

Consequently, I will not be voting for a $4 dues increase at this time. I realize that every dollar we don't increase the dues means $60,000 we will have to cut out of the budget, but think of it this way: every $60,000 we need takes only 1,000 new members if we increase the dues by a nominal one dollar to $60 instead of the current $59.

But here's the rub: if we plan to rely on membership growth to balance our budget, we're going to need some help from you, the members. So, here's a chance to put your money where your mouth is -- would you rather pay another $4 a year for your Mensa membership, or would you rather get serious about recruiting new members? If I ask the AMC to reduce the increase to $1 and give it a year to see if we can grow our way into prosperity, will you demand that your local group increase your testing program and publicity efforts? Will you actually go out and invite your family and friends to join? Or, like the minister who reminded his congregation that the Bible prohibits adultery, have I "done quit preaching and gone to meddling"?

From the LocSec

Bart Geraci

I've been enjoying the weather as of late. The oppresive heat of the summer is gone, and it has turned out to be a nice time to go outside. This is the one of the better months to enjoy New Orleans and many conventions try to book at this time if they can. The downside of the cool weather is that the snowball stands are starting to close until the Spring of next year.

November reminds me of Thanksgiving, which reminds me of the RG that North Texas Mensa puts on: The Feast of Pleasures and Delights. This is number XXXI and runs from Thanksgiving day (November 25th) to Sunday, November 28th. I've been there a few times and I've really enjoyed it. For more information, see:

Anne C. Barr Hatfield

Anne C. Barr (A/K/A Anne Barr Hatfield) was an active member of MENSA for many, many years. She lived in the New Orleans area most of her life and passed away on October 15, 2010. According to Bart Geraci, LocSec, Anne was one of the earliest members of American Mensa, having joined in July 1963. "She will be missed by many people in our group," he said.

From the October Bulletin

For the October issue of the Mensa Bulletin, we asked members: "What frightens you?" We received a wide variety of answers but found a few trends--spiders, snakes, and ... Alzheimer's.

American Mensa's strategic plan encourages the use of intelligence to benefit humanity, so that last trend got us thinking--maybe there is something we can do to help with that fear of Alzheimer's.

In conjunction with that event, we're going to make the offer to the public that for every Mensa Home Test sold during the month of November, we'll donate $5 to help fund Alzheimer's research and support programs.

Keeping your brain active is an important step in preventing Alzheimer's, and the Home Test is a great mental workout. By purchasing a Home Test in November, a person is taking a step toward keeping their own brain active while helping others by furthering Alzheimer's research.

BRAINFORK: A Mensan writes about food

Bart Geraci

Sweet Potato

"Be my sweet potato / Be my honey lamb" -- "Sweet Potato" by Cracker

Like many other articles on the subject of sweet potatoes, I have to make a distinction among sweet potatoes, yams, and normal potatoes.

The Root from Ipomoea

Here's a classification comparison of sweet potato, potato, and yam

  Sweet Potato Potato Yam
Kingdom Plantae Plantae Plantae
 (subdivision) Angiosperm Angiosperm Angiosperm
 (subdivision) Eudicots Eudicots Monocots
 (subdivision) Asterids Asterids  
Order Solanales Solanales Dioscoreales
Family Convolvulace Solanaceae Dioscoreaceae
Genus Ipomoea Solanum Dioscorea
Species I. Batatas S. Tuberosum  

While sweet potatoes and potatoes are both of the Solanales order, they are in different families. The potato's Solanaceae family is also called the Nightshade family and includes tomatoes, peppers, tobacco, and petunias as well as many poisonous plants like belladonna. The sweet potato's Convolvulace family is also called the Bindweed or the Morning Glory family.

Also, while the potato is a tuber, the sweet potato is a root.

What's in a name?

"I yam what I yam" -- Popeye the Sailor Man

Yams are white-fleshed and originates in Africa. When the slaves came over to America, they ate the sweet potatoes and called them "yams" because it reminded them of the yams back in Africa. So we don't have yams in America ( unless you go to some international market ), we have sweet potatoes. And that should have been the end of the story.

In Louisiana, the orange-fleshed sweet potatoes are a variety that originated in Puerto Rico. These sweet potatoes that are grown down here are much different from the sweet potatoes that are grown in the northern states. The southern version is softer and has a higher sugar content, while the northern version is firmer and drier. So to distinguish the southern sweet potatoes from the northern ones, the Louisiana growers and shippers started calling their sweet potatoes "yams". This did not fool the FDA who said that they could call it a yam, but they still have to put "sweet potato" on the container.

The most common varieties of sweet potato are Jewel, Garnet, and Beauregard.

Harold and Sweet Potato go to White Castle

In Peru, "kumar" means sweet potato. I don't know what "Harold" means, nor "White Castle".


In some parts of Japan, the sweet potato is called a Chinese potato or "satsuma-imo". What's interesting about that is that this time of the year (November) , the sweet potatoes are available and the Louisiana citrus is coming out as well. One of the local citrus products is the satsuma, which was brought over the Louisiana area by Jesuits. Some groves that have been started in the 1700s are still in service today. So when I was looking for a pure local food recipe, I developed this:

Local Mashed Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes

Before we start with the recipe, please do not store sweet potatoes in the fridge. The low temperatures can result in a hard center after cooking.

Bake sweet potatoes using any method : microwave, oven, outdoor grill.

In the microwave, prick holes in the sweet potato with the tines of a fork. One will take about 4 -- 5 minutes, 4 will take closer to 10 minutes. The actual time depends on the size of the sweet potato as well as the power of the microwave oven.

In the oven, you can cook it at 350 and it will take about an hour. This too depends on the size of the sweet potato. If you're cooking another dish in the oven at a different temperature, just add the sweet potatoes to the oven and adjust the times accordingly. While you can place them directly on the oven rack, you may wish to wrap them in foil first or protect the bottom of the oven in some fashion. This is because if you use a lower temperature and a longer time period, you can convert more of the sweet potato into sugar, then into a syrup. So I've had sweet potatoes leak all over the oven. While this is an interesting idea, what we're going for is mashed sweet potatoes, not syrup. So just cook it until soft. Then in a bowl mash it with some juice squeezed from satsumas until you get a consistency you're happy with.


No satsumas? Any type of orange juice is fine. Also you may want to add some orange zest (or grated orange rind ) to bring out the orange flavor without making the mash too soupy. I've also used a locally produced vanilla extract to the mix since orange and vanilla make a "Dreamsicle" flavor combination. An earlier version of the recipe had butter and or cream as well, but I like the simpler version.

While I usually serve this in a bowl, I've come across a recipe suggestion. Take the oranges that you've already cut in half to get the juices out ( and perhaps some of the rind as well ), cut the bottom of the orange shell a little bit so it stays flat on the plate, and then mound the mash into the orange shell.

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