New Orleans Mensa

La Plume de NOM for November 2012

The Magazine of New Orleans Mensa Information and Entertainment

So The Story Goes Like This

Bart Geraci

I was visiting a friend of mine many years ago and this was back in the day when phones were connected with wires to walls. Imagine that! ( I see those young kids rolling their eyes as if this happened in the days of dinosaurs. This did really happen! )

Anyway, his father worked as an artist for Warner Brothers and had a rather extensive collection of cartoon related items. One of the oddest thing was a candle-stick type telephone, but it was Bugs Bunny as the main body of the phone and the earpiece was a giant carrot. I asked him where he got it and he said that this was something some of the guys at the studio put together.

I said I was getting thirsty and I offered to bring him back something, he said OK. On the way back I heard him scream and I ran to him quickly. I asked him if he was OK, and he said yeah, but was still holding his arm. I asked him what happened and he just replied...

… “I just hit my bunny phone!”


By Bart Geraci

First: GO OUT AND VOTE ON NOVEMBER 6th...actually that's over with.

Second: we're having an EXCOM on November 10th...actually that's over with too.

Third: NORGY 2012 IS THIS MONTH! Sign up! Register! Volunteer! Have a good time in New Orleans! Play tourist for a weekend!

Fourth: Yes, we had problems with the newsletter this month.

Fifth: We have winners in the American Mensa Publications Recognition Program!! Congrats to:

Sixth: Let's go Saints! And Hornets!

BrainFork: A Mensan talks about food


Bart Geraci

“A loaf of bread, the Walrus said,
Is what we chiefly need:
Pepper and vinegar besides
Are very good indeed--
Now if you're ready, Oysters, dear,
We can begin to feed!”
-Lewis Carroll-

For those of you who bet that I would follow up last month's article on salt with this month's article about pepper, go ahead and claim your prize.

And by pepper, we're talking “peppercorn” not “bell” or “cayenne”. The taxonomy is

Plantae Kingdom
Angiosperms (division)
Magnolids (division)
Piperales Order
Piperacae Family
Piper, Piperonia Genus

There's about 2000 species of the Piper Genus, and 1600 species of the Piperonia Genus.

The Red and the Black (and the Green and the White...)

“When those waiters ask me if I want some fresh ground pepper, I ask if they have any aged pepper.”
Andy Rooney

The black pepper we are most familiar with is the Piper Nigrum species. But from this black pepper, we also get green, red, and white peppers as well. Here's how.

We start off with a small little corn-cob bundle of little peppercorns. The peppercorn is a fruit that encloses a seed. While they are still unripe, they are green.

If we let the fruit ripen to red then

The Piperine compound (C17 H19 N O3) is what gives off the pungency of peppers. Like other compounds, it loses its aroma through evaporation and exposure to sunlight. Once the pepper is ground, the aroma evaporates quickly. This is why freshly ground pepper should be used at the last moment.

Furthermore, the pepper reaches its maximum aroma while it is still in the unripe green stage. As it ripens more, the aromas diminish. So that's why the black pepper is derived from the unripe green peppercorns.

Paul's Magic

When chef Paul Prudhomme was working in kitchens before opening up his own place, he developed his own mix of spices of herbs and peppers. One interesting aspect is that he uses three kinds of peppers that we are familiar with: black pepper, white pepper, and cayenne pepper (which is not part of the peppercorn family as we will see in the next section). Each of these peppers has a different effect on our taste buds:

Furthermore, in a lot of recipes, Paul Prudhomme explains that he seasons his food in multiple stages; seasoning food at the beginning is going to evoke a different taste bud response than adding seasoning at the end of cooking time.

Those Other Peppers

Harry Burns: Repeat after me. Pepper.
Sally Albright: Pepper.
Harry Burns: Pepper.
Sally Albright: Pepper.
Harry Burns: Waiter, there is too much pepper on my paprikash.
Sally Albright: Waiter, there is too much pepper on my paprikash.
Harry Burns: But I would be proud to partake of your pecan pie.
-When Harry Met Sally-

The spiciness of peppercorns were well known before the exploration of the New World. When explorers came across the other type of peppers (jalapenos, serranos, etc.) they used the word “pepper” to describe that similar spicy feeling. So that's how the phrase “jalapeno pepper” came about. But in the New World, these foodstuff were called “chile” so the non-confusing name would be “jalapeno chile”

Pink peppercorns are actually the berries from a shrub in the Schinus Genus. The two most common species are Schinus molle (Peruvian peppercorns) and Schinus terebinthifolus (Brazilian peppercorns).

Szechuan Pepper is not a peppercorn, but a member of the citrus family, where the tiny fruit are similar in size to peppercorns. This spice is one of the components of 5-spice powder (the other ones are star anise, fennel seeds, cloves, and cinnamon). The import of szechuan peppers to the U.S. From China was banned for many years since the peppers could carry a citrus canker. But now, the peppers are heated to kill the canker before being imported.

Angie Dickinson played Sgt. "Pepper" Anderson in the TV show “Police Woman”.

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band would like to take you home with them.


“It takes four men to dress a salad: a wise man for the salt, a madman for the pepper, a miser for the vinegar, and a spendthrift for the oil.”

Well, just about any recipe has “salt and pepper to taste.” This is perhaps the most famous pepper-heavy dish.

Steak Au Poivre

Peppercorns, coarsely crushed
Fat (Butter / Oil / Ghee )
Deglazing liquid ( Cognac / Wine / Stock / Water )
Heavy cream

Salt the steaks first, and let it rest for about 30 minutes.

Coarsely crush peppers, using bottom of skillet, and spread evenly on a plate. You want a coarse grind; too fine like powder and it will be too hot to eat.

Press meat into peppers, both sides, and set aside. Heat up fat in pan.

Place steaks in pan and cook until done to your liking.

Remove steaks, and remove excess fat from pan before deglazing it. If you use an alcohol deglazer, do it off the fire.

Return pan to heat, and when it is reduced enough, add the heavy cream.

Back to the La Plume de NOM main page.
These pages and all content Copyright (c) 2009 by New Orleans Mensa, all rights reserved. Mensa ® and the Mensa logo (as depicted for example in U.S. TM Reg. No. 1,405,381) are registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office by American Mensa, Ltd., and are registered in other countries by Mensa International  Limited and/or affiliated national Mensa organizations. Mensa does not hold any opinion or have, or express, any political or religious views.
Last edited: 14-Nov-2012 . Webmaster Bart J. Geraci can be reached at