Saturday, March 28, 2009

Hypothermia (almost) in the name of education

Something I didn't know this morning: while it is unpleasant to be heavily rained on while bicycling, it is physically knock-your-breath-out painful to be heavily rained on while trying to ride into the wind, especially when the wind chill is below freezing. I'm still not totally sure whether my fingers have thawed.

Before you start thinking I'm that much of an idiot or masochist, I have to say in my defense that it was dry, if a little gray, when I originally set out. I headed out to check out one of the new exhibits at the local historical museum and to pick up a few groceries on the way back (in what may or not be coincidence, the exhibit was all about food preparation and eating, and how it's changed over the years from settlement to modern times). Getting almost blown off my bike was unexpected, as were the sudden gusts that felt like hammer blows once I was soaked.

As for the exhibit, while they could only fit in four kitchens, they crammed a lot of information into those four exhibited time periods. What we think of as "American" food was by and large brought in by the immigrant population. The actual diet that most Americans ate was top-heavy with meat and bread or other baked goods, made mostly with corn due to wheat being so expensive. Settlers didn't care much about vegetables and ate as few as humanly possible when they had the choice, from what I gathered.

Oh, and a lot of women died from being burned. Childbirth was the primary cause of death, but death from a cooking-related accident, particularly from the open fire they had to work over, was a close second. And, given this, people wonder why I nearly fall over laughing when they start talking about the good old days.

Things got a little better with the advent of indoor plumbing or a close approximation, but not by much. The post-World War 1 period just looked sterile to me, with white enameled everything - I understand what drove it, but that doesn't mean I have to like it.

And then came the "modern" kitchen that was supposed to be set in the '50s or '60s but looked alarmingly like the kitchen at home, even down to the fridge that abruptly went kaput when I was nine or so. (I finally learned that that color was supposed to be avocado.) That was in conjunction with a lot of the appliances that we think of as kitchen staples (although I am still personally baffled by automatic dishwashers) and the auto boom.

One interesting little point I learned was that I am apparently in a county known for having the most fast-food joints and restaurants per capita. No wonder this is a car town - cars and restaurants apparently exist in a feedback loop of their own beyond the usual urban sprawl.

Then I had to make my way back through the aforementioned rain with a quick stop for beans and rice. It was still worth the adventure, even if my legs are only now thawing out from my jeans nearly freezing on.

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