March 4th, 2010

another non-review: Diane M. Spivey, _The Peppers, Cracklings, and Knots of Wool Cookbook_

Is there any way to make this sentence reasonable?

"As DNA studies on 'Lucy', discovered in Ethiopia, and Zinjanthropus Boisei, excavated in Kenya, indicate, East Africa represents the birthplace of humankind and civilization."

The number of errors here is stunning: represents is a poor verb choice; there haven't ever been DNA studies on Lucy or Paranthropus boisei (altho I'm not complaining about the naming, as the publication date is 1999); it's a little misleading to say Kenya, or at any rate, Kenya only, since the earliest finds were elsewhere; finally, bringing Paranthropus boisei up in the context of "the origin of cooking and cuisine" borders on the bizarre.

Unless someone can make this sentence make some kind of sentence, I'm switching to skimming the book. It is generally incomprehensible as well, altho enough of the topic is unfamiliar to me to make it difficult to clearly identify specific errors.

Again, a book that's been sitting on the shelf for years (a decade), and one I _really_ want to like. This time, it is Diane M. Spivey's _The Peppers, Cracklings, and Knots of Wool Cookbook_, SUNY Press. The dust jacket is the coolest dust jacket _ever_, an African textile pattern that I love.

*sigh*

ETA:

Chapter 3 begins thus:

"In 1950, it was written that a German physician named Grafenberg 'discovered' a certain zone, or spot in the vagina. His discovery was renamed after him. This zone, or Grafenberg spot ('G spot' for short), was determined to be the center where, if properly manipulated, orgasm would occur. So in 1950, a European male lay claim to discovering even the woman's orgasm."

_NO!_

Here's Grafenberg's article:

http://www.landman-psychology.com/284/sexuality/grafenberg-gspot.htm

I'm not going to defend Grafenberg (altho wow, some of what he says about "urethral onanism" is wacky), because that whole comment about the penis in the external ear thing is just way too implausible for me. But Grafenberg _in no way_ claimed to have discovered a woman's orgasm. Quite the contrary: he was arguing that then-current definitions of frigidity were ridiculous and more of the wide range of female sexuality needed to be validated.

In any event, Grafenberg didn't make any claims for himself -- he was just arguing against the colonizing beliefs and rhetoric then prevalent, and making a case for a specific erotogenic zone _in addition_ to the clitoris. For Spivey to say what she does about Grafenberg is just awful. Spivey brings this up to make a comparison to the "discovery" of America.

Here's what follows:

"Like the 'G spot', America had been there all the time, and vast numbers of people, including Africans and Asians, were already intimately familiar with its existence, having explored and traveled there long before the arrival of Christopher Columbus and other Europeans...Migration and trade between the Americas and Africa had made the exchange and transplanting of foodstuffs between the two quite common. Columbus himself knew that Africans had preceded him to the Americas, especially since he met many in residence when he arrived. What was a 'New World' to Columbus and his followers was an old familiar one to African explorers and merchants. Moreover, Columbus used African knowledge of the ocean routes to guide him. When he visited Ghana in 1480 his keen interest in sailing west to find the location of what he believed was the fabled land of spices resulted in Ghanaians showing him the logs of Bakary II."

You can read this:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abu_Bakr_II

"Research has shown that Columbus had access to Bakary II's meterological and cartographic records, and that both Bakary II and Columbus derived their knowledge of transatlantic travel from ancient African navigators who had engaged in extensive trade with civilizations in Mexico, Central America, Columbia, Ecuador, and Peru."

Sure. And we are all descended from space aliens who visited Earth; I read it in a book. "Research shows."

I can't speak to whether the recipes are any good (there's no way, given their content, that they are authentic, in any pre-Colombian sense), as so many of them contain milk products and/or shellfish. I guess there are a couple lessons to be learned here: (1) just because the cover is Teh Awesomeness does not mean I'm going to respect the contents of the book when I ever read it and (2) I suspect I've gotten a lot better at assessing the quality of a book over the last 10 years. Despite being by woman authors, on a subject matter I adore, neither one of these books would have made it past any of my current screens: their reviews on Amazon (especially the really positive ones) are worrisome and they lack _any_ recommendations on the covers. _Any_. This isn't one of those subtle logrolling things. _No_ reviews on the dust jackets.

It's out of here. There's no point in skimming; I just cannot trust this woman.

Today's activities include: taxes!

Even I get tired of procrastinating sometimes, so today I imported a bunch of stuff into TurboTax 2009. Then I started fixing things -- we've moved, so our address, that kind of thing, then looking for possible problems in the actual imported numbers, and doing calculations for foreign tax paid and similar. Along the way, I ran across something that I found utterly mystifying and called the source for clarification. After a half an hour of random political discussion, and another half hour or so after that, I got a call back saying, yes, that really was a problem and not just with your 1099. We'll be sending out a revised version soon. Which means I can go back to procrastinating. Or I could amend 2008.

Procrastinating sounds much more entertaining.

I also called and made appointments at the dentist for T. and I. Mine is tomorrow.