Thursday, October 08, 2009

NoKo Hair, Plum Granny, and Queen Anne's Pocket Melon

I find it amusing, as was obviously intended, that there's a cookbook called Cuisines of the Axis of Evil and Other Irritating States . Even better that the author C. Christine Fair is a foreign policy think-tanker being considered for a State Department post in the Obama administration.

Some of the food sounds good: Apple-pear crumble; chicken in walnut and pomegranate * stew; and a decent-looking kofte recipe.

And it has asides, too:
[I]n 2005 the NoKo [North Korean] government waged a war on long hair.... Older gentlemen were granted an allotment of fifty centimeters of upper hair for the "comb-over" that older, balding men so love. Hidden cameras videotaped "long-haired" miscreants and televised them for public amusement. The television media campaign stressed the adverse effects of long hair on human intellect, arguing that it consumes needless nutrients, and recommended haircuts every fifteen days. Hmmmm.... These people actually managed to build a nuclear weapon? [page 8 ]
Obviously the short hair made their scientists very smart.

* Pomegranate sidebar: Occasionally when I think of pomegranates I recall a small inedible fruit called Plum Granny in the southeastern USA. Few in the South know about it and almost no one outside the region has ever heard of it, it seems.
Ripe Plum Grannies photo from Aiken Gardens.
Each will fit in the palm of your hand.

I know of no commercial use for the plum granny. It's a rare category of plant, grown for the fulgently clever fragrance -- not the taste -- of the fruit, not the bloom. The small orb emits a flowery and melony perfume but is basically tasteless. When ripe, two or three of them set out in a bowl will sweeten a room's scent for days.

True pomegranates were unknown down there, and I always presumed the term "plum granny" could be a perversion of "pomegranate." [There's no botanical relationship between the plants--plum granny is a melon.] It's a folk-etymology I've proposed before, but there appears to be real evidence for it (though the term "plum granny" isn't in the OED). Another blogger presents evidence from her family history: her older relatives called the plum granny a pomegranate. And the Dictionary of American Regional English has an entry about Plum Granny which indeed traces the name's origin to pomegranate via the Bible, which I suspected: "It is said that the name is somehow derived from pomegranate, which the hillman knows chiefly from the references in Scripture."

Plum Granny was called the "love melon" because boys gave it to girls, much like bouquets, so they could enjoy the sweet smell. "Love melon" sounds risque today, doesn't it? Plum granny has other names too, including Queen Anne's Pocket Melon, which sounds downright ribald.

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