For One Family, A Different Kind of Shell Game

September 8, 2008 by trooce · Leave a Comment 

Family Xmas 2005 Yesterday as I was lounging about in front of the TV, I came across a scene that reminded me how resourceful, skilled, and talented we humans can be.

To be specific, it wasn’t anything I saw on television that amazed me.  No, what amazed me was watching my relatives in the dining room across from me eating sunflower seeds.

You can learn a lot about social interaction simply by watching the way people eat – especially when they’re eating seeds.

Part of my fascination comes from the efficient way Asians eat seeds.  Unlike westerners, who tend to hold the seed in their hand, bite the seed to split the shell and eat the seed inside, Asians are more efficient.  Asians have a patented technique whereby several seeds are placed in the mouth and via a rigorous motion between tongue and teeth, each individual sunflower seed is shucked, shell separated, spit out, and seed digested.

While this technique has been handed down from generation to generation, you can still tell that some concentration is required, simply by looking at the facial expression of the person eating the seed.

By closely observing the seed-eating individual, you will immediately find that the various parts of the face appear to be focused on different tasks.  Obviously, the mouth carries the lions share of the work, which you can tell by noting that the person’s lips are continuously pursed, moving from side to side in a vigorous motion, except for a moment every ten seconds or so when the mouth erupts in a violent motion, ejecting the shell of the seed as if it were some foreign object invading the body.

[Editor’s Note:  As a point of caution, it is strongly recommended that any person seeking to observe this hull-spitting maneuver do so from a safe distance – say ten feet – and wearing protective goggles wouldn’t be a bad idea either.]

While the mouth is preoccupied with what I call the “Shell-Shuck” maneuver, the eyes have an altogether different role.  During the “Shell-Shucking” process, the job of the eyes is to dart back and forth, eyebrows furrowed in a serious gaze, with an expression that suggests that there could be a surprise any moment, with each individual seed.

Perhaps the eyes are anticipating that the next shell could come up empty without a seed.  The technical term for this result is being “shell-shocked.”

Beyond sunflower seeds, the variety of seeds Asians eat is impressive.  Along with sunflower seeds, a typical seed-eating diet can consist of watermelon seeds, pumpkin seeds, and several other seeds I’ve never seen before.

The smallest seeds, such as the watermelon seed, create the most questions for me.  In my opinion, when eating watermelon seeds, once the shell is removed, the microscopic seed is more likely to become lodged between your teeth before the tongue ever gets a chance to taste it.  By my calculations, a fully-grown adult, at one sitting, could polish off the seeds of every watermelon on earth, then eat a ham and cheese sandwich, before this person might ever utter the words, “I’m full.”

Besides my fascination with my family’s sunflower eating prowess, the other part that amazes me are all the other things people can do while eating seeds.  Speaking, in particular, while eating seeds, shows the true multi-tasking nature of seed-eaters.

As complex as eating a sunflower seed is without your hands, people still believe that they can manage to have an intelligent conversation at the same time.

Auntie #1:  So, what did…Sue…<smack, smack> say after she got <smack> home?
Auntie #2: Well, she…<smuck> wasn’t very happy <POOT!!!!!>
Auntie #1 (moving to the other side of the table and refastening her protective goggles): I just think she needs to control her <POOT!  POOT!!!> temper!

I wonder whether this multi-tasking can be used in other ways?  I wonder, along with eating all sorts of seeds, whether this time honored skill could be used on other products, like say, shucking oysters?  I bet my aunt could open an oyster, shuck the shell, eat the meat, and maybe even polish the pearl before shooting it out with a celebratory “POOT!”

Yes, yes, I know.  You could call this maneuver the ability to “shell fish.”

Birthdays a Case of Diminishing Returns

September 1, 2008 by trooce · Leave a Comment 

Ahh…sweet memories.

It seems not so long ago that I celebrated my 30th birthday.  I remember it fondly.

A surprise party.  All my best friends and family in attendance.  A beautiful cake.  My lovely wife, presenting me with my favorite cake from my favorite bakery with several candles on top to mark the occasion.  The opening of hand picked presents from the people closest to me and the singing of of “Happy Birthday” in a joyous celebration of this personal milestone.

Good times.

Fast forward 14 years.  A few of the details have changed.  Oh, I still have a beautiful wife, and there was a cake.  But, as they say, the devil is in the details.

My birthday dinner plans were cobbled together in a couple of minutes the day before my birthday.  On the day of the joyous event, my wife calls and tells me she doesn’t have time to buy any candles and asks me to pick some up on my way to my parent’s house.

Yes, you read that right.  I must run out to buy candles for my own birthday cake.

Dinner goes well, and as always, our family always enjoys opportunities to get together.  For dessert, the birthday cake is brought out, and this year the cake is not the one from my favorite bakery, but is instead a store bought cake from our local supermarket.  I know this because the price sticker is still on the cellophane of the cake box and in addition, I remember seeing the same cake earlier in the day as I was shopping for candles.

As the candles flicker on top of my ready-made cake, I prepare to blow them out.  But before I do, my mother stops me and says that we must not forget that my sister in law’s birthday is just a few days later and that we are celebrating for her as well.

There is a slight pause as I wait to see if she would like to “bundle” any other milestones or holidays under the auspices of what is quickly becoming known as the “all encompassing celebratory cake” as I note that “Groundhog Day” is only a few weeks away.

While it may not be hard for any of you to pick up on the latent bitterness as I recall my last birthday celebration, the truth is that I found the change to be more funny than anything else.  I don’t really have anything to complain about as I have a terrific wife and family.

Still, it’s not hard to extrapolate what lies ahead of me as I look ahead to my future birthday celebrations.
On my 50th birthday, all my friends and family will come to celebrate this major milestone in my life, topped off by a beautiful, home made cake festooned with candles and other festive decorations.  Of course, by that time I figure that I’ll be the one baking the cake so why not give it my all?

On my 60th birthday, we will most likely drop the whole “celebratory cake” thing and the formal celebration will entail me trying some of the free samples at Costco as I shop for my sister in law’s birthday cake.

They do sell candles there, right?