Fleur-de-Metrics

It makes all the sense in the world.

I’ve never been to England (except for a runway touch down at Heathrow), but I’ve traveled there through books and gardening tomes. In my continuing quest to learn more about ground cherries (Physalis pruinosa) I’ve stumbled on its cousin, Cape gooseberry (Physalis peruviana). Food literature points out that the British peel the husk back on the Cape gooseberry and use it as a handle to dip the fruit in icing or nibble plain. They’ve been doing so since 1774, and, as Marina attests, continue to this day.  So proper!

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Exhibit A

P. peruviana obviously has South American roots. Its other common names include Peruvian ground cherry, Inca berry, and Peruvian cherry. During the 18th century, the fruits were perfumed and worn for adornment by native Peruvian women.  By 1807 the plant hopped continents and was grown by early settlers at South Africa’s Cape of Good Hope. Today it is still grown there commercially, canned or made into jam or chutney. The British Empire, apparently smitten with the fruit, introduced it to Australia and New Zealand as an easy-to-grow fresh fruit for homesteaders. It did so well in New Zealand that a government document stated “a housewife is sometimes embarrassed by the quantity of berries (Cape gooseberries) in the garden”.  A single plant can produce as many as 300 round golden berries encased in crisp khaki husks.

So, the Brits prefer P. peruviana and our Pennsylvania Amish are taken with P. pruinosa. Next spring I plan to plant a few of each to bring this matter to a conclusion. If I’m successful, there may not be any room on the kitchen counter for Green Zebras!

If my daughter instructs me on food culture, my son briefs me on beverage culture. Richard recently mentioned a cross-cultural phenomenon that makes no sense in the world. At least none that is apparent to me.

I don’t know how much of this I can blame on his introduction to the metric system in Kutztown math classes, but apparently it has become a fascination. During his senior year in high school, as a Rotary exchange student in Brazil, it was not uncommon for students to gather at a local bar for a “meter of beer.” (See Exhibit A.) The tap near the bottom of the meter-tall cylinder allows students to pour a “taste” of the fermented beverage.

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Exhibit B

So, the other day Richard, my mom and I were Skyping and he told me about an amazing discovery. Richard, you may recall, is now a college student in Belgium. The other night he and his friends went to a pub and ordered a “meter of beer”. Much to Richard’s surprise, this is what was brought to the table: (Exhibit B.)

“I don’t get it. In Brazil, a meter is vertical; in Belgium, it’s horizontal,” Richard explained, quite perplexed. As a mother, intent on furthering her son’s mathematical and geographical knowledge, I send out a plea to all of you: Does anyone get it? And while you are at it, do you think there is any significance that Brazil, Belgium and beer all start with the letter B? I’m getting a little tipsy just thinking about it. Laurie Lynch

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