Tuesday, June 9, 2009

On Division, or, an excuse to throw 10 haiku at you

Image of a plate of soft cheeses.Dear Gentle Reader,

Division, the process of dividing, is an odd duck.

In math, division makes things smaller.

Simultaneously, however, in biology, division makes things more numerous.

After all, division, as in meiosis, deals with the propagation of the species.

Similarly, though not identically, division, as in mitosis, sees the replication of whole cells, the propagation of a part; one mother cell becomes two identical daughter cells.

Division, like sex, can also lead to many challenges.

Seemingly sidling away from the topic of division, the Heroine, the Hero, and your humble scribe all love cheese, hard and soft cheeses both.

This hardly seems related to division, let alone problems.

Humble scribe, you may say, first, cheese is a mixture, not a separation; no division is required to make cheese, no, things are added. Second, you may say, if you like cheese, then cheese is hardly a problem.

But, gentle reader, you will, I am sure, concede that the hard/soft cheese dichotomy is clearly a categorical division.

And, on closer inspection, cheese is the product of physical division.

Yes, cheese is derived from a protein, fat, and water slurry, but, the special feature of cheese production is how that slurry is modified by dividing, and hence expanding, colonies of bacteria.

Division abounds and division is at the heart of the creation of cheeses (especially soft cheeses, where the bacteria at their centres, their hearts, are frequently most active).

So, where lies the problem?

The problem lies not in the creation of cheese, gentle reader, but in the division of the same.

For most cheeses, most people use knives to split cheeses, to divide them, to share them.

Almost all soft cheeses have to be cut to properly get to the fruits of their constituent bacterial guests' lives' labours, the steamy, fragrant divisional product of bacterial culture.

Now, usually, soft cheeses are cut into wedges prior to further division then consumption.

And, this is where the sexual problems of division begin, or, more accurately, the problems between the sexes, in our house, begin.

One divisional problem, portion equity, is well documented by that great Dane, Piet Hein (1905-1996).


When people always
try to take
the very smallest
piece of cake
how can it also
always be
that that's the one
that's left for me?

It should be noted that while Piet Hein was talking about (just) desserts, I believe that the same principle can be applied to cheeses.

After all, a savoury cheese platter may precede, follow, or even substitute for a sweet dessert.

It should also be noted that the Danes know whereof they speak, when they speak of division.

In the beginning, Danes acquired by dividing others' lands and things. They then amalgamated these divisions (from others' holdings) to their own holdings.

For a long while, the Danes never saw any problem with this.

It was when the Swedes started dividing Danish spoils, for their Swedish selves, that the joy of division was spoiled for the Danes.

(Here, one could note, is where Einstein's propositions on the importance of the observer, in physical dynamics, and relativity in general, make their application in social dynamics, long before Einstein was even around to observe or remark...)

Back to the present day and to the cheese.

Your Heroine, though of Northern European extraction, is relatively scrupulous regarding portion size when she creates fromage frontiers.

She steers clear of the Piet Hein Problem.

The Heroine's failing, from your humble scribe's perspective, is that she keeps the best parts for herself; she high grades; she takes the central part of soft cheeses.

The central part, the thin edge of the wedge, is, of course, where the bacterial culture, in soft cheeses, has had its strongest and greatest effects on flavour and on texture.

One must remember, though, that the Heroine is German; cultural high-grading is in her blood.

Germans love all things to do with culture; Goethe, Schiller, Cranach, Flanders, France...

Hurriedly skipping back to the cheese plate, your humble scribe has fulminated greatly on divisions, especially as a recipient of the outer, lesser graded sections of wedges of soft cheese.

So, today, I indulge myself and divide my thoughts ten ways to generate ten haiku along the simple theme of division.

For my pleasure, here they are:

If you take your cheese v. seriously...

divorce might be right
this separation? no good.
i want high grade too

Early biological classification

and vegetabilia
Aristotle's split

*** Humble scribe's note of the use of poetic license.

It was the great Swedish classifier Carl von Linné (1707-1778), better known by his Latinized name, Carolus Linnaeus, who divided living organisms under the specific descriptors animalia and vegetabilia. But, Aristotle (384-322 BC) did separate the world into animals and vegetables, too (and almost 21 centuries earlier).

Aristotle just did it in Greek.


soft cell walls and motile, too


meiosis yields haploid cells

Innie and outie

100 "k" "m"
lowest earth orbit that works
inner/outer space

Western expansion in the USA, where does it begin?

Demarcation, here.
one hundredth meridian
wet east/arid west

Peace, Order, and Good Government (POGG) versus Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness
or, duelling values in constitutional residual clauses
or, communalism (community values) vs. individualism (individual values)

Canada: POGG (rules)
the forty-ninth parallel
US: U. Party

How China, with Hong Kong, or Macau, copies Canada's handling of difference...

deux cultures, un pays
je me souviens, mais oui...
two systems, one state

For the non-Canadian scholars, Canada not only has two languages, English and French, enshrined in the constitution, it also uses the continental legal system in its second biggest province, by population, Quebec.

Much of past-Prime Minister Brian Mulroney's testimony in a recenty inquiry was predicated upon a totally different legal regime than what Anglo Canada is used to, and I fear that these legal distinctions were lost on the majority of the populace judging by the polemical online comments on news articles posted in the national, public news media.

A further examples of demagoguery, in extremis...

Political religious divides on the great subcontinent

Hindu/Muslim split
partition '47
nation rent; two form...

*** Author's aside: I prefer this haiku orally when the "two" could equally be heard as "to"...

A division of colonial power alone

African land/lord
uti possedetis; change
lord not boundaries

And ten is more than enough, I am sure.



Teresa said...

Pretty cheesy, Chris. What did the Heroine do? Stick you with the rind?

Actually, I thoroughly enjoyed all your haikus. Better than dessert and fewer calories...


murat11 said...

Dude, you in the mess. First, the resident Daybedder and now the Heroine she-self.

Politics of the Family notwithstanding, I am moved to say this: you may think, O my brother, that you are prose-ing along your merry way to your sublime haiku, but in truth, all that prose-ing is prose-ing not: it is crystalline, joyful singing: poetizing. Call it prose poetry, if you must. Hell, you can even call it cheese.

It is, whatever its bacterial count, a joy to read, be it rind or fulsome middle.

You remember the old math imperative: "show your work." Well, mathemagicians may look askance at such imperatives, but it has been taken up with relish by a number of postmodern poets: the idea is to show it all, all the backstory, all the tangents, all the messy gooey sticky along with whatever "pristine gems" were thought to be going the reader's way. An unfolding, an unboxing, an un-cheeseclothing. Cuz we as readers of poetry like all that background dribble, too.

Nutshell: you tell great stories, amigo, and you tells 'em well...

Peace/out, mi emetrata. (This evening's WV.) (That should probably be emetrato. Don't tell the WV police.)

Dominic Rivron said...

You know those anecdotes which get told and retold in a family over the years? Not necessarily great, but just retellable? The story is often told of my grandparents and a plate with two pieces of cake on it. My grandmother offered the plate to my grandfather, who took the largest of the two. My grandmother admonished him, saying that she had been brought up to always take the smallest piece, to which he replied, "well, you got what you wanted, then."

murat11 said...

Love Dominic's story. Ah, the price of piety...

Teresa said...

I love Dominic's story. It sounds like something one of my grandfathers would have said.

I also discovered this morning as I was deciding what to spread on my toast for breakfast that this post is NOT as innocent as it seems. It is a nefarious plot by the Haikuist to turn the rest of the world off with regards to cheese.

You see, I am a linguist. I managed to get through school with a minimum of science courses and remained blissfully ignorant (until last night) that my favorite cheeses, brie and camembert, were really writhing masses of propagating bacteria.

So this morning as I was making breakfast and deciding what to spread on my toast, I looked at the brie and could only think of the Haikuist's words about bacteria gleefully engaged in mitosis. The camembert brought up similar images of one-celled creatures in an orgy of meiosis. And I could not bear to eat the soft center of the cheese. So I had peanut butter instead.

We're onto you Haikuist. You want to gross out the rest of the world, so that all the gooey goodness goes to you...

Where should I send my supply of brie and camemebert? I find myself no longer able to eat them....


Raph G. Neckmann said...

Mmmm cheese indeed! What is the round one on the left, please? It looks yummy!

I like the centre of fruit cake best - that's where it is the soggiest and nicest!

Sepiru Chris said...

Dear Teresa,

The haiku were OK. The faux essay intro... not so happy with...

Dear Murat,

Too true, I am in the mess. But I have learned to love the sludge between my toes and bubbling beside my nose. One can not only become accustomed to anything, one can even learn to like it...

I do think that you are a bit too kind re the prose, as it still never ended the way I wanted, but that was to be expected as I do not know how I meant to be.

Anyway, I admit to having my heart soar with a lovely sense of satisfaction when I read your comments.

If you are truly pleased, than I am delighted. And, Murat, I really love your wordsmithing. You are a man and smith after my own heart and mind.

Oh, I and too loved Dominic's story. And thought it übercool that you came back to comment on it.

Dear Dominic,

Thank you so much for sharing that, it brought three totally different smiles to me.

The first smile was for your charming story.

The second was for that fact that you were willing to share it with me on my site, and the third was the fact that my writing induced you to think of what must surely have been great and fun grandparents. I felt a flush of pride, with that, I readily admit.

Dear Teresa,

If I drop deep into the murky mists of neural time, plunging into the fecund, moist warmth of microbiology courses and labs, I think that camembert and brie, both, are actually flavoured by a fungus.

Further, that crust... all fungus mycelium, baby.

If memory serves, the fungal agent is Penicillium camembertii, although some nouveau cheesemakers have switched to Penicillium candida as that has no chance of staining the cheese blue as occasionally happens with the historic mold/flavour agent.

What is really cool about Penicillium camembertii is that it is a domesticated variant of Penicillium commune... and it has been domesticated for a long time...

Legend has it that Carolus Magnus (Charlemagne) (742-814) fell in love with brie at first taste...

So, while most cheeses have (lovely) bacteria, you can still enjoy camembert and brie...

Dear Raph,

This is an older picture, and cheeses fly through our fridge with alacrity and great diversity. But, I believe that this a a slice of a god-like version of Brillat-Savarin...

Only ambrosia, a Sauterne variety of ambrosia in that circumstance, if memory serves me still, was good enough to go with that cheese...

And a great, home-made, English fruitcake, with a rum-sodden centre... mmm, very good.


Teresa said...

How can I enjoy them when they are just made of fungus??? Especially forms of the penecillin fungus... The penecillin, ampecillin, amoxycillin stuff from the doctor give me hives. I'm not quite sure why cheese don't... Hmmm. Maybe that's what I need to do the next time I have a throat infection, eat more cheese.

Teresa said...

Dear Chris,

With respect to the haiku in this post. I agree that artistically, you have done better, but it was quite a delight to watch your mind go from contemplating divorce to divided countries while passing through the field of bacteriology.

Is the project in Pommes' secret cave something to do with biological warfare???


Cloudia said...

You know, I'm not at my mental top-form at the moment, but I DO loves me some CHEESE!
Am I in the ball park?
Do Canadians say that?
Aloha ha ha ;-)