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Saturday, April 12, 2008


I love Wikipedia. I started off looking at the entry for masala chai because of my aspiration to open a chai and doughnut cafe. Then I took detours into the history of the spice trade, an ancient Roman cookbook, star anise, cardamom and black pepper.

These entries were informative, well put-together, and pretty well-written on the whole. (I guess I'm not in a position to comment on their accuracy.) Plus, I could not have (or, more accurately, would not have) wandered this way through a regular encyclopedia. But you do occasionally find passages that would be excised by a traditional editor. They can be kind of entertaining, though:

"Pepper has long been believed to cause sneezing; this is still believed true today. Some sources say that piperine, a substance present in black pepper, irritates the nostrils, causing the sneezing; some say that it is just the effect of the fine dust in ground pepper, and some say that pepper is not in fact a very effective sneeze-producer at all. Few if any controlled studies have been carried out to answer the question."

I may be revealing myself as a slave to conventional wisdom, but I'm pretty sure that putting spicy things in your nose causes sneezing. Any volunteers for my controlled study?


Andy said...

Touching on a few recent posts, have you read this essay by Nicholson Baker on Wikipedia in the NYRB? Specifically it's about contributing to Wikipedia, and how Baker found doing so to be pretty addictive.

teague said...

Thanks, Andy -- I'd not seen it, and it was pretty great. Baker has an OCD-ish attachment to cast-aside details that I find very endearing because it's an impulse that I share.

(I also immediately went to look at his Wikipedia entry and its edit history. A revision on March 2 at 6:19 pm: "I changed his place of birth because I, as his mother, was there. We didn't move to Rochester until 1959.)