Pasteurize This

November 22, 2002

As usual for this time of year I’ve got a cold. Right now it’s mild. I’ve got a bit of sneezing, a little blockage in the nasal cavities, a slightly dry throat, muscle spasms, blurred vision, a dull throbbing ache at the back of my head, I’ve lost all hearing in my right ear, and my lips are chapped. Actually the chapped lips have nothing to do with the cold virus, but they’re a result of my oversized lips. Genetics played a cruel trick on me by giving me such large lips: not only do I have to buy lip balm in bulk, but my dreams of becoming a concert didgeridu player were shattered.

But I digress. Sometimes I think I must carry around a cold virus with me, and it carries a pocket calendar with a specific date some time in November with "FULL SCALE ASSAULT" written on it in red letters. The date is probably determined by a committee that meets in April. Actually I’ve come to think of my repeated cold infections more affectionately. I think of each annual cold as a relative who comes to visit and who, like many relatives who come to visit, quickly gets annoying, stays too long, and uses up too much toilet paper. And I consider myself lucky that a cold seems to be the worst thing I get, especially when I think of all the other things going around.

It was even worse two-hundred years ago. People back then had to worry about plague, pestilence, pox, ague, chilblains, vapors, and imbalances of bodily humors. Most of these things were cured by the application of leeches, at least until Pasteur came along and suggested that most diseases were in fact caused by microscopic organisms with pocket calendars. People laughed at this, and told Pasteur that if he didn’t stop spouting off these crazy ideas he’d end up in hot water. This gave him an interesting idea. Now we laugh at the people who thought diseases could be cured with leeches.

Of course what Pasteur came up with is still referred to as "germ theory", so the idea that microscopic organisms make us sick, like evolution, or gravity, remains just a theory. There’s no telling what future discoveries will be made. In two-hundred years scientists may teach us that diseases are not caused by microscopic organisms but malicious aliens hiding behind the moon. Maybe one of those aliens will turn out to be named Uncle Harry.

Enjoy this week’s offerings.

[People spend so much time making fun of the South they forget all other regions have their idiosyncracies. Here’s some humor from Indiana–although when I lived there I often had to check a map to make sure Indiana really wasn’t part of the South.–CW]

What it Takes to be a Hoosier

Here are some guidelines to assist others in understanding what it takes to be a Hoosier.

1. Know the state casserole. The state casserole consists of canned green beans, Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup and dried onions. You can safely take this casserole to any social event in Indiana and know that you will be accepted.

2. Get used to food festivals. The Indiana General Assembly, in an effort to grow bigger athletes, passed legislation years ago requiring every incorporated community to have at least one festival per year dedicated to a high-fat food.

It is your duty as a Hoosier to attend these festivals and at least buy at least one "elephant ear". (Indiana inside joke)

3. Know the geography. …Of Florida, I mean. I’ve run into Hoosiers who couldn’t tell you where Evansville is but they know the exact distance from Fort Myers to Bonita Springs. That’s because all Hoosiers go to Florida in the winter. (Or plan to when they retire.) Or are related to retired Hoosiers who have a place in Florida. We consider Florida to be the Lower Peninsula of Indiana.

4. If you can’t afford to spend the winter in Florida, use the state excuse, which is that you stay here because you enjoy the change of seasons. You’ll be lying, but that’s OK. …We’ve all done it.

5. Speaking of Indiana weather, wear layers or die! The thing to remember about Indiana seasons is that they can occur at anytime. We have spring like days in January and wintry weekends in October. April is capable of providing a sampling of all four seasons in a single 24-hour period. For these reasons, Indiana is the "Layering Capital of the World".

Even layering, however, can pose danger. Golfers have been known to dress for hypothermia ….and end up dead of heat stroke because they couldn’t strip off their layers of plaid fast enough on a changeable spring morning.

6. Don’t take Indiana place names literally. if a town has the same name as a foreign city…..Valparaiso and Versailles for examples…… you must NOT pronounce them the way the foreigners do, lest you come under suspicion as a spy.

Also, East Enterprise has no counterpart on the west side of the state. South Bend is in the north. North Putnam is in the south …and French Lick certainly isn’t what you think either!

7. Become "mulch literate". Hoosiers love mulch and appreciate its subtle differences. Learn the difference between hardwood, cypress and pine bark at a minimum. (Researchers think the state affinity for mulch derives from its relatively flat terrain. People have a subconscious need for topography, and when it can’t be supplied naturally, they are more likely to make little mulch hillocks in their front yards).

8. In order to talk sports with obsessive fans in Indiana, you have to be knowledgeable on the three levels – professional, college and high school. The truly expert Indiana sports fan knows not only the name of the hotshot center at Abercrombie and Fitch High School, but also what colleges he’s interested in, how much he can bench- press, who he took to the prom, and what grade he got on his biology quiz last week.

9. Remember that Hoosiers are never the first to embrace trends. When we do embrace them, we do so with a Midwestern pragmatism. For example, if you see a Hoosier with a nose ring, there’s a good chance he’s had it undercoated to guard against rust.

10. The best way to sell something in Indiana is to attach the term "Amish" to it. The product need not be genuinely Amish. This will explain the existence of Amish moo shu pork.

I hope you found this guide to be useful. If it offends you, please let me know. I will bring a green-bean casserole to your house to make amends.

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