It is a relaxing Monday evening in Hesketh House and hubby and I are chatting over a lovely cup of tea after work. As with so many of our chats they start with anything interesting we may have heard or seen recently and like a greyhound out of the starters gate, take off at high-speed all over the place….you never know where these conversations will find you and what they will pick up along the way.
Today we started out with the simple topic of the Persimmon, or Kaki, an apple size fruit with a lovely shiny yellow skin – we bought one at the store to give it a try. Not simply being happy that we now knew its other names and varieties found all over the world e.g. Sharon fruit is a variety from Israel, we also learned of its many health benefits, drinks uses, timber used etc, etc. However, like most things, the over consumption can have some negative effects as well. In the case of the humble Persimmon, you can apparently, if rarely, get a Bezoar (sounds like bee-zore); a build up of various indigestible substances that create an almost stone-like ball in the stomach – yuck!
For anyone with long hair a few years ago, you may have been told by someone older and apparently wiser than you, that if you chew your hair it would create a hard ball in your stomach which could kill you. Well my 10-year-old self may have occasionally played with my hair in such a manner (again – yuck), but thought ‘oh, how ridiculous, an adult trying to scare me – again’. WELL, who knew that this supposed old wives tale has an edge of truth to it because Bezoars can be formed from hair too.
Since medieval times, it was believed that Bezoars could cure you of almost any deadly poisons as it was meant to absorb the poison from your body and therefore cure you. This was disproved by a ‘scientist’ who fed one to a chef that was given poison as his sentence for theft. Sadly he died a very long and painful death – I am sure that his original sentence of death by strangulation would have been preferable.
Bezoars are sometimes carved and buffed to a high shine for jewellery – yuck, yuck, yuck! Go online if you don’t believe me and see some images for yourself.
Naturally leading on from stones in the stomach hubby wondered if the nice smelly stuff in a whales stomach was also a form of Bezoar. Alas no, this is ambergris or grey amber, a substance produced to protect the whales stomach from the hard and sharp beaks of squid. Ambigris can be burned or used in perfume. It is almost as valuable as gold. Occasionally someone makes their fortune finding it in a whale carcass, but I presume much is found as part of the madness that is whale hunting.
If you’re expecting to find a dead whale on the beach with a few kilograms of ambergris, you may want to consider another pension option, as this happens very rarely and fights have broken out amongst Ambigris hunters for less.
By now, the time has been steadily ticking by and from starting our tea at 5.30pm, we realise that it is 7.30pm and the dinner is waiting downstairs.
I could tell you that chasing stories and information down a rabbit hole is a rare thing for our family, but that would be a vast exaggeration because we all spend many happy hours hunting, investigating and churning up weird and wonderful facts and information of no particular use other than to broaden our general knowledge.
Therefore, the question that I always posed to our children as they were growing up was “Do you want the long or the short answer?” If they wanted a quick succinct answer they came to me; if they wanted the thesis and the rabbit hole, then they went to Daddy.
Nothing has changed to this day – and that is how you get from Persimmons to Ambergris.
Happy trails everyone!