Real as the beard on my face. Would I ever lie? This past weekend Audrey and I had some friends over for dinner and drinks as a somewhat late housewarming party. We had planned the event the weekend Irene hit, and at some point between then and now, I stopped calling it a housewarming party. Nonetheless, Matt and Hai-Ting of Scopes Monkey Choir came bearing the bottle pictured above as a gift. As a clever conversation piece, the ruse is perfect. In a large glass jar are long, multi-limbed stalks that look like they were scraped out of the vile spawning sac of Ythogtha. The pale color even gives it that look of an old, apothecary specimen. It fits in splendidly with the rest of my curio pieces. Rodent skulls*; old beer steins; piezoelectric crystals**; extraterrestrial preserves; You know, the works.

Once I got over how gross/awesome the things are, my next question was, “So what is it really?” The answer didn’t come to us that evening, but I managed to look it up yesterday. Google searches for “octopus vegetable” turned up some nice ways to serve octopus, but not my jar of baby Old Ones. Still assuming it was a plant, I remembered that Matt had mentioned it was probably some sort of palm part. Bingo. A search for “pickled palm” led me to the pacaya palm flower or Chamaedorea tepijilote. The plants resemble bamboo, with the flowers growing on the side of the stems. As the flower develops it gets greener, turning orange once fertilized.

All that said, I won’t be eating any out of this jar. Don’t get me wrong, I’m an equal opportunity eater. I follow the world law of food: “If it passes through the gut without killing you, let’s eat!” I just don’t want to break the seal on this particular jar and ruin a good conversation piece. It does make me want to go out and find it again to try. You know, for science.


This post was brought to you by Lithium (Li).   

*I have a squirrel and a weasel-like creature of some sort. Oh, and turtle hands.

**Lately, when Audrey and I argue, it’s about the fact that I’ve begun turning the kitchen into a chemistry lab late at night. Between the noise, the fire, and the fumes, she doesn’t sleep well on chemistry nights. My latest endeavor has been growing rochelle salt crystals. Rochelle salts are a mundane by-product of wine making. It’s the sediment that forms at the bottom of the bottles. But apparently, they’re also piezoelectric. Now, you all know how much I love crystals, so the lure of actual magic crystals was too great. The crystals convert mechanical force to electricity, and vice versa, allowing you to make them into a contact microphone. I ended up with a pretty good batch, giving a bunch to Matt to play with. Here’s some photos:

If you follow us on Facebook, you have seen one of the smaller ones I made. No fooling around this time.