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Brave New World
I’ve had an idea, and I’m looking for some partners to make it happen. They will have to be special people, I think, people with the courage to undertake a bold vision and dare to look beyond the conventions of inside-the-box thinking.

Let me explain. I have found myself fantasizing about the day I get vaccinated for the coronavirus. I imagine going back out into the world and doing all the things I cannot not do now. Even in my fantasies, though, I know that the world I re-enter will not be the same as it was when I left it. There will be changes to that world, and some of them are likely to be permanent.

One change will be a heightened awareness to the threat from viruses. You just know there will be more coming down the pike. Apparently, they are eager to upgrade from bats, pigs, and birds and land gigs with the human race. That is where the action is, right? There might even be more epidemics. If that happens, then masks and other safety measures are likely to become part of the new normal. I think we should be ready for that.

In the old days (a couple of months ago) I had assumed that someone wearing a mask was trying to protect themselves against the germs coming from others. Come to find out, their motives were altruistic. Those masks were meant to protect other people — us — from some contagion the wearer had. It’s always nice to get an upgrade to your faith in human nature, especially these days.

On the other hand, I was disappointed to learn that ordinary masks were pretty useless if you did want protection. That kind of mask is kind of expensive, it turns out, and pretty hard to get. Just ask the health care workers about the N95. Shouldn’t there be some kind of push to make these self-protecting masks available to everyone in the new future? You know, in case this happens again?

Which got me to thinking about nose hairs. I think we can all agree that, of all the hairs on the human body, none is more admirable than the nose hair. Its chief function, like that of the N95, is to deny admittance to any item that is not welcome in our lungs. When one considers what might be inadvertently sucked into our delicate inner passages, it’s hard to deny the importance of such work. Without the these gentle sentinels, anything from tainted motes of dust to swarms of murder hornets might be finding their ways into our soft private regions.

Nose hairs are the first line of defense against all potentially deadly intruders. I count in that dark confederacy the panoply of viruses that are out there plotting our misery. Including the damnable Covid-19.

So far, mere follicles have not been the equal of the clouds of tiny Covid globules now swirling among us in their menacing Brownian dance. We need something stronger and perhaps more dense to protect us. If masks are indeed going to be with us for a while, why not follow the lead of Mother Nature herself as we search for new solutions to the viral threat?

And so, my idea. It is, I dare to say, a possibly game-changing notion. With far-reaching ramifications. And nose hairs are at the very center of my vision.

Picture, if you will, a mask woven of the finest and most practical of natural materials - tightly knit nasal tresses. Yes, nose hairs! They have evolved over millions of years to perform the very task we now so desperately need. I am not suggesting that such a mask needs to be woven from your own nose hairs. Those hairs are busy doing their essential work 24/7. Instead, I propose that these incredible natural filterers be grown and harvested here in the U.S. using our abundant technical savvy — paired with good, old-fashioned American enterprise.

Good, you’re still with me. I salute your conceptual spunk. That kind of can-do attitude will be vital in seeing this project to its conclusion. So, what’s next? I’ll bet you’ve already guessed the answer. That’s right, nose hair farms! Where once there were amber waves of grain rippling in the sun, now imagine great rolling fields of follicles growing and thriving as far as the eye can see. All of it would be rooted in the finest man-made meat. That technology, we know, already exists. It just has to be scaled up to cover a third of our American land mass.

I may have lost a few of you with that last suggestion, but so be it. We are on the far frontier of public health theory, and it’s not for everyone. All right, then. We must dare to push on. Our next issue is keeping those millions of acres of meat moist — what I call the mucus conundrum. We’re going to need over 50 million barrels of it each year in order for this project to succeed.

Hey. Where’d everybody go?
Crackers
If you are curious about where we are at this stage of our sheltering, I will tell you this: we made crackers here last weekend. For most folks, that would be a marker that we’re pretty deep into this thing. They would, I’d guess, work through a pretty long list of possible baking projects before arriving at crackermaking.

My list is different, though. Crackers, to me, are in the top row of necessary food items. Even crackers that don’t crack, like the Ritz or the Keebler Club, make the grade. I would be lying, however, if I said I fully respect a “cracker” that does not crack. Ritzes don’t even “crunch” when you bite; it’s more like a “crunge.” There is such a thing as too much crack, of course. Ry-Krisps, though they have a lot to recommend them, require a bit more force than I am comfortable with. You could pop a crown off on a stale one.

That said, I don’t really want to single out any cracker for criticism. I admire them too much as a food genus to do that. I will admit here and now that I am a cracker addict. I could eat them three meals a day…or five. They are the staff of life in a lightweight, bite-size form. Sure, you can put salami on them or the schmear of your choice, from hummus to triple cream brie, but for me the cracker is the thing.

Crackermaking, then, was actually pretty high on my pandemic baking agenda. Taste is important, of course, but mostly I am looking for the perfect “crack.” Not just a crunch (though crunchiness is a worthy texture), but crackfulness, in both the sound and the tooth. Think Wheat Thins or ak-maks. The sequence of ingestion should go like this: crack, crackle, crunch, crunch, chew.

That ideal is, as I have discovered, a deceptively simple goal. My first batch (using almond flour and a topping of Parmesan cheese) was, best case, a valuable learning experience. I baked them — according to the recipe — for 9 minutes or until they were light brown at the edges. That amount of time proved to be insufficient. (Thanks in part to my addiction, however, it took me eight crackers to be sure.)

For starters, they had nothing like the crack I was looking for. Instead, I got more of a “croonge” — not even as good as the Ritzy “crunge.” Also, they were a bit mealy for my taste. In fact, the “croonge” actually made me cringe. So I put the remaining crackers back in the oven for another 6 minutes at a higher temperature. I might burn them to a crisp, I thought, but at least they’d be crispy.

I can report that the tactic at least partially succeeded. As we all know, most foods taste better when some part of the dish is a little burned. The edges on the new versions were no longer light brown, but rather a rich (and tasty) burnt sienna. The bite improved as well. I don’t think I have ever eaten a cracker that went “craunch,” but I found it to be a pleasent texture.

But not fully satisfying. Simply put, there was no crack. A crunk or two, maybe, but I was still well short of my ideal cracker. I will say, however, that the rest of the crackers did disappear pretty quickly. Not Wheat Thin quick, but none of them got anywhere near staleness.

As I say, this was a learning experience. I have now resolved that, going forward, I will set aside the almond flour and even the Parmesan and try for a more direct route to my ideal. My new plan: it’s got to be whole wheat flour, simple no-nonsense ingredients, err on the side of over-baking, and eat all of your mistakes.

But never forget the mission: crack, crackle, crunch, crunch, chew.
Dream Season
Two out two men on
Fielders back against the wall
The crack of the bat
Cooties
Are you thinking what I'm thinking? Probably not, I suppose. We don't have a common frame of reference.

Except we do. We're stuck at home worrying about cooties. Covid cooties. And I, at least, am thinking that I'm going to be here for a while. To be specific: I won't be coming back out until there's a vaccine.

That's over a year from now. Forget the apex, never mind the reopening, don't talk to me about returning to normal. And if you are now thinking that I'm a fraidy-cat, well, I can live with that.

See you in July. July 2021, that is.
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Trump supporters are people who know what they believe.
~ JC, Bonny Doon