Feast of St. Cholestera

December 14, 2014

It’s the time of year for food rituals. This week’s entry reprints a selection from the writing of Lisa Heldke. I was lucky enough to attend the Feast of St. Cholestera in St. Peter, MN this year. Here is a lengthy quote from Lisa’s announcement for this year’s Feast, which in true Thornapple Blog form, has absolutely nothing to say about St. Cholestra. If you are inclined, you can learn more about her HERE.

Reuters: European butter scientists’ hopes were dashed this week, when the probe they had managed to land on the surface of a pfeffernusse went dark, after just two days of transmitting data about the cookie.

To scientists, the pfeffernusse represents a unique glimpse into the ancient universe; they are among the oldest elements of that universe, for the simple reason that no one has ever eaten one, so they just keep circling the holidays from year to year, showing up to add a craggy, powdery ancient-universe touch to people’s festive cookie plates. “With this probe, we were really hoping to drill down, literally, and find out what the universe is really made of—and how it smells,” noted Einar Filmjolk, of the Culinary Cosmological Academy of Sweden.

Even though the scientists only were able to collect two days’ worth of data, those data revealed that much of what we thought we knew about the structure of the butter cookie was altogether too pat. “There’s just a whole lot more butter there than we would have thought, given the dry, almost arid appearance of the pfeffernusse,” stated Filmjolk. “No, we don’t know why. Give us time, for heaven’s sakes. We’re grieving here.” The scientist responded to reporters’ questions somewhat tartly, the strain of the previous days’ frantic work clearly having caught up on him.

Problems arose when the probe, whose batteries were to be recharged by the light of the last remaining incandescent light bulb in Europe (the location of which cannot be disclosed, due to its contraband nature) bounced, upon hitting the surface of the hard, rocklike cookie. When it landed the second time, it dislodged a shower of powdered sugar, which coated the receptacles that were to collect incandescent light, rendering them dysfunctional, not to mention sticky.

The results, to say the least, were devastating for the European team, which had hoped to collect decades of data from the pfeffernusse, which is arguably older than the Twinkie. “The information we could have gained about the origins of matter, time, space and, well, pretty much everything, just by studying the interior of a pfeffernuss, well, gosh, let’s just say that we’re pretty broken up about the whole thing,” said Harald Quark, of the Max Planck Institute of Dairy Science in Schleswig-Holstein.

Amidst all the disappointment, there is some small relief among the scientists who worked on the cookie probe. At least the landing did not destroy the integrity of the cookie, which was still intact after being hit by a probe twice. During previous landing attempts, “that’s the way the cookie crumbled,” reported Quark.

Paul B. Thompson is the W.K. Kellogg Professor of Agricultural, Food and Community Ethics at Michigan State University

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