Saturday, May 16, 2009

Law of the Conservation of Protein

Well, if you have noticed a certain degree of discontinuity in my entries for the last few weeks, you must have been reading my mail.  I have a few hard disk's of data scattered about my office, beckoning me with the promise of what's within them, but somewhat difficult to crack, due to various problems in hardware and software compatibility (I changed one of my computers over to Linux based operating system, and let me tell you... It's much better in every respect save one: transferring old data from a hard disk that is three years old.  This is mostly 'cus I don't know what I am doing.  And a little because the world is a cruel, cruel place. Yes?)  The point about the data, is that as I have been discovering and reading it, I am using some of it for these entries.  I write to share, always have.  So much of this stuff is in boxes, in my closet (paper form) but I refuse to ever type, or OCR scan it again.  That took a lot of time in the first place.  What you never consider properly, is to take the time to put it on a disk, then put the disk somewhere you can't lose it.  I only started doing that a few years back.  There is a lot of stuff.  So... it's basically a happy problem (and has a solution.)  

I have been meaning for some time to share with you, I mentioned it briefly a few weeks ago, something I learned at IU's Biology Library, four blocks from my door.  The Opera in one direction, the Main Library a bit down from that, The Biology Lab, an easy walk from my door.  I suppose some people would perfectly rationally point out that these things being close to me provide me with nothing very useful to my station in life.  A world of wood and tools and gasoline and machine screws.  Well... I spent years in the world of my work alone, before I came to Bloomington.  I love that world, but it is a Blackbody, without your even feeling it.   You, in accordance with the protocol of your culture lose the heat of your core.  And after a time wonder why, despite your lively capering body, your soul begins to feel depleted.  I will never forget running with my buddy Daniel, down at the circular track off Tenth St., and looking at the mix of Europeans, South Americans and a few of us Yankees as well, playing soccer in the body of the field.  Off in the distance some people were throwing a frisbee.  Here I was running in circles, for a mindless, but somewhat higher purpose than distance...  there was the dangerous, but intoxicating whiff of utopia in the scene.  A scene dependent on so much that wasn't grass and limestone and youth.  But a scene that lived, in stasis, none the less.  So, my selfish little life is built upon it's thin ice of lies.  But I can swim.  Didn't know that, did you?

  I make it sound darkly dramatic, and a bit scandalous, though, of course, a library is but a big room, built large enough to keep the fire marshall happy, despite the ready source of fuel.  

I walked in the Biology Library one night, in route back to my house from dinner with a friend, and per usual thought I would just glance at something, but ended up with a few pages in my notebook about the gastrointestinal differences between ruminants and you and me.  And a little something about a plague on rutabagas.

It has remained something of a miracle to me, ever since I worked at McDonald's as a sixteen year old, that what back then we fried french frys with (by in large, in America), beef tallow, could ever have pretended to come from grass.

My Dad can actually be blamed for peaking my interest in this, due to a very subtle intellectual challenge he gave me by way of saying I wasn't making much sense.  I was talking with my Dad at Christmas time, for some reason about Tempeh, that fungus inoculated grain, or soybean product from Asian tradition.  My claim was that the fungus inherently changed the nutritional profile of the substrate upon which it was introduced, hence a more valuable Tempeh, than the previous handful of rice or beans.  Actually I think I made the point that the fungus was grown only on carbohydrates like rice, and once the fungus has completely populated the volume of rice, the Tempeh was cooked and had more protein than before, and was therefore a valuable part of the diet of people's who had only expensive meat available to them, or religious restrictions to eating meat.  Well.. I was wrong, I know now, since Tempeh is available grown on Soybeans (and just about anything, really.)  But that wasn't my Fathers subtle point to me about my thinking on all things Tempeh.

Dad merely asked me, "How does Tempeh get protein from nowhere?  I mean where does the protein come from such that there is more of it in Tempeh, than there was from the rice?"  To his credit, I had never considered this "law of the conservation of protein in Tempeh" before.   Though, surely, it constituted the largest pillar of my fascination with the whole subject of Tempeh, since I first started thinking about it.  If the magic is the nutritionally superior protein, at the end of the growth of the inoculated fungus, than how does the magic work?  Or is it just possible that the magic of Tempeh, is not about protein, but about flavor, and B-Vitamins, and other gifts of fungus, that I had misinterpreted due to the large place carved in my consciousness for the macro nutrients of protein, carbohydrates, and fats.  Hmmm... I looked a little into this when I returned from my lengthy idle at my Mom and Dad's at Christmas.  Seemed like the smartest way to settle the question would simply be to look into an analysis of a serving of Tempeh (protein, fat, sugars, micronutrients) and make a side by side comparison of an analysis of the same volume of rice.  Looking into this at, I discovered that my annoyingly insightful father, might of had a point.  I guess that chemistry degree he got before going to medical school might have been worthwhile after all.  Too bad. 

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