Culture vulture

Math you can eat!

Math you can eat!

Courtesy Of I. Daphne St. Brie

The wonder stuff
There we were, the lovely I. Daphne St. Brie and self, strolling around the town square of a lightly drizzling Arcata, Calif., browsing the local Farmers’ Market, when what should we see but a physical—vegetal, actually—manifestation of a mathematical concept. The Fibonacci Constant, sometimes referred to as the Golden Mean, the source of fractal imagery, is way beyond our comprehension in abstract terms, but we know one when we see one.

We’d spent the previous day cruising through the Avenue of Giants, pondering the amazing age and serene beauty of that ancient redwood forest. It’s great on a sunny day to drive about halfway through the Avenue to where the trees are shading everything with a sort of soft green filter and to then pull off, park, and hike down a trail a ways, so you’re completely surrounded by trees a hundred or more feet high and at least a few hundred years old.

At this time of year lush green clover is spreading and growing up through the rust-colored fallen redwood fronds, and ferns are at their most lush. Just standing there in the midst of all those trees with their attendant exhibition of vegetative fecundity is enough to pleasantly distract one from the eminent election, the precarious state of world politics and the fragility of our physical environment.

So by the time we ran across this amazing broccoli at the Farmers’ Market our brain was already teeming with thoughts about the awesomely complex and beautiful physical structure of the universe. And then we saw this three-dimensional fractal, sitting with a few other versions of itself right there on a butcher-paper-covered card table under a big blue-and-white umbrella.

It looked too real to be real. A Halloween joke, perhaps. Mathematics dressed up as a vegetable. Naturally we had to buy one. We haven’t named it, being reluctant to name things we plan to eat, but the swirly-headed little veg has definitely achieved favored-organism status in the Culture Vulture World Headquarters refrigerator. Till at least tomorrow at dinner time, anyway.

Oh yeah, it’s called romanesco cauliflower (even though it looks a lot more like a head of broccoli) and was originally cultivated in southern Italy, having been introduced there “before the classic white cauliflower,” according to a Web site I Googled up after getting home.

Next week: How it tastes.

Halloween night on the town
Of course Culture Vulture couldn’t resist going downtown for a while. Time was, and not that many years ago, either, that downtown Chico was a fuming cauldron of fun on Halloween night. While we appreciate the public-safety concerns of local authorities, we also suggest that a portion of the money spent on suppressing the holiday’s fun-loving spirit could have been spent more wisely in creating a civic event designed to enhance the town’s sense of community.