In Pursuit Of (useful) Knowledge

The sheer volume of information with which our brains are bombarded on a daily basis is pretty astounding.

Of course, given that much of it is gleaned from social media puts validity into question. I tend to approach much of what I read with a grain of skepticism, but sometimes it’s hard not to get sucked in.

My hope is that my brain absorbs at least one new bit of (valid) information each day. Sometimes that information comes to me in a roundabout way.

For instance, friend Gretchen O’Donnell, a freelance writer for the Daily Globe, declared on her Facebook timeline, “I am a recovering cilantro-hater.” Since I am also a cilantro hater with no desire for recovery, I felt the urge to chime in, explaining that the herb in question tastes like soap.

Lo and behold, a couple hours later, another of Gretchen’s Facebook friends shared an article from the Huffington Post that explains why some people love cilantro and others, like me, think it tastes like soap.

The article links to a video from SciShow, a YouTube show during which the hosts “delve into the scientific subjects that defy our expectations and make us even more curious.” Evidently they were curious about cilantro, and so was I.

While the video went into a more lengthy explanation, the gist of it, as summed up in the article, is that I have genes to blame for my cilantro disdain. Between 4 to 14 percent of the population has the “soapy” reaction to the herb.

SciShow host Hank Green explains that after conducting a few separate studies, scientists determined that most cilantro haters have a shared group of olfactory-receptor genes, called OR6A2, that are sensitive to the smell of aldehyde chemicals — which are found in both cilantro and soap.

Now I know. I will continue to put basil in my fresh salsa instead of cilantro.

Here are a couple other things that I’ve found of interest this week:

* The U.S. State Department offers a free Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). This was of interest to me because one of my siblings now travels overseas often for work while the other is planning a trip abroad, and Hubby Bryan and I would like to expand our horizons with more foreign travel in the future.

STEP allows U.S. citizens traveling abroad to enroll their trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate so they can receive important information about safety conditions in the destination country and make informed decisions about travel plans; help the Embassy contact you in the event of a natural disaster, civil unrest or family emergency; and help family and friends get in touch with you in an emergency.

Such a service seems like a good safeguard in the wake of recent happenings. Go to https://step.state.gov/step/.

* The most saved recipe of all time on the Food Network website is Giada De Laurentiis’ Lemon Ricotta Cookies. Since I’m a lemon lover, that makes me think I need to give this recipe a try.

Lemon Ricotta Cookies

2½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
One 15-ounce container whole milk ricotta cheese
3 tablespoons lemon juice
Zest from 1 lemon
Glaze:
1½ cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
Zest from 1 lemon
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
In a large bowl combine the butter and the sugar and beat with electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until incorporated. Add the ricotta cheese, lemon juice and lemon zest. Beat to combine. Stir in the dry ingredients.
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Spoon the dough, about 2 tablespoons for each cookie, onto the baking sheets. Bake for 15 minutes, until slightly golden at the edges. Remove from the oven and let the cookies rest on the baking sheet for 20 minutes.
For the glaze, combine the powdered sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest in a small bowl and stir until smooth. Spoon about ½ teaspoon onto each cookie and use the back of the spoon to gently spread. Let the glaze harden for about 2 hours before placing into a storage container.