(Roughly) Daily

Burning Man…

Jessica Warner’s Craze : Gin And Debauchery In An Age Of Reason contains what the author suggests is a complete list of victims of spontaneous human combustion in literature from 1798 to 1893:

  • The narrator’s father in Wieland by Charles Brockden Brown (1798)
  • William the Testy in Knickerbocker’s History Of New York by Washington Irving (1809)
  • A woman in Jacob Faithful by Captain Marryat (1834)
  • A blacksmith in Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol (1842)
  • Sir Polloxfen Tremens in The Glenmutchkin Railway by William Edmondstoune Aytoun (1845)
  • The sailor Miguel Saveda in Redburn by Herman Melville (1849)
  • Mr Krook in Bleak House by Charles Dickens (1852-53)
  • The whisky-sodden and derelict Jimmy Flinn in Life On The Mississippi by Mark Twain (1883)
  • A character in Docteur Pascal by Emile Zola (1893)

(One admires the discipline with which Warner excludes the female cook in Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre (1847), who was merely “in a frame of mind and body threatening spontaneous combustion”…)

[TotH to Dabbler; illustration above– from Bleak House, showing the discovery of Mr. Krook’s “remains”– via The Guardian]

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As we retreat to the other end of the thermometer, we might recall that it was on this date in 1927 that Clarence Birdseye patented “fish fingers” in the U.K.  Birdseye had already patented a range of “flash-freezing” processes and devices, inspired by his experiences as a biologist and trapper in Labrador earlier in the century.  He had noticed that while slow freezing creates ice crystals in frozen foods– crystals that, when thawed, create sogginess– meat exposed to the extremely cold temperatures in the Canadian North– frozen essentially instantly– didn’t create internal ice, and were as tasty when thawed months later as fresh.  Birdseye created quick-frozen vegetables and meats as a storable option to fresh.  But “fish fingers,” later introduced in the U.S. as “fish sticks,” were his inaugural product created expressly to be frozen.

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