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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Things that make you go, Hmmmmm....

I’ve been getting reacquainted with my old friend, Insomnia, the past few weeks. Some might take advantage of all that extra time to reorganize closets, create some apps that will make millions of dollars, write a novel, or catch up on important historical television programs like “North and South” Books 1 & 2 which have been airing on Encore.
Someone told me they were on. I didn’t say I actually watched it. Ok. So maybe I caught a few snippets here and there. Don’t judge.
What have I been doing with those extra hours when I’m not getting my bad tv mini-series ON? Well… I’ll tell you.
(By the way, Insomnia and I have lots of conversations like this...and they’re fabulous.)
I think.
I think about lots of things.
Important things.
Like spontaneous combustion.
Do you know dozens of people spontaneously combust each year? It’s just not really widely reported. Just ask Peter James Bond – a drummer for Spinal Tap. Oh, Riiiiight. You can’t ask him. Because he went up like a flash of green light during a Blues /Jazz Festival on the Isle of Lucy.

Poor Peter James Bond. Thinking about that green globule he left behind on his drum seat got me thinking about what else might spontaneously combust besides humans and laptops.
What else spontaneously combusts, you ask? (see… told you insomnia and I have the BEST conversations)
Yes. You read that right. 
Pistachios: Delicious snack, or ticking time bomb?
In fact, pistachios are so likely to burst into flames that there are strict shipping codes to keep them from doing so. I looked into it. I'll attach some links in a bit if you're interested in reading more about it yourself. You're welcome.
Think about THAT next time you’re scarfing down that pistachio-flavored ice cream. Although why would you be eating pistachio ice cream when there are other flavors out there anyway?  Like mint chocolate chip, cookie dough, or vanilla. Maybe you should think about the terrible price of your sweet treat. Sure… it’s cool and sweet – and green – what’s that all about anyway?
But unprocessed pistachios can be dangerous. Under the right conditions, they've been known to heat enough that they spontaneously combust. Yes, you read that right. In fact, ships have a host of conditions they have to meet when they transport pistachios to keep them from going kaboom!
I started doing a little research with all that extra time I have on my hands right now hanging out with Insomnia while the rest of you are sleeping. In fact, there seem to be no end to the ways pistachios can kill. Just having them in an enclosed space can suffocate someone. I know. Right?!? They take in oxygen and excrete carbon dioxide, even after they've been harvested. Ships have to keep them in a well-ventilated place so they don't suck all the air out of a place and suffocate cabin boys.
They also have to be kept under the right temperature and pressure conditions. Pistachios have a low water content and a high fat content. Water doesn't burn, but fat does. There may seem like a logical solution to this. Ships go over oceans, lakes, and rivers, so the humidity should bring up the water content and everything should be okay, right? WRONG!
When the water content in pistachios gets too large, fat-cleaving enzymes kick in. The fat-cleaving enzymes produce free fatty acids, and those fatty acids are broken down when the nut takes in oxygen and spits out carbon dioxide. During that process it also spits out water, which makes more fat-cleaving enzymes kick in. What's more, that process of breaking down the fatty acid, taking in oxygen and putting out carbon dioxide has a more common name - burning. The process gives off a lot of heat, and that heat builds and builds until the entire bunch of nuts catches fire and sometimes explodes!
I’ll close with this… because this is something I know you’re all wondered before too. Because of this danger pistachios, and other nuts, need to be kept at just the right temperature, pressure and humidity on ocean voyages. Otherwise, it's to Davy Jones' locker with all of ye. And there be no pistachio ice cream there.
Ok… Maybe it’s time to cut back on the caffeine a little. 


  1. Nice post Marena. You never fail to crack me up. Who eats pistachio flavoured ice cream when chocolate ice cream exists... is that a thing?

    Love your choice of wording, too. You're a superstar. Out.

    1. Thanks for that, Thalia! Glad you enjoyed it. And yes - pistachio ice cream really is a "thing". I know. Right?!? WHY??? ;-)