Saturday, March 30, 2024

Grab the vermiculite and the wheat berries! It's Easter!

As Easter hops closer, I thought I'd post an Easter idea from the demented Cook and Learn (Beverly Veitch and Thelma Harms, illustrations and calligraphy by Gerry and Tia Wallace, 1981), a book intended to teach classes full of children about cooking. If you're expecting the book to show kids how to dye eggs using natural colors or make Easter "candy" out of some bullshit like dried milk powder, carob, and dates, I can see why you'd think that. It's consistent with this book's natural-foods ethos. However, the plan is even more disappointing than either of those ideas. 

It's a Living Easter Basket! This "recipe" is not actually for something the kids are supposed to eat. It's just a plan to use vermiculite (a hydrous phyllosilicate mineral that can be used as a soilless growing medium and was known for frequently being contaminated with asbestos up until the 1990s, at least if Wikipedia is to be believed) to sprout wheat berries into "grass" to fill a berry basket. So... non-edible treat sprouted in a possible carcinogen, inside an Easter basket that is waaay too small to hold much of anything fun anyway? (The book suggests "hiding" plain old eggs in the kids' baskets. So much fun to "find" eggs in a different container than the usual egg carton!) The more I look at this book, the more I see it as a primer for just how disappointing life tends to be. Grit your teeth, kids! Better get used to hoping for a big basket with candy and/or toys peeking out through colorful Easter grass and actually receiving a few boring-ass eggs in a berry basket full of damp sprouted wheat berries with a possible side of asbestos. You get to put up with this kind of bullshit for 70-or-so more years if you're lucky! Happy Easter, indeed.


  1. I remember using vermiculite in my high school botany class. Hopefully it was late enough into the 90s that it wasn't full of asbestos. Of course, there were still the classmates who insisted on using the poles for opening the windows to carve their name on the asbestos ceiling in the English room even though they were told repeatedly that it was full of asbestos and asbestos was hazardous. Somehow, I think that even though those boys are in their mid 40s now, they probably still don't understand that some of the things they do for fun or to leave their mark are dangerous (or supremely annoying to others). At least the chemistry teacher figured out how to get kids to leave his asbestos ceiling alone. He periodically filled balloons with hydrogen and torched them in class. This is why hydrogen was used to make airships. It floats. This is why they stopped using it. POOF!

    1. Those guys sound like they could be a symbol of social forces that show up all too often....