Gourmet Grande Dame was unable to attend the lecture at the Carlyle Hotel, so I subbed for her; it was one of a series sponsored by Columbia University’s Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute (“ZMBBI”). Got to rub elbows with Nobel winners in neuroscience. Not too shabby.
Won’t burden you with the topic of the evening. Confession: I downed way too many glasses of cabernet — even for me — to remember. But it was impressive as all get out. (I think.)
Packed Ritter Sport minis in my bag. Wanted to appear demure while nibbling. Dame insisted that I be on my best behavior.
At the end of the talk, Dr. Thomas Jessel, one of the co-founders of the ZMBBI and winner of the 2013 Scolnick Prize in Neuroscience, gave a closing address. He spoke about the defining characteristics of a scientist: a curious mind, a passion for his subject; and the overwhelming desire/drive to make a contribution. We needn’t be Motimer Zuckermans or Jerome L. Greene Foundations (each of whom donated $200 million.) He assured us that the ZMBBI would be most grateful for whatever amount we gave. His appeal was understated, elegant, and powerful. What gal with a heart and soul wouldn’t whip out her checkbook for the chance to support the contributions of the men and women whose genius and tireless research are expected to find cures for Alzheimer’s, Lou Gehrig’s disease, and other debilitating and tragic illnesses within the next 10 to 12 years?
I went up to Dr. Jessel (he of the helluva British accent) after the lecture and handed him my check along with my business card.
“The name’s Galore. Candace Galore. Private Investigator for the specialty food trade and award-winning celebrity bloggess. Care for some Ritter Sport?” I offered him a Ritter Sport Yogurt and Praline Mini. “You should have a square of the Yogurt first — tangy — followed by a chaser of the Praline square — sweet. It’s the all time finest chocolate combo ever.”
“Ah, Ritter Sport. Superb,” he said.
“I understand your specialty is synaptic plasticity and its relationship to motor functions,” I said. (Had done a bit of Googling the moment I heard that velvety accent.)
“Gotta curious thing going on. I seem to lose control of my motor functions whenever I hear John Donne’s erotic poetry. Any off-hand insight?”
He thought. Quite a bit of time elapsed, but since I happen to get jazzed while watching demigods engage in thought processes, I stood patiently waiting while we both worked our way through our Ritter Sport Minis.
Finally, he spoke.
License my roving hands and let them go,
Before, behind, between, above, below.
O my America! my new-found land,
My kingdom, safeliest when with one man mann’d,
My Mine of precious stones, My Empirie,
How blest am I in this discovering thee!
To enter in these bonds, is to be free;
Then where my hand is set, my seal shall be.**
He helped me up off the thickly carpeted floor.
“See?!” I said.
“Hmmmm. Have you consumed Ritter Sport during these recitations?”
“It’s only happened a few times, but yes, coincidentally.”
“Chocolate affects our brains, as does a symphony, a great painting, a poem. The combination of Ritter Sport and John Donne appears to have a more potent effect on you than does just the combination of a Yogurt and Praline mini.”
“Huh.” That was as sophisticated a reply as I could muster.
“Given the industry work you do, you should attend next month’s lecture. Charles Zucker will be presenting his findings on the taste system, how the brain’s receptors, neurons, and circuits respond to sweet, bitter, umami, salty, and sour stimuli.”
“All righty. Here, have some for the road.” Handed him a sleeve of Ritter Sport Minis. “See you next month, then. Ta.”
Note to self: find an audio download of Donne’s sonnets recorded by a British actor; mix with Ritter Sport; add a bottle of cabernet at my own risk.
**Excerpt from John Donne Elegy: To His Mistress on Going to Bed