Monday, August 24, 2009


Medicine names often come in two parts, the main name and a second word that I suppose indicates the class of chemical, such as hydrochloride (Prozac, for example, is fluoxetine hydrochloride). I recently discovered a medicine with an unusual second word, "malate," which prompted me to look it up. Malate is a form of malic acid, a chemical that gives sour fruits their flavour. The name is derived from the Latin "malum," apple, because of its presence in green apples. Apparently it is an important substance in biochemistry, although I don't understand any of the technical reasons. But it is interesting that food manufacturers often add malate to foods to give them a sour or tart flavour.

Malate is also found in grapes, some of which my wife grew this year in our yard. You don't realize just how tasteless store-bought grapes are until you taste home-grown grapes. Store-bought grapes are also big and juicy, but they hardly have any flavour. My wife's grapes are small and have seeds in them, but they have a strong grape flavour. The seeds are a bit of a pain, as they adhere to the fleshy part of the grape, making it hard to separate them so you can enjoy the flavour. But, what a flavour! You have not tasted grapes until you have tried some like these. I can only assume that wine grapes are more like these, or else wines would taste like water.

Today is St. Bartholmew's Day (St. Bart to his friends), and therefore the anniversary of the massacre of that name that occurred 437 years ago in Paris. It not only led Henry of Navarre, later Henry IV, to convert to Catholicism to save himself, but it was also one of the decisive events in French history. Considering the rate at which Protestantism had been growing to that time, absent some decisive action it might have become the dominant religion; or else France might have been plunged into civil wars even more serious than the ones they actually experienced in the second half of the 16th century.

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