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You Thought We Ran Recipes Just For Fun?


Hell, we thought we ran recipes just for fun. Fun is good. If you can't have fun during your revolution why the fuck bother?

Little did we know....from today's (Jan. 1 2008 that is) Guardian: relaying a question posed to a number of prominent scientists asking "What have you changed your mind about recently?":

What was the turning point in human evolution?

Richard Wrangham, British anthropologist who studied under Jane Goodall. Now at Harvard University, his research includes primate behaviour and human evolution.

"I used to think that human origins were explained by meat-eating. After all, the idea that meat-eating launched humanity has been the textbook evolutionary story for decades, mooted even before Darwin was born.

"But in a rethinking of conventional wisdom I now think that cooking was the major advance that turned ape into human ... Cooked food is the signature feature of human diet. It not only makes our food safe and easy to eat, but it also grants us large amounts of energy compared to a raw diet,

obviating the need to ingest big meals. Cooking softens food too, thereby making eating so speedy that as eaters of cooked food, we are granted many extra hours of free time every day."

We are ahead of the crowd, folks. Who knows what we will come up next which will finally filter through to the great scientists of our day?

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Sarah's picture
Submitted by Sarah on

Pumpkin Doughnuts

1 egg
2/3 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
3 tablespoons butter melted
3/4 cup canned pumpkin
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 cups sifted all purpose flour
Vegetable oil for frying

Preheat a deep fryer or heavy skillet with 3-4 inches of vegetable oil to a temperature of 375 degrees F. An electric skillet with heat control works well for donuts.

In a medium bowl beat the egg until foamy then beat in the buttermilk, sugar, brown sugar, butter and pumpkin. Next, stir in the baking powder, spices and salt.

Add flour 1/2 cup at a time until dough holds together and is not too wet. Add more or less flour as needed.

Turn dough onto a floured surface and roll to about 1/3 to 1/2-inch thickness; cut into strips about 4-5'' long by about 1/2'' thick, and twist into rings, pinching ends shut (this avoids "holes" and "scraps" and "rerolling").

Fry doughnuts in batches in the hot oil until lightly browned on one side, about 2-3 minutes. Do not crowd pan. Turn and cook an additional 1 to 2 minutes on the other side. Remove donuts from oil with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel lined cooling racks.

Serve donuts warm as is, or while still warm roll donuts in a mixture of 1/2 cup sugar mixed with 1 teaspoon cinnamon.

Makes about 18 doughnuts.

quick glaze: generous pinch cardamom, tablespoon fresh lemon juice, 12 oz powdered sugar -- mix well, and drizzle over warm donuts.

We can admit that we're killers ... but we're not going to kill today. That's all it takes! Knowing that we're not going to kill today! ~ Captain James T. Kirk, Stardate 3193.0

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

was not the expert in "primate biology and human evolution" they went to for an answer to the question of "what big subject have you changed your mind about."

Really a good article, hope people click through and read not just the Guardian piece but the site they swiped it from. I'm having trouble navigating it but you gotta love a place with the motto

When thinking changes your mind, that's philosophy.
When God changes your mind, that's faith.
When facts change your mind, that's science.

Consider a wineglass hoisted in their direction from the wilds of west Tennessee...

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

The same year he invented blue jeans.

Bada-boom, clang.

Because old mythemes die hard.

Claude’s triangle of cookery:

Lévi-Strauss’ brilliance is all the more impressive if you know that he spent only a few weeks doing field work in the jungles of Brazil, was scarcely able to converse with any of the tribes on which he based his theses, and essentially cobbled it all together from whole cloth. He makes Margaret Meade’s noodling look like a child’s daydreams. A fantastic mind, in every sense of the word.

This was a sweet read, xan, in ways outside of Sarah’s doughnuts. I took my anthropology from a Dr. Sherwood Washburn, easily the most brilliant anthropologist and one of the most exceptional scientists who ever lived and a consumate gentleman, who taught me among many things to doubt both Levi-Strauss and Meade and he was right about both of them. Washburn was an early supporter of and inspiration for Jane Goodall, whose raw films he showed us as soon as he received copies. Goodall in turn taught Richard Wrangham, the British anthropologist you read about in the Guardian and the inspiration for your post. There are no degrees of separation.

If anyone has a moment the work of Helena Cronin, also mentioned in the Guardian piece, is fascinating and explains much that has been opaque about human social dynamics.

Happy New Year to all.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

A couple of observations and questions. You may be able to eat cooked food faster but then you spend extra time cooking it. Sounds like a wash to me. Did smoking or salting meat as a means of preserving it develop before or after we learned to cook? Smoked meat (pemmican or what we call jerky) is what the Plains Indians lived on in the winter. Dessicating a big kill made it lighter to carry and ensured a steady diet as they followed the buffalo herds south with no guarantee when the next big kill would be.

They've been able to discern that early man in Europe ate lots of fish while neanderthals only ate land animals. The old wives' tale says fish is "brainfood". The oceans were full of fish and it was an easy source of protein. Did that have something to do with development of the human brain? Why didn't neanderthals eat fish? Were they afraid of the ocean? Did we keep them from the shore by force? Was fish a taboo to them for religious, cultural or biological reasons? Did the lack of fish in their diets or the preponderance of it in ours have something to do with our ascendance and their demise?

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Not sure where you're going with this markg8. You range across a vast span of time as well as space for starters. Neandertals are, last I heard, not officially considered "human" as in Homo Sapiens, which is the species under discussion here.

The question of fish is a little weird: fish bones are more delicate and less likely to survive I would think than bones of more robust land animals, even mice or lizards. Neandertals are believed to have largely died out more than 50,000 years ago so remains of their dining areas are going to be older than those of h. sapiens. Maybe they did eat fish and we just havent' discovered the evidence. As to their "cultural and religious" beliefs...I don't know of evidence that they had any, aside from some indications that they buried their dead (sometimes with objects). I don't in any case think they consistently used fire so they don't seem relevant to a discussion of cooking.

"Eating" foods is not the question either; obviously everybody ate something or they died of starvation. Why would fish-eating require access to the ocean? Much easier to obtain freshwater fish in streams and lakes--nets, weirs and the like are much easier to construct than oceangoing watercraft.

Smoking requires, duh, fire, so that constitutes a form of cooking, so I think you are arguing against yourself there. Simple drying does not but it requires either low temperatures or low humidity, otherwise the flesh will simply rot if not stolen by scavengers. Salting for preservation works in a wider range of climates but still needs a fair level of technology more suited to settled peoples than roaming ones.

I do agree that the matter of preservation is high on the list of Inventions That Made A Big Damn Difference, though. I have in fact long argued that the ability to make water- and vermin-proof storage devices had to go hand in hand with the cultivation of crops to make settled "civilization" (as opposed to roaming hunter-gatherer sorts) possible.

You raise some interesting questions. Anthropology is one of those subjects so big that there's always something new to learn, not to mention new discoveries being made which can lead to the changing of minds (getting back on topic.) Thanks for stopping by. ;)

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

...On why humans evolved -
1) Opposable thumbs
2) An inability to lick one's own genitals.

Just sayin'...

Sarah's picture
Submitted by Sarah on

We can admit that we're killers ... but we're not going to kill today. That's all it takes! Knowing that we're not going to kill today! ~ Captain James T. Kirk, Stardate 3193.0

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

...of yoga, perv! ;-)

Nah, IMHO civilization came about as we discovered we needed another to lick our genital regions for us. Well that, & toilet paper...

p.s. I have four cats - I KNOW

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Perhaps 'tis I owned by the four.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Kitchen-tested, no less, with some fire-breathing curry powder straight from the Brixton Market. Delisch!

An Indian curried green bean dish which was delicious and quite spicy. (Masaledar sem)

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

...because they were a hominid species that didn't survive while we did. We're talking about turning points in human evolution and apparently one of them was our varied diet as a ice age set in. A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences measured the diet of Neanderthals by measuring the isotopic ratios of nitrogen in skulls and jawbones recovered from a cave in Croatia. They were adept hunters and 90% of their diet was meat of land animals. 30% of early man's diet was fish.
Here's the link:

Submitted by lambert on

[rimshot. laughter]

Were they over on my Obama thread?

[x] Any (D) in the general. [ ] Any mullah-sucking billionaire-teabagging torture-loving pus-encrusted spawn of Cthulhu, bless his (R) heart.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

...but I swear the guitar player in a band I was in back in high school was neanderthal. Nice guy, good guitar player, brow ridge out to here.

Jeez lambert what are you gonna do with yourself when Obama wins the nomination? More importantly what will Edwards do? Let's say Edwards doesn't win what would you like to see him do in the future? Take
a cabinet position in the Democratic administration? Go back to his poverty program? Write op-eds and make speeches and bide his time til 12 or 16? It's gonna take more than 8 years to fix the damage Republicans have caused over the last 27 years. We're gonna need another great president. If he doesn't get it I hope whatever he does he stays viable.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Thanks for that one. Anthro is not at all my field, other than a life of reading any science I can get my hands on and understand. So a citation back to an original paper is greatly appreciated.

One of your original points I forgot to mention though is that you say

You may be able to eat cooked food faster but then you spend extra time cooking it. Sounds like a wash to me.

I wonder if it wasn't more that the fire was already there, for purposes of warmth in camp, discouragement of wandering predators, etc.

One day somebody drops a haunch of oryx leg, detached from the corpse with an everyday flint axe, on a rock surrounding the fire pit. He curses, eats some raw liver instead. Later somebody else--maybe an older member of the tribe, an ancient of 30 or so, whose teeth are badly worn down and hasn't been getting much nutrition lately-- salvages the "wasted" meat and gets the shock of a lifetime when it's not just tasty as hell but a lot easier on the sore dentition.

I can see how such procedures could catch on. The tribal elder, feeling perkier, does better on the next hunt and doesn't get tossed out of the tribe to go sing a death chant and wait to be eaten by wolves. She is helpful with the children and starts showing them this new thing. Maybe she even uses this Put Meat On Rock tactic to save a child whose mother has died when nobody else was lactating, and the child in turn lives.

Damn, I don't mean to start a "Clan of the Cave Bear" Pleistocene fiction piece here but you see what I mean. The topic originally was "What Have Scientists Recently Changed Their Minds About." Changing your mind is always risky and always has been, particularly if you are going against the Way Things Have Always Been, Meaning They Are Ordained Thusly By The Gods.

The current lust for change, the notion that new is always better, may be overdone in ways that work to our detriment, but as a race we may just be wallowing in a very rare situation. We need to calm down now of course, and figure out a way to balance progress with sustainability.

Damn, I meant to just post the history of Hoppin' John and got distracted. Maybe next time. Hint: it comes from slaves, via Madagascar thanks to those who knew how to grow rice properly, and before that from Persia. Karen Hess has a very persuasive case.

Submitted by lambert on

Work like a dog to elect him, of course. Check the sig.

[x] Any (D) in the general. [ ] Any mullah-sucking billionaire-teabagging torture-loving pus-encrusted spawn of Cthulhu, bless his (R) heart.

chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on

xan, what about the "sky father" theory of cooked food? Tribal Religious Wanderer is out one day, sojourning with the sky father and his windy voice. there's a nice hunk of oryx on the stone slab at the top of high holy place. then, BOOM! sky father shows his favor and cooks the sucker, flash fry speed. TRW is shocked, thrown back and a little shaken, but damn, does that smell good or what? she takes a nibble.

...later, she becomes First Matriarch of the first ordered civilization, but that's another story...

BIO, would you clarify:

Lévi-Strauss’ brilliance is all the more impressive if you know that he spent only a few weeks doing field work in the jungles of Brazil, was scarcely able to converse with any of the tribes on which he based his theses, and essentially cobbled it all together from whole cloth.

we can all agree this is no real way to do "research," yes? i'm not going to denigrate LS, until i write as well and as much i don't have the creds to do so. but i will say how unimpressed i am by people who waltz into an area/people/subject, not speaking the language (be it mathematical, scientific or spoken), not spending the longs weeks immersed in the material...i hope you get my drift.

cooked food is a very political subject these days, which is fascinating to me. myself: i am a raw food advocate. not an extremist, i think you've got to clean and properly prepare your food because it's literally unsafe these days. but if it is safe, fresh food (when and why did we start calling it "raw?") is best. i don't know how people learned to start cooking it, but i do know what happens to food when cooked. a lot of its vitality is lost, vitamins and fiberous aspect and whatnot. food becomes less potent.

now, if you're Elder on the Verge of being Left Behind, that's not a bad thing. but if you're obese-american? no, our modern food is much, much too processed. indeed, from a nutritional standpoint, it's Unfood. mushed, mixed, processed, poisoned. did you know that it takes more calories to eat and process fresh celery than you get from consuming it? a neat diet trick, if you know the right foods. nsa stop playing with my computer
also, you get a vitamin 'punch' from freshly made juices and uncooked veges you can't get when they've been heated. basic chemisty.

/percieves glossing-over eyes/ where was i? oh, yes, fresh food tastes good, i try to eat it when i can. i grill a lot, i eat rare steak. cooking is an art, and i am impressed with all the people who are so good at it here. i like stew, anybody got a novel recipe? it's winter, and slow cooking food is the best thing in the world with which to warm the house.

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

CD stopping by is always a breath of fresh air, like an open door in winter; bracing, but in a good way.

CD writes: “BIO, would you clarify:

(me) ‘Lévi-Strauss’ brilliance is all the more impressive if you know that he spent only a few weeks doing field work in the jungles of Brazil, was scarcely able to converse with any of the tribes on which he based his theses, and essentially cobbled it all together from whole cloth. ‘”

CD again: “we can all agree this is no real way to do “research,” yes? i’m not going to denigrate LS, until i write as well and as much i don’t have the creds to do so. but i will say how unimpressed i am by people who waltz into an area/people/subject, not speaking the language (be it mathematical, scientific or spoken), not spending the longs weeks immersed in the material…i hope you get my drift.”

Not sure what you saw as “denigrating” exactly; disagreement is not the same as denigration, and certainly terms like “brilliance”, “impressive” and “fantastic” are not to my mind readily interpretable as harsh negatives (as opposed to, say, “unimpressed” or “waltz in.”) That Levi-Strauss was capable of synthesizing an enormously influential philosophical approach that not only challenged but overthrew established orthodoxy across multiple disciplines is entirely impressive. That he did so with no formal training and limited field experience (on re-reading my brief comment, in all accuracy I should have written “he spent only a few weeks with each studied tribe while doing field work in the jungles…”) and in the face of extraordinary upheaval in his personal life is even more remarkable. His intellect is astonishing, his communication skills superlative, his genius a rare light. However; there are flaws, and to simply stand back and admire the entirely of his work without question would be both subservient and a disservice to the very process of challenge and questioning at the core of his own efforts – I hope you get my drift.

Structuralism fails at several levels in anthropology as well as psychology and the other social sciences because it depends on viewing human intellect as digital when it is entirely analog. This is most clearly seen in Levi-Strauss’ work in his theory of mythemes, which depends on the sets of definitions that are established prior to analysis and that then drive the analysis itself; choose other definitions and the analytical results are also different – it is self-referential and based on undocumented assumptions, not based on fundamentals which are, and shall likely remain, unknowns. This is not to say that structuralism as a whole, or Levi-Strauss’ work specifically, is without worth; as one of a number of ways of perceiving patterns and relationships it is certainly very useful but only with a recognition of its inherent limitations.

In full disclosure I will freely admit that I am nothing more than an avid amateur on the topic, with little formal training and an interest that extends only slightly beyond utility in the pursuit of my own barely tangential passions. Thus, I must beg forgiveness for not expressing whatever code words are expected by more sophisticated initiates to the higher mysteries such as your self. Please, dear CD, lay out for me the exact number of peer-reviewed publications and the precise level of writing skill necessary to validate critiques so that I may self-censor; I wouldn’t want to lower the tenor of the blog by clumsily waltzing through with any more such casual commentary.

The promised speculation, on topic: I think the most likely first encounter with cooked food, both meat and plant, would have come in the aftermath of wildfires. Such events would be devastating to hunter-gatherers of all sorts, including protohumans, as unchecked fire destroyed raw plant life while driving game far, far away. While the survivors traversed such a nightmarish landscape they would have perforce scavenged any remaining edible plant residues as well as the cooked meat of animals who did not escape the flames. Prior to having the ability to start fire on their own, our ancestors would have been from their world view entirely justified in seeing both fire itself and cooked food as an act of mixed blessing delivered from the gods, whether father-god/sky/lightening or mother-god/earth/volcano.

Such magical thinking is deeply buried in our hard-wired hindbrain and was only overcome in a widespread cultural way a few hundred years ago; it will take a long time before most humans are able to change our minds and deal with the realities of our existence without subservience to mythological constructs. But what do I know; I’m just an amateur, waltzing dizzily in the field.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

But like you I always read what I can about science. I'm particularly curious about questions like why the neanderthals died off. Did we wipe them out? Assimilate them? Did they fail to adapt to the changing environment?

As for cooking meat, has it been established when it started? Was it relatively modern man or further back in history? Be my guess too it started by accident like most discoveries but I'll bet it was after some large conflagration on a savannah somewhere when human survivors at the edge of the fire couldn't find any live game as the animals had all fled the flames and ate the cooked ones that didn't get away.

There's nothing wrong with changing your mind. The ability to adapt and change is one of humanity's best features. We're at one of those turning points in history where we must as a species adapt or perish. It wouldn't be nearly as dramatic as that sounds if Gore became president in 2001. A lot of what we need to do would be in progress today. That doesn't mean we throw the bay out with the bathwater but some of these changes like energy generation are going to be huge societal undertakings that will require the whole world to buy in.

CD you're making me hungry.

chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on


no no no, silly thing. i did not mean that i thought that you "denigrated" LS, i only meant to say that i would not dream of doing so myself. heh, i've had my ass handed to me enough times in the classroom by those who are conversant with his work to know better.

no, the point isn't that he was brilliant. he was, his work rocks, no matter what the flaws (and there are quite a few, factually speaking). the point is that only one in a thousand have the sheer, towering intellect needed to go and spend a couple of weeks with an entirely new people, not knowing the language, history or culture well, and come away from the experience with lasting and meaningful things to say about it. so in effect i'm praising him even more than you did.

...but. let me be a big old snob, and say that there are way too many Serious academics and public intellectuals who are unqualified to speak about foreign cultures, but who do so anyway. "academics" and "theorists" who lie, cheat, steal and fake/fuck their way to power and publication. real research- the hard, old fashioned, slog thru months of near-fruitless labor before reaching a tiny and miniscule conclusion kind of research- that's a mortally wounded beast in this country today.

today, plaigiarizers and frauds populate our airwaves. they are touted by press and politician alike as "experts." they live off a two degrees of kevin bacon taxpayer funded gravy train, welfare for the trustifairian looser too fat and slow witted and unpretty to marry well or survive in the real world. people who sully otherwise fine institutions by their foul, forced association. people who use the resources their educations provide to fuck over the helpless and shit on the weak. i despise such people, obviously. i believe they are slowly killing the american academe. but then again, so has every other bitter, failed academic. ;-)

whatever, let's talk about ginzburg. i loved 'the night battles.' and i think he's got so much to say about politics and religion.

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

Thanks CD for clarifying; perhaps I need to do something about healing over my chronic wounds. Feel free to call me baby and cuddle any time.

Funny things, academic environments; at Berkeley in the 60’s you were far more likely to be chastised for not challenging conventional wisdom than for toeing the established line. Happy to note you have found a milieu where you are comfortable expressing yourself. :-) L-S is pushing 100 now, and his precepts have long since fallen from grace; you can rip on him without fear of repercussion.

I’m always uneasy with the microhistories because so much depends on context and without all of the surrounding information I never feel comfortable with how much of what’s presented is selective, and in what way. So much ignorance on my part, so little time.

Xan wants mind-changing experiences here and I’m fresh out for today.

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

Maybe one more story.

So coming from a very equalitarian, pro-integration background and a local culture where racial discrimination of any kind was frowned upon, I took my first trip to New York City the week of the Watts riots, August of 1965, and dutifully followed the blurry faxed instructions that seemed to tell me to take a subway train to 125th Street; I looked over the map and chose the #6 to 125th at Lexington.

Walking into the blinding sunshine with my blue eyes and pasty white face it took a few moments to realize that everyone around me was definitely not white, and they were all staring at me with expressions that could not be interpreted as friendly. I was very much an unwelcome visitor in a foreign country.

A very kind black policeman took me in hand with the words “You don’t want to stay here.” and sent me back downstairs with the firm admonition to get on the next train back to wherever I came from. It was my first experience with what it means to be a minority in a hostile environment and forever changed my mind about what that feels like. I do not recommend it.

chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on

you perhaps have inferred, thru my writings, that i am literally, a Product of your Time?

heh. dad's best story: having a white nat guard officer poke a rifle in his gut and call him "nigger lover" for trying to get mom out of the 'hood during the riots, dad who was a vet and decorated in intel and combat stuff. mom's best story: having a CBS producer talk to her about the right way to align her legs on teevee, because the white wimmin were so short and it would look bad to have them all sitting there next to mom's legs looking so long. you can guess why mom got a long running gig as teevee reporter, i'm sure.

anyhoo- the point is that you "integrationists" are so cute. do you know that people like me, literally and physically "like me," are realizing your dream? are we failing? i guess you can tell me. but for people like me, young people, urban people, poor people, "race" is losing meaning. what was it you all were fighting over, back in the olde days? i asked mom recently, and you know what she said?

the "integrationist" civil rights movement was mostly about sex. heh.

sorry, i'm being silly and sassy tonight, so ignore me. /erases other stuff/

let's talk about this later, when i can represent properly. you've felt different? cool. so has everyone else. the trick and point is:

to make that experience seen the same for all of us, no matter what our "difference." for some reason, we have no problems seeing 'all cats are grey.' why then are various shades of human primates so different? beats me.

Submitted by lambert on

As it were. My French is a little rusty these days.

If "race" is dying as a category, to be replaced by a various experiences in different shades of flesh...

That would be a good thing.

Of course, women are vessels, so that part is safe at least [covers crotch]

[x] Any (D) in the general. [ ] Any mullah-sucking billionaire-teabagging torture-loving pus-encrusted spawn of Cthulhu, bless his (R) heart.

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

When it appeared that I was going to have a Product of My Time but it was a false alarm, mercy for us all to tell the truth. Sex, you can’t imagine; nothing like a riot to crank up the juices. Something about affirmation of continued existence, or some such psychobabble. I don’t know that we integrationists are all so cute, but we damn sure are earnest.

Sometimes in my life, change has happened over months, years, so gradually it is impossible to pin down exactly when it occurred. Other times, more like (god help me, here come the comments) an electric shock right through the brain, snap, and everything is different than it was and it will never be the same again.

I was raised with bigotry, beyond measure, against everyone who wasn’t white-on-white Missouri Synod Lutheran; everyone else was the spawn of satan, damned to hell eternal. None of that made any sense to me, like breaking out from underwater to get away the summer of my seventeenth year. Took a long time to accept that in the creases of my mind that indoctrination can’t be erased, won’t ever disappear; the best that can be done is to recognize it and move past. Like mentally dragging one leg, I can negotiate around but there’s always that nagging susurration to deal with. My kids, especially the younger ones, and their friends are as near as I can tell indifferent to race and sexual persuasion. There is still the economic residuum, no small challenge, but yes, the mind-set has changed and that’s the big one; the rest will follow. I never in my lifetime actually expected to see a Barak Obama taken seriously.

Take up with me when and as it pleases you, be as silly and sassy as you like I can’t be shocked. I suppose I should stop thinking now about your mother’s long, long legs; that was very naughty of you to mention – again and again.

Sweet dreams.