It can happen in any creative field. Something old becomes new because of how it is used or how it is presented. It can happen in any field, but last week it happened to me in the classroom and in the kitchen.
My students were trying to come up with new numeration systems. I showed them different bases. I showed them gray codes. I showed them the Fibonacci numeration system. They had a hard time coming up with something new. For some, the best they could do was to create new symbols for an old system such as base 5. I complained about this to them. Then, oddly, I did the same thing myself, and without embarrassment.
Some background: I had been wondering if one could create a numeration system in which multiplication was intuitive and easy. That’s not the case for any of the systems mentioned previously. It takes a lot of work to teach the average third-grader to multiply.
I suppose you could invent a system based on primes. Multiplication might be easy there. But then addition would be a mess. I wanted both—easy addition, easy multiplication.
And then, surprisingly, I got both. But it’s an old system. Here’s the idea. A dot represents the number 1.
A closed curve doubles whatever is inside it.
I think the reader can see the connection to binary. The binary 11011, for example, is just
Going from left to right, the dots are worth 16, 8, 2, and 1 for a total of 27. The picture above is the numeral for 27, and 27 is the value of 11011 in binary. I call the system “amoeba.” You’ll see why in a moment.
Now, multiplication. My idea was that if you want to multiply, say, 6 by 7,
then you simply replace every dot in one numeral with the other numeral. In the case above, replacing the dots in 6 with 7’s gives you:
But we’re not done yet. If we allowed pictures like this, then numbers wouldn’t be represented uniquely. To ensure uniqueness, I insist that the curves are all nested. I also insist that no more than one dot appear in any region.
Fixing this numeral above goes like this: A circle on the left goes up to a circle on the right,
and they do something affectionate.
And now we have two dots in one region. So of course the dots get together.
It’s love. They produce a baby and disappear.
This just begs to be animated. And in fact, it can be if you go to my website.
And now there’s another romance.
And another baby.
you get the numeral for 421. The other way works too—putting the numeral for 6 in place of every dot in the numeral for 7.
I think you can see that addition is even easier. You just put the numerals together and let nature take its course.
I have to say multiplication isn’t fast. But it is intuitive. It’s a great system!
Except—it’s really just binary.
That’s the math. On the gastronomic side, I’ve been unhappy for years with dishes labeled “bourbon chicken,” “bourbon pork chops,” and, worst of all, “bourbon salmon.” None of them tastes remotely of bourbon. But the idea of a bourbon sauce is very attractive. I wanted to create one.
I had an idea. Whiskey Sours run in my family. What about a sauce reminiscent of a Whiskey Sour?
There were false starts, but in the end I put together something I like. It’s an intense sauce. One may not want a great deal of it.
A Bourbon Sauce For Grilled Meats
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup of your favorite bourbon2 2 lemons
- 1 Tb sugar, or more
- 1 Tb flour
- 1 Tb unsalted butter
Grate one of the lemons. Juice and strain both lemons.
Place the flour and butter in a saucepan and heat, stirring with a wire whisk as the butter melts and combines with the flour. Continue cooking, stirring to keep the mixture smooth. Let it bubble a bit and then add, in small amounts, 1/4 cup of the bourbon. Stir continuously to keep the sauce smooth. Add 1 tablespoon of sugar. Add half the lemon juice. Add half the grated lemon rind.
At this point, you must assume responsibility. Taste the sauce. Add more bourbon, sugar, lemon juice as you like.
You can also add water. Of course, you don’t want a seriously alcoholic sauce. But the bourbon you placed earlier underwent some cooking and lost much of its alcohol. You can add more if you like. It’s your sauce now.
And it’s a great sauce!
Except—it’s really just Whiskey Sour.
A Daiquiri Sauce For Fish
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup of rum (white rum for delicate fish) 2 limes
- 1 Tb sugar, or more
- 1 Tb flour
- 1 Tb olive oil
Grate one of the limes. Juice and strain both limes.
Place the flour and olive oil in a saucepan and heat, stirring with a wire whisk as the oil combines with the flour. Continue cooking, stirring to keep the mixture smooth. Let it bubble a bit and then add, in small amounts, 1/4 cup of the rum. Stir continuously to keep the sauce smooth. Add 1 tablespoon of sugar. Add half the lime juice. Add half the grated rind.
Again, treat this as you wish, adding more of this or that.
After I get started on something, it’s hard for me to stop. A Manhattan sauce? Maybe not.
A Brandy Alexander sauce? It might be good on chicken livers saute ed in butter.
A Bloody Mary sauce on a shrimp cocktail!
I’m not tempted to mess with champagne. I have too much respect for champagne. I do make a champagne vinegar. It took me years to get it going. It has such a delicate flavor that I sometimes dress a green salad with that and nothing else.
And then there’s gin. What about a Martini sauce?
I’m not fond of Martinis. But I wonder if a Martini dressing would be good on a Greek salad. It might—I’m not fond of Greek salads either.