Donald Rumsfeld managed to get himself into trouble over the question of what we know, what we know we don't know and and what we don't know we don't know. The things we know we don't know much or anything about are those which, in my case at least, I have studiously avoided attempting to learn - quantum physics, rocket science, brain surgery all come to mind. The things I don't know I don't know are legion. So much of what goes on around us we just take for granted until someone asks a question or you come across a snippet of information which challenges your previous assumptions. All of a sudden you realise there a vast holes in your knowledge of the world that, now you've identified the void, you must work to fill. And then of course there is the gaping chasm where lie all the things you once knew but now struggle to remember.As a child I had a passing acquaintance with Pontefract cakes. My parents I think considered these hard discs of liquorice an important part of my English heritage. If you had asked me a few weeks ago why these sweets were called Pontefract cakes I would have told you that they were named after the town where they were manufactured and, if I had thought long enough and hard enough I might even have remembered they were made by Bassetts and that they had a castle image stamped on them. What I didn't know then, and would never have guessed, was that the liquorice used in their manufacture was actually grown in Pontefract. Who would ever have imagined that something as exotic as liquorice would, or indeed could, grow in Yorkshire?
Another question which arose this month was why are hazelnuts called filberts? I still don't feel confident about the answer to this one. According to the Oxford Companion to Food 'filbert' is the name of a type of cultivated hazelnut, as distinct from a cob hazelnut. All wild hazelnuts are just hazelnuts in Britain but in America both wild and cultivated hazelnuts are called filberts. The name filbert is thought to come from St. Philibert, whose saint's day, 22 August, falls at around the time hazelnuts ripen. So hazel nuts are one of those things that I can no longer claim to know nothing about but I still feel they have only moved from the unknown unknowns to the known unknowns.
A while ago I drew your attention to this post on Edible Geography about lunch.
Lunch is a very serious business for some as this piece 'A day in the life of a Mumbai sandwichwallah' makes clear. Armed with this knowledge a sandwich will never be the same again.