Monthly Archives: July 2014

#19 Challenge Accepted Beliefs

In the early 2000s when MythBusters first went to air, I rarely missed an episode. That there was a television show dedicated to ‘scientifically’ dispelling myths hit the spot for me.

It was created by an Australian producer – Peter Rees – which made it even more intriguing. (This was back in the day when Australia had a Science Minister, and evidence-based theories weren’t considered heretical).

Lately, though, the program seems to have involved blowing things up, and while I can understand that this would be terrifically appealing to some viewers, I’m not in the correct demographic any more.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t create my own MythBusters, it’s just that mine will be writ small.

#19 Challenge Accepted Beliefs

Recently there was a great article in the Fairfax press titled ‘Myth-conceptions’ where the author Larissa Dubeki, sought to ‘debunk’ – or not – a number of popular kitchen myths.

The first related to that important issue of Milk in Tea.

Milk in first (MIF)? Or milk in last (MIL)? Was MIF really better? Is there a discernible difference in taste, as a friend of mine attests?

She swears she can pick at twenty paces the cup where milk’s been incorrectly added after the tea is poured. So I decided to test this hypothesis.

Marking the bottom of the MIF cup with an ‘M’, I proceeded to pour two identical cups of tea, one MIF and the other MIL. After they were switched around a few times, could I tell them apart?

Tea cups

 Spot the difference. 

The short answer is … no, I couldn’t.

But according to Britain’s Royal Society of Chemistry, (yes, sob, Britain has one of these) MIF creates a smoother, richer cup whereas MIL makes a cup that’s more tannic. It’s all to do with the breakdown of the milk proteins and whether they’ve been gently diluted by the tea, or been plunged into a big wall of it.

So my friend is right. Of course, it could mean that, like 25% of the population, she’s what’s known as a ‘Supertaster‘ and has a palate that’s more finely attuned to certain bitter tastes. I’m planning to experiment on her taste buds to further my scientific project, but that will be a tale for another day.

So then I turned my attention to another Accepted Belief:

‘Don’t Count your Chickens Before They’re Hatched’

Luckily, I could go right to the source to test this one. One of my lovely Light Sussex hens

Light Sussex

Exhibit One

went irreversibly broody a few months ago, so I bought some fertilised eggs for her to hatch.

I didn’t really need any more chickens, but I thought it would be in keeping with my fun and frivolous retirement activities.

Imagine my disquiet when I picked up the eggs to discover that the seller had added a bonus three to the minimum dozen I had to take.

Fifteen little chicks, I counted. What was I going to do with fifteen extra mouths to feed on my small suburban block? And based on the law of probability, seven or eight would be roosters. What would the neighbours say?


15 (+1) eggs is ridiculous, but I couldn’t bring myself to destroy any…

So I spent the next 21 days (this species is very precise with its hatching timetable) fretting about such a huge number of chickens taking over my garden and my life, and began offering them to unwilling friends.

On Day 21, this was the sum total of hatchlings to emerge:

Mama Bea and chicks 2

And it’s a 50:50 split. Dixie chick is on the left and Rex the rooster is on the right.

So it seems that you can count your chickens before they hatch – but just don’t expect accuracy.

Then there’s the popular saying ‘You Can’t Teach an Old Dog New Tricks.’ Does this really stack up?

I could test this one easily too, thanks to my old dog Ziggy. He’s a whippet who’s pretty good at catching a frisbee, but very bad at dropping it back at my feet.

He’s very bad in other ways, too, like stealing food by counter-surfing:

Ziggy 2

and subtly threatening me to get what he wants:

Green-eyed monster

Would I dare refuse?

So, to be honest, I didn’t hold out much hope of retraining him:

Screenshot 2014-09-28 11.43.02

Ziggy keeps his frisbee

But several training sessions later, we finally arrived at this position:

Screenshot 2014-09-28 11.44.34

By George, he’s got it. Sort of …

So maybe that old adage is a bit of a furphy.

Come to think of it, a week ago, I didn’t know it was essential to hold an i-phone horizontally while videoing (it’s something to do with the 16:9 ratio of screens), nor had I ever uploaded a video I’d shot to YouTube. I didn’t know how to take a screenshot of the video, nor did I understand the importance of setting it to public viewing rather than private before posting it into a blog entry.

Hey. It looks like you really can teach an old dog new tricks.