Please Don’t Leave It To Beaver

Spoiler alert: the featured image is highly misleading. That thing staring at the cat is a Cambropachycope, a sea-dwelling arthropod which lived hundreds of millions of years ago. Housecats, on the other paw, arrived on Earth about 3.4 million years ago, from a distant star system but by that time the Cambropachycopes were long gone, having evolved into bureaucrats. Plus, at 1.5 mm, they (the Cambropachycopes, not the bureaucrats) were basically teensy. Not to mention underwater. So there’s no way a Cambropachycope could have gone compound eyeball to eyeballs with a cat. I just put that image out there to get your attention.

This is the real featured image, depicting the Cleaver family, from the classic TV sitcom: Leave It To Beaver (1957-1963). The show revolved around the adventures and misadventures of “The Beaver” aka Theodore Cleaver, from kindergarten through Middle School. The series ended when The Beaver left school and went to work in a distillery.

Put that thought on hold for a minute…

Continuing right along here, I was listening to prominent radio host, Virginia Trioli, talk about Anzac biscuits on ABC Melbourne recently when I was seized by an urge to get my hands on some and possibly even eat them. (Anzac biscuits are popular in Australia and New Zealand.)

I’m lying. Virginia didn’t say anything about Anzac biscuits; she was talking about the effect on mood and cognition in footballers (Aussie Rules or Australian Football players) from repeated concussive and subconcussive knocks on the head. I read about Anzac biscuits in Liane Moriarty’s book: the Hypnotist’s Love Story. I think that maybe when I started listening to Virginia, it triggered some kind of Anzac biscuit-related post-hypnotic suggestion implanted by the book. Which is a bit scary when you think about it.

The even scarier bit is that when I looked up the ingredients of the biscuits on my phone, I misread the first ingredient as “Boiled cats” when it was actually “Rolled oats”.

anzac biscuits
I would have called these cookies instead of biscuits but I am not Australian as far as I know so I would be guilty of culinary appropriation if I renamed them. I think.
virinia trioli ABC Melbourne radio host
Virginia Trioli, ABC Melbourne: Virginia has remained silent on the subject of Anzac biscuits to the best of my knowledge

I don’t wear glasses and now you know why I probably need to rethink that policy. I also swear on Antonie van Leewenhoek’s microscope that I’m not making this up. If you have nothing better to do you can learn how to pronounce his name if you follow the hyperlink in this sentence. If you’re reading this post, I’m sure you have nothing better to do, so go for it. I also suggest you have regular eye exams.

Furthermore, under oath I am now testifying that castoreum, a pungent yellowish-brown slime that is secreted from the castor glands of the beaver, has been put to use since antiquity for many things including sorcery, assassination and fly traps. Or maybe just in medicine and perfume. More recently though, it has been used as a flavoring in foods and alcoholic beverages. (The beavers continue to use it for marking their territory and sealing envelopes.)

anatomical drawing of castor glands
When removing the castor glands, take care not to accidentally harvest the anal glands instead!

I know you went back and re-read that last paragraph. The answer to your question is: “Yes”. You did read it correctly even though you might have been born in the late 1950’s and are refusing to wear reading glasses for reasons known only to you.

OK, now hit “Play” on the Beaver Cleaver thought I told you to put on pause. Because a few years ago the Tamworth Distillery introduced a whiskey flavored with castoreum.

I just hope they studied the anatomy diagram first…

Jamie Oaks, the head distiller at Tamworth Distilling (conveniently located in Tamworth NH) had lots to say about castoreum when interviewed by Virginia Trioli, host of the CBC radio program: As It Happens.

Dang! That’s not right. The interview was actually conducted by Carole Off. These post-hypnotic suggestions can be really pesky.

Anyway, Oaks described castoreum as follows: “It’s really vanilla and raspberry-like and it’s got this really interesting, lasting berry quality…It’s surprisingly familiar. It’s an old flavourant that is used in things like strawberry and raspberry artificial flavourings.”

Shortly after the Declaration Of Independence was signed, the U.S. Food, Drug and Practical Joke Administration plopped castoreum into its GRAS or-Generally Recognized As Suspicious-category so it has been used in things like ice cream, chewing gum, pudding and brownies for decades. So it was only a matter of time until it found its way into whiskey.

I’ll drink to that. Cheers, mates!

But in closing, to my knowledge, castoreum hasn’t yet been added to Anzac biscuits. Yet. You might want to check with Virginia Trioli though. Dang it! There I go again! I meant Liane Moriarty. What is wrong with me?

No beavers were harmed in the writing of this book. And they don’t live in Australia anyway.

Author:

Dave Barry fan and Medical Director at Rocky Mountain Analytical