Caliche Ceviche Zinnias


Many, many moons ago as a freshman at LSU in Baton Rouge I took an introductory geology course.   I remember really struggling to sort out all of the epics and eras,  although the names for all of the various sorts of rocks were no picnic either.   I also took several years of high school Spanish,  but I don’t recall in either of those classes ever coming across the word caliche, which is a type of sedimentary rock formed of calcium carbonate.    I probably never saw any caliche in Louisiana or here in Washington,  though I’m given to understand that it is common in states like Kansas and Wyoming.

Another word borrowed from the Spanish that I have been much more familiar with is ceviche.   Ceviche is a dish with raw fish that is marinated in an acidic juice,  often lime or lemon.    I remember reading about a variation of this called poisson cru,  which a Polynesian woman prepares for a visitor to Tahiti in James Michener’s novel Hawaii.   Tahiti sounded like such a lovely place and I suspect had I been there I probably would have tried the poisson cru.    While I have eaten and enjoyed sushi at times,  I’ve never actually tried ceviche.

I have really been enjoying playing Angry Birds on my new tablet.   I particularly enjoyed the episode with the puffy red birds that bounce.    Somehow that episode seemed easier to me and I have already completed all 63 chapters of it.   And was delighted to find that completing that episode opened up two additional new episodes.    My tablet is also ideal for reading Kindle ebooks and I really like being able to switch between game play and reading modes.     I found myself thinking that I did not pay much more for this  (about $60 including shipping) than my parents did many, many years ago for a calculator sized device that played a sort of version of football which involved manipulating a handful of solid red lines around a tiny screen.    Part of me thinks that we must have brought more imagination to electronic gaming back then when there was nothing but a few red dots.    But I have to say I do like the exploding birds that kill little green slugs.     And finally today,  my thanks to  Harold Gardner,  who suggested today’s words.

PS–zinnias are a flower,  which is pictured in the illustration.   I could not think of anything to write about zinnias.


22 comments on “Caliche Ceviche Zinnias

  1. I picked these words because I liked the sounds they made in my ears. I am amused by the similar sounds of Caliche & Ceviche with no relationship in meaning. I first learned of caliche when I forgot to wipe my feet coming into my grandmother’s house. Their country driveway was made from caliche and evidently made an awful mess inside the house. Lemon juice never seemed quite adequate for cooking; so I have generally avoided ceviche. The few tastes I have tried caused me to wish for cornbread batter and hot grease. Zinnas are my favorite garden flower. No matter how tough the Texas summer, they keep blooming. They have just 2 requests: a bit of water and to be shared. You see the best way to keep zinnas blooming is to pick the flowers. I think there is a parable in that.

    • From my limited knowledge of food chemistry I believe that ceviche is perfectly safe to eat. It mostly just doesn’t much appeal to me. That I don’t have any regular opportunity to consume it contributes to my never eating it.

  2. Very deadpan, Alan, your description of zinnias. They were a great feature of gardens in north India in the winter – not in the ground but in terracotta pots so they could be brought out for display when they were in flower and hidden round the back when they were not.
    Caliche is a completely new word to me (do you remember that Readers Digest quiz, ‘it pays to increase your wordpower’ – reading your blog is a bit like that sometimes!)
    But ceviche is great – we used to eat it in Jamaica and a version of it in the Bahamas, which is raw conch (pronounced conk for some strange reason) salad – lots of lemon, chili and cucumber etc to make the salad part. Over the years I ate a lot and am still here to tell the tale. Mind you, I like steak tartare as well…

    • Oh my. I was never willing to try steak tartare myself, nor have I eaten conch- though I probably would try conch if I ever visited an area where it was served. I do remember the Reader’s Digest vocabulary feature and the fact that I used to read Readers Digest condensed books before learning enough to not want dumbed down bowlderizations of novels which would could themselves be read 🙂

  3. Yes Alan, you definitely should have some ceviche. I had my first in a restaurant in Bellevue which has unfortunately closed so I can’t give you any pointers… but it’s worth tracking down.

  4. To be honest Alan, I do love all of this week’s words, I love Ceviche Had it for the first time in Mexico, and have loved it ever since. Yes I am from Oklahoma and have encountered the real caliche as well and my father used to use it making concrete as he poured sidewalks around our house. Yes, I love Zinnias in the garden they do hold up to the sun.

    • Well, based on Vince’s recommendation I am bound to try it, and no doubt when I do I will write about it in a blog post. Thanks so much for being a regular visitor and commentator, Michelle.

  5. Aaaah….. Geology.. Lots of great words – with very few opportunities to use them. The only one that I come across often – is TOR. Tor is a “Rocky Crag” and common in many of the crossword puzzles I do.

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