Kitchen Psychopharmacology

nutmeg is not a friendly drug


Nutmeg? Nutmeg?? The usual reaction to using nutmeg as an intoxicant is a combination of incredulity and pity. For the unhip, it’s as if those tomatoes atop the refrigerator began sharpening knives and studying you with sudden bloody eyes. For the hip, it’s rather like someone confessing an affection for the comic sans type font. And they are right. While nutmeg is a benign drug (it won’t kill you or enthrall you), it is not exactly a friendly drug. The trip begins by making you mildly ill. This can be panic inducing if you didn’t know it was coming and yes, people have shown up at emergency rooms for just that reason. Well okay: what part of intoxication do you not understand?

Probably the best account of the history, properties and effects of nutmeg is a post by Ibo Nagano, Do You Know About the Narcotic Effects of Nutmeg? Click on the link if you’re curious though most of you, dear readers, will be too lazy. But if you’re inclined to experiment with nutmeg, that article really is your homework.

Nutmeg is classified as a deliriant, a sub-category of hallucinogen, the other sub-categories being psychedelics and dissociatives. Unlike psychedelics, most deliriants are cheap and legal. If it’s time to feed your head and the shelf and wallet are bare, that is probably the best argument for using nutmeg as more than a flavoring.

But as I said, nutmeg is not a friendly drug. First off, a reasonable dose for someone not resembling a character from The Triplets of Belleville would be a heaping teaspoon. But if the nutmeg has been sitting on your spice rack or in a warehouse for some indefinite period of months and months and months, you may need more. Freshness matters. If you can buy the seeds to grate or grind (as is recommended for its use as a spice), you’re better off.

Now how does one consume this dose? As I said, nutmeg is not a friendly drug. Imagine a mouthful of sand. Or ground coffee. Real nice, eh? A mouthful of nutmeg is about like that. I found that placing the spoonful under the tongue, holding it there as long as practical then washing it down with a glass of water is actually palatable. But cooking with nutmeg is your best option. I modified a fairly standard recipe for corn bread to include a half cup of nutmeg and that worked just fine. Another advantage to cooking is that the main active ingredient, myristicin, is found in other foods and spices and these can be added to recipes as well. Consult Nagano’s article for more information.

Any drug orally consumed will take time to intoxicate; it’s not like inhaling. Nutmeg is slow. It may be an hour later but it could be four or five hours later. (Were you hungry when you ate it?) Taking more will not hurry things and it may make things uncomfortably weird later on. Be sure it is a free day for you. Do not operate heavy equipment. In fact, avoid heavy equipment the next day, too, as you may well be mildly incompetent for most of the next day. Need I repeat? Nutmeg is not a friendly drug but once you’ve invited it to visit, it hangs around like a needy acquaintance.

I’m not a big fan of nutmeg (though I do like comic sans) but being a penurious geezer, I partake now and then. It did occur to me to wonder if CBD would be useful in easing the onset of nutmeg intoxication.

CBD? That hemp extract that doesn’t get you high? Actually, that isn’t exactly true. It’s one of those things that is not quite a lie but maybe qualifies as sloppy journalism. Taking CBD is a bit like smoking what, back in the day, we would have called “ditch weed.” After the second joint, you’d be rather relaxed, ready for a nap perhaps. CBD is a chemical precursor to marijuana’s primary active ingredient, THC. In marijuana, CBD and a multitude of other related substances play a role in modifying the effects of THC. In its complexity, pot is pretty similar to coffee.

In experimenting with CBD, I had in mind easing the physically sour effects in the onset of nutmeg intoxication and the answer to that is… maybe. CBD seemed to abbreviate that early stage of nutmeg intoxication and the quality of the high had some weedy aspects. But how much of that is expectations? Don’t know but further experimentation by me is unlikely. CBD as an intoxicant costs a lot more than it’s worth.

It did, however, lower my blood pressure by about 15mm for two days after.*

Oh, and don’t let this stop you from using nutmeg as a flavoring. The quantities prescribed in recipes are not usually intoxicating… Or if you insist, think of it as “microdosing.” You’ll sleep and dream well tonight. Here, have some more eggnog.



* A formulation of CBD has been approved by the FDA as a drug to control seizures. It’s a pretty big dose compared to the tinctures on sale in stores. The anti-seizure qualities of CBD were noted as far back as the early 1970s, but cannabis was (and as of 2019, still is) one of those Schedule 1 forbidden fruits, making even research fraught.

I Am Not Now, Nor Have I Ever Been…

a memory for May Day

… a Trotskyist, Surrealist Poet.

And what, pray tell, would ever cause someone – anyone! – to identify me as such an odd chimera? I’m frequently mistaken for someone else but the answer to this misidentification is found back in the mists of… well, back in the roiling fumes of grass in the past.

Way back in the early 1970s, I had ambitions, or at least aspirations, to be a poet. How and why and when I jettisoned that goal is another story, but part of the project of becoming a poet involved attending poetry readings. The really big Chicago event at that time was a weekly reading organized by Richard Friedman’s Yellow Press at a local theatre on Chicago’s north side.

For all that the Yellow Press readings were really the place to be for poets and readers thereof, the audiences were usually no more than a few dozen. And for me, the readings were almost always excruciatingly boring, no matter the quality of the verse. There was one memorable exception.

Friedman had scored a big fish. Robert Bly was to read. Given the vagaries of the Chicago Transit Authority, I arrived early that day and found the event in a larger than usual venue. It was already well populated by representatives of probably every English Department in the city. With my long hair and ragged Army field jacket, I didn’t exactly fit in, but neither was I unique. Most of the empty seating was in front. I took a seat in the first row.

Show time! Robert Bly came down the aisle to the stage. But then he stopped and sat next to me. Looking very intense and pointing to a utility table on stage, he hissed, “I’m going to sit on that table and read from there.”

I was thoroughly confused but managed a shrug and said something like: “Cool.”

Bly hadn’t gotten far into his first poem when suddenly a handful of long haired characters – a few in pristine Army field jackets – rushed the stage, scattering leaflets and shouting: “Bourgeois Pig!”, “Assassin!”, “M_____ F_____!” and other assorted obscenities. One threw a pie in Bly’s face. They didn’t pause but skedaddled out the exit with Friedman and a few friends in close pursuit. They may have gotten away.

As Bly wiped the pie from his face, he explained that he had published a book of his own translations of work by the great Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda. When Bly announced his reading tour, a local collective of Trotskyist Surrealist poets threatened to “get him” if Bly dared to read in Chicago. Their beef was not only that Neruda was a Stalinist Communist (I can recall at least one embarrassing poetic homage to Stalin by Neruda.) but in 1940 while serving as a member of Chile’s diplomatic staff in Mexico, Neruda helped a suspect in an assassination attempt on Leon Trotsky get out of jail and out of Mexico. As Wikipedia put it:

“In 1940, after the failure of an assassination attempt against Leon Trotsky, Neruda arranged a Chilean visa for the Mexican painter David Alfaro Siqueiros, who was accused of having been one of the conspirators in the assassination. Neruda later said that he did it at the request of the Mexican President, Manuel Ávila Camacho. This enabled Siqueiros, then jailed, to leave Mexico for Chile, where he stayed in Neruda’s private residence. In exchange for Neruda’s assistance, Siqueiros spent over a year painting a mural in a school in Chillán. Neruda’s relationship with Siqueiros attracted criticism, but Neruda dismissed the allegation that his intent had been to help an assassin as “sensationalist politico-literary harassment”.”

I don’t remember any more of Bly’s reading that evening. I do remember Friedman glaring at me as I left and again every week after.

Really, Richard, I was not then nor have I ever been…

But damn! That was the best poetry reading I ever attended.


“A short tale on the face of masculinity, portrayed by young men who grow up in inner city environments. Where the iconic ‘screwface’ is more than just an expression, it’s a matter of life and death.

“The 3-minute think-piece aims to dispel the look’s reputation as a form of intimidation, and instead to help shed light on its purpose as a form of self-defence. Based on real life experiences, Abdou Cisse, who grew up in South London — gives you an insight into what it’s like growing up in a place where a young man’s masculinity is challenged and defended by a mere expression.”

The screwface is a part of culture here in Chicago as well, though I notice it only once in a while in this part of Rogers Park. Most of the time I just note it and let it go. But there was one occasion…

It was a beautiful — no, it was a gorgeous late spring morning. From under the CTA viaduct over Estes at Glenwood, a lad baggily dressed in colors stalked towards me. He reached Glenwood before I did. As he crossed the street, something fell out of his leg pocket. From my distance away on Estes, it was not clear what it was.

I could have said something then but did not. His face was gnarled in a snarl, his gait and his prickly awareness of all about him suggested he was a clear and present danger to any challenge. When we finally passed on the sidewalk, it was obvious that he had judged I was of no concern to him.

At the center of Glenwood lay his cell phone. I stooped, picked it up and turned.

“Yo!” I yelled. He jerked.

“You dropped your phone!”

We met at the corner outside Kim’s Corner Foods. He was delighted and had a broad smile but a strained and incredulous smile, as if he had forgotten how to smile, as if he had abandoned hope for any occasion to smile, but now and yet, he was smiling. In its own way, it was a most remarkable smile.

I handed him his phone.

We turned and went our separate ways.

Courtship Politics

Well, it’s Valentines Day, a holiday that has happily evolved into yet another sentimentalized incentive for gluttony: huzzah for capitalism and corn syrup. That said, it might be fun to look backwards to the old Louis Jordan song “Beware, Brother, Beware”. It’s a male view, ladies, okay? Now, brothers, listen up:

David Bromberg’s 1970s cover of the song is also great fun, and I prefer it, though the dogmatically judgemental among us will probably mutter something about cultural appropriation (especially since Louis Jordan is sometimes counted as the inventor of rock n’ roll)…

The song belongs to a different world, I think. But keep in mind that “breach of promise to marry” is still a basis for a law suit in roughly half the States in the Union though most of them limit what money can be recovered (in Illinois, “documented wedding expenses” only according to Wikipedia). It was right before (1930s) this song was written (1946) that “breach of promise to marry” started becoming a civil matter rather than a potential criminal prosecution. I recall reading that “breach of promise to marry” was a leading sex crime in the U.S. during the 1920s. I can’t find a cite for that but, yes, men — it was usually men — could go to jail for breaking an engagement. Even after a revolution, people continue reading from the old scripts.

I’ve been out of circulation for a long time… Dating got really weird back in middle age, too weird really, and not much fun. At times the experience felt like something scripted, except the director (and who, pray tell, was that?) had neglected to provide me with my copy of the script. At other times it felt like I was on a job interview. This is not meant to be shade over any of the women; they all could have been worthwhile people to have as a friend. That “friend” was not an apparent option was the one of the strange aspects of the time.

Other things also moved me to the shelf. Often I hadn’t the money to take myself on a date never mind anyone else and, when I had money, I generally hadn’t much time. No complaints, mind you. Had I felt all that strongly about it, I would have found a way of doing something about it. After all, isn’t that an eternal trope of popular entertainment? Love, or possibly lust, will find a way.

The last date I was on, years ago, was unexpected and involuntary on my part, but I’ll save that story for another time. Maybe.

Max Headroom

Let’s go back 20 minutes in the future… of 1985. For those of you for whom 1985 is more-or-less pre-history, the Max Headroom character was a scanned digital simulacrum of “hard hitting” TV journalist, Edison Carter. Despite being a copy, Max Headroom is rather different in character than his fictional human original, particularly in Max’s role in both the U.S. and British television series “Max Headroom”. Edison Carter was a classic muck-raker journalist. Max Headroom was an “edgy” (because, after all, he isn’t real and so: what standards should apply?) talk-show host and corporate shill.headrest1

I missed most of this back in the 1980s, understand, as my last television set died around 1981 or 1982, never to be replaced. My main exposure to Max Headroom was Garry Trudeau’s use of him in the Doonesbury comic-strip as a satire on Ronald Reagan (Ron Headrest), implying that if President Reagan were replaced by a digital automaton, no one would notice. On the other hand, one of Garry Trudeau’s characters, television reporter Roland Hedley, resembles and predates Edison Carter. Maybe there’s some British borrowing there, or maybe it’s just a mutual stereotype.

The program was a British import, and like many such, it was remanufactured for the American audience, with possibly less violence to the original concept than is typical. But there are differences. Here is the original British pilot, an hour long, from which the whole enterprise sprang… sort of a punk Dr. Who. Hold on to your TRON.


(Be sure to watch all the way through the credits.)


For some reason, videos are almost never terrifying for me. Embarrassing, yes. Boring, yes. Entertaining, yes. Educational, yes. All manner of things, but terrifying? This video is absolutely terrifying, very nearly panic inducing.

Two police officers stop at night to remove from a rural highway what appears to be a very large dead badger. It becomes unclear just what the creature is, but… it is not dead but drunk. What seems to happen next…

The title “Nighthawk” probably is intended to suggest random, malign predation from the concealing and lonely darkness of the night. In reality, nighthawks are nocturnal, insectivorous birds. They were once not unusual in Chicago, or at least in Rogers Park, but I’ve not heard one call in the night for decades. I miss them. So the title of the video is not so alarming, at least to me.

There may be two aspects about this video that disturb me.

One is that there is a large body of videos on the web that is best described as accident porn. The “fails” are various, but many are dash cam recordings of traffic accidents. Typically they begin with a few tens of seconds of quite ordinary driving and traffic then things turn really bad, frequently without any warning whatsoever. Quite frankly, it’s not clear to me just how people can willingly drive or even be a passenger after having watched more than 5 or 10 minutes of such recordings. None the less, there is obviously an audience for this stuff. Possibly the viewers figure it couldn’t happen to them, and what a pleasant opportunity to pass judgement on those who fail. Cleansing the gene pool of fools and idiots seems to be a favored attitude for much of the audience.

Even though I’ve not owned a car since 1979 and haven’t driven a car since sometime in 2008, this precariousness pretty much matches my experience. The few accidents I’ve been in have been without injury. But there were more than a few times when I returned a rental car after having witnessed a handful of accidents that day and more than a little oblivious driving. On those occasions, it seemed to me that it was almost an accident that I had not been in an accident. It could indeed happen to you.

The other aspect is Louie.

Louie and his wife were a seriously dysfunctional couple, neighbors of mine in the subdivided mansion where I grew up. Both had their problems, neither was any prize as a human, but Louie was an alcohol junkie and worse, a mean drunk. The battles between Louie and his wife were sometimes epic and on a few occasions included guns.

Louie had redeeming qualities, too. He was a stellar carpenter, good at shaping anything wooden whether it was a house, furniture, bird house or tchotchke lawn ornament. I still have a solid and precise set of shelves that he made some fifty years ago. Louie was also an excellent gardener. He more or less expropriated substantial parts of the landlord’s large yard for flower beds that I recall as always in bloom. And one way or another, the two of them always had money to pay the rent and to own a car or two.

But he was a really mean drunk.

There is research that suggests, for a small percentage of the population, alcohol has a dramatic Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde effect; the intoxication evokes rage. When I mentioned this research to a friend, he paused for a moment, considering perhaps an alcoholic in his own life, then said in a smugly judgemental way: “No. That’s just an excuse.”

Excuse from what? I never asked my friend. I don’t know if Louie was part of that small percentage, but if he was, what practical difference would the inevitability of his rage make? It might make a difference in treatment if he sought treatment or was judicially assigned treatment. Another practical difference is that the research finding, if true, would deprive my friend of a superior moral position, of the pleasure of making a moral judgement of Louie and people like him.

Louie may very well have agreed with my friend: Why can’t I not drink? Why is it that when I drink, I so often fight? Why is it the fights make so little sense? The fault is not in my stars but in me. Now consider the years of accumulating revulsion. Consider what it would be like to live with that inner-directed revulsion and to have it affirmed by those around you.

It eventually came to pass that Louie and his wife moved out and were divorced. The gardens rapidly retreated to lawn and the Martin houses decayed into slums for sparrows. But the new neighbors were civil and pacific and harmless mostly. Louie ended up in a trailer in the next town south of us where he continued to drink. At length, he drunkenly drove his car the wrong way down Interstate 55, killing himself and a family of four. It was murder — suicide.

Louie, I suspect, would agree with this video’s “badger’s” last words. And if that doesn’t scare the bejesus from ye…

The Tail

Yet another shark sighting…

Shaggy and wild-eyed, he stopped her and her dog at the beach.

“Did ye hear of the shark that bit the dog’s tail?”


“Aye, lass, it was a horror… just now.”

He leaned close to her ear and his voice dropped to gargling whisper, a smell of whiskey, tobacco and sweat.

“The shark… Aye, the shark!” He paused: “Therein lies the tale.”

— Yip