Thursday, January 17, 2013

Dinnertime with Headache Powder

To follow up on my last post in which I linked to a Dupont pamphlet for farmers, I have to admit that I haven't quite answered just when or how the use of dynamite in agriculture fell off. I wore my waitress hat most of today, trying to ignore the sour smell of tar at the construction site next door. A headache began brewing at about 2 p.m.

And yet, like a dog sniffing tree roots blasted with gunpowder, I found a thing or two. Last week, I visited Point Pinole, the former site of the Giant (Atlas) Powder Company which used to manufacture dynamite and gunpowder. The company's first site was at Glen Canyon in San Francisco. There, it experienced a dangerous explosion and moved twice more, taking over its last location on the shore of San Pablo Bay at Point Pinole. I'd forgotten dynamite (Greek for powder) was invented by Alfred Nobel. As in the Nobel Prizes.

But what's this got to do with headaches, or more importantly food, you might ask? Stay with me. In 1888, when Alfred's brother Ludvig died while visiting Cannes, there was a mix up in the French media. The newspaper mistakenly prepared an obituary for Alfred Nobel, writing 'Le marchand de la mort est mort (the merchant of death is dead)'. This had to have been unsettling to Alfred. The prizes undoubtedly helped him ensure a better legacy.

It's curious: nitroglycerin–the explosive part of dynamite–is both capable of blowing apart concrete and effective in treating agina: pain due to coronary heart disease. It doesn't work, however, if a heart attack's already underway.

When Alfred Nobel's doctors wanted him to eat nitroglycerin to ameliorate his own angina, he refused. He said he'd skip what he knew as the yellow liquid's nastiest side effect: headaches. He'd suffered plenty during explosions in laboratories.


I sure hope that if–like me–you find yourself eating medicine for dinner, you'll look to Goody's Headache Powder, around since 1935. It works! It's aspirin, acetaminophen and caffeine in one slick packet. But, if you don't want to look like you're carrying cocaine in your wallet, perhaps you'll come drink a mug of coffee at the restaurant. People rave about it. It wakes you right the hell up. "There's a little rocket fuel in here," one customer said.

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