Dietribes: I Have a Tooth to Pick With You


The Washington Post had this to say about the toothpick, which I really think says it all: "A satirist once described a fictitious journal, titled 'History's Splendid Splinter,' which was devoted to scholarly essays on the wooden toothpick's 'role in social history, patterns of forestry, and the evolving technology of toothpick manufacture.' Henry Petroski, who quotes this dig at minutiae-obsessed pedants, gets the joke but refutes it, insisting that even the most insignificant objects can reward our close attention with new revelations."

"¢ "The toothpick was first used in the United States at the Union Oyster House. Enterprising Charles Forster of Maine first imported the picks from South America." That fact that, "to promote his new business he hired Harvard boys to dine at the Union Oyster House and ask for toothpicks," proves that everything is about marketing!

"¢ This little wooden tool can have many other uses - Madame de Lafayette utilized a toothpick (and watery pine soot) to write a biography while imprisoned during the French Revolution.

"¢ From the Annals of Too Much Time: Amazing toothpick sculptures plus a video. Truly "the essence of patience."

"¢ Check out this patent for a tongue toothpick from 1923 that looks exceptionally painful.

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"¢ Not all toothpicks are created equal - traditional Japanese toothpicks are pointed at one end, and have grooves that allow it to be broken off to indicate that it has been used. If the unsightly nature of the "discarded" part is your problem, try Martha Stewart's clever solution. Discarded toothpicks can also help you to grow your own avocado tree!

"¢ Try this parlor trick of turning a group of toothpicks into a star without touching them (there's clearly some magic to it ... surely one of you brilliant readers can help determine if it's real or not?)

"¢ Toothpicks can also be dangerous. According to the Sherwood Anderson Foundation, "Anderson died of peritonitis in the Canal Zone a year or so later while on his way to South America. He'd swallowed part of a toothpick, some think at a party while devouring hors d'oeuvres and quaffing martinis before his ship left New York. By the time he got to the Canal Zone and into a hospital at Colon, it was too late."

"¢ Sort of like creating your own needle in a haystack, find the actual beard among the 2000 toothpicks placed within. And of course, a response video with even more beard toothpicks!

"¢ If you always have to have a toothpick, be environmentally friendly and do some investing all in one with a pick made of gold. Find other fancy models here.

"¢ Can a toothpick influence an election? Consider the Putin Toothpick "“ or get a set with his black Lab, Koni!

Pay by the toothpick at an Orange County Tapas restaurant.


It's important to floss (of course), so it's good to keep a toothpick handy. Any avid users out there?

Hungry for more? Venture into the Dietribes archive.

"˜Dietribes' appears every other Wednesday. Food photos taken by Johanna Beyenbach. You might remember that name from our post about her colorful diet.