Cheese Imitates Geology: Thin Vegetable Ash Layer and Thin Iridium-Rich Clay Layer
There is a small, wicker cheese basket at my local grocery store filled with little snippets of cheeses--the ends of various imported wheels and logs. This one caught my eye:
I unwrapped it last night and found this written on the wrapper (just so you know I'm not making this up):
A hairline layer of vegetable ash?! Oh my.
Of course, the iridium-rich clay layer found at the boundary of the Cretaceous period (about 65 million years ago) with the overlying Paleogene sediments first documented by Luis and Walter Alvarez (shown below) in Italy, sprang to mind. The limestone layers beneath the red clay are full of numerous species of foraminifera (forams) and the thick limestone beds above contain only one foram species. In between is this iridium-rich later of clay. In Italy. In Germany. In the Netherlands. In the U.S. All over the world.
Iridium is a rare, silvery, white transition metal of the platinum family found in meteorites. It was named for the Greek goddess Iris after the rainbow colors in its salts and less than 3 tons a year are mined world-wide:
Iridium is associated with the massive K-Pg extinction including the non-flying dinosaurs and a huge, diverse, plant population. (The boundary was called the K-T boundary for Cretaceous-Tertiary when the Alvarezes discovered it. The International Stratigraphic Nomenclature Committee has recently deprecated the Tertiary Period though; it now must be called Paleogene.) [First Pluto is no longer a planet; now we can't call it the K-T boundary any more. Sigh...] And the likely location of the meteorite hitting the earth in the Gulf of Mexico is also well documented.
What strikes me (no pun intended, okay, maybe...) about naming conventions in geology and in all areas, actually, is the creativity and force in coming up with these descriptive terms. As Clementine says to Joel when talking about her newest hair color in the film Eternal Sunshine Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, "Naming hair colors. Somebody has that job. I want that job!"
Calling the thin layer of vegetables in the Humboldt Fog Cheese "Vegetable Ash" is truly inspired to this geologist and cheese eater.
Last week: puddingstones that look like pudding. This week: Cheese that looks like limestone layers with a hairline layer of ash. It doesn't get much better than that full circle.
Thanks for reading. I look forward to your comments, thoughts, and cheesy ideas.
Until then, "say cheese!" (And mean it).
Word Woman (aka Scientific "Vegetable Ash Layer" Steph)