Irrational

March 14, 2019

“There are a great many people in the country today who, through no fault of their own, are sane.”
~ from Monty Python’s Flying Circus (TV series 1969 – 1974)

 

 

Happy Pi Day!

In recent years, the increasing popularity of celebrating the number π on March 14th (3.14 being the first three digits of the never-ending number) has transformed the mathematical constant into a pop culture icon.  Because the number π is spelled out as “pi” and its English pronunciation sounds exactly like that of the word pie (the dessert), celebrating the irrational number by baking and eating an assortment of sweet and savory pastries is a match made in both mathematical and gastronomical heaven.  In addition to that (pun intended), most pies are circular, which makes dividing one in half a delicious teaching tool, as π is equal to the ratio of any circle’s circumference (distance around) to its diameter (distance across).

The number π is an irrational number, meaning it cannot be expressed as a common fraction, such as 1/2 or 3/16.  This means that its decimal representation never ends and also is not repeating (1/3 repeats as 0.3333….).  Pi is not the only irrational number.  There exists an uncountable and infinite amount of them, and there are other interesting ones like e or phi (the golden ratio) that we could celebrate.  Unfortunately for those numbers, π represents an excuse to eat dessert or pizza, so π wins.

Pi Day is also a good opportunity to accept or embrace (depending on your degree of surrender) the seemingly irrational part of earthly life.  These days, click-bait-based advertising and social media manipulation both help to drive what seems like a perpetual shock and outrage machine, adding to the already chaotic nature of current events.  Combined with the normal ups and downs of human experience, this can feel overwhelming for many of us.  Some days, no matter how hard you try to understand, things just don’t make any sense, at least from our current perspective in time and space.  When irrational seems to be the number of the day, it is often best to just let go, for the moment, and laugh.

I’m serious (again, pun intended).  According to a small, preliminary study by researchers at Loma Linda University, hearty laughter in response to humor causes a brain response similar to what you’d see as a result of meditation.  As a yoga therapist and someone who teaches groups and individuals mindfulness meditation techniques, this makes perfect sense.  Mindfulness is the practice of bringing one’s attention to the present moment, rather than oscillating thoughts between what one cannot change (past) and cannot know (future).  The act of laughing heartily brings both the mind and body directly into the now.

In fact, I often lead my yoga therapy clients in Happy Baby Pose (Ananda Balasana), accompanied by controlled hearty laughter (what I like to call “Laughing Breath”).  Happy Baby is a simple pose that is restorative for the hips and lower back. I gave detailed instructions for Laughing Happy Baby Pose, as well as a tasty recipe for a Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Artichoke Hearts in this post from 2014:

Oki Doki Carciofi

If you’d like to give Laughing Breath a try by itself, without the added yoga pose.  Here’s how:

Sit or stand comfortably straight, with shoulders relaxed and spine lifted.  Turn up the corners of your mouth. Breathe in deeply and slowly through your nose (if possible), filling your lungs completely.  As you exhale, laugh heartily: Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha..!, expelling breath with each “ha”.  Repeat this technique at least 3 times; inhaling slowly, steadily and fully via the nose and exhaling with hearty laughter through the mouth.  Once you get the hang of it, go ahead and get creative with your laughing exhales, combining guffaws with giggles, teehees and ho-ho-hos.

“The charm that repels a Boggart is simple, yet it requires force of mind.  You see, the thing that really finishes a Boggart is laughter.”
~ from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, by J.K. Rowling

~~~~~~~~~

There is nothing irrational about craving a slice of Mashed Potato Pizza Pi.


T-shirt graphic may be purchased here.

 

Mashed Potato Pizza Pi
This super-yummy mash-up of comfort foods makes an original appetizer or side dish.  Add a green salad and it’s a tasty lunch.  The potatoes and green chives atop a circular crust honor both Pi Day and St. Patty’s Day. Be sure to leave the skins on the potatoes (after scrubbing them) to include the maximum fiber and nutrients.  You can find baked, thin, ready-to-top pizza crusts in the bakery sections of Whole Foods and most grocery stores.  Trader Joe’s currently has a wonderful rectangular version, sold two to a package.  You can substitute both of those for the 12-inch round one called for in this recipe.

 

1 pound of Yukon Gold potatoes
1 (12-inch) pre-baked packaged pizza crust (thin)
1 to 3 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove of garlic, cut in half
Scant 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, divided
Salt and freshly-ground pepper
A pinch of crumbled dried rosemary
A heaping tablespoon of chopped, fresh chives
Optional:
2 to 3 tablespoons of crumbled, crispy-cooked bacon

 

Scrub potatoes under running water.  If large, cut into halves or quarters to facilitate cooking.  Place potatoes in a large soup pot and add water to cover.  Bring to a boil over high heat and add salt (I like to use course smoked sea salt here).  Boil potatoes until they are fork-tender.  Drain and set aside.

Preheat oven to 400°F

Brush surface of pizza crust with olive oil.  Rub cut sides of garlic clove all over oiled surface of crust.  Discard garlic halves.  Sprinkle crust with half of the Parmesan cheese.

Cut cooked potatoes into chunks and arrange over pizza crust.  Smash potato chunks with a potato masher or a large fork until flat and evenly smashed over crust.  Brush tops of smashed potatoes generously with olive oil.. Sprinkle with salt and pepper (less salt – more pepper), as well as the rosemary and chives and bacon (if using).  Mash potatoes a bit more to incorporate seasonings.  Top with remaining Parmesan.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden and crisp.

Serves 6 to 8 as an appetizer, first course or side dish.

Serves 4 to 6 as lunch with a salad

 

 

2 Responses to “Irrational”

  1. Jordania

    FUN!

  2. Marie

    Pi gets all the attention, poor e and phi.

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