Watching my new favorite series, the “Great British Baking Show,” on Netflix recently, I noticed in the background an odd-looking yet beautiful large bird strutting about the lawn of the British manor beyond the tent where the show is filmed.
I was intrigued by the pattern of black and white speckles on his body (assuming it was a male, because it’s usually the male birds who sport the grandest plumage), the bright orange beak with red “flaps” alongside, and a pointy bump on its head that seemed to be a replica of the beak.
I was curious about the bird, so I paused the show to look it up. Thank goodness for option to search by image on the internet.
I discovered that I had seen a guinea fowl, likely a male – judging by the longish “flaps,” which are called “wattles.” The “bump” on his head is called a “helmet.”
Females look similar to males, except their wattles and helmets are smaller and shorter.
There are about 20 different colors of guinea fowl, and the feathers of adult males and females of each color variety look nearly identical. My bird was the original pearl gray color.
I could go on about what I learned on a dozen websites about guinea fowl – from how to build a roost (not a coop) for pet guineas, to what they eat, to how to tell if it’s a male or female.
Learning almost always happens when I follow up on something that piques my curiosity.
The reason I started watching the baking show is that I failed so miserably during the widespread coronavirus isolation-induced mania last spring to hone one’s bread-baking skills. The recipe and method sounded so easy, and I had a jar of starter, and explicit instructions – and I messed it up over and over.
I was curious about how other bakers handled the challenge, and why the temperature of water makes a difference to yeast, and what is the secret to baking a great loaf of bread every single time?
I’ve learned a lot from those bakers, and from host and bread master Paul Hollywood. I’ve also learned about baked goods from around the world. Who knew there were so many diverse ways to use flour and water?
The learning that comes from curiosity is one reason I encouraged my children to always ask questions if they were curious about something, or didn’t understand it, or just wanted to know more.
Boy, did they ask questions! Usually, when they were younger, they proffered mostly “why?” questions, the kind parents do their best to answer, only to have their short answer be questioned again: “Why?”
Even now, as young adults, they still ask perplexing questions: “Why, exactly, is it better to have a mortgage hanging over your head instead of renting?” “Why are we forced to have car insurance?” Again, there are no short answers.
Driving home recently, I heard a promo spot on NPR for a program that appeals to those who are curious, according to the host, who is also curious.
“Think” is a national, daily interview show that explores all kinds of topics. When I got to my computer and looked it up, I found a list of intriguing topics, many of which I have been curious about but haven’t taken the time to search for: humorist David Sedaris; “What happens when medical misinformation goes viral”; “Latter Day Saints in a modern world”; and why IS Wonder Woman the only female Superhero?
What piques your curiosity? If you can’t think of something to look up, here’s a starter set of questions:
What is a Kransekake, and how is it made?
How tall is the Empire State Building?
What’s the coldest, habitable place in the U.S.?
How many pennies are there in a million dollars?