Saturday, January 17, 2009

Learning About Shea Nuts

Seed of Vitellaria paradoxa, the Shea tree. Ne...

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At this stage in my life, I've shifted away from operations management towards project management, and recently towards mentoring and teaching. I'm passing on what I’ve learned. It's fun and rewarding.

One of the things I teach is to love the process of learning, or more precisely, to have a curious mind. You see, I have this mind that thinks it’s empty, so I feel compelled to fill it.

I”m a generalist. One of my old bosses used to describe me as a mile wide and a mile deep. Of course, he’s talking about work. So in a sense, I’m a specialist in that I specialize in manufacturing operations, but I’m a generalist in that I know it all, Some areas I know well, like IT, and some areas I know because I needed to, like accounting.  What caught my attention today was that I was actively using a technique I’ve been teaching to others. I thought I would post on it to give you some insight into the oddness that is Mojoey.

I visited a museum today to view a photography exhibition (more on that later).  While I was viewing a picture with an old woman shelling nuts outside a hut in Africa, I thought, “I wonder how much her work adds value to her family”. I wanted to know why those nuts were so important that a 80 year old woman was dedicated to shelling nuts as if her life depended on it.

I wrote “Shea Nut” in a notebook. When I returned home, I looked up Shea nuts, which took me to Shea butter, which took me to a folk sinus cure (a dead end), and then on to the universal nut press, which took me to the secular charity, the Full Belly Project.

In the process of leaning about Shea nuts, I also learned about the Vitellaria paradoxa tree , looked at a few dozen pictures of the tree and the animals that consume it’s nuts. The knowledge filled in blank spaces from nature programs.  Things started to click. I could feel myself understand concepts I had missed before.

I also learned about peanut agriculture, the nutritional value of peanuts as a staple food, and the value of peanut byproducts. I looked into the use of Shea butter in cosmetics and chocolate. I explored the economy of Senegal, Ghana, and Niger. I read an old newspaper story on price speculation on Shea nut futures, And then there was my brief foray into the Holy Spirit Movement. What a bunch of nut jobs.

I don’t know if I’ll ever use the information I picked up today. I may not. I will continue to learn about things related to Shea nuts for weeks to come. Question will come up, odd thoughts will enter my head. The overwhelming desire to touch and taste the nuts will be with me until a locate an African foods store and fry up some monkey meat cooked in Shea nut butter (ok, no monkeys, but chicken for sure).

What can I say. I’ve got a curious mind. That’s a good thing…. right?

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