Mordecai and I spent yesterday replacing some of the roof shingles above the Vivarium. We were so very lucky when it came to Superstorm Sandy – the house sustained very little damage and the grotto only collapsed a little bit. A number of shingles came disappeared in the storm, and I am relieved we repaired the roof before this new winter storm. Athena (a formidable winter storm name) has brought strong winds and snow to Brooklyn, and I am happy to be inside my dry house with a glass of port.

Mordecai whipped up a huge batch of his home-made super glue for the roof repairs. We can’t seem to find the nail guns, so we used our old hammers and hand-tooled nails from Silas’s stash. (Don’t ask why Silas has a stash of hand-tooled nails. It’s best you don’t know.) Mordecai’s glue contained, naturally, isinglass.

Isinglass (noun) is a transparent gelatin made from the bladder of certain fish (often sturgeon) and used to make glue or a clarifying agent. Isinglass can also refer to the thin, transparent sheets of mica used in wood- and coal-burning stove door windows.

Isinglass probably originates in the folk etymology. From the obsolete Dutch huizenblas, which is from the Middle Dutch huusblase, from huus for sturgeon plus blase for bladder.

The first known usage of the word was in 1535, and my family has been making Isinglass as far back as there are family journals. In fact, one of my great great great great grandfathers was named Isinglass. Rumor has it that he has a bit of a kleptomania problem, giving new meaning to the term “sticky fingers”.


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