Iron square = :| but Iron fish = (ツ)
August 3, 2014 3:33 PM   Subscribe


 
What a brilliant idea! I love reminders that one person is capable of making a real and lasting difference to people's lives.
posted by billiebee at 3:43 PM on August 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


Another thing that's nice is that an iron fish should last a lifetime. Iron is important but the actual amount needed for good health is tiny by comparison to how big that fish is.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 3:45 PM on August 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


Fine, it reduced anemia, but what did it do to luck levels?
posted by Etrigan at 4:00 PM on August 3, 2014 [31 favorites]


Excellent project. Sadly, it can only solve one piece of the puzzle. So many people in Cambodia are malnourished, it's unbelievable. About 40% of children are malnourished, 28% of children are underweight and 1 out of every 5 women is underweight. Besides iron, Vit A and iodine are the biggest issues.
I wish the website would say in which provinces they distributed the fish. Particularly the eastern provinces are very remote and hard to get to. Most families have only a pot of rice a day there.
posted by travelwithcats at 4:04 PM on August 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


|--------------
|----7--7/9-9--               
|-9--5--5/7-7--
|-7------------
posted by Wolfdog at 5:05 PM on August 3, 2014 [7 favorites]


Fine, it reduced anemia, but what did it do to luck levels?

Luckily, a bunch of children stopped having anemia.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:47 PM on August 3, 2014 [15 favorites]


That's awesome! I'm mildly anemic right now (pregnancy complication), I would totally use one of those now if I could buy one in the US.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 5:47 PM on August 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


That's awesome! I'm mildly anemic right now (pregnancy complication), I would totally use one of those now if I could buy one in the US.

For reals, I'm vegetarian and probably could do with some more iron, and I would totally use one of these.
posted by threeants at 6:06 PM on August 3, 2014 [3 favorites]


I'm not sure how I feel about the white Canadian devising a way to play on the beliefs of the ignorant Cambodians to trick them into doing something that's secretly good for them.

I mean, it's good that there's less anemia, but still.
posted by kafziel at 6:08 PM on August 3, 2014 [6 favorites]


That's awesome! I'm mildly anemic right now (pregnancy complication), I would totally use one of those now if I could buy one in the US.

For reals, I'm vegetarian and probably could do with some more iron, and I would totally use one of these.

Dudes, for reals; this fish is a workaround. Fortunately here in the US, we can get plenty of cast-iron cookware damn cheap. They're remarkably inexpensive for how durable they are (the Lodge ones go on sale on amazon pretty frequently, in fact), and we already have care instructions baked into the site. I've dealt with mild anemia too, and cooking with cast iron took the edge off for me.

If you thrift or hunt around at antique stores, you can score them for basically nothing.

If you don't want to actually cook on cast iron, and you just want to throw it in a pot of soup or something, pick up at little buddy or a cast iron rack and just toss it in the bottom of whatever pot you usually use. No need for a fancy fish shape or good luck stories.
posted by furnace.heart at 6:13 PM on August 3, 2014 [5 favorites]


Practically any chunk of food safe cast iron would do the job. Regularly cooking with raw cast iron pots would be easiest but you could simple add any piece of cast iron to your cooking pot like a miniature frying pan or a serving skillet. Break up an old cast iron grill with a sledge hammer and you have enough pieces for your whole family.
posted by Mitheral at 6:14 PM on August 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


I mean, it's good that there's less anemia, but still.

Better those anemic kids have their dignity and diminished mental capacity, right?

If I'm not doing something simple that would greatly improve my daughter's well-being, anyone is free to trick me into doing it. Including white men, even if they are just the worst.
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:18 PM on August 3, 2014 [25 favorites]


But the fish is so cute!!!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:18 PM on August 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


One fish, two fish, iron fish, white guilt fish.
posted by angerbot at 6:21 PM on August 3, 2014 [20 favorites]


But the fish is so cute!!!

This is undeniable. Perhaps they should start a TOMS style racket; buy a fish and they give a fish (maybe without the insane markup however?).
posted by furnace.heart at 6:23 PM on August 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


kafziel, I agree it seems little bit unfair not to fully explain the point of the fish to the recipients. On the other hand, how likely is it that the charity has someone fluent in colloquial Cambodian who is also charismatic enough to explain the whole thing from "this is what a mineral is" to "and leaching minerals into your food, in this case, is a good idea"? If I weren't familiar with the concept, I would think it was some sort of crackpot theory dreamed up by oppressors to poison my family...which is what I would think if someone told white American me to do something for luck. Different sales approaches for different people, you know?
posted by blnkfrnk at 6:24 PM on August 3, 2014


1/2" by 6" lump of cast iron is $8.18 from McMaster, that and a band saw will supply a whole bunch of people. It won't be as cute as the fish.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 6:24 PM on August 3, 2014


If you skip to 8 minutes on the TED Talk he lists the variety of shapes they tried. Bar, Disc, and Lotus Flower didn't get the level of use the fish did.
posted by squinty at 6:26 PM on August 3, 2014 [3 favorites]


Is the company making the fish called the Chartered Zarathustra Company?
posted by Confess, Fletch at 6:27 PM on August 3, 2014


> Fortunately here in the US, we can get plenty of cast-iron cookware damn cheap.

If you have a glass-top or induction coil stove, check the stove's instructions first. Many of them forbid using cast iron cookware.
posted by ardgedee at 6:31 PM on August 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


> If you skip to 8 minutes on the TED Talk he lists the variety of shapes they tried. Bar, Disc, and Lotus Flower didn't get the level of use the fish did.

I'll bet he didn't even try the ferrous wheel.
posted by ardgedee at 6:32 PM on August 3, 2014 [17 favorites]


ardgedee: "Many of them forbid using cast iron cookware."

That doesn't make any sense; cast iron is practically the perfect material for induction cooking. I wonder if the problem is with enameled cast iron. I could see an induction cook top heating the enamel up enough to transfer it to the glass. I used to see that every once and a while with conventional coil resistive elements.
posted by Mitheral at 6:40 PM on August 3, 2014


If you thrift or hunt around at antique stores, you can score them for basically nothing.

You can routinely find them at garage sales for a buck or two, horribly beat up, but they're incredibly simple to resurface. That AskMe linked above doesn't have the One True Way of doing that linked off it, though.
posted by mhoye at 6:48 PM on August 3, 2014 [4 favorites]


The more I think about it, the more I hope the info that comes with the fish stresses that it's made of iron. Several generations down the line, I could see the message getting garbled into "any metal fish in your rice pot is lucky" and that turning into a lead problem.
posted by blnkfrnk at 6:51 PM on August 3, 2014 [4 favorites]


> I could see an induction cook top heating the enamel up enough to transfer it to the glass

It's because the cast iron is rough and scratches the hell out of the glass cooktop. Enameled iron would take care of that problem but the bases of most enameled iron pots are uncoated.

We have a glass-ceramic stove that a previous tenant insisted on using their cast iron on. Yeah, bad idea.
posted by ardgedee at 6:53 PM on August 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


kafziel: "I'm not sure how I feel about the white Canadian devising a way to play on the beliefs of the ignorant Cambodians to trick them into doing something that's secretly good for them."

He didn't trick them. He convinced them.

He told them why a chunk of iron should go into their cooking pot. But it's an odd and rather unappealing step in preparing food to add a utilitarian square hunk of metal. Giving it a more appealing and sentimental layer of meaning is the spoonful of sugar to make the medicine go down.

It's more pleasurable to use tools that are also beautiful.
posted by desuetude at 7:01 PM on August 3, 2014 [34 favorites]


No need for a fancy fish shape or good luck stories.

But the fish is cute. And it has a good story to go with it (not luck, but A Little Iron Is Good For You). I'm not anemic so I don't need it, but I don't really enjoy cooking with cast iron, because the cleanup/maintenence is more effort than I want to take. So if I was anemic, I would find a little iron fish an attractive option.
posted by emjaybee at 7:05 PM on August 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


He told them why a chunk of iron should go into their cooking pot. But it's an odd and rather unappealing step in preparing food to add a utilitarian square hunk of metal. Giving it a more appealing and sentimental layer of meaning is the spoonful of sugar to make the medicine go down.

One would think that "this way, your children won't die of anemia" would be an appealing step.

The more I think about it, the more I hope the info that comes with the fish stresses that it's made of iron. Several generations down the line, I could see the message getting garbled into "any metal fish in your rice pot is lucky" and that turning into a lead problem.

See, that's exactly why I'm not comfortable. It's turning it into a ritual, rather than an educated action.
posted by kafziel at 7:21 PM on August 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


The end of the TED talk talks about how the distribution of iron fish is accompanied by education about anemia.
posted by squinty at 7:25 PM on August 3, 2014 [10 favorites]


The end of the TED talk talks about how the distribution of iron fish is accompanied by education about anemia.

Would you kindly stop pointing out how considered and flatly educational this program is? I'm trying to show people how righteously opposed to paternalism I am. Thanks!
posted by Mayor Curley at 7:32 PM on August 3, 2014 [32 favorites]


kafziel: "One would think that "this way, your children won't die of anemia" would be an appealing step."

I dunno, perhaps you are the rare person who maintains all aspects of your diet, exercise, and overall preventative healthcare to the highest degree just on principle by following directions. No vices, no backsliding, no concessions to personal preferences, no prioritizing of anything other than purely the most beneficial possible output. But for the rest of us humans, a little sentimentality goes a long way. I drink more water from a favorite water bottle and thus do not suffer dehydration headaches. The pleasure of using beautiful cooking implements helps motivate me to cook at home rather than go out to eat, which I can ill-afford.

If it were me, putting an iron block into my cooking pot would feel like a chore, but I would smile at using a good-luck iron fish into my cooking pot instead -- fully knowing that functionally, it's the same exact thing.
posted by desuetude at 7:50 PM on August 3, 2014 [13 favorites]


The Old Testament did this trick for all kinds of stuff and it's not like there were any unforeseen circumstances from that.

Snark aside, this is pretty cool. Talk to your doctor before iron supplementing, though. Getting too much can cause heart disorders.
posted by Skwirl at 7:52 PM on August 3, 2014


Since I just read some of that guy's blog posts on industrial design, I'd say this actually seems like a design coup. I mean look at that little guy taking a swim in the pot! It's way less threatening than dropping in an iron block, and gives some context for what that thing is supposed to be used for.
posted by taromsn at 7:59 PM on August 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


It's turning it into a ritual, rather than an educated action.

I don't know how you think modern medicine works, but I've got bad news.
posted by mhoye at 8:18 PM on August 3, 2014 [6 favorites]


I don't know how you think modern medicine works, but I've got bad news.

Kids acting up in class because US K-12 schools are broken? Just give 'em Ritalin!
posted by spitefulcrow at 8:22 PM on August 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure how I feel about the white Canadian devising a way to play on the beliefs of the ignorant Cambodians to trick them into doing something that's secretly good for them.

I had trouble with this, too, but it's not really that far off from the way a lot of American products are designed and marketed. Williams-Sonoma and the like are full of tchotchke-ish kitchen tools like the iron fish: they don't play on superstition, but they're often cute and stylish to appeal to our senses, and sometimes have an accompanying backstory to make them seem more authentic or traditional. I wouldn't be surprised if "Cambodian Lucky Iron Fish" sold briskly at an upscale kitchen store, while plain iron blocks ended up on the clearance shelf.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:40 PM on August 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


That doesn't make any sense; cast iron is practically the perfect material for induction cooking.

You are right, in addition to the scratching cast iron can actually get too hot, induction stove top electronics are beneath the plate and will break down if exposed to too high a heat for too long. The heavy thermal mass of cast iron can be a problem.
posted by smoke at 11:06 PM on August 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


yea, I find cast iron just too heavy and unwieldy to cook with, but I'd love to have a little fish to put in a pot and help me stay healthy. There is a particular joy to be found where functional and beautiful intersect.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 4:14 AM on August 4, 2014


How heavy is the little fish? I think the ideas mentioned above about doing a TOMS-like giveaway for fundraising efforts sounds like a good one, but I wonder if the fish is too heavy to make shipping it in the US worthwhile?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 5:20 AM on August 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


See, that's exactly why I'm not comfortable. It's turning it into a ritual, rather than an educated action.

It happens here all the time. It depends on what qualifies 'educated action.' Many people take multivitamins daily in a ritualized fashion in the morning, but are uneducated as to exactly what each of the contained ingredients do or their specific levels of vitamins needs addressing, just that 'it's good for you.' Another example is we've ritualized feeding chicken soup to people with a cold, and the fact that it has been scientifically proven to help is not the sole reason we keep doing it; it's just our ritual of 'what you do' when you get sick.

If the concern is about a third party making these with unsafe materials, we also are not immune to that problem. In this case, though, the system actually can benefit from a bit of ritualizing - it helps 'lock' the practice to a specific object and process that can discourage deviation. If a counterfeit fish was to blame for some form of poisoning, having that in such a 'ritual' form helps defend the legitimate iron fish by directing the public response toward the fact that it was counterfeit, rather than at the entire concept of the lucky ion fish, with the added benefit of reinforcing the value of getting a safe, 'proper' one (the parallels between this situation and 'brand loyalty' in the developed world come to mind). I think the risk of counterfeit iron fish creating isolated incidents is worth taking when a solution that clearly benefits thousands of current and future families is possible.
posted by chambers at 10:12 AM on August 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


Public health, bitches. It works.
posted by Mental Wimp at 11:57 AM on August 4, 2014


I could imagine that some company like Lodge could make little iron charms easily, as they already have both the materials and the good reputation. Like, little kitties, puppies, fish, horseshoes, etc.

I'd cook with a little kitty instead of my cast iron pans - and I love my cast iron pans. Though I do wonder how they'd do in a crock pot.
posted by spinifex23 at 12:10 PM on August 4, 2014


You'd cook a little kitty? MONSTER
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 5:55 PM on August 4, 2014


I recall reading about NGOs distributing mosquito nets to prevent malaria and those nets being used for other purposes like drying fish.

I suppose giving the chunk of iron a very specific shape like the fish is a way of codifying what its purpose is, that it isn't to be used for whatever other uses you might find for a chunk of iron.

It's also a signal that it was specially made for this purpose, that some thought and care went into making this item, and thus you might put more trust into the idea that it works. If I show up with just little square slabs, maybe I half-assed their production and haven't really thought through how well they work.

It's not mentioned in the video, but from a more practical standpoint if the corners are too sharp I might be worried it will damage my pot.
posted by RobotHero at 9:10 AM on August 5, 2014


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