Petri Dishes: Vampires and candy corn

Aug 18, 2020

Humor columnist Alexandra Petri will be online every Tuesday at 11 a.m. Eastern for Petri Dishes, where she'll offer a lighter take on the news of the day. Chat now about on her columns and any other questions you might have. Catch up on the transcript of his latest chat below.

Read Alexandra Petri's columns or catch up on past chats here.

Follow Alexandra Petri on Twitter here.

Good morning, everyone! I’m here, button pushed, ready to rumble! How are you holding up? 

You Know Who thinks we might have to re-do the election. I agree. When can we re-do the 2016 Election?

To be clear, I thought he also wanted “a re-do of four years.” If he has the technology and they could be different, I think it’s a good idea. 

I keep hearing from smart people - on both sides of the aisle - that polls are often wrong. Can polls be wrong? Isn't a poll a collection of people's opinion's or attitudes at the moment? How can that cohort of data be "wrong?" Are they saying that those people's opinions and attitudes at the date of time of the poll were wrong? My opinion is that I like chocolate ice cream more than vanilla. Am I wrong? And by giving that opinion, am I screwing up critical data that the ice cream industry needs? Please help.

I wonder this too! I have often felt that many of my opinions and preferences were incorrect. I am glad someone is getting to the bottom of this, finally. (I suppose it could be that the poll says that X percent of Americans do or want Y, and it turns out that in fact X percent of *Americans* don’t, only X percent of Americans taking the poll do. It can be very frustrating when the preferences of Americans don’t line up with the preferences of Americans.)

A Harvard study finds that persons with blood type O are less likely to test positive for COVID. How reassuring! While half the neighborhood walks around with belts below their boxers and face masks below their chins, I am protected by the Tinfoil Hat of Blood Types. In your medical opinion, Alexandra, should I share my blood with a special friend of lesser type?

I don’t have a medical opinion, just a regular opinion! I am inclined to discourage this blood-sharing plan. But I’m glad at least your blood has given you a sanguine attitude.

It is very nearly that season! Regular corn is almost out and candy corn will soon be in! 

So, the Maryland Renaissance Festival has been canceled this year, and I'm very sad, because it was one of our favorite autumn things. I'm trying to look on the bright side, but all I really have is that I can rationalize purchasing more blown glass than I need as a way of supporting artisans, and I can wear my "very hard to put on and sit down in because of all the laces" dress at home and... pretend, I guess? But what of cheesecake on a stick?!?!

It sounds as though you had at-home solutions for the other puzzles! I am rooting for you to come up with a cheesecake-on-a-stick innovation! 

I'm sorry, I'm laughing my head off. There have been tons of studies showing how the way a question is worded and asked skews the answers. Poll results are not so much "wrong" in themselves as manipulated, deceptive, unrepresentative, etc. A little googling will inform you of this.

I think it depends on the purpose of the poll! I take your point on the importance of wording, but I also think there’s a distinction between a poll genuinely setting out to measure opinion and, say, a push poll! As with testing, if the point is to get the lowest numbers possible, sure, you can do that! But if what you want is usable numbers that paint a picture of what is really going on, you have to do your best to take the findings of those studies into account or the poll won’t be any good. 

Well, remember polls only report data for a small sample of likely voters (usually). Random sampling takes care of a lot of noise, but there's also other sources of error (e.g., people can give you the answer they *think* you want and then choose to vote differently). And if the results are within the margin of error (say, 51% v. 49% with plus/minus 3% margin of error), it means that statistically, they are equal.

Do vampires have blood type preferences? Is there a connoiseurs' blood type?


Now I don't feel bad about typos.

See, I’m still too Type A not to notice them. 

Did this mean less likely to have Covid, or that the test is less accurate in detecting it?

Wait, OP, come back! We have a follow-up!

Have we discussed Jake from State Farm in this chat, or was that Monica’s chat? Does she even have a chat, or did I imagine that? Anyway, if it was this one I’d like to point out another oddity in that commercial. You know how she says “Jake, from State Farm, at 3 in the morning?” Well, when she comes storming down the stairs the clock on the wall reads 2:10. I thought you’d want to know this important information.

We have discussed him and I want to keep discussing him! That clock is a sign, but of what? Everyone also please rank the current commercials of Geico, Progressive, and Liberty. 

now comes news that Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts will both release their Pumpkin Spice Lattes within the week! Oh, the horror.

Fall Is Coming. 

And I really don't want to go to the trouble of finding enormous turkey drumsticks and then brining and roasting them!

right? Just find a recipe for the item and find some ways to make them firmer so they can keep avoid falling apart when a stick is inserted and used to carry them around? I would consult the food chat tomorrow about a nice firm cheesecake recipe for carrying on a stick.

What I don’t get is the people who wear masks below their noses. Do they really not know better? Are they being provocative? Of course it’s not quite as bad as the below-the-chin masks.

I don’t know, the below-the-chin masks always seem as though maybe they were on properly just before I arrived, whereas the nose masks seem like a clear stance.

They should at least keep the jousting. It's the perfect activity for the socially distant era.

Wait a minute; someone brought up candy corn and failed to mention the new "Turkey Dinner" candy corn flavor assortment, complete with green beans and stuffing?

Oh no! I don’t trust this at all!

Things have been going crazy recently with CC flavors. I saw a Turkey Dinner flavor the other day. ???

I am not sure I am emotionally prepared for turkey-flavored candy corn. 

Do they have blood sensitivities the way humans have food sensitivities? I mean, would a vampire who can only have AB negative blood starve to death? Can vampires starve to death?

Presumably! I always thought of it as being more like varied hues of wine, though. “The ‘93 AB was a very good vintage with a warmth and clarity to it, but we are all out of the ‘97 O, which was crisp and had hints of apple.”

See, this is why people take away the wrong impression from poll reporting. An opinion can't be "wrong" statistically; it just means you're in the minority. "More people like vanilla than like chocolate" doesn't mean that everyone should switch to liking chocolate.

No, absolutely! Your opinion is not wrong, it simply might not be representative. 

According to an article in Business Insider ( ), the year has been so awful that Dunkin is supposed to roll pumpkin spice tomorrow (19th), and Starbucks on the 25th.



Tinfoil blood confers a magical power to ward off the disease, so long as Lucky O (moi) wears his mask and refrains from dining as vampires do. By the way, the original Dracula, in Bram Stoker's 1897 novel, distinguishes blood by gender, not type. He prefers female blood unless no women are available. A great read.

I had forgotten that detail! Is this one of Van Helsing’s fun facts? I liked Van Helsing very much. 

Do most people know what their blood type is? I don't. I have never been able to donate blood because I have spent too much time in the UK, and the prohibitions relating to mad cow disease are still in place. And now I have a somewhat unusual condition which means that I have to go the hospital every three months or so to have a unit of blood removed. I feel like I should ask next time if they can tell me what my blood type is, except I'm sort of embarrassed to admit I don't know.

Don’t be embarrassed! Say there is a chat of people who wanted to get confirmation of your blood type for an, er, important mission that I am sure we can brainstorm quickly.

I wouldn't trust the Turkey Dinner flavors. I get a strong Violet Beauregard vibe here.

Yes, it is wrong to think that chocolate ice cream is better than vanilla. (All ice cream is good, in the sense that it is much better than not having ice cream. And chocolate is a fine ice cream -- certainly nowhere near the bottom of ice creams. Vanilla, however, is a steady, quiet, reliable star. It can work with other ice creams. It works with all sorts of toppings. But it's been so good for so long, serving as sort of a baseline or foundation, that its own charms are often overlooked. To deem it merely reliable or underrated is to forget its individual greatness.)

Hear, hear! If we could not have any toppings with it, we would still crave vanilla, but we do not have to live in that world, and it makes us forgetful. 

My blood type is A+ for a reason.

Thus making a horrible year worse. The only thing I hate more than this is Christmas in July, which is the only thing I hate more than July. Except August. I hate August more than anything.

Well, we are almost done with August! I agree that Christmas in July is infuriating and not to be tolerated. Put Christmas back where it belongs! This year I am in favor of anything with a tendency to accelerate the movement of time, so if Big Coffee wants to move Fall forward a few weeks I guess I support the move. Unless of course 2021 turns out to be even worse. 

No, "we" would not. I and most of my cohort crave chocolate, and only chocolate. vanilla is a platform, not a flavor.

Look, as we established, my opinion is correct, but not representative! I am also an anomaly because I don’t like chocolate very much. I won’t refuse it and I can enjoy it because it is a key presence in many tasty desserts, but I never seek it out. 

Yes, that one of your parents had A+ blood.

I had A negative reaction to this.

That’s what I had when I was stung by AB. 

I think Progressive is the new king. I like how it’s now an ensemble cast with Jamie and Mara to complement Flo. Geico has gone from the cream of the crop to really mediocre and boring commercials. But Liberty’s manic jingle that simply repeats the name three times at the end drives me so insane that they will always be last in my book.

I agree completely with the reversal of Progressive and Geico in the hierarchy and have been saying this for a while to anyone who will listen (my poor husband who is trapped in the house with me). But I don’t mind the emu. 

It can be safely served to any audience, accompanying any other dessert item. I recall once my dear grandma, lacking vanilla ice cream, served us her homemade rhubarb pie with chocolate ice cream. Not good.

Recently saw one of those food tasting blogs that compared all fast food soft serve vanilla ice cream cones. Imagine my surprise when Dairy Queen was deemed the best of the lot.

I am not sure if I am supposed to imagine a lot of surprise or a limited amount of surprise, but I am doing my best to imagine something! How did McDonald’s place? 

Here in Massachusetts, people have been getting pumpkin spice iced coffee at Dunkin for days already.

... is the Toyota Camry of ice cream.

Vanilla is the vanilla of ice creams.

I think the time error on the JFSF commercial is intended to symbolize what a drama queen the woman is. Not only is she paranoid and mistrustful, she’s prone to hyperbole when it suits her. Apparently 2 am isn’t an egregious enough time. It has to be 3 am! Or, it’s simply a continuity error.

This raises an interesting question: at what point after two does it become “THREE O’CLOCK IN THE MORNING!” I would argue anything after 2:30 is fair game. 

Van Helsing is a national hero in the Netherlands. Every October 29th little Dutch schoolchildren, crying and screaming, are festooned by their parents with garlic wreaths. (I am wearing a garlic wreath under my Tinfoil Hat.) Yet in Romania, on that same date annually, Van Helsing is drowned in effigy in a vat of pumpkin spice latte.

I can think of nothing to add to this, so I think I had better end the chat here! I wish you all a safe and pleasant week. See you on the blog and on Twitter until next time! 

Agreed about the emu. I like when it freaks out and attacks the seat belt for no reason. I feel like they must have done their emu homework. And I like how Doug is retro 70s for some reason. But the Liberty, Liberty, Liberty has to go.

McDonald's was ranked third. Got dinged for a "slightly artificial vanilla flavor."

Absolutely. But there's no way you can stretch 2:10 into 3:00.

Vanilla ice cream made with REAL vanilla beans is not boring. It's amazing. And I'm a chocolate girl.

I once worked with someone who claimed that there is no food which could not be improved with the addition of either vanilla ice cream or bacon. He might not be wrong.

In This Chat
Alexandra Petri
Alexandra Petri is a Washington Post columnist offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day. She is the author of "A Field Guide to Awkward Silences." She joined The Post as an intern in 2010, after graduating from Harvard College.
Recent Chats
  • Next: