15 October, 2010

Water: For the Health of the Earth and its People - Us

                                       Photo courtesy of R.J.O. © 2010

There are so many things I could say about water -- how I love the ocean, how now the rain is falling outside my window greywashing the whole afternoon, soft, reassuring, how lucky I am to be in a country where safe water is just a few steps away. How much I am aware today that hardly an hour goes by that I am not cradling a cup of tea or coffee, brushing my teeth, taking a shower, or cooking, and that none of that would be possible without water.

How I am worried and sick that many of those in arid countries do not have this happiness, and that it is so necessary that they do. After all, they are not some anonymous strangers halfway around the world, they are the families of my students, and therefore my family, by extension.

I try to do my best to save water and I think I am. I have been taking a re-usuable mug for most of the last 5 years. I don't buy bottled water any more and I eat foods that use much less water to produce than meat.

I never throw garbage around and when I go to the beach I often try to pick up plastic that I find there.

I do these things and more, but on a day like today when the enormity of the problem sinks in, deep as the bone, I feel a bit helpless. The problem is so titanic and I am just one. I can't do it alone. Our only hope is our strength in numbers. If we join together, surely next year there will be fewer people thirsty and sick, less plastic in the ocean.  If we act, we do it for ourselves, for as surely as the African women walking miles to get water could be the families of some of my students, they could be my own family or me. We are the earth's people and we either sink or swim together.

For more about water and to see other Blog Action Day posts go to  http://blogactionday.change.org/

14 October, 2010

Blog Action Day: October 15, 2010 - Water

October 15 is Blog Action Day. This year's theme is Water, the single most important subsance on Earth. Water is life or death to every living thing. Yet it's not equally available to us all. Is that fair? Have something to say about that? Or a reflection on what water means to you?

Join us.

Blog Action Day 2010: Water from Blog Action Day on Vimeo.

09 October, 2010

Spiced Cranberry, Ginger, and Raisin Sauce/Jam

With the Thanksgiving weekend already here, and none too soon, I'm putting up my version of cranberry sauce. Cranberry sauce has a long history as an accompaniment to the traditional turkey dinner here in North America, and after quite a few years of the same, although always good, sauce I started feeling that it was time to make some changes. Since I don't eat turkey and might want to use the sauce as accompaniment to breaded Portobella Mushrooms, perhaps, or have a wee bit left over to put on some flat bread or toast, I've taken to jazzing up the classic.

Toast, you say, with cranberry sauce, perhaps with two question marks. Well what is this kind of sauce anyway, but a quickly cooked slightly thinner jam?  If you add a few raisins, fresh ginger, a dash of cinnamon, cloves or spices of choice, maybe a squeeze orange juice or a hint of rind, you have a lovely sauce when it's warm or jam when it cools. I try to vary mine each time so that I have something fresh as the moment I cook it. You might do the same. Just be sure to taste frequently as you go and use your palate as your guide, customizing so that you get something that will make whatever your dinner is going to be sing. And then you can have the leftovers for a few days with toast or a hearty flat bread like my chapita.

This Thanksgiving I'm thankful for a few things. One is that I'm here with my family to celebrate, the other, dare I say it, is that I'm cooking for only a small group this year, unlike last year's two-day kitchen marathon. That will leave time for a few walks in the precious country air and a few more minutes to cook a perfectly lovely meal.  I intend to enjoy both with a good appetite.

May you all do the same. Happy Thanksgiving!

This makes a tart but sweet sauce or jam, depending on the acidity of your cranberries. If you like a sweeter sauce, you can cautiously add a few tablespoons of sugar, remembering that the sauce will taste different when it's cool. If there's any doubt err on the side of tart; you can always allow the sauce to cool in the saucepan and taste it and then reheat it briefly and add more sugar if you need to. Omit the raisins if you want a more traditional sauce, but it will not be as thick. I like a fairly spicy sauce, so you may want to add a little less spice than called for, reserving the rest, taste and add the full amount if you wish. Have fun, experiment and if you come up with a great version, I'd love to hear about it.

Spiced Cranberry, Ginger, and Raisin Sauce/Jam

12 ounces or 340 grams fresh (or frozen) cranberries
1 cup water
1 cup sugar (I used natural organic - light brown is also tasty)
1 Tablespoon finely grated ginger (or to taste)
1 and 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon (or a cinnamon stick, removed later)
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 cup golden raisins or sultanas

Put the cranberries and water into a medium sized saucepan and boil until the berries start to soften and pop. If using the cinnamon stick instead of ground ginger, put it in now. Control the boil so they doesn't pop all over you and the stove top by adjusting the heat and use a lid if necessary.

Reduce the heat to a simmer. Add the sugar and stir in it in and then put in the spices. Allow the berries to soften and if necessary you can use a fork to mash the ones that don't break down, more a feature of the fresh berries than the frozen.

Stir in the raisins and continue to cook gently until everything is well blended and a bit thickened and has the texture of a soft jam. Take the sauce off the heat and allow it to cool in the saucepan or a bowl. If you are going to keep it for a few days or so in the fridge, then a good keeper is a clean mason jar.