Gifting is Beautiful

The quote from Momentum this morning is “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” by  David Viscott. I wanted to know more about David Viscott as this quote is meaningful to my personal journey. From this article at the Quote Investigator I found some interesting information some of which I used to write this post.

David Viscott was a psychiatrist who hosted a pioneering radio talk show in the 1980s and 1990s during which he provided tough love counseling to callers. Unfortunately he died in 1996 of a probable heart attack.

Viscott’s statement was composed of three parts instead of two:

The purpose of life is to discover your gift.
The work of life is to develop it.
The meaning of life is to give your gift away.

I like this three part version because I like the idea that effort and work are required as many gifts are wasted when we don’t work on them. On a personal level, I’m still trying to work out what my gift is and, hence, what my life’s work and meaning are. I know I want to use my food science technical knowledge to make the food system more equitable and I want to appreciate beauty in world more. By beauty I mean both enjoying and appreciating the natural world and to add beauty to the world through my own creativity and actions. I’m trying to link these two purposes together.

On the subject of gifts, Ralph Waldo Emerson stated that a gift should require effort. Thus, creating a gift is a more meaningful gift than giving one that was purchased.

Rings and jewels are not gifts, but apologies for gifts. The only gift is a portion of thyself. Thou must bleed for me. Therefore the poet brings his poem; the shepherd, his lamb; the farmer, corn; the miner, a stone; the painter, his picture; the girl, a handkerchief of her own sewing.

I’m definitely happier when I give gifts I have made. However, not everyone is appreciative of such gifts and therefore worthy of a handmade gift. Knitters call this knitworthy.  I wonder if Emerson was truly knitworthy.

Advertisements

Heart-breaking

Following on from my last two posts about the rendering of children from families seeking asylum in the USA.

It has been confirmed that the government does not have a process for re-uniting the families. Border control separated the children from their parents for the misdemeanor of  entering the USA illegally. These are families that are so desperate that they left their home countries due to violence and when they arrive at the USA border they are turned away. So they cross the border illegally as this is their only chance to a half-way decent life. Some of the families have been re-united and there are heart-breaking stories all over the internet about children having not been cared for or washed while they were in US custody and are returned to their parents, filthy with lice.

There is a video showing the reunification of a mother and daughter, while heart-warming, it also shows a child who appears deeply traumatized. I would say that these videos should’t be shown for the sake of the child’s privacy, but we need witnesses to the horrors that the US government has inflicted on these refugees.

Furthermore, there is now evidence that children were taken to an office building and held there. This building was not approved to childcare and lacked facilities for children to stay overnight or for a long-time.

Additionally in one of the Texas “shelters” children were given anti-psychotic drugs to keep them docile. Some were told to take the drugs or never see their families again.

We need to do better.

#familiesbelongtogether

Hug Your Family

Continuing yesterday’s post as there is more from the testimony on the policy of zero tolerance towards immigration and the effects of tearing families apart. Adam Klasfeld summarizes the second document. I am not going to quote from it or Adam’s thread this evening. This document emphasizes that there is no system in place for parents and children to communicate or to be reunited. Additionally details of the trauma experienced by both the parents and the children is stated in stark terms. Even if you think immigration into the USA should be limited, there is NO reason to be treating anyone so horribly, especially refugees fleeing violence.

If you have children, give them a hug.

If you haven’t seen this video from Now This, you should know that asylum seeking children are expected to represent themselves at their immigration hearings. They are not guaranteed a lawyer. This video is a re-enactment of children in immigration court. I read one tweet that said it was actually worse in court than shown in the video.

If you have children, hugs to your children.

I read this a few weeks ago, but it just came up again on Twitter today. The Department of Homeland Security is going to re-examine naturalized citizens’ applications and may revoke citizenship. I’m hyperventilating about this one and, no, I didn’t lie on my application. The process is complex so wording could be twisted to make anything a lie if the government or lawyers chose. Also I am from Britain and I’m white, so…

Hug your family.

There are a number of protests around the country. The one at the Statue of Liberty is getting a lot of publicity and I’ve been following the protest at the ICE facility in Philadelphia. Thanks to these protesters.

#familiesbelongtogether

 

Not in My Name

I cannot write a reasonable and civil post after reading this thread of tweets.  The government which makes refugees unwelcome and prevented from seeking asylum does not represent me. I am angry. Not in my name.

“When I first spoke with ICE officers, they told us, ‘why did you come from your country?’, ‘don’t you know that we hate you people?’, ‘we don’t want you in our country.’ … We are being treated like criminals in chains and everything. We’re just seeking refuge.”

I cannot permit trauma to be inflicted on vulnerable people fleeing violence and seeking asylum. I am crying. Not in my name.

“Children who have been forcibly separated from their parents face not only this trauma, but also the trauma of having been torn from their parents, placed in detention centers and brought to new places and people that they may not know.” Catholic Charities, Boston, refugee dir.

I cannot sit quietly when people are turned away at the border before being able to ask for asylum. When they then enter illegally to escape violence and abuse, they are arrested and their children were torn away from them, and once in detention asylum seekers are treated appallingly. I am furious. Not in my name.

“They took me to the ‘icebox.’ … It was very cold and we were only given blankets made of aluminum foil. We were sleeping on the freezing ground. We were being grossly shouted at.” Honduran single mom separated from her 6-year-old.

I cannot watch idly when more than a week after we were told that the families would be reunited, there isn’t a system in place which allows families find each other, let alone get back together again. There appear to be little ore no records of where different family members were sent. I am frustrated. Not in my name

“As of our last communication with them, none of the above individuals had been informed of plans to reunite them with their minor children, grandchildren, or other minor aged family members.” Senior staff attorney for ABA Immigration Justice Project, referring to families here.

I cannot remain silent as my heart breaks when any person is treated inhumanely. I am enraged. Not in my name.

I demand that all refugees are treated with respect and, yes, civility when they ask for help. I am determined. In my name.

Original Report  Thanks the Adam Klasfeld for taking the effort to read through and  make public the information in the recently released documents on immigration.

#familiesbelongtogether

 

A fishy story

Writing this sent me down memory lane of my childhood neighborhood. In addition, I checked some of the distances on Goggle maps because I remember everything being much further away as I was a particularly small child. Some background might be helpful.

I grew up in Birmingham (England for my oh-so-amusing American friends who have said “you don’t sound like you are from Alabama”) in a suburb called Selly Park, which in my mind is part of Selly Oak . Selly Park was “posh”, Selly Oak was more lower class and industrial. I have no idea what either are like now.

A couple of days ago, I was reading this article from the Guardian, which bought back some great food memories. My mum was a health nut before there were health nuts or more likely before I knew there were health nuts. She refused to eat parsnips and black pepper for years because she heard they caused cancer. She ate whole wheat bread at the time that white sliced bread was the best thing ever and whole wheat bread was chewy and tough and essentially indigestible. She didn’t like chocolate.

One time I was being a brat about eating fish, I demanded fish fingers instead of the fresh fillets that she usually cooked. I didn’t want the fresh fish that mum had almost definitely got from the Birmingham fish market which was in the city center or Town as we called it. My parents didn’t drive so getting fish required her walking to the bus stop about 7 mins from our house and a 20 min bus ride into town, followed by a 10 min walk to the market. I’m sure she bought other stuff when there; if I was with her there were prawns in a little bag to keep me quiet. After buying fish she probably stopped at the Bullring market for fruit and veg, probably with me whining as I hated the market then, it was busy and noisy and I was terrified of losing mum [I was a very small child, remember]. Then she/we returned home. If she was carrying a lot she might get a taxi. Lacking a car meant we used lots of taxis.

If she didn’t go into Town she might walk up to the shops in Selly Oak that were 10 min away and she would stop at the greengrocer, the butcher, and the baker to get our different food supplies. Oh, and the shops were closed Wednesday afternoon and Sunday and probably all closed by 5:30 every day and earlier on Saturdays and she worked full-time after I was about 9 years old. I don’t remember when the first supermarket came to Birmingham. The first I remember was a Sainsbury’s in Northfield that must have opened around 1975ish. Northfield was south of us away from Town so we didn’t go there very often, as Town was more exciting. I remember Sainsbury’s have so much choice and they pumped out bakery smells into the shopping center. (In a fit of honesty, I should point out, because my brother will if I don’t, as we got older and independent it is was more likely that my brother and, once he left home myself, buying the food in Town. Actually dad might have bought the food before we did. So while mum had it tough, she gladly gave up her responsibilities for food shopping as soon as she could.)

So I refused those delicious cod or plaice fillets she had made such an effort to buy and demanded fish fingers. Her solution was to hand-make fish fingers, because she didn’t have enough to do all ready. I was really disappointed. Truly all I was hoping for the bright orange coated Bird’s Eye fish fingers that I got at friend’s house. That was real food!

 

Health, Knowledge and Flavors

Salud, saberes y sabores

I just found out about a new FAO publication which has recipes from women who live in Latin America and the Caribbean:  Health, Knowledge and Flavors. The purpose is to recover culinary knowledge while recognizing women’s work in improving the nutritional quality of traditional foods.

I’m intrigued with some of these recipes and looking forward to trying them. I also see that there are a number of ingredients that I don’t know, so it will be interesting to see if I can find them in southern NJ.

 

 

Food Ways: Sea biscuits

Hardtack

OLDEST SHIP BISCUIT. This specimen appears at the Maritime Museum in Kronborg Castle, Elsinore, Denmark. The biscuit dates from 1852. Image: Paul A. Cziko (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hardtack#/media/File:Oldest_ship_biscuit_Kronborg_DK_cropped.jpg)

It has been an interesting journey doing the research on sea biscuits and I am sure there is more information I haven’t found doing a quick internet search. Sea biscuits are the Navy’s equivalent of hardtack, which is a relatively new comer as it was named by the 19th Century American army. Given the simple recipe (mix flour and salt with water to make a dough, roll out into patties, bake in a medium oven for 30 min at least twice) these biscuits were probably around in prehistoric times and still surviving in some hidden cave somewhere. These biscuits last longer than flour as they have a lower moisture content and water activity. One disadvantage is that sea biscuits will absorb moisture if the humidity increases. This was a problem when Royal Navy ships first traveled in the tropics.

When I travel, even on short journeys, I am in the habit of carrying some food and water with me. Travel delays on trains and planes have been part of my travel experience and I prefer to know I have food rather than hope I can buy something if necessary.  Travelers need food that has a long shelf-life, is robust, safe to eat, and calorie/nutrient dense. Many travelers’ food is dried as removing the moisture  extends the shelf life by essentially making the food inedible to bacteria. While removing water has the advantage of stopping bacterial growth, it doesn’t always give us a food that is robust and could stand up to the rigors of travel. There have been a number of times I have reached into my rucksack for a cookie/biscuit and found crumbs. Not the snack I was hoping for!

The sea biscuit has more in common with Terry Pratchett’s Dwarf’s rock cakes than any modern cookie or cracker. So robust that, typically sea biscuits need to soaked overnight or smashed with a hammer or rock to able to eat it. Sea biscuits are the original cracker that was crumbled into New England chowder, probably because that was the only way the biscuits could be eaten. The British navy used to bake/dry their biscuits 4 times. So if you think biscotti are hard to eat without dunking, double the force needed to bite into a sea biscuit and book that trip to a dentist to replace your teeth. They were so hard that apparently an American civil war soldier wrote a letter on the side of a hardtack and mailed it with the address on the other side and it survived in the mail without any protection. No wonder British soldiers were envious of American food rations in World War 2.

In the process of making sea biscuits you knead the flour and water together. This allows for gluten formation and most of the recipes have a 2:1 ratio of flour to water which is perfect for gluten formation. Gluten is the protein that gives bread its springy texture and the network of gluten stays in place once heating is complete which means that bread keeps its structure after baking. While soft bread goes stale very quickly due to the retrogradation of starch, the starch in hardtack is probably all retrograded before leaving the oven. An interesting question would be to find out how much starch granules hydrate and swell in making of sea biscuits. Is enough for the starch molecules to gelatinize? Perhaps the water is removed too quickly for gelation and retrogradation occurs very quickly with little rearrangement of the starch molecules. (Confused – see my post on starch here!)

If you want to make your own sea biscuits there are lots of recipes online due to reenactors and survivalists wanting a food that is traditional and/or last a long time. They are also popular in Hawai’i and Alaska. Personally I would prefer water biscuits or Scottish oatcakes carefully wrapped than a food that is hard to eat. Trail mix would be more desirable still. However, if a zombie apocalypse is ever threatened, I know what I could bake to help my long term survival.

References

All references visited on 29 January 2018

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hardtack background
  2. https://www.wikihow.com/Make-Hardtack recipes
  3. http://www.survivalnewsonline.com/index.php/2012/02/hardtack-a-great-survival-food-stock/ recipe
  4. http://cookit.e2bn.org/historycookbook/904-hardtack-ships-biscuits.html recipe
  5. http://www.gone-ta-pott.com/hard_tack_sea_biscuits.html recipe and history
  6. https://youtu.be/FyjcJUGuFVg video, history and recipe
  7. https://reclaimingtheloaf.wordpress.com/2012/03/01/biscuits/ history
  8. http://www.foodtimeline.org/foodcookies.html#shipsbiscuit and http://www.foodtimeline.org/foodcookies.html#hardtack history
  9. http://www.menshealth-questions.net/royalnavalmuseum.org/info_sheet_ship_biscuit.htm history
  10. http://militaryhistorynow.com/2014/07/11/hard-to-swallow-a-brief-history-of-hardtack-and-ships-biscuit-2/ history
  11. https://www.rmg.co.uk/discover/explore/ships-biscuit history
  12. http://www.janeausten.co.uk/ships-biscuit/ history