South Africa

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In October 2018, ten of us, cousins and spouses, ventured on a two-week trip to South Africa, organized by our youngest cousin, who grew up in South Africa.  We took an overnight flight from Zurich, and arrived 9 hours later in Johannesburg where we were whisked off to the Johannesburg Country Club, a left over cluster of old manors and lounges from the Brits, sprawled over a few acres of groomed gardens and surrounded by a ten foot high wall, topped with electric security wires. Over a scrumptious, extended lunch we were treated to a bit of history from our cousin who loved this country of his birth with a natural passion and he also knew that we were curious and keen to know where we were.

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Swiss Rösti

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Rösti is an all time favorite ‘poor man’ left-over recipe and is served for dinner or lunch – never for breakfast – in most Swiss homes and restaurants, including the high-end gourmet palaces like the ‘Dolder Grand’ or the ‘Kronenhalle’, usually as an accompaniment to seared calf liver or ‘Zürich Geschnetzeltes’which is scalloped sirloin in a cream sauce with mushrooms. 

 Here is how it goes:

Boil half a dozen whole potatoes (yukon or white) until cooked (ca. 15-20 min)

drain water and let the potatoes sit for a couple of days (2-4) on top of the fridge or out of the way, no need to refrigerate

 Now the potatoes are firm and easy to peel, then grate or shred them into fettuccini sized strips

heat 2 tbsp of bacon fat or butter in a frying pan  (cast or stick-free)

add the shredded potatoes, turn over two or three times on high heat

turn heat down and let sit for a few minutes (2-3)

gently mix a couple more times

now leave it alone and let it cook on medium heat for ca. 8-10 min, until the bottom is brown and crisp

Cover the potatoes in the frying pan with a plate and flip the whole works over so the Rösti comes to rest on the serving plate with the crisp, browned side up

You can also add bacon cubes and/or finely chopped onions to the mix but fry them first before adding the potatoes

When I was a kid I always garnished the Rösti with a couple of fried eggs over top and my mom insisted on a green salad on the side

Rösti goes well as a side dish with veal stroganoff (or Zurich Geschnetzeltes) sausages or pork cutlets or seared calf liver or just green salad.

 

Finland

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The LNG powered ferry from Tallinn, Estonia, to Helsinki takes two and a half hours and is a glitzy, floating restaurant, lounge, bar and garden patio with several large TV’s, a kids era, a live band and a whole floor dedicated to shopping.  You can buy a fancy watch or designer clothes while drinking a glass of champagne. Living in a ferry dependent community as we are here on the Sunshine Coast, this was a jaw dropping luxury cruise compared to the old rusty and creaky, diesel powered boats plying the waters of B.C. Mind you that crossing cost $ 50.- p/person as in compare to $ 17.- or free for seniors during the week.

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Pizza Bbq

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         Who doesn’t like pizza ? Nobody. It’s the ultimate universal meal or snack and ranks in popularity right next to bread and chocolate.

         Here is an easy recipe for home made pizza which tastes so much better then anything you order in a restaurant or that comes in a cardboard box. And it’s soo easy to make and so adaptable to your personal tastes and likes. Just look in the fridge.

         If there is some left over spaghetti sauce or salsa, maybe half a jar of pesto, some mozzarella or marble cheese, tomatoes and onions you already have all it takes to build a basic pizza. Add any other ingredients you have, like olives, mushrooms, garlic, any kind of peppers, spices and if you like a meaty pizza add ham, salami, pepperoni or my favorite, prosciutto.

         Of course there is no pizza without the base and here is how you can really impress yourself (and your guests). Make your own dough! Do you have flower in the house? How about some salt and maybe a packet of east? That’s it. Just add water and a bit of olive oil.

         Of course the real secret to the perfect pizza is where and how you cook it. Nothing is easier and soo perfect. Not everybody has a pizza oven but almost everybody owns a bbq ! It helps if you have a round pizza stone on which to bake your pizza. I’ve used 12” tiles from the building supply (clay or granite, some tiles will crack from the heat) and they worked just fine.

 Here is how you make the dough for one large  delicious pizza:

3 cups (450 gr, 1lb) flower (unbleached white or whole wheat)

1 tsp  yeast (you can skip the yeast if you want a really thin crust)

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp olive oil

add some rosemary

1 cup (2.5 dl) warm water

mix and knead by hand, form into a ball , cover it with a tea towel and let sit at room temp for a couple of hours

roll it out into the size and shape you like

sprinkle some corn meal on the stone (helps to prevent sticking) and lay out the dough, curling up the edges.*

Spread the sauce, salsa or pesto. Next comes the grated cheese, be generous and cover the whole dough, then add whatever else you want over top of the cheese

Heat the bbq tp to 500° (hot !) and slide in the pizza.

Have a look after 12-15 min. It’s ready when the edges go brown and the dough is stiff. Check it by lifting it with a spatula. Watch you don’t burn it.

Oh, so delicious !

Merlot (from the Okanagan) will go great with any pizza !

 

 

Las Vegas New Year

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                                    Where the rich come to play

                                    And the poor come to pay.

As soon as you step into the arrival and departure lounge the mechanical whirring, dinging and ringing of the ubiquitous slot machines permeates the atmosphere like everywhere in Las Vegas. This soundscape of gaming lures the masses to sit in front of, and feed money into, these blinking and clanging automated gaming terminals, depicting in bright neon lit screens various cartoon like scenes of fantasy themes, television and Hollywood icons. Casinos are at the heart of Las Vegas and they are the foundation on which this city has been built on and is still supporting thousands of jobs and the 150’000 hotel rooms. In this mirage in the desert you can go from the Coliseum in Rome to the Eifel tower in Paris to the canals and palaces of Venice, the roller coaster and Greenwich Village in New York or enter the pyramid in Luxor by just crossing Las Vegas Boulevard on one of the many elevated and escalator equipped crosswalks.

Seventy years ago Las Vegas was just a dusty old western village where today Freemont Street is covered by the ‘world’s largest’ video screen. This section features zip-lines under the video canopy with hourly visual effect shows to 80ies rock music like The Who or Heart. Its’ gaudily lit casinos and restaurants are older and a bit seedier then the glitzy new palaces on the strip, with lots of freaky performers at street level entertaining the crowds for spare change. Restaurants like ‘The Heart Attack Grill’ where 350lbs eat for free can be found here.

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Meat of the Future


   Thanksgiving is over and so are the traditional turkey dinners. We had ours at an old-time pub on Vancouver Island for $ 20 with all the trimmings, including pumpkin pie.  Of course, vegetarians and vegans shun this kind of food but I’m reading that there is hope for them to partake in this time-honoured tradition, not too far in the future.

            It being Thursday evening I was looking forward to meeting my friend Camp for a couple of brews in our pub, located on the waterfront on the traditional territory of the Squamish Nation. Business at the bookstore is slow in these months leading up to the festive season and Camp was already nursing his first pint when I joined him.

            ‘You’re a regular carnivore, aren’t you Camp, a purveyor of fine meats, cold cuts, fowl and fish?’ I said.

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Which Road to travel?


            Looking across Howe Sound, which has now been designated a UNESCO biosphere, I can see the first snow caps on the coastal mountains. Time for the snowbirds to migrate to warmer climes, except we’re not flying south but instead are hunkering down before a fire, dreaming of sunny isles and swimming at the local pool instead of the Caribbean waters.

             ‘Good news Camp. Several European countries have declared the pandemic over and are returning to ‘normal’. Denmark, Sweden and Norway have removed all protocols and the Netherlands, Ireland and Portugal have also announced that they’re lifting all the restrictions like distancing, and limiting crowds. They do however require vaccine proof when attending large gatherings like concerts or sports events.’

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Moral Imperative


            We’ve had a week of solid rain now and the summer seems long gone. I’ve walked to the village with an umbrella instead of sunglasses and boots instead of sandals. Camp was already enjoying his beer, staring out at the hard rain coming down, drumming on the glass roof.

            As the anti-vaxxers become more militant and ostracize themselves ever more from the mainstream of society, making life for the rest of us difficult with restrictions and overwhelmed health system, what should we – or the powers that be – do Camp?’ 

            For once my friend didn’t have a ready answer and thoughtfully sipped his beer. We both listened to the seagulls squawking. ‘For one thing we cannot pander to them and keep trying to convince them with arguments and statistics. We should let them know that we, the vaccinated, are protecting them by not letting them into gatherings and restaurants, since we could still be carrying the virus and infect them and since they are not protected, they are much more likely to end up sick, in hospital or the incinerator.’

‘To get vaccinated is a moral imperative.’

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Paradigm Shift


‘We had an election in Canada on Monday. Did anything change?

            ‘Nope,’ Camp said, ‘the same proportion of seats, the same liberal minority government, the same lackluster response from the voters. A $ 650 million cabinet shuffle as somebody said. Nobody got what they wanted: Definitely not Trudeau who wanted a majority, not the conservatives whose leader is at best a lacklustre opportunist with no plan and not the greens who lost seats and votes.’ 

            We sipped our cold bears and reclined in the comfy new chairs in our usual corner.

            ‘You know what puzzles me Camp, is that we don’t treat those who are diagnosed with covid and prevent them from ending up in hospital or dead. Why is there no therapy or medication for those suffering from the virus? All they tell us is: go home and wait it out for two weeks. Nothing is offered to ease the suffering or treat the symptoms.’

            ‘You’ve been watching old U-tube videos promoting cures with hydroxychloroquine and favipiramir and claims of natural herd immunity as the way through this pandemic? 

            ‘Well yes, I guess you’re right. The latest craze is this horse de-wormer. Desperate solutions for the misguided and ignorant.’

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Loneliness and Hubris


‘Your island in the Caribbean is turning into a tragic experiment, sort of the Swedish version of fighting the virus with natural herd immunity at the end of the tunnel. Grenada is now the country with the highest numbers of transmission per capita in the world,’ Camp said when I joined him at our usual table overlooking the harbour.

            ‘Yes, according to Dr. Charles, the chief medical officer, it’s a national disaster.  He said that it took about three weeks for this virus to infect one third of the population and he fears that half the island’s people could be infected with the extremely contagious Delta variant within two weeks, meaning it will hit every susceptible and unvaccinated individual. Only about 20 percent of Grenadians have taken the vaccine. Dr. Charles said that it will hit a peak and then hopefully decline but at what cost?’

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Help Wanted


            ‘Maybe I should get a job at the non-government liquor store,’ I said to Camp who was comfortably reclining, checking his ever-present stupid phone for signs of life and beyond.

            ‘What gives you that idea?’ 

            ‘They offer $ 21 an hour with benefits. Training on the job. Indoors, discounts on the products, meet interesting people all day long, learn about wine and spirits, get out of the house.’

            ‘You could volunteer at the book store. Same thing just without the pay check and samples, since I can’t afford to pay anybody these days.’

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Dangerous Times


          ‘Facebook and Google ‘experts’ are taking over and they all seem to know so much in such a short time, without schooling, without research and professors guiding and grilling them, without academic credentials; many without proper grammar and definitely without analytical processing faculties. But they have expert witnesses to quote and rely on. No empirical, peer reviewed evidence but You-Tube clips and theories by self-confident former scientists and doctors, by quacks and self-serving snake-oil pushers. Instead, we should be listening to the public health people, to the ER-doctors and to the nurses who have dedicated their professional lives to caring for the sick and dying.’

            ‘As usual you’re preaching to the choir,’ Camp said, taking a long swallow. 

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The Next Wave


            It rained all day which was a welcome reprieve from the unrelenting dry weather here on the Pacific North West. It actually felt good and everything perked up: The plants, the trees and even the people. That was about the only good news last week. We’re back to mask mandates, and the icu’s are filling up with the unvaccinated.

            ‘I don’t have any compassion for these idiots but my heart goes out to the health care workers who have to deal with them,’ I said to Camp, who held up both his hands and asked me to sit down and take a sip of this fine beer.

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The Cost of Warfare


 ‘What do you make of the chaotic mess in Afghanistan?’ I asked Camp who was busy reading off his new smart phone. 

            ‘It’s a humanitarian disaster of an epic scale and the world’s leaders spout grandiose sentiments and wag fingers but nobody is doing much of anything to help. This is surely Biden’s largest miscalculation. Mind you he supported both Bush’s wars in Iraq. Instead of listening to the experts as he did with regards to the pandemic, he let political optics guide his ill-fated decision. Throwing millions of women and children under the bus. For what? Twenty years of occupation and military deployment, trillions of dollars spent, 3500 US and allied soldiers killed, 3800 civilian US contractors killed, 66’000 Afghan military and police and over 47’000 Afghan civilians dead, against 51’000 Taliban. And now this chaotic withdrawal and collapse of the Afghan regime. How many people died in the twin towers on 9/11?’

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Teach your Children


 It was a hot afternoon and we couldn’t even see the mountains for the smoke from the dozens of wildfires ravaging the interior of the province. 

            ‘Remember ‘Teach your children well’ by Crosby, Still, Nash and Young?’ I asked Camp after I sat down. ‘I sometimes wonder what we teach our children. How about critical thinking, dissemination of facts from fiction, common sense, altruism, sharing, community sense?’

            ‘All good skills my friend but many parents don’t have them so how can they teach their children when they are glued to their devises for an average of 6 hours per day,’ Camp said. ‘Exposed to a smorgasbord of opinions, points of view, real and fake news. Not so much philosophy or history, mathematical equations or literature, although it’s all there on the world-wide-web.’

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Stupid Smart


            I was up at 5AM watching the Canadian women’s soccer team win the gold in Tokyo. If anybody deserved to win, they did. Just for those two hours of drama and football, I almost forgot to post my weekly update. Not that there is anything new in it. Just the same old gripes and laments. Sometimes I think Camp and I are like Statler and Waldorf, the two old, cantankerous Muppets in the balcony.

            ‘I think I figured it out,’ I said to Camp. ‘Stupid people will make smart people do stupid things to make them look smart.

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Just Do It !


‘Covid is over’, this young cashier said to me cheerfully while still wearing a mask. She took me by surprise and I repeated her sentiment back to her thinking I might have misunderstood her. It happens to me all the time when speaking to people wearing masks. I feel like a half-mute and often ask them to repeat themselves. ‘Yes, thankfully it’s over,’ the young woman said. Isn’ it?’ 

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Pandemic Blues


            The weather is hot and sunny, dry and there is no rain in the foreseeable future. Water restrictions are once again coming to your house, despite ongoing construction of homes, subdivisions and multiple family housing, all on the same water supply. When I pointed this out to Camp, who was late, he shook his head. ‘Water shortage in the rain forest is like running out of sand in the desert. It’s an infra structure problem, not a water problem. The local breweries still seem to be able to make beer and they use a lot of water.’

            We both appreciated our beers, which are over 90 percent water, as Cam wisely pointed out.

            ‘Dr. Fauci recently called the resurgence of Covid cases in the US ‘A Pandemic of the Unvaccinated’ since over 99.5 percent of all infections, hospitalizations and fatalities are not vaccinated. Over 100 million Americans are still not immunized.

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The Simple Things


     ‘The British are lifting their covid restrictions on Monday – euphemistically called ‘Freedom Day’ despite 40’000 daily infections,’ I pointed out to Camp who walked into the pub without his mask, the first time in a year and a half. ‘And Spain has close to 50’000 while Canada is below 1000.’

            “France is ordering full vaccination compliance amongst its health care workers or else they’re fired with no pay and the French also issued a vaccination passport which is now required by most businesses, airlines and universities,’ Camp said. 

            ‘I remember being inoculated with the small pox vaccine. I was at school and we all had to line up and white clad nurse went from on to the other and jabbed their upper arms. I still have a divot there and I remember it hurt. Did we have a choice? Nobody asked. The same with polio and the multiple childhood illnesses we were vaccinated against. I think the Polio came disguised as a sugar cube.’

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Cyber World


            When Camp walked in and sat down at our usual corner, he caught me thumbing my iPhone. Just like a teenager. ‘Did you know that there are 5 billion smartphones in the world and more than half of them subscribe to Facebook, 2.8 billion users. And growing,’ he said. 

            ‘No wonder there is such a bewildering number of interests vying for our business, attention and shopping habits,’ I said, putting my phone away. ‘This means that everybody from a toddler on up has a smart device and half of them are on social media. Everybody has a soapbox and is a film star. Does this make for a better world or is it the curse of our modern society, akin to the opium addiction of the 19th century?’

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Life is not a Toaster


            ‘How did you survive that heat wave?’ I asked Camp, after I removed my mask and sat down at our seaside pub.

            ‘I wore shorts for the first time to work and kept doors and windows wide open but then I closed early. And I drank too many beers after I got home.’

            ‘Monday was the worst. My phone registered 41 Degrees C. Higher than Phoenix, Arizona. Clare’s garden went into shock and so did we. Lucky us we were able to escape to the water all afternoon.’ 

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Go Green Go


            Finally, it’s summer here and restrictions are being lifted, cases are down and vaccinations are up. There seems to be a path back to some kind of normalcy, which is evident by the crowded pubs, parks and beaches. Watching the Euro 2020, a year late, with the stadiums half full, gives me hope that we’ll get back to the future. We all want to come out of our confinements and hibernation and toss that mask in the bin.

            ‘Camp was reclining in his chair by the window, pawing his smart phone and already nursing a pint. ‘What are you looking at?’ I asked.

            ‘An interesting article on the green investment boom and the bottlenecks that threaten to hold it back. Already, supply-side strains are growing. The price of minerals used in electric cars and power grids – cobalt, nickel, lithium, manganese, zinc, graphite and rare earth minerals – has soared in the past year and timber mafias are roaming Ecuadorean forests to find balsa wood used in wind-turbine blades.’

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Vaxx Incentives


            ‘We’ve been out on the water with friends, meandered all around Gambier Island and watched the seals and birds on the Christie Islets and the Pam rocks and had a picnic at Halcett Marine Park. We do live in paradise Camp. An old Canadian warship 334, HMCS Regina, did a tight turn right in front of us. Maybe they heard there were pot smokers and three immigrants on our boat.’

            ‘Lucky you, I had to work but I do have that million-dollar view out the back of the bookstore. Much like here at the pub. The only downside is wearing a mask all day long. Gives me a headache by the end of the day.’

            ‘Talking about million dollars. What do you make of Alberta’s million-dollar lottery to entice people to get vaccinated?’

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Everybody Wins?


‘Did you know Camp that anti-vaxxing and disinformation is a growing, lucrative business and turns over millions of dollars?’

            ‘How do they make money?’ Camp asked.

            ‘The vaccination opponents earn money in various ways: they have advertising revenue from YouTube videos, they sell vitamin supplements on their websites or sell themselves as event speakers. Over 30 million Facebook users follow pages with false vaccination information, the Centre for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) estimates. They also insert anti-vaccination messages into make-up or vitamin ads, thereby avoiding the algorithms that are set up by social media to trap misinformation.’

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GRANOLA


Why pay $ 10 for a pound of Granola when you can make it at home for a fraction of the cost? You need some old-fashioned rolled oats. You probably have honey or Maple Syrup, Cinnamon and some kind of neutral oil (olive, canola, sunflower) in your kitchen-cupboard. You can add sunflower and/or sesame and chia seeds, definitely sliced almonds. Add any kind of dried fruit after baking.  

You can alter the basic recipe according to your taste, Granola is very adjustable.

Ingredients

  • ½ cup neutral oil, such as canola, coconut or olive oil 
  • ½ cup honey or maple syrup or both – more if you like it sweeter
  • ½ teaspoon Cinnamon 
  • ½ teaspoon salt 
  • 4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (and other grains like barley, rye) 
  • 1 cup sliced almonds 
  • Seeds – sesame, sunflower, chia etc. 
  • 1 cup raisins, currants, apricots, cranberries or other dried, chopped fruit 

Instructions

– Line baking sheet with parchment paper, heat oven to 300°F (150 Celsius)

– Whisk together oil, honey/Maple Syrup, salt and Cinnamon in large bowl

– Add oats, almonds and seeds and whisk to combine

– Spread coated oats evenly on baking sheet and bake for 25min (stir after 10min)

– remove from oven, add fruit, mix and let cool before storing in airtight container

ENJOY