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Settling In

It’s been almost two months since I arrived in Dublin. When I first came, it snowed almost every day (though with little accumulation). Then there were harsh winds and overcast skies. Now, the weather seems to be taking a turn for the warmer, with some days of nicely sunny skies breaking through.

I’ve been lucky to have some contract work while I’ve been here (since I can’t legally work here yet), and hopefully more contract work will be in the future. In the meantime, I’ve taken steps to submit my visa application (a whole blog post in and of itself), and just settle in. With the warmer weather, I’ve been more motivated to do things (rather than just working or sitting on the couch!). A few fun things I’ve discovered: Continue reading

unintended consequences

For anyone who has read the LP guide to India, the Kerala section mentions that the state government has been off-and-on Communist.  Apparently, the relatively high rates of literacy and other social indicators can be attributed to this phenomenon.  But so, apparently, can the high rate of alcoholism and suicide, because communism stifles ingenuity and people turn to substances and death out of despair.

The solution, it seems, is to build up Kerala’s tourism sector, and because they are all communists, everyone gets a piece of the pie.  Seems so easy…..

And as always, the unintended consequences raise their ugly heads.

The push for tourism has been quite successful – it is high season now and we see a lot of tourists here.  The tourism board has created a great system, and are very helpful.  Kerala is a wonderful place to travel.

Too wonderful, maybe.  Because Kerala’s highlight is the backwaters, miles of rivers and lakes that stretch parallel to the ocean, and lend themselves to lazy canoe rides and houseboats.  The houseboats are simply bigger canoes with coverings, but at some point, some enterprising soul discovered he could put an outboard motor on one, and run trips overnight.  And of course, putting the motor on the boat meant they could get larger now.

So, for about 100 bucks, you and your sweetie can lounge on the deck of a boat while a chef cooks you meals and you motor down the river for a day or so.  You, your sweetie, and about 1000 other people, that is.  Because the houseboats all leave from Alleppey, and the channel is only so big, and at any given moment, you can stand on a jetty and watch about 10 massive boats pass you by, their motors churning the waters and leaving chaos in their wake.

And diesel residue.  So the channels are polluted now, and the government in their infinite wisdom has walled the channel to prevent flooding, thereby killing the last of the mangroves.  And so, while tourism provides jobs and livelihoods, tourists kill the ecosystem.

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candied ginger

I’ve been experimenting with cooking lately, and a few weeks ago, I made some crystallized ginger.  The recipe is simple, but requires a bit of precision.

The best way to make it is, of course, with a candy thermometer, so you can get the sugar syrup to the right proportions.  But I don’t have one, and can’t be bothered to get one, so I went with the eyeball test.  Basically, I cooked the syrup until it was the consistency of thin honey, and left it at that.  I’ve also heard that you can take the syrup and drip a bit in a glass of cold water.  It should form thin threads but not congeal into a ball.   Cook it any longer, and you’ll have hard candy.

The process is pretty simple:

  1. Take some ginger, peel, and slice thinly.
  2. Boil in plain water for 10-15 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  3. Take equal parts sugar and water and mix in the pot. Add a touch of salt, and the ginger slices.
  4. Cook until the liquid is the consistency of hot thin honey.
  5. Let rest for about an hour or two.

One can leave the ginger slices as is, at this point, or, while still warm, remove and roll around on a plate of sugar.

Once cool, I store either in the syrup, or drain out of the syrup and store in a ziploc.  If they’ve been sugared, I’ll brush off the excess sugar and store in the ziploc.

The sugar syrup can be used for other things, like perhaps with a bit of sparkling water or soda, or maybe even added to some champagne and orange juice.

You’ll notice there are no measurements in this recipe – I think it depends on how much you want to make.   The rule of thumb is that you need enough sugar syrup to cover the ginger pieces, but that can also depend on the size of your pot.  In my most recent batch, I used 4 pieces of ginger about the size of thumb, sliced thinly, and cooked in 1 cup of water and 1 cup of sugar.

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