Thursday, March 31, 2011

Revisiting "Hawaii" and A Great Fish Recipe

 Fortunate to travel to New Zealand, I was interested to see how the Maoris, who comprise about 15% of the New Zealand population, are living today. While they suffered past injustices, they have revived as a community. We saw them participating in the Lake Taupo multi-cultural festival as seen here.

We visited the village of Whakarewarewa in which the Maoris still have an intact community. They have their own thermal pools and waters which they use communally for cooking and heating.

 The Maoris of New Zealand and the Polynesians or Native Hawaiians share the same origins. I was curious to refresh my memory of  Hawaiian history. I had read Hawaii by James Michener shortly after it was published in 1959. That was many moons ago and my reaction to re-reading it surprised me. I had the same feelings that I did when I recently watched I Love Lucy re-runs. Oh my God! That’s so sexist. The role and perception of women has changed so dramatically since Michener wrote Hawaii. When I read it the first time, I thought it was a very interesting fictionalized history. It still was. What surprised me on re-reading it was the depiction of the female characters. Except for three strong women characters, the females were almost invisible, existing only as wife, daughter, or prostitute.

I tried to keep the above in its historical perspective as I reread Hawaii. It was interesting to learn that before the missionaries and other white settlers arrived on the Hawaiian islands, the Native Hawaiian population was about 400,000. As a result of exposure to Caucasian illnesses and other destructive influences, by the end of the 1800’s, there were only about 30,000 Native Hawaiians left. Another blight on American history.

According to the 2010 United States census figures, there are now 1,360,301 people living in Hawaii of which only 10% (136,000) self-identify as native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders.

In honor of the two island places one nation, one state, I give you this fish recipe from the New Zealand 20 minute cookbook 100 Favourite 20 Minute Dishes by Simon and Alison Holst. This recipe serves 2. (I tried to translate the metric system into the English system but they are approximations.)

                                                Sweet Chili Salmon on Sesame Noodles

About 2/3 pound (300 grams) salmon fillets
¼ cup sweet chili sauce
3-4 Tbsp chopped coriander leaves
1 Tbsp lime or lemon juice
1 Tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
½ pound (200 grams) noodles (Asian egg noodles, soba noodles, vermicelli, etc.)
10-15 cm telegraph cucumber (I didn’t know what this was so I guessed. You could use a bit of cucumber deseeded, julienned)
about 1/5 pound (100 grams) white radish julienned

1 Tbsp canola oil
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp grated ginger
1 Tbsp roasted sesame seeds

Put the salmon in pieces in a plastic bag with the first five ingredients on the list. See that it’s coated. Let it stand.

Meanwhile, boil a pot of water to cook the noodles. While the noodles cook, prepare the vegetables. When the noodles are cooked, drain them and rinse briefly. Return the noodles to the pot and mix in the rest of the ingredients and toss.

Broil the fish.

Serve fish on top of noodles.

New Zealand, Hawaii, a great salmon recipe


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Celebrating the Affordable Health Care Act First Anniversary

To celebrate the year anniversary of the Affordable Care Act, there was a rally today in downtown Chicago in support of it. I wanted to go to it, but it’s cold –30 degrees- and snow is predicted. I was afraid that I’d get sick. A typical Chicago spring day. Instead, I am here at home writing letters to the editor in support and saying yay! After a hundred years, the USA has joined the rest of the world in trying to guarantee health care for all its citizens. It was about time!

With all the moaning and groaning, the sky hasn’t fallen on the insurance companies. (Personally, I don’t think it would have been a bad thing if it did.) Many of the major provisions won’t take effect until 2014 but some have already begun:

  1. Children can no longer be denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition.
  2. Young adults can stay on their parents’ insurance until they are 26. I can remember when my kids graduated from college and were dropped by our insurance company like rocks. It’s too late to help us, but at least some other parents can sleep easy.
  3. Insurance companies are now not allowed to drop people from coverage if they get sick and need medical care.
  4. For those with pre-existing conditions, state health exchanges have been set up for people to access until 2014.

Those are just the main points. Starting in 2014, there will be expanded Medicaid Coverage and for those adults with pre-existing conditions, Insurance Companies won’t be allowed to drop them from coverage. Until then, just stay healthy. The state insurance exchanges are less expensive than before but still somewhat costly. So for insurance, just cross your fingers and keep exercising.

Try eating healthy, too. Here’s another New Zealand recipe. The people there seem to be very aware and involved in physical fitness. (They also have national health insurance.) Their cuisine is delicious. I asked a New Zealander to describe their cuisine and she said, “It’s nouvelle French but using a lot of Pacific herbs and fruits. There’s also some Asian and Mediterranean influences.”

It’s the churkendoose [from an old children’s record by Burl Ives- I think- about a creature that was part chicken, turkey, duck and goose, the prettiest animal in the barnyard] of cuisines. What could be bad?

This is a recipe for Orange and Currant Couscous. It went well with the broiled fish that we were eating and only took about 10 minutes to prepare. This amount will be good for 4 people.

                                                Orange and Currant Couscous
Grated rind and juice of 2 oranges
2 cups of water
½ teaspoon of salt
½ cup of currants
1 cup couscous
1/3 tbsp sweet chili sauce
¼ cup parsley
1/3 tsp of fresh ground pepper
½ tbsp of fresh grated ginger root

Place orange juice and rind and salt in pan.
Pour in water and bring to a boil.
Pour in couscous.
Stir in the rest of the ingredients and take off the heat. Let stand for five minutes.


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Connecting With Japan in Christ Church, New Zealand

If I were a religious fundamentalist, I’d say that God was punishing the world for being greedy. Since I’m not, I’ll question whether climate change is playing a role in the seeming proliferation of natural disasters. Since I’m not a scientist, I’ll have to leave that to the scientists. In the meantime, while the horrors of Japan’s earthquake, tsunami, and possible nuclear meltdown dominate our thoughts, I’ll reflect on the self-guided peace and justice walk that we took in Christ Church, New Zealand. Who would ever think on that pleasant summer day that the two countries would share similar horrors in such a short span of time.

On that day, we looked at the peace symbols which had connected the two countries. The World Peace Bell Association in Tokyo gifted this peace bell to New Zealand in 2005.

This plaque remembering the bombing victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki sits under a purple plum tree inscribed in English, Maori, and Japanese.

Also inscribed in English, Maori, and Japanese are the words “May Peace Prevail On Earth” on the Peace Pole given to New Zealand by the Japanese members of the Society of Prayer for World Peace.

 All these events have really reminded me of how much we all over the world are all connected. As we pray for the Japanese people, let us try to figure out what we need to do to avert a nuclear disaster and other disasters in the future.

While I think about these events, I again retreat into cooking. The New Zealanders are great cooks so I bought a New Zealand cookbook while I was there. They, too, have their quicky cookbooks. This recipe is from their 20-minute cookbook 100 Favorite 20 Minute Dishes by Simon and Alison Holst. This time I tried their recipe for Grilled Chicken on Lemony Orzo. My adaptation feeds four. It took me somewhat longer than 20 minutes, probably because I was getting used to the recipe and their metric measurements.

                                                Grilled Chicken on Lemony Orzo

1 pound of boneless, skinless chicken breast cut in pieces
1 lemon zested and juiced
2 tbsp minced garlic
½ tsp minced chili powder
2 tbsp olive oil
1 cup orzo
2 ½ cups boiling water
2 tsp chicken broth
2 zucchini diced
½ red bell pepper diced
10-20 kalamata olives (optional)
feta cheese to taste (optional)

  1. Marinate the chicken with half of the lemon zest, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, garlic, parsley, chili powder, and one tablespoon of olive oil. Set aside.
  2. Heat the second tablespoon of olive oil in a large, lidded pan. Add the onion and sauté until soft. Stir in the orzo and remaining lemon zest. Then add the boiling water and instant stock. Cover and simmer for about 8 minutes.
  3. While the orzo is cooking, quickly grill the chicken 4 to 5 minutes on each side.
  4. Stir the vegetables, olives, and any remaining lemon juice into the orzo mixture. Cover and simmer for 2-3 minutes longer. Then remove from the heat and stir in the feta cheese.
  5. Pile the orzo mixture onto serving plates and top with the chicken. It’s good with a simple green salad or tomato salad.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Walking for Peace and Justice in Christ Church, New Zealand

We’ve been blessed with the opportunity to travel.  We’re luckier than the vast majority of people and I don’t take that lightly. This year, we went to New Zealand and had a fantastic trip. The country has an incredible amount of scenic beauty and the people that we met along the way were very kind. The atmosphere there of tolerance was reminiscent of how it was in America before everything became so polarized here.

Even our timing was fortuitous. We spent four days in Christ Church and left there about a week before their horrendous earthquake. Mother Nature can really wreak destruction when she decides to do so. People there were still traumatized by the September 2010 earthquake, but they had made much progress in re-building. The only evidence of that earthquake that we saw were scaffoldings on buildings being repaired. We expected to see much worse. Discussion had gotten underway on how to re-build in a sustainable way and they had an exhibit at their city Art Gallery on city planning complete with discussions and dialogues open to the public.

One of the many charms of the city was how compact it was and how easy it was to walk to everything in the central area. The visitors’ center suggested a walking tour of all the sites for peace and justice within the city. One of those was the Kate Sheppard Memorial and since it's women's history month, it feels fitting that we were there. For those who don’t know – and prior to our trip, I didn’t – in 1893, New Zealand became the first country in the world to grant women the right to vote. This was 26 years ahead of the USA.

Here I am at the memorial of New Zealand’s Susan B. Anthony – or in order to avoid being ethnocentric- I can say that Susan B. Anthony was the American Kate Sheppard. New Zealanders are very proud of this piece of their history and many buildings are named after her.

Next time I'll show some of the other peace and justice symbols that we visited and share some New Zealand recipes. They too have their 20 minute cookbooks.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Here Comes the Bogeyman - Canadian Healthcare

We’d been travelling for a few weeks. My plan had been to blog on my trip, but lo and behold, my laptop crashed and thus, I am first able now at home to tell you about my travels. I could talk about the sad state of customer service in American corporations, but that’s not what I want to discuss.

I want to talk about one of the great things about traveling - the chance meetings with people from other countries. On this last trip, we met people from Manitoba, Canada. The discussion inevitably got around to health care. When I told them about how our private insurance and co-pays work, the reaction was, “That would really cut down on my 92 year old aunt’s doctor visits if she had to pay for them. Now she goes to the doctor just to socialize. If she had to pay, she'd go a lot less.”

I asked them if health care for older adults was being rationed. “I could go to the doctor 10 times a week if I felt like it. How fast you get specialists depends mostly on how diligent your primary care doctor is in doing the paperwork.”

That sounds a lot like HMO’s to me except that doctors instead of insurance agents make the decisions.

Last year we met a couple in their ‘80’s from Ontario. He had just had two knee replacements and she had recently had a hip replacement. “Do you have difficulty waiting for surgery as a senior citizen? Is elective surgery rationed?” I asked.

“No, we just showed them our health care cards and walked right into the hospital,” she answered.

In the debate over health care which was often characterized by lies and half-truths at best, the specter of horrible Canadian health care was often flashed before our eyes as a horror. Canadian healthcare. We should be so lucky.

In honor of these discussions, I thought I’d share some Canadian recipes. There weren’t any that I could think of so I was going to say, "Go enjoy some Canadian fast food." That seemed too easy, however. Instead I looked up some Canadian recipes and here’s one of their easy ones (prep time 10 minutes) for broiled salmon. It’s even healthy. If we eat like this, maybe we can all avoid some doctor appointments in the first place.

                                                Canadian Broiled Salmon

1 1/2 pounds salmon fillets
Lemon pepper to taste
Garlic powder
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup water
¼ cup vegetable oil

  1. Season salmon with lemon pepper, garlic powder, and salt.
  2. In a small bowl, stir together soy sauce, brown sugar, water, and vegetable oil until sugar is dissolved. Place the fish in a large re-sealable plastic bag with the soy sauce mixture and turn to coat. Refrigerate for two hours.
  3. Broil salmon 6 to 8 minutes on each side.