Throwback Thursday: Bog

Photo credit: BU Dining Services

About this time two years ago, I came across the YouTube video featured in the #throwback Thursday post below. Hope you enjoy it, especially in light of this week’s post on peatlands!

Original Post Date: December 28, 2012

Earlier this week I wrote about an entirely different sort of swamp. This brief post is about a topic much more in tune with the holiday season: cranberries. Grown in bogs with layers of peat, sand, gravel, and clay, cranberries are native to North American wetlands (our readers across the pond will probably know the European variety of the fruit as lingonberries). In the United States they are primarily grown in Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Washington, and Wisconsin (ordered alphabetically, not by output). Something not many people may know is that these cranberry bogs are cyclically flooded with vast amounts of water every season; some might worry over the constant waste of this precious liquid in areas of major cranberry production, or the contamination of water tables with pesticides and fertilizers common to agricultural use.

But I am about to tell you about some of the advantages cranberry-growers have over other industrial agriculturalists in terms of their water utilization. Why will I share this with you? Well, cranberry sauce features prevalently in the traditions of recent holidays, namely Thanksgiving and Christmas (and was thus probably consumed in an overwhelming majority of American households at least once in the past 60 days), plus my grandparents swear by cranberry juice, but I also recently found out that cranberries–and the water they are flooded with for harvesting–make for excellent art, or sport. What I never would have guessed is that Red Bull would be the one to show me this; just watch the video below:

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Joint Ventures In Thanksgiving Cooking

Renee Comet Photography/Restaurant Associates and Smithsonian Institution

Renee Comet Photography/Restaurant Associates and Smithsonian Institution

We had not seen this book when it was first published two years ago, but now will seek it out to authenticate our commemorations for our table mates in distant lands:

The Native American Side Of The Thanksgiving Menu

Everyone knows the schoolhouse version of the first Thanksgiving story: New England pilgrims came together with Native Americans to share a meal after the harvest. The original menu was something of a joint venture, but over the years, a lot of the traditional dishes have lost their native flavor.

For those who want to create a feast that celebrates the flavors that Native Americans brought to the table, Chef Richard Hetzler put together an entire menu of options from his award-winning cookbook,The Mitsitam Cafe Cookbook. The recipes are drawn from the Mitsitam Native Foods Cafe at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, where Hetzler was lead chef until summer 2014. Since opening the cafe, he told NPR’s Celeste Headlee he observed a growing interest in native cooking.

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Thanksgiving, 2014

The problem with cooking Thanksgiving dinner abroad is never just the shopping. It’s the local culinary aesthetic. CREDIT WAYNE THIEBAUD

The problem with cooking Thanksgiving dinner abroad is never just the shopping. It’s the local culinary aesthetic. CREDIT WAYNE THIEBAUD

For those whose heritage includes someone who has proclaimed thanks in a land distant from where s/he was born, and/or broke bread with the locals, this day has a particular ring to it. For anyone who has commemorated the specific holiday in lands distant to their own original homes, there is an odd symmetry to the original Thanksgiving event. This New Yorker classic-in-the-making will bring special pleasure to all who have commemorated the Thanksgiving holiday in far off lands:

NOVEMBER 23, 2009 ISSUE

Pilgrim’s Progress

Thanksgiving without borders.

BY

…I am what you might call an amateur of Thanksgiving. My family prefers the phrase “regrettably hospitable,” but I would add strategically hospitable, because Thanksgiving dinner has turned out to be the stealth weapon of my reporting life. Everybody knows something about Thanksgiving, though not necessarily what we eat or why we eat it. Continue reading

Thanksgiving: Art History on a Plate

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As we continue to work on plating and food trials for 51 at Spice Harbour, the concept of deconstructing a typical Kerala dish often makes it into the conversation. During these conversations with Indian colleagues the subject of “typical American food” frequently comes up. Like India, there’s no one “American cuisine” (don’t get me started on the horrors of our fast food exports), but a Thanksgiving meal comes close.

In the collaborative spirit of preparing and plating a meal that’s meant to be shared, multi-media artist Hannah Rothstein deconstructed the classic Thanksgiving meal of turkey, gravy, cranberry sauce and “sides” with a nod to 10 artists with the most distinctive of painting styles, with the acception of Cindy Sherman, a photographer best known for her conceptual portraits. Continue reading

Thanks For The First Book Press-Printed In The New World

Photograph by Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty.

Photograph by Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty.

If you are familiar with the history of the place now called the United States of America, you may be familiar with the role religious pilgrims played in the early settlement of the northeastern region of what is now that country (and what before that was the home of people who lived a very different life from the pilgrims before those pilgrims arrived, and a radically changed life after). Now, if you are a more ambitious follower of that history, you may know when the first printing press was brought to the New World, and by whom. And in that case, you likely also know what book was first published. Fitting that today, when Thanksgiving Day is celebrated in the USA, news of that first book is in front of us thanks to Casey Cep and the New Yorker‘s ever resourceful and innovative website:

Today, Sotheby’s will auction a copy of the first English-language book printed in America. “The Whole Booke of Psalmes,” or the Bay Psalm Book, as it is now known, is expected to sell for between fifteen and thirty million dollars, which would make it the most expensive book in the world. Continue reading

Blogrolling Is Alive And Well

 

We do not stop enough to smell the roses, so to speak.  Every day someone or something, somewhere, points to someone or something here. On our blog we link out to stories we find worthy of passing along, and likewise other bloggers point back to our blog and blog posts to spread the word. This rosy moment we would like to bring your attention to the blog where this was posted with the photo above:

This is Raxa Collective, an amazing website based in India, whose mission is to connect people and groups involved in entrepreneurial conservation projects. Continue reading

Bog

Photo credit: BU Dining Services

Earlier this week I wrote about an entirely different sort of swamp. This brief post is about a topic much more in tune with the holiday season: cranberries. Grown in bogs with layers of peat, sand, gravel, and clay, cranberries are native to North American wetlands (our readers across the pond will probably know the European variety of the fruit as lingonberries). In the United States they are primarily grown in Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Washington, and Wisconsin (ordered alphabetically, not by output). Something not many people may know is that these cranberry bogs are cyclically flooded with vast amounts of water every season; some might worry over the constant waste of this precious liquid in areas of major cranberry production, or the contamination of water tables with pesticides and fertilizers common to agricultural use.

But I am about to tell you about some of the advantages cranberry-growers have over other industrial agriculturalists in terms of their water utilization. Why will I share this with you? Well, cranberry sauce features prevalently in the traditions of recent holidays, namely Thanksgiving and Christmas (and was thus probably consumed in an overwhelming majority of American households at least once in the past 60 days), plus my grandparents swear by cranberry juice, but I also recently found out that cranberries–and the water they are flooded with for harvesting–make for excellent art, or sport. What I never would have guessed is that Red Bull would be the one to show me this; just watch the video below:

Continue reading

Thanksgiving: For Animals In & Out Of Context

Thanksgiving, as a national holiday, has its pluses and minuses (most holidays innocently suffer from the tendency we have to overdo things).  Thanksgiving as a practice, a daily or just occasional reflective practice, can only be good.  Today I reflect thankfully on the young animal in the video above (click to spend a minute or so viewing it).  At first glance you might think it is a puppy.  In the video it is clearly in a dog crate, and its facial expressions and movements could just as well be that of a small husky or shepherd dog, or even a mut.

It is a young bear cub.  If you want to know its story, click above.  The story in that video coincides with the story below.

This leopard kitten was found recently separated from its mother in a protected forest area in Kerala, and I happened to be in the right location at the right moment to witness what happens in such cases if our modern world is working at its best.  I learned something in the process, and that has completely changed my view on zoos (for which, this thanksgiving reflection).  The coincidence is that both the bear cub and the leopard kitten enlightened me within days of each other, and within that same set of days I had just been listening to a story on Radio Lab on the topic of zoos; all that,  just at the time when my calendar reminds me each year (the last Thursday of November) to reflect on what I am thankful for.

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Life Mein Ek Baar, Featuring River Escapes

Every minute of this is fun.  The 35th minute is particularly fun for those of us based in Kerala because members of our organization join the stage with the stars of this show.

About five months ago we were approached by a film production company about a show they were filming for National Geographic Channel.  They told us that River Escapes was recommended to them as having the best houseboats in the Kerala backwaters (a bit of music to our ears).  Then they proposed that their Kerala episode should be based on our houseboats (we danced to that music).

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Feasting Thankfully

“Wildfowl was there. Corn, in grain form for bread or for porridge, was there. Venison was there,” says Kathleen Wall. “These are absolutes.

William Bradford, the governor Winslow mentions, also described the autumn of 1621, adding, “And besides waterfowl there was great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, etc. Besides, they had about a peck a meal a week to a person, or now since harvest, Indian corn to that proportion.”

Almost Missed It

It is just the way things are.  My reading list/pile is always longer/taller than I have time for.  And living between the rice fields and spice-laden Western Ghats I do not have access to the kind of bookstores we took for granted while living elsewhere.  Amazon does not deliver in India.

Even if I had access to a great book store I might not have picked this one up off the shelf, though I admire the author’s writing.  I have not been in the mood for anything too canonical or Great lately; rather merely useful, interesting, lesser reading.  Short- and long form journalism tend to be my standard fare. There was something in the pile with Greenblatt’s name on it, a magazine article, that I kept burying for months and which persistently kept resurfacing. Continue reading

Progress Back And Forth

We have noted before the intriguing coincidences that link the “old world” to the “new world”–not least the desire to establish trade with what is now Kerala and the accidental discovery of somewhere else; and other links in both directions.  “Old” and “new” become fuzzy qualifiers when considering “modern” European travelers of the 15th century sailing to “ancient” India and instead encountering people we now call Pre-Columbians.  Seth has posted on the environmental impacts of people from that so-called old world as they settled in the new world and brought their definitions of progress with them.  Now, thanks to an article in Smithsonian Magazine our attention is brought to a book and a man who broaden our horizons back to the old world from which those people came. Continue reading

Watch It On National Geographic Channel

Our colleagues offer amazing experiences on the backwaters of Kerala, in the houseboats described here, with some visual support here and here; and once more here (really, look at it to get a sense of grocery shopping in our neighborhood); so no surprise that a film crew and remarkable cast of characters asked to spend time with them.  The crew of 15 or so (I lost count) was from all over India; so was the cast.  The four featured men in this film are part of a “bucket list” adventure that is being filmed in the locations ranked most highly in a national competition as “must go.” Kerala’s backwaters made that list. Raxa Collective’s houseboats were chosen as the venue for best experiencing those backwaters.

The four men–a student, an IT marketing executive, an Indian Capoeira master-in-training, and a famous Bollywood actor–met for the first time not long ago, and by the time we met them they seemed like old friends.  By the time it airs on the National Geographic Channel, that will stand out as much as the fabulous locations (I like the picture hanging on the wall past the camera man).  We will share more on the broadcast times when we have them.  The photo below is Milo’s, and we have some additional photos by Sung from this particular day (they were on the houseboats for many more days), more on which as we have those photos, and hopefully some film outtakes.

Takeaways

The video clip above is what comes to mind after a bit of reflection. Thanks to Alan, Bill and 30+ others, I have not only fonder thoughts for Brown University, but food for thought.  The course ENGN 1930, aka Social Entrepreneurship, asks students to provide brief, written reflections on class sessions, readings, etc.  In my session with them, I started by sharing my experience completing a PhD and moving to Costa Rica in the mid-1990s.  I then described the process of learning from both public sector leaders and entrepreneurs there, and eventually forming a company that practices entrepreneurial conservation.

The gist of several of the “takeaways” from students is the reasonable question that I am chewing over now: are the Raxa Collective initiatives examples of social entrepreneurship?  Is La Paz Group practicing social entrepreneurship?  The snarky, if partially true reply would have been that I do not care all that much what it is called.  Continue reading

Footprints & Impact

No sooner had I posted the words of a former President of Brown University than a colleague at Cornell sent me news that Mathis Wackernagel is serving a term as a Rhodes Professor (as it is known in shorthand).  This brought to mind two things: first, this book that was published as I was completing my doctoral dissertation and starting work in Costa Rica on a related topic (more on which, soon); second, the President of Cornell University during all of my seven years on campus.  The book was to have a huge, lasting impact.  The same is clearly true for President Rhodes, whose hand I had the honor to shake more than once.  The confluence of events in 1996–this book’s publication and an unrelated group of grateful and generous Cornell alumni creating this Professorship that would later honor the book’s author–is pretty cool:

Frank H. T. Rhodes Class Of ’56 University Professorship

To commemorate their 40th reunion, the Class of 1956 initiated an endowment to create the Frank H. T. Rhodes Class of ’56 University Professorship in honor of Cornell’s ninth president (1977–1995). The purpose of the Rhodes Class of ’56 Professorship is to strengthen the undergraduate experience by bringing to the university individuals from every walk of life who represent excellence of achievement and to create opportunities for interaction with undergraduates. The endowment also makes it possible to create public events related to the professorship such as lectures, performances, films, art exhibits, or conferences. Rhodes Class of ’56 Professors are full members of the faculty while in residence. Appointments are awarded for a period of three years. During each year of their appointment, Rhodes Class of ’56 Professors visit the campus for a week to engage in a variety of activities including public lectures, ongoing courses, and collaborative research.

Those Brown People

In a post some weeks ago on this site, thanks were given to several individuals who have advanced education for all humanity, and provided La Paz Group some of its most talented Contributors.  In this, my first post on this site, I would do the same for Nicholas Brown and all the others responsible for the experience I had yesterday; but the list would be long.  Instead, I will pay tribute to them all through an anecdote about a few:

I was giving a lecture in Quito, Ecuador last year about themes you would recognize as La Paz Group-ish.  In the discussion period after my lecture I was asked if I was aware of “the brown people” in Ecuador.  While many people I have worked with in Ecuador over the last 14 years have skin pigment darker than my own, I would never refer to them that way, so I replied politely that I was not aware of them. Continue reading

The Best Is Yet To Come

Writing about that game, among other things, in this post (that breaks new media ground as a review in one magazine’s website of another magazine’s special edition on sports heroes), Giles Harvey reflects:

…he ends up missing—it’s the greatest goal never scored—but that hardly matters. If anything, the fact that he misses seems to intensify the aesthetic quality of the move. (As though Pelé were interested in something as utilitarian as scoring goals!)

The moment seemed to me to represent a summit not just of sporting prowess but of human civilization itself. Watching it, I felt what might be described as species pride: look what we’re able to do! Continue reading