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Mezze is widely served in the Greek and Middle eastern world. An assortment of little dishes and tasters which accompany a nice ouzo or a glass of wine. So when you read mezze moments you will have tasty snippets of life as I live it, India for four years and now Brisbane Australia, all served up with some Greek fervour and passion.

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Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Crunching cashews

We all love them. When we are on those long flights crunching away on cashews, while sipping our drinks, we consider them a bit of a luxury and on this trip to Thailand I found out why.

Cashews grow on a bushy big tree with orange-yellow fruits which produces the kernels of nuts.What I did n't know was the painstaking work that needs to go in to producing the nuts as we know them.

Cashew nuts produce a caustic acid which can burn the skin, and noxious fumes when heated. Workers are sometimes given oil to cover their hands, but this only gives limited protection; others are given gloves, but they wear out quickly and are not favoured by workers paid on a piece rate because they affect dexterity and slow down work.  Workers shelling cashew nuts can produce between 5 and 10kg of nuts per day.The cashew kernels are roasted and then they are carefully prised open one by one to produce the nut inside.
 Each nut is placed on this giant nut cracker and the worker pushes a blade into the seal of the shell and prises it apart to extract the nut inside. They are then categorized, whole ones in one basket and broken ones in another. The work is painstakingly slow and difficult, not to mention dangerous.
The roasted nuts in their shells.
So next time you sit there devouring them, spare a thought for the workers who produce them for you and make sure you buy ones where the workers are fairly rewarded for the work they do.India is one of the biggest producers of cashew nuts in the world.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

The island of Phi Phi

There are some magical islands in Thailand and the temptation to lose oneself on them is great. We had the pleasure to take a day excursion out to Phi Phi island where we enjoyed the wonderful coral reef and the fabulous marine life.

We saw Godefroy's sea cucumber, which was a pale grey sluggish sausage thing with grey spots, black diadema sea urchins with massively long spikes, the boring clam which had a beautiful purple colour and was not boring at all and countless colourful fish.Andaman sweetlips with polka dots, longfin bannerfish,humbug damsels and yellowbook fusiliers.

 The clouds rolled in at the end of the day and we set off on the two hour journey back to Phuket amidst rolling waves and lashing winds. Mercifully we arrived.Damp but Undaunted.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

James Bond Island

Few people in the world dont recognise the name James Bond and 007 - but Thailand has its own claim to fame with the hero and that is the island of Ko Ping Kan which was used to make the film "The Man with the Golden Gun".Better known as James Bond Island it is a small island with a beautiful rock called Ko Tapu rising from the sea, where thousands of visitors are photographed against a backdrop of azure coloured seas, green canopies and hugely impressive rocks coming out of the Andaman sea.

Now the real give away is which James Bond hero do you associate with Roger Moore,Sean Connery, Pierce Brosnan or Daniel Craig ?  

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Cabbages and Condoms

Shopping in the never ending markets of Bangkok can be exhausting. There are roads and roads of stalls, malls and malls of floors with everything one can imagine, just reproduced a million times over. So one of the rewards of all this consumerism is a good meal and this restaurant is one of the famous ones in Bangkok.

The restaurant has a very firm and clear purpose other than feeding hungry foreigners and that is to promote safe sex and family planning. It generates income to support development activities of the Population and Community Development Association. As a side line it does great food in a wonderful setting among these eye catching models with a message all over them.
These models are dressed solely in condoms.

Condoms come with your bill too.
They cover the lamps, they are on the mugs sold in the shop, they are widely promoted and the wonderful thing is that this effort has been largely succesful with Thailand having a very high rate of condom use which of course not only prevents unwanted pregnancies but protects women against sexually transmitted disease.
Oh and the food was excellent.

The land of a thousand smiles

Now that the Commonwealth Games are over we can digress and what better place to go to then the land of a thousand smiles for some of what is quirky, exotic and bizarre.
The smooth, almost fake looking pear apple which is exactly what its name says it is. An artful combination of both fruits in this lustrous coating.

Just one of the wonderful flower decorations in one of the shopping malls.

Thailand is serene and beautiful and clean and a hop away. The thrill of a bright pink taxi to whisk you away to all the adventures that await.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Positive Outcome

A positive outcome of the Games at the moment is the fact that given the empty stadia and venues the Delhi authorities are making free tickets available to school children and children from underprivileged backgrounds.Will it spur them on to achieve sporting greatness for their country or rouse the anger that is long overdue for the sorry state of their everyday existence ?

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

PS on Snafus

I am delighted to be able to share what SNAFUS means with you. It is a second world war US army slang word meaning "situation normal, all f***** up"
My friends Gill and Gordon Fraser from Divonnes les Bains in France wrote and told me. New one for my list and totally delightful.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

The Commonwealth extravaganza and Snafus

Well it was almost alright on the night and Delhi put on a great display which was a celebration of its cultural richness and diversity which was not unlike the festivites of a great big extravagant Indian wedding. The show did justice to all the efforts that were put in by the thousands of volunteers.

The best bit for me was when the India Times described it as follows;

"Shrugging off all the heartburns, last minute snafus and accompanying chaos everything fell into place"...

SNAFUS ?? what a delightful expression and one which completely encapsulates the essence of last minute jitters.Could they have meant snuffles, sniffs ...who knows SNAFUS for me is what it is all about.

My Indian friend described it as the best opening ever. She said that it was vibrant, colourful, and very much more visually stunning then the television version of it. She found it moving and uplifting.She and her family paid 5000 Rupees per ticket equivalent to approximately £70.Way way beyond what an ordinary Indian family can pay.

My French friend who is an expatriate living here went courtesy of her Indian landlord who paid a mere 50,000 rupees per ticket that is a cool £700 per ticket ! Now that is WAY MORE than even most expat families would be willing to pay but remember there are lots of very rich indians here. She said  "we stood up for 2.5 hours, under the sun, no water allowed, did not see any doctor, nurse, facilities in case of emergency, a poor guy trying to get his wheel chair inside the crowd, children suffocating, as well as me at a certain point...It was a journey to get to our seats. Really thought that it could have turned really badly...But then again, it is what they call, the “indian miracle”, we got in, sat, and could finally watch the whole ceremony."

Monday, 4 October 2010

Before and After

The title to this entry was suggested by my driver Shiva as we drove past one of the well known slums by Vasant Vihar. Words are almost superfluous in this case. Though we are worlds apart he knows what he sees and so do I and are thus united by a common humanity.


Let the Games Begin.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Getting into the Spirit

Last night I attended the Opening of ART CELEBRATES ! 2010 at Lalit Kala Akademi.
The show is a collection of contemporary Indian Art with the theme of Sports and the City and Sheila Dikshit the Chief Minister opened the exhibition in the presence of many art fans.
The detail on this painting was exquisite.
Go along and enjoy the variety, the quirkiness, the originality and the burst of colours that the exhibition has to offer. On from the 3rd to the 15th Rabindra Bhavan, 35 Feroze Shah Road ND 110001. From 11 am to 7pm.Special thanks to my friend Swetta Amin who captured a couple of the paintings for me. Worth seeing close up and on the spot.

Friday, 1 October 2010

The Verdict

The verdict which went to 12,000 pages essentially split the area into three parts, one for the Hindus, one for the Muslims and one for another group essentially Hindu as well.
Both sides stated their intention to appeal to the Supreme Court ..so more legal proceedings on their way.
The important point perhaps is that this was seen as a conciliatory attempt to please all but overall Muslims are more aggrieved about the outcome than the Hindus.
Even more importantly there were more armed guards than civilians on the streets last night and it felt like a Sunday. Cars off the road, people at home, unrest avoided for now at least.