The Have’s and the Have-not’s

by - Story: 32399

I was wondering what to write about this week and then two articles caught my eye in the New York Times today. It made me think and so I thought I would share with you some of my thoughts…

The first article was on Zimbabwe and the latest draconian measures taken by President Mugabe. He and his government said they wanted to combat the ten thousand percent interest a year that has been the norm there since 2000. They decreed that prices should be slashed by half so that people could again afford to buy staples such as bread, sugar and cornmeal. The only problem is that there isn’t enough of anything to go around anyway, so people are starving and losing their jobs across the country. (Businesses that did not conform to Mr. Mugabe’s rules were shut down by the government and the owners were jailed.)

I had the pleasure of visiting Zimbabwe about ten years ago, when it was touted as one of Africa’s success stories. The economy was booming and there seemed to be a wonderful blend of first world advantages with the exotic offerings of the third world. I did lots of shopping in Zimbabwe and still have the many mementos I brought home. It broke my heart to read that this country that had so much promise had fallen apart. How can that happen, I thought? What do the people in power hope to achieve by doing this?

The next article I read was about the antics of rich diners in some of New York’s most famous restaurants. One of the tales related how three young ladies ended up in the pool at the Four Seasons’ pool after an afternoon of drinking bottles of wine bought for them by a wealthy patron nearby. (Their bill was apparently over $7000, so I suppose it is no surprise they ended up swimming in their undies – that’s a lot of wine with lunch!) The theme of this article was really hit home with one quote, which I reprint here: “If anything, a large bank account enables one to forgo normal levels of decorum, because you don’t have consequences,” said Rocky Cirino, a manager at the restaurant Cru, who previously worked at Daniel. “I’m thinking of several people whose station in life has enabled them to bypass normal civility and caution.”

I have a cousin who lives in New York, and so I have been there a couple of times. It is certainly a place that plainly illustrates on every street corner the difference between rich and poor. I once saw kids break-dancing on a corner on a sunny summer day, busking for money, while a lady walked past them in a full length fur coat on the way to her limo.

After reading both of these pieces, my mind was reeling. It seemed the old saying was certainly true: Absolute power corrupts absolutely. What is to become of the world, I thought, if at both ends of the scale we have people in power ignoring basic rules of conduct? Should I just play around in my little garden and be happy that I live a life somewhere in the middle, without strife or hardship? Maybe the fact that there is a middle class is what offers a bit of balance for those extremes of destitution and decadence…

Interestingly enough, food is always an element that applies to us all. Maybe by sharing our food around we can help give people a wider perspective. Have you ever eaten mealie meal (the cornmeal that is a staple in much of Africa)? How about caviar? I do believe passionately that understanding food helps us understand culture, and social classes. We may not be able to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, but perhaps if we eat one of their meals it will help us be better people. Isn’t it worth a try?

The decadent stuff is easy to find, so in case you are feeling adventurous, here is one of my favourite dishes from my African trip. It is South African, but it speaks of the exotic flavours of the cuisine in that part of the world, and it is a straight-forward dish that is definitely middle class.

2 T oil
½ T butter
500 g ground meat (a combination of beef and lamb is great to use)
2 onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup grated carrot or apple (your choice)

2 tsp curry powder
1 tsp coriander
½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp dried or 1 tbsp fresh mixed herbs (rosemary, thyme, oregano, savoury… any of these work well)
1 tsp turmeric
½ tsp cinnamon
1 tsp sugar
Pinch of red chili or cayenne pepper

1 tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 slices bread, soaked in water, lightly squeezed and mashed with a fork
2 bay leaves or lemon leaves

1 cup sour cream or ½ cream and ½ yogurt or buttermilk (the topping mist be made with a thick dairy product)
½ tsp salt
Pinch pepper
2 eggs

Stir fry the ground meat in the oil and butter until loose and crumbly, using a fork. Add the chopped onion and stir fry until glazed. Add the garlic, grated carrot and spices. Continue cooking very briefly to develop all the flavours.

Season with salt, pepper and wine vinegar or lemon juice to taste (it should be balanced flavours.) Add softened mashed bread to the mixture. Spread the mixture into a flat oven proof dish, tucking the bay leaves into the top.

Beat together all the ingredients for the topping with a fork. Pour the topping over the mixture and bake uncovered at 375 F for 35 minutes or until custard topping is firm and golden-brown.

Serve with yellow rice (steamed rice with a bit of turmeric and cinnamon, and raisins if you like) and chutneys or sambals. Enjoy with friends and family.


More Happy Gourmand articles

About the Author

Kristin Peturson-Laprise is a customer experience specialist by trade, which means she is someone passionate about people having a good time. 

Her company, Wow Service Mentor, helps businesses enhance their customer experience through hands-on training, service programs, and special event coordination.

Kristin enjoys her own experiences too, and that is what she writes about in this column. She and her husband Martin Laprise (also known as Chef Martin, of The Chef Instead) love to share their passion for food and entertaining.  

Kristin says:

"Wikipedia lists a gourmand as a person who takes great pleasure in food. I have taken the concept of gourmandise, or enjoying something to the fullest, in all parts of my life. I love to grow and cook food, and I loved wine enough to become a Sommelier. I call a meal a success when I can convey that 'sense of place' from where the food has come . . . the French call that terroir, but I just call it the full experience. It might mean tasting the flavours of my own garden, or transporting everyone at the table to a faraway place, reminiscent of travels or dreams we have had."


E-mail Kristin at:  [email protected]

Check out her website here:  www.wowservicementor.com


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

Previous Stories