Sunday, October 30, 2011

Some Thoughts & Pictures from Around Kathmandu

When I first got to Nepal I use to carry a camera around in my pocket and take photos on a rather consistent basis. As time goes by, no matter how exotic the locale, it just becomes the place you live and it is less likely to stir in you that need to take a photo every few feet. Still Nepal tends to have situations that catch even the long time observer off guard, and since I got a smart phone during my trip to the US I'm back to having a camera in my pocket to document the things that go on in day to day life.  Below are a few photos from the last few weeks and some thoughts about them.

 Oktoberfest at Imago Dei

Imago Dei has an excellent kitchen staff, and I hope I get a staff that is at least half as competent as these guys.A few weeks back I had the pleasure of working with these guys while helping to cater a birthday event here. The above picture is at an Oktoberfest event that raised money for charity to try to help get dental care into the hills and mountainous regions of Nepal, put on by Patricia and her family that owns Skylight. The Imago staff in this photo are cooking a very large number of German style sausages. The meal included the pictured sausages, ham, goulash (both meat and paneer), sauerkraut, mashed potatoes, and a tomato and mozzarella salad. It was a good time and a great event.

Laundry on the Line

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Brian's Red Hot Nepali Chili Sauce

Of all the products I'm producing at the restaurant, the one I think I am most excited about is the Louisiana style hot sauce. After a few test batches I got an idea of the exact mix of peppers I wanted to use to make a really great flagship pepper sauce at the restaurant. It uses mostly the very light tasting but somewhat hot local Nepali chilies (what their actual name is I have no idea, everyone just calls them chili, as if there is no other) and then add some chipotle peppers to give the flavor a little more depth and reduce the taste of vinegar on the front of the sauce.

Nepal's New Premier Pepper Sauce

I've learned how to make a lot of things from base elements this year, and pepper sauces are something I have always really enjoyed but never made myself. The one tough thing with tinkering with them is that they take some time to age and get just right, so you don't know the results of making some changes until a few months has passed and you can taste the sauce itself. To get around this a little, I made a few smaller batches using different combinations of peppers, spices, cooking and storage techniques. After trying those I was able to identify what I thought worked best, make a single sauce out of it and see how that was. After getting what I thought was a great sauce I've gone ahead and started to set aside batches that are at this rate about a month apart. Today I thought I'd go over what is involved in making a pepper sauce, this batch below will be ready just after the new year.

First Thing- Lots of Chilies

Thursday, October 20, 2011

She's a Witch!

Monty Python's Holy Grail Mocks Declarations of Witchcraft

Growing up at the tail end of the 20th century I believed that accusations of people being a witch was something that was far in our past. Growing up just a few hours north of Salem Massachusetts I was aware of our sorted past of punishing people for absurd crimes that it was not even possible for them to have committed. Then while in my first year of college I attended a Christian school (it's a long story) and around Halloween I was informed that there would be prayer vigils to help protect people's souls from witchcraft. I thought I had landed on another planet. Really? As we prepared to enter the 21st century there were people in the industrialized world who thought there were people consorting with magic and demons? Yes, in fact there were. 

Aside from this being slightly absurd and reducing the stock I took in humanity as a whole, it wasn't like these people were burning people at the stake. As misguided as it might have been at least they were just praying for them, which aside from stunting logical thought seemed rather harmless. Although I had heard stories coming out of Africa about people being accused of witchcraft on occasion, I thought that this was really the limit of where this kind of absurd behavior stopped. Then I moved to Nepal.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Nepal's Visa Debacle- Making Sure Nepal Keeps Out Investment & Talent

The last six months have been a roller coaster dominated by one exceptionally difficult goal, to get a business visa in Nepal. This post might be especially relevant since there have been calls to make the year 2012, foreign investment year...which just like Nepal tourism year would consist of them declaring it so and then doing just about nothing else to achieve any kind of relevant goals. In a sensible world one might think that a self styled impoverished country that sends large numbers of its working age men overseas to do very difficult labor in places like the gulf states or South East Asia would welcome with open arms injections of foreign capital and business, or talented young professionals that are looking to do meaningful work in the country- but this assumption would be incorrect. Unlike countries like Cambodia, with arguably much better living conditions, where business visas for foreigners are so say to get that you can apply for them through travel agents, Nepal has created a nightmare procedure that would test the patience of a saint, costs tremendous amounts of money in legal fees and quite a bit in government fees as well, and basically says to the person trying to create something posative in the country "Not Welcome".

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Myth of Money

One of my favorite posts this year was The Fictions Which Bind Us written back in April of this year. In it I discussed how essentially we play a lot of games of make believe within our lives and yield power to some rather absurd things that do not in fact exist in any true form. In that post I mentioned that the two leading contenders in this were countries & governments along with our financial systems. The last post was on governments and countries and this one will be on the financials- why our misunderstanding of what money is and where it comes from has allowed us to make it a completely fictional system that has created two classes of people on this planet- those who work for "money" and those who can create it.

Occupy Wall Street Protester 

To most of us it seems perfectly normal that pieces of paper, or increasingly plastic cards and computer digits somewhere in a bank computer, are money. For all of our lives this has been the case, and so we never really think about it too much. But what is money? Like all human inventions it came about as a matter of convenience. Farmer A had lots of barley and trader B had brought salt from over the mountains and both needed what the other had. Initially there could be direct trade of X amount of salt to Y amount of barley. This bartering system is still alive and well in large parts of the world where subsistence farming takes place, and to a lesser extent forms a portion of the underground economy in developed nations. But what if the salt trader didn't want barley? Maybe he wanted to bring back silk. so the barley farmer goes to trade for silk, and then gets silk to trade for salt. To avoid the hassle of intermediate trading a commodity took the place as the intermediary store of value, it was something that would be easy to carry, non-perishable, rare enough that it had value in small quantities but common enough that people all over had access to it, and ideally would be recyclable. Independently around the earth most societies moved to using precious metals such as gold, silver, and copper as this form of intermediate barter good- and thus the first "money" of human culture came about.
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