Friday, January 29, 2010

Pea Soup

Last weekend I made a pea soup from this recipe :

16 oz green split peas, dried
10 cups water
1 onion, chopped
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1 bay leaf
2 large carrots, chopped
3 medium potatoes, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped


So the method, like with any soup, is super simple. Just put it all in the pot. You can blend it a bit to make it thicker, and I did blend only about 1 cup, but that was enough to make this soup super gloppy! I really liked it, but it was a little bland, if you don't like peas. To liven it up a bit you can sprinkle cracked black pepper or paprika on the top. I added a drizzle of olive oil but that wasn't to my taste, and when I had seconds it was better without it. I also doubled the amount of spices here, and used organic roasted garlic from a jar.

You need to serve it with decent bread. I got a large block of white bread from Cobbs which is a good bakery here, although if I wasn't making this for Corbey too, I would have bought something wholegrain, preferably covered in seeds.

This made enough to feed us all for one lunch and store two quart pots of it the freezer for another time. In order to get Jamie to eat this I added some shredded ham, although I think hot dog sausages would work really well too.
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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Korean lunch

Last week I bought some Kimchi from H-Mart, one of the local Asian food stores, and some Spam and today I thought I'd go Korean for lunch. I made something I found online called Kim-chi Bo-kum-bop (Kimchi Fried Rice)

From Cooking Jan 10

From Cooking Jan 10

So I simply made some plain rice, fried some onion, garlic, (low sodium) soy sauce and spam in a pan. Then I threw in half a cup of Kimchi and the rice and that was it. Actually since Jamie (7) was going to have this too, I put his out before stirring the Kimchi in, so he could try it seperately first. (His conclusion, it's spicy but I like it).

From Cooking Jan 10

Then I stuck fried eggs on top. This is a delicious lunch!

From Cooking Jan 10

Possibly could be improved with some sesame seeds or I could have fried in a nutty oil instead of olive oil.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Sweet potato and chicken stew

From korea penultimate day

I decided to bring out my slow cooker at the weekend and make something tasty. I found this recipe on the crock-pot website that sounded perfect.

There was a problem though; the cooking time was way off for my cooker. I start it at 10am so it should have been ready 6 to 8 hours later. Unfortunately by 4pm, 6 hours in, the potatoes were nowhere near done. So I put the cooker onto high and hoped for the best. It was until 7pm that the potatoes were even starting to soften, so we ate it at that point.

Since then I've learned that you need to put vegetables that take longer to cook at the bottom of the pot where it is hotter. In the case of this recipe the potatoes should be at the bottom, followed by carrots, then sweet potatoes. Surprisingly the chicken would be at the top. I would have thought that the meat would need more heat.

Regardless, the stew was really tasty; I used a little tube of basil because the store had run out of fresh basil, so hopefully I can fix that next time.

Recipe reproduced here:

Chicken and Sweet Potato Stew

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch slices
1 28-oz can whole stewed tomatoes
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp celery seed
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
1 cup nonfat, low sodium chicken broth

Combine all ingredients in the slow cooker. Cover; cook on Low for 6 to 8 hours or on High for 3 to 4 hours.

This recipe is from

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Eden and the Fall of Man. Part 2, Take it or Leave it?

In a previous blog entry I was talking about John Milton's retelling of the Garden of Eden. To begin this second part I'd like to recount briefly the original source for the story, which is told in the first chapters of the Book of Genesis, which appears not only in the Christian Old Testament but also in the Hebrew Bible and the first five books of the Torah, and is most likely a collection of stories, passed on orally, a millenium or more BC, in the Middle East.

In Genesis God makes the Earth and makes Adam out of a handful of dust from the ground, and delivers him to the Garden of Eden where He has caused to "grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil." In other words Adam has everything he needs to eat, he doesn't need to grow anything or hunt. God also provides him with a companion, Eve. What is explicit in this story is that the Garden of Eden is made for humans: "God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.". So God is a human, and further, everything on Earth is for humans.

As discussed in the last post, the tree of knowledge of good and evil is placed in the garden as some kind of obedience test. The two humans are told that they will die if they eat from it, and satan shows up to tempt Eve, saying "in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil." Eve eats the fruit and shares it with Adam. God arrives finding them hiding themselves with fig leaves, suddenly ashamed of their nakedness. They are cast from the Garden of Eden out into the world.

Once outside of Eden, Adam and Eve can no longer just pluck fruit the trees, and pull vegetables from the ground. Only with "the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground". Thus rather than actual death, they suffer the end of their lives in Eden, and the beginning of growing their own food by hard work.


"Ishmael", by Daniel Quinn, is a philosphical novel written in Socratic dialog style. Ishmael is a gorilla which is able to communicate telepathically with the narrator, who has answered an intriguing newspaper advertisement: "Teacher seeks pupil, must have an earnest desire to save the world. Apply in person." The book is primarily about how human beings lived for the last 2 million years prior to the agricultural revolution, and how they live after it (to present day).

The book procedes as a number of conversations between the narrator and the gorrilla, developing ideas and then expanding on them; the book is very well paced and enjoyable to read so you can go do that before reading the rest of this if don't want any spoilers.

Ishmael describes a culture as being the enactment of a story. The story being the beliefs, ideas and principles that the people of a culture originated from. As mentioned above, our story, as takers, is that we own the Earth, that God made it for us, and that everything in the Earth is for us to dominate and use. As a culture, we are enacting that story. This has unfortunate consequences for us as a species, and for the Earth in general.

For non-religious people the story is still the same. You don't have to believe that God made the Earth or that he made it just for humans to enact the story. As a culture we believe that human beings evolved to be the perfect creatures, the most intelligent on the planet, and that we have every right to take what we want. The takers story is so old now, we don't step outside of it to consider the leavers version.

Our Gorilla explains that the Fall of Man, the eating from the tree of knowledge, represents this great change in the way humans lived. The secret knowledge Adam and Eve gained from the forbidden fruit, was the "knowledge of who shall live and who shall die". Now without getting to this idea slowly and carefully the way it is done in the book, it may sound quite far removed from changing from hunter gatherer, or simple herder lifestyles to lifestyles that practice organised farming. But the crucial difference between the takers and the leavers is sustainability. In all of nature except taker humans, there is a natural balance between species based on availability of food. When a pack of lions go out to hunt they bring down an animal, and that is their food. If they run out of prey in an area then the pack starves. If they eat to many of their prey, they will cause their prey to go extinct and will starve. Populations in nature are kept in balance by this simple rule that all of nature follows. Kill what you need to eat, and no more.

What happened when we moved to organised agriculture is we declared war on nature. We no longer take what we need, we kill all animals that enroach on our farms or wander into our cities and towns. Hunger is not something that affects us once we have the food surpluses that agriculture enabled us to create. We are no longer sustainable, taking only what we need. We decimate other species if they don't fit in with our farming activities.

According to Quinn, more food means more people. So agriculture leads to increased population, which means that as people practised farming they would also have needed to expand. That expansion of the first farmers has almost filled the world, and nearly every group of people living in a sustainable way has been wiped out or integrated with our culture. Now if people live in an area where there is not enough food to support them, We now have the knowledge of the Gods. Perhaps that is the knowledge referered to in the Garden of Eden?

The story of Adam and Eve seems to be the story of how some Leavers became the first Takers. The tree of knowledge is the 'knowledge of who shall live and who shall die'.

Population increase would cause the takers to expand out from their initial farms, and in doing so would encounter the Leavers, who not being compatible with the Takers lifestyle would have been integrated or wiped out. So who told the story of Adam and Eve? In Ishmael, Quinn says that the teller of the story are the Leavers. They are describing the evil people that came and took over their lands.

Also of relevance is the story of Cain and Abel, children of Adam and Eve, who's story is also told in the Qur'an and Torah. Cain is an arable farmer and his younger brother Abel is a shepherd. They both present offerings to God; Abel presents a lamb whilst Cain presents some food he has grown in his fields. God is happy with the lamb but not with the crops, and in anger Cain kills Abel, becoming the first murderer in history. God tells Cain, "If you work the land, it will never again give you its yield. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth." This story again sounds like it is being told by early leavers, about the takers, as agriculture began to replace the traditional hunter-gatherer life.

Story of B

As a sequel to Ishmael, the Story of B is also worth reading. Expanding on and retelling the same points as Ishmael. Set in Europe, the narrator this time is a Catholic Priest who is sent to determine whether a colleague of Ishmael, known only as B, is the anti-christ. In investigating, the narrator goes to the secret meetings of B and is adopted by him as a student.

During the novel, Quinn goes into more detail on how hunter-gatherers lived, and how everyone in our culture is in a period after the 'Great Forgetting', when we have all forgotten how humans lived for most of our history. It is humbling to think that we have been farmers for only eight thousand years of a million year history as modern humans.

Both of these books tell the same story, in slightly different yet novel ways, and I really enjoyed reading them both. The ideas are both solid and revolutionary. When I think about how this affects other ideoligies like socialism and capitalism, or religions like Christianity and Buddhism, this is really something that goes off on a tangent of its own. It's really hard to imagine how we could live, if we were to turn back the clock and live as our pre-agriculture ancestors lived, in ways that were adapted to each local region, and each totally isolated from one another, it would be a very different world to the modern one we live in.

Rapidly increasing population and the side effects such as pollution, war and disease are clearly problems that will only get worse if we continue with a global system that is run purely by the greed of individuals and the businesses they run. Perhaps the democratization that the internet is bringing will enable us to start living a more global version of the villages of old?

What I find odd about my reaction to this book, is that I feel like I understood the facts as they were presented, and followed the theories and conclusions drawn by Ishmael, B and their followers. And yet I should have found it life changing and set off on a path determined to help us reverse the great forgetting. Maybe because to change the story of a culture is not possible in one persons head, at least this persons head. Or perhaps the story of the takers was too strong, too hard to fight as a leaver, and therefore, if we want to enact another story, it must be a new one. One that is strong enough to destroy the story of the takers?

What will be the next Adam and Eve story? Has it already been told? I don't know.

One final part of this set of blog posts to come, where I will look at where the story of Adam and Eve shows up in our culture, both explicitly and by analogy.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Technology fail

No Technology in Brighton

I was looking for a book on Vancouver Public Library's online search, and it wouldn't find it by title, so it popped up a window saying do you want to use online help. I've seen it before, so I figured I'd try it out. Since this was a brave thing to do I have highlighted what I say in bold. The online librarian book finding expert is in regular text... (I've changed the name to protect the innocent).

Hi, I'm looking for the greatest show on earth by richard dawkins
Librarian 'Caroline @ AskAway' has joined the session.
Hello and welcome to AskAway. I'm just reading your question...
the book?
Is Vancouver your closest library?
Yeah central branch
Just call them or go in.
Anything else I can help you with?

(thinks: what do you mean else?)

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Life without Dog

From Barney
Barney was a Black lab cross, born in 1999. That makes him the same age as my marriage. We bought him and his sister Laurel from a pet store in Metrotown, Burnaby. Just before Christmas we had Barney put to sleep due to a serious illness, and I thought I'd write about some of the ways I suddenly remember him recently.


From Barney

I used to walk him in the morning and the evening every day. He used to wake me up about 6:30am and get more and more impatient until I get up and take him. Grunting and groaning like an old man.

Having a dog makes you go for a walk, you don't have any choice. Now I still walk at the weekends occasionally. When I put my coat on, I check the pockets instinctively for plastic bags. You always have to be prepared for poop as a dog owner. All my coats still have a bunch of bags in the pockets.

Moving about the apartment

Barney was terrible at getting out of the way, and usually used to lie in the place that you were most likely to walk next. Partly because he always wanted to check on us and see what we were doing. Often he'd raise his head just as I was stepping over him, so I'd kick him in the face by accident, and he'd look at me like "how could you do that?" and I'd look at him like "how on earth did I do that?"

At night he'd often be lying there in the shadows, and he'd see me coming at him in the dark. He'd panic and leap up, just as I'd see him and go to step over him. He'd often try to jump out of my way, but I'd try to move my foot to the same spot, and then I'd have to try to backtrack, and we'd end up both nearly tripping over.


We always fed Barney after us; an important discipline thing. But I'd always save him a bit of my meat. So he'd sit there at my feet as we all ate, occasionally sitting up and looking at me expectantly. As soon as I stand up he'd barrel into the kitchen, skittering about on the kitchen floor, his hard claws having no purchase at all on the polished wooden floor.


Barney had a devious streak. For some reason he wanted to poop in the place that would be most embarrassing for me. If we passed a dozen yards for example, he would want to poop in the one that was most impressively maintained, and ideally would have people in it, or at least watching out of their window.

We were once in a nice little town called Horseshoe Bay on a sunny day, and he'd done a few poops and exhausted our bag collection. Then, as we passed a patio filled with happy diners, he squirted out a big stream of wet poop, which they all looked at in disgust and shock. Then they looked expectantly at us, the dog owners, and we looked desperately around for some source of plastic bags. Luckily right next door a woman watched us from her deck, and she came out with some.

As a puppy he also once ate some glow in the dark toys, which he then pooped out as I walked along the street. He waited, of course, until there was a large audience, a group of teenage boys. They were all shocked and disturbed, as he pooped out turds with little bright green glowing lights in them.

Another time on that same street he pooped and then half a plastic bag hung from his anus. Again he waited until there was a group approaching, and they watched with morbid curiosity as I bent down behind him and slowly pulled the bag out.


From Barney

Barney loved playing. His favourite game was "try to get the toy off me". And there was no way to win. He was just immensely strong. You could literally lift him off the ground and hang him by the toy. Eventually you'd get bored and walk off, but he'd drop it then and let you just nearly get it, but then he'd grab it with his 100 tonne bite again, and expect you fruitlessly tug at it. He wanted to play that for hours and hours.

He was a pretty well disciplined dog; you could get him to sit, lie down, shake a paw. But he never quite figured out fetch. To him the game was, you throw the stick, and he liked to find it, but he didn't like bringing it back. If he did, he certainly wouldn't give it to you.


He was a very proud dog. He didn't like to look stupid, which is a shame because of the kind of owners we were.

From Barney


From Barney

Barney loved the snow. As soon as there was snow outside he'd go running outside and play in it like an excited kid.

Guard dog

From Barney

We very rarely heard Barney bark. But one day we arrived back home and he didn't hear that it was us at the door, or he didn't smell us, and we heard for the first time a really deep loud bark come from inside. For a moment we didn't believe it was him but it was.

Another time we had a real estate agent enter our home without us, and he said that Barney followed him around the house, three feet away from him the whole time, barking loudly. We couldn't even imagine him doing that, but apparently he was a real guard dog!

He always used to pick the member of the family that needed watching and go and lie with them. If Jamie was in a room on his own he'd go and lie in there. If Corbey was watching TV late and I was in bed he'd come and lie with me, but then when she came to bed, he'd go and watch Jamie.

If we came home and there was only one of us missing, he'd not be happy until we (his pack) were all together again. One day I arrived home alone, and he was looking past me for Corbey. He saw a woman half way down the corridor and decided that was her and went sprinting down there as fast he could, too fast to stop before bounding into her doorway to give her a big welcome. Luckily she was a dog person, and petted him instead of calling the police.

I guess that's all for now but I'll try to post a few more memories as they come to me.