Fight World Hunger

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Friday, September 25, 2009

The meaning of hunger

You just gotta love the recession. It gives you more time to spend with family and loved ones, with good measure left to do what you like doing. I want to say 'what you do best', but I'm unsure if what you like doing is what you do best, it may be the case for some but not others. I believe in talent, however the old timer in me believes that you develop your skill set with repetition and commitment.

One of the things that tops my To Do list is cooking not only by interest but of late, by necessity. Everyone's gotta eat! We are in many ways blessed with the abundance and variety presented before us. Of course the downside is that we probably consume more than the 2100 calories that we actually need per day as a healthy diet. These days, I am constantly surprised at the raw ingredients that we can get our hands on, the latest being real vanilla pods from Madagascar. I grew up using those artificial vanilla extracts in little bottles that resemble those 2-shot liquor they serve in planes, so you see that this opened up a whole different world of baking.

I have also recently met a few aspiring chefs too. Chefs I feel are like photographers, are like artists most of whom are obvious know-it-alls: You just can't really talk to them, their info probably came from spending too much time on the Food Channel. I think that for every wannabe chef there are 10 wannabe foodies. For the record, I hate the word foodie, or anything cutesy that ends with an 'ie'. I don't know who came up with that word but that fella ought to be shot.

We have so much food we end up talking about food, we end up criticizing food, and having a channel dedicated to food. This post is not about food but rather, the lack of it.

I've come across the World Food Programme (WFP) before but I don't know if I was too busy or too indifferent to bother. That sort of attitude perhaps describes more than half of us who if nothing happens, will assume everything is fine. I was only reminded when I was watching Letterman last night and President Clinton was on, and he was talking about the Clinton Initiative which was an interesting concept where you go out offer assistance to the people who need it by making a commitment. It is not that we can't, and with just a little effort, money, time, or skill we can allocate any of these things to the people who need it most.

And then today I had the time to sit down and read look through the entire WFP site. As you and I are sitting down awaiting or preparing our next meal, about a billion people will go to bed hungry. What more, the worst hit are women and children, and just 25 cents will feed a hungry child and $25 will feed a child for half a school year. That works out to about RM180 to feed a child for whole year! So, do think about that the next time you're thinking about buying something you want but don't really need. I've placed a link on my site permanently so you can go have a look, or donate immediately. We are facing tough economic times and everyone including I am affected but that is all the more reason to go through with this as the personal donations will surely drop due to this. Can you believe that Malaysia isn't even on the donor list? That places us way below India, Thailand and even Singapore! There is no minimum donation amount either so do what you can.

Its funny to think that also because I grew up in a Chinese family we were encouraged to 'finish your food because there are many children in Africa with nothing to eat'. I don't understand the logic of fattening our kids because some kid in Africa is starving, and I remember I once said, 'Ok, why don't you send this to them instead?', which left the adults speechless.

For a kid, I think that would have been an ideal thing to do. Its all about allocating resources to the places that need it most.

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Saturday, August 29, 2009

Let's get cookin'

I think the only thing worth watching nowadays on Astro is probably AFC, or the Food Channel. However, I must say that while some programmes are good, I have seen some other crap as well that's come out of these people's kitchens, like for one was this craptastic thing this guy made with 'bak choy'(I can't stand these foreigners calling it 'bok choy'), and coconut milk served with chapati. What the hell is that?

Some honest cooking can be found with Jamie Oliver and Laura Calder. Honest, passionate, and easy going, that's what cooking's supposed to be. Also I've been catching Spain...on the road again with Gwyneth Paltrow and Claudia Bassols. Its basically 4 people travelling around Spain drinking wines and eating spanish food and generally making everyone else jealous.

I on the other hand, have been doing loads of cooking on my new stove. Its not your fancy Electrolux crap that you pay and display. I know of people who don't even use their kitchens which is such a shame, I got one of those stainless steel industrial ones they use for 'tai chow', or literally 'big-fry'. The amount of heat generated from the roaring stove made my knees feel weak the first time. But it is a fantastic stove, it really is, and as you know the old-timer in me always liked everything to be manual, with the switches and knobs that allows you to control everything.

In a time when everything is automatic, electric and with technology that makes you lazier, this works out for me.


Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Certified by the Master Brewer

Its a rare honor to be able to hang out for an evening with Fergel Murray, and what makes it even better is that after that you can walk out of there Certified to pour a perfect pint. Indeed, who is this Fergel Murray, you might ask?

He is the Master Brewer at Guinness in Ireland. Guinness, enjoyed all over the world is brewed in only a few select places and only one man controls the whole operation, that is the job of the Master Brewer, and its a pretty fine job at that. Fergel makes sure that the quality and taste is consistent and travels globally to ensure that standard is met. He speaks with passion about his product and rightly so, no question about Guinness is too menial for him.

Guinness, as I have enjoyed for years is available in Draught on tap at all good pubs, and Foreign Extra Stout, or FES, which is the supermarket variety. FES has been around for a while now, but has a recent update in flavor, the alcohol content has dropped from 8% to a current 6.8%. Its now mellower, with a more balanced taste of roasted barley, sweetness and a slight bitter aftertaste. Its actually not bad, and Fergel is quick to stare you down if you ever snub his FES.

The night's event was nothing short of fantastic. It was truly a place where all the Guinness drinkers gathered round and talked about all things Guinness. Its a given that Guinness drinkers mix easily at bars outside but to get them all together in an event is something else. Its also funny to note that we all have the same mindset too, like for instance since Fergel was there and showed us how a perfect pint ought to be poured, we were required to pour our own drinks, and thus continued the entire night, most of us thought that was a marvellous idea, where they ought to have pubs with unmanned taps and we just help ourselves to it. We talked about how bartenders don't know how to pour a proper pint, and learned that if it wasn't poured or served right, we can always send it back.

In the end, it was all worth it. I always liked knowing where my stuff came from, and who made it. The people behind the product, the engine of the entire mechanism, and to be able to sit down and have a pint with the guy who brewed the pint? Priceless.


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

How do you stop a pandemic?

Its nothing new, really. If you look at the mid 90s they have already made movies such as 12 Monkeys with Bruce Willis and Brad Pitt about the wipeout of the global population by a virulent strain. The reaction is similar. People just couldn't care less. No matter how we are warned, we still maintain a 'well, if I was to worry about it that much then nobody has to work, is that it? Who is going to run the real world?' Here's news, you can't run the real world if you're dead.

The problem with people is just that, we assume risks because we no longer regard it as a risk. We prioritize living our life by going to work, doing our job, being responsible because the risk versus reward does not seem significant. To illustrate this point more clearly, it is simply like gambling. If you head to a casino, and you start gambling, the risk is there, right? You might win, you might lose. Now, if you lose, that is fine, because sooner or later you will reach your threshold and you quit because you have bet the maximum amount that you have allocated when you walk in. However, what if you started winning? Not big amounts, but you started winning hands, right? Right at that moment your mentality changes and then the risks start to become smaller. You think to yourself, 'I can win this,' until you reach that point where you will believe that ,'There is no risk.' But think for one second, the risk is still there, your odds are still the same, how your perceive your risk has just changed, thats all.

That is the mentality that we have. We apply this to every aspect of our lives. If nothing happens to us, we assume it is safe. We started having a ruling here recently about using our rear safety belts which I feel was a good idea. They made rear safety belts for a reason anyway, but the perceived mentality is that we don't need to use them because they are bothersome, and that they have been doing fine all these years, why now? You see? Perceived safety. Just because you have never crashed into the front passenger killing them with the force of your mass times your current acceleration doesn't meant that it will never happen. The risks are always the same, its just your state of preparedness that prevent an incident from turning from bad to fatal. People don't see that, we are raised as eternal optimists.

Its because of this state of mind that prevents us from containing this flu pandemic. We were proud enough to declare ourselves free of an outbreak. I never believed it for a second. That's why I don't read the newspapers. Now we are closing schools and yet people don't feel the need to take preventive measures. How could they if they think that wearing your safety belts is too much trouble? So people continue to travel, to go out even if they feel sick because 'I feel fine, its just a small thing, it happens all the time.' Optimism can kill you.

I was at the supermarket recently and this seriously ill woman was shopping. Coughing, runny nose, her face was swollen and all. She just couldn't care less about the people around her. Her companion, looking irritated just snapped with ,'Ok, we'll just go to a doctor later, okay?'. I don't know if she was there against her will or what was the story, but that is how we will never be safe. Taking into account that this virus can mutate and become more virulent, their estimate is sometime year end, but I think that it can happen sooner and render these anti-virals ineffective. Don't need a PhD to tell you that.

If you ask me, if you feel ill, quarantine yourself. If you're out and you're spreading disease, someone in a biosuit should haul your ass to quarantine so fast you wish you never went out. Maybe a quarantine + interrogation room, that should keep more people indoors.

And yes, that someone in that biosuit would probably be me.


Friday, June 19, 2009

SNL with Timberlake

I've been catching Saturday Night Live whenever I can. Its great one-hour entertainment for my lunch breaks, but as anyone following it will know, they have their ups and downs. Sometimes comedy for comedy's sake ends up being a really tired skit that you just want it to end. The last good one that went particularly well was when Anne Hathaway was hosting it recently.

However the Justin Timberlake one is by far the funniest of them recently. Its so good its been making headlines all over. Best skit I think was 'Plasticville' where he gets dressed up in a weird fat suit that not many can pull it off, and the best part of it was the Lady Gaga improv. That's just something you really have to watch,

Can't wait for a 'Best of' to come even though he's only hosted it three times. Brilliant.


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