This holiday season, while you’re sipping mulled wine and nibbling gingerbread, impress your company with some spicy knowledge. I’m talking about spices, those dried, powdery substances (roots, bark and seeds) that were once worth more than gold. It’s easy to cruise to your local grocery store to pick up a bottle of ground cinnamon, but growing a spice is not like growing thyme in your backyard. Even locavores make exceptions for their spices, because some things grow only where they grow. Most of the plants and trees on this list need a steamy climate to propagate. Let’s take a tour.
Cinnamon rolls, snickerdoodles, cider and pumpkin pie – cinnamon is a holiday spice superstar. The spice is derived from the bark of a tree. But get this: there are twelve species of tree! Only a few of which are grown commercially for the grocery store shelves. The cinnamon tree is native to Sri Lanka, a lush, tropical island off the coast of India. It is grown in nearby regions, but is also cultivated in East Africa. Zanzibar is a historic trading post that offers a melting pot of culture and colorful spice markets, to boot.
Pickled ginger with sushi, ginger cookies, and ginger ale – ginger is a popular spice year round. The plant is hearty. One can grow it most anywhere (and it has a nice flower, which has made it popular in landscaping), but today’s top producers are in Jamaica, India, Indonesia and Australia. Hawaii hosts some ginger farms, which are open to the public.
Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world. But look at the labor required, and it’s no wonder. Each flower yields just wo delicate red threads (technically, a stigma). All of this to make saffron rice, saffron margaritas and saffron-dyed textiles. And what color! In ancient days, it was the aphrodisiac of pharaohs and kings. But watch out. If taken in large amounts, saffron is a deadly narcotic. Native to the Middle East, it is commercially grown all over the world today. Each year, Kashmir holds a festival at the end of October, celebrating the saffron harvest.
Probably one of the lesser known spices on the list, cardamom is a little green pod, used mostly in Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine. The Scandinavians love it too, especially in dessert breads. And some put it in their coffee and tea! Cardamom seeds grow at the base of the cardamom plant, on small branches emerging from the root of the bush. From afar, the plant looks a lot like ginger, because it’s a member of the same family. If you have a hankering to visit a cardamom farm, hop on a plane headed for Guatemala or India. There’s even a resort called the Cardamom Club.
The nutmeg tree is native to the Banda Islands in Indonesia. Nutmeg is the seed of this evergreen tree. It is sold as a dried pod, which is used around the world in savory and sweet dishes, and even tasty drinks – eggnog, cider or wine anyone? In India, ground nutmeg is even smoked. Little known fact: the nutmeg tree produces two spices, not one. The other is mace. One small island country in the Caribbean is so proud of its nutmeg production, it calls itself the “Island of Spice” and placed the tree on its red, yellow and green flag. That country is Grenada.
Gingerbread, pumpkin pie and split pea soup – the glory of cloves! After the sweets, take a cup of clove tea for a toothache. And before gum, some chewed them to freshen the breath. Cloves as we know them, are the unopened flower buds of the clove tree. Dried. They come from the Maluku Islands in Indonesia, but are produced commercially the world over: India, Zanzibar, and Madagascar, to name a few.
No, this is not a bunch of spices combined. Allspice are the unripe berries of a tree. The English, (of course), gave it its name in the early 1600s. That’s because they thought it tasted like cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves combined. The berries are picked when they are green and then dried in the sun. Allspice is the all-star spice of the Caribbean. Jerk chicken wouldn’t be the same without it. In America, allspice is the important ingredient in Cincinnati-style chili. The tree is native to Central America and parts of Mexico, but like so much agriculture today, it is grown in many warm areas of the world.
The “crowning” spice of this post is star anise. In America, it seems like this is generally used as a garnish, especially in cider-like drinks. And rightly so, because it is a beautiful fruit, on the tree or dried. As a spice, the fruit is harvested before ripening and then dried. In cuisine, it is mostly used where it originally came from: China and India. But it is also a major component of pho, the classic Vietnamese soup.
|Shopping locally can be a wonderful way to get in touch with your neighborhood and avoid all the crazy of Black Friday.
We’re supporting American Express’ Shop Small initiative this year by asking our members to leave a note or two that feature small businesses in their neighborhoods.
Or, maybe you’re a small business owner? Why not put yourself on the Findery map?
All the best from Findery.
Photo: Hello Neighbor
|A taste of small business on Findery
ABQ Trolley Company, Albuquerque
Austin Art Garage, Austin
Bibliohead Bookstore, San Francisco
Black Bear Bakery & Cafe, St Louis
Bull City Arts Collaborative, Durham
California Store, Columbia
Irwin Street Market, Atlanta
The Jimtown Store, Healdsburg
Laughing Man, New York
Makeshift Society Brooklyn, Brooklyn
Mario’s Italian Lemonade, Chicago
Paradox Bookstore, Wheeling
Provenance Antiques, Atlanta
Raised by Wolves, Brooklyn
Rickshaw Bagworks, San Francisco
Rococo Baby, Santa Rosa
Rowe Designs, Newport
Splash Studio, Milwaukee
Spuds Green Lake, Seattle
Swede’s Feeds, Kenwood
Tail of the Yak, Berkeley
The Green Arcade, San Francisco
The Quilting Loft, Seattle
The Willow Glen Collective, San Jose
Used & Abused, Atlanta
Happy Friday! Just a few bits and pieces from around the Findery-verse:
• New Welcome Pages
You may not have noticed, but we implemented a new series of welcome pages.
• Simplified Privacy
We’ve retired the complexity of Lists for a more straightforward way to leave private notes for other members.
To leave a private note for another Findery member, tap on “Findable by”, select “Recipient” and start typing the username of the member you’d like to leave the private note for.
If you had left or received notes via a List, those notes have been migrated to a new Private Note area that’s available via your profile page. You’ll be able to view and delete a note sent or received via a List, but you won’t be able to change the recipients.
• Shuttering the Forums
Member forums were something that were a must have for any site a few years ago. The web has grown up and as there are so many ways to make contact these days, we’ve decided to shutter our Forums. (Yes, we have Forums!) This doesn’t mean that we’re not available and we don’t want to hear from you. You can find us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. We’re always happy to hear from you via email@example.com. We’ll be winding down the forums on December 2nd.
We have lovely new buttons and stickers coming. If you send us a postcard with your name and address, we’ll send you some!
292 Ivy Street
San Francisco CA 94117
War heroes. Tough travelers. These animals covered long distances in their lifetimes, even traveling to outer space.
Bobbie, a Collie dog, walked 2,500 miles across the U.S. He was on a road trip with his family in 1923, and while they were traveling through Indiana, he became separated from them. They searched for him everywhere, but were forced to give up and return home, brokenhearted. And home was not next door. They lived in Silverton, Oregon. Six months later there was a scratching on the front door. A mangy dog with feet worn to the bone was on the doorstep. Bobbie!
Before humans dared leave Earth’s atmosphere, they sent a “guinea pig.” And by guinea pig, I mean a chimpanzee. In the U.S., the job was given to Ham, NASA’s first astronaut. He was trained for two years at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico. Using electric lights and sounds, Ham knew what tasks to do when. Ham’s journey, if successful, would pave the way for the first American human in space. And it was! On January 31, 1961, Ham was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida. He entered suborbital flight, and splashed down into the Atlantic Ocean 16 minutes later. Ham quietly lived the rest of his life in the National Zoo in Washington, D.C.
Christian the Lion: Back to the Wild
Photo credit: The Guardian
Once upon a time, two men walked into the exotic animal department at Harrod’s and saw a lion cub in a cage. (As recently as the 1960s, one could buy a lion from a department store!) It was love at first sight for John Rendall and Ace Berg. They named him Christian. The two worked at a furniture store in Chelsea, where they brought him up. Fast forward one year: the cat went from 35 pounds to 185, and he was still growing! Raising a lion in the city was difficult. His food was expensive (a lot of raw meat!), he needed more space and was a tad intimidating when walking down the street. Ace and John decided to reintroduce him to the wild. And so they went to Africa.
If there was ever a beloved ship’s cat, Trim was certainly one. Has any other captain written an essay about his cat? Captain Matthew Flinders adopted Trim in 1799, who was born aboard a ship, and thus instantly accustomed to the motion of the sea. So accustomed that, on occasion he fell into the water, and seemingly unfazed, swam back to the ship and climbed back aboard. Trim sailed around the world – perched in sailor’s hats and playing on the rigging – and is known for being the first cat to circumnavigate Australia. His only flaw, according to Flinders? Vanity. (He is a cat! What did you expect?)
Lin Wang was the oldest elephant to ever live. He was born in Asia in 1917. His early years were spent in military service during the Sino-Japanese War, which became a part of World War II. First, he served with the Japanese, but was captured by the Chinese in 1943. He and 12 other elephants were used to transport Chinese supplies. When the war ended in 1945, he and his elephant friends were marched back to China via Burma Road. It was a difficult journey. 6 elephants died. The remaining elephants continued their service, even performing in a circus to raise funds for famine relief. Eventually the group was dispersed, and Lin Wang ended up at the Taipei Zoo, where he lived until 2003. The average elephant lives to 60 years of age, but Lin Wang was 86.
Remember Balto? He’s the sled dog who made the heroic run to Nome, Alaska, where an outbreak of diphtheria was raging in January of 1925. Relays of 6 sled teams handed off the medicine that would save the town. Balto made the final leg of the journey, but he’s not the one who took the brunt of the trip. Togo guided his team for 250 miles (Balto ran 55), through temperatures as low as -50F, white-out blizzards and across the dangerous Norton Sound. As they crossed the Sound, the ice began to break, but Togo skillfully and swiftly navigated team and driver ashore. While Balto became the face of the “Great Race of Mercy,” sled drivers consider Togo to be the true hero.
No one knows what sent this hippo on her famous journey – searching for a lost mate, escaping the violence that killed her parents, or the call of her ancestral land – but it didn’t really matter. What fascinated people was that she kept going and going, from the St. Lucia Estuary to King William’s Town. Her journey was well-documented, from swimming at a Durban beach to bathing in a monastery pond to taking a little snooze on train tracks, she was a symbol of hope in a time of depression. Huberta started her trek in 1928 and traveled over a thousand miles, until 1931, when was shot to death by four farmers. Because she was protected wildlife and the public was so outraged, the farmers were put on trial. The verdict? Guilty! 25 pounds each, please. Huberta’s body was taxidermied and is now on view at the Amathole Museum.
“Flying rat” or “war hero”? The story of Cher Ami will make you think twice about pigeons. Cher Ami was a homing pigeon, trained for use in World War I. On October 3, 1918, 500 American soldiers were trapped. They were surrounded by the Germans and their only hope was to get word to the allies. One pigeon was sent with a message. It was instantly shot down. The next bird was also stricl. The last, Cher Ami, took off with yet another note attached: “We are along the road parallel to 276.4. Our own artillery is dropping a barrage directly on us. For heaven’s sake, stop it.” Initially, she successfully maneuvered through the rain of bullets, but was then hit hard. Somehow, she took flight again and arrived at her destination, 25 miles away in 60 minutes. She had been shot through the breast, blinded in one eye and lost one of her legs, but she saved the lives of 194 survivors. Pay your respects to her taxidermied body at the National Museum of American History.
Ernest Shackleton’s 1914 expedition to the South Pole was a miraculous disaster – a disaster because the ship became stuck in the ice; miraculous because they all survived. A carpenter named Harry McNish was hired for the journey, and with him came his cat, Mrs. Chippy. “Chippy” was the nickname for a British carpenter, and so McNish’s cat became known as Mrs. Chippy. (One month into the trip, they discovered that the cat was actually a male, but by then the name had stuck.) The crew found him an impressive feline, walking the inch-wide rails with ease and bold in his friendliness. But after disaster struck, Shackleton told the men to be ruthless about what they took with them. He ordered Mrs. Chippy shot. McNish never forgave Shackleton. If you visit McNish’s New Zealand grave, on it you will find a statue of Mrs. Chippy.
Rienzi was the horse of General Philip Sheridan. Without the aid of Rienzi, President Lincoln may not have been re-elected, then assassinated and the course of our country would have been drastically different! You see, morale was low among Sheridan’s troops at Shenandoah Valley, and Sheridan wasn’t there to rally them. On his way back from a meeting in Washington D.C., he caught wind of the impending loss and gave Rienzi a good kick. It is a testament to Rienzi’s endurance and strength that Sheridan got to his men in time. He successfully rallied them into a counterattack and the battle was won.
Stubby was a stray, who happened to wander onto a military training field, dramatically altering the course of his canine life. A certain Corporal Robert Conroy secretly adopted the mutt, and hid him aboard the troop ship headed for Europe. When Conroy’s commanding officer discovered the stowaway, Stubby saluted him. And thus he was inducted. Stubby served in the trenches of France. Stubby was able to warn the men of poison gas attacks, located wounded soldiers in no man’s land, and because of his acute hearing, he could hear artillery shells coming before his fellow soldiers could. When Stubby came home in 1918, he was a celebrity.
It’s difficult to reflect on trees and not get sappy. (Badum tish! Pun intended.) Besides providing shelter, shade and fruit, the tree is a metaphor for life. Just think of the Buddha sitting under a Bodhi tree, or Robin Hood and his merry men hiding in an old oak, and of course, Adam and Eve, eating the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Here is a list of trees you’ll want to know more about:
The Angel Oak is a tree that must be seen to know its power. 65 feet tall with massive limbs up to 89 feet long, and providing 17,000 square feet of shade, the word “awesome” is used correctly in reference to the Angel Oak. Thousands of visitors visit each year. Some just want to put their hand on the 1,500-year-old, living organism. It is both comforting and eerie to be around something so old. If the oak could speak, what would it say? Take a trip to Charleston, South Carolina and have a listen.
What do you do when a railroad needs to pass through an old cemetery? Get creative! In 1860s London, the railways were expanding, and the Midland Railway plan took the tracks through part of the St. Pancras Churchyard. Bodies needed to be exhumed and tombstones removed. The task befell a young Thomas Hardy. (Before writing novels and poetry, Hardy studied architecture.) He came up with an elegant, meaningful solution for the displaced grave markers. He arranged them to resemble roots, emanating from this ash tree.
While traveling 27,086 miles through space and drinking gallons of Tang – of which Buzz Aldrin recently said: “Tang sucks!” – the 1971 Apollo 14 crew brought along a surprising cargo item. They had hundreds of tree seeds – sycamore, loblolly pine, redwood and douglas fir – brought by Stuart Roosa, former U.S. Forest Service smoke jumper. They were brought back from space, and planted throughout the U.S. Sadly, many are nearing the end of their lives. Visit one soon!
The Major Oak, an 800-year-old behemoth in Sherwood Forest, was reputedly the hiding place of Robin Hood and his merry men. The connection to the legendary hero has elevated the tree to worldwide fame. Nottinghamshire Police busted a number of people for taking acorns and selling them online. You’ll find that the tree is surrounded by an elaborate scaffolding system, to support its massive old limbs.
Shoe tossing, most commonly seen over wires in the city, is also popular in certain trees. Near the small town of Middlegate, Nevada, there is a story behind the this shoe tree. A newlywed couple camped here in the 1980s, and got into a fight. The woman threatened to walk away, but the man prevented her by throwing her shoes over a branch in the tree. They eventually made up and all was well. Later, they returned to add another pair of shoes to the tree: their baby’s. And so it became a tradition. In 2010, vandals cut the tree down. But a nearby tree was designated as the new shoe hanger.
More than the representation of a tree, this sculpture looks like a swarm of bees or a tornado that’s just touched the ground. The drama of suspended motion is further compounded by the sound that it produces. The sculpture is comprised of pipes, which creates a harmonic, yet dischordant sound as the wind travels through it. The sculpture, by Mike Tonkin and Anna Liu, is one of four across East Lancashire in the UK.
This 400-year old mesquite tree in Bahrain is the only living thing for miles around. How does it survive? The root system may reach to 150 feet below the surface. People often claim that this tree is the vestige of the Garden of Eden, which once stood here. Hence the name “Tree of Life.”
South Africa’s anti-apartheid revolutionary and politician, Nelson Mandela, lived in this house from 1946 to 1962. In the yard there is a tree, under which each of his children and grandchildren’s umbilical cords is buried. The tree literally becomes a family tree. Now operating as a museum, the Mandela House (and tree!) is open for viewing.
When this oak tree was struck by lightning in 1669, it was hollowed out by a fire. The local abbot and priest took this as a sign of holy divination. Two chapels were built in the tree: Our Lady of Peace and the Hermit’s Room. During the French Revolution, the tree was in danger of being destroyed by an angry mob, who saw it as a symbol of the old governance. A local, whose name is lost to history, stepped forward and argued that the tree was “the temple of reason,” thus sparing it from destruction. Locals use the chapels to this day.
Planted in 288 BC, this fig tree (or, Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi) is a sapling of the original tree, under which the Buddha attained enlightenment. (It’s also the oldest known planted tree.) The original, located in India, was destroyed by a ruler of a different faith. Ruins from ancient monasteries found nearby confirm that it has long been a sacred site for Buddhists around the world. Anyone can come to Sri Lanka and worship under the Bodhi without hindrance.
The Oldest Trees in the World
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons
When Prometheus, an old bristlecone pine of unknown age, was cut down by an eager graduate student for study in 1964, he soon discovered that he made a terrible mistake. (The look on his face must have been priceless. “I just cut down a 5,000 year old tree. The world’s oldest.” Gulp.) There are conflicting accounts as to whether he had permission or not. But who could rightly give it? A tree in the same grove, still standing, is determined to be older. They won’t tell us which one.
Photo credit: Laura B.
Ah, Melbourne Cup: the day Australia comes to a halt to watch the preeminent horse race of the year…book-ended nicely by a party that starts at lunch and ends in the wee hours of the morning.
Held annually on the first Tuesday in November, the Cup is the unofficial kick-off to the holiday season in Australia. It’s been rumoured that workplace output begins to slow around Melbourne Cup…and doesn’t pick up again until Australia Day, in January!
In true Aussie form, the Cup is open to everyone’s participation – you don’t have to be trackside at Flemington Racecourse to enjoy the festivities. Around the nation, offices close early, and pubs and restaurants fill up well before the race’s 3PM start time. If you’re lucky enough to live in metro Melbourne or parts of rural Victoria, Cup Day is even a public holiday.
For those who like to frock up, the Cup offers the perfect opportunity for a parade of fashions. From Darwin to Hobart, Cup enthusiasts don their finest attire, topped with an outrageous hat or a fascinator: fluffy, frilly, feathery and often sky-high headpiece. Is that a bird on your head?
Here are some fun spots associated with the Melbourne Cup:
1. Flemington Racecourse
Flemington Racecourse is not just famous for being the site of the Cup. For followers of fashion, it’s also the spot where model Jean “The Shrimp” Shrimpton quite scandalously wore a miniskirt (four inches above the knee!) in public during the Melbourne Cup’s weeklong festivities in 1965. The horror!
2. Phar Lap
One of the most famous Melbourne Cup winners of all time and a national icon, thoroughbred Phar Lap won in 1930. He was so famous, he’s been in a movie, a postage stamp, and a song — and he’s included on the Australian test for citizenship. If you’d like to visit his remains today, you’ll need to cash in on frequent flier miles: his hide is mounted and displayed at the Melbourne Museum, his skeleton is at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa — and his heart is in Canberra, at the National Museum of Australia.
3. Hats, hats, hats!
In the market for a fascinator? There’s no shortage of these fluttery creations Australia-wide, but in Melbourne especially, you can shop with the créme de la créme who outfit the Winner’s Circle. Try the studios of Louise Macdonald Millinery, Serena Lindeman, and The Millinery Association of Australia has opened a pop-up shop. If you’re game to make your own, perhaps you’ll find some inspiration from Richard Nylon’s creations.
4. Way Down Under
Before the 18-carat-gold trophy arrives at Flemington, the Cup tours all over Australia in the lead-up to race day. In 2012, the Cup’s tour kicked off in Tennant Creek, NT – 2,760km away from Melbourne. There, the gilded prize received a police escort down the main street, visited the local hospital – and then posed for photos 18 meters underground, in the Battery Hill Mining Centre.
5. Faux Pas
The biggest faux pas on Cup day for ladies? Taking off your heels and walking barefoot. Seems obvious, but after a day of drinking, and aching tootsies, this could start to sound like a good idea. Just say no to joining the throngs heading back to the city sans shoes – instead, bookmark the location of the taxi rank on Leonard Crescent. Oh wait, that’s half the problem – no one can get a cab after the Race!
In days of yore, with a firm and even pressure, we pecked [ding, return]
our missives out on typerwriters. If you’re not familiar with[ding, return]
these metal monsters, they came with names like IBM Selectric, [ding, return]
Olivetti and Underwood. Was a typewriter ever your friend [ding, return]
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Today’s challenge based on the Lettera 32, is the second [ding, return]
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It’s almost Summer in Australia, and for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere that means it’s an excellent time to take a trip Down Under. When you’re in Sydney, make sure to have at least one seafood dish. “Sydney-siders eat more seafood than any other Aussies (it’s a statistical fact!) – which I guess is fitting for ‘The Harbour City’ – and we do have some of the finest seafood in the world,” says Roberta Muir, cookbook author and Manager of the Sydney Seafood School.
The Sydney Fish Market is the second-largest seafood market in the world, in terms of variety. This is where all of the local restaurants do their shopping. Mud crabs, rocklobsters, octopi and oysters are just a few of the hundred species you will find here. But let’s take a moment to discuss the two kinds of local oysters: the Pacifics and the native Sydney Rocks. Roberta says the Sydney rock oysters rock! They are “sweet, salty, creamy and divine.” Take a few tips from the woman who runs the seafood school. She knows all the Sydney spots for the best seafood cuisine.