Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Down Under Autumn Comfort Foods

Food lore identifies which foods to eat when and why. It is an important element of folklore. Agreed upon food traditions and customs, including preparation, serving and storing, have historically designed to help a community prepare for and survive significant life cycle changes. 

They have also become opportunities for celebration and identification around beliefs and values. The Thanksgiving Turkey, for example, represents a Fall coming together of cultures; a collaboration, if you will, of resources gleaned from the harvest.  The turkey was a native bird and the customary pumpkin pie (made with fresh pumpkin) that completes today’s Thanksgiving meal is a seasonal vegetable.

Everywhere around the world, people have found creative ways to incorporate seasonal foods into their seasonal meals which are often referred to as comfort foods.  Autumn, in particular, is traditionally harvest season no matter where you live. The Northern Hemisphere harvest season includes cold and cooler weather foods, whereas the harvest season of the Southern Hemisphere (New Zealand) which is more moderate in temperature has its own offerings. 

Here are some examples of Down Under comfort foods: 

Herbs: They grow year round. The more common are mint, lemon balm, sage, parsley and rosemary. Mint can be found next to every stream or grassy area. Lemon balm grows wild and is known for its calming nature. Sage, parsley and rosemary, they are often used as decorative objects for homes. 

Kiwifruit: These egg-shaped fruits are delicious, full of fibre and vitamin C.

Kumara: Brought over to New Zealand over thousands of years ago by Maori settlers, this root vegetable has been growing there ever since. Its color ranges from dark orange to a yellow color and sometimes to white with purple marks. It is related to the sweet potato of South America.

Oysters: Bluff oysters are a prized seasonal delicacy and world-renowned for their taste and size. The oysters are harvested from the rich fishing grounds of the Foveaux Strait, and are in great demand from restaurants and markets throughout the country.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The First Day of Fall

The first day of fall, also known at the Autumnal Equinox, begins this year in the Northern Hemisphere on September 22, 2012 at 10:49 A.M. EDT. The word equinox comes from the Latin words for "equal night." The fall and spring equinoxes are the only days of the year in which the Sun crosses the celestial equator.

In many regions of North America, vibrant colors of red, yellow, and orange begin to take over our landscapes. Leaves begin to drop and baseball season is coming to an end, while football season is just warming up. Temperatures begin to drop and nights begin to get longer. 

With Autumn coming into full swing, it is easy to see the merging of cultures in America with their different traditions.Here are a few:

Scarecrows are traditionally in the shape of a man, covered in old clothes and placed in a field to scare away birds.  The earliest known record of these straw men comes from Japan, where they are known as Kuebiko.  They were written about in a book known as the Kojiki, which was first printed in the year 712 and describes a scarecrow-god which could not walk and was propped on a stick, yet he knew everything about the world around him.  Now they appear in Fall for decoration and to continue to scare those pesky birds from eating gardens!

When one thinks of the Jack-O-Lantern, one usually imagines a big pumpkin carved out for Halloween.  The original purpose for the Jack-O-Lantern was a lantern.  Holding a lit candle while you were walking around caused hot wax to get on your hands.  Placing that candle inside a carved out pumpkin, squash, or for the very poor, a turnip,  with holes cut out so the light could be cast seemed a perfect solution.

In time people started carving faces onto the turnips or pumpkins but the term "Jack-O-Lantern" didn't occur until 1837 and was used to refer a lantern made from any vegetable. 

In the United States, the pumpkin - which is native to the Americas - has been associated with as a seasonal lantern and not with Halloween.  Some suspect the name of the lantern comes from an early Irish Christian story about a man named "Stingy Jack" who tricked the Devil.  Thus, Jack-O-Lanterns became good luck symbols against evil.

Bobbing for apples is a game played as far back as Celtic times and requires a person to snatch an apple out of a bucket of water using only their mouths.  The game is based on the belief that the apple is the symbol of love by ancient people.  When families would gather for autumn festivals, teenage boys and girls would duck for the apples to see if they could grasp one.  The young girls would then keep the apple and place it under their pillows and it was thought that they would dream of their future husband. 

Here are familiar  Autumn proverbs:

  • Autumn days come quickly, like the running of a hound on the moor. - Irish proverb
  •  Spring rain damps; Autumn rain soaks.  - Unknown 
  •  Of autumn's wine, now drink your fill; the frost's on the pumpkin, and snow's on the hill.  - The Old Farmer's Almanac, 1993
  •  Autumn has caught us in our summer wear. - Philip Larkin, British poet (1922-1986)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Che: Revolutionary Folk Hero

Folk heroes and heroines are those who embody the values of the culture they represent. These people make choices and take actions that improve the conditions of the world they live in. They possess inner strength and courage that allows them to ‘do the right thing’ at the right time – often a moment of crisis. And they can be on the right or the wrong side of the law, like Robin Hood who stole from the rich to give to the poor.

Here is a South American folk hero who was known for his 
socio-political convictions:

Che Guevara was an Argentine Marxist revolutionary, physician, author, guerrilla leader, diplomat, and military theorist. Born in 1928, he had influenced the Cuban Revolution and before his death in 1967, had become a symbol of rebellion and was a global insignia of pop culture. 

As an inspiring doctor, he traveled across Latin America where he was exposed to a great amount of poverty and alienation. He believed what he saw was the result of a corrupt society. His remedy to cure capitalism, monopolismneocolonialism, and imperialism was a world-wide revolution. As a result, in the 1950’s he helped Fidel Castro and others overthrow U.S.-backed Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista. In time Guevara was promoted to second-in-command of the battle and played a pivotal role in the victorious two-year guerrilla campaign that deposed the Batista regime.     
After the Cuban Revolution, Che played many roles in the new government. He reviewed the appeals for those convicted as criminals during the revolutionary tribunals , instituted agrarian land reform as minister of industries, helped lead a successful nationwide literacy campaign, served as both national bank president and instructional director for Cuba’s armed forces and traveled the globe as a diplomat on behalf of Cuban socialism. 

These positions led him to play a central role on training the militia forces who repelled the Bay of Pigs Invasion and brought  the Soviet nuclear- armed ballistic missiles to Cuba which resulted in the 1962, Cuban Missile Crisis. Along with his success he became a proficient writer, composing a seminal manual on guerrilla warfare and a best- selling memoir on his youthful motorcycle journey across South America. In 1965, Guevara left Cuba but then was captured by CIA- assisted Bolivian forces and eventually executed.

Today Guevara remains a very present historical figure. He is collectively stayed in the imaginations of many biographies, memoirs, essays, documentaries, songs and films. As a result of his perceived martyrdom, poetic invocations for class struggle, and desire to create the consciousness of a "new man" driven by moral rather than material incentives; he has evolved into a quintessential icon of various leftist-inspired movements.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Arash the Archer: Persian Folk Story

Author Shahriar Bourbour brings ancient Persian folklore to life in the newly released 66-page paperback Arash the Archer.  

About the book’s story line:
Arash is a twelve-year-old boy who lives in the city of Ray in ancient Persia. His dream is to shoot an arrow all the way to the Oxus River and mark the border between the rival empires of Persia and Tooran.
He believes that Simorgh the Queen of Birds has given him a message in the form of a riddle that will help him achieve his dream.
He is unaware that a Deev, a servant of Ahriman the Devil, is plotting against him.
Folklorically, during a border dispute Arash is a bowman whose arrow travels a great distance before finally landing and so marking the future border between the Iranians and the Aniranians. The distance the arrow travels varies. In one legend it is one thousand leagues, in another it is a forty days walk. In several, the arrow traveled from dawn to noon, in others from dawn until sunset.

Simorgh is a benevolent, mythical flying creature that  can be found in all periods of Greater Iranian art and literature. Iranian legends consider the bird so old that it had seen the destruction of the World three times over. The simurgh learned so much by living so long that it is thought to possess the knowledge of all the ages. In one legend, the simurgh was said to live 1,700 years before plunging itself into flames much like the phoenix.

Ahriman the Devil is the ruler of the underworld.  In ancient Persian myths, Ahriman to directed the seasonal changes and was also the spirit who brought disease and illness. 

 “The story of Arash the Archer has been one of my favorites since childhood” said Bourbour , a native of Tehran, Iran who has lived in Minneapolis for 22 years. “It started as a magazine-format story but it slowly grew, and I realized that it would be better suited for a book.”
This writer’s journey began with the Institute for Children's Literature correspondence writing class several years ago. The instructor pointed out that folk stories were a strength.

Bourbour’s greatest challenge was to “develop a modern-story-telling arc around the ancient original tale, which is very linear, with no plot twist, no obstacles, no bad-guys. “
The author’s goal is to introduce this Persian folk story to English-speaking children, as well as children with Iranian parents.

Bourbour is a prolific writer and music composer whose credits also include Cyrus the Great, a symphonic suite.

The book is available at Amazon.com.For details, visit the book website: http://www.arashthearcher.net