Archive for September, 2008

September 28, 2008

Feasting on culinary programmes

Another Sunday, another day of working with Giselle, Ria and Nadine and another evening of watching the food programmes on cable. News was great today and we managed to pull the newscast together primarily because of Giselle’s uncanny ability to remain unruffled in the face of anything. I swear if civilians heard the bawdy conversations we have while creating a newscast they would probably throw holy water on us. Giselle did an excellent job of reading this evening as usual and I was happy to be able to just behave as the conductor.

 

I made it home to revel in another evening of watching food programmes. The main event for me this evening was Alton Brown’s Feasting on Waves which, as it turns out, was the final part of his four part series. Before that I watched Challenge on Food Network with some dreadful display of odd cooking in what seems to have been a beef cooking challenge that resulted in a few winners with rather yawnable dishes. At least I managed to grab dinner and have a shower during the programme. This was followed by a difficult time for me when I was confronted with Iron Chef America ( a poor imitation of the Japanese version of the show) running against Anthony Bourdain with his No Reservations. Normally I am glued to Iron Chef America but dammit Jim …it was Anthony Bourdain and an episode I had never seen before on the Travel Channel with him in New Zealand. I flipped back and forth and then saw that the challengers on Iron Chef chose Bobby Flay and ..well…Bourdain won.

 

Bourdain was his usual self as he bombed at a culinary speech in New Zealand and proceeded to find the ethos of the country before venturing into his next presentation. I know it was all staged TV ( I work in the medium – after all) but it was well done and there was wild boar involved and Bourdain did the butchering. I think I adore the guy because when i watch him and his sarcastic and cynical ways I see myself and in a world when I often feel I am the last caustic person on the planet  – it comforts me. His insatiable curiosity also strikes a chord with me. Bourdain was happy with his visit to the Antipodes and I was pretty darned happy too. BTW I managed to catch the last minute of Iron Chef and was pleased to see that Flay lost the challenge.

 

I was going to make this entry a detailed discussion about the last episode of Feasting on Waves but despite my extensive note taking on Scrivener  I feel that would miss the point of the last episode. Yes, he spoke of pelau and had more johnny cakes which, inexplicably, seem ubiquitous in the upper Caribbean but not Trinidad. And , yes, he insists on pronouncing Anguilla as “angweela” as opposed to “angwilla”. He also continued his concentration on the smaller territories ignoring the islands that really dictate the cuisine of the Caribbean but it was a four part series so I can only assume he has a plan for a larger series.

 

My views on the the series after seeing the final episode are actually quite basic. I am happy I have seen another side of Alton Brown. A less perfect and much more interesting side that…dare I say it…makes him more human. I saw our region force Alton to relax and just be himself which I guess is what we are best at doing. We break people down and force them to realize we are ultimately about being human and that involves the fun of learning we are not perfect and that life is really about a little bit of this and little bit of that and damn the exact measurements. Caribbean culture, built on African, Indian, European, Chinese, Arabic and heaven knows what else is about just doing what feels right. That is what I love about living here. Then Alton, the most uptight person on the Food Network made the ultimate announcement in his last episode. He said that in the Caribbean ( in local food places) we cook food with love and that is very different from cooking it “lovingly”. Ding ding ding Alton….you got it. That is what we are about as a people and a region and most observers miss it but you didn’t. So I now have a new respect for Alton who was always struck me as a soulless but very knowledgeable food expert. He clearly has soul and after seeing him barefoot in a kitchen and seeing him taste  a dish by sucking it out of his hand ( I always thought that was normal) he is now fully OK with me. I love the line he said in the BVI regarding a great coconut fish chowder passed down to the cook by his grandmother which he described as “drinking  his history out of a cup”.

 

Ironically, living in the Caribbean I now see that one of my best friends Bruce, who is also a travel writer but times 100, is facing Hurricane Kyle in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. How odd that I am safe in the Southern Caribbean and he is now dealing with one of our most infamous exports – bad weather.

September 27, 2008

Happy Birthday Google

It seems our favourite search engine and an indispensable part of modern life has just turned 10 today. Google has changed our world in many ways and very much for the better so I join with millions the world over in saying a big Happy Birthday. Heck if I had the skills I would even bake the guys a cake. Oh wait..I could google a recipe.

Speaking of Google, our vacation starved office staff have, of late, been amusing themselves by marveling over Google’s street view feature. If you haven’t tried it yet just go to maps.google.com and head to a major US city. Once you zoom in and switch to street view you too can enjoy the freaky thrill of driving through the streets and enjoying the sights. Might i suggest Manhattan or Hollywood and Vine . I always find it is best to start with the modern equivalents of Sodom and Gomorrah.

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September 24, 2008

End of the world as we know it

 

 

Just a few random thoughts this evening. I have been watching America’s Got Talent and seeing the final 5 perform was telling because my favourite three made it through to the finals. The problem is I still don’t really know who I would pick to win the million dollar prize and a Vegas show. The key thing for me is the Vegas show part because I have to ask who would pay to watch one of these acts. My choices are Nuttin’ But Strings, Eli Mattson and Queen Emma but there is still a dilemma.

 

In the finals NBS handily beats everyone and also fills the full Vegas show requirement but I still think Eli and Queen Emma could do it..though I am not sure. Let the voters decide I say.

 

Other than that I actually watched GWB’s speech on the US government’s proposed financial intervention in the economy. His speech was as close to armageddon as I could imagine. It reminded me of the speech of Yasin Abu Bakr in Trinidad when he had the attempted coup and went on radio and said “don’t loot!” which was an encouragement to loot. GWB basically pointed out what I have been thinking for a week or so. Essentially, I think the US economic system is on the verge of collapse. Bush talking was enough to trigger a major collapse because he spoke of awful consequences. The man cannot look blase. I am still very worried about the crisis on Wall Street but I worry about the consequence of intervention. We are talking about $700 billion in intervention but none before. Odd.

And after my pal Bunny said goodbye I am also thinking about saying goodbye to this blog.

 

 

Off to bed I go.

September 22, 2008

The Atacama Budget

 

Just a short note today as I only just got home from broadcasting our analysis of the 2008/2009 budget that was delivered today. It was supposed to be the first budget to be delivered by a female Finance Minister and also one of the shortest budget speeches . I will freely agree it was delivered by a female Finance Minister but at 3.5 hours it was surely not even competition for the 35 minute speech during the UNC regime. Worse still those of us enduring it in the newsroom had to reapply facial moisturizer several times because we could feel the dryness of the delivery dehydrating our faces. The entire presentation was ineffably boring.

 

I had my views and our panel basically just reinforced my beliefs that this budget was just a rehash of last year’s. Nothing new, nothing exciting, nothing original. The only new ground this budget broke was in managing to spend $50 billion dollars of taxpayers money. Maybe it is just me expecting miracles but I think when large amounts of money are involved those spending it should be visionaries. I am used to Steve Jobs at Apple who, despite his almost innumerable faults, gets people excited about plans. Surely, when it is a country involved, people should feel involved and look forward to the future. I honestly don’t feel even interested in what is being planned. There must be something wrong when $50 billion is spent in a country of only 1.3 million people and I can see no immediate tangible benefit. Indeed, the government says that agriculture is a priority and is still spending less on it than it is giving to Tobago with 80,000 people. Feeding a two island nation of securing Tobago votes …. I guess the government has made its decision.

 

On a side note it was an interesting day for family today. I hosted the budget discussion with my cousin Gillian Lucky being part of the panel since I was actually using her time since she normally hosts Just Gill ..her programme …in that time slot. I love Gillian so I was fine with that. Even more interesting, while Gillian and I share the fact we are both fully Lucky family members ( mine changed their name) I was shocked by a comment I received today from the only true bearer of one of my family   names . Blogs are a minefield of surprises. It seems that my cousin Johnny found this blog while in Switzerland. I didn’t even know he had moved to the land of ridiculous prices and ridiculously high mountains …oh..and Heidi.

 

So basically..it was a really boring and expensive budget and I got closer to two family members. A mixed bag but to my mind a really good one. And I will freely admit I would love Gillian as Prime Minister.

 

Wait a minute…that wasn’t short.

September 21, 2008

In praise of pork

 

I am on a pork binge lately and have decided that I am now 100% sure it is my favourite meat. I am not sure if the fact the world is observing Ramadan encouraged me to pursue my excessive  indulgence but i have been devouring it at a pace. I suppose we should be happy that two major religions actively discourage eating pork as it probably helps keep the price of it down.

 

I don’t honestly think there is any meat that can compete with pork for its infinite forms and wonderful ability to stand up to all manner of cooking techniques. Chicken may be ubiquitous but when it comes to flavour my money is on pork. In the last week I have had it braised, fried, baked, steamed, and grilled. Sadly, as much as I laugh at health concerns, I draw the line at tartare..but don’t think I haven’t thought about it. I actually believe my favourite cooking style is crispy skin Chinese roast pork. I am in favour of any recipe that makes a virtue of fat and which allows me to chew on it with complete impunity. I shall buy some tomorrow as I have no idea how to do it myself and will then give pork a rest for at least 24 hours. It is 11pm as I type this and I just realized I am craving pork again. Thank heavens my fridge is full stocked with many forms of it.

 

In other food news I have just watched  the latest episode of Alton Brown’s Feasting on Waves .  He was in Anguilla and actually pulled me away from the 60th Annual Emmy Awards..well most of the time. Alton was  checking out the Cuisinart Resort and their amazing hydroponic farm and also sampling coconut patties, wines, and even more saltfish. It was interesting as usual but I still find the concentration on small islands a bit irritating because the larger islands have a much broader culinary influence. Ah well, at least the promo for next week promises roti which is a staple of Trinidad cuisine but not pronounced roh-teee as he said..it is  pronounced more like roht-E here. Also, I think the new agreed spelling for the Caribbean sucking noise that we use for everything from frustration to mild amusement is “steups” not what I think he called it which I believe was tooth sucking. I think the folks in Anguilla need to come here for some lessons on how to cut open a coconut to get to the water. It should not be bashed into submission but rather elegantly trimmed and then the top lopped off neatly. Steups.

 

With my Fodor’s trip looming I plan to make a break from pork to make room for Bonaire goat stew…it may not be pork but when Maiky makes it – it is a thing of beauty.

September 19, 2008

In my life

 

In pondering the recent devastation visited on the Caribbean and the city of Galveston in Texas by Hurricane Ike I thought of that wonderful song by Glen Campbell. Without discussing any of the dates the first two record albums I ever got as a child were Galveston and Go Moog. The latter was famous for only the song Popcorn which was pretty amazing at the time since it was done entirely by an early synthesizer but Glen Campbell’s song still sticks in my mind today. There was something really haunting about it even with the rather bizarre line “I clean my gun” – only in the US of A I guess. And even then it is slightly less bizarre than Glen Campbell’s drunk driving police photo.

 

The retrospection also led me to think about my interviews on the station. Today I had Winston Dookeran the leader of the COP which was a first as he has never been on the programme before. A conspicuous holdout in the pantheon of guests. Then I thought about it and it dawned on me that I have literally interviewed hundreds of guests so far. It is startling when I think about it as I literally have hundreds of hours of interviews under my belt for one station never mind the thousands of hours for my career. I am pretty sure there isn’t a person of significance in this country I haven’t interviewed. That is an odd statistic to deal with but I guess it is reality and so I must. I am actually very grateful I have had the chance to talk to some of the most interesting people in the country. It isn’t always easy but I am happy I do what I do. Strike that..I am very happy.

 

Life is a weird thing but I can honestly say that I have chosen a career that makes me happy. I may not be rich but I look forward to every single day and can honestly say if I died today I would only wish I had done more interviews.

September 14, 2008

Bring down the power

 

The title of this entry is also the name of one of my favourite songs from one of my favourite singers Ella Andall. It was written by David Rudder who I have written about before and who is pretty much a musical god in my eyes so that alone says a lot about Ella given David chose to write it for her. If you try and find her music online you will be pretty limited because Ella, like so many things about these islands, is an undiscovered talent. She has a voice that can move the heavens and has frequently led me to feel the hairs on the back of my neck rise to attention. I don’t know why talents like Ella Andall are not celebrated around the planet it may be bad marketing or even a lack of interest on her part but I am just happy I have heard her voice…I am better for it.

 

The extraordinary picture I used in this entry is of a waterspout that formed in the Gulf of Paria today and snapped by my pal Peter Sheppard. Grabbing a shot like that requires luck, good timing and a perfect location. Peter is an artist and photographer so he had the perfect foundation and living up on Ft. George hill was a perfect situation. Happily he emailed the shots to me earlier today and along with other viewer submitted shots and footage we were able to put the fascinating event in the news. Speaking of which there is no greater stress than having the power go for over an hour at 4pm with a generator that does not power the newsroom or the editing suites is a recipe for stress. We pulled it off but I still have a tension headache and I thank the heavens for efficient reporters and an incredible team of editors made up of Neil and Shiraz.

I must say Alton Brown’s Feasting on Waves was mildly less interesting than last week. He is sticking with smaller islands such as Saba and St. Marteen which obviously do not represent the Caribbean. At least he touched on mauby which is one of my favourite beverages. Mauby is bitter but it is truly amazing I recommend everyone try it on a hot day and tell me what they think.

I only noticed today that my first blog entry was on September 5th, 2007 so I am actually late in observing the 1st anniversary of this blog. I never thought I would keep it up for an entire year but amazingly it has survived. I realized that I remember blogging about my Fodor’s trips and now that I am faced with the assignments coming in again it dawned on me that it must have been a year. I will soon be faced with running around T&T, Bonaire ( yay!), Curacao and Aruba again and I am happy for it. Better still I am redoing the Focus Aruba book again after a few years hiatus so that means I will be in Aruba for a bit longer and I can hang out with my pals at the Aruba Tourism Authority and Susan at Bucuti..even better. I am happy I have done this blog and I am completely amazed by the thousands of entries that have been read. I vaguely remember saying in my first entry that I hoped to make the occasional update – who knew? All I can say is that anyone is thinking about blogging they really should. It is a great way of venting and, in my case, killing time in between editing or writing. 

 

Bring down the power of blogs I say!

September 13, 2008

Silver stars.

 

Didn’t have a chance to blog yesterday but we an interesting day at the station with not one but two Olympic medalists popping in to say hi. Richard “Torpedo” Thompson, fresh from his medal winning performances at the 2008 Olympics came in accompanied by Ato Boldon who has 4 Olympic medals to his credit. 

 

I am not the biggest sports fan but it was still very cool to have the two of them in the same place at the same time and naturally, Kodak Z612 in hand , we took a few pictures of the event. Despite the fact we all work in television it doesn’t stop us from indulging in moments of starry-eyed sucking up. Interestingly, Richard is from Cascade where I live. It amazes me that an country  that has a relatively tiny population of 1.3 million and land area that is smaller than many metropolitan areas in the Northern Hemisphere seems to have such a large number of world famous people. I mean we have two winners of the Nobel Prize for Literature ( though we share Walcott with St. Lucia) and , as of 2008, a goodly number of Olympic medalists.

 

Other than that the PM managed to amaze absolutely no one by winning a vote of no confidence in Parliament. Given his party has a majority and the history of those who have crossed him is not a pretty one thus preventing any possibility of internal revolt I suspect the Opposition was just trying to give vent to their views. They managed to do that in the marathon 12 hour sitting of Parliament  but it also allowed the ruling party to indulge in quite a few hours of self-aggrandizement themselves. The whole thing took place against a ridiculous backdrop of thousands of government day workers wearing government red t-shirts chanting their support for the ruling PNM in Woodford Square right next to the Red House. Apparently, according to the Mayor of Port of Spain permission had been granted for the square to be used for an “arts and crafts display”. With the dozens of public buses ferrying the throngs in and giant screens showing the Parliament Channel live it honestly didn’t look like any handicraft show I have ever seen.

 

The end result of all this – nothing gained and nothing lost by either side. In other words it was a typical day in T&T politics.

September 8, 2008

The ultimate melting pot.

 

Though my intention is to write a bit about the Caribbean as a region I must say today was not a shining example of what most people would expect from us in terms of sun, sand and rum punches. It was a work day so that pretty well puts paid to the alcoholic beverages and being at the office pretty well eliminated the sand thing though my office desk was feeling a tad  gritty. 

 

It is my custom to walk straight to one of my Macs upon waking to check my newsfeeds and check the weather satellite images at the lovely NHC site. Today I was faced with an inadequate level of info about Turks and Caicos and how they fared and with what appeared to be an ugly red weather system about to descend on Trinidad. By the time I rounded the Queen’s Park Savannah on the way to the office I could see ugly black clouds emerging over the tips of the Northern Range. While disturbing it was also possessed of a terrible beauty that almost led me to crash the Mondeo ( well, that and some interesting human sights on the savannah). I phoned Mookish the cameraman as I was about 30 seconds from work and told him to catch the clouds as they would make useful archive shots for any storm coverage we might want to do. As I parked I met up with him and we managed to capture some great shots including lightning bolts in action. 

 

It turned out that that was just the beginning of a day of extreme weather for us. It poured to the point that much of Port of Spain was underwater  and our offices turned into an island of sorts as flood waters reached all the way up our driveway. After that it poured some more and didn’t stop pouring for several hours. Apparently we had the lead story for today and, as it turned out, we got off easy as roofs blew off houses in some parts of the country. I must say our crew got some amazing shots of submerged cars, flooded streets and, yes, our shots of black clouds sneaking over the Northern Range complete with lightning. It was still a pretty hectic day and I only got the news script finished four minutes before I had to run into studio to read. Thank heavens for Wong who can view a tape and write a story faster than most people can deny having viewed porn in their browser.

 

I came home looking forward to a quiet evening of quality Food Network programming only to discover that Alton Brown has a new programme called Feasting on Waves. It is an interesting programme for several reasons not the least of which is that Alton Brown, for all his annoying foibles and smugness, has an amazing knowledge of food. The programme has him and his crew sailing the Caribbean ( at least it seems to be based on our region) and investigating the foods of each island. It was fascinating to see him investigating the foods we take for granted such as soursop, lemongrass, dasheen and salted cod. His first programme was set primarily in St. Kitts which is an interesting island that manages to bridge the dominant influence of Jamaica with the rest of the Caribbean …just hearing their accent was a treat. There is something remarkably pleasurable about watching a food expert like Alton drinking something as Caribbean as bush tea made from lemongrass ( also called vetiver or fever grass here) and enjoying it. I love being reminded that the things we take for granted are considered exotic by much of the rest of the world.

 

Alton said an interesting thing. He described the history of our region and the various races and ethnicities that make up the wondrous pastiche we call home and he noted that we are probably the first part of the world that understood and embraced fusion cuisine. I don’t necessarily agree as I am pretty sure Southern Europe beat us to the punch but he has a point. The food of our region is spectacularly diverse. We think nothing of dining on a mixture of African, Asian and European cuisines. Many a time I find myself ordering lunch at a nearby fast food establishment and having a container full of curry, creole root vegetables and macaroni pie. To be honest, one of the reasons I moved back here was that I missed the food and the amazing ingredients.  One of my greatest joys is turning classic French or Italian cuisine on its head by substituting local ingredients. I draw the line at screwing with some dishes such as cassoulet but many other things are fair game.

 

I am happy to hear now that Turks and Caicos did not suffer as badly as they might have and I am hoping that Cuba ( despite my normal distaste for the Latin world) escapes with minimal damage. I have to say that floods, hurricanes and corrupt politicians notwithstanding we are still an incredible part of the world and I am happy I live here.

 

Now when will Anthony Bourdain deign to come here and make my life complete?

September 7, 2008

Guess who doesn’t like Ike?

 

Hurricane tracker that I am this is an exciting season for me as I take in all the disturbances sweeping across our region. Sometimes, though, my intellectual fascination with hurricanes leads me to forget that they are a terrible destructive force. Today Haiti discovered close to another 500 bodies drowned by the passing of Hanna ( according to AFP) and now we are looking at the full force of Ike about to be unleashed on the Northern Caribbean.

The US National Hurricane Center has just released their 11pm update and it seems that the Turks and Caicos islands are about to feel the full brunt of Category 4 Ike – complete with winds in excess of 200 kmph. My Northern friends, unused to the scale of the Caribbean might be forgiven for not realizing how horrifying such a storm is for the tiny territories in our region. The islands that make up Turks and Caicos are home to 30,000 people and the highest point on the islands is 49m. That means they are basically at the mercy of hurricanes. I can only imagine what they are going through right now. The other day we had unusually heavy rains in T&T and the main highway was under 2 metres of water and many people lost all their possessions. With our larger landmass we might fare better in a hurricane but heaven help us if it does since we were thrown into chaos with a few cms of rain.

 

I don;t know too much about the Turks and Caicos except for the fact  one of my friends who worked there for a few months fled lest he go out of his mind. I also remember being in Toronto and reading  some nonsense about a gay cruise causing a national scandal there. The quote from the illustrious Chief Minister at the time says a lot about the level of thinking that goes on there:

 

Whilst as a government we respect civil liberties, the freedom of choice and we do refrain from discriminating, we are in no way supportive of or encourage the alternative lifestyle of these individuals. We regret that our people and especially our children have been exposed to this type of activity and express concern in this regard.”

 

The frightening thing was that the Chief Minister was actually sounding like the voice of reason when compared to the opposition which was saying that the islands were going to suffer the wrath of god as a result of the travesty. For all I know they probably think Ike is an emissary from the other world sent to punish them for their transgressions. I find such things ridiculous in 2008 but the Caribbean is no stranger to stupidity and superstition so I try and take it in stride. I still hope that they are spared a complete catastrophe but I guess I will find out tomorrow when I get to the newsroom.

 

Speaking of news while working today Melissa passed me a news release  faxed to us which was causing her much mirth. Upon examination I noted that the release which was sent by an almost moribund political party ( rhymes with FAR) was so riddled with misspellings and bad grammar that it seemed to have been typed by a primary school student with a muscle twitch. I examined it…red penned it ( about 25 circles) and faxed it back to them….why do people think I have a bitchy side?