Saturday, May 31, 2008

Rage of the unprivileged poor

A whole world has witnessed the drama in which poor South Africans attack poor immigrants in the townships of South Africa. My shocking memories from visits in Alexandra and Soweto near Johannesburg in October last year provides a deeper understanding of how acts like these may happen. A visit to South Africa does not only offer the tourist breathtaking views to unspoilt nature and a glimpse of a fascinating culture. It leaves images of poverty beyond your wildest imagination burnt in your consciousness. A country that has achieved so much in a very short time, still face challenges that may seem insurmountable to most of us.

South Africa’s transition from a racially segregated society to a multi-ethnic modern democracy has few parallels in modern history. Through a painful reconciliation process the new democracy has come to terms with its past and all groups in South Africa moves forward together. Still the legacy of Apartheid remains so visible for everyone to see. Driving along the ultra modern high ways, the sight is the same – large townships in shacks made from scraps of wood and metal, or even people living right on the ground. This is beyond anything you may encounter in anywhere in Europe.

We visited Alexandra, and witnessed the daunting responsibility resting on the shoulders of the new democracy. The migration from the countryside to the cities keeps the planners of new urban development busy. As one project to house the poor is finished, another group of unprivileged creates a new street of shacks in the townships. In the townships you find numerous small enterprises created by the inhabitants. Taverns, hairdressers, tailors – small businesses thrive in the townships. In spite of this, the large majority of Alexandra and Soweto are unemployed. And just a mile away you find affluent neighbourhoods behind bars and fences. These conditions create a breeding ground for hopelessness and despair.

My travel to South Africa has left a mark. The contrast in nature, culture, and wealth is a wake up call for a wealthy European traveller. I sincerely hope that the future provides the progress necessary for this beautiful country to a flourish.

Here is a short film showing the grim reality facing the population of South Africa

Friday, May 30, 2008

Welcome to the summer of 2008

The summer of 2008 is upon us. The weather forecast for the weekend and coming week is fair skies, gentle winds and 17-22 degrees on the Celsius scale (63 – 71 Fahrenheit). The Enjoy Food & Travel staff is planning their vacation. What is up for this summer, you may wonder? Here are a few highlights.

Our summer home by the Norwegian South Eastern coast is a natural destination during hot summer weeks. I am planning to visit the old house every weekend in June, July and August, except those weekends I am travelling abroad. These weekends of leisure will be passed sitting in the shade, under a large tree, or doing gardening and cooking. I will share my memories from this summer on Enjoy Food & Travel.

I have just returned from a weekend in Lyon, the capital of Rhône-Alpes, and the third largest city of France. I have roamed the streets of this ancient city and had some great meals in what is called the culinary capital of France. I will the coming weeks share stories from Lyon and other places visited during the spring of 2008.

June 16th to June 23rd will be spent in Sitges, a vibrant beach resort south of Barcelona. We (my friend Terje and I) have booked a beach front room with our own terrace, facing the beautiful Mediterranean Sea. This is the place to enjoy the noble arts of self entertainment and relaxation. To take a dip in the sea before breakfast, take a sip of white wine at noon, dining late, ending the day at one of the many gay bars of this city.

Early July I am planning to visit Øivind, a good friend that has started a new career at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. This beautiful city in the French province of Alsace-Lorraine is a historic gem, with a beautiful cathedral with one tower and old half timbered houses in the old city centre. I have been there twice and I cannot wait to get back.

Strasbourg is the home of the Foi Gras, Eisbein with choucroute, or pheasants simmered in white wine as you may sip to a good bottle of local beer or white wine, mostly made gewürtztraminer or riesling grapes.

In mid August I will travel to Schwerin in Germany to attend opening of the second round of Malin Kjelsrud and Kristin Rasmussens exhibition “Urban Portraits”. One of the portraits is actually of me with the title “The Alchemist”. This portrait will eventually hang in our Summer Home.

So welcome to stories on Enjoy Food & Travel from Norway and beyond from the summer of 2008.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

A greeting from Boston

May 25th, a Collonade Summit Hotel representative left a message on my story on the hotel that I reviewed in September 2006. In my review I found the hotel a little overpriced compared to the standard described on their website. This is what the hotel representative wrote to me.

"Dear Tor - Thanks for a review of our hotel - you received a great rate no doubt! That being said - we can't wait until you return. The items you mentioned about your room are no longer applicable. We invite you to visit and see for yourself.

We think you'll love the new rooms and new hotel!

There are many dates after Labor Day that are warm enough for a dip in the pool. Unfortunately, city restrictions prevent us from staying open past Labor Day. :(

Thanks for your post. See you in Beantown!"

I really appreciate when a hotel takes contact with me, in order to promote their services. Looking back I have to admit that I was disappointed by the room offered to us. We had expected more for our money. We also looked forward to a swim in the rooftop pool, that sadly had closed just a few days before we arrived.

We did, however, get a decent price then, and a double room from September 5th to September 7th 2008 will cost me $315, a good price for a hotel room, as Boston is an expensive city to stay in. Maybe I will consider to write another review. I will keep you posted.

Other great hotels in Boston

I have visited the Royal Sonesta Hotel in nearby Cambridge several times before. Another alternative is to stay there for a night or two coming fall. It is expensive but I find Royal Sonesta to be an exceptionally well run hotel, that offered us an upgrade to a Charles River view room.

I also recommend the two charming B&B's Harding House and Irving House close to Harvard University. Quite expensive with a unique Victorian charm to it. Another good, less expensive alternative is Beacon Inn in Brookline. Another period gem, but you may risk sharing a bathroom with a stranger.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Easy food for easy living

Summer time, when the living is easy. Easy living require easy food. Less is more, especially when you are in the middle of the Swedish forest. In a comfortable mobile home by Lake Stor Treen we struggled to live as comfortable as possible. No high brow cooking, no mess - plain and easy food.

Give us today our daily bread.....

Bread is a Scandinavian staple food, and what is better when you return from a walk along the lake than a simple open sandwich. Scandinavians love their bread. The Danes love their dark rye bread. The Swedes often use syrup or sugar in the bread, whereas Norwegians love whole grains and use barley, rye, and wheat in their loaves.

As we crossed into Sweden we bought our loaf of bread to enjoy during our weekend in the deep Swedish forests. But what are we going to eat on our slices of bread?

Norwegians and Swedes love their mayonnaise based salads. You may buy Italian salad, a kind of coleslaw, grated carrots and cabbage mixed with mayonnaise with or without ham. Or we chose crayfish salad, crayfish-tales with mayonnaise.

Another favorite is boiled chicken or turkey breasts. Here you have to moisten the bread with butter before putting on the slice of poultry meat.

Wind down and choose something to drink. What? A bottle of Leffe Blonde? A good idea!!!

Leffe Blonde - strong beer for silent monks

My relationship with Leffe Blonde goes way back - to the middle of the nineties, when I visited friends in Brussels that introduced me to this delicacy. I remember my first Leffe Blonde - a cold dripping glass served at La Terrace at Merode, by Avenue Tervuren.

I did, in fact, visit the Leffe monastery in 1999, located in the small town of Dinant in southern Belgium. In a valley carved out by the Meuse river you find this old monastery, where silent monks brewed their very strong beer from the Middle Ages. The Leffe Blonde holds a higher alcohol level (6,6%) than the our national beer, but the slightly sweet and rich aromas makes this beer a perfect summer drink.

So we opened up a bottle each, leaned our back in our comfortable chairs located in the tent in front of the mobile home.

What could be better or easier as a bright spring lunch. Yum!!

Lazy, ready-made spare ribs

Our easy life did even affect our choice of dinner. This partly due to the limitation a small mobile kitchen would pose to our culinary activities. We chose premade marinated spare ribs, ready to be heated on the barbecue. They were sold in packets of around 500 grams (1,1 lb)

I love spare ribs, but it is definitely not the most economical of foods. Over half the weight is pork bones, and this means that pork ribs is little meat for the money.

These spare ribs had less ribs than I am used to, but having been heated on the barbee the little meat tasted great. We served frozen vegetables heated with a little butter and stewed potatoes.

Hunger creates the best cook. This was easy food, but fresh air and the spring sun made this a great meal.