Tuesday, December 7, 2010

No Photos Today

Rain today. Rather a lot of it. So much that I had to - regretfully - cancel the end-of-year ju-jitsu barbecue down at NorthEast park. I'm glad I did, though. By four pm, the rain was coming down in supertankers (as opposed to buckets) and there was thunder and lightning about. North-East park is a fine facility, with a large sheltered area and undercover barbecues... but it would have been cold, damp, dark, and relatively miserable.

As a result of the rain, I didn't get much done on Moby Swingset. The railings are now on, but I'll have to wait until tomorrow afternoon to kick off again. On the other hand, there's really not too much major assembly left to be done. I hope.

I still went to the school to cook Chili Tamarind Chicken for Jake's class, mind you. On the good side, that gave me a solid excuse to avoid the infant-school concert, in which the Mau-Mau and Younger Son both had vital roles. Natalie got to attend that one. Heh. She's getting a taste of my end of the stick this year... and I'm not at all sure she's enjoying it.

The cooking went well. Once again, I find myself surprised and pleased. I thought perhaps the enthusiasm of Younger Son's class reflected the fact that they were younger, with less fully-formed taste prejudices. But if anything, Jake's year 4/5 group were even more enthusiastic. They tasted everything, exclaimed over the ginger, nibbled the chilis and ran around gobbling up cucumber to cool their mouths -- and then they ate the entire pot of chili tamarind chicken and all the turmeric rice, and came back for seconds (and even one set of thirds!)

I had kids telling me they didn't like beans... but once they realised the beans were still crisp and crunchy ('cause I don't cook 'em to death in my stir-frying!) they sucked them down and announced that they were delicious. I had kids who didn't like capsicum who did the same. And I had at least a couple of kids who were all glum and downcast when they found out I was cooking a stir-fried dish... but when they got a mouthful, it was on for young and old, folks. (I suspect there's quite a difference between scratch-built stir-fries and stir-fries which come out of a big jar. I wouldn't know. I've never eaten one out of a jar.)

I gave 'em a basic melon salad with ginger syrup and fresh mint for dessert. That disappeared too. In record time. And later, when I went home (briefly), I emailed Jake with the recipe. He tells me that his classmates were jumping with excitement and demanding copies, and that he kept "getting hugged by people" (you have to imagine a perturbed and grumpy look on a ten-year-old boy's face at this point) because he gave them the recipe.

So here we are. In a small, rural community that has a love affair with meat and potatoes, yep. Feeding two different classes of kids a spicy Malaysian dish full of ginger, garlic, chili, tamarind, sweet soy and garam masala, and absolutely loaded with fresh, still-crunchy baby corn, bok choy, green beans, capsicum and carrot. Served over brilliantly yellow turmeric-cooked basmati rice.

You'd imagine there would be some sort of reluctance or protest. I certainly thought so. But I was wrong, and I'm both pleased and dismayed by that. I'm pleased, because forty or so kids have now had a taste of fresh, healthy, somewhat exotic food and shown that they were more than ready to expand their horizons. I'm dismayed because it implies it's a lot easier to change kids' dietary habits for the better than I thought -- and that the lack of change is therefore not down to the kids, but to the people feeding them, and the systems of food production and marketing which influence those people.

It took me about forty minutes -- while answering questions, moving bits and pieces, and prepping a place to cook outside ( didn't want to stir fry inside, under the smoke detectors) to cook a nutritious, tasty meal for more than twenty kids (and a few adults.) If I'd been working in a home kitchen feeding four or five, it would have been a fifteen minute job. The total cost of the meal for all those twenty-odd people was about sixty dollars, but that includes things like the disposable plates, bowls and spoons, plus things like tamarind pulp and sweet soy and sesame oil which will go on to serve another half-dozen or more meals. Again: in a home kitchen, I'd guess this one would have cost maybe five dollars a head. Probably less.

So. Inexpensive, healthy, really tasty, prepared in fifteen to twenty minutes -- and incredibly popular with the kids.

And yet, apparently, we've still got a growing childhood obesity problem.

Something's fishy here.

Moby Swingset

The weather was not so kind today, no. Mist, drizzle, and then eventually rain. Nevertheless, local superhero Bobcat-Man turned up on time with his amazing earthmoving powers. The site was levelled in no time at all, and then, in a single breathtaking swoop, he used a couple of hardwood two-by-fours to convert the bobcat bucket into a makeshift forklift, and saved my aching muscles an hour or more of ugly work by simply picking up the entire arch and depositing it gently, neatly in position.

He went on to rip out a lot of old fence posts and wire, and followed it up with a determined entrenchment operation (so I can put some polypipe underground, away from sun, vehicles, bushfires and falling trees) which ended only when he was defeated by the villainous Bearing Failure Man. Although Bearing Failure Man escaped, I'm sure that Bobcat Man will meet him again someday, and emerge triumphant. In the meantime... thanks for the rescue, Bobcat Man!

Weather being what it was, I didn't get as much of the superstructure in place as I would have liked. I did seed the newly levelled area with grass, though. And of course, got in the daily shopping, collected kids from school, and ran up a nice risotto for dinner as well as put a few loads of laundry through the system. Oh - found a nifty present for the Mau-Mau while I was collecting the post, and something for Natalie as well, yep.

To round it off, Jake had to stand up at the school's Awards day today and accept an 'Academic Achievement' award for his class/age. He's pleased with himself, which is lovely. Report cards came in as well: all three of the kids doing very nicely, thanks, despite taking a significant chunk of the last term to go to Borneo, etc.

I doubt Younger Son will ever top the grades the way Jake does, but there's no mistaking his intelligence. He's a lot more hands-on and visio-spatial. He got in there today, handling a socket spanner and saving Nat and I a lot of fiddly, minor work. He's never happier than when he's building something, or taking something apart and figuring out how it works.

Hope I can get this stupid great swingset completed in time for his birthday party on Sunday!