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Welcome to this winter’s (well really it’s summer here) first blog from Africa. To ensure I do not lose my taste for European living I would like to share with you an update on the latest culinary trends coming out of Holland (insect snacks), a report on how the obesity epidemic is spreading among the crash-test dummy population and the latest musical offering from the TRANSFORMATES 變 project called ‘The Deviant Diet’ (although as you will soon see the Dutch are prepared to go further than most with regard to dietary deviance).
At this time of year I often get asked by friends how it is possible to leave my beautiful Alpine mountains, streams and forests just as they are starting to get a pretty covering of snow. Basically I am trying to squeeze two springs and summers into my year by switching hemispheres as soon as the temperature drops enough to need to turn the heating on. This means that as November arrives I start to spend large chunks of time in Africa. While I was working I did this by using up all of my holidays during the Winter. Now I am retired (sorry – an ‘apprentice music producer’) I can actually spend even more time in Africa although I do pop back to Europe every now and then to allow my skin to recover and do all the washing.
Let me start by showing you where I stay in Africa. The above picture is fairly self explanatory (if you double click on it you can see the high definition original panoramic photo). I live on the edge of the Cape Town village of Llandudno (named after the Welsh place of the same name). Next door to the place where I live is the entrance to a very scenic national park which includes Cape Town’s most beautiful undeveloped beach: ‘Sandy Bay’ (in the middle of the photo). The residents of Llandudno do not permit any shops or restaurants so there is effectively no commerce at all within walking distance of my apartment – just two pristine beaches.
I found the location about 8 years ago with Google Earth using a map similar to the one below:
As you will see from this map Sunset Rocks is almost equidistant from the two beaches, known as Llandudno and Sandy Bay (if you do decide to visit please note the latter is a ‘clothing optional’ venue). As I mentioned above there is no commerce whatsoever allowed in Llandudno but the local town of Hout Bay has loads of shops and restaurants and is about 10 minutes away by car. The centre of Cape Town is only about 20-30 minutes from here and has excellent air connections. The photo at the top of this blog was taken from the Cape Town waterfront which offers plenty of shopping and eating possibilities.
Sunset rocks is quite remote for those who prefer a more reclusive existence like ‘yours truly’. From my balcony I can see mountains to my left and right and the ocean, including the sunset rocks, to the front. The picture below highlights the position of my balcony when viewed from the path to Sandy Bay beach which goes through the protected national park. I have also highlighted the palm tree which features in all the pictures of sunsets (and occasionally of whales) taken from my balcony.
My balcony and the palm tree are also in the photo below which was taken during a full moon with me enjoying my first cup of coffee (it was very early!). The rocks just to the right of me in the picture are the ‘Sunset Rocks’ which give this area its name. Actually the true reason for taking the picture during the full moon was to show off the shine on my African summer hair cut. Normally just before I depart from Europe I remove all traces of hair from my head which allows me to avoid the need to bring a comb or shampoo. The downside is that the daily shave takes a bit longer – and I need to wear hats more often.
Here is a picture taken from my local work station (OK perhaps that is a slightly exaggerated term). The mountain on the right is the Karbunkel Mountain and the track cut about a third of the way up leads to where I took the panoramic picture above. At this point I must issue a security warning to any visitors keen on taking photos of the local scenery. This area looks fantastic but if you are on your own and using a fancy camera it is quite possible that someone will offer to find a good home for it and any other valuables in your possession. So be careful and don’t underestimate the seriousness of the offer. I tried to resist such an offer while taking sunset photos from Sandy Bay beach in 2010 and found myself needing treatment for 3 knife wounds in the local hospital at Constantiaberg. For this reason most of the pictures of African sunsets now tend to be taken from my balcony.
You will notice food features in the picture above – so without further ado let me introduce you to this weeks three food related topics.
1. Insect Snacks now available in Dutch Supermarkets
Are you one of those adventurous types who when travelling overseas likes to test the local delicacies? Having spent a lot of my time in Asia where it was not possible to read what was on the supermarket labels I developed a sense for knowing whether food was edible from the art work on the packaging. This seamed to work reasonably well as I survived many years living in Japan and China.
During my travels I never imagined I would find the culinary offering in European supermarkets more challenging than those in China – and as President of a Chinese Joint Venture I spent many evenings enjoying ‘sea-cucumber’ banquets (where most of the 12 courses comprised of very large sea slugs having a consistency of something that drips from your nose when you have a cold). However the Dutch have recently raised the bar and I will be paying special attention to the pictures on the wrappers of any snacks I buy in their supermarkets in future.
This is because the second largest supermarket chain in Holland has introduced a new product range comprising of insect snacks. These are already available in two of the largest ‘Jumbo’ markets and will be in all 400 branches in 2015. So if you fancy enjoying some tasty mealworm beetle or moth larvae, or perhaps locusts next time you are feeling peckish get yourself down to the nearest Jumbo supermarket. I understand these delights will be avaliable as meat balls, burgers or ‘crisps’ (normally called ‘chips’ in continental Europe). The insect ‘chips’ will be available as salty or peppery variants.
A spokeslady from Jumbo explained to the Süddeutsche Zeitung that the consumption of insects could play an important role solving global food shortage problems. Last year the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation called upon western consumers to seriously consider eating more insects to help reduce pressure on scarce food resources. An estimated two billion people or one third of the global population already enjoy insects as part of their normal diet (for German readers you can read the original article in the SDZ here). Clearly our Dutch friends are leading the way in helping to solving the world’s hunger problems.
2. Obese Crash Test Dummies
In the world about a third of adults are overweight. In Germany this proportion increases to two thirds of the male population and in the USA a third of the population is considered clinically obese. However there is one population that has not succumbed to the obesity epidemic – until now that is. That population consists of the dummies we use for testing how people could be impacted by auto collisions – the ‘Crash Test Dummies’.
Clearly with so many of us moving away from the recommended Body Mass Index (BMI) range this needs to be considered in the design of vehicles. If you are obese you will not be comforted to know that your new car has been designed to provide optimal protection to a thin person. Now the US dummy manufacturer Humanetics intends to rectify this situation by introducing onto the market obese dummies which will provide a better indication of the damage that could occur in a collision involving overweight people.
A first prototype has been produced with a body weight of 273 US pounds (124 kilos) and a BMI of 35 (in certain medical circles a BMI of over 30 is considered clinically obese). In an interview with CNN the obese dummy manufacturer estimated that overweight passengers have a 78% increased chance of being killed in an auto collision. This is due to these people being fatter around their middle and in most cars they are forced to sit in a suboptimal position. Airbags and seatbelts are also designed with the ‘normal’ body in mind.
The current ‘normal’ range of crash test dummies comprise males of 1.75 or 1.88 metres tall and weighing 78 or 101 kg (the lady dummies are 1.52 m tall and weigh 54 kg). The dummy children weigh 16.2, 23.4 and 35.2 kg representing children aged 3, 6 and 10 years of age. Clearly this is much smaller than the newly developed obese prototype. These dummies are filled with high tech measuring facilities and cost between 150,000 and 400,000 euros each. In addition to the newly developed obese dummies the manufacturer is also working on a range of ‘old’ dummies to reflect the increasing average age of the population on the roads.
Last year in Germany 999 of the 3339 deaths in car accidents occurred in people over 65 years of age. A new ‘senior’ dummy is required to help simulate what happens to these elderly passengers in a collision and improve their survival chances (the original German article for this information can be found here).
3. Dieting as a form of Deviance
In this world in which we are consistently reminded of what we should and should not eat I thought it might be nice to create a little light relief as we move towards Christmas. This ‘light relief’ has been captured in my song below: The Deviant Diet. If you know someone who is struggling with their diet (or just likes a bit of eating fun) why not send them the link?
So I think that is enough excitement for today. As the day draws to a close here’s a pic taken from my balcony just after the sun has set. Time now for some chocolate and a nice little nightcap (a little dietary deviance never hurt anyone – in moderation of course!).