Posts filed under Disasters

The Film GRINGO TRAILS Pleads for Respectful Travel

Tourism is one of the most powerful forces globalizing our plant. Travel to distant places has expanded and thankfully broadened our horizons. Tahiti is no longer just a photo in an aging copy of the National Geographic. Now the adventurous traveler can fly and stay almost anywhere in total comfort.

Yet all is not as marvelous as it seems. Consider the Gringo Trails

Crisscrossing South America, Africa and Asia, the Gringo Trails offers hardy traveler rural indigenous adventures. But at the same time, thoughtless travelers have an equal opportunity to alter the once pristine environment and disrespect the local culture.

A new film, Gringo Trails, presents the strong belief by leading members of the Travel Industry, from Lonely Planet to the National Geographic Society, that travel to another cultural or environment MUST be respectful of that culture and environment. Otherwise, just Stay Home!

This not to say that cultural tourism should be stopped. Rather it is a plead from regional tourist boards, rural villages, travel writers and even members of the Bhutan Royal Family to learn to travel respectfully, without injury to place or people.

This insightful film asks all who see it to consider the once beautiful beaches now covered with cans and broken bottles, the peaceful village where blaring music now shatters the calm.

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In short, who has the right to define a community: those who live there or those who only visit there and then depart? 

There are a growing number of organizations now beginning to address this very question. One such organization is the World Food Travel Association. Founded and directed by the world veteran traveler Erik Wolf, this organization offers both training and certification focused on a wiser and more consider form of travel than the older what’s-in-it-for-me-alone form of tourism.

Food, as Erik Wolf points out, is a common human experience. So is travel and the longing to see other places and meet new people. Let’s be sure we do both with respect and honor.

Your Culinary World Copyright Ana Kinkaid/Peter Schlagel  2014

Think Trains and Giant Baked Potatoes on St Patrick's Day

By Ana Kinkaid

Many of the modern holiday gatherings that celebrate being Irish are centered around raised glasses of Irish whiskey and piles of steaming baked potatoes.

Yet, it’s a little known fact that all those hot potatoes, smothered in butter, are NOT an original Irish culinary creation.

Rather they owe their fame to an American railroad – the great Northern Pacific Railway and an inventive culinary professional who understood a good thing when he saw it.

For several centuries the small Irish Potato was enjoyed by many in the Emerald Isle It became the main food for the poor as they had little else to eat.

But in 1845 a blight destroyed the country’s entire potato crop, prompting a massive immigration of the destitute and now starving to America.

Once in the United States, the Irish wanted nothing to do with the small indigenous potato from their former homeland, though America’s elite restaurants continued to serve the popular petite plate-size potatoes to wealthy diners.

Perhaps the tiny potatoes were just too much of a reminder of the many hardships the Irish had endured in their former homeland. At any rate, the Midwest farmlands were by then producing bump crops of wheat. Bread in every form and flavor was all the rage among citizens well established or newly arrived.

During this period both industrial and agricultural scientists were launching many new inventions and making startling discoveries. Edison had invented the light bulb, Bell crafted the telephone and Luther Burbank, a skilled horticulturist, was experimenting with new crops suited to the America’s heartland.

In 1872 Burbank declared yet another success when he propagated the tawny-skinned Russet Potato. Its firm outer peel made it hardy while its creamy white interior made it a culinary delight.

Enter Hazen Titus, dining car superintendent of the Northern Pacific Railway. While talking to various local farmers during stopovers in Washington State’s lush Yakima Valley, he discovered that the farmers were facing a major potato crop “failure”.

Unlike the Irish, whose potatoes were small and diseased, the western farmers were cursed with “success”. Their perfect Russet Potatoes were unsellable because they were big, too big to serve on the small fine china plates then popular in the leading gourmet restaurants of New York and San Francisco.

In desperation the farmers thought they had no other choice but to feed their entire potato crop to their hogs and hope for a better year next year. Titus, as it turned out, was as innovative as the men who had moved mountains and forged un-crossable rivers to build the railroad he so believed in.

Where others saw failure and defeat when they looked at the giant two plus pound potatoes, Titus saw a way to spread the fame of the great northern rail route to the whole nation - and beyond.

He purchased the large potatoes that no one else wanted, baked them in the steam from the train's engines and then served them with butter to the hungry diners waiting in his westward moving dining cars. And so the baked potato was born – an American creation crafted through ingenuity and insight, a true child of the American entrepreneurial system.

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Almost overnight, the giant non-Irish Russet baked potato became the signature trademark of the Northern Pacific Railroad. Postcards, posters, spoons and letter openers all bearing the potato image proclaimed that the Northern Tracks were the “Route of Great Big Potato”.

Towering electric signs shaped like the giant potato itself, complete with Edison’s blinking lights, soon greeted travelers as they arrived and departed at Northern Pacific Stations. Many celebrities, such as the flamboyant  Lillian Russell, lent their name to promoting this new culinary sensation.

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There was even a song, entitled the "Great Big Baked Potato", written to proclaim to all the wonders of this unique American culinary creation. Its lyrics declared:

“Twas laying on a platter

Sure something just immense

Served with a spoon and butter

And it only cost ten cents.”

Today, the baked potato is part of cuisines around the world including Ireland's. Everyone everywhere can enjoy this culinary creation that was first served on the long-haul trains crossing the vast and beautiful American West.

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Potatoes are still a bargain and a delight today as is train travel. Both trains and potatoes continue to offer a way, no matter the day, to enjoy the best in ease and comfort as we pause to remember the past and look towards the future. Surely, that is something we should all celebrate all year long! 

Your Culinary World copyright Ana Kinkaid/Peter Schlagel 2014