Valentine’s Day

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Valentine’s Day

“Remember, your Valentine’s card shows you care enough to send the very best, even though you’re too lazy to put it in your own words.”Melanie White

Valentine’s Day was on my list of things I would do when I was a grownup. My  father felt that it was Hallmark’s way of getting us to spend money and eat candy (something I was not allowed to have). It was just another holiday that everyone else could eat chocolate and I could not. 

I didn’t really see the love aspect. It looked like a holiday of getting gifts – jewelry, chocolate, flowers and I wanted that.  The media had made it clear that getting flowers on Valentine’s Day meant that you were loved. 

Valentine’s Day was the first holiday after my husband left. He sent me flowers.

I have gotten incredible flowers over the years – from boyfriends, guys I happened to be dating on Valentine’s Day, my children and my neighbors. They are instagram worthy examples that I am in the”club” of people who are loved and have the flowers to show for it.

The thing about complaining about Valentine’s Day is that people immediately assume you are a spinster with three cats. All displays of perfect coupledom on facebook and instagram serve only to reinforce the sneaking suspicion that everyone else is far more in love and having twice as much fun as you.

Yes, I like the cheesy cringe worthy poetry on those Hallmark cards and the cheap chocolate in heart shaped boxes.  I like the pressure on guys to be Prince Charming for a day.

Can you even say Happy Valentine’s Day to people anymore? Couldn’t that be considered  sexual  harassment? What is with Cupid slinging his arrow at people he has never met? Is that terrorism?

I like being in love. I don’t like being forced to be in love. Maybe my father was right about the holiday except that I am definitely  eating chocolate on Valentine’s Day because I can now.

Fly safe,

JAZ

Ten Of The Richest Countries In The World

  Ten Of The Richest Countries In The World

“I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.” Jim Carrey

It is confusing to rate the wealthiest countries these days.  It is usually rated by the GDP – gross domestic product. But there are other categories which change the list – third world rankings, most money, most growth etc., country size etc.  I’m going to go with the  original criteria which always puts the small Arab Oil Countries ahead of the big countries like the United States, Russia and China. Lists are different and I compiled a few.

1. Every list is in agreement that Qatar is the world’s richest country. It is full of five star hotels and has a five star airline.  Qatar wants to be the Arab world’s next super power.The streets are not paved with gold but consistently being dug up for new electrical cables and drainage getting ready for World Cup 2022. There are questions about bribery for the games. In fifty years it has gone from a poor fishing country to a rich oil-producing country. Qatari are the world’s richest people with an average income of 400,000 dollars per year. They are also rapidly becoming the world’s fattest. Since they don’t need to work and everything is done for them, they sit around smoking and eating junk food. The country’s traditional culture makes it difficult to go on a diet. You never leave someone’s house without eating.

2. Tiny Luxembourg is rich. It pays the highest wages in Europe so people from surrounding countries often work there. It is great for financial companies, banking and tax breaks. The reason it is rich is for stability, financial and investment reasons that I can not really explain. Luxembourg is on all lists in the top three every year.

3. Singapore has more millionaires per capita than anywhere else in the world. It is a city-state with about five million people so the scale isn’t comparable to the challenges of a country. Singapore is not fueled by natural resources. It is perfectly positioned to take advantage of the rise of Chinese and Southeast Asian wealth in coming years. Singapore has also pushed into electronics and tech.  Singapore made itself an internationally oriented economy and that has  paid off for its people.

4. Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates is the richest city in the world. The city of  Dubai is well-known as a playground for the rich. There is no sales tax or income tax. They have tried to cut their dependency on oil by diverting their economy, creating new businesses and increasing tourism.

5. Brunei is a tiny country on the island of Borneo in the South China Sea.  I do know that it is ruled by a Sultan and he is very rich. He owns the Beverly Hills Hotel among many other things. It is one of the smaller countries in the world so I don’t know how fair that is. The Sultan of Brunei presides over an absolute monarchy, and the government has just delayed its decision to reintroduce stoning, severing limbs and flogging for theft, adultery and homosexuality under the code of Sharia law. The UN has expressed concerns. But as long as the oil doesn’t run out, they are good.

6. Norway is prosperous, happy and free. Its towns and cities are orderly and comfortable. The people are educated, speak many languages and trade comfortably with the European Union. The nation is the largest producer of oil on the continent, and that advantage has helped the country put together a sovereign wealth fund of $860 billion dollars.  Norway sets itself apart from many oil-producing countries, particularly in the former Soviet Union and the Middle East in the way that the wealth is distributed. Instead of  oil generating revenues that make the governing elites fabulously wealthy, while the rest of the citizens depend on their leaders’ handouts or upon trickle-down economics for their share of what is left, Norway puts the money back into the country funding many government programs. 

7. Kuwait is an oil rich country in the Middle East. They say there are no poor people in Kuwait but that is usually said by the very rich who don’t know them. The provision of social services to Kuwaiti citizens, compared with most Western countries, is extensive. The state welfare system  cares for the needy, and aids families in need because of divorce, old age, disability, parental death, illness, or financial difficulty. Educational and marital status are taken into account in granting aid. Long standing tribal families and Sunni Muslims receive preferential treatment in Kuwait. They are an economically backward and politically unstable country compared to other oil-producing  countries.

8. Long-term monetary security and political stability has made Switzerland a safe haven for investors, creating an economy that is increasingly dependent on a steady tide of foreign investment  They aren’t picky about who invests money there – blood stained dictators, mafia, embezzlers, Nazis are among the many investors throughout the years.  The country’s small size and high labor specialization make industry and trade the keys to Switzerland‘s economic livelihood. They are rich, happy  and have great chocolate.

9. The United States has a lot of rich people. We have the largest amount of private wealth in the world. We also have one of the largest wealth inequality gaps making the uneven distribution of wealth a persistent issue. Yes even with all our problems, we are still considered lucky and rich.

10, With its vast oil wealth, Saudi Arabia has one of the highest concentrations of super rich households in the world. They are so rich that they have been able to hide the poverty in the country from sight. Saudi Arabia  had the largest oil reserves in the world. They are the biggest international exporter in crude oil and the amount of revenue they make from it is huge . Mecca helps – bringing in a lot of tourists. for the annual pilgrimage But unless Tesla really takes off, Saudi Arabia will continue to be one of the richest countries in the world.

Fly safe,

JAZ

Belem Part 2 – More Food In The Amazon

Belem Part 2 – More Food In The Amazon

“I am not a glutton. I am an explorer of food.” Erma Bombeck

We arrive in Belem on a small plane from the island of Marajo at the mouth of the Amazon.

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I thought I was afraid of small planes.

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But the flights were smooth and the scenery was spectacular.

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We started our visit  with lunch at La Em Casa. http://www.laemcasa.com/ It is located in Estacao Das Docas mall a remodeled train station with a beautiful river view.. There is a buffet lunch serving all the traditional dishes.

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The restaurant was started by Anna Marie Martins and it was her son Paulo who brought attention to Brazil, South America and the world about the quality and flavors of regional Amazon cooking. His daughters Joanna and Daniella continued the tradition. Daniella works as a chef in the restaurant and Joanna runs the Paulo Martins Institute and Ver o Peso of Para Food, a festival (Feria Queso)l promoting the flavors and cooking techniques of the Amazon. Joanna is interested in having chefs come from all over the world so any who are reading this should contact her. You won’t be disappointed and you will learn a lot. Its a great time for all foodies to start their visit to the Amazon. contato@institutopaulomartins.org.br  I was lucky to meet both of them and saw how passionate they are about the world getting to know their delicious food. At the rate they are going, we will all soon be eating tucupi and jambu and loving it.

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After that huge lunch we had to try the ice cream at the most famous ice cream parlor in the country,Cairu because there is also a branch in the Estacao Das Docas mall. sorveteriacairu.com.br/ There are Amazonian flavors made from local fruits such as bacuri, muruci, sapoti, graviola, and açai, and“mestiços” (mixed breeds) such as carimbó (cupuaçu and Brazil nut) and maria isabel (bacuri, shortbread, and coconut). The ice creams are so good that five-star restaurants in Rio and São Paulo proudly feature them on their dessert menus.

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Among the many fish we ate in the Amazon region, are filhote and pirarucu. Filhote is the main ingredient in peixada, a stew that includes potatoes, tomatoes, garlic, and cilantro.  (from La Em Casa)

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Pirarucu is Brazil’s largest fish, measuring up to 2.5 meters (8 feet) and weighing up to 80 kilograms (176 pounds). It is usually dried and salted before being grilled on a hot tile or cooked in coconut milk, and then served with farinha and light, buttery feijão manteguinha,  (from Romanso do Bosque)

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We saw Pirarucu at Ver o Peso market.

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It is an outdoor market selling Amazonian products with about 2000 stalls on the Amazon River.

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The unusual name of the Ver-o-Peso Market dates back to colonial times, when the market housed the offices of the Portuguese colonial tax collector.

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Ver-o-Peso is a shortened form of the Portuguese phrase “Haver-o-Peso” meaning “possess or obtain the weight.” The tax collector was charged with collecting a tariff on all goods coming down the river  based not on monetary value of goods but on their weight. It is now a Unesco World Heritage site. (cleaning off the fish smell as vultures fly overhead)

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There are things you know like acai berries and brazil nuts and wealth of produce from the Amazon that is sold nowhere else in the world. (acerola berries)

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if you’re a fan of large, oily, and irresistibly rich Brazil nuts, you’ll find them all over in Pará, where they’re known as castanhas-do-Pará, and are sold — plain, salted, or caramelized — by vendors on the streets of Belém.

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There are fruits with names like cupuaçu, bacuri, muruci, uxi, taperabá, tucumã, bacaba, and pupunha.

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Wait until you smell and taste them, which you can do in forms that include juices, compotes, jellies, cremes, puddings, liqueurs, and sorvetes.

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There are herbs that cure everything and many types of natural viagra, different cachacas (Brazil’s liquor used in caipirinhas) and all kinds of stuff used for religious and spiritual ceremonies that look fascinating.

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I could have spent a lot of time with the herb ladies and in those questionable spiritual ceremony stores.

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Who knows what I would have brought home if I spoke Portuguese?

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We take a ride through the jungle up the Guama River.

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We are headed to the island of Combu where Dona Nena harvests cacao from trees on the island and makes chocolate wrapped in banana leaves and chocolate drinks with carnation milk (my fav).

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Everything is laboriously and lovingly done by hand – a far cry from the Hershey factory in Pennsylvania I visited as a kid. (cacao)

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While most of the families living on the jungle river make their living harvesting acai and brazil nuts, Dona Nena is bringing back the ancient way of making chocolate and the chefs in Brazil can’t get enough.

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It’s delicious and not too sweet – just the way I like it. Brazilian designer chocolate from the Amazon – why not?

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One of our dinners was at Romanso do Bosque which is an inviting beautifully designed restaurant. http://www.restauranteremanso.com.br   Indigenous ingredients and traditional Brazilian cooking combined with new ideas was the basis for an interesting tasting menu. Chef Thiago Castanho’s modern take on ancient flavors was creative and delicious. By then, I was starting to recognize the flavors of the Amazon. I tasted the jambu in the tucupi and honey sauced pork sausage (not normally being a meat eater, I loved that one)

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There were shrimp covered in tapioca, balls of fresh fish, smoked Pirarucu and filhote.

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There were two desserts. The first was tapioca, tapioca ice cream and brazil nut sauce.

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When I couldn’t eat another bite, they brought this. I didn’t even ask what it was but I finished it.

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The flavors of the Amazon are the flavors of the forest and the river. They are in the mystical ceremonies, potions and celebrations. They are in the lives of the fishermen, farmers, ranchers, healers, cooks, musicians and artists. The flavors of the Amazon are the flavors of the myths and stories of the Amazonian natives who came before. I bite off a piece of my modern chocolate from Combu and read about the origin of cassava, fire and the story of the woman who gathered the brazil nuts.

Bom apetite,

JAZ