Friday, 20 March 2015

What Did I Do?: Shawarma and What I Have Wondered About the Irish

It's been a quiet week, and I've been able to keep up my resolution, weakly. Fighting a cold for three weeks means I don't have energy to get ambitious. So I've been trying to learn things more through what comes up or finding online articles.

March 12: While reading in the books of Acts, something caught my attention. I was reading about Paul being shipwrecked on the island of Malta, and the writer mentions Publius, referring to him as "the chief man" on the island who owned a lot of the land. Publius offered his hospitality for a few days. His father was sick with dysentery, and Paul healed him and Publius was converted. That made me ask who Publius was. Luke had basically said that this guy was the "head honcho" around there and that he owned a lot of the land. So who exactly was he? My research led me to learn that he was the governor, and was later honoured as the first Bishop of Malta. He's also considered a patron saint. Both the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church observe a feast in his honour. I was a little conflicted by some of this, not sure what to make of it.

I have determined that if I looked up all the unfamiliar words I read in Anne of Green Gables, I would probably greatly expand my vocabulary. I learned that a manse was the "the house, owned by a congregation, of an esp. Presbyterian or United Church minister".

March 13: I learned about the Cross Bones Cemetery in England. Beginning in the 1100s, it was an unconsecrated burial ground for prostitutes, and also became the final resting place of countless others, not deemed worthy of a burial anywhere else, the poor, and the destitute. It has since become a memorial. This is a painful reminder of how society makes distinctions between people and makes unjust judgments about what others are worthy of.

March 14: On Saturday, I learned a few different random things. Something stuck out to me in the morning while reading in Romans.

"For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes." --Romans 10:2-4

I had never understood it this way before. People that establish their own righteousness, living by a set of rules, do not understand the righteousness of God, the righteousness that comes from faith.

I also learned about some common things that happen in Dubai, one of the world's richest cities, that would seem downright crazy to many of us. Wild cats ride in the front seats of cars with people as their pets. They have ATMs that give you gold and extra wide Jeeps that look like two smushed together. Camels are tied up in parking lots, much like horses with buggies are in my hometown. There are ice cafes in the desert that serve hot drinks. Yep, it's an interesting world.

March 14 was also Pi Day, to celebrate the mathematical constant pi. It was designated in 2009. I didn't know we needed a day to celebrate pi. Why can't we celebrate pie instead?

March 15: On Sunday I tried shawarma at Laziz in London. Shawarma is a meat stacked and roasted on a rotating spit, and is then served with other toppings and condiments in a pita. I've had gyros and other pita wraps before, but never shawarma. I was disappointed that cheese does not belong on shawarma. Nevertheless, I got my chicken shawarma topped with hummus, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, pickles, pickled turnip, tabouli and tzatziki sauce, all wrapped up in a pita. I had never had turnips before, and pickled turnips are definitely not my thing. Tabouli is interesting. It's a salad made of bulgar wheat, chopped parsley, onions, tomatoes, garlic, etc. That added a refreshing element. All in all, shawarma is pretty good, but it's not my new favourite. We had fun exploring the Middle Eastern store and butcher shop, looking at the different kinds of cultural food items. At least now I know where I can definitely find tahini if I want to make my own hummus. 

March 16: Thomas Edison was a thief! And he almost seemed proud of it! I couldn't believe it. He ended up bankrupting George Melies, the first master filmmaker, after he stole and pirated his film A Trip to the Moon. The filmmaker stopped making films by 1914 because of lack of money.

March 17: In honour of St. Patrick's Day, I set out to learn relevant Irish information. Saint Patrick was abducted as a teenager and sold into slavery in another country. There he adopted his parents' faith while enslaved, but eventually ran away and journeyed back to his home country. Here he became a priest. He then willingly returned to the country where he was enslaved and served the poor. It's sad that the way the day is celebrated is so far removed from how it all started.

But, what I really wanted to know was where the line "Kiss Me, I'm Irish" came from and how it came to be on countless T-shirts. This was an observation I made a number of years ago when I went to the Embro Highland Games and wondered what the point was. Why do you want people to kiss you just because your're Irish? Well, it turns out the phrase came from the Blarney Stone. Kissing the Blarney Stone in Blarney Castle was believed to bring good luck and make a person a smooth talker. But if you couldn't kiss the Blarney Stone, the next best thing or chance at good luck was to kiss an Irish person.

March 18: This past fall I began using oregano oil to boost my immune system, since I'm prone to get colds and coughs on about a monthly basis from the fall into spring. This winter I was determined I was not going through that cycle again and I wanted to strengthen my immune system. Oregano oil is expensive, but I was able to make a 10mL bottle last about 5 months. Aside from a few days or a week here or there where I felt a little under the weather, it did the job until just a few weeks ago. I had recently bought another bottle, 30mL of a different brand this time, which cost me less than the first bottle I bought. But I noticed immediately it didn't have the same strength as the first. Oregano oil has a very strong taste, and I found I could tolerate more with the second bottle. That's because I discovered it was diluted with olive oil. But what I really wondered about was how it said it contained minimum 80% carvacrol. I finally wanted to know what this stuff was, and whether this was further compromising the strength of the oil. 

It turns out carvacrol is a monoterpenoid phenol (whatever that is) found in the essential oils of oregano, thyme, pepperwort, wild bergamot, marjoram and savory. It prevents the growth of different types of bacteria. So it's not that my oregano oil is diluted with a completely different substance, but I'm still going back to a more expensive brand once this bottle is gone.

I also got to try Reid Chocolates. I really like chocolate, but fancy chocolate like this was  real treat.

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