Category Archives: VA

The Times they are – – –

Jack fails miserably again to get his Wednesday guest post up on time – –

Wendy and I have been ‘zooming’ with a few friends weekly ever since the pandemic closed things down. The group consists of David and Susan in North Carolina, Beth and Brandon in Big Stone Gap, Virginia, ourselves in Wytheville, Virginia, and Barbara and Oliver in Edinburgh, Scotland.

We meet on Sundays at 9 am but because of the five-hour time difference that’s 2 pm in Edinburgh. Except last Sunday was an exception because the clocks in the UK had changed on Saturday night. They don’t change here until this Saturday, so for just one week the time difference is four hours! Being half American and half Scots I was vaguely aware of the anomaly so I checked on line and – yes, this was the week of the lesser hours! A hasty last minute e-mail to Barbara saved the day – and the meeting.

But it got me curious about the whole business of changing the clocks twice a year – Spring forward and Fall back. So I did a bit of research and found some fascinating stuff. Some countries simply don’t do it at all and in many that do there’s a debate about whether to continue with it. That debate is no more heated than in the UK, and the problem is that most of the population is in south or central England where they would not see much difference in winter, whereas folk in Scotland definitely would. The European Union has a plan to stop changing the clocks in a couple of years’ time, so a strange result of ‘Brexit’ is that, if the UK sticks with clock changing, then for six months there will be an hour’s difference between Northern Ireland (in the UK) and the Irish Republic (in the EU).

By now I was well and truly hooked on the history of time-keeping and how the world arrived at any notion of ‘standard’ time. It turns out that the arrival of the railroad around the world had a lot to do with it. Prior to that local areas kept their own time, often just within the sound of church bells or a day’s travel on foot or by horse. It was the arrival of trains and reliable clocks and watches, not to mention the telegraph, that brought the need for standardized time. Since Britain owned most of the world then Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) in London became the default standard with all other time zones and/or clock changes measured relative to GMT. Although wasn’t it Mussolini who made the trains run on time?

Of course the arrival of the internet and the ability to speak to and see people on the other side of the world brings me back to what kicked off my interest in the first place – this Sunday we’ll be back to the usual five-hour difference!

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Filed under between books, Big Stone Gap, folklore and ethnography, humor, Life reflections, Scotland, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch

An Indian Summer

Jack scrapes in under the wire again – –

Things have become a bit strange during the continued pandemic lock-down, to the extent that simply having a few friends meet with us on our back deck (suitably distanced of course) becomes an occasion for celebration. So it was last evening when Kirk, Nancy and Dawn joined us on a late October day when the temp was in the mid 70s (Jack is proud of not putting a possessive apostrophe before the plural ‘s’).

As well as enjoying the balmy night and the wide ranging conversation we also tucked into one of my curries. Wendy is a spice wimp so it’s always good to have others on hand who are into hot foods.

For some time now I’ve made big batches of basic Indian restaurant style sauce and then bagged and frozen it ready to bring out a bag as and when necessary. The recipe is easy and can be found on-line.

This sauce should be thought of as a blank canvas on which you will paint the finished picture. It’s fairly bland and I usually add onions, red and green peppers, and any other veggies going spare. I also decide what additional spices are needed to get to the desired heat (“hot or Indian hot, sir?”). I usually saute the chopped onions in some ghee, then minced garlic, ghost pepper powder and hot curry powder and finally add the sauce and veggies.

Then it’s time to decide what protein will go in, if any. I sometimes just leave it as a veggie curry, but also often add chicken or shrimp. I cut chicken breasts into bite sized chunks then marinade them overnight before grilling in the oven and adding to the curry. I use a chicken tikka spice blend in the marinade. Shrimp is easier but shouldn’t be added until late if it’s already cooked and pink or it will be tough and chewy – in fact I often serve it separately for folk to add if they want or not as they choose.

Just lately, instead of freezing the basic sauce we’ve been canning it – mainly because we have access to a pressure canner and Wendy has become skilled at the process. Personally I find the whole thing pretty scary, as I have never experienced it. In fact I don’t really understand why it’s called canning when it actually involves glass jars!

So now we have twenty eight jars of curry sauce, which should keep me going for a good long time. And Wendy will be eating something else.

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Filed under between books, crafting, folklore and ethnography, humor, Life reflections, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch