The Tamarind: A tree well-traveled

When the roots are deep there is no reason to fear the wind - African proverb Having spent most of my childhood in Africa and acquired a fair knowledge of African cuisine and culture, I was blown away by what I did not know about the most widely distributed fruit tree of the tropics, the tamarind tree. Indigenous to tropical Africa, Tamarindus indica, has been cultivated for centuries on the Indian subcontinent and is often reported to have originated there. From India, it spread to Persia and Arabia where it is referred to as the “tamar hindi” (Indian date) and it derived its specific name “indica” which further lends to the illusion of Indian origin. It is now understood to be native to Africa and grows wild in sub-Saharan African countries such as Sudan, Cameroon, Nigeria, Kenya, Zambia, Somalia, Tanzania, and Malawi. India remains the largest producer of tamarind in the world at present time. The Tamarind - Fruit within shell (Photo credit: Taste of Home) The tamarind fruit hanging from tree (Photo credit: souschef.co.uk) The tamarind has a vast array of uses world over from cooking, baking, juices and drinks, with cultural and spiritual rituals, and beliefs surrounding this peculiar tree, fruit and seed. With a sweet and sour or tangy taste, I learned it is a key ingredient in Worchestershire sauce! I must confess I do not remember seeing a tamarind tree or its fruit used for any of these purposes in Cameroon, but given my Caribbean roots, my curiosity was peaked when I learned the tamarind drink is popular in Jamaica and other parts of the Caribbean. Even though I remember drinking a locally made tamarind drink while in Senegal, I had never seen it made or knew what ingredients were used in making this drink. The tamarind is called "daahar" in wolof, the most commonly spoken language in Senegal, and it has been suggested this word is associated with the origin of the name of Senegal's capital city, Dakar. This tree has long been naturalized in…

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STOWING AWAY THE NON-TRAVEL COVID-19 BLUES

Travel gives us something to look forward to. The anticipation of going to a new place and learning new things is often elating. Travel permits a break from routines, hectic work schedules allowing for well needed rest and relaxation. Through travel we connect with others for business or pleasure. Our increased activity levels during travel can help lift our mood. Achieving goals like climbing a mountain at high altitude or scuba diving can give you a sense of purpose. The lack of all these can cause the blues or bring about wound-up anxiety and depression. This is yet another way the COVID-19 pandemic can trigger a sense of helplessness and the feeling of being trapped in the mundane. However, there are ways we can forge through the moodiness and stay afloat until the option to travel is safer and more feasible. Make home feel like a new destination. Take the time not spent travelling to re-organize, declutter, or redesign your home. Use favorite pieces from travel destinations to decorate and remind you of the trip you made. Making a collage or framing a piece of unfinished art you bought at a local market may not only bring back fond memories but also give a sense of accomplishment. Make it a family event with input from the kids how they may like to re-organize or decorate perhaps their rooms or play areas. Bi-Neh's Art Collage #1 (2020) 2. Explore as much as you can virtually. Instead of another family movie night, cast onto your screen a virtual tour of a world class museum, art gallery, or zoo. A short list of virtual tours of zoos and aquariums can be found here. We have visited the National Smithsonian Zoo several times and the Georgia Aquarium brings back nice memories. The British Museum, has a museum of the world tour which is interactive, and you can discover the ancient Rosetta Stone and Egyptian mummies.3D tours of Egyptian pyramids can be found here. Our favorite virtual tour is the National Museum of Natural History.…

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Air travel & covid-19 testing

Aerial view: Istanbul August 2017 It is a new year and after 2020 most of us would like to have flipped the switch to a new reality in 2021, but the covid-19 pandemic rages on. Even though the vaccine is being rolled out and distributed rapidly in many states and countries, the RT-PCR COVID-19 test is still required by airlines for international travel. It is also required for some domestic travel depending on the state you are traveling from and that which you will be flying to. It is certain the COVID-19 test will play a role in international travel at least until the desired results from a vaccine are realized. With that in mind, here is the information you need to incorporate COVID-19 testing into your family travel plans.  Several states and countries mandate quarantine and/or documented proof of a negative COVID-19 test upon arrival. Some international airports such as JFK in New York have requirements for all traveling passengers to complete a health screening form before exiting the airport. State and local travel requirements vary and to see a detailed requirement on your desired location, the CDC has a link where travelers can find complete guidelines for every city and state before they travel. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/travel-planner/index.html When traveling through airports, there will be long enough lines at airport check in counters, security checkpoints, and boarding gates. All passengers are required to wear masks aboard flights, and with recommendations for washing hands or using sanitizers, staying six feet apart when boarding a well-ventilated airplane, the last avoidable risk of transmission of the covid-19 virus is in sharing the space aboard the plane for the duration of your flight. For the protection of all passengers, pilots and crew members, most airlines have required COVID-19 testing on international flights where the flight times and supposed exposures are longer than most. Lastly, it is agreed by most health organizations that accurate, reliable and rapid testing eliminates the need for quarantine of COVID-19 negative travelers upon arrival. There are different types of COVID-19 tests:…

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