The couple of Matthews I know are such gentle souls it is obvious the storm that blew through Cape Breton and Newfoundland in early October was not named after them. Here in southwestern Nova Scotia, Matthew huffed and puffed some, blew away a lot of colourful leaves, but was really no big deal. In fact, we benefitted from a welcome 70 to 80 mm of rain. Someone said that was more than we had received since June of this year. Still, our drought was nothing like what Californians continue to endure. For all the lashing Atlantic Canada took from Matthew, we were way more fortunate than Haitians, or those in the Carolinas faced with flooding rivers in the aftermath of the storm.
Haiti is such a sad story. One natural or man-made calamity after another kicks this failed state in the butt every time it manages to rise to its hands and knees. We in Canada are ready to declare a state of emergency when we lose a few dozen houses, roads, or crops. Yes, we are not a failed state, and these personal tragedies are our collective concern. But square kilometres of southern Haiti have been flattened altogether, with the loss of a thousand lives and counting – while still thousands of residents in and around the capital Port-au-Prince live in tents six years after the city was destroyed by a 7-magnitude earthquake.
Shortly after our local pulp mill folded, a neighbour came up with a brilliant idea of what to do with the company’s infrastructure, including wharves on a deep-water port: build modular homes for people up North or wherever there are critical shortages. Haiti would certainly qualify. Better than simply building those units ourselves, bring people from these desperate communities to Liverpool, train them in all the relevant building trades, and send them home equipped to erect and finish off units built with local lumber.
The idea of building housing modules has taken hold in at least one of the cavernous hollows of former Bowater buildings. Not for the desperate, however. Rather they’re building high-end units for the well-heeled.
Once upon a turnip truck
I tried to sell a turnip to a restaurant the other day – fresh-dug, washed, and trimmed. I was asked if it was organic. I said for sure because I never use chemical fertilizers or chemical pesticides and . . . I was cut off. “Certified organic?” No, I had to confess. No third-party certification. Was it tagged? I said it was not and asked what that meant.
“RFID tag, for tracing its origin.” The person added an apology, but said they could not accept it, adding that Food Inspection insists all produce – animal, vegetable, or fruit – leaving the farm must be registered and tagged. I pointed out that turnips and lots of other vegetables and fruits don’t have ears, so how can they be tagged? “Take it up with Food Inspection,” they replied.
And so I did, and the woman in the FI office, Sally Pillbottom, was pleasant but stern. Ears or not, there were good, scientifically-backed reasons for the new rules. “Do you have any idea the number of diseases, serious, life-threatening, bacterial, viral, fungal, and para-fungal diseases there are?” I confessed that I did not know. This news she welcomed, and began reading from a long list I could see filled front and back of a four-panel brochure. I held up my hand. Wait.
She was taken aback, but I had to ask how my turnip could be a vector for all these terrible diseases. “Oh no,” she laughed. “But you see my point. There is always a possibility of one or more serious disease being carried on that very turnip. And we cannot be too careful, can we? I mean, if we can save one life. . . ”
I could see there was no winning this argument. In spite of myself, I had to ask about risk assessment, which is brought up time and again when people start talking about fire insurance and medical procedures. I had to ask Ms. Pillbottom if she had heard of anyone taking ill after eating a turnip. She replied that she had not, although this was not relevant. It was the possibility that had to be avoided, and the mechanism had to be in place, should anyone take sick, for authorities to get right back to the farm of origin and order a recall.
The fact I had no more than a bushel of turnips to market made no difference, I was told. “We can’t have one rule for you and another for California, can we?”
I tried again, saying it was unlikely more than a dozen people at most might take sick after eating my turnips, assuming they did harbour some nasty bug or toxin – and how unlikely was that? Our family has been eating them right along in soups and stews without upset – whereas a shipment of infected turnips from California might send a small city to bed. “And just imagine the recall,” I said, “because. . .”
Again she interrupted. “That is exactly my point – our point. The risk is just too great. We have to draw the line.”
I Googled turnip recipes last night. The family is getting tired of soups and stews. Epicurious has an interesting take on turnips. Trouble is, we don’t live handy to a store selling all the fascinating imported herbs and spices called for in their recipes. Maybe it’s time to dust off the turnip pulper in the barn. The cows’ll be pleased. DvL