Sep. 1st, 2009

misshepeshu: (Behold the Kitty!)
...but it can buy you a subsistence living, a measure of dignity and a way out of grinding poverty. Check this out: a basic income experiment in Namibia where all the residents in a village are given 100 Namibian dollars per person per month. No strings attached, no exceptions. Single mothers with seven children are given $800 a month. The rich German farmer down the street gets his $100 a month, too.

The results, if this story is to be believed, have been incredible. People have started up their own businesses, like bakeries and shoe repair shops. Attendance is schools have skyrocketed (because parents can now afford the $40/month fee), and because attendance has skyrocketed, the schools can all of a sudden afford things like paper, pens and printer ink. People with AIDS are doing better, because they're able to eat properly. Theft and other crimes are getting less common, and, interestingly enough, so is the chronic alcoholism. When you have enough money to actually be productive, as opposed to waiting around feeling resentful and helpless, it seems that you're much more likely to be, y'know, productive, instead of getting drunk.

Contrast this with the attitude the relatively prosperous farmers of German descent have towards the native Namibians:

[Siggi von Lüttwitz] pays his workers, his "cadets," the minimum hourly wage of 2.21 Namibian dollars, which is about 20 euro cents, as well as rations of meat and milk, which he believes is sufficient. He knows that the people in Otjivero are hungry. "They're poor wretches," he says, "and in some ways I feel sorry for them." But giving them money? "An idiotic idea," says Lüttwitz, insisting that it isn't the right way to teach them to be hardworking.

And further in the story:

He too receives the 100 dollars a month, which he doesn't need. Compared with the people in Otjivero, Lüttwitz is rich. "I don't see what all this is supposed to achieve," he says, smoking his unfiltered cigarettes. "They're just as dirty and tattered as they were before." He doesn't believe that people have a right to a guaranteed subsistence. He says: "If I give you 100 dollars, you should at least give me 90 dollars of work in return."

I'm not sure the people who pay their workers below-subsistence wages and then are outraged at the crime rates, alcoholism and "laziness" see the connection. Why work when working all day won't buy you enough food for yourself, much less your family?

I think it comes down to a very basic maxim: treat people like untrustworthy dickbags, and they'll live down to your expectations. Give people the basic tools for autonomy and dignity, and you'll see amazing things flourish.

I almost cried when I read this part of the article:

A man went to see Dirk and Claudia Haarmann. Beaming from ear to ear, he asked: "Don't you see?" They asked him what he meant. "Don't you see? I now have trousers and a t-shirt. I am now a person."

Even dignity, it seems, can be purchased for 100 Namibian dollars a month.

I know it's only the beginning of the experiment, and the experiment may yet go down in flames, and yes, I know the reporter is telling the story with a decided slant, but I can't deny this: it gives me so much hope.
misshepeshu: (Default)
1. Mini fruit hand pies = awesome. I had two, warm out of the oven. I am restraining myself from having any more. Jesus.

2. I need to make savory versions of these--fill the crusts with lamb curry, or chicken pot pie filling, or some kind of Mexican deliciousness. Oh god. Mouth watering just at the thought. (They'd essentially be hot pockets, except, y'know. GOOD.)

3. Crusts need to be thicker and sturdier than expected.

4. Also, delicate handling. Because these sumbitches LEAK, and then the sticky goo gets everywhere and I need to cut those mofos free.

5. So glad I have an excellent boning knife, because they do excellently at cutting fruit pies free from cookie sheets. Dear boning knife: you are worth all the Your Mom jokes, and more.

6. Look into getting non-stick silicon baking mats?

I used my standard pie crust recipe (2 sticks butter, 2 cups flour, tablespoon sugar, teaspoon salt, enough water to make dough just barely clump together--this made 11 crusts, each about 5 x 5), and used a combination of peaches, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries, cooked with sugar, lemon juice and 1/2 tablespoon of guar gum for the filling.

I had a bunch of leftover pie filling and was too tired to make and roll out more pie crusts, so I used the leftovers to make a cobbler. We'll see how the cobbler turns out--I kind of made the biscuits up as I went along (2 cups flour, 1 stick butter, 1 cup sour cream, 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda, 1/2 cup milk, 1/2 teaspoon salt), and there's not much berry filling relative to biscuit, but I can always drench everything in ice-cream and fresh berries, right? Riiiight.


OK, so the specific recipes I used are as follows:

Mixed Berry Hand Pies

For the crust:
2 cups flour
2 sticks butter
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
Approx. 1/4-1/3 cup ice-cold water

Instructions: I use a food processor, for lo, I am lazy. I throw together the flour, sugar and salt, then cut the butter into 1/4" chunks, and process everything till the butter is in pea-sized chunks. Then I add water, about a tablespoon at a time, and process until the dough just barely starts coming together (you can feel the food processor sticking a bit, and that's when you stop). Press the dough into two separate flat discs, and refrigerate.

For the filling:
2 peaches, peeled and cut into 1/4-1/2" chunks
1-1/3 cup each of fresh bluberries, raspberries, strawberries and blackberries
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 tablespoon guar gum
Juice from one fresh lemon

Instructions: Dump all the fruit into a large pot, and add the lemon juice. Throw in the sugar and guar gum, and toss everything gently until fruit is evenly coated in sugar and gum. Turn stove to medium heat, and cook the fruit, stirring regularly, until mixture is thick, steaming and bubbling. Turn heat off, let cool, then refrigerate (filling is much easier to handle this way).

To put the pie and filling together:

Fill a small bowl with water. Also: life's a lot easier if you have a 3" round cookie cutter, but if you don't, just use a sharp knife and make square hand pies like I did. Roll the dough out to about 1/2"-1/4", then cut into squares (or rounds) about 3" on each side. Roll until squares are about 5" x 5", or just a bit smaller. Spoon a couple small spoonfuls of filling in the center, leaving a generous (about 1") margin around. Wet finger in water, wet margin of pie crust, then gently flop on side onto the other and press together, making a seal. Use the tip of a fork to make indentations (seems to help seal the pies tighter). Using a sharp knife, cut 2-3 vents on top of the pies.

Bake in oven at 375°F for about 25-35 minutes, or until crust is golden brown. The pies are prolly going to goop some; investing in non-stick baking mats, or lining your cookie sheets with tinfoil, is the smart thing to do. (I am not particularly smart. Sigh.) Wait about 10 or 15 torturous minutes before nomming, preferably with some high-quality ice-cream.


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