Vancouver and its province, British Columbia, are largely ambivalent about their Olympics. The games, of course, start today. I share this ambivalence, as I originally was in favour of the games. That is why I have started calling them the “OY-limpics”.
For work, I had been present at the official announcement at GM Place Stadium on July 2, 2003, when Jacques Rogge, President of the International Olympic Committee, named Vancouver-Whistler as the winner of the bid. We watched M. Rogge on a giant screen in the arena. Cheering and other such jubilation erupted as soon as he pronounced the syllable, “van“.
Tourism is the largest legal segment of BC’s economy (can you guess what is purportedly the largest economic driver of all, an illegal one?). I was supportive of the anticipated boost we would see from “welcoming the world to Vancouver”.However, in the past seven years, there have been predictable cost over-runs and many other challenges. For me, though, it has been the attempts to limit freedom of speech in Vancouver, which was the final straw. There is still a strong protest movement throughout the city. Two friends from the island, D and V, have purchased tickets for several events but also will be attending the large protest today of the Olympics Resistance Network, with D’s brother being a chief organizer behind the ORN. I relish this kind of contradictory impulse, as it underscores the inconsistencies in all of us.
Chutney, mise-en-place (or everything is ready to go - for those who do not speak French or culinary…)
Many contradictory aspects abound:
There are issues on social housing for the homeless, many of which are still unresolved, yet there is a brand-new fast “Sky Train” from the airport downtown – the train is environmentally sound, practical, and fast.
The streets in Vancouver last week were starting to buzz with excitement about Vancouver and Canada hosting the event, even while many urban residents were grumbling about more and more disruption in parking, public transit, and the bizarre official messages warning commuters to leave three hours early from work to return home (at 2:00 p.m.!).
The highway from Vancouver to Whistler, formerly known as the “Sea-to-Sky”, was a great hazard. Another nickname for it was, “The-Ski-then-Die Highway”. Having lived in Lions Bay, between West Vancouver and Whistler, I remember the risky hairpin curves of what was a two-to-three-lane highway, hugging cliffs along Howe Sound. It was not fun on a rainy, windy winter’s night. Now it is much safer, with more passing and turning lanes, but there are still many environmental concerns about how it was implemented, not to mention the costs again.
Mediterranean Apricot-Date Chutney recipe
So, like so much of life, there are major trade-offs. For every benefit, a draw-back is lurking around the corner. Once the games finish, it will be time to determine their success/failure. In the meantime, we can eat and enjoy.
In honour of the Grecian-Mediterranean origins of the games, here is a recipe for chutney, which I will serve at a kick-off party with friends to watch the opening ceremony on television. I personally liked this chutney. As with everything I have made from the no-fail and detailed recipes in The Complete Book of Home Preserving, it proved to be a success, when made according to directions. Perhaps the 2010 Olympics will follow suit?
The chutney is earthy, full-flavoured, and addictive, with the rich chunky re-hydrated dried fruit balanced by the sharpness of mustard, ginger, and coriander; after tasting the batch during preparation, I doubled these three spices (the amounts below for the three can be halved in the recipe for a milder version). I do try recipes, on occasion, without any changes, really I do. Whether you like it spicy or not so much, it is worthy of an Olympic feast.
Mediterranean Apricot and Date Chutney
makes about twelve 8-oz jars.
Adapted from The Complete Book of Home Preserving, edited by Judi Kingry and Lauren Devine,
2 lbs dried apricots
3 cups lightly packed brown sugar
2 1/2 cups chopped pitted dates
2 1/2 cups raisins
2 cups white wine vinegar
2 tbsp mustard seeds
1 tbsp salt
4 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground coriander
1. In a large bowl, combine apricots with water to cover. Let stand for 30 minutes. Drain, chop and place in a large stainless steel saucepan. Add 2 cups water, brown sugar, dates, raisins, vinegar, mustard seeds, salt, ginger and coriander. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring frequently, until thick enough to mound on a spoon, about 20 minutes.
2. Prepare canner jars and lids while ingredients are boiling.
3. Ladle chutney into hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace, if necessary, by adding hot chutney. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to finger-tip tight.
4. Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water. Bring to a boil and process for 10 minutes. Remove canner lid. Wait 5 minutes, then remove the jars, cool and store.