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In the News - Friday, January 1, 2010

All stories written by John or

Sarah Elliott unless otherwise noted



Next Week: The Places of 2009

—See this week's FRONT PAGE (PDF)


Three Rivers and its chain stores

Tire chains must be in vehicle to be allowed entry into Sequoia-Kings Canyon during winter months

  Every city in America is indistinguishable from the next due to its corporate-owned chain stores. But Three Rivers has chain stores of a different kind...
   While most local tourist-related businesses are expecting to end the year slightly down from 2008, tire chain sales and rentals are booming. Visit any of the three area outlets during a winter weekend – Kaweah General Store, Three Rivers Chevron, and Totem Market – and you’ll see a morning lineup that by mid-afternoon has local tire chain inventories maxed out.
   The boom in the tire chain rental business is weather-related so when there’s even a threat of snow in the nearby mountains, Sequoia National Park rangers require all vehicles to carry chains. All but the 4x4 vehicles with mud/snow tires will generally need to use the chains to visit the popular attractions and snow play areas around Giant Forest and Wolverton.
   Most visitors arrive knowing they might be required to carry chains but where to get them and how to use them is a new experience for many and often adds to their mountain adventure. Each of the three local outlets has some subtle differences in their prices and rental policies.
   Kaweah General Store’s policy has been the same for the past several seasons and makes some chain sizes available for purchase.   The basic cable-style tire-chains rental for the day user with a smaller vehicle is $20 per day; deposit on the rental of tire chains is $50, refundable upon return of the chains.
   If a longer rental period is needed, or if the motorist simply wants to purchase a set of chains, prices start at $59.95 and up depending on tire size.
   At Three Rivers Chevron, where the current pricing policy is undergoing some changes effective in 2010, the rental fee for tire chains is $30, which is good for two days. Each additional day is $15 with a refundable deposit of $75 to $100.
   Sets of chains are also available for purchase at the local Chevron, ranging in price from $59.95 to $145.95, depending on tire size.
   Totem Market, with its strategic location near the park entrance, is often the outlet of choice for those unsuspecting visitors who learn for the first time at the Ash Mountain entrance station about the tire chain requirement. According to the owner of the Totem, prices start at $30 and vary according to size, as do the refundable deposits, which range from $75 to $200.
   The Totem reported that they are the only local outlet that carries special chains for low-profile vehicles like BMW, Porsche, and Mercedes. Those rentals start at $100 for a 24-hour period; they are available for purchase for several hundred dollars, depending on tire size.
   Each of the outlets employs a technician or installer who makes sure that the rental chains are the appropriate size to fit the vehicle. The fitting of the chains to the renter’s vehicle also serves as a brief orientation session so novices can learn the ins and outs of installation.

  “Unfortunately, some of these chains are not installed properly or they are driven too long on pavement and end up being damaged,” said one of the installers. “When that happens, the customer usually ends up having to buy the chains with their deposit.”
   There are no regular installers at the park chain-up areas at the higher elevation turnouts to assist visitors, so it’s important that renters become familiar with the installation. It’s not rocket science, said one installer, but it never hurts to practice in Three Rivers where it’s not as cold or wet.
   Wuksachi Lodge employs an installer to assist its guests with the chain-ups when necessary. Arrangements can be made to get help in park chain-up areas if an installer happens to be on-site.
   But don’t let chain requirements deter that planned mountain adventure. Most locals who frequent the mountains in winter depend on 4x4 vehicles but carrying chains are also necessary for safety. That’s because having four-wheel drive sometimes gives drivers too much confidence, and they drive into situations that would have been better avoided.
   The rule of thumb for winter mountain driving is to always be prepared for the worst-case scenario, carry a snow shovel and extra supplies and, most of all, enjoy the winter wonderland.

The year in weather

   So what kind of weather year was 2009 and what does it say about the next six months that remain in the current precipitation season?
In a word, Kaweah Country is on track toward “normal” – meaning normal rainfall in Three Rivers that for the past 50 years has been 20 inches. The current figure as of Dec. 31, 2009, is 7.40 inches.
   Here’s some historical rainfall data, which lends some interesting evidence that the 2009-2010 season will be a normal one.
The lowest total in the last 50 years on a December 31 occurred in 1990 (also the last blue moon on a Dec. 31) – 1.45 inches. From the start of the season on July 1 until the end of the calendar year there were four rain events. The entire 1990-91 season ended with a total of 16.57 inches.
   The highest total by New Year’s Eve occurred in 1982 – 14.13 inches. The season’s total for 1982-83 was a drought-busting 44.25 inches.
   Four years — two in the 1960s and two in the 1980s — were within a half-inch of the current season’s Dec. 31 total of 7.40 inches. Two of those seasons (1984-85 and 1967-68) ended below normal and two (1985-86, 1968-69) ended above normal.
   Any way you crunch the numbers, this year the handwriting is in the proverbial logbook — Kaweah Country is on track for a normal precipitation season and plenty of snow in the nearby mountains.


The cuisine of India:
Traditional, healthy, divine!

By Tina St. John

   This Christmas I decided to celebrate a different culture through food, so I made my children an Indian Christmas dinner. Indian food is their favorite and it was a way of letting them know how much I love them.
   Cooking Indian food is labor- and time-intensive but the final results are worth the effort.
   It was 30 years ago when I learned to cook Indian food. Susan, one of my closest and dearest friends, taught me.
   She had lived in India for seven years and learned from the Marwaris. The Marwaris, from Rajasthan, are known for their good business sense and fine cooking.
   There is a science as to why Indian food is prepared the way it is. The combination of spices, ghee (clarified butter), rice, beans, and vegetables create a wholesome and nutritional balance.
   According to Auryavedic medicine, Indian food is some of the healthiest you can eat. I like Indian food not necessarily for its nutritional value, but because it tastes so good.
   During my travels in India, I was invited by a lovely family to dinner at their home. The food was out of this world.
   Of course, I was in India eating food cooked by a real Indian family. Traditionally, everything was served in tallies, small bowls containing a portion of each preparation.
   I remember thinking how organized everything was. They served chapattis, flat breads similar to tortillas that had been cooked over an open fire and smothered in ghee.
   Also on the menu was raita, creamy yoghurt with grated cucumber, fresh cilantro, and cumin; and samosa, a pastry filled with a spicy cauliflower and pea mixture and coconut-mint chutney. For dessert was halvah, a sweet dish made from semolina or farina with a touch of cardamom. The atmosphere and generosity was most notable, evidence that care and thoughtfulness had gone into the meal.
   Years later, I traveled to South Africa and there, too, I was invited to dine at an Indian family’s home in Pretoria outside Johannesburg.
Wondering if the experience would be different from that in India, I anticipated and pondered the meal to come. In retrospect, excellent and nothing short of tradition and enthusiasm was my perception of this lovely evening with an exceptional group of people.
   The food was divine, much like what I had eaten in India. Same spices, same types of dishes, and same attention to detail in the preparation.
   Wanting to share with you some authentic Indian dishes, here are some traditional recipes.
   Bon Appetit!


This dish is known as “a poor man’s feast.”
It is also considered a complete protein.

1½ cups yellow split mung beans
¾ cup basmati rice
¼ cup diced ginger root
2 cups of peas
1 head of cauliflower
½ bunch of fresh cilantro
Ghee (or vegetable oil)
½ tbs. turmeric
½ tbs. cumin
¼ tbs. coriander
Fresh cilantro

   Wash beans and boil in water until tender and blended. Make sure there is plenty of water covering the beans. Add rice and ginger. Cook rice until soft. Add peas and cauliflower and cook until tender.
Make a chaunch (toasting spices in ghee): Take 1 tablespoon of ghee and heat in saucepan until hot. Add turmeric, cumin, and coriander until you smell the aroma of spices. DO NOT BURN. These spices toast quickly.
   Add fresh cilantro at the end and salt.


2 cups water
1 cup sugar
½ cup semolina or farina
½ cup unsalted butter

   Melt butter in saucepan and add semolina. Toast the grains until golden brown and sound like you are stirring sand.
In the meantime boil the water and sugar together.
After the grains are toasted, add them to the water/sugar mixture. When adding the grains to the liquid, you should hear a sizzling sound. Stir well and remove from the heat.
   Let stand and serve warm.

THE KAWEAH COMMONWEALTH is published every Friday in Three Rivers, California.
EDITORS/PUBLISHERS: John Elliott and Sarah Barton Elliott
41841 Sierra Drive (Highway 198), Three Rivers, CA 93271
MAIL: P.O. Box 806, Three Rivers, CA 93271
(559) 561-3627 FAX: (559) 561-0118
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