In the News - Friday, January
stories written by John or
Elliott unless otherwise noted
IN THE JANUARY 1 PRINT EDITION:
FINISH: THE FACES OF 2009
Week: The Places of 2009
this week's FRONT PAGE (PDF)
Rivers and its chain stores
chains must be in vehicle to be allowed entry into
Sequoia-Kings Canyon during winter months
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
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.
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
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.
WELCOME TO MY FOOD COLUMN
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
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.
This dish is known as
“a poor man’s feast.”
It is also considered a complete protein.
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
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.