I rarely run out of words, stories, or an opinionated point of view; but this week’s one of those rare times when I think I have. And there’s a sneery voice in my head hissing that it’s all over and I’m never going to be able to write anything again. It can all be a bit scary.
To cheer myself up from this line of thinking, I read in-depth coverage of the news (which should tell you just how much of a grumpy, old person really lives inside my young-ish head) and at some point while reading about the ongoing conflicts in Syria and Iraq, the imprisonment of journalists in Egypt and the Australian Prime Minister referring to Australia as “unsettled” before the English arrived (presumably in the same way that places like North America and India were unsettled. That sort of thing.) I realised that I can so easily become blinkered by my own experience. And that, even if I never write another word, I’m going to be just fine.
Which lead into thinking about gratitude and how many reasons I, and everyone I know, have to be grateful. So I decided to make a list of the biggest global reasons to be grateful. A universal gratitude list for us to have a think about.
To set the scene…
Here’s those words in picture form — during which you’ll see why I never impressed my art or physics teachers at school.
Feeling small yet? Well, to keep you from a life of gazing at the sky in nihilistic awe, remember that of the 500 billion or so galaxies, as far as we know, Earth is the only planet that holds sentient life. And we’re it. And of that sentient life, if you’re reading this, I’m going to assume that you’re one of the luckiest people; and if you’re female, certainly one of the luckiest women.
And here are our 10 universal reasons why
- We could have been born one of the other 8,699,999 species on this planet and spent our lives trying to cope with humanity (I’d wager it’s not easy).
- Of the 6 billion humans on Earth, it’s almost a certainty that anyone reading this isn’t one of the 2.4 billion who live on less than US$2 a day, of which 70% are women. I paid 8 times the global daily poverty line just for my breakfast this morning. I’m one of the 2% in the world who can afford to do so.
- It’s extremely likely you’re not one of the 3.6 billion people who don’t live in a democracy. My government doesn’t prevent me from writing this blog, and your government isn’t preventing you from reading it.
- Without meaning to sound too obvious, if you’re reading this, you can read. Unlike 774 million people around the world, of which two thirds are women. The fact that women can read and write at all, let alone to a tertiary standard, is not as unusual as it was ten years ago, but still makes the women reading this one of 10% of women educated to that level globally.
- If you’re a mum reading this, it means that you didn’t die during childbirth, roughly 300,000 women each year aren’t so lucky.
- Your children are 95% likely to survive into adulthood and 70% likely to die at a ripe, old age, and those odds are getting better all the time.
- If your home is plumbed and your water is clean, you’re luckier than 2.5 billion people without adequate sanitation.
- If you don’t hear gunfire at night, you’re luckier than a third of the world population who live in so called ‘conflict zones’.
- You’re currently using a computer, which means you have access to electricity. 20% of the world (1.3 billion people) don’t have any access at all.
- It’s highly likely that you have some aspirin in your house, or even a medicine cabinet somewhere, which means you’re better off than one third of the world’s population who lack access to essential medicines. In the poorest parts of Africa and Asia this figure rises to half of the population.
How lucky are we?!
This isn’t written in an attempt to make you feel guilty. Some sort of annoying stop-having-a-good-time-and-start-fixing-the-world power drive. Really, I’m just trying to remind myself of the bigger picture and trying to keep hold of gratitude for the many blessings I enjoy. And I may also be quite grateful that I found something to write about this week. Something that can go some way to matching this operatic cake.
This cake’s untamed flavours swan onto your tastebuds and demand your undivided attention. I could go on about how I experimented to reach the exact ingredients; the addition of semolina for a soft density and yoghurt for tangy richness, how the cardamom is rounded out by a slight hint of cinnamon, and so on. But it really is just worth trying it for yourself.
- 100g unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 245g caster (superfine) sugar
- 240g natural yoghurt
- 3 eggs, separated
- Zest from 1 orange (I use navel oranges)
- 150g plain (all purpose) flour
- 150g semolina
- 30g ground almonds
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp ground cardamom
- ½ tsp cinnamon, ground
- 125ml fresh orange juice (I juice the orange I’ve just zested)
- 2 whole cardamom pods
Preheat oven to 180˚C/350˚F and line a loaf tin with baking paper (my loaf tin is 26cm x 11cm x 8cm, if you have a different size just adjust cooking times accordingly)
In a mixing bowl, whisk the butter and 180g of the sugar until pale and fluffy
Beat in the yogurt, egg yolks and zest, until completely combined
Put the flour, semolina, ground almonds, baking powder, cardamom and cinnamon in a bowl and stir with a hand whisk to combine (stirring with a hand whisk means you don’t have to sift)
Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, a third at a time. Completely combine each third before moving to the next
In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form
Gently fold the egg whites into the cake batter, until just combined
Pour into the loaf tin and bake for around 40 minutes, or until golden and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean
Meanwhile, prepare the orange syrup by simmering the orange juice, cardamom pods and the remaining 65g of sugar in a saucepan for 7 minutes. Make sure you don’t stir the juice while cooking, instead, occasionally give the pan a swirl to keep the sugar from catching
Once the cake is baked, pour the syrup on top and let it soak in
Set aside to cool completely before serving with generous dollops of cardamom cream (recipe below)
Cardamom Whipped Cream
- 300ml double (heavy) cream
- 1 tbl sp icing (powdered) sugar
- ½ tsp cardamom, ground
Combine the cream, icing sugar and ½ teaspoon of the cardamom in a bowl and whisk until stiff peaks form in the cream. Cover and place in the fridge until ready to use