IRAQ. Basra governorate. Basra. April 3, 2003. A soldier serving with Number 1 Company 1st Battalion, The Irish Guards, looks for possible Iraqi enemy positions, as Royal Engineer technicians prepare to cap one of the burning oil wells within the city of Basra.

Photograph: WO2 Giles Penfound/MOD

Foodie Friday: Pumpkin Spice!

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-3 tbsp ground cinnamon
-2 tsp ground ginger
-2 tsp ground nutmeg
-1.5 tsp ground allspice
-1.5 tsp ground cloves

Combine all ingredients! Use in pumpkin pie; pumpkin breads, cookies, and pastries; pumpkin coffee drinks; et cetera!

Chef’s Note: When it comes to spices (especially aromatic ones such as these), it is always best to use whole spices if you can. Carefully toast them in a dry pan until the aroma is strengthened, allow them to cool, and then grind them. This will enhance the flavor and aroma of the spice, giving you the full impact that it has to offer. I personally prefer to use a mortar and pestle (a kitchen one, separate from the one I use for spellwork), which takes more time, but preserves more flavor than a motorized grinder.

Magical Ingredient!

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that this recipe is magical in and of itself. Just the flavor alone is something that I crave and savor all year long. Many times has my boyfriend teased me about being a “basic white girl,” at which point, I often agree. I am that person who loves pumpkin so much that I’m there the first day those lattes come out at Starbucks. But what so few realize is that this spice blend is incredibly simple to make at home (and often tastes better than packaged pumpkin pie spice).

However, while I could go on all day about the magical uses for this blend, it would get rather redundant given previous articles about cloves, cinnamon, and ginger. So instead, I’m going to look at nutmeg!

Sweet, warm, and aromatic, nutmeg has an interesting history that is linked very strongly to imperialism, spice trade, and European colonization. The spice with which we are most familiar today is the seed of the nutmeg tree (myristica fragrans), but in truth, the whole fruit is edible and used in culinary traditions. The fruit is harvested from the tree and used in Indonesian cuisine as manisan, while the seed is dried until it separates from its outer shell. A bright red membrane which surrounds the nutmeg kernel inside is harvested and dried, developing a yellow-red color. This membrane, called the aril, is then sold either ground or whole as another familiar spice: mace.

The seed itself is the nutmeg spice with which we are most familiar - the kernel isolated from the fruit and aril. Sold either whole or ground, it is used in cuisines throughout the world and has a history of being used in many European meat dishes, as well as in pastries and spice blends.

Initially nutmeg, like many other spices involved in the spice trade, was a “trade secret” regarding its location. It grew naturally on the Banda Islands, and was traded with mainland Asia. Eventually, the commodity reached the port of Basra, where it was traded with Muslim sailors. From there, it was spread to the rest of Europe where it was prized for both its flavor and as a protective ingredient against plague.

Like many spices, it was part of what drove the Age of Exploration. By the 16th century, its production origins were discovered by Portuguese explorers. Banda was conquered and its spices - nutmeg, mace, and cloves - were traded with the sailors until the Dutch East India Company claimed the island in 1621 (this was not a particularly pleasant scenario - the indigenous Bandanese were effectively wiped out by European settlers through warfare, starvation, exile, slave trade, or disease).

British control of other Bandanese islands were conceded to the Dutch in exchange for Manhattan and New Amsterdam in colonial America, giving full monopoly over to the Company through much of the 17th and 18th centuries. During the Napoleonic Wars, however, Britain regained temporary control of the islands, and used the opportunity to transplant nutmeg trees to other colonies, establishing new plantations for the trade.

((Fun fact: Many foods cooked in colonial America involved the use of nutmeg as a primary flavoring agent. Vanilla was significantly harder to produce and obtain, but nutmeg was easy to transport and lasted much longer, making it a popular spice in the Americas!))

Today, nutmeg continues to be produced primarily in Indonesia and Grenada, which control the majority of the production of nutmeg and mace in the world market. It’s used in cuisines throughout the world, a wonderful flavoring agent for both sweet and savory foods.

In terms of medicine, nutmeg has traditionally been used to encourage digestion and relieve bowel cramping. Under Elizabethan rule, it was used to help ward off the plague due to its pleasant and calming scent (it was widely believed at the time that odor could carry disease). In modern medicine, nutmeg’s health benefits beyond nutrition are virtually negligible, but has been discovered to cause hallucinations in large doses. This is inadvisable, however, as nutmeg can be toxic in doses of more than one teaspoon. (Do not despair for the recipe above - it’s extremely unlikely that anyone would consume a whole jar of pumpkin spice in one sitting!)

Magically speaking, nutmeg is often associated with wealth, luck, love, and divination. Carrying the whole seed as a charm can bring luck in games of chance (making it quite popular in gambling spells), and can ensure good luck while traveling.

The seed can be carried in a purple sachet or strung on a purple thread as a charm to help encourage favorable decisions in legal matters.

Ground nutmeg has been used for money, divination, and love spells in several traditions - the powder can be added to money drawing powders and sachets, sprinkled into a lover’s shoes to encourage love, or added to drinks which can be consumed prior to meditation and divination to enhance clairvoyance or to be shared with a lover to strengthen relationships.

The essential oil of nutmeg can also be used in money-drawing oils, or warmed to provide the scent of the spice in order to provide comfort, peaceful sleep, and clarity in divination.

In food, as always, the associations carry over. This spice is very versatile, being used in dishes ranging from savory yellow vegetables to meat dishes such as haggis or roast beef. Pair it up with other spices and herbs with similar purposes, and watch the magic come to life!

So when you’re mixing up that pumpkin spice and adding it to your pie this year, be mindful of the history and uses that nutmeg possesses. It is rich and vibrant, both positive and negative. Like all ingredients in food, it is a living ingredient even when dried and ground. It makes for a wonderful experience in working magic into your meals each day!

May all your meals be blessed! )O(

IRAQ. Basra governorate. Old Basra. May 26, 2003. An Iraqi police clerk fills out a report in the former office of the head of the Republic Party of Basra in one of the old Ba’ath Party Headquarters-turned-police station. As part of the philosophy of the Royal Military Police, the soldiers are teaching Iraqi Policemen to fill out reports for all everything that happens in their jurisdiction, in an effort to eventually pass all responsibility on to the Iraqis. There is rising speculation as to whether the British manner of patrolling Basra has been more successful in governing the city in contrast to the American’s more stand-off-ish approach to governing Baghdad. Unlike the Americans in Baghdad, the British often patrol Basra with no body armour and no helmets, and sometimes go out without their automatic weapons.

Photograph: Lynsey Addario/Getty

Who was Alhazen?

Born around a thousand years ago in present day Iraq, Al-Hasan Ibn al-Haytham (known in the West by the Latinized form of his first name “Alhazen”) was a pioneering scientific thinker who made important contributions to the understanding of astronomy and mathematics as well as vision, optics and light. al-Haytham was born in 965 CE in Basra. However, he spent most of his life around the Fatimid Caliphate in Cairo, and died there in 1040 CE. His first project? He proposed to the Caliph a hydraulic project to improve regulation of the flooding of the Nile, and his method included an early attempt at building a dam at the present site of the Aswan Dam!

To have food and shelter, al-Haytham tutored various nobility while writing treatises on subjects that interested him. Among other things, he was the first to explain that vision occurs when light bounces on an object and then is directed to one’s eyes, he is considered the first theoretical physicist, and he began the mathematics to connect algebra and geometry.

Get up brother, the war is over. They have taken your tank to the smelter but your rifle still lies on the mountain. At last, the sands have erased your courage and farmers now plant leaves where you fell. The trees you planted have died. The enemy have taken the mountain that you vowed you would never abandon. From the ice-covered summits, they’ve lowered your banner, which was raised until your downfall. They’ve plundered your uniform and your plunder. And no matter how dead you were, they kept riddling your corpse with bullets. Though the worms crawled out of your eyes - and your large heart - they still couldn’t believe that you were dead. You had been their worst nightmare. Get up my brother, the war is over (…) My mother is still in bed. I spoke with her of your height and your strong arms. How delighted she was when they couldn’t find any shoes that would fit you. She asked me how you were sleeping and I was filled with sorrow to tell her that you hadn’t slept for seven years. That a shell from an enormous gun shattered your ribs, and stripped you of your youth. So I let the sun set upon your name and dreams, put to rest the settled dust that you have become. Between your life, your death, there is a distance of six children.
Important daily reminder

Without Muslims, you wouldn’t have:

1. Coffee, which an Arab named Khalid invented

2. Clocks, by a man called al-Jazari from Diyarbakir in South-East Turkey in the 1200s

3. Cameras, Ibn al-Haitham revolutionized optics

4. Cleanliness (toothbrush, soap, perfumes, etc)

5. Universities, because of Fatima al-Fihri

6. Planes, because of Abbas ibn Firnas who was the first person to make a real attempt to construct a flying machine and actually fly

7. Surgical instruments, by a man from the 10th century named Abul Qasim Khalaf ibn al-Abbad al-Zahrawi, a man known in the West as Abulcasis

8. Maps

9. Music, al-Kindi, an artist long ago, created the system of writing down songs

10. Algebra, which was introduced by Al-Khwarizmi

11. Guitar, which was originally known as a “qitara” in the Arabic of Andalusia

12. Magnifying glasses/glasses, the scholar Alhazen (Abu al-Hasan) from Basra was the first person to describe how the eye works

13. Hospitals

14. Distillation, was invented around the year 800 by Islam’s foremost scientist, Jabir ibn Hayyan, who transformed alchemy into chemistry

15. Vacation, brought to Europe from Turkey

And the list goes on. I just picked some of the ones that are still used a lot

Iraq. Basra governorate. Basra. 2004. An armed member of Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army stands guard over the Central Sunni mosque, where Friday prayers are being performed. 

The U.S. provided more than 165,000 Kalashnikovs to Iraqi security forces from 2003 to 2006, a significant number of which wound up on the black market. Indeed, Iraq’s recent history is clearly reflected in the changing price of the gun on the street. Just after the invasion, as soldiers laid down their weapons, looters raided armories and optimism briefly overtook the country, weapons prices dropped. In the summer of 2003, as multiple customers entered the market, from recently released common criminals to Sunni insurgents to Shi’ite paramilitary units, prices rose again.

Photograph: Abbas/Magnum Photos

Talmudic source of the original “I am forcibly removed meme”!

Here’s the mishnah: מתני’ ניפול הנמצא בתוך חמשים אמה הרי הוא של בעל השובך חוץ מחמשים אמה הרי הוא של מוצאו נמצא בין שני שובכות קרוב לזה שלו קרוב לזה שלו מחצה על מחצה שניהם יחלוקו:

If a bird is found inside of 50 cubits from a dove cote, it belongs to the owner of the dove cote. If it is outside of 50 cubits, it belongs to whoever finds it. If it is found between 2 dove cotes, whoever is closer is the owner, and if they are equal, they divide the value.

בעי ר’ ירמיה רגלו אחת בתוך נ’ אמה ורגלו אחת חוץ מחמשים אמה מהו ועל דא אפקוהו לרבי ירמיה מבי מדרשא 

“Rebbi Yirmiyah asked ’ if one leg of the bird is within 50 cubits [from a dovecote and therefore should belong to the owner of the dove cote] and one foot outside of 50 cubits [and therefore would be is ownerless]… What is the ruling?(who does this bird belong to?) And because of this, they forcibly removed Rebbi Yirmiyah from the Beis Midrash.

(Bava Basra 23b)

The best part is that The talmud didn’t think that Rebbi Yirmiyah’s question was as ridiculous has his friends did, and even though they kicked him out, the talmud proceeds to examine his question. Of course, later on his friends had a question they couldn’t answer, and so they sent a message to him, and he said “how can I answer a question if I have been banned from the Beis Midrash?” and then they brought him back in.

submitted by @arothejew

R’ Yirmiyah is forcibly evicted from the Beit Midrash

Cities of Mesopotamia

Baghdad (بغداد‎) - Iraq

Al-Raqqah (الرقة) - Syria

Basra (البصرة‎) - Iraq

Deir ez-Zor (دير الزور) - Syria

Fallujah (الفلوجة‎) - Iraq

Hesice ( Hesîçe‎  ܚܣܟܗ) - Kurdistan/Assyria

Karbala (كربلاء‎) - Iraq

Mardin (Mêrdîn ܡܶܪܕܺܝܢ‎) Kurdistan/Assyria

Mosul (الموصل‎) - Iraq

Najaf (النجف‎) - Iraq

Qamislo (Qamişlo‎ ܩܡܫܠܐ) - Kurdistan/Assyria

Ramadi (الرمادي‎) - Iraq

Tikrit (تكريت‎) - Iraq