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"Sewing Circles of Herat"
by Christina Lamb

June 27, 2008


It was 1996 and Mmmm and I were sitting in the dining area of a Bed and Breakfast in Haarlem, The Netherlands. The B&B we had anticipated using was full and the owner of that B&B recommended this one. We were so happy since this one was located about half a block from the main square. Our room was up a very narrow steep winding stairs off a balcony with an open window. The two 14 year old cats, (To’bias and Kat’-je), wandered in and out of our room at will. When we came down the first morning we passed a grand piano sitting on a gleaming wood floor in a living room, two cats and then discovered the table laid for two with a wonderful spread of meat, cheese, a variety of breads, jam, honey, huge slices of melon, orange juice and coffee. We were intrigued by a nut spread of chocolately hazel nuts, rather like peanut butter. The name of it was Nutella, pronounced New-tella. Our host was nowhere to be seen at first but then popped in the back door. He had been visiting his sister-in-law next door.

Our B&B was built in 1634 and was being restored. The floors were highly polished wood and the beams were original, enameled bright yellow. The beams in our bedroom were original also. The stairs to the third floor appear to be, if not original, very old since they were worn very thin. Three houses in a row were being restored. The church in the square was one that Mozart gave a concert in at age 11, our host, Andre Schroeder, informed us. He was a professor of music at the university in Amsterdam but was on a break at the moment. His wife was a visiting nurse. Her job is to visit new mothers and teach them the basics of child care. We never saw her, but our host visited with us every morning and was not only a mine of information but prepared a delightful breakfast every day.

That brings us to “Plumpynut.” It was Nutella that inspired Andre Briend, a French pediatric nutritionist, to concoct a combination of peanuts, skim milk, powdered sugar, vegetable oil and vitamins. He formed a thick paste children seemed to just love and it is changing the lives of starving children in Africa. We saw a program about it and were fascinated. It is being produced in Malawi, Niger, Ethiopia and Congo. It was introduced in 2005 and the results are astounding and immediate. Children, who were starving gained one to two pounds a week and are now stable. It is being used by Doctors Without Borders. It doesn’t need water which is good since there is often no clean water. It doesn’t need refrigeration and is shelf stable for up to two years, unopened. It costs about a dollar a day per child. What a great simple idea that doesn‘t require a committee to study it for several years or a big organization to gear up to produce it and it doesn’t need bureaucracy to determine if it safe or if it will damage the environment. What a wonderful idea!

There is someone in the house who usually finds a jar of Nutella in his stocking at Christmas and he still enjoys it for breakfast.

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