Yesterday, our friend Diane came over for tea and bran muffins and to tell us about her recent trip to Costa Rica. She brought pictures of lush tropical landscapes, big lizards, sculpture, and buildings with thatched roofs. We learned that Costa Rica has a population of about four million people, with much of the population being clustered in and around San Jose, the country’s capital.
Diane told us that Costa Rica didn’t seem to have the extreme poverty of, say, Mexico. While many of the homes were modest, they were decent, and they all had electricity.
A quick bit of research confirmed Diane’s impressions. According to an article in Wikipedia, Costa Rica has a high literacy rate—well over 90 percent, “with a better record on human development and inequality than the median of the region.” Costa Rica has no military, and the country is known for “its progressive environmental policies, being the only country to meet all five criteria established to measure environmental sustainability.” Costa Rica plans to be carbon neutral by 2021, and they have banned recreational hunting, which gives them a gold star in my book.
As Diane noted, it is easier to get things done in a country with only four million people, and this is certainly true. The vast population of India or China makes progressive reform and action slow and difficult. Nevertheless, more populous countries could learn from Costa Rica. This country has decided to put much of its resources into education and the environment, which benefits many people rather than just a few. (Even more affluent countries could learn a thing or two.)
No country, of course, is perfect, and while Diane didn’t see much extreme poverty, Costa Rica nevertheless struggles with a poverty rate of 23 percent. Still, it is a country thriving in what could be considered a tough neighborhood—Nicaragua is one of its neighbors.
After Diane finished telling us about her trip, the talk turned to other subjects, to politics, to family, and to one of our favorite topics—movies. Outside, a wet snow fell, making the April landscape look more dreary than it already did. However, when I looked out one of the dining room windows, I saw a crow gathering materials for what must be a nest. So the crows, at least, think spring is coming.
We drank tea, ate bran muffins, and decided we would like to get together once a month to watch a movie together. A perfect frugal activity for Clif and me.
“But we have to plan ahead,” Diane said, “and mark it on the calendar.” Indeed we do. Busy schedules make planning ahead a necessity.
The afternoon passed all too quickly, and it was time for Diane to leave. I sent her home with a couple of bran muffins, which she thought were tasty. It is a good bran muffin recipe. A friend gave it to me many years ago, and it’s a family favorite.
I’ve posted the recipe in my former blog, A Good Eater, but that was a while back. This recipe is so good that it seemed worthwhile to post it again. These bran muffins go well with tea, with soup, or as an accompaniment to almost any meal. I often add a cup of thawed blueberries to the batter. Somehow, I just love the combination of bran and blueberries, and it’s good for you, too.
Tasty and good for you. A winning combination.
1/4 cup of vegetable oil
1/4 cup of brown sugar
1/4 cup of maple syrup or honey
2/3 cup of milk
1 egg, beaten
1 cup of flour
1 cup of wheat bran
1 tablespoon of baking powder
1/4 teaspoon of salt
Heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease 12 muffin cups.
In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the flour, wheat bran, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, blend the oil and brown sugar. Add the maple syrup, milk, and egg. Mix well. Add the dry ingredients, mixing until the ingredients are just moistened.
Scoop batter into the greased muffin cups. Bake for 20 minutes or until muffins are brown.