Today is Global Wind Day, a worldwide event celebrated on 15 June since 2007 (called simply Wind Day at the time). The purpose of the celebration is to enjoy and learn about the many uses of wind power. Harnessing the wind is an expanding green technology increasingly used to reduce global dependence on fossil fuels, and to limit the harmful effects of the release of the products of combustion into the atmosphere. But with little effort we can all come up with the many uses of wind power that affect our lives both for practical purposes and for pleasure.
I have long had a fascination with different ways to harness the wind from kite flying to sail boats, but nothing rivals windmills for me, as the gallery at the head of this post will testify. Windmills of one sort or another have been employed to convert wind power into usable energy since antiquity, the main uses being grinding food materials (as the “mill” part suggests) and pumping water. The chief problem to overcome in all employment of the wind is its erratic nature, both in terms of force and direction. Every sailor (“user of sails”) knows the frustration of trying to sail a boat when there is no wind. Fossil fuel powered ships replaced sailing ships in the nineteenth century for precisely this reason. The regions of the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans around the equator, known as the doldrums, were a particular hazard for sailing ships that might be becalmed there for days or weeks. Coleridge’s description in the Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner is justly famous:
Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, no breath no motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean.
Talk about being in the doldrums!
Windmills can, of course suffer the same fate, and are only a truly effective technology in regions of the world where regular winds can be expected. This is one of the major problems with modern wind farms that are springing up in many parts of the world. 70% of the land mass of the world has low wind speed, but ingenious new technologies are emerging to cope with the problem. In Thailand, for example, there was a rush to import windmills a few years ago when the country had a serious energy problem, only to see the European giants sit idle like unwanted statues until a storm came (or a Thai version of Don Quixote showed up). But local engineers have since designed small low wind speed turbines that by themselves produce small amounts of electricity, but when dotted around in large numbers effectively feed the power grid.
As a former sprinter, cross-country runner, and ever frequent flyer, I know the value of having the wind in your favor. So I wish all of my readers a happy Global Wind Day. “May the wind be always at your back.”
Windmill cookies are a great favorite in Holland. Usually they are made using special wooden molds, which I would guess most of you do not have lying around in that kitchen drawer full of utensils you never use. Admit it – we all have one of those drawers. But here’s a recipe for windmill cookies that does not require special equipment. They are nice and spicy, and shaped like the sails of a windmill.
Dutch Windmill cookies
¼ cup (.6 dl) sour cream
½ (2.5 g) teaspoon baking soda
1 ¾ cups (225 g) all-purpose flour
½ (2.5 g) teaspoon salt
½ (2.5 g) teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ (2.5 g) teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ (1.2 g) teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup (220 g) firmly packed brown sugar
½ cup (113 g) unsalted butter, softened
Pre-heat oven to 350°F/175°C.
Stir the sour cream and baking soda together in small bowl and set aside.
Combine the flour, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves in medium bowl.
Combine the brown sugar and butter in a large bowl. Beat at medium speed until creamy.
Reduce the speed to low and add the sour cream mixture. Beat until well mixed.
Add the flour and spice mixture. Continue beating to form a smooth dough.
Divide the dough in half. Wrap half in plastic food wrap and refrigerate.
Roll out the remaining half of dough, on a lightly floured surface, to an 8 ¾ inch (22.25 cm) square.
Cut 7 strips horizontally, and then 7 strips vertically to create 49 squares. Cut each square diagonally to create 98 triangles.
For each cookie, place 4 triangles on to ungreased cookie sheets (overlapping the tips in the middle as in the photo). Place sliced almonds in center, pressing down lightly to make sure the triangles make one cookie. Repeat with the remaining triangles (you will have one bit left over which you can bake and eat in the kitchen without anyone knowing).
Bake for 7 to 11 minutes or until golden.
Let cool 2 minutes on the cookie sheets, then remove the cookies to a wire cooling rack.
Repeat this process with the second batch of dough.
Yield: 4 dozen cookies