Posted in Family and Society, Food

Culture of Fast Food

The rise of the urban development has been directly proportional to the growth of fast food culture.

In 1951 Merriam-Webster had recognized the term “Fast food” as “of, relating to or specializing in food that can be prepared and served quickly” or ” designed for ready availability, use or consumption and with little consideration given to quality or significance (adj.)(noun)”. Although contrary to popular belief, fast food has been there since the times of the Romans. The cities of the Roman empire had marketplaces like the Forum with food vendors who sold baked goods and cured meats to the urban population living in “the insulae” (similar to multi-story apartment blocks). Functioning more or less like a simple eating establishment, bread soaked in wine, cooked vegetables and stews later on were available. The trends continued through the ages and the civilizations as seen in China of the 12th century where fried dough, soups and stuffed buns were snack foods. Meanwhile the markets of their contemporaries in Persia (now Baghdad) sold processed legumes, purchased starches and even ready-to-eat meats. Moving ahead during the Middle Ages, large towns and major urban places like London and Paris had numerous vendors with stalls of ready to eat dishes such as pies, pasties, flans, waffles, wafers, pancakes and cooked meats. With the rapid industrial revolution, booming of towns, progresses in the food and science industry, the ready to eat meals underwent rapid changes, for better then but worse now. Along with the era of colonization, wars, immigration and emigration , the fast paced food industry had picked up in leaps and bounds.

Not everyone necessarily needs new things all the time and creative designs. It’s good to have luxury restaurants and fast-food restaurants. You need both. Rei Kawakubo

From prepackaged food sold at convenience stores, street vendors, filling stations to fast food outlets, the entire scenario revolves around quick service when “on the go” preferring finger food to “the cutlery food”. “Take-away” or “take-out” with “drive-through” options, all started off as the fast-paced life took over with people working two to three jobs, lack of provisions or money or time to cook the regular meals. Of late, the development of technology has allowed one to order food through the smart phone applications.

You can do good work simply staying up all night and eating nothing but junk food, but probably not in the long term. John Mulaney

Despite the popular assumption that fast food and junk food are the same, they are not. True although there is an overlap between the terms, they are not entirely substitute terms. Fast food refers to the fast assembly process for the preparation of the food, where food is ready in a matter of minutes. Junk food is labelled based on the little nutritional value of the food which is high calorie, high sodium with or without high saturated fat, sugar or salt content.

I follow my own advice: eat less, move more, eat lots of fruits, vegetables, and grains, and don’t eat too much junk food. It leaves plenty of flexibility for eating an occasional junk food. Marion Nestle

While the taste buds are tempted and cravings are fulfilled, on the downside the price to pay on the long run with risk of colorectal cancer, obesity, high cholesterol and depression to list a few. As good things always come in small packages, to downsize the portions, space out the intake and nutritionally substitute the fast food as well as retaining the taste are the few of the tricks to tackle the constant pull to it.

“The problem is when that fun stuff becomes the habit. And I think that’s what’s happened in our culture. Fast food has become the everyday meal.” Michelle Obama

As we mark any occasion or dining out with fast or junk food, keeping it in moderation makes us guilt-free to enjoy the pleasures once in a while. As been proven time and again, too much of anything spoils the fun.

Posted in Daily, Food, Quotes

Art on modified Focaccia

The solution to some weekday nights when the day is too busy followed by a high tea on crashing after the working hours, is pizza especially when the ready-made base is available and all you need are the toppings. For the record, although the flat bread pizza is credited to Naples of Italy around the 16th century, flavoured topping added to bread have been there since the development of farming of the primitive man.

Everybody likes pizza! It’s a quick and easy clean-up meal. Buddy Valastro

While the Ancient Greeks had their plakous (flat bread flavoured with toppings of herbs, onions, cheese and garlic), the ancient Persians baked flat-breads with cheese and dates while the Aeneid (a Latin epic poem by Virgil) tells of meals of round cakes (like pita bread) topped with cooked vegetables. Among the various suggestions made to the origins of modern pizza, pizzarelle (Kosher for passover cookies eaten by Roman Jews) and other Italian paschal breads are in the list. Yet the most widely accepted precursor of pizza was the focaccia, a flat bread known to the Romans as panis focacius, to which toppings were added. Other varieties of flat-breads across the globe include the Chinese bing (a wheat flour-based food with a flattened shape), the Indian parantha, naan and roti (where toppings and mix varies) and Finnish rieska. Add on cheese, meat, vegetables and seasonings to make the French quiche or German zwiebelkuchen.

Pizza is a great segue into unfamiliar flavors – plus, you can pile on the veggies. Maneet Chauhan

In 16th-century Naples, the pizza was a galette flatbread sold in the streets and known as a dish for the poor people. Later it was replaced by oil, tomatoes and diverse toppings with cheese or mozzarella twining it. Modern pizza developed in Naples, when tomato was added to the focaccia in the late 18th century. Initially pizza was mainly eaten in Italy and by emigrants from there. After World War II, as the Allied troops stationed in Italy came to enjoy pizza along with other Italian foods, it was brought out to the rest of the world.

Kids want to saute, to cut the pizza, to see how the ingredients come together. If you let them do the fun stuff, they’ll develop skills and interests that will stay with them forever. Guy

Today with a surplus of options and wide diversity of toppings available, it is no wonder that a whole month (October) has been dedicated to pizza. As they say, one things running through all the toppings is cheese that sticks together.

Ideas are like pizza dough, made to be tossed around. Anna Quindlen





Posted in Daily, Food, poetry, Quotes

Art of Tisane

“There is something in the nature of tea that leads us into a world of quiet contemplation of life.” -Lin Yutang

One of the concoctions of the millennial which is slowly catching up is the herbal tea, otherwise known as tisanes. Quite popular in certain places especially the Orient, herbal teas have been often been intertwined with the local tradition of indigenous medicines which is not only for enhancing the overall health, but also addresses specific health related issues. As a matter of fact, herbal tea can be made from a long list of ingredients which start with every letter of the alphabet except the letters “I” and “X”. There is little wonder why then, this trend is slowly catching as the soothing sips of nature’s remedies answers many aliments of man brought on as a consequence to his existence in this modern world.

“The outsider may indeed wonder at this seeming much ado about nothing. What a tempest in a tea-cup! he will say. But when we consider how small after all the cup of human enjoyment is, how soon overflowed with tears, how easily drained to the dregs in our quenchless thirst for infinity, we shall not blame ourselves for making so much of the tea-cup.” ~Okakura Kakuzo

As the tantalizing aroma of the brew hits, the memories of the past, present and the future swirl as the leaves seeped in the china cup. Although along with the health benefits, the very act of making and pouring the tisane is calming, like an art true to its’ form. A cup of herbal tea makes a pretty picture with colours borrowed from the autumn leaves interlaced with summer skies and spring air chasing away not only the winter chills but also the coldness and stress within. The warm cup floods the senses comforting the nerves; unsettles, raw and tender by chaos of the day.

While each one of us have our own blend to break in the day, it makes no difference as all finally help to start a new page with optimism in this cynical world that we find ourselves in.

“Teaism is a cult founded on the adoration of the beautiful among the sordid facts of everyday existence. It inculcates purity and harmony, the mystery of mutual charity, the romanticism of the social order. It is essentially a worship of the Imperfect, as it is a tender attempt to accomplish something possible in this impossible thing we know as life.” -Kakuzo, Okakura

With Every Sip We Take

There is a little ray of sunshine
in every single steeping cup
bringing the sweetest smile with each sip we take.
These leaves do warm us deep inside
it’s such pleasure on a freezing night
the wistful scent of joy to ease your tired eyes.
Your mind now wrapped around the china
only one thing in those thoughts
a delicious trip to savory distant lands.
Choices staring at you in numbers
which destination shall you choose
it doesn’t matter as each one will tell its tale.

Posted in Daily, Food

Pancakes Across the Globe

If there is any food, since prehistoric times which has been carried over in families and homes to the present day; it has to be batter rich and poured on plate, ready to be eaten when done. Called by various names across the globe, pancake (a.k.a. hotcake, griddlecake or flapjack) has been a constant item on the breakfast or comfort foods menu both across the East and the West as well North and South. While the structure and components vary across the globe, the essential ingredient of cereal based flour (wheat, buckwheat, oats, rice and so on) in the batter leavened or unleavened has been the central theme of almost all the pancakes across the homes and diners world-wide. As food changes as per the local flavours, pancakes even when called by different names can be made either sweet or savoury but is essentially akin to quick breads or flat breads. While its’ not only by proportions, but also by the local available flavours each type of pancake has their own story to tell and cuisine to belong to.

Flour. Baking Powder. Sugar. Milk. Eggs. Butter. Pinch of Salt. Mix, Pour and heat. Pancakes are ready. 
The toppings added varies according to seasons and availability. Kaiserschmarrn is an Austrian pancake with raisins, almonds, apple jam or small pieces of apple, split into pieces, and sprinkled with powdered sugar. They can be made thin and filled with jam, chocolate sauce or hazelnut spread. A traditional version includes filling pancakes with cheese, pouring yogurt over them, and then baking in an oven. While Æbleskiver are traditional spherical shaped Danish pancakes, Ålandspannkaka made in Finland is an extra thick variety of oven-made pancake which includes the addition of cardamom and either rice pudding or semolina porridge to the dough.

Flour. Milk. Eggs. Pour and then Crêpes are ready. They are very thin pancakes that are served with a sweet (fruit, ice cream, jam, chocolate spread) or savoury filling (cheese, ham, seafood, spinach). In some places, galette (or galette bretonne) is prepared which is a large thin pancake made of buckwheat flour, often cooked on one side only. Farinata ( also known as socca) are pancakes made from chickpea flour and black pepper as seasoning and are quite popular in the Mediterranean regions. In South Africa, a “pancake” is a crêpe known as a pannekoek. Pannekoeke are usually served with cinnamon-flavoured sugar (sometimes lemon juice) that is either allowed to dissolve into and soften them. To retain the crispy texture, they have to be eaten immediately.

Short-grain rice. Dal. Fenugreek seeds.Salt. Mix for Batter. Soft crepes. Dosa ready to go. By thickening the batter and adding savouries, it’s uttapam. With fermented rice flour appam is made while gram flour is used to make salty pancakes (cheela). In Nepal, chataamari is the savoury rice pancake cooked with meat or eggs on top or served plain. Chinese pancakes may be either savoury or sweet, and are generally made with dough mostly consisting of water, flour, and vegetable oil.The Indonesian pancake serabi is made from rice flour and coconut milk and can include fruit toppings, chocolate, meat or even ground peanuts. While in the Philippines, bibingka is made from rice flour, eggs, and coconut milk, whereas in Japan, Okonomiyaki are made from flour, egg, cabbage and a choice of ingredients.

Irrevocably pancakes have become a part of the tradition and culture of the place. Traditionally pancakes are eaten on Shrove Tuesday (or as Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday), which is known as “Pancake Day” in a few Western countries like Canada, the United Kingdom, France. Historically, pancakes were made on Shrove Tuesday so that the last of the fat or lard was used up before Lent as meat products were avoided during Lent. Additionally pancake art as well as pancake fund raising breakfast have been on the rise. Besides with the rise of tourism along the banana pancake trail, exploring and having fun filled experiences is on the bucket list of many.

Ranging from many emotions, pancake fundraising breakfast campaigns to absolute food art, pancakes remind us of home, comfort and warmth. To quote Kathleen Flinn, “I don’t have to tell you I love you. I fed you pancakes.” With a varied range of mixes, toppings, fillings and side-dishes for the different types of pancake mixes results in an surfeit of ideas for quick breakfasts on weekdays, rich calorie laden meals for the lazy weekends or a delightful delicious cuisine of art and hospitality. Looks like pancake are here to stay for a long time to come with newer recipes to be experimented and tried.

Posted in Daily, Food, Quotes

Art of Theobroma cacao

Theobroma cacao in Latin translates as “food of gods”. From its’ leaves to seeds, especially the latter when fermented, dried, crushed, ground and roasted become the bitter form of “chocolate”. The word “chocolate” comes from the Classical Nahuatl word “chocolatl” or “xocolatl” which entered the English language from Spanish. Although this fact is not fully approved as debates are still going on whether the original word was “chokolatl” or “chicolatl”.

Native to Meso-American areas, where the pre-Columbian civilizations flourished before the Spanish colonization, the history of chocolate originated as a beverage mostly bitter, mixed with spices or corn puree and sometimes fermented as an alcoholic beverage. Since then it has been in popular use especially among the upper classes, as determined by the archaeological evidence. Although it was used in official ceremonies and religious rituals, at feasts and festivals, as funerary offerings or as tribute; it was valued for its’ medicinal properties as well. Later on Cacao beans were used as currency even as taxes.

Till the 16th century, cacao was unknown to the Europeans. With the Spanish venturing into the Meso-American areas, cacao was introduced into Spain but gained popularity when the Spanish friars introduced it to the Spanish court. As the plantations slowly spread into the English, Dutch and French colonies, the market and craze for chocolate was gaining ground. Alkaline salts were introduced to chocolate by a Dutch chemist to reduce the bitterness. With the invention of the chocolate press, adding milk to chocolate and evolution of the cacao butter lead to the modern era of chocolate. From then on with artisanal chocolate lines and independent chocolatiers, chocolate has become a feast for the palate as well as the eyes.

“Chocolate knows no boundaries; speaks all languages; comes in all sizes; is woven through many cultures and disciplines… it impacts mood, health, and economics, and it is a part of our lives from early childhood through elderly years.” Herman A. Berliner

Chocolate is one of the rare foods which has a variety of days designated to celebrate it, both nationally, internationally and even locally. Over the years, there are very few food fads which has garnered a lot of attention and interest even in the entertainment, fashion as well as the art world. Why so much fuss about chocolate ?

“Chocolate is the first luxury. It has so many things wrapped in it: deliciousness in the moment, childhood memories, and that grin-inducing feeling of getting a reward for being good.” Mariska Hargitay

Besides forming an essential part of many childhoods, it has become a life saver in most kitchens and restaurants. From the liquid to the solid forms, chocolate has been a favourite for many events, even some board meetings where chocolate is at hand. To quote Johnny Iuzzini, “Chocolate is one of the backbones of the pastry kitchen. It is one of the most important ingredients in our pantry. It is very versatile, it is complex, and it is extremely temperamental.”

With the rising benefits of the cacao bean highlighted especially as dark chocolate, it has made a comeback as a healthy snack. Being a rich source of polyphenols, flavinoids as well as nitric oxide, chocolate has a role in the cardiovascular health. Besides there’s nothing as mood lifting as chocolate when we get stuck in any fiasco.

If any man has drunk a little too deeply from the cup of physical pleasure; if he has spent too much time at his desk that should have been spent asleep; if his fine spirits have become temporarily dulled; if he finds the air too damp, the minutes too slow, and the atmosphere too heavy to withstand; if he is obsessed by a fixed idea which bars him from any freedom of thought: if he is any of these poor creatures, we say, let him be given a good pint of amber-flavored chocolate… and marvels will be performed. – Anthelme Brillat-Savarin 

Yet like all good things, chocolate in moderation will go a long way in helping us enjoy this treat for a lifetime. If we indulge in too much of it, we may have a setback later. The fun of chocolate is to savour it in the moment, little at a time to make it last longer. As Forrest Gump says,” Momma always said life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”

With the National Chocolate day in two days time, chocolate deserves a little extra attention for the menu. For in life even though,“All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt. Charles M. Schulz”

Posted in Daily, Food, Stories Around the World

Cakes of Rainbow

For any celebratory or ceremonial occasion (some festive ones too), the setting is incomplete without the main dessert of “cake”. Originating from the Old Norse word “kaka”, among the desserts which has been adapted to the history of that era, cakes were initially started off as modifications to the regular flat breads. Gradually the breads became more elaborate and softer as evidenced by the origin of phrase, “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche” (Let them eat cake) where brioche was a luxury bread enriched with butter and eggs. Since then it has been through a lot of history, transitioning in make through the era of the world wars, civil revolutionary years and even the great depression. It has even became a part of the superstitions, like for instance an old English belief of putting a fruit cake under your pillow would make you dream about the person you will marry.

The entertainment industry also felt it’s presence, basing a number of songs and few movies on it (even in the vernacular languages). However what fascinated me was the myth of Joan’s rainbow cake which I had recently seen in the movie “Salt and Pepper”. Here the protagonists in the movie bond over food and both of them bake the Joan’s rainbow cake simultaneously as the movie progresses.

As per the narrative, the cake is baked by a French lady Joan, who awaits the return of her husband who was in the army at war during the WWII(1939-1945). The soldier informed Joan about his arrival. To surprise her love on the day of his arrival, she baked a delicious strawberry cake and waited for him, but he never turned up. Although she was little disappointed, the next day Joan baked a pistachio cake, anticipating her love would return at least today, but the soldier did not return. She joined the cakes together with some whipped cream. Her wait continued into the third day when she made an orange cake. He still did not come. That night, she went to bed with a heavy heart. Next morning her love arrived bearing a gift of chocolates for his lady. She combined all the cakes she baked with cream. She then melted the chocolate and poured it over the cake, and then served it to her loved one. They ate it together in celebration of his return and their never ending love.

Despite the fact I am unable to ferret out and ascertain the proof of authenticity behind this tale, the whole idea of having a three layered cake with whipped cream and a chocolate dripping is nevertheless an irresistible delectable feast for all. Moreover, it’s the feeling that goes behind that cake that makes it special.

There have been many versions of the rainbow cake and many a time we come up with our own style during the baking. All the same, for every cake the pot of gold at the end of the baking is worth every attempt to create a masterpiece.

Posted in Daily, Food, Photography Art

Cookie-Art Moments

Being trapped in the kitchen with a bored toddler in the early evening hours while it’s raining outside and the electricity is out is a very risque situation. Left in the lantern light, one option to put all the excess energy into good use was to bake cookies. Time flew as we started off with the mixing the wheat flour, butter and powdered sugar for the dough. Although halfway through, a bit of the batter was missing with a mischievous grinning kid nowhere to be found. Finally the cookie dough in varied shapes was ready to be baked . As the electricity was still out, I had to improvise and bake the cookies in the pan as the electricity was still out.  On the whole, an hour and half later I had a plate of fresh cookies, a happy toddler drinking his milk and time well spent.

It’s spontaneous moments like these which make life more fun. Moreover, when our children grow up and leave the nest, it’s memories like these which will hold dear in our hearts. To quote Crystal Woods ,“I want to take all our best moments, put them in a jar, and take them out like cookies and savor each one of them forever.”