Posted in Daily, Food, Stories Around the World

Of “Catchup” and Origins…

“Three tomatoes are walking down the street – a papa tomato, a mama tomato and a little baby tomato. Baby tomato starts lagging behind. Papa tomato get angry, goes over to Baby tomato and squishes him…..and says ‘Ketchup!”
-Uma Thurman in ‘Pulp Fiction’ (1994)

Sweet and tangy, often used as a condiment for the “hot or fried, greasy” dishes and at times, as an add on for dressings, sauces or flavouring for the main course dishes; “ketchup” or “catchup” has evolved into being almost a must in every household. In fact, to flavour the most mundane or for a quick scratch meal; ketchup is the answer. Little wonder then with hoards of “tomato sauce” enthusiasts around, a whole day has been dedicated as National Ketchup Day (June 5th).

Typically made from tomatoes, sugar, vinegar, assorted seasonings and spices; this sauce had initial recipes of egg whites, mushrooms, oysters, mussels, or walnuts, among other ingredients. Some of these ingredients have been modified and labelled under other sauces; such that the term “ketchup” (earlier known as catsup, catchup, red sauce, ketsup) refers to the unmodified tomato ketchup (not the mushroom ketchup). While the specific spices and flavors may vary; most commonly include onions, allspice, coriander, cloves, cumin, garlic, mustard and sometimes celery, cinnamon or ginger.

“You know, you really can’t beat a household commodity – the ketchup bottle on the kitchen table.” Adlai Stevenson

Condiments and sauces have been an accompaniment for main course meals a s well as snacks from the very early days of civilizations. Delving into the origins and roots of “ketchup”, this concoction of the Orient had been passed on to the colonists. The 17th century Chinese cuisine included a concoction of pickled fish and spices; known as kôe-chiap (Amoy dialect) or kê-chiap meaning the brine of pickled fish (like salmon juice) or shellfish. Seen in the Malay States (Malaysia and Singapore) of early 18th century; as kicap or kecap (pronounced “kay-chap”) English colonists had first tasted it. The English settlers had taken it back with them, later to their American colonies. Over time “kecap” had evolved into catchup” or “ketchup”. From an etymological point of view, multiple competing theories offer explanations for the name “ketchup”, yet the most widely believed is the Malay or Chinese origin.

“I mix mayonnaise, ketchup and brandy and a little bit of mustard. This is a heck of a good sauce for seafood.” Jose Andres

Originally and historically, the initial preparations of the English ketchup had mushroom (sometimes even walnuts) rather than tomatoes as primary ingredient(1750 to 1850). While many variations of ketchup were created, the tomato-based version appeared a century later after other types. The early versions had anchovies placing its’ roots to fish-sauce ancestry. The mid-1850s saw anchovies being dropped from the ingredients.

Gather a gallon of fine, red, and full ripe tomatoes; mash them with one pound of salt.
Let them rest for three days, press off the juice, and to each quart add a quarter of a pound of anchovies, two ounces of shallots, and an ounce of ground black pepper.
Boil up together for half an hour, strain through a sieve, and put to it the following spices; a quarter of an ounce of mace, the same of allspice and ginger, half an ounce of nutmeg, a drachm of coriander seed, and half a drachm of cochineal.
Pound all together; let them simmer gently for twenty minutes, and strain through a bag: when cold, bottle it, adding to each bottle a wineglass of brandy. It will keep for seven years. – Recipe for “Tomato Catsup” from 1817
(Source: Wikipedia and Apicius Redivivus: Or, The Cook’s Oracle: Wherein Especially the Art of …)

“I can fry hollandaise, I can fry ketchup, I can fry mustard.” Wylie Dufresne

Besides the primary use as a condiment, add on to the marinade or to the minced mix as well as converting it sauces like brown ( barbeque) sauce, sweet and sour sauce or red remoulade; ketchup has its’ own special uses too.

  • Shine copper and silverware with ketchup, with the latter being a very effective cleaning agent. At times, mixing it with Worcestershire Sauce enhances the cleaning effect. Ketchup can be used to clean up the tarnish from the car parts, as well as a great agent to shine up alloy based metals; though it won’t clean up the dirt. The technique would be to first clean and remove the dirt, then use ketchup to add the shine.
  • To correct green highlights in bleached hair, ketchup can be used. Besides ketchup acts as a great conditioner, bringing back the natural oils into the hair.
  • Last but the most creative use of ketchup is its’ use as fake theatrical blood. Additionally ketchup as well as its’ bottle acts as a great base for food based paints and dyes for “toddler art and paint fun”.

With more than the “food” factor for ketchup, this condiment will continue to remain as an essential part of the pantry and the household, whatever may come.  For every food experimenter, getting creative and adding a bit of sweet, sour and tangy flavours to the routine recipes can lead to entertaining and surprising new flavours, combinations as well as artistic renderings ( like Eureka!!).  

 

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Posted in Family and Society, Life, poetry, Quotes, Reflections

Finding the “Shade”

“Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be.” Abraham Lincoln

With summer break nearing to an end and summer camps coming to a close, the excited chatter and the melee around were a welcome sight last weekend. Like every year, contests were held and best prizes were announced. Interestingly during the course of events, especially at the award ceremony, the expressions on the faces of many adults, parents or guardians and the like had caught the eye. While kids were happy that they had or hadn’t secured a prize, the momentary disappointment as well loss of happiness on the adults’ faces was a cause for surprise. At the end of the day, the tussle of thoughts were whether prizes do really matter or is the joy of the vent more fun.

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” Mahatma Gandhi

The catch to happiness always depends on how one defines it. One can be happy or sad for the same reason. One can find joy for the moments or consistently ponder over the uncertainty of the next and lose sight of the present. Like there are many shades to a single colour, there are innumerable ways on how to react to a particular situation as well as choose the face of our happiness. Eventually everything boils down to our understanding of happiness in life and what it comprises of.

“Now and then it’s good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy.” Guillaume Apollinaire

When we react to any event, they are two main faces that can happen. Either we chose to be happy or change the mood such that the events don’t shadow the inner happiness or peace. On the other hand, we can let the sequence of events affect one’s actions, words and thoughts dimming or darkening the mood for the day. What we fail to realize that all the wile, people around us, near or far are affected by one’s own after-effects. The change of moods can start off a chain reaction of words or actions, which in some cases, once said may not be easily taken back. When those affected around us are children, what those young minds grasp and learn from the adult behaviour goes a long way to influence and shape theirs. The next time one cribs about losing one’s happiness; look around and ponder within whether we are solely responsible for it or not. For the actions belong to others, but power of thoughts, remedial thinking and words are in our own court.

“When one door of happiness closes, another opens, but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one that has been opened for us.” Helen Keller

What Is Happiness?

So, what is that happiness, people?
Ones answer, “It is to be mingled
With cards, alcohol and flirtations –
And all kinds of tempting sensations.

The others have beatitude’s vision
In money and higher position:
In flattering ‘kindly’ permitted,
And awe of the workers submitted.

The thirds think that it is in actions
Reflecting the perfect relations:
Sweet kindness, good care, attention
And general hearts’ comprehension.

The fourths think that it’s just advises
To meet with your dear sunrises,
To tell her your love and your favor
And go together forever.

And sometimes the meaning is longing
That it is the permanent burning:
The job, dreams and searching enlivened,
The pair of the wings for the heaven!

I think that in all enterprises,
Has happiness different sizes:
From peaks to a lowest mound,
Depending from people around.

-Eduard Asadov, Translated by Yevgeny Bonver, March, 2001

“True happiness arises, in the first place, from the enjoyment of one’s self.” Joseph Addison

Posted in Daily, Food, Musique, Stories Around the World

“Rocky Road” When On the Go

“I am not plain, or average or – God forbid – vanilla. I am peanut butter rocky road with multicolored sprinkles, hot fudge and a cherry on top.” Wendy Mass

Imagine a sewing scissors, ice cream and the whole house to oneself. As per one source, when William Dreyer of Oakland, California ( March 1929) had eyed these items on a spring day; he had cut up some walnuts and marshmallows and added them to his chocolate ice cream; similar to his friend Joseph Edy’s chocolate candy creation with walnuts and marshmallows. Later walnuts were replaced by pieces of toasted almonds. Variations of this combination with add on of nuts, whole or diced and even flavoured marshmallows with chocolate ice cream ( no choclate chips in the original one) had led to the creation of “rocky road ice cream”.

Post the era of the Wall Street Crash of 1929, Dreyer and Edy gave the flavor its current name “to give folks something to smile about in the midst of the Great Depression.” Another claim to this creation was by Fentons Creamery, Oakland who stated that Dreyer based his recipe on a Rocky Road-style ice cream flavor invented there by George Farren. The latter had blended his own Rocky Road-style candy bar into ice cream which Dreyer had modified.

“I hope your only rocky road is chocolate.” Amanda Mosher

While in Australia (1853), the “rocky road” was created. Rocky road was a type of cake made up of milk chocolate and marshmallow which is usually served in individual portions such as a cupcake or brownie. With exact origins debatable, the rocky road was created as a way to sell confectionery which had lost it’s flavour during the long trip from Europe and was mixed with locally-grown nuts and cheap chocolate to enhance the taste. As per this account, the name “rocky road” comes from the rocky road that travelers had to take to reach the gold fields. Although, many companies based in the Americas have laid claim to this creation as well.

Rocky road has it’s own variations as per the local flavour. With the traditional Australian rocky road being made of glace cherries, milk chocolate (sometimes dark or white chocolate), desiccated coconut, nuts (mostly peanuts) and marshmallow; Bahrain’s rocky road has milk chocolate, Nutella and pistachios. Moving west ward bound, the traditional British Rocky Road (1971) contains dried fruit, biscuit, milk chocolate ( rarely substituted by dark or white chocolate) with a light dusting of icing sugar over it.

Regardless of the type of Rocky road, whether as store bought or homemade cake, brownies, ice cream or served as topping over coffee, hot chocolate, sundaes or other sweet combinations; missing out on this delight before the summer comes to an end would be sinful. With foodimentarians celebrating tomorrow as National Rocky Road Day ( June 2nd); it would be fun, creative as well as a palatal delight to indulge in this delectable dessert for a change.

“I hear those ice cream bells and I start to drool,
Keep a couple quarts in my locker at school
Yeah, but chocolate’s gettin’ old,
And vanilla just leaves me cold,
There’s just one flavor good enough for me, yeah me,
Don’t gimme no crummy taste spoon, I know what I need, baby
I love rocky road,
So won’t you go and buy a half gallon baby
I love rocky road,
So have another triple scoop with me, OW!”

Lyrics of “I Love Rocky Road” by “Weird Al” Yankovic (1983)

Posted in Daily, Food

Of “Burger” and Origins

“Fashion is like food! Some people like sushi, others think hamburgers are divine! People like different things!” Michael Kors

One of the most popular comfort foods, snack foods or a complete meal to splurge occasionally, or for fun and festive, is the hamburger or burger. Essentially a sandwich consisting of one or more cooked patties (pan fried, grilled or flame broiled) of meat placed inside a sliced bread roll or bun and often served with cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles and other adds ons, as well as condiments like ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard, relish, or “special sauce”, these sandwiches or “burgers” have stormed the food industry ever since their introduction. While today, the patties can range from meat, fish, egg or vegan; hamburgers or burgers have evolved from being that of fast food joints or the regular diners to specialty or high end restaurants. Like all sandwiches, its’ what goes in and the entire taste and texture that counts.

“It requires a certain kind of mind to see beauty in a hamburger bun.” ~ Ray Kroc

 

Although the term, “hamburger” is originally derived from Hamburg, Germany’s second-largest city; its’ origins have been subject to much dispute, claim and uncertainty. Before the “disputed invention” of the hamburger in the United States, similar foods already existed in the culinary tradition of Europe. As recorded in The Apicius cookbook, a collection of ancient Roman recipes that may date to the early 4th century, “isicia omentata” preparation is detailed as a baked patty in which meat is mixed with pine kernels, black and green peppercorns, and white wine, considered to be the earliest precursor to the hamburger. Later on with various conquests, civilizations and trade, similar recipes were made with various varieties of the meat available then, like the “steak tartare” made of minced horse-meat of the 12th century.

The evolution of the name “Hamburg” came as the town was known for its’ ports famous for trade with the “New World” as well as then ” Old Europe”. With immigrants reminiscing about home, various dishes made with steak came to known with the name “Hamburg” added along side the dish name on the various menus especially when at sea or the ports, like the Hamburg-style American fillet.

 

However the exact origin of the hamburger may never be known with any certainty. While most historians believe it was invented by a cook who placed a Hamburg steak between two slices of bread in a small town in Texas; few others credit the founder of White Castle for developing the “Hamburger Sandwich.” With records being scarce, the stories and claims still remain as “legends”. With most claims for the invention occurring towards the early 19th century, common factors include large crowds like fairs, festivals, amusement parks as well as street vendors, who for simplicity, ease and increased sales had placed the steak between two buns filed with few vegetables to get the taste and the sales” going.

Yet by whichever origin, the “burgers” have been evolved across the globe adapting to the taste, local ingredients, culture and essence of the locality like the Vietnamese rice-burger. Varied experimentation with the ingredients can be made with ease, to give rise to a style or art with home cooking the “burgers” especially on the International Burger Day (May 28th). Depending on the mood or scene, from barbecues to cook-outs various combinations can be made, traded and shared with fun memories to treasure. Or one can ordering the good old regular “burger” for not just satisfying the hunger pangs but also for comfort in the memories of the good old times. As the old saying goes, “moderation is the key to having fun while eating”.

 

Posted in Family and Society, Life, Personal Musings, Quotes, Work

Exchange Points: Adolescence to Adulthood

“You’re always you, and that don’t change, and you’re always changing, and there’s nothing you can do about it.” Neil Gaiman

Last week an unexpected mail had appeared in my inbox from friends of the middle school year. As kids of government employees, transfers were inevitable as a part of resource allocation, promotions and training. Consequently changing school every three to five years was the regular norm. Thus receiving this email had opened the box of memories and moments, considering the fact that middle school was a time when we were all evolving.

“Nothing happens unless something is moved.” Albert Einstein

Looking back, every year of our life as we grow older involves a change. Refreshing the memories as middle-schoolers, life was mostly about assignments, sports, dating and the cultural. Academics had featured a role when relevant. Yet fast forwarding, adult life signifies mostly an exchange. Academics were replaced by work, dating by either relationships, marriage, family and sports or cultural as bucket lists, leisure or recreation. Time became more and more precious. Personal life had taken a back seat once, when career life had started.

“It happens to everyone as they grow up. You find out who you are and what you want, and then you realize that people you’ve known forever don’t see things the way you do. So you keep the wonderful memories, but find yourself moving on.” Nicholas Sparks

Reunions, spontaneous unexpected run-ins with old acquaintances, opening the high school year book or college class book and the like, all bring back memories of the best, worst, embarrassing and nostalgic memories at the different time frames in our lives. The difference lies in how we have progressed, view situations today and has the picture changed for the better or worse. The dreams and hopes as children or adolescents combined with the unbiased and open thinking as well as the willingness to embrace change, mistakes, criticism and appreciation as well; have they been lost or matured to finer aspects.

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” Socrates (Dan Millman, Way of the Peaceful Warrior)

While the younger years were marked by learning through self experiences, formation of groups or peer pressure, forging of new bonds and learning to protect one’s self esteem from being shattered as well as trying to fit into the society; adulthood takes on a different turn with the lessons that we have learnt and experiences underwent to prepare us for the journey ahead. Yet the fact remains on whether we have progressed beyond the classroom thinking and contours of “adolescence” for the kindness, maturity and love that adulthood offers or have we accepted the fickle matters of life with all the lights, sound and the glorification as the truth. Only time will know, can tell and foresee.

“That is at bottom the only courage that is demanded of us: to have courage for the most strange, the most singular and the most inexplicable that we may encounter.” Rainer Maria Rilke

Posted in Daily, Family and Society, Food

“Food Fun”: Mix , Match and Experiment

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.”  Virginia Woolf

Imagine a menu planned by kids. This was one of the tasks allotted to my child in his kindergarten class. On first hearing this; for all parents, this plan may set off alarm bells of the aftermath of a mass gastric upsets, whereas secretly many among us crave these foods on certain or many occasions. 

 

Imagine a list that ranges from Cheetos to ice cream, pancakes, sandwiches and all the sweet as well as the “street food” in the world. While this may sound too good to be true, some of these combinations though weird actually taste good.

Oreos and Orange Juice
Frosted Flakes and Cheese
Soya Sauce on Ice Cream
Apples with Salt, Pepper and Chilli Flakes
Cake of “Banana Pancakes with Nutella, Cream and Honey”
Avocados and Chocolate
Peanut Butter and Pickle Sandwiches
Bananas on Cheese Toastie
Butter and Sugar Sandwiches
Peanut Butter in Burgers
Rice and Ketchup
Grape Jelly on Scrambled Eggs or Omelettes ..and the list goes on, up to one’s choice of taste, artistic eye and palatable combinations.

 

Though everyday food involves eating healthy as well enjoying food that we love guilt free, the daily meals get a bit of livening up when we get free with the mix and match, go creative as well as enjoy surprising the taste senses.
With “Eat What You Want Day” (May 11th) is being celebrated today, which was initially started to enjoy a guilt free “indulge in your favourite food” day; this is one of the best days to try weird combinations or have breakfast for dinner, break the routine and let the young ones plan one meal for the day (few of us can tolerate Doritos, pizza and ice cream only to an extent).

Whether one wants to have sweet or sour, or indulge in the “mood for something different to taste” for the day; having fun while eating is the first along with being healthy, wise, happy and creative too.

 

Posted in Daily, Food

Evolution of the “Salad”

“A salad is not a meal, it is a style.” Fran Lebowitz

Originating from the Latin sal (means salt) to the Provençal “salada”, later as the Old French salade to finally the late Middle English “sallet” of 14th century or the modern day “salad” which it is now known by, salads have gradually evolved over the years. From simply starting a meal to being the main meal by itself, salads have been redefined both in content, style and flavours. With summer in full swing, fresh produce available and kids at home, salads can be both fun, entertaining and creative.

“Salad can get a bad rap. People think of bland and watery iceberg lettuce, but in fact, salads are an art form, from the simplest rendition to a colorful kitchen-sink approach.” Marcus Samuelsson

Salads were favored since the early Babylonian Era, where the greens were dressed with oil and vinegar. Likewise Egyptians made salad dressed with oil, vinegar and Asian. Even the Romans and ancient Greek Era saw mixed greens with dressing, a type of mixed salad. With imperial expansions, these layered and dressed salads were favourites in the menus of the European courts. Royal chefs often combined many ingredients in one enormous salad bowl including exotic greens as well as flower petals. The favourite salad of King Henry IV was a tossed mixture of new potatoes (boiled and diced), sardines and herb dressing, where as Mary, Queen of Scots, preferred boiled celery root diced and tossed with lettuce, creamy mustard dressing, truffles, chervil and hard-cooked egg slices.

“To make a good salad is to be a brilliant diplomatist – the problem is entirely the same in both cases. To know exactly how much oil one must put with one’s vinegar.” Oscar Wilde

Today salads are made in two classical manners of being artfully arranged or “composed” to ingredients being mixed with dressings or “tossed”. At any point of time on the meal salads may be served; as appetizers or side salads, as well as main course salads with high protein foods (like meat, eggs or fish), or as dessert salads. The latter version is one of the most popular with these sweet versions containing fruit, gelatin, sweeteners or whipped cream.

“It takes four men to dress a salad: a wise man for the salt, a madman for the pepper, a miser for the vinegar, and a spendthrift for the oil.” Anonymous

Technically there are five types of salads. Starting with the green salad or garden salad, consisting mostly of leafy greens with a healthy mix of coloured vegetables. If the latter are more, it is termed as a “vegetable salad”. From olives, artichokes as well as beans, celery or nuts, berries and seeds; these salads can be made in a colourful array. When made on a lettuce leaf, the “wedge salad” is created. When thick sauces are added to salads, they become “bound salads”, the second category of salads. Most types include those with mayonnaise like tuna salad, chicken salads, potato salad or egg salad, which can be served as “scoops” or sandwich fillers, making it a popular necessity for picnics and barbecues.

“As long as mixed grills and combination salads are popular, anthologies will undoubtedly continue in favor.” Elizabeth Janeway

The remaining three types include the “dinner salads” or main course salads, fruit and dessert salads. The former is made with meat, seafood or even eggs like the Cobb salad, Caesar salad and the Chinese chicken salad. With culinary fruits, a quick “fruit salad” can be made to complete the meal or a more elaborate “dessert salad” like jello salad, pistachio salad or ambrosia can answer the sweet cravings. Fancier creations like cookie salads, rice crispies salad, snickers salad or glorified rice salad. Finally topping the salads are the dressings which can be vinaigrette, creamy dressings as well as honey mustard or Italian dressing to mention a few. Dressing a salad depends on the final flavour that one wants to have.

Either for fun or for hunger, salad making can be an entertaining as well creative art, giving ample pleasure for both the taste buds, hunger pangs and health goals. With June being the foodimentarian ” National Month of Salads”, it would be fun to give few fancy salads a try.

“Kids in aprons appeared, putting tureens of vegetable soup on the tables and plates of boiled eggs, potatoes and lentils, bowls of endive-and-radish salad, small rounds of cheese and loaves of brown bread, all looking quite delicious, in Zoe’s opinion.” Christine Brodien-Jones, The Glass Puzzle