Posted in Daily, Food, Stories Around the World

Of Chips and Crisps

“No One Can Eat Just One”

Ask any school kid, most would know the famous tag line, “Betcha Can’t Eat Just One” of Lay’s® Potato Chip Slogan from the early 1960’s. Over the years, although the slogans have under gone a little modification with endorsers changing, the flavours still holds us captive.

Early recipes similar to the potato crisps of today, was in William Kitchiner’s cookbook “The Cook’s Oracle” (1817) with “Potatoes fried in Slices or Shavings”. The methodology reads to “peel large potatoes, slice them about a quarter of an inch thick, or cut them in shavings round and round, as you would peel a lemon; dry them well in a clean cloth, and fry them in lard or dripping”.

Yet legend attributes the first potato “chips” to George Crum, an American chef of African American and Native American heritage at Saratoga Springs, New York in 1853. Trying to appease an unhappy customer on August 24th, 1853 who had kept sending his French-fried potatoes back, complaining that they were too thick, too “soggy,” and/or not salted well enough. Frustrated, Crum personally sliced several potatoes extremely thin, fried them to a crisp, and seasoned them with extra salt. To Crum’s surprise, the customer loved them and soon came to be called “Saratoga Chips”. Food history truly appreciates Crum’s customer Cornelius Vanderbilt for triggering the innovation.

Since then packaging and production took over the regular potato chips to a mass commercial enterprise. In United Kingdom and Ireland, “Potato Chips” are referred to as “crisps” when eaten at room temperature, while when served hot and fried are “chips”. But in many places, largely these terminologies are interchangeable and not very specific.

“Did you know that when potatoes go to the barbers, they can either have a straight cut, a crinkle cut or a slice?” Anthony T. Hincks

The mass popularity of “potato chips” is evidenced by the regional varieties as well as local flavours and seasonings like dill pickle, ketchup. red paprika and so on. Additional variants like potato sticks, also known as shoestring potatoes; baked potato chips have been marketed. The “chips” craze has also been spread to corn, rice, arrowroot or cassava as well as root vegetables like carrots, parsnips and rutabagas. Though not known as chips, but crisps in some places, the snacking options are varied and plentiful.

“Every potato is just a chip waiting to get out.” Anthony T. Hincks

One can be quite innovative with potato crisps, besides having them direct from the packet, they can be tossed into salads or crushed to make spicy mixes for “party snacks”, as “chaats”, sandwich fillers “sweet, sour or spicy and hot” and the like.  Though not advisable on a regular basis, “potato chips” are here to stay. Better late than never, what better to celebrate “National Potato Chip Day” (March 14th) by indulging in a couple of them. As they say, all good things come in small packages; keeping “potato chips” in moderation would help us in indulging these cravings for snacking once in a while, for a longer time.

Posted in Daily, Food, Stories Around the World

Of Noodle, Origin, Evolution and Style

“Noodles are not only amusing but delicious.” ~ Julia Child

Derived from the German word “Nudel”, noodles has been one of the earliest staple food for many civilizations. Made from unleavened dough which is stretched, extruded or rolled flat and cut into a variety of shapes,as long thin strips or strings to waves, helices, tubes, strings or shells to mention a few.  Often pan fried or deep fried, they can be made from wheat, rice, buckwheat, acorn meal and even seaweed.

The oldest historical mention of noodles are in the Chinese records as per a book dated to the eastern Han dynasty (25 to 220 BC). Archaeological evidence unearthed an earthenware bowl that contained 4000-year-old noodles at the Lajia, China. These noodle were said to resemble “lamian”, which are a type of Chinese noodle that is made by repeatedly pulling and stretching the dough by hand. In fact records show that the earliest Chinese noodles, don’t appear as strands of dough but were shaped into little bits, formed from bread dough and thrown into a wok of boiling water. This type of noodles, known as “mian pian” is still eaten in modern day China.

The udon (wheat noodles) of Japan were adapted from the Chinese by Buddhist monks. Across Europe and Near East, records mention about fried sheets of dough called lagana ( first century BC). Greek and Latinized itrium refer to homogenous mixture of flour and water, boiled in the case of the latter. The Jerusalem Talmud (fifth century A.D.) mentions itrium. Arabs adapted the form to a string-like pasta, “itriyya” made of semolina and dried before cooking. Regional specializations of noodles and pasta began, with concrete information traced back to 13th and 14th century Italy. Since then on, pasta as well as noodles have been globalized.

Various varieties have been present globally, forming the staple diet of many local cuisines. While in China, chefs pull the thinnest of noodles, “la mian”, bathing them in a long-simmering beef soup with chili, coriander and crumbles of meat. Whereas, “Spätzle” egg noodles are the highlight in Germany and the Alps and Italy delicate thin sheets of spinach noodles are rolled out, baked with bolognese and bechemel sauce. The Indian cuisine has its’ own rice noodles, “idiyappam” and Thai cusine have their “Khanom chin”.

Bake it, chill or fry them, or toss them along with rice after boiling them, noodles can be simple and basic or artsy and innovative, the choice is ours. Little wonder why then march 11th has been celebrated as “Eat your Noodles” Day by foodimentarians globally.

“I wouldn’t exactly call it ‘cooking’ but I can make noodles. That means I can boil water, put the pasta in and wait until it’s done.” ~ Devon Werkheiser

Posted in Daily, Food

Delights of “Oreo”daphne

The first week of March is awaited by foodimentarians globally, from peanut butter to banana cream pie and ending with pound cake, cheese doodles, Oreo and cereal; there is absolutely nothing better to start and end the week with. At least one favourite of each person is there to indulge in, as part of observing the food holidays.

“Health food may be good for the conscience but Oreos taste a hell of a lot better.” Robert Redford

One of the most favored foods (for comfort or mini-sized treats) Nabisco’s “Oreo” have taken the world by storm. Interestingly, the origin of the word “oreo” (cookies or biscuits) can be traced to the French word “or” (means gold) or “ωραίο” from Greek meaning tasty, beautiful, nice or well done. Or from the Latin Oreodaphne, a genus of the laurel family evidenced by the design of “the laurel wreath” on the cookies, as noted by food writer Stella Parks.

From the on, Oreo biscuits to pancakes, cakes, sandwiches and ice-cream have been on the food trends, landing its’ own special place on the table, ranging from breakfast, snacks to desserts.

For an interesting “kid or adult” twist to the routine, add oreo crumbs and cheese doodles to pancake batter, cereal or cake, ice-cream or simply milk and enjoy a “foodimentarian” week of desserts or mini-treats and splurge.

Posted in Daily, Food

Being Chocolaty, Peanuts

“‘Peanuts’ is a life-long influence, going back to before I could even read.” Adrian Tomine

1 package semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate chopped
Salted peanuts, no skin
Both ingredients in equal measure.

Taxonomic classified as Arachis hypogaea, popularly known as groundnuts, goober, monkey nuts or peanuts (not the comic strip); they are a favored snack among all ages. With the above ingredients, there’s nothing more befitting than experimenting in a little mix of the all time favourites; i.e. chocolate and peanuts.

“Chocolate is one of the world’s most beloved discoveries, and when we need a quick boost of energy and endorphins, chocolate is the go-to treat.” Marcus Samuelsson

Commercially chocolate coated peanuts ere earliest sold and marketed under the brand ‘Goobers” in 1925. Later other companies like M & M’s too made them. Interestingly, the name “Goober” is probably derived from the Gullah language (African Americans who live in the Low-country region of the U.S. states of Georgia and South Carolina), word guber (meaning “peanut”), which is in turn derived from the KiKongo (or Kongo) word n’guba. Keeping with the rising vegan trend, “Vegan chocolate-coated peanuts” are made of non-refined sugar, cocoa mass, cocoa butter and vanillin.

Being all time snack and culinary favourite; peanuts can be artfully and tastefully served as “ants on a log”, the traditional roasted “chikki”, deep fried or coated and roasted, or the all time sauce thickener to bring a change to the regular stew and curry ( Kare-kare, mirchi ka salan, peanut chutney). With winter drawing to a close and the peanut season coming to an end, there’s nothing better to celebrate the end of the season than with “peanuts”.

“Ants on a log : a snack made by spreading peanut butter, cream cheese, ricotta cheese or any number of spreads on celery and placing raisins on top”

Posted in Daily, Food

The “Snack” Cravings

“The road to enlightenment is long and difficult, and you should try not to forget snacks and magazines.” Anne Lamott

No matter how old we grow, there’s always time to grab a snack in between, either when still or on the go. Remember the childhood treat of “cookies or biscuits and milk”, “vada with chai” or “fritters after school” and so on, with the best being around the “midnight ice-cream or chocolate teat”. As time moved on and we grew up, “snacking” became a must especially during college, university and struggling between jobs when cooking a full meal was a rarity. Slowly as the years evolved, being healthy declined and we got out of shape, “snacking” became a struggle for the mind and body between “should I or should I not.”

“Some people wonder why they can’t have faith for healing. They feed their body three hot meals a day, and their spirit one cold snack a week.” F. F. Bosworth

From childhood and school days, the focus has been on having three healthy meals a day; the occasional decline in the sugar levels as well as the temptation of the taste buds prompted the occasional snack. On a scientific note, research has recommended that “small snacks” does indeed life up the metabolism, boosting mental work and triggers satiety. On the other hand, as we overdo it; the scales tip and we find ourselves in a continuous cycle of frustration and over-snacking.

“Everyone I know is looking for solace and a tasty snack.” Maira Kalman

Yet the balance between “healthy and unhealthy snacking” is very fine. Keeping all snacks portion controlled, mixed range and on balanced nutrient density helps us to continue snacking on “legal celery sticks and granola bars” as well as the “delicious cheesy pretzels and chocolate rich gooey globs of goodness” for some occasions. Sticking to “wise snacking”, varied options and balancing between both, keeps the interlude between the three meals interesting not just for the palate but creativity, mind, mood, emotions, body and soul; making “happy snacking” a trend.

“All of life is a continuous state of wonder interrupted by bedtime and light snacks.” Joyce Rachelle

Posted in Daily, Food, Stories Around the World

Nutella from Gianduja

Sugar, Modified Palm Oil, Hazelnuts, Cocoa, Skimmed Milk Powder, Whey Powder, Lecithin and Vanillin.

The correct proportion of the above ingredients with “some plus and minus” gives the final “new-tell-uh” or as written as “Nutella”, gluten free, Kosher but not vegan.

The origin of Nutella can be traced to the Piedmont chocolatiers of Italy who had made blocks of chocolate. With the Napoleanic Wars and shortage of chocolate; chocolatiers of Turin added chopped hazelnuts to the chocolate trying to stretch the supply. Thus was born the “gianduja”, a fateful paste. Later on with the World Wars and high expense with scarcity of chocolate; Pietro Ferrero an Italian pastry maker made the “Pasta Gianduja” a block of cocolate laced with hazelnut which was made spreadable as a creamy version “Supercrema Gianduja” over the years. In 1954, it was rechristened as “Nutella”.

The versatility of Nutella being used as a spread is not confined to bread alone but to a variety of crepes, drinks and so on. Adding Nutella to the recipe gets the creativity into flow and new food art takes shape. Simply delicious, this calorie laden treat should be indulged in high moderation. Although nutella has a fair share of hazelnuts, this choclate spread is calorie laden and not to be on the regular menu for weight watchers, diabetics and the like. The old adage that “all things are better enjoyed in moderation” holds specially true in this case.

Today various brands like “Cadbury’s Dairymilk”, “Pilsbury” as well as similar spreads like “Nocilla”, “Nugatti” and so on have stormed the chocolate world. Yet Nutella still retains its’ special position on the shelves and breakfast table.

Posted in Daily, Food

Of Crescent and Croissants

“You are going to have to take the rest of these croissants to work with you, I cannot be trusted alone in the house with a half-dozen buttery, crispy pillows of deliciousness.” Stacey Ballis

These fluffy, light and inviting goodness has now and then replaced the regular doughnut or bagel sessions with coffee or tea, often earning themselves a very special spot on most cafe’ menus. The croissant, a buttery, flaky, viennoiserie pastry although most popularized through the French cuisine, is of Austrian origin, named for its historical crescent shape. Made of a layered yeast-leavened dough by a technique known as laminating almost similar to the making of a puff pastry.

Most culinary experts declare the ancestor of the croissant to be “the kipferl”, a traditional Austrian yeast based roll made as early as 13th century in varied shapes, plain or filled with nuts and the like. Although the true origin of “kipferl” is not known, it is believed to be based on the “feteer halali”, a flaky crescent-shaped Egyptian pastry that is a version of the “feteer meshaltet” pastry known since their ancient times. Essentially it all boils down to dough and yeast, one of the better versions of the good old bread.

“Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods; and good bread with fresh butter, the greatest of feasts.” James Beard

As with most popular food fads of today, croissants have their own culinary legends surrounding it. One legend was that they were invented to celebrate the defeat of the Umayyad forces by the Franks at the Battle of Tours in 732 in Europe, with the shape representing the Islamic crescent. Whereas some say that it was invented in Buda; or, according to other sources, in Vienna in 1683 to celebrate the defeat of the Ottomans by Christian forces as they laid siege of the city. The shape of croissants was a tribute by the bakers as a reference to the crescents on the Ottoman flags, for these bakers staying up all night heard the tunneling operation and sounded the alarm.

“”Croissant”: However you choose to pronounce it at home, it is perhaps worth nothing that outside the United States, the closer you can come to saying “kwass-ohn,” the sooner you can expect to be presented with one.” Bill Bryson

Croissants has their own family of cousins with the Italian cornetto or brioche, Spanish cuerno, the Turkish ay çöregi to list a few. Handmade or readily available in the grocery, croissants have made their mark. As the years progressed, their fillings grew more interesting leading to the birth of “croissan’wich”. As time goes on, so will the art of croissants be more diverse and varied.