Posted in Daily, Food

Flavoured Hot and Spicy

“Great cooking is about being inspired by the simple things around you – fresh markets, various spices. It doesn’t necessarily have to look fancy.” G. Garvin

The Latin root “spec” became Old French of espice or epice, what we now commonly call as “spice”. Add to it the original Nahuatl “chilli” of today and voila, we are ready for the International Hot and Spicy Food Day tomorrow. The origins of both happened quite exclusive of each other, although when we blend the hot and spicy, a whole new palatal feast is experienced.

“Once you get a spice in your home, you have it forever. Women never throw out spices. The Egyptians were buried with their spices. I know which one I’m taking with me when I go.” Erma Bombeck

Spice trade had developed in Middle East, South and East Asia as early as 2000 BCE with predominant use of cinnamon, black pepper and herbs. As the Egyptians practised mummification, the constant demand for imported spices and herbs kept the “spice trade” alive. The earliest written records from the Egyptian, Chinese and Indian cultures connect spices with magic, medicine, religion and tradition. On the other hand, capsicum and chilli peppers were originally in wide spread use in the Americas primarily, Central and South America as well as Mexico around 6000 to 7500 years ago. With the advent of Portuguese trade and spread of the chilli peppers to Asia around the 15th century, the cooking of hot and spicy food took onto newer shores.

“A good spicy challenge strikes a balance between flavour and fear.” Adam Richman

For every food enthusiast, celebrating ” International Hot and Spicy Food Day” ( January 16th) is different every year as each spicy cuisine ranging from the Indian masala to spicy Mexican tortas or Vietnamese Bun bo Hue to Cajun cooking and so on; no cuisine mimics the taste of the other. As for those who have been challenged to enter the hot and spicy waters on this day, keeping the spice to low numbers as per the Scoville scale ( the spiciness or heat scale) helps to ace the test. An additional tip would be to keep starch rich food like bread or “naan” with cold water to combat the heat and spice. Hot and spicy can be tuned to one’s own taste bud, for the beauty lies in experience, experimentation, fun and art of cooking and dining.

“From a young age, I understood the idea of balanced flavor – the reason you put ketchup on a hamburger. I was that kid who wouldn’t eat something if there was something missing. I never really understood it until I began cooking professionally, balancing acids, sweets, spicy flavors and fat.” Michael Mina

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Posted in Daily, Food

Origin of “Curry”

On experimenting with various recipes, one interesting fact I had realized that there are so many things about “curry” that we take for being true or ascertained facts, when they may not be so.

Curry applies to dishes with gravy, spicy origins and can range to a variety of South Asian as well as South East Asian dishes, based on the type of spices. Curry technically is not a word actually used in most vernacular Indian languages. Each of the Indian states have their own terminology for “curry” ranging from “shaak” of Gujarat to “saaru” in Karnataka and “jhol” of Bangal. Historians noted that the word had been into common use when the British had tasted and brought the South Asian dishes to the west.

Curry is not a spice but a mixture of spices (often sold grounded as curry powder, mostly of turmeric, cumin, coriander, chilli and ginger) which can used with a variety of vegetables or meat, even seafood to make a variety of dishes, each having their own name in the region. Depending on the addition of water, milk or even curd, the base can be liquid or kept dry.

Curry powder has been one of the world’s oldest medicinal and cooking mixtures ranging back to Mesopotamian era (1700 BC). Although the roots of curry powder may be traced to Asia, documents and books on English cooking as early as 1300s mention the use of this concoction.

“Curreier” vs. “kari” The word “curry” has different meanings when used as a verb and noun. The Vulgar Latin “conredare”, Middle English “currayen” or Old French word “correier” had given roots to the Anglo-French “curreier” which later gave rise to the verb of “currying” meaning to seek favour by flattery or attention. Whereas, the noun “curry” was derived from Tamil “kari” (or a cognate word in a Dravidian language) as states in the Marrian-Webster dictionary. Another derivation I had read online was that the word curry was derived from a South-Asian word “Kori”; a sauce with cooked meat or fish.

Another reasoning behind everything “stew based being called curry” was based on the first English cookbook. In the 1300?s, King Richard II had summoned several cooks and philosophers to produce the first English cookery book known as ‘The Forme of Cury’ (1390). The old English word “Cury” was used to describe cuisine based on French ‘cuire’ meaning: to cook, boil or grill. The word “Cury” became associated with stew.

Either way, “curry” has come a long way especially with the advent of trade and later on travel, led to the exchange of cuisines, culinary ideas as well mixing of flavours with local available ingredients. Soon the indigenous recipes became globalized. Whichever dish it may be especially today as National Curried Chicken Day (January 12th); for an exotic, spicy and different blend of curried chicken; try making the sauce with ghee (clarified butter), onions, garlic, cumin, coriander, cinnamon and turmeric powder with a dash of ginger or just add the right amount of “curry powder” and get the taste buds going.

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

Where Did The Time Go

One of the most sought after requirement for doing any task, buying any gadget or engaging in any short term or long term event is either “quick or fast or rapid or time-saving.” The modern era relies on saving or using time to do as much as possible, to the extent of forgetting that time like all other gifts of nature can’t be saved but only prioritized.

“The supposed great misery of our century is the lack of time.” John Fowles

For time is getting less day by day. We don’t have enough time to read books or newspapers, to write long letters that people once wrote to each other. We struggle to make time to love, communicate with our family and friends, simply talk to our children or even to admire the sunsets and sunrises or just mindlessly walk through the fields and woods. Where did all the time go? Where did this growing trouble of “less time” come from? We do everything in our power to save time, yet it is never enough.

“Quit saying you don’t have time. You have time for what you make time for in life.” Bryant H. McGill

To find time, is not easy but possible. If we take it upon ourselves to enlist our schedule for a week or even a day, we can figure out where the time went. After that, it is up to us to cut off activities that take up our precious hours and leave us with more headaches than ever. The inner query of “do I really need to do this” helps a lot. For instance, checking our email, Facebook or Instagram every hour, news by every hour (unless it is a professional requirement), numerous hours of television doesn’t really help us grow.

“Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have twenty-four hour days.” Zig Ziglar

We need to find time to manifest ourselves, the nature around us, our abilities, plans and dreams. Tracking down what is important is needed because once gone, time never returns but only moves forward.

Posted in Daily, Food, Photography Art

Oatmeal Art

“The oat is the Horatio Alger of cereals, which progressed, if not from rags to riches, at least from weed to health food.” Waverley Root, ‘Food’ (1980)

From being a weed, oats has been transformed to being one of the essential health foods, so much so as to declare January as the month of oatmeal as per “foodimentarians”. From its’ origin as early as 3000 years ago, oats were a common occurrence among the cultivation of other crops. Greeks and Romans considered oats to be a diseased form of wheat. Though most of the Scottish and the Germanic tribes would disagree with that thought.

Slowly over the years, oats has been embraced as a part of dining, especially for breakfast. The slow acceptance can be attributed to the fact that oats was and still is a primary fodder as pasturage and hay crops especially for cattle and horses. Additionally oats can turn rancid pretty quickly if not processed immediately after harvesting.

It truly amazes me all the things you can add and mix in to truly transform a plain old bowl of oatmeal. Ayesha Curry

Nevertheless the acceptance of oats especially as oatmeal (made of hulled oat grains, groats which have either been milled or ground, steel-cut or rolled) is on the rise. From the least to most processed oatmeal can be prepared from oat groats or whole oats, oat bran, steel cut (Irish) oats, rolled oats ( known as old fashioned oats), quick oats as well as instant oats and oat flour. From simple oatmeal to protein bars, brownies, oatmeal bread and cakes; the experimentation with oats is endless.

Oats are great – you can make meatloaf and use oats instead of bread as the binder, or you can make oatmeal cookies, my husband’s favorite. Ree Drummond

Besides being wonderful art decor for foodists, oats can be mixed with an “n” number of ingredients to make weird combination like oats dosa, oats and chicken salads, oats “upma”, to shakshuka, medley of vegetable or meat and even into stuffed bell peppers or spicy seasoned stuffed bitter-gourds. Try an online search, there would be numerous recipes including the addition of oats.

There is no doubt that some plant food, such as oatmeal, is more economical than meat, and superior to it in regard to both mechanical and mental performance. Such food, moreover, taxes our digestive organs decidedly less, and, in making us more contented and sociable, produces an amount of good difficult to estimate. Nikola Tesla

Posted in Daily, Food, Stories Around the World

Egg-nog for Holidays

“The armored infantry was Santa Claus, the battle was out Christmas. What else for the elves to do on Christmas Eve but to let their hair down and drink a a little eggnog.” Hiroshi Sakurazaka

Being Christmas today, the night vigil and celebrations can be drawn to a close by the noon or evening “Christmas” dinner. Along with the regular stuffing of bird or meat, pies closed by pudding and cake; unless the dinner is graced with egg-nog, it will feel like something missing.

Historically also known as milk punch or egg-milk punch, egg-nog or eggnog is a rich dairy based beverage served chilled, sweetened of either alcoholic (brandy,rum,whisky or bourbon) or non-alcoholic variety. Starting with etymology, among the various versions; eggnog is said to be derived from an Old English word for strong beer. Another possibility states that it was derived from noggin, a word for a small cup that was first known to be used as 1588; whereas some attribute the name to Colonial America where colonists referred to thick drinks as grogs and eggnog was widely known as egg-and-grog.

Traditionally made with milk, cream, sugar, whipped egg whites and egg yolks; eggnog is primarily a Christmas time drink whose origins are still debated. By popular consensus, culinary historians believe that eggnog originated from the early medieval British drink known as posset. Made with hot milk, curdled with wine or ale and flavoured with spices; posset was often used as a cold and flu remedy during the Middle ages. Later on eggs were added to the recipe and monks were believed to enjoy posset of eggs and figs. Then on, various adaptations were made to the ingredients depending on the local availability, flavours and tastes of those times. With colonization, travel and cultural mixing; eggnog has gained widespread popularity becoming synonymous with the Christmas time cocktails, dinners and parties.

Eggnog is often homemade using milk, eggs, sugar and flavorings; served with cinnamon or nutmeg. Although often served chilled, on particularly cold days it’s served warm. Additionally eggnog flavouring may also be added to other beverages like coffee ( as an “eggnog latte” espresso), tea and also to dessert foods such as egg-custard puddings and even ice-cream.

Ode to Eggnog
(Author Unknown)

If you see a fat man, who’s jolly and cute,
wearing a beard and a red flannel suit;

And if he is chuckling and laughing away,
while flying around in a miniature sleigh;

With eight tiny reindeer to pull him along;
Then – let’s face it – Your eggnog’s too strong!!

Posted in Daily, Family and Society, Quotes, Random Thoughts, Stories Around the World

Helping Hands

“Non nobis solum nati sumus. (Not for ourselves alone are we born.)” Marcus Tullius Cicero

The difference between each person lies in their behaviour, outlook, attitude and approach to life. While collectively we can label one group “selfish” and the other group “kind”, the difference between both is well illustrated in the story below.

Chopsticks

A woman who had worked all her life to bring about good was granted one wish: “Before I die let me visit both hell and heaven.” Her wish was granted. She was whisked off to a great banqueting hall. The tables were piled high with delicious food and drink. Around the tables sat miserable, starving people as wretched as could be. “Why are they like this?” she asked the angel who accompanied her. “Look at their arms,” the angel replied. She looked and saw that attached to the people’s arms were long chopsticks secured above the elbow. Unable to bend their elbows, the people aimed the chopsticks at the food, missed every time and sat hungry, frustrated and miserable. “Indeed this is hell! Take me away from here!” She was then whisked off to heaven. Again she found herself in a great banqueting hall with tables piled high. Around the tables sat people laughing, contented, joyful. “No chopsticks I suppose,” she said. “Oh yes there are. Look – just as in hell they are long and attached above the elbow but look… here people have learnt to feed one another”.

Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, you’ll find one at the end of your arm… As you grow older you will discover that you have two hands. One for helping yourself, the other for helping others. Audrey Hepburn

One of the simplest things in life is to lend a hand. On some occasions we hesitate doing so without knowing the complete picture, for fear of the repercussions in the society and world, where we can held accountable even if innocent. On those instances, only our gut instincts can help us. Yet in other scenarios, we tend to be lazy and keep our hands buried in our pockets or under the blankets. Ironically we realize our mistakes only when we need help desperately. Helping hands doesn’t have to start big. Even small gestures like cleaning the room, helping an old lady at the grocer’s, giving up a seat in the bus for elders or pregnant mothers, mowing the lawn without being told to do so are all be simple acts to initiate the feel of being helpful. After all, There has to be a purpose of the creation of two hands.

“Somewhere along the way, we must learn that there is nothing greater than to do something for others.” Martin Luther King Jr.

Posted in Christian, Family and Society, Stories Around the World

Countdown to Christmas

“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas;
Soon the bells will start,
And the thing that will make them ring
Is the carol that you sing
Right within your heart.” ~ Meredith Willson, “It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas”

With carols in the air and knitted stockings labelled and hung up, the countdown to Christmas begins. Tuning to the “Nine Lessons and Carols” which tells of the birth of Christ and the carol stories; carols have been an early accepted part of Christmas celebrations.

 

Derived from Old French “carole”, the word Carol actually means dance or a song of praise and joy. Although carols used to be written and sung during yer round, only the tradition of singing them at Christmas has really survived. During the early years of Christianity, the songs of the pagan solstice celebrations for Christmas were reworded with songs from the Bible. As time progressed and vernacular language of carols along with plays had set, carols gained wide popularity during the Christmas season. These days carols have become an essential part and parcel of Christmastime and a major time for meeting, singing, rejoicing, praising and celebrating.

While we busy ourselves with the songs and plays, decorating homes and trees, shopping spree, sending the express parcels and orders and wrapping presents; bringing everyone including family, friends, colleagues, acquaintances and communities together is what gives the season its’ real meaning. To quote Harlan Miller, “I wish we could put up some of the Christmas spirit in jars and open a jar of it every month.”