You are currently browsing the monthly archive for August 2008.

  • Celery has negative calories.  It takes more calories to eat a piece of celery than the celery has in it to begin with.


  • Honey is believed to be the only food that does not spoil.  Honey found in the tombs of Egyptian pharaohs has been tasted by archaeologists and found to still be edible.


  • Cheese closes the stomach and should always be served at the end of a meal.


  • Peanuts are salted in the shell by boiling them in a heavily salted solution, then allowing them to dry.


  • The canning process for herring was developed in Sardinia, which is why canned herrings are better known as sardines.


  • A quarter of raw potato placed in each shoe at night will keep the leather soft and the shoes smelling fresh and clean.


  • Pineapples are classified as berries.


  • Milk is actually considered to be a food and not a beverage.


  • The table fork was introduced into England in 1601. Until then people would eat with their knives, spoons or fingers. When Queen Elizabeth first used a fork, the clergy went ballistic. They felt it was an insult to God not to touch meat with one’s fingers.


  • The Mai Tai cocktail was created in 1945 by Victor Bergeron, the genius of rum, also known as Trader Vic. The drink got its name when he served it to two friends from Tahiti, who exclaimed “Maitai roa ae!,” which in Tahitian means “Out of this world – the best!”


  • Before Columbus, Europe had never tasted cord, potatoes, tomatoes, red peppers, sweet potatoes, tapioca, chocolate, pumpkins, squash, coconuts, pineapples, strawberries, and much more.  Why?  All these food items are native to America.


  • The cashew nut in its natural state contains poisonous oil.  Roasting removes the oil and makes the nuts safe to eat.


  • Although explorers brought potatoes back from the New World in the early 1500s, Europeans were afraid to eat them for fear that the spuds would give them leprosy.  It wasn’t until Louis XVI, who was looking for a cheap food source for his starving subjects, served them at the royal table that people were convinced potatoes were safe to eat.


  • In the Middle Ages, chicken soup was believed to be an aphrodisiac.


  • There is no alcohol left in food that’s cooked with wine.  The alcohol evaporates at 172 degrees Fahrenheit.


  • Cabbage is 91% water.


  • The strawberry is the only agricultural product that bears its seeds on the outside.


  • It takes, on average, 345 squirts from a cow’s udder to yield one gallon of milk.


  • Ever wonder how Swiss cheese is made? As the cheese ferments, a bacterial action generates gas. As the gas is liberated, it bubbles through the cheese, leaving all those holes.


  • Cheese is the oldest of all man-made foods.


  • The white part of an egg is called the glair

The other day C came visiting. Being an Australian I assumed he would like the occasional beer on a warm summer evening. So when pat came his response ‘I don’t drink alcohol’ I was taken aback. Turns out he belongs to a Christian order which prohibits the consumption of alcohol, pork, all kinds of shellfish and any form of work on a Saturday.


Now I belong to a family which eats pretty much everything under the sun (though I am impartial to sushi much to A’s dismay!). So when I hear individuals say that I don’t eat so and so because my religion does not permit me, it amazes me. Does God really care about the dietary habits of roughly six billion people who live on this earth (and I’m not even counting the rest of the universe)?


It is commonly believed that Indians are vegetarian, but in reality almost 60% of the country’s population eats meat products in some form or the other. And though Hindus abstain from beef, I also know of several (including Tamil Brahmins!) who love a nice juicy steak. I have also heard of Mormons avoiding caffeinated beverages, Jewish laws restricting consumption of certain dairy products and fish, Islamic ‘Haram’ foods like frozen vegetables with sauce, some margarines and even bread or bread products that contain dried yeast. And I won’t even get into Buddhist eating practices which I have written about at length here.


I have often toyed with the idea of becoming a practising Epicurean. Epicureanism is a philosophy founded in 307 AD by Greek philosopher Epicurus. He advocated a lifestyle which derived the greatest pleasure possible during one’s lifetime, though in moderation to avoid the suffering incurred by overindulgence. The emphasis was placed on pleasures of the mind rather than on those physical. Therefore, according to Epicurus, with whom a person eats is of greater importance than what is eaten.


My question is therefore does it really matter to God what one eats? Or will we have to produce a list of all the things we have eaten in our lifetime on Judgment Day?

My vacation evenings were normally spent with my left balancing a book, my nose stuck right inside it and my right hand breaking off a part of a spicy fish chop. The Macher Chop, as called in Bengali, was bought from a shop near my house. My favorite was with the fish stuffing though one could also buy with egg or mutton. I can still taste the hot, tangy, sweet and salty flavor of the mashed fish mixed with potatoes and dressed up with hot green chillies.


Though the long periods of time away from home have dulled the memory of the chops over the years, last week the thought came back to me in a rush and I have been craving them ever since. So last evening I decided to stop on my way home and buy some. I remembered the shop as a small hole in the wall with one guy dividing his time between tending to his customers and frying the bread crumb rolled chops in a wide cauldron of boiling oil. Yesterday I saw that liberalization has touched him too. His little hole in the wall is now a large shop with blazing lights and he has two young helpers to serve the huge coterie of customers waiting impatiently for their turn.


Reaching home, I hastily bit into the chop and savored the still rich taste of the fish stuffing. The outside was crispy brown and the inside crumbly with a hint of coriander, chillies and onions, just the way I remembered it. Typically, memories of food taste better in our mind than the present reality. This time, however, my memory served me right.