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  • 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?

F likes eating with all the accoutrements of the western world. This means he likes his fork, spoon and knife and he will not let go of this even in the face of adverse circumstances like eating off a (totally flat) banana leaf or eating fish which is so packed with bones that it’s hard to come out alive. The degree of eccentricity can be gauged when one sees him at the dinner table picking away at a buttered roti with a knife and fork for more than a couple of hours and the rest of us are on our way back home.

 

Like F, many westerners who travel to countries where people eat with their fingers, like Iran or India, are squeamish about letting their fingers do the work for them. I have seen young Europeans struggle on with the forefinger and the thumb of BOTH hands with very entertaining results. Sometimes I wonder what all the fuss is about. Most countries have eaten some food or the other with their fingers. Japanese sushi, Arabic falafel, Mexican tortillas, Spanish tapas, the list is endless. In the court of Roman Emperor Hadrian the food was served on low tables and Romans helped themselves to the food with their fingers.

 

A billion Indians will tell you, the best and probably the only way to enjoy your tikka and curries is with your fingers. All you have to do is wash your hands and dig in. We are programmed to finger-eat for god’s sake.

hag·gis – noun Chiefly Scot. A traditional pudding made of the heart, liver, etc., of a sheep or calf, minced with suet and oatmeal, seasoned, and boiled in the stomach of the animal. 

 

S gave me a can of Haggis last weekend and has been checking with me since to see if it has been consumed. So this morning I decided that now was the time to do so. At first I was at a loss as to how the damn thing should be heated. I had to pry the wrapping off the can to get to the instructions on the reverse side. This is how it looked.

 

 

After much tribulation I managed to get the casing too off the Haggis (which was sealed with little metal clasps) and heated it in the microwave for four minutes (as specified). I then put the meat on buttered toast with cheese.

 

My first reaction was that I can taste the bread and I can taste the cheese but why can I not taste the Haggis. The reason being that the substance is largely tasteless. Maybe my gustatory system is not working as well as I would like it to but the fact of the matter is that it IS rather insipid.

 

The bit of Haggis that was gifted to me had venison liver as the primary ingredient. Although there are many recipes, it is normally made with sheep’s ‘pluck’ (heart, liver, and lungs), minced with onion, oatmeal, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, and traditionally boiled in the animal’s stomach for approximately an hour. Truth be told, the only thing I could taste was the oatmeal. The instructions ask you to eat it with mashed potatoes and turnip (or neeps and tatties as the Scots say), or on toast (as I did) or mix it up with whisky and serve with a generous portion of fresh cream. I strongly doubt anything can augment a taste which does not exist in the first place.

Interestingly, Haggis is still very much a part of everyday Scottish life. So much so that Haggis Hurling is a popular sport with a World Haggis Hurling Championship which is held each year. The challenge is to hurl the haggis as far as possible for distance and accuracy from atop a platform (usually a whisky barrel). A split or burst haggis is immediately disqualified (in keeping with its ‘historical’ roots that the haggis must be fit to eat).

 

Currently the import of Haggis into the USA is illegal. If only it were the same with Asian countries. 

When I was in college and living away from home my friends and I spent a bulk of our time feeling hungry. Finances were scarce and I did not have my own transport so whatever was consumed had to be substantial, within spitting distance and cheap as hell.

 

And so we discovered the joys of hostel cooking. In this post I shall introduce you to two dishes.

 

CRISPY TOAST

Please note that this method of making toast does not require a toaster or fire. It instead needs an iron. Yes, the kind you iron your clothes with. Spread butter evenly on a slice of bread (preferably fresh). Switch on the iron and turn the knob till it reads ‘Cotton’. Gently lay the buttered bread on top and hear it sizzle. Turn over after a minute.

 

PS: My roommate and I had a dedicated iron which was used purely for toast making purposes.

 

INSTANT NOODLES

This preparation does not need fire or even an electric kettle. It does need a modern bathroom. You ask why? Beeecaaauuuse a modern bathroom has a geyser, which in turn has piping hot water. Need I say more?

 

 

Disgusting you say? A necessity, when you are a poor student.

Someone wise said that it is a pleasure to give advice, humiliating to need it, normal to ignore it.


Some of us (classically ME) tend to ignore the smaller instructions in life while concentrating on the larger more complicated ones. So when I set out to cook Lamb Biryani last Sunday, I followed the instructions right down to the last inch of a cinnamon stick.

 

I parboiled the fine Basmati rice with whole Indian spices and peppercorns with the precision of a honed surgeon. I cooked the tender lamb with tomato and onions, soaked the saffron in warm milk (43.5 degree centigrade) and fried the onions to the specified colour of Burnt Umber (Yea, it’s a real colour). The mint leaves were torn and sandwiched between the layers of rice along with the lamb. The saffron was devotedly poured at regular intervals.

 

And then I went and made my only but fatal mistake. I chose the wrong utensil. I chose an elegant blue and black casserole with a clear cover, covered it with aluminum foil to seal the food in. What I failed to take note of was the fact that the instructions clearly said ‘prepare biryani in a heavy bottomed dish’. My casserole was perfect except that its bottom was rather thin (pardon for lack of a better phrase).

 

The result – My painstakingly prepared biryani looked fantastic, tasted pretty darn good but smelt like London during the Great Fire.