How Coffee Changed the World

I love this infographic and had to share with all of my followers.  I know that coffee changes my life everyday, but didn’t realize the impact it has had on the world as a whole.  The coffee culture has been a large impact on Americans for hundreds of years and this does a nice job of taking us through some of the highlights.

 Enjoy reading through this with your morning cup.

 

HowCoffeeChangedAmerica

Infographic credit: Lumin Interactive

Diversity Rediscovered

indian corn

 

We have all heard the term diversity a lot this week, but diversity is a word that most of us take for granted.  It’s a word that we have heard a lot about over the past few days, but most of us tend to forget what it truly means.  Sometimes it takes the small things in life to remind us just how important a word like this is.   It takes the small things like an assembly at your children’s school to really embrace and appreciate what the word means.  This is a word that we all learned as children and one that continues to be drilled into our children, but as adults we tend to forget.  We tend to go along with life and not think about how much diversity elevates our standard of life on this planet, but the huge role it plays for our survival as well.

As I gazed around the auditorium at my children’s assembly yesterday I realized just how important this word is.  It is not only the fabric from which we have built these United States of America, but it is also the guiding principle by which all of us live.  Most of us just don’t realize how dependent on diversity we are to survive on this planet.

First off, there is a diversity of the people on this earth.  Without these different kinds of people our world would be pretty damn boring.  Our family trees would be nothing more than a family branch.  We would all raise the same family, a family without an identity or personality.  We would all be stuck worshipping the same god, following the same path and making the same mistakes.  We would all be influenced by the same things and our lives would pretty much move along with little emotion or true sense of belonging.  There would be no jazz, there would be no rock ‘n roll, and there would be no hip-hop, just noise.  We need this diversity in order to evolve, to change and to adapt.  The one thing that is constant on this globe is “change” and unless we are able to embrace it we will all end up like the dinosaurs, buried for millions of years for someone else to come along and discover.

Next, think about the diversity of plants and animals on this planet.  Each plant and animal serves its own purpose.  Each uniquely designed to sustain the life chain it was created for and to ultimately support the higher level above it.  We take this diversity for granted in today’s genetically modified world and create strands of corn and wheat that can withstand drought, have higher yields and ultimately fight off insects.  We do all of this without a regard for what this single source solution will mean for the long run.

Genetically modified grains have been sited by some as the culprit to the large number of increased allergies to these products.  A study published by the National Center for Health Statistics division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that one out of every 25 children has a food allergy, representing about a 20% increase between 1997 to 2007.  There is no direct evidence that genetically modifed grains are the issue for this increased level of allergies,  but it does make one wonder.   It is funny, by manipulating this natural diversity and focusing on less variety we may have ultimately created more problems. 

Corn is a great example of what diversity truly means, the US Department of Agriculture’s Plant Introduction Station in Ames, Iowa holds 19,780 different samples or “accessions” of corn from around the world, but in the US we plant less than 100 varieties.  One of the most diverse and abundant commodities in the USA and we plant only plant less than 1/2% of these varieties on a large scale basis.    I think the Department of Agriculture needs to take a refresher course in diversity and survival.  Without diversity and change eventually bacteria, insects and other organisms will find a way to infect this also heavily genetically modified plant, plus just think about all the beautiful colors and flavorful varieties of corn that we are not being bale to enjoy.  We need to break the corn bank in Ames, IA and set corn free.

Now think about food.  Can you imagine if we all had to eat the same boring vanilla flavored mock every day?  Thank god there is chocolate, thank god there is strawberry, blueberry, peach caramel.  Thank god there is anise, cilantro, fennel, dill, oregano, basil.  Thank god there is Lager, Ale, Stout, Porter and finally thank god there is Cabernet, Merlot, Chardonnay, and Zinfandel.  I wake up everyday and I am thankful for bacon and all of the other amazing and unique flavors that make this world a beautiful place to live and eat.  We were all born with the sense to detect sweet, sour, salt, bitter and umami for a reason.  There is a reason why some of the most poisonous things on the planet taste bitter and some of the most nutritious are sweet or sour.  We are attracted to these different tastes and this unique culinary world we live allows us to taste a diverse array of dishes that once again makes this a diversely fabulous place to live.

Even in our diet we need to eat a diverse food selection in order to stay healthy and survive.  We need a balance of protein, carbohydrates, salt, vitamins and minerals to survive.  We need to eat a rainbow of diversely colored fruits and vegetables to get this ideal mix of minerals and vitamins to sustain a healthy existence.  Each color provides its own unique place into the human nutrition plan.  Without this color, without this diversity we would all not be able to survive and prosper.

So, as you sit back on this Wednesday morning pondering what you have to do for the rest of the week; take a minute and remember just how important diversity is to our existence.  It not only  makes us who we are, but it makes us be better than we ever could’ve imagined.  It makes us try new things; it makes us think in different ways; it makes us human.    As Americans we need to remember that diversity is the foundation of our country, but humans we need to remember that diversity is the key to life.  We need to embrace it.  We need to appreciate diversity and not try to modify or oppress it.  

Living and eating diversely will not only make life feel better, but taste better.

Three Things Indian Food Teaches Us About Life

File:Spices in an Indian market.jpg

Photo credit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Spices_in_an_Indian_market.jpg

Indian food is an amazing culinary experience.  The blending of spices, aroma and colors are enough to send your palette screaming for more while your stomach is telling you to stop immediately or there will be consequences.  After consuming my favorite dishes this afternoon I felt the need to share these tidbits of insight about how Indian food can teach us to realize the most basic and tackle the most complex things in life with the lift of a fork.

Life is intimidating, so dig in and enjoy it – Most people are intimidated by many things in life – your boss, the future, your friends, death, bullies, the government.  Whatever it is that makes us feel scared to try something new or fearful of the outcome, intimidation is a part of our daily lives.  This is same reason why I feel so many people in the US are scared to try Indian cuisine.  For some it is the color.  Too much is scary to some who are on the meat and potato diet.  For others it is the smell.  The vast array of spice and curry blends definitely have a funkiness about them that many run from, but that is what makes the flavor so damn good.  For a large amount of Americans I think it is the appearance.  The look of dishes like Saag Paneer with its toxic green spinach and cheese blocks is enough to make even the creamed spinach loyalists run for the exit.  However, when you get beyond the look of may Indian dishes, the ingredients flow perfectly together in culinary harmony.

In short, life isn’t roses and rainbows everyday and not all things you face are going to look or feel familiar.  You need to observe these differences, dig in and hope for the best.   You can only then reach true enlightenment and enjoy all of the beauty the world has to give.  You never know, you might just like it.

Variety is the spice to life so eat it up – Without variety the world would be a really boring place.  If people were exactly the same and food was simply fuel for the body we would not have a very exciting existence on this planet.   In my opinion, Indian food is probably the most exciting use of spice and color that you will ever find on your culinary journey around the world.  Even by utilizing the same core ingredients this cuisine is able to transform cauliflower or a cube of chicken into seventeen different varieties each unique in taste, appearance and aroma.  This is only possible by their mastery of understanding the marriage of different spices – anise, cumin, chilies, coriander, fenugreek, fennel, turmeric, curry, clove, ginger, tamarind, basil.  These are just a few in the arsenal of the Indian chef to build their masterpiece and despite having many different aroma’s and flavors they seem to blend them together perfectly in many dishes.  Curry is a great example of how a little variety can make even the same thing different and exciting.  There are hundreds of different recipes for curry, each with their own unique twist, but most recipes commonly starting with the foundation – coriander, turmeric, cumin, fenugreek, and red pepper.  From red, yellow and green varieties to garam masala and Madras curry blends the names and combinations are endless in a rainbow of color, flavor and aroma; all because of one simple word-variety.

This word keeps us young.  Variety keeps life exciting and makes us question the things that are normal to us.  Variety is the catalyst for change and without change you have complacency and eventual demise.  It is this use of spice and color that keeps me going back for more at the Indian buffet and waking up each and every day.  Embrace change and embrace variety because it creates the environment for people to be creative and think differently.  It showcases to even the most complacent individuals that there is more to life than hamburgers and French fries.

Eat fast, because it always tastes better when it’s hot – Hot Indian food that is supposed to be consumed hot is always 1000% better than if you let it sit and get cold.  For some reason the spices are not as sharp, the aroma is not as inviting and the texture is just plain nasty.  Just like life, you need to eat fast and take in as much as possible while you can.  You never know what challenge tomorrow will bring and what it will taste like.  Chances are it will taste a whole lot better today while it’s hot, than it will tomorrow when it has had time to cool down.  We often forget just how quickly life can fly by.  You have your plan; you get up and go to work, go through the motions and sometimes forget that life is going on around you.  

The only advice I have for this is scarf it down and enjoy every minute.  Don’t put off today what needs to be done, because it will only be that much worse tomorrow.  Enjoy every minute and every bite of food like it is your last.  There is no way that the world was created with so many different types of fruits, vegetables, spices, plants, nuts and fungus that we should not be enjoying each and every one. 

I know these are things that we all know, but we often fail to remember.  Because of our busy lifestyles we tend to forget just how important these three things are to keep us happy, motivated and excited.  Just like the trip to my favorite Indian restaurant in Dayton, Ajanta, I need to be reminded at each visit of this glorious experience and how life is always better after the colorful and flavorful journey I embarked on. 

Move on; eat well and live flavorful…

13 Things to Consume Before the Next End of the World

mayan_calendar

Photo: www.uta.edu/planetarium/astronomy-101/articles/doomsday-2012.php

 

Since we all lived through the Mayan apocalypse of 12/21/12 and made it to 2013, here is a list of 13 things you must consume before the next end of the world prediction.  These are a few of my favorite things on earth and begging for someone else to discover if you haven’t done so already.


1) Pork belly (or at least settle for some bacon) – either one of these belly busters (no pun intended) will provide a heavenly experience in how delicious fat can taste.  Yes, fat does have flavor.  Slightly sweet, oily, mouth coating with a hint of vanilla; pork belly can be an interesting addition to any dinner plate or appetizer tray.

Bacon of any type, flavor, shape or form is always a crowd pleaser.  This perfect marriage of fat, smoke and protein is simply delicious and can be put on or in anything to make it taste better.  Smokey notes with hints of applewood, hickory or cherry provide the perfect compliment to bacon’s fatty yumminess.

2) Samuel Smith’s Nut Brown Ale – an English ale with a lot of character.  A fresh nose, nutty and sweet middle and a lasting hoppy finish that doesn’t leave you parched by bitterness, but refreshed.  This delicious beverage is consumed best at room temperature and in a classic English ale style provides a masterpiece of malt and hops.

3) Sushi – preferably not from a gas station like in Bentonville, AR, but an actual Japanese restaurant.  I am not talking about a California roll, but real sushi.  The raw stuff.  Eel, tuna, salmon, squid, roe, anything that is slimy and gushy and makes you queasy in the knees.  Its unique texture is intriguingly disgusting, yet enjoyable.  The artistry that goes into most rolls is worth the price, even if you just plan to stare at it.

4) $7.50 cup of coffee (Sun-Dried Sumatra Rasuna) – I know it sounds ridiculous, but this $7.50 cup of coffee was well worth the wait and price.  It was gently massaged by hand through the one of a kind Clover machine at the Starbucks on Pike Street and turned out to be a truly romantic experience.  This fruity bouquet of cherry and dried fruit made my nose happily dance while a subtly strong hit of spiciness blew me away.

Coffee is one of those vices of mine that cries for me to satisfy every morning.  Some days are for the Keurig when in a hurry, but most days the French press is king.  Move over Maxwell House because I would trade an entire pound packed in your metal can for one sip of this delicious nectar.

5) Chicken & Dumplings (my Grandma Jewels recipe) – this was always a staple at the Sunday feast that my grandmother prepared.  It was a subtle bribe to all of us to visit knowing that we would see a stove of buttered corn, green beans and ham, corn bread, carrots and chicken and dumplings.  This all being cooked in bacon grease of course.  On top of the savory goodies was a fully functional orchestra of fudge, red velvet cake, chocolate cake with caramel icing and cookies galore, but nothing could compare to the dumplings.

Typically it involved butchering a fresh hen from the backyard and a morning worth of work, but it was a treat I will never forget and regret not learning how to make.  The soft and chewy, but fluffy buttermilk squares of heaven sitting in a bath of gravy and slow cooked chicken is a smell and taste that will always be embedded into my reptilian brain as the ultimate comfort food.

6) A Real Bagel (from a good Jewish deli) – The only place that I have been able to enjoy a truly authentic bagel is with my roommate in college from Long Island.  On multiple occasions I had the pleasure of being exposed at a young adult age to a New York bagel.  Not those imitations that are frozen or come from Ohio, but a chewy center, crusty tough outside that blends together in a doughy paradise.  When ordering, make sure to get the everything bagel with the rye seed to push it over the top of all time favorites.  Throw on some cream cheese and lox and now you are really ready to party.

7) Asian food – it doesn’t matter the region or culture, bring it on.  When I was growing up my idea of Chinese was the restaurant in my hometown that served sweet and sour chicken and wonton soup.  Luckily, with the emergence of Vietnamese, Thai, Japanese, Korean and other regional types popping up around the US we are able to enjoy lots of spices, recipes and traditions never imagined twenty years ago. They say that food is the spice of life, but I feel that spice is the food of life.  It supercharges the olfactory system, wakes up the taste buds and excites the palette for a worldwide journey with the lift of a fork.

Thai is probably my favorite Asian food with an amazing marriage of sweet heat, rich creamy coconut milk and subtle fishiness in many dishes is the perfect combination of exotic and amazing.  The umami bomb that is created by the Tom Kha Gai soup makes you yearn to understand what the hell kokumi is all about.  The multiple layers of never ending flavors created from the coconut milk, ginger, kefir limes and lemongrass finished with fresh hits of cilantro and basil make even the dead taste buds come alive.  As it appears that Thai has become the new Chinese food in it shouldn’t be that difficult to find.

8) German bratwurst and pretzels (preferably from Munich) – pretzels as big as your head, a crusty outside, soft chewy inside and yeasty finish make this the ultimate snack.  In addition to the enormously large twisted treasure the bratwurst needs to be too large to handle with one hand as well.  Mellowly seasoned and stuffed into a natural casing with the distinct bite and sound as you pierce into it with your teeth. Throw some seedy brown mustard on the side and some kraut on the top and now you are in business.

9) Garbage Plate (Rochester, NY’s famous Nick Tahou Hots) – I don’t even know what the hell is on this thing, but the standard fare involves something like this – a bed of french fries or home fries, baked beans and Cole slaw, topped with hamburgers, cheese burgers, fish filet, white hots, red hots, Italian sausage, fried ham, grilled cheese, eggs and beautifully covered in some type of weird spicy beef gravy sauce, onions and mustard  This is traditionally served after 1:00 am and consumed when intoxicated.  At least that is how I enjoyed it the first time.  Amazingly enough, this masterpiece even tastes good after a long day of work and is high on the list of must have’s  before you die.

10) Cadbury Creme Egg- I am not sure how they can keep that creamy white filling with just a hint of yellow for the yolk as a liquid for like three years without it getting hard.  It’s a food scientist’s masterpiece.  This is my favorite candy on the planet.  This is because of the fact that it is probably the sweetest candy in the world.  I am scared to think about the calories or grams of sugar packed into this beauty, but it puts me in a joyous diabetic shock every Easter.

11) Scotch Egg- yet another egg, much different, but equally racking up the calories.  The scotch egg is also known as an egg devil and for those not aware it consists of a hard-boiled egg wrapped in sausage, coated in breadcrumbs and then deep-fried.  Only the Brits could have provided such a culinary delight that would be placed into the deep fired hall of fame.  This is a strong competitor to the fried Twinkie which glorified proudly at every county fair from Hamilton to Des Moines.  The sausage and breadcrumb combo is an excellent accent to hard boiled egg and the mild spiciness finished with a good brown mustard makes it all come alive.

12) KimChi – This stuff will tease your taste buds and confuse your stomach.  A traditional Korean staple made up of fermented vegetables and random ingredients such as napa cabbage, radish, scallion, ginger, red peppers, and cucumber to name a few.  There are hundreds of different recipes for this stuff and even has seasonal varieties, but it is a disgustingly amazing culinary treat.  Sourness, sweetness, heat, and crunchiness in a side dish that has literally been buried and fermented.  All I can say is, wow.

The dish is amazingly difficult and time intensive to make, but luckily for us it is starting to find its way into the mainstream American culture.  I even saw it being carried at Wal-Mart so you should be able to enjoy this with very little effort to find it.  I recommend a good Korean restaurant to fully emerge yourself in the side dish dining experience, but I guess you can settle for the jar at Wal-Mart.  It can be eaten as a compliment to any Asian dish or even added to a thick chicken or veggie sandwich for a little exotic flare to a classically boring lunch or dinner.

Lucky #13) Cincinnati Chili – for those of you out there that have never had the pleasure of a three way, please read on.  We have our own way of eating chili in southwest Ohio and it involves noodles, sweet meaty chili and lots of Wisconsin cheddar.  This Greek inspired sweet meat combination of beef, cinnamon, allspice and even chocolate creates a savory sauce to sit proudly upon a hot dog or bed of pasta and huge mound of cheese.  For the typical chili consumer this unique delicacy will scare you slightly, but don’t worry it works in complete culinary harmony.

Cincinnati once was a battleground of rival chili houses all having their own unique ingredient and style.  Recipe wars were raged from Price Hill to Blue Ash, but only one is king in my book and worthy of the one time experience – Skyline.  Appropriately named after the beautiful view you get from the cut in the hill as you cross the Ohio river from Kentucky will provide the Cincinnati chili virgin with a three, four or five way they will never forget.

If you have a bucket list, hurry up, it is 2013.   The fact that unlucky #13 is in the date is not a good sign for the future, so eat up!

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