Tag Archives: Food

Richest Person on Each Continent

  1. Jeff Bezos: $92.6 billion, technology, North America
  2. Jorge Paulo Leman: $30.8 billion, Food and beverage, South America
  3. Amancio Ortega: $77.8 billion, fashion,real estate, investment… Europe
  4. Aliko Dangote: $13.7 billion, cement, sugar, flour,salt,. … Africa
  5. Mukesh Ambani: $41.9 billion, Oil & Gas, Asia
  6. Gina Rinehart, $16.6 billion, Mining, Oceania
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Rare Foods Series : Reed Salt

Can we imagine any food without salt? In addition to the taste it adds, Salt is an essential nutrient for the human body. It is an electrolyte which helps the transmission of the messages from different parts of the body to the brain and vice versa. It is present in the cells. Any imbalance in its concentration whether in the form of deficiency or excess can play havoc with our body. When dehydration occurs, the salt has to be replenished by the intake of oral rehydration solution. It is lost from our bodies during perspiration and blood becomes thicker and our bodies require water.

In addition salt is used as preservative for pickles and other foods. It acts as a barrier to the bacteria which attack the food and decompose it.

Salt comes from the evaporation of the seawater collected in the salt pans. After water evaporates the salt is left behind which is then made to undergo the processes of purification. Those who live in the urban areas and especially near sea coasts never feel it’s importance.

But still there are people living in the remote areas where access to this commodity is impossible. Some of such communities live in Kenya. These tribes, as the saying goes : “Necessity is the mother of invention ” has developed a way to compensate this by extracting the salts from the REED STALKS.

Method

Bunches of river reed are cut into smaller pieces and dried on the hot stones for about a period of 3 days to reduce the inherent moisture. Then the stalks are put on very slow fire. When organic ingredients burn, the ash is left behind. Ash is collected and boiled with water and filtered to get pure salts dissolved in the filtrate while impurities are left behind.

The filtrate is then boiled till only the salt is left behind. Sometimes they add a pinch of pepper powder to add flavor to it.

IMG_8187

This picture has been taken from the beautiful website from Luke Duggleby an ace photographer. URL to his website is given below.

http://www.lukeduggleby.com/

(if the picture is not for free use, I will delete it)

Punjab Village during winters

Punjab is called the bread basket of India. A state in Northern Indian plains formed and irrigated by five perennial rivers originating from Himalayas. The land surface is deposited by the alluvial brought up by the rivers. The land is flat, devoid of any geographical features. Standing out in the open in a field you can feel the unending flatness meeting the horizon.

The farmers of the area are known for their hard working nature. Earlier the farming was largely non- mechanized. Bullocks and manual labor was used. Slowly to keep with the times machines like tractors, tubewells and other implements were introduced making the work faster and less manual.

There is hardly anytime of the year when any piece of land is fallow. One after the other crops are grown depleting the natural fertility of soil and making the water usage very high. Insecticides and fertilizers are required in high quantities to make up for loss of natural fertility. The crops have been diversified to vegetables and flowers in addition to the common rice, and wheat.    These are cash crops/

But still the scene in the countryside are beautiful in the winter. There is wheat growing, mustard flowers color the country yellow and tractors filled with cauliflower, carrots, Kinno, radishes and peas are frequently seen.

Let us see some pictures.

Junk Foods Technology

“Our limbic brains love sugar, fat, salt.… So formulate products to deliver these. Perhaps add low cost ingredients to boost profit margins. Then “super size” to sell more.… And advertise/promote to lock in “heavy users.”” —Bob Drane, former vice president for new business strategy and development at Oscar Mayer.

From this statement, it is clear that foods containing Sugar, Fat and Salt appeal most to the human brain. Armed with this knowledge, the fast food companies design feel good foods and hook so many of us, particularly, the younger generation. It is the right combination of these that is important. The malaise of obesity is the result of those extra pounds generally come from the over consumption of soft drinks, snack foods, and fast foods.

Of course, the food companies do not want their customers obese because in that case they may start avoiding the fast food. But they want the “stomach share” in the food market. But processed-food companies increasingly turn to their legions of scientists to produce foods that we can’t resist. These food geeks tweak their products by varying the levels of the three so-called pillar ingredients—salt, sugar, and fat.

It turns out that although we generally do like such food more but after a certain intake, we like to take less. That optimum amount of salt, sugar, or fat is called the “Bliss Point”. Scientists also adjust these ingredients as well as factors such as crunchiness to produce a mouth feel—that is, the way the food feels inside a person’s mouth—that causes consumers to crave more. Technologists can also induce a flavor burst by altering the size and shape of the salt crystals themselves so that they basically assault the taste buds into submission.

The formula of successful junk-food science is the vanishing calorific density. Such food melts in your mouth so quickly that the brain is fooled into thinking it’s hardly consuming any calories at all, so it just keeps snacking. In the process, packaged-food scientists want to avoid triggering sensory-specific satiety, the brain mechanism that tells you to stop eating when it has become overwhelmed by big, bold flavors. Instead, the real goals are either passive overeating, which is the excessive eating of foods that are high in fat because the human body is slow to recognize the caloric content of rich foods, or auto-eating: that is, eating without thinking or without even being hungry. (The opposite problem is being overhungry, where you’re so ravenous that you’ll basically eat anything that’s put in front of you.) Either way, if you end up with a food baby, a distended stomach caused by excessive overeating, you’ve made a fast-food executive somewhere very happy.

All this is explored by Pulitzer award winning Journalist Michael Moss in his book “Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Companies Hooked Us”

Observing the Nature

How often do we leisurely watch the nature around us? General answer will be not often. Do we sit out in the evening and watch the sun going down, its glow becoming golden, and shadows lengthening and blinking through the chinks in the trees? Do we watch the groups of birds flying towards their homes after spending their day in a far off place where the food is available to forage? Why, in the first place, they don’t make their resting places near the food. May be the supply is not available at one place throughout the year and their resting places are at optimum distance from the foraging places. Why do they always fly in the groups? Is not their pressure or competition for food? Is the father of Evolution theory listening?

After reeling under the sweltering heat for many days, if there is rain, it is like a fresh breath of life. The parched land is drenched with water pushing out the air filled with earth’s aromas into the atmosphere and filling our nostrils with ecstasy. The accompanying wind rushes into the branches which sway from side to side at the top such as in the mighty silver oak trees. One wonders how the topmost leaves are receiving their requirement of water and nutrients. In optimistic hope of supply from the soil, additionally they must be conserving the water by reducing their stomata counts, As they are in the top, they have the benefit of plenty of sunlight. I also wonder if the leaves at the top are in any sort of communication with those at the lower branches.

Rain patters on the tins of roofs. Water begins to flow over the soil surface seeking places which are at lower level to become pooled there. The dust on the leaves which was choking the plants breath is washed up and translucency returns. Sometimes after the rain, sun comes out and everything shines resplendently. The weather becomes bearable.

Ad Makers thrive on ignorance of Public

In many ads about germicides, it is claimed that so and so soap kills 99.9% bacteria. This means that if there were 100000 of these microscopic beings, after treatment 99900 will be killed but still 100 will stay alive. One thing they don’t tell is that bacteria growth is exponential and within no time they will multiply again.  As the number of surviving bacteria will be less and amount of food is same as before, their proliferation rate is very high and they will grow within no time to large numbers. Only limiting factor against their growth is the starvation when the food is exhausted. Don’t be fooled that they die when the food is exhausted. No, they become dormant and wait for the food to become available again and again they revive.

The fact is we are born with “conditions apply’ tags and we are bound to play host to millions of bacteria who live inside and outer skin of our bodies. Many of these are beneficial to us.

What the bacteria lack is size they amply make up in sheer numbers.They live everywhere and there is no escape from them except immunity levels which are different from person to person and also with age.

Lack of knowledge of general people is used by the manufactures to fool them.

Ants in Assam

Past few days, a great proliferation in the numbers and variety of ants could be seen here. Small ants, black and brown ants. They have made holes in the walls, throwing away their residue of black hue out of the walls. Thousands of them can be seen moving to and fro. They are everywhere: on the walls, clothes, bedsheets. Once an ant went inside my eye. It the lid of any container is even slightly loose, the ants waste no time for going inside. They seem to be on some suicide mission. They drown in the milk, they move gas stoves and get killed or burned. The menace has become too much to handle.

They are moving in twin directions on a designated path marked by them. The ants moving is opposite directions seem momentarily to kiss each other as if conveying some secret about the food. After this they continue their journey.

Even on the road you can see the trodden path patterns made by the ants army while crossing the road from one side to another. The sheer number of these ants is so high that their path resembles a thick rope spread across the road. They can be seen walking everywhere: kitchen, beds, on human bodies, walls, bathrooms. If you are too sensitive type, you shall become frustrated.

Calories or calories??

There are millions of people for whom it is almost impossible to arrange two square meals for the families. So they don’t have any choice of what they eat. On the other hand, there are affluent people for whom what to eat or what not to eat is a big problem. They are grappling with obesity problems which are the precursor of so many lethal ailments like heart attack, blood pressure, backache and diabetes. They are always conscious of the calorific value of the foods they consume.

Any student of science or health conscious person is aware that calorie is unit of energy. Our bodies continuously require energy to properly perform normal functions of the body. Even while doing nothing, our body consumes energy called basal metabolic rate.

Calorie and calorie are slightly different. In nutrition science, Calorie with capital C is equal to 1000 calories. Sometimes, Calorie is also called kilo calorie. 1 Calorie is the amount of energy it takes to raise 1 kilogram of water 1 degree centigrade at sea level.

The calorie content of foods consumed  by a human being was determined in the late 1800s by Wilbur O. Atwater, an agricultural chemist. He built a device called a “Respiration Calorimeter” to make direct measurements of heat released by humans from the food they consumed. At 4 feet by 8 feet, Atwater’s calorimeter was big enough to allow a person to step into it. The device measured the amount of heat released by that person, along with the amount of oxygen consumed and carbon dioxide given off.

Wilbur Olin Atwater

Wilbur Olin Atwater (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Using this device, Atwater was able to measure the precise amount of energy contained in thousands of food items. He found that carbohydrates and proteins are worth 4 Calories per gram and fats about 9 Calories per gram. This 4-9-4 system is how labels are determined today. In some cases, dietary fiber is subtracted from the total carbohydrate count because it is assumed that it provides no nutritional calories. Also, alcohol, if present, is accounted for as 7 Calories per gram.

Basal metabolism reactions occurring inside our bodies consume 70% of the calories. Rest 30% if not consumed shall be deposited in the body mostly in the form of fat.

Wasabi: The Real Stuff is in short supply

There is a Wasabi restaurant in Taj Hotel in Bombay. We can never afford to go to such hotels but heard the name in context of the terrorist attack on the hotel. Actually Wasabi is root stem like ginger and its name is Wasabia Japonica. All this indicates that the whole thing is about Japanese food especially Sushi. Wasabi is used as one of the ingredients in the form of paste of pistachio-green color. It adds the zing to the food.

The real thing is in the short supply even in Japan its home itself.  So at most places what is served as wasabi paste is most likely just a mix of European horseradish, mustard, and food coloring.

As a member of the Cruciferae family, it is related to such plants as cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, and mustard. Its distant cousin European horseradish (Armoracia rusticana) often substitutes for it.

Wasabi grows naturally in mountain streambeds, and the Japanese have cultivated it for more than a millennium. Wasabi grown in semiaquatic conditions is known as sawa, whereas wasabi grown in fields is called oka. The stream-grown wasabi produces larger rhizomes and is generally considered to be of higher quality.

The heat of real Wasabi lasts at the most for 15 minutes after grating. But its imitations like horseradish stays for long periods. The components of both wasabi and horseradish can be stabilized by acids, such as vinegar or lemon juice.

The key chemicals that give wasabi its characteristic heat and flavor aren’t present until the wasabi is macerated. When the cell wall is disrupted, it releases the enzyme myrosinase, which hydrolyzes glucosinolates, a group of sulfur-containing glucose derivatives, to produce isothiocyanates that provide wasabi’s spicy zing. The most abundant of these is allyl isothiocyanate. Horseradish has a different profile of isothiocyanates. One of the by-products of the myrosinase reaction is glucose.

The flavor is affected by how finely the wasabi is grated. The traditional way to grate wasabi is with a sharkskin grater, called an oroshi, which resembles fine sandpaper. Because the flavor and heat dissipate so rapidly, it’s best to grate it as you need it.

Scientific studies carried out by Savage and his coworkers show comparison of seven isothiocyanates in wasabi and horseradish. The horseradish contained 1.9 g total isothiocyanate/kg, whereas wasabi contained nearly 10% more (2.1 g/kg). Allyl isothiocyanate was the major component in both. The second most abundant isothiocyanate was 2-phenylethyl isothiocyanate, but it was found only in the horseradish. It, therefore, probably plays a major role in the flavor differences between the two plants. Every other isothiocyanate was present at higher concentrations in wasabi than in horseradish.

Honey: A Food fit for Gods

Honey is thought to be very healthy sweetener. It is produced by bees as their food source and made from nectar sucked from the flowers with the help of enzymes. The final product is made of roughly 80% sugar, 17% water and a number of trace compounds. It is these trace compounds that are responsible for honey’s varied flavors and colors. The most abundant sugars in honey are fructose and glucose. Among the myriad minor complex sugars in the honey are maltose, sucrose, and other disaccharides, as well as trisaccharides such as erlose.

The nectar is mixed with enzymes, Invertase being the most critical, in their stomach-like honey sacs. Invertase splits the sucrose in the nectar into fructose and glucose and also produces some erlose. Back at the hive, the bees pass the digested material to house bees who reduce the moisture content of the mixture by ingesting and regurgitating it. They then deposit concentrated drops into honeycomb cells. Over the next few days, bees fan the fluid with their wings to further concentrate it, and finally, they cap the cells with wax. At the same time, enzyme-mediated changes produce a range of sugars and acids in the honey. Bee enzymes also show up in the finished product. Another enzyme, glucose oxidase, converts glucose to gluconolactone, which is then hydrolyzed to give gluconic acid, the principal acid in honey. Formic, acetic, butyric, and lactic acids are also found in honey, which explains why its pH typically measures 3.8-4.0 which is quite acidic and inhibits the growth of any bacteria in it.

Honey also contains small amounts of minerals and proteins. About 0.2% of honey is ash, probably originating in the flower nectar. Potassium accounts for about one-third of the ash. Other trace elements in honey include iron, manganese, copper, and silicon. The sweetener also contains up to 1% nitrogen, which comes principally from proteins. These proteins can cause honey to foam and form tiny air bubbles.

Of the more than 100 compounds found in honey, many are volatile organic compounds, such as phenylethyl alcohol, that contribute to flavor. The honey flavor is dependent on the flavor compounds and aroma compounds that come from a flower.

Because weather and geography affect flowers, each batch of honey can have a slightly different makeup of flavor chemicals.