Everyone Say Cheese!

Truly one of life’s great pleasures, who doesn’t like cheese. Stack it on your burger, add it to a sandwich,eat it plain, mix it in casseroles and that all-time favorite, mac and cheese, there is a type for every taste bud, age and budget. Dating back thousands of years B.C. cheese was first created by populations who herded milk-producing animals. The art of cheese making was refined over the centuries until it became a staple of Western Europeans, from the poor to the royals and everyone in between. Whether you’re an aficionado of fine gourmet cheeses, or an unapologetic fan of Velveeta, there’s nothing quite like it. Pity the lactose intolerant who have to pass on cheese..

Well, this time the Chinese were out of the loop. Cheese clearly was created in areas of Europe which are now Poland and its environs, possibly as far back as 7000 B.C. In all fairness, the Chinese did not use dairy and presumably didn’t herd milk-producing animals, so they had no hand in creating cheese or milk products at all.

Ancient herders discovered that milk solids could be turned into a cheese-like substance, and since cheese lasted far longer than milk, which easily spoiled, it was a popular food for travelers and shepherds. But early cheeses were undoubtedly bland, liquidy and probably resembled our present day cottage cheese. As cheese making processes were refined and different varieties created, this wonderful food took on a whole new persona. Greeks embraced cheese, which they made with sheep and goat’s milk, and their cheese tended to be crumbly, similar to present-day feta. Adding a few herbs to the milk mixture gave it flavor, and cheese traveled well, providing a good source of protein for their ancient armies.

Soon royalty had their chefs pursue the art of cheese making, and it spread through Western Europe, quickly embraced by the Roman Empire. Monks joined in, understanding that along with their staples of bread and wine, cheese provided a substantial meal in the monasteries. Once it reached France, a country synonymous with the word “cheese”, the French took it to a whole new level, enjoying the creamy textures and creating cuisine around the various varieties they produced (think Camembert, Brie and Roquefort). Today, every region of France boasts their own particular cheese.

And speaking of Roquefort, how many of us get confused by the different varieties and the interchangeable term “blue cheese?” Let’s clear this up. Blue cheese is basically a generic term. There are three major types: Roquefort (French), Gorgonzola (Italian) and Stilton (British). The U.S. was kind of left out with this variety, (but don’t tell that to people in Wisconsin). Roquefort and Gorgonzola are two variations of blue cheese. Roquefort is French, made from sheep’s milk, and Gorgonzola is Italian, made from cow’s milk. Roquefort has a sharpness, but not as strong and robust as Gorgonzola. And then there is Stilton. A popular British version, but considered to be a poor cousin in the eyes of cheese connoisseurs.

Originating in the village of Somerset, England, cheddar cheese is a hard, off-white, sharp-tasting natural cheese. (The orange color is added.) It is probably the most popular type in the U.S. and is what the so-called American cheese (which isn’t really cheese at all) is modeled after. Europeans enjoy cheddar in its natural white color and frequently end a meal with a plate of room temperature cheeses and fruits. Most foodies eschew American cheese, which adorns our fast food cheeseburgers and our beloved mac and cheese. And then there’s Velveeta, considered the bottom of the barrel (but great for cooking).

Not to be slighted, Switzerland caught up with France and created their own wonderful versions. Their most popular are Gruyere and Emmental, which is called Swiss cheese in the U.S.

With the popularity of wine these days, what better accompaniment than cheese? Whether you favor a sharp cheddar, a smooth Gouda, a tangy Swiss or a creamy Brie, there’s just no getting around it: say cheese!

Ketchup – Pour It on

Ketchup, undoubtedly America’s favorite condiment, (followed closely by mayonnaise and salsa) is poured on virtually everything.. Who doesn’t know a ketchup addict who can’t get through one meal without ketchup on something. Or perhaps you are unabashedly one yourself.

A bottle of ketchup is found in approximately 97 percent of U.S. homes, but the present form we enjoy is relatively new, considering it has its roots in ancient China. The origin of the word ketchup is believed to be traced back to a Chinese word that can be loosely translated as ke-tep or kio-chiap. Or possibly from a Malay language sometimes referred to as kicap, kecap, ketjap. The precursor to our ketchup was actually a fermented fish sauce made from fish entrails, meat byproducts and soybeans, usually ground into a paste. This mixture not only added flavor to food, but was easy to store on long ocean voyages. As it spread along spice trade routes to Indonesia and the Philippines, British traders got hooked on the spicy, salty taste, and by he early 1700s. they took samples home to England and promptly modified the original recipe.

Even though tomato plants were introduced to England by way of South America during the 1500s, tomatoes were widely believed to be poisonous, along with other members of the nightshade family (eggplants and potatoes). The earliest usage in England was recorded in 1690 and spelled “catchup”; later the spelling of “ketchup” appeared around 1711, and the modified spelling “catsup” in 1730.

A famine in Italy during the late 1830’s led the starving superstitious folks to finally try tomatoes, and the population was pleasantly surprised when no one became poisoned,
leading to the popularity across Europe. The first Italian tomato sauce recipe appeared soon after the famine. Imagine Italian cooking without the tomato… unthinkable.

Tomato ketchup appeared in America in the early 1800’s. An enterprising Philadelphia native named James Mease incorporated the tomato into his recipe, setting off a revolution of tomato-based ketchup. By 1896, The New York Tribune estimated that tomato ketchup had become America’s national condiment and could be found “on every table in the land.” That might have been a bit of an exaggeration at the time, but certainly prophetic for the coming twentieth century, especially with the introduction of hot dogs at the two world fairs: Chicago and St Louis. Cooks and homemakers began scrambling for ketchup recipes to make at home along with the growing popularity of bottled versions. Many cookbooks featured recipes for ketchup made of oysters, mussels, mushrooms, walnuts, lemons and celery, but the Americans were the first to make the tomato its base for the prized condiment.

With many different versions of the condiment already in the U.S., a Pittsburgh businessman named Henry J. Heinz started producing ketchup in 1876 using tomatoes and vinegar as his chief ingredients, and he soon dominated the commercial market (and still does). By1905, the company had sold five million bottles of ketchup. The first recipes Heinz tried contained allspice, cloves, cayenne pepper, mace, and cinnamon. A second
included pepper, ginger, mustard seed, celery salt, horseradish, and brown sugar, along with the two primary ingredients, tomatoes and vinegar. Soon the country was hooked.

Americans currently purchase 10 billion ounces of ketchup annually, which comes out to approximately three bottles per person per year. That figure seems low, but keep in mind that Americans consume much of their ketchup outside the home, at restaurants and fast food locations.

So today, when you shake that bottle or open that packet, be thankful that your beloved ketchup is free from entrails and fish heads… and enjoy.

How a Pleasant Shopping Experience Can Make Your Day

Would anyone in this world be jubilant about spending at least 2.5 hours in a grocery store? Well, I can honestly say, “I would not.” However, my shopping experience today was a very satisfying.

To begin, to put this experience into context, let me describe for you our new, enormous marketplace grocery store that recently opened in our neighborhood. This store has almost everything that one might desire. First and foremost, for me, there is a coffee shop, not to mention a wine bar, where you can stop and have a drink of wine and socialize before or after your shopping experience. Once you have tackled your grocery list, if there is just a little left over in your budget, you can treat yourself to a piece of clothing or a pair of shoes.

Now that I have set the tone of my experience, let me move on to the gist of my article, why in the world did this shopping experience last 2.5 hours. Well, to begin, I had just returned from an early morning medical appointment and I had not had my morning cup of java and anyone that knows me, can understand why that would be a problem. So, my first stop was the coffee shop. Once, I had my first sip, I was good to go. However, my stomach alerted me that the shopping experience would not be good, if my hunger was not satisfied. Just in the nick of time, while at the food deli, I was greeted by one of the store employees and I questioned her about breakfast foods. She immediately pointed me into the direction of a rack where there was one large Meat Lover’s Burrito left. Without hesitation, I grabbed the burrito, returned to the coffee area to eat it.

Now that my hunger had been satisfied, I moved on to the vegetable and fruit area. While picking out my vegetables, there was another shopper who had on nautical clothing. So, I kindly mentioned to her that her attire would be the perfect outfit for me, as I am planning to go on a cruise in a few weeks. She responded and we socialized for just a little bit. I noticed that she was removing her earrings and without hesitation, she gave them to me and went on to explain her reasoning. She thought they would go very well with my cruising experience, as the theme was, of course, nautical. I stated that I could not accept her earrings; however, she insisted because she indicated she had another pair exactly like this pair. Remembering what my mother taught me, “to always be humble and graciously, thankful for any gift that I receive.” So, I thanked her for the gift and mentioned that I would tuck them away in a safe place until my trip.

Moving on, my next area would be the gourmet cheese section and there I met another shopper where her and I discussed the various cheeses that was displayed in the counter. She, pleasantly, began to share with me her experience with cheese and she sounded like a “cheese expert” to me. I should have mentioned early in the article that my family deemed a “social butterfly” early in life and I have lived up to that reputation since then. So, our conversation continued for well over 15 minutes, of course, drifting off to several other topics. After a while, we shared what area of the community that we lived in and would you believe that she turned out to be my neighbor, whom I had met approximately four years ago. We both moved into the community around the same time. Subsequently, we shared our contact information, once again, and both of us decided that we needed to get back to shopping and agreed to stay in touch.

Finally, my grocery shopping was all done and I proceeded on to the check-out counter. In conclusion, my hope is that by sharing my experience, it will challenge others to take the time to reach out to others. Extend a friendly compliment to someone, or pay it forward; and, hopefully, the positive experience will help set a tone for the rest of your day, as well as the other individual with whom you interacted.

Food Specialities Of Different States Of India That Everyone Must Have

The variety of food India has to offer is simply unbelievable. Every state of it has an array of food and different cooking style. From the spiciest to the most ordinary preparations, they have something different to offer. To know more, we bring to you some authentic, must have, local dishes native to the various Indian states.

DAAB CHINGRI- West Bengal
Filled with green coconut, it is a traditional Bengali dish of soupy mustard prawn curry. The aroma of the coconut water and kernel gets mixed up with the prawn, giving it a most fabulous taste. This special delicacy is best served with a plate of boiled rice.

BAL MITHAI- Uttarakhand
This exquisite dish comes from the state of Uttarakhand which is made by roasting the evaporated milk cream with cane sugar and later coated with white sugar balls. It is one of a true delight for all the dessert lover.

KAMBU KOOZH- Tamil Nadu
It is cool refreshing and healthy dish from the state of Tamil Nadu. The dish is prepared from millet and is stored in the earthen pots to create a perfect taste.

MALAAI GHEWAR- Rajasthan
This round shaped food delicacy is a traditional dish of Rajasthan. It is made from flour, milk and pure ghee. There is a possibility that you might find it in the other parts of India also, but the one you get in Rajasthan is simply incomparable.

CHHENA PODA- Odisha
This is an Oriya desert prepared from the baked ricotta cheese. This sweet delight could also be taken as an Indian version of Cheesecake. Do explore when you plan your visit to the state.

THALIPEETH- Maharashtra
It could be taken as the multigrain pancake, prepared from roasted chana daal, wheat, sorghum, millet, rice and mildly spiced with coriander seeds, onion fresh coriander and cumin seeds. The delicacy is very nutritious and is best served with buffalo milk cream.

BHUTTE KA KEES- Madhya Pradesh
It is a dish made with spicy grated sweet corn. The tangy taste of this authentic delicacy is must to try when you plan to visit the state.

IRACHI ISHTU- Kerala
This is a traditional food item from Kerala which is made with Chicken, beef or lamb. This tasty stew is best served with appam or plain bread.

RUGDA- Jharkhand
When you planning to visit Jharkhand, do not forget to try Rugda. It is a variety of mushroom indigenous to the forests of Jharkhand. The dish is very healthy and is best eaten with rice or poori.

KALAADI CHEESE- Jammu and Kashmir
Prepared from cow’s milk, Kalaadi is a traditional local hill cheese which comes from the state of Jammu and Kashmir. You simply cannot forget to miss out on its divine taste when you are there.

MADRA- Himachal Pradesh
Coming from the state of Himachal Pradesh, Madra is a traditional pahadi gravy. The dish is prepared with yoghurt, coconut, almonds, peas and raisins. This special food item offers a very aromatic flavour and delicious taste.

BAJRA KHICHDI- Haryana
This amazing khichdi is made with coarsely crushed pearl millet and is served with pure ghee or sesame oil. The dish becomes all the more tasty with lassi, pickles, papad, gur or curd.

KHANDVI- Gujarat
This delectable snack is made from gram flour and yoghurt, tempered with sesame, mustard seeds and decorated with green chillies, coconut and coriander leaves for its amazing look.

BEBINCA- Goa
Famous for its seafood cuisine, Goa is also known for its authentic and exquisite pudding dessert. The traditional Bebinca in Goa is made up of 16 layers and is rightly served warm with cold ice cream.

DEHRORI- Chhattisgarh
It is a delicious dessert from the state of Chhattisgarh which consists of fried rice dumplings dipped in sugar syrup and garnished with nuts. The dish is usually prepared on Diwali eve to make the celebrations more joyful.

LITTI CHOKHA- Bihar
This crunchy dish from Bihar is prepared with wheat balls stuffed with Pitthi – roasted and spiced gram flour) and Chokha (mashed potatoes). The dish becomes all the more delicious with pure desi ghee on its side.