Mystery of Truffles

While we know that salt and pepper have a compelling feature that gives dining a more memorable experience, it is said that truffles go one step further and unleash emotions upon taking that first bite.

So why aren’t we all stuffing ourselves on Thanksgiving with a big platter of truffles? Truffles are rare. The best black truffles are only found in France’s Perigord region. Many chefs consider their texture and aroma exquisite to any other truffles. White truffles are even harder to find. Located in the Alba region of Italy, they have a sharper, peppery flavor. Truffles are only found during the months of October through February and are best when prepared fresh. Auctions can be found where thousands of dollars exchange hands for one meager truffle that is of the right consistency and size. Fresh truffles typically retail for $300-500 per ounce. Powders and oils are also offered for those that just want a taste of the succulent treat.

Truffles are a type of underground fruit resembling a mushroom that develops from the roots of trees. Black truffles (Tuber magnatum) are found next to oak trees and yes, the old stories of dogs and hogs rooting up the ground to find the precious black diamonds is true. Hunters have to be very cautious of an animal team lest they find the day’s prize consumed. Commercially grown truffles are now being pursued in France, Chile, Spain, New Zealand, Australia, USA and South Africa by using offshoots of oak trees containing truffle spores.

The preparation of truffles is a delicate matter. Only the finest chefs are trusted with blending the flavors of these underground mushrooms with cuisine that intensifies the aroma and taste. Few restaurants in the United States are creative enough to master this craft. One establishment, Le Bernardin on 51st street in New York, uses the magnificent cuisine of Chef Eric Ripert to bring truffles the glory deserved. Excitement surrounds the kitchen during black truffle season that immediately follows the white truffle season. February is a great time to try out this restaurant’s newest displays of sensual truffle dishes.

Truffles are considered one of the most esoterically ingredients found on earth. Select a restaurant with four stars that have an artistic reputation for serving the succulent morsels or shaved pieces of truffles in a truly magnificent dish for a memory you will never forget.

What Makes People Eat Raw Food

One of the primary ways we experience the world around us is through what we eat, drink and think. So why then would people be foolish enough to put food into their bodies that isn’t cooked? After some extensive research, it turns out these people might not be as foolish as originally thought.

The assumption behind cooking food is that the original form of Nature, as it exists, must be altered in some way in order for it to exist in an artificial form inside us. Or simply put, when feeding something natural (our body), it is necessary to give it something unnatural.

The problem is that when food is cooked it becomes less than it was before, never more. According to International Best-Selling author and Raw Food expert, David Wolfe, cooking alters organic molecules. When those molecules are ingested, they become part of our tissues. Thus eating cooked food alters our tissue at a fundamental level.

Cooked food is dense. It leaves a toxic ash residue in the body after it has been processed. Over many years, the debris from this toxic residue accumulates and is deposited throughout our tissue. Eventually the toxins reach a crisis level, clogging and poisoning our body’s systems which can lead to heart attacks, strokes and cancer.

Raw food is alive, it still contains the vital nutrients and enzymes that gave the food life in the first place. Cooking food (above 239?F) destroys all of the enzymes and the food becomes “dead”.

Enzymes are vital in that the body requires them to digest and absorb food, effectively helping to turn it into fuel.

Enzymes also are essential for many of the body’s processes such as breathing, digestion, circulation, cognition and the prevention of inflammation and aging.

Cooked Food = No Enzymes

Eating cooked and processed foods makes one groggy, affects moods, lower’s one’s level of attention and interferes with the body’s optimal functioning. A poor diet of highly cooked foods can also have a detrimental effect on longevity.

A cooked seed will not grow. It has had the life burnt out of it. How then would eating cooked food be the best way to help us grow?

Cooked food was not here when we first appeared on Earth.

Raw food was.

Raw-Animal or Raw-Plant Food?

Some people opt for a raw-animal diet, however typically the health of these people weakens over time, for a number of reasons. Namely meat can be very high in fat, cholesterol, calories and disease and bacterial contamination.

The other option is a raw-plant based diet.

People who follow a raw-plant based diet benefit from vital enzymes which allow the body to fully digest food, enzymes which are typically lost when food is cooked.

Health benefits include:

  • Having more energy
  • Skin has a much healthier complexion
  • Improved digestion
  • Weight Loss
  • A significant drop in the risk of developing heart and cardiovascular diseases

Warning: Detox Alert

Raw/Live foods are naturally detoxifying, the more toxicity your body has, the more of a reaction you could have to these cleansing foods. You may look and feel worse before you look and feel better!

This is completely natural and is the body’s way of releasing all the rubbish that has been stored up over time – if this happens to you, feel good as its working and you’re on your way to a healthy active life.

Types of Raw Plant Foods include:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Legumes
  • Flowers
  • Green Sprouts
  • Roots
  • Shoots
  • Water Vegetation (e.g. Sea weeds, Spirulina)
  • Mushrooms

[For the healthiest option, choose organic ingredients from your local market or grocer]

Buffalo Wings

One of the most common identifying features relating to the different types of Buffalo wings relates to the sauce and spicy flavor. In most of the eating establishments across the country, one of the most desirable types is the spicy chicken wings. And, since these tasty wings continued to grow in popularity there is often a constant supply of fresh ideas to creating the more unique and spicy wings available. Whether it is a mild, medium, or hot sauce, you will certainly appreciate the many quality flavors that are offered with these deep-fried wings.

A quality aspect of the Buffalo wings is that it is very easy to modify them to offer a more distinct or varied flavor. Even though the more traditional cayenne pepper sauce is likely to be the most well-liked choice in the restaurants, there is certain to be many other choices able to offer some very delicious sauces and seasoning. Some of the highly desirable variations of the Buffalo wings include the barbecued, Asian sweetened and Cajun-flavored wings.

A further type of buffalo wing that is often available is those that are boneless, and relates to the chicken fillet that has been given the similar treatment of the wings, like the frying, breading and spices. A common reason for making the boneless version available in the restaurants is for those diners that prefer to avoid a lot of the mess that comes with eating the chicken wings. If you would like an easier eating approach for the wings, then you will certainly appreciate the many choices that come with the boneless edition.

Also, a wide range of dips and seasoning are offered to complement these tasty chicken pieces, and might include a sweet BBQ sauce, roasted garlic and herbs, fire-roasted peppers, curry flavor, and so many more.

Types Of Casseroles

  • Meat: One of the most common of the meat-based casseroles is likely to relate to shepherd’s pie, which is multiple layers of beef and topped with a fluffy and light mashed potato. A combination of a tomato based sauce, pasta, and ground beef is another popular choice to appear on the dining table. An enchilada casserole is a tortilla with ground beef and coated with a very hot tomato-based sauce. A topping of cheese is also likely to be included. Beside the beef casseroles, they are also likely to be made with pork and lamb. A combined sauerkraut, potatoes, and pork cubes is a casserole inspired from Germany.
  • Chicken: A wide range of chicken based casseroles are widely available, from chicken and wild rice, pot pie, and chicken and dumplings. A Creole inspired dish includes a combination of a rich tomato sauce, spicy sausages, and large chunks of chicken.
  • Fish: A cheap, easy, and quick fish casserole is seen with the tuna fish dish which has been extremely popular for a great number of years going back to the 1950’s. A tuna fish casserole is a combination of cream of mushroom soup, macaroni, and tuna fish. If that isn’t likely to interest the taste buds, you might want to look at an alternative of fresh cod or haddock which is baked with peas and rice and coated in a tomato-based sauce.
  • Vegetable: A vegetable based dish is likely to consist of a rich cream sauce, pearl onions, mushrooms, and fresh green beans. Once combined these ingredients are coated with breadcrumbs and left to bake. Alternative vegetable casseroles consist of scalloped potatoes and garbanzo beans and tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplant.
  • Cheese: A further great option is the home-made macaroni and cheese which is likely to include a combination of grated cheddar cheese, a preferred cream sauce, freshly cooked pasta, and finished with a topping of bread crumbs.

Sushi

The word “raw” is often associated with food that is uncooked and therefore less appealing, or dangerous to consume. Peoples perceptions have since changed over the years, and more and more Americans have begun to adopt sushi, raw vegetable, and raw fruit as a healthy alternative to heavier, overcooked, and oily cuisines. This is partly due to the influx of Japanese sushi chefs in North America back in the 1980s and the proliferation of food television programs such as the Food Network. Consumers are now better able to understand how to enjoy eating raw food.

Sushi was first introduced to the United States in 1950, but didn’t really begin to take off until years later. Only a small cadre of patrons enjoyed eating this expensive treat. Still back then perceptions of eating raw fish were almost nonexistent, unless you consider sardines to be raw fish on the same par as sushi. Sardines were not a popular staple on American dinner tables back then and now, so people didn’t talk about the wonders of fine dining over a tin can of sardines. That’s not to say Japanese do not enjoy sardines, just not the canned variety unless its made by Ajinomoto, or some other Japanese food maker (Japanese food producer).

The raw food movement, an expression used nowadays to mean a diet of raw food, is becoming a healthier alternative to more common American dishes. Uncooked food in Japan may have pre-dated the introduction of Portuguese raw food. For example: raw pickled dishes which included salmon or mackerel, didn’t originate in Portugal, neither did pickled ginger that you most often enjoy with raw fish. According to popular opinion, raw fish came via the transmission of culture from as far as Portugal, but even then it wasn’t regarded as sushi, just Portuguese raw fish. Only when the Japanese reinvented it did it become authentic sushi and then later transforming the entire food industry in Japan and subsequently the world. Sushi is the next big food movement for countries like Russia, the United States, China, and Europe. Just about every non-Japanese has at one point or another tried sushi in some form, and has gained a greater appreciation for the diversity of food and tastes.

Sketch of the Flamboyant Food Lover

Whether you give him caramelized pork offal or Eri Polu (the pupa of Eri silk worm), beef intestine sausages or a braised beef tongue, a raw quail egg yolk or picked raw scallops, some yak meat curry or sea urchins with fresh wasabi, one will seldom find him saying a ‘no’ or frowning at it. Ask him and he’d say, ‘I am not a glutton, I am an explorer of food’ quoting Emma Bombeck or something like ‘only a fool argues with a skunk, a mule or a cook (a cowboy saying). While many of us would puke our entire stomach out at the very thought of it or refrain from even touching it, he relishes every bit of it. He is open to experimentation and willing to try out different delicacies without any hint of inhibition.

On one occasion you will find him experimenting with roadside eateries or stalls across the street and on the other ordering food online or storming up some fancy dish in his kitchen. He would not mind driving for hours at a stretch or even crossing borders in search of a dish that would satiate his hunger and be the method to his madness. His culinary journey is colorful and dotted with cuisines from all over the world.

Because, for the flamboyant food lover food is no less than an obsession. It is almost like a religion to him. And that is not all. It is a vent for his passion and a source of freedom. It is inspirational, motivational and magical. It makes him rediscover himself and look forward to living to fight another day. It is an essential and inseparable part of him, something that he can bet his life on. The world derives solace from spirituality and he derives it from food. To sum it up in other words, food is a way of survival for him. While others eat to live he lives to eat.

History of the Ballotin

In 1912 Jean Neuhaus developed a technique that made possible, for the first time, to create chocolates with a soft filling. This first invention was called the “praline”. These chocolates continued to be sold wrapped in paper, a traditional method that however had two major drawbacks: it was not able to display the chocolates in an elegant way and even worse it offered very little protection, often damaging or compromising the look of the pralines.

As chocolates were becoming more and more sophisticated, with attractive designs and complex fillings, the Belgian chocolate kitchens were crying out for a box designed specifically to suit their needs. A gift box that would be beautiful and elegant but also practical in their ability to protect the chocolates from being damaged on the way home.

In 1915 their cries were answered, Louise Agostini, wife of Jean Neuhaus Jr, designed the first ballotin (from ballot, French term for “small package of goods”), a box in which the chocolates could be packed safely. It was also an aesthetically marvellous design, simple but elegant, easy to fill and close with its flaps elegantly secured with a ribbon. To the delight of the other chocolate houses of the time, Jean Neuhaus decided not to patent this invention, and that is why nowadays all the top tier Belgian chocolate manufacturers sell their chocolates in this timeless gift box.

One hundred years on, the Master Belgian chocolatiers use the ballotin more than ever, in fact this box can be considered the signature of the finest Belgian chocolatiers. While there have been a few minor changes in design over the years to allow for more efficient manufacturing processes the simple aesthetic beauty of this gift box remains the same making it one of the most recognizable items in the world of luxury foods.

Flat As a Pancake

Thomas Jefferson, on one of his frequent travels to Paris, brought back a similar recipe called crepes, which was a thinner form of our griddle cakes, without leavening, made with wheat flour and served with fruit or a sweet syrup. They were gobbled up at state dinners, and once again that industrious President introduced a new and delicious French dish to the colonists. (To this day, crepes are a popular street food in France.)

Consider that they were easy to make, eaten by hand, and the pioneers could cook them on a hot stone around the campfire after a long hard day of traveling. Native Americans probably taught the early colonists how to grind corn, mix it into a paste, add liquid, some fat and in just a few minutes, they had hoe cakes, hot and filling. Covered with fresh honey, they were a delicacy. With no need for a bread oven, they could be prepared quickly, and if the cook had a cast iron skillet, it could be coated in bacon fat and the batter fried. Those who were lucky enough to have butter slathered it on and just dug in, napkins be damned. (A shirt sleeve worked just fine.)

Early American hoe cakes undoubtedly made way for hush puppies, cornbread and grits, also made with cornmeal, but that’s a whole different story. By the way, hoe cakes got its name from field workers using a plain hoe held over a fire, and dropping cakes onto the hoe to cook.

Pancakes are enjoyed the world over in a multitude of variations, served plain, topped with sauces and spices, wrapped around fillings and eaten for lunch and dinner. Some form of flat cakes have been around for centuries, enjoyed by ancient civilizations like the Greeks and Romans, eaten in China, India and Europe. The British-named flapjacks are different from our pancakes and made with sugar, butter, and oats, usually served with honey.

Recorded history mentions pancake-like foods in the first century (possibly earlier), and historians who study Neolitic man speculate that flat cakes made with anything handy were probably cooked on hot stones, before cooking pots and utensils were invented, between 10,000 and 3,000 B.C. Since early cave dwellers usually kept a fire burning to scare away predators, how easy to just whip up a batch of cave man pancakes while they were at it?

Many countries have their own version. Listed below are just a few.
These versions are generally sweet:
Crepes (French)
Pfannkuchen (Dutch or German)
Dosa (India)
Tiganites (Greek)
Apam Balik (Malaysia)
Pannekoeke (South Africa)

These versions are usually served with vegetables or meats:
Latkes (Jewish)
Cong you bing (Chinese)
Uttapam (India)
Blini (Eastern Europe, Russia)
Kimchi pancakes (Korea)
Cachapas (South America)

Chocolate for Medicine

In the UK more than 500 000 tons of chocolate are consumed per year (1). In 2001 the UK consumption of chocolate was 17.40 lbs or a bit more than 7.89 kg per person per year. However, this is only 7th place world wide. In the lead is Switzerland with 22.36 lbs or 10.55 kg chocolate consumed per capita every year.

As chocolate products contain high amounts of fat (typically 30%) they are usually high in energy, which promotes weight gain. One pound of milk chocolate has about 2300 calories which is about the daily energy requirement of an average adult.

Many positive health effects of eating chocolate have been reported.

The Journal of Nutrition 2000: 130: 2115-2119 reported dark chocolate consumption associated with reducing free radical levels in the human body, thought to be due to antioxidants in dark chocolate. The more chocolate a person ate the more significant was the effect. Reduction in free radicals has been associated with reduction in cardio-vascular disease, cancer and cellular aging.

An anti-inflammatory effect has been described in several studies (ARYA Journal 2005; 1 (1): 29-35).

Chocolate as treatment against diarrhea has been known in South America as well as Europe and makes it for many an enjoyable treatment.

Theobromine in the cacao has been reported as helping against fatigue, and researchers have shown a positive effect of chocolate on the release of endorphins – ‘happy hormones’. The Journal of Public Health Nutrition published an article in 1999 demonstrating a positive effect of chocolate on improving peoples mood, and stimulating release of serotonin and endorphins. This may have inspired J. K. Rowling to use chocolate as a remedy against dementor attacks!