Food History

Editorial – The Ant and Grasshopper

Published February 1st, 2019 in Alternative Perspective, Editorial, HN4U Blog

The Aesop Fable of the Ant and Grasshopper has been on my mind a lot the last few weeks as the Federal Furlough of over 800,000 individuals like my husband goes on. I reflected on this story:

“In a field one summer’s day, a Grasshopper was hopping about, chirping and singing to its heart’s content. An Ant passed by, bearing along with great toil an ear of corn he was taking to the nest.  “Why not come and chat with me,” said the Grasshopper, “instead of toiling and moiling in that way?”

“I am helping to lay up food for the winter,” said the Ant, “and recommend you to do the same.”

“Why bother about winter?” said the Grasshopper; “We have got plenty of food at present.” But the Ant went on its way and continued its toil.

When the winter came, the Grasshopper had no food and found itself dying of hunger – while it saw the ants distributing every day corn and grain from the stores they had collected in the summer.

Then the Grasshopper knew: It is best to prepare for days of need”.

 

First, let me say I am not one of the modern “Preppers,” If you must pace a label on me – the closest most days would be that of a “Traditionalist” who sees the value of wise counsel and wisdom from the past. This Aesop’s fable while short holds true wisdom, especially for members of the modern American world.

When I reflect on the young federal employees I know with babies and blossoming lives; I see the two veterans who served their country in the Marines, I see the Postal worker or crew foreman decorated for his or her service to our country. Granted many of the federal employees are not veterans, they may be single parents, or people just like you with responsibilities and dependents.

The fable of the ant and grasshopper and the lesson it shares, I can only hope has been taken to heart by not just those on furlough but also by you the readers of this column. We need more than money in the bank to get us through the storms and winters of life, and those who plan for the short payday, seasonal lay off or rock slide benefit from lower incidence of stress-induced illnesses.

Hypertension, type 2 diabetes, migraines, anxiety, insomnia, and cancer are all chronic illnesses that increase with stress. Food insecurity for the elderly and low-income members of our communities compounds stress and anxiety. Now I like many of you think stress gets a bad rap in today’s world to often the word “stress” is used as an excuse. Stress is a fact of life and necessary – the difference is how we cope and teach our youth to prepare for its inevitability. My Grandmother, Aunt, and Mother-in-Law all, by example, shared the importance of having a full pantry, and store of paper products – No one wants to be without toilet paper, trust me!

Taking advantage of local produce when it is in season is an excellent place to start. Canning fruit was one of the first things I learned. Glass jars are reusable, safe and easy to use for food storage. It was years before my parents were able to afford a freezer; canning allowed venison, fish, vegetables, and fruit to be available year around.  Home canned foods fill the gaps for when fresh produce is unavailable, poor quality or as to frequently the case today – recalled for contamination.

Dehydrating of fruit and nuts, at first was done with screen racks over the floor furnace vent or in the sun in the yard. Today we can purchase efficient food dryer/dehydrators for home use that can be used to make far more than apple slices. Dried foods are lightweight and easy to transport. Additionally, even if you live in a tiny house, apartment, dorm room or RV, a food dryer can be found to fit the space you have.

A small 7 cu. Ft freezer may be all you have room for, but it provides storage for extra meat, vegetables or fruit available from local farms, ranches or seasonal grocery sales.

Just like the ant of Aesops fable the effort we spend on storing food for the winter, yields security and peace of mind during those times of high stress and uncertainty. While money may come and go in our lives, I know the pantry is full, and we can make it to summer.

To Traditional Food and Wisdom of Old

E-Books

Lets Hear it for Real Fat!

by Tammera J. Karr, PhD

Fats are hydrophobic. In other words, fats repel water. Even oil-based emulsions like mayonnaise rely on a third party to hold each tiny droplet of oil in suspension—egg yolk, mustard, or certain starches are common choices. Despite what some folks tell you, food fried at higher temperatures actually absorb more oil than those fried at cooler temperatures.  Natural oils and fats are traditional cooking mediums.  Today’s best options are cold pressed, extra virgin oils, and organic humanely raised animal fats.  The more filtered an oil, the lower the mineral and polyphenol content. Always buy oils that are solvent-free.

Fats conduct heat and can do so at higher temperatures than water. When you baste a roast in fatty pan drippings, that coating functions as a temperature buffer, allowing your food to heat evenly and preventing the exterior from drying out before the interior is fully cooked. Under normal conditions, water cannot be heated past its boiling point of 212° F at sea level, whereas fats can reach temperatures of 400-500° F.

Fats lubricate food preventing sticking to cookware surfaces.

Fats add or enhance flavor and enhance textural nuances of foods. This is vital for “mouth feel.” Many of the flavor compounds that make herbs and aromatics such compelling seasonings are what we call fat-soluble, meaning they will actually spread and coat your tongue better when they are immersed in lipids. Using fat in anything from marinades to braises helps coax out, layer, and evenly distribute flavors.

Monounsaturated oils, specifically olive oil increase the nutrients available through digestion. The tradition of tomatoes and olive oil is well supported by research; the antioxidant content of the tomatoes increases when combined with olive oil.

Traditionally, oils are extracted from nuts and seeds through mechanical crushing and pressing. If bottled immediately, the oil is a cold-pressed “raw” or “virgin” oil, which tends to retain its natural flavor and color. Virgin in the case of olive oil also signifies only the perfect fruits were used. Unrefined oils have higher levels of minerals, enzymes, and other compounds highly sensitive to heat and tend to be susceptible to rancidity; these are the oils best-suited to drizzling, dressings, and lower temperature cooking.

To produce oil with a high smoke point, manufacturers use industrial-level refinement; bleaching, filtering, and high-temperature heating to extract and eliminate extraneous compounds. This produces a neutral-flavored oil with a long shelf life and a higher smoke point.

Clarified butter and ghee follow the same basic concept: a process designed to extract more heat-sensitive components; milk solids—from fat to raise its smoke point.    When heated past its smoke point, fat starts to break down, releasing free radicals.

 

Health Benefits of Traditional Fats

Fats speak to the integral health of our whole body. Without healthy fats, we would not exist. [1]

 

Olive Oil is not only one of the oldest oils still in use for cooking, but it also has some impressive science to support its use for health. The unrefined olive oil contains minerals, vitamins and compounds that serve as anti-inflammatories. This is especially important when it comes to brain health. [2], [3], [4]  The antioxidants in olive oil are essential for aiding the digestive system in absorbing nutrients found in vegetables. Especially those high in carotenoids; winter squash, carrots, tomatoes, lycopene: tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, kale and xanthine; dark greens, cruciferous vegetables, chard.

For a maximum flavor reach for extra virgin olive oil, you may want several types on hand providing a delicate fruity or strong peppery flavor.  For times when you don’t want a lot a pronounced flavor, you can use “Classic” olive oil or “Pure.”

How you plan to use each type of olive oil matters because the flavor is affected by cooking. Olive oils, especially extra-virgin, have a varying range of smoke points, this depends on the type of olive, where it was grown, and how it was produced.

The International Olive Council (IOC) in Madrid, Spain, sets the grades and standards for world olive oil trade, which members of the North American Olive Oil Association agree to follow. [5]

To Traditional Foods made with Care and Intention, Flavored with Love.

 

Our Journey With Food Cookery BookExcerpt from Our Journey with Food Cookery Book

[1] https://www.eufic.org/en/whats-in-food/article/facts-on-fats-dietary-fats-and-health

[2] Extra-virgin olive oil preserves memory, protects brain against Alzheimer’s;  June 21, 2017,  Temple University Health System: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/06/170621103123.htm

[3] Extra‐virgin olive oil ameliorates cognition and neuropathology of the 3xTg mice: role of autophagy; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5553230/

[4] Mediterranean-type diet and brain structural change from 73 to 76 years in a Scottish cohort; http://n.neurology.org/content/early/2017/01/04/WNL.0000000000003559.short?sid=f6a60041-6b89-41fe-827d-49a0f92359fa

[5] Grades of Olive Oil; https://www.aboutoliveoil.org/grades-of-olive-oil-video?utm_campaign=olive%20oil%20videos&utm_content=77894857&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook

 

Traditional Culinary Herbs for Health

By Tammera J. Karr, PhD

 

The role of herbs and spices in traditional cookery is more than flavor; herbs played a vital role in nutrition and health for past generations. The daily use of herbs in cookery supplied minerals, vitamins, and volatile compounds effective at killing pathogens and parasites. They provided expectorant, glucose-regulating, diuretic, and anti-inflammatory properties. It is essential to understand the healing properties of herbs and their inclusion in cookery to fully grasp the concept of “food as medicine.”

For centuries, the food placed before mankind was his nourishment and sole source of medicine. A good wife during medieval times was the mistress of the household and known for keeping order. Housewife later became the accepted term and further denoted a married woman in charge of the household. Additionally, the lady of the house was judged on how well-provisioned the pantry, how well the kitchen garden tended, which included herbs for food preservation and medicine, and on how flavorful the foods were coming from the kitchen. All of these were considered before beauty. The skill the good wife possessed reflected on her family and the prosperity of her husband and his charges, making the place of good wife an elevated and essential role.

Now, this all sounds ridiculous to us in the modern age, but remember these were different times, and these skills meant life or death during famine or war. A skilled good wife would be called on to care for the injured or ill. If her skill was lacking, she could find herself in chains or on the fire for being a witch. This is historically the earliest beginnings of holistic nutrition for those of European descent. The Persians and Asians had extensive use of culinary herbs predating the European good wife by more than a century. ,  ,

When did individuals begin adding flavor to their food? Food anthropologists really cannot give us a definite answer on this, because plant remains rarely last, which is why researchers seldom speculate on how they were used thousands of years ago.

That being said, in 6,000-year-old pottery from Denmark and Germany, a team of researchers found phytoliths, small bits of silica that form in the tissues of some plants, most notably garlic mustard seeds, which carry robust and peppery flavor but little nutritional value.

Because they were found alongside residues of meat and fish, the seed remnants represent the earliest known direct evidence of spicing in European cuisine. According to researcher Hayley Saul of the University of York, “It certainly contributes important information about the prehistoric roots of this practice, which eventually culminated in globally significant processes and events.”

The flavors associated with Europe, Mediterranian, and Asian traditional foods is primarily due to the influence of the Arabian Agriculture Revolution. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the Muslims stepped into the vacuum. Their ships and caravans carried their cuisine rich in spices and fruits across three continents. The Muslims brought melons, pomegranates, grapes, raisins, peaches, almonds, pistachios, cherries, pears, and apricots to the Persian Empire.

In Europe, they introduced spinach, melons, eggplant, and artichokes. The Muslims planted orchards of stone fruits; peaches, cherries, and apricots. In Spain the introduction of sugar, saffron, rice, and the bitter orange; the foundation of British marmalade. All this happened before 700 A.D. By the 10th century, the influence on the world’s flavor of food was apparent.

The earliest Muslim recipes date from Baghdad in 1226. They were recorded by al-Baghdadi, who “loved eating above all pleasures.” Many of the recipes are for tagines – meat and fruit stews simmered for hours over a low flame until the meat is falling-apart-melt-in-your-mouth-tender. The inclusion of spices in almond stuffed meatballs called mishmishiya consisted of cumin, coriander, cinnamon, ginger, and black pepper. Saffron added color, and ground almonds were added to thicken. Stews were also perfumed with waters distilled from rose and orange blossoms.

Le Viandier: Cooking with spices was considered a new style of cookery and written down by Frenchman Gillaume Tirel ca. 1312-1395. This became the first European cookery book. Le Viadier reflects the  influence of the Middle East and on the cooking of the Middle Ages of Europe, especially the use of spices such as cinnamon, ginger, cumin, coriander, and cardamon. All of these spices can be found in the traditional Christmas drink known as wassail.

The fall of the Christian Eastern Roman Empire to the Turks in 1453 sent the European world and its now addicted sweet tooth and love of spices into a tailspin. All roads east were closed and the need for food explorers brought us Cristoforo Colombo (Christopher Columbus), and a whole “new world” of flavors joined the old.

Here is to Flavorful Traditional Foods that build the Body and Spirit

 

Our Journey With Food Cookery BookYou can read more on the Pantry in the Our Journey with Food Cookery Book

Spring with a splash of Easter color

by Tammera J. Karr, PhD

The familiar dyed Easter egg, which annually rolls along lawns and frustrates little children armed with colored wicker baskets, is a carryover from the pagan holiday which preceded the Christian holy day.  Easter has a close association with food. The word comes from the Anglo-Saxon goddess of light and spring, Eostre, and special dishes were prepared in her honor so that the year would be endowed with fertility.

The egg figures into both Christian and Jewish springtime holidays. Egg-shaped confections are unique to Easter, and – until just over a century ago – found primarily in France.

People in central European have a long tradition of elaborately decorated eggs. Polish, Slavic, Russian and Ukrainian create intricate designs on the fragile eggs. Yugoslavian eggs bear the initials “XV” for “Christ is Risen,” a traditional Easter greeting. The Russians, during the reign of the tsars, celebrated Easter much more elaborately than Christmas, with Easter bread and special foods and decorated eggs given as gifts.

In Baltic Russia, the Easter cake kulich, made from a yeast dough of enormous proportions and lavishly decorated with crystallized citrus peel is a traditional food served during Easter. In traditional Baltic households, it is placed on a table decorated with painted eggs and the children of the family gather to share the eggs and bread.

The Pennsylvania Dutch imported the Easter Hare, who delivered colored eggs to good children. By the early nineteenth century; entire Pennsylvania Dutch villages would turn out with gaily decorated Easter eggs to play games, including egg-eating contests.

In Europe, there are traditions, not limited to Christian denominations, of eating the season’s new lamb, just coming onto the market. The roast lamb served on Easter Sunday began with the first Passover of the Jewish people.

Here are more healthy spring foods for you to enjoy.

Artichokes are a good source of protein, vitamin C, folate, potassium, and magnesium, and are a rich source of fiber. They also contain a compound called cynarin, extracts of which have been found to protect and regenerate the liver and regulate cholesterol levels.

Asparagus, a 100-gram portion of asparagus, contains three-quarters of the folate and a quarter of the vitamin C required each day. It is also a useful source of beta-carotene, vitamin E and potassium.

Broccoli is an excellent source of beta-carotene and vitamin C, and contains calcium, potassium, and folate – vital nutrients for immune health and strong bones. Broccoli is also rich in indole-3-carbinol (I3C). In preliminary research, I3C has been reported to affect oestrogen metabolism that protects against breast and other female cancers.

Cabbage is high in vitamin C and anti-cancer compounds; dithiolthiones, glucosinolates, indoles, isothiocyanates, coumarins and phenols, which work by enhancing the body’s ability to detoxify chemicals and by increasing antioxidant activity. Raw cabbage juice is documented for peptic ulcers. This is associated with a substance called S-methylmethionine, which promotes healing and relieves pain.

Leeks are surprisingly nutritious, providing a good source of many nutrients, including vitamins C and B6, folate, manganese, and iron.

Peas being legumes,  are higher in calories than most vegetables due to high carbohydrate content, they also contain protein and fiber are an excellent source of folate and vitamins A and C.

Radishes can be red, black or white. They are an excellent source of vitamin C and are noted to have a positive effect on the symptoms of colds and coughs.

Watercresses is a “superfood”,  brimming beta-carotene, vitamins B and C, calcium, and iron. Watercress is an excellent source of phytochemicals and is the richest source of phenethyl isothiocyanate, which provides the unique peppery flavor. In a number of studies, watercress has been shown to have potent anti-cancer properties.

Spring is a great time to try early greens available through the farmers markets,  as well as a traditional spring lamb.

 

To your good health and Happy Spring.

This is a great time to sign up for our newsletter!

Resources:

http://www.kievitskroon.co.za/news/easter-food-traditions-explained/

http://cadyluckleedy.com/tag/easter/

https://foodtimeline.org/easter.html

http://www.afamilyfeast.com/roasted-lamb-london-broil-style/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Watercress

http://www.ion.ac.uk/information/onarchives/10springfoods

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