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4 reasons why new food is awesome

3 Aug

1) New food is a hot commodity

You can’t get new food anywhere. I mean, c’mon, I’ve had a lot of food in my life. It’s not every day I can get my hands on something I’ve never tasted!

2) It’s exciting and mysterious

I love surprises. I love not knowing what something will taste like, or even what’s all in it. The thrill of experiencing the hustle and bustle of a new city is on par to tasting that city’s specialty dish (mmm!).

The meal on my flight to Japan might have been more mysterious than exciting…

3) You can more fully experience small details

Think of meeting a someone new. You say hello, shake hands, maybe ask a few general questions. Five minutes into your conversation, you’ve judged whether or not you like them. If you do, you talk longer and discover a smidgen of their past, their favorite places to hang out and other details that make them unique. Accordingly, when you spy a new food, you scope it out. Give it a cautious sniff and inspect its ingredients. Then you take a bite. If you like it, you eat more, and as you do, you experience its notes of flavor fully and form adjectives for certain characteristics of it in your mind. Granted, you might learn more about a food each time you eat it, but that first bite has your total attention, allowing you to fully enjoy the details.

4) It tells about a country’s identity

In nearly every culture, meals are a time for community. What get-together doesn’t have food in the mix? A lame one, believe you me. If you want to call up that friend you haven’t seen awhile, you ask her to meet you for coffee or at a deli. Why? Food lightens the mood. We’ve been trained to associate food with good feelings (aka, coffee and friendship). Since food is such an important part of everyones’ lives, the things a person eats tells you a bit about them.

I’m not sure what this snack says about me…

Why do you enjoy new food?

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Yogurt is taking over the world

12 Apr

A few weeks ago, I told you about the world’s (and my!) coffee obsession. Today we’ll learn about another food item that spread all around the world. Yogurt! Although yogurt doesn’t exactly cause as much excitement as coffee, I, for one, love it.

My yogurt adoration picked up steam when I got a job at Pinkberry. Every time I worked a shift, I was allowed one free cup of frozen yogurt. It was my first experience with tart yogurt, although I was a moderate fan of Yoplait at the time, which is more sweet and fruity.

Another factor in my yogurt love was my five-month stint in Eastern Europe. A normal breakfast drink there is creamy tart yogurt. When I returned home, I missed it so much that I made my own jogurt. Essentially, that entails boiling pasteurized milk, mixing it with live active culture yogurt and letting it sit out for 12 hours. My mom thought I was going to die.

One of my favorite breakfasts - yogurt parfait!

After researching several countries through this blog, I found out a lot of other people are crazy about yogurt too! In fact, it’s next to impossible to go anywhere in the world where they do not consume yogurt.

Here are some interesting varieties of this delicious, nutritious food item:

Iceland

Called skyr, Icelandic yogurt is strained of all its water content to create a thicker consistency (it’s similar to Greek yogurt, which has become popular in the U.S.).

West Sumatra

Dadih yogurt is made from water buffalo milk and fermented in bamboo tubes.

Tibet

Tibetan yogurt is made from yak milk!

The Balkans

Jogurt is often made into cold soup with cucumber, olive oil, salt or dill. It’s usually a side dish.

Jordan

Jordanians salt their yogurt, dry it into chunks and call it jameed.

India

Raita is yogurt seasoned with cilantro, mint or other herbs and mixed with vegetables such as cucumber and onions. The mixture is served chilled and works as an antidote for spicy Indian dishes.

Japan

This doesn’t really count, but I had to include it. Pepsi came out with a new flavor of cola that they sold only in Japan. It was called Pepsi White, “pepsi and yogurt flavor.” This didn’t catch on. I wonder why…

Do any of these international yogurts catch your eye (or stomach)?

Coffee: an international obsession

1 Mar

Strong. Complex. Fruity. Mellow. Earthy.

What do these words have in common? They all describe coffee! Today, instead of featuring one country, I’m featuring one dish…well, one drink, to be exact. Coffee is the most popular beverage in the world, after all, with more than 400 billion cups consumed each year, so I think it qualifies for a post of its own.

People drink coffee from South America to Russia, from Madagascar to Australia. What makes this drink so universally popular? For one, it’s cheap. It also makes mornings less of a drag, and its high amount of caffeine is proven to be addictive.

Yet it’s more than the caffeine that keeps people sipping. A good cup of coffee can brighten your mood, make your day better and put you in a new state of mind. Drinking coffee with friends is a great way to deepen relationships. There is a sort of laid-back coffee culture that says, “You are important, and other things can wait.”

As you can tell, I am a coffee fan, and I love making it in different ways. Here are a few ways I brew:

"All-American" drip coffee maker

This is an easy way to make enough fresh coffee to share with friends. Mine has a built-in bean grinder, which is also time-efficient. It even has a timer function that allows me to prepare the coffee the night before, then have it fresh and waiting for me on early mornings. I don’t know about you, but it’s much easier getting out of bed if I can already smell my cup o’ joe waiting for me!

French press

French presses have become another popular option of making coffee in the U.S. All you have to do is pour your pre-ground coffee into the cup and put on the lid. After a few minutes (I like to wait four), you press the plunger down, which captures the grounds in the bottom of the cup so you can drink your coffee ground-free!

Italian espresso maker

This little guy makes less coffee than the French press, but it’s also a lot stronger. First you fill the bottom section of the pot with water, and then insert a little bowl of finely ground coffee over it. You then heat it on the stove, causing the water to rise into the top section and end up as delightfully smooth espresso.

Turkish coffee pot

Sadly, I don’t own my own Turkish coffee pot, but I hope to one day. This picture is of my friend’s pot I borrowed in Hungary. Turkish coffee is more “hardcore” than others. All you have to do is mix ground coffee and water together in your pot, then heat it up on the stove. At a certain magical point (after you have some foam, but before it’s boiled!), you take it off the stove and enjoy! The result is wonderfully rich and strong coffee, but some people object to the grounds that remain at the bottom of the cup. I, however, most emphatically do not object, and miss Turkish coffee with a passion.

I recently viewed a poll asking if Americans would eliminate their favorite food or drink from their diet if they discovered it might reduce their lifespan by a year. 57% said they would not. I am the 57%! (See what I did there?). I would not give up coffee even if it made me die at age 86 instead of 87. Would you give up your favorite food or beverage for a (slightly) longer life?

Visiting Morocco through tagine

23 Feb

No forks today! In Morocco, you use your bread to scoop the tagine into your mouth.

At first glance, Morocco has it all: bustling cities, exotic beaches, lush mountains and scenic deserts. It encompasses the exoticness of Africa while being just a short ferry ride away from Spain.

For the art and culture lovers, there are museums and festivals, as well as unique architecture. The architecture is predominately Islamic, but heavy Spanish influences make for a unique blend.

For those in need of relaxation, there are spas that include unusual treatments like sand baths. Or if you’re not willing to be buried to the neck in sand, you could visit a hammam (public bathhouse).

For you adventurers, you can try hiking mountains, surfing the ocean waves, or exploring the scenic deserts. Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to ride a camel in the Sahara desert?

For the foodies (like me!), there are all sorts of delicacies to enjoy. Moroccan cuisine was built around its natural resources and so relies heavily on olive oil and spices.  The dish I made this week, tagine, was actually named for the heavy clay pot in which it is traditionally made. Tagines are often painted with beautiful designs that making serving it as visually pleasing as it is pleasing to eat.

When I started making my tagine, I knew it was going to be good simply because of the amount of spices for which it called. For me, the spicier, the better! This recipe requires a staggering 12 spices! A couple of them are relatively unknown, like saffron, coriander and tumeric. This got me excited, and I might have dumped too much in, but it turned out pretty good nonetheless!

All the spices waiting to be rolled in pieces of chicken

This whole meal was more involved than any other I’ve made in a while. The hobz bread required kneading, rising and baking. The recipe even requested for “resting time.” Oh, sorry to wake you, bread, but dinner’s got to come sometime! The meat required marinating and then slowly cooking for hours. It was great fun to make, though. It’s not that often, after all, that you get to eat your main dish with your side dish – no forks allowed!

Which kind of tourist are you? Art lover, relaxer, adventurer, foodie or a combination of the above?

(Recipes used: Tagine & Bread)