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Sunday, 15 January 2012

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Food for thought

Anything that provides mental stimulus for thinking, and intellectual nourishment, is 'food for thought'. For instance, if I say: "when one person is unkind to an animal, it is considered to be cruelty; but where a lot of people are unkind to animals, especially in the name of commerce, the cruelty is condoned and, once large sums of money are at stake, will be defended to the last by otherwise intelligent people".

This then is something to think about and ponder over, and thus it becomes 'food for thought'.

However, it is not my intention today to provide my readers with mental stimulus or intellectual nourishment.

I find that not many Sri Lankans are interested in that aspect of their life. What with their daily chores, and the rat race they are involved in; intellectual needs, to say the least, are set aside on to the back burn.

Existence

Hence, instead, I wish to devote thought to that: sustainer of life; the source and essence of existence; the provider of nourishment - more simply and otherwise called: food. This week, therefore, let us give thought to food; thought about food.

It is amazing how pervasive food is. Every second commercial is for food. Every second TV episode takes place around a meal. In the city, you can't go ten feet without seeing or smelling a restaurant; or being alive to the fact that there are twenty feet high hamburgers up on billboards.

I am acutely aware of food, and its omnipresence is astounding.

In Sri Lanka, not many know that the right to food is a human right derived from the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights.

This covenant recognises the right of the people to an adequate standard of living, including adequate food, as well as the "fundamental right to be free from hunger". Yet, despite this, starvation is a significant international problem. Approximately 815 million people are undernourished, and over 16,000 children die per day from hunger-related causes.

Prices

A World Bank policy research working paper, about increase in food prices, published in July 2008 found that "the increase in the price of food commodities was led by grains - the basic diet of the majority of humanity - with sharp price increases in 2005 despite record crops worldwide. From January 2005 until June 2008, maize prices almost tripled, wheat increased 127 percent, and rice rose 170 percent".

In an essay titled 'The New Geopolitics of Food', Lester R. Brown, president of the Earth Policy Institute, and author of World on the Edge: How to Prevent Environmental and Economic Collapse, says: "Welcome to the new food economics of 2012: Prices are climbing, but the impact is not at all being felt equally. For Americans, who spend less than one-tenth of their income in the supermarket, the soaring food prices we have seen so far this year are an annoyance, not a calamity.

But, for the planet's poorest two billion people who spend 50 to 70 percent of their income on food, these soaring prices may mean going from two meals a day to one.

Those who are barely hanging on to the lower rungs of the global economic ladder risk losing their grip entirely. They can contribute - and it has - to revolutions and upheaval".

People have a special relationship with food. Food is considered to be, and is seen as, an agent that brings people together. Food is something we interact with on a daily basis - frequently, in fact. There are many very obscure facts about food that are fascinating and definitely worth knowing. Some food facts are interesting; some are surprising, while some are just plain shocking. Here is a nice trivia list about food.

The largest food item on a menu is roast camel. The camel is stuffed with a sheep's carcass, which is stuffed with chickens, which are stuffed with fish, which are stuffed with eggs. This feast is mostly served at Bedouin weddings.

Coffee

The most expensive coffee in the world comes from Civet Droppings. Civet is a cat like mammal. The animals gorge on only the finest ripe coffee berries, and excrete the partially digested beans. This is gathered, processed, and sold. Known as Kopi Luwak, it is produced mainly on the islands of Sumatra, Java, Bali and Sulawesi in the Indonesian Archipelago and also in the Philippines.

It is sold in Japan and the US for between $120 and $600 USD per 500 grams, though increasingly is available elsewhere. My question: who in hell discovered that it tastes good?

Soup

The earliest indication of our ancestors having soup dates back to about 6000 BC.

The evidence suggests that the main ingredient was Hippopotamus meat. Another noted incident involving a hippo soup is as follows: Sir Samuel Baker and his wife, Lady Florence, were making their way through Southern Sudan.

Baker is remembered as an explorer and for his exploits as a big game hunter - he was responsible for killing the largest number of our elephants; and, to this day, we honour him by naming a waterfall in the Horton Plains as Baker's Fall. Along the way, they heard many stories involving an animal favoured by the locals, both for its meat and fat, which happened to be a hippopotamus.

The intrepid cook that he was, Sir Baker concocted a soup of hippo head and spices, which he and his crew found to be quite good. As an old Spanish proverb goes, "Of soup and love, the first is the best."

Peanuts: Dynamite is made with Peanuts. Though it sounds completely incredulous, peanuts are a component of dynamite. There are also other types of dynamites that are made without peanuts. Dynamite is made from Nitroglycerine, also known as Trinitroglycerine, and Glyceryl Trinitrate, an oily, explosive liquid made by nitrating Glycerol. Glycerol or glycerin is a viscous liquid used in soaps, creams, and food. Glycerol is made of peanut oil, thus, attributing the component of dynamites to peanuts.

Potatoes

The French royalty used to feed raw potatoes to pigs before beginning to consume it themselves.

This was so because the royalty considered potatoes an unclean food. It was by chance that the French royalty discovered how tasty it was.

The head cook of the French royalty had accidently burnt the potatoes, along with other vegetables, and had to serve the same to the King and the Queen.

The cook was so sure that his head would be on the chopping block, because of this disaster, that he had almost quit. However, the royal folks were so impressed with his disastrous, yet, delectable dish, that they rewarded him handsomely.

Popsicles

In 1905, in San Francisco, Frank Epperson was only 11 years old when he invented the Popsicle, originally named Epsicle. He had accidentally left his fruit flavoured soda outside on the porch with a stir stick in it. The drink froze to the stick and tasted good. It took 18 more years for Epperson to apply for a patent for a "frozen ice on a stick" called the Epsicle ice pop, which his children re-named the Popsicle.

Tender coconut water

Tender coconut water, in emergencies, is a substitute for blood plasma. Coconut water is used for a variety of medical purposes, one of which is intravenous rehydration. By intra venous administering coconut water, when no other fluids were available, it is possible to rehydrate a person.

Tender coconut water cannot actually replace blood plasma as chemical analysis indicates that it is closer in makeup to intracellular fluid. Tender coconut water is usually sterile and, when mixed with plasma, it behaves like saline solution. Be happy whenever you eat. It helps the body to absorb the best from the food.

See you this day next week. Until then, keep thinking; keep laughing. Life is mostly about these two activities.

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