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Chinatown San Francisco

Searching for Dan Dan

I lived for a while in Chinatown, San Francisco. My 200 square foot studio apartment was squashed next to an opera school, an infamous tong1, a flower shop, and a small Szechuan restaurant called Spicy King. Spicy King was run by Truman Du, one of the first chefs to bring Szechuan cuisine to the forefront of San Francisco’s Chinese food scene. I would eat at his restaurant every week, as I didn’t have a kitchen. Spicy King introduced me to the world of spicy numbing, of egg yolk fried bitter melon, and of hot pot. The first time I ordered Dan Dan noodle, I put it to one side, my mouth completely numb. It was confusing, like I had just gone to the dentist.

Something, I assumed, had gone horribly wrong in the cooking process and there was a chemical reaction taking place in my mouth that clearly shouldn’t. Undeterred, I ordered it the next day, and the same numbing sensation returned, but this time, prepared for it, I realized how much depth and feeling it gave the dish. It was cooling after the fiery Ebe La (another Szechuan import by chef Chen Kenmin), it was invigorating, it was above all…different.

The spice that was providing this heat goes by many names — Szechuan pepper, prickly ash powder, dried prickly ash, numbing pepper, or spicy numbing pepper. There is no proper translation because there is no English word for a pepper, or even a flavor that makes your mouth numb. The Chinese word is Ma. Ma is spicy numbing flavor, so a ma-po tofu is tofu with Szechuan peppers. If a dish is La it is spicy in our sense of a rush of blood to the tongue. It has been hard to get these dishes in the United States, partly because Americans are weirded out by things that make their mouth numb, and partly because it was banned for import, probably because the FDA agents were just as weirded out as everyone else.

Szechuan Pepper

Chilled noodle dishes make a great light lunch in the hot summer months, so I knew we needed to have one on the menu. The obvious solution was to go to the now ubiquitous cold soba noodle salad – called American Style Soba in some restaurants in Japan due to our appetite for it. Soba dough takes years to master as buckwheat is notoriously difficult to work with since it is gluten free and, as such, has very little to bind it together. The dough will crack, and the noodle will dissolve in the hands of anyone who isn’t a master. By adding other non-buckwheat flours, these noodles gain elasticity and can now be dried and exported to America to slake our thirst for healthy but filling noodle salads. While the salad is normally dressed with fresh vegetables and some ginger dressing, it’s a dish that isn’t native to Japan. Like most of our imports, it has evolved to suit our palates. There is something about buckwheat’s texture that holds up well to being cold: the chew, the slight bite, the earthy quality.

ab-dandan-sesamesobaThe second most common cold noodle, at least in my mind, is the cold Dan Dan noodle. So it just made all the sense in the world to marry these two traditions into something that would be familiar enough in its form, but piquant in its spicing. The result was our Sesame Soba – our own combination of Chilled Soba, and Dan Dan. It is tossed with delicious fresh vegetables and the Ma should cool your palate in what is expected to be a long, hot, summer. As an added bonus, this dish is an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin D, iron, fiber, and calcium.

I hope you enjoyed this story. Stop by your local Atlanta Bread to try this delectable dish. We would love to hear your feedback so please visit our Facebook and Twitter and let us know what you would like to hear about in future blog posts.

Thanks
– John


John Hutt has been a chef all of his professional life and has traveled around the world to experience new cuisines and cultures. Based in New York and Atlanta, he is the head chef of Atlanta Bread where he is currently developing exciting new menu items while also refining many current offerings. He is also a writer, focusing mostly on contemporary art.

Chef John Hutt
  1. So you might wonder, what is a Tong? In North America, a tong is a type of organization found among Chinese living in the United States and Canada. These organizations are described as secret societies or sworn brotherhoods and are often tied to criminal activity.

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Tips to Banish the Winter Doldrums

Don’t Let the Cold Get You Down – Lift Yourself Up With Healthy Winter Fare and Fun

Have you ever felt that when the temperature goes down, so does your mood? I have heard this called the winter doldrums or, more scientifically, seasonal affective disorder or SAD. Yes, there really is a legitimate reason for the urge to curl up under a blanket and watch movies that make you cry, read books that tell a tragic story, or do nothing at all. It’s not simply that you’re adapting a leisurely pace in winter, it’s that you can feel a bit depressed when cold weather comes, especially when it sticks around for a long time.

After the bustle of the holidays it can feel like a welcome change when that more melancholy mood and leisurely pace set in. But after a while, sitting in your pajamas until mid-afternoon on the weekends and ordering take-out every night begins to feel a bit sad. So how do you put the spring back in your step and elevate your mood when it’s grey and cold? There are several things you can do such as enjoying new activities, new flavors, and increasing time spent socializing.

Food can have a big impact on your mood. When the blues hit and you down a quart of ice cream you may feel a temporary lift, but ultimately you will come crashing down. Healthy foods can help combat the winter blues. “Oh no”, you say, “how is eating bland, healthy food going to lift me out of the winter doldrums”? Because things like Omega 3’s are beneficial to emotional health, lean proteins are a great source of energy, and berries can inhibit the release of cortisol which impacts your emotional responses. You’ll want to cut sugars because they are more addicting than most drugs and if you’re already feeling blue, the crash from a sugar high is going to make you feel even worse. Try eating healthy dishes like salmon (lean protein and those Omega 3’s) but add new flavors in a sauce like maple-dijon or blueberry-cabernet. In winter your body typically isn’t getting as much vitamin D from sunlight so add vitamin-D rich foods like eggs and oily fish.

If you aren’t actually depressed, but simply bored and feeling cooped up because of the weather – force yourself to go outside or socialize. Spending just a short amount of time walking outdoors will provide that much needed vitamin D from the natural light and will get your blood pumping. Enjoying new experiences with friends could also be just the boost you need. Never seen a play? Now could be the right time. Meet for lunch where healthy food is served, or serve others by volunteering or simply committing acts of random kindness.

I get it, it’s hard sometimes to shake that feeling of woe when the sky turns dark well before dinnertime, or when the snow is piled up at your door. But try enjoying new flavors, new experiences and a new attitude. It’s ok to maintain a leisurely pace, just do something!  And if that doesn’t help, crank up the heat, invest in a sunlight lamp and fool your body into thinking it’s spring!

 


 

Sources:

http://www.healthline.com/health-slideshow/10-food-tips-help-ease-winter-blues#2

http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2009/01/04/12-winter-depression-busters/

 

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Exotic and local food

A Traveler’s Note – Embrace the Unknown

We are used to the sights, sounds, and pace of our own environment. But what happens when you’re thrust into the hustle and bustle of a completely different locale? As someone who’s fortunate enough to have traveled to some exotic places, I discovered it’s surprising how quickly you can adapt to local food, customs, and people if you are open to the full experience. What it requires, however, is an open mind and a willingness to release the expectations that your new location will be like home. As a traveler you may not know how to get around or exactly what’s on that plate the waiter just brought you.

Several years ago I embarked on a 24-hour journey from Atlanta to L.A. and then on to Hong Kong to visit a family member who was temporarily living there. Hong Kong is a crowded, bustling city with modern high-rise buildings packed in tightly amongst old apartment and office structures, rundown shops, and open markets. My first impression was that the place was an assault on the senses. Hundreds of signs were suspended above the street, lights were everywhere, and the shops were packed in side by side with bins of goods jutting out onto the sidewalk. The people were packed in as densely as the buildings. There was no strolling, no personal space, and at times it felt as if there was little room to breathe, especially on the Metro.

Mental preparation was needed each time we left the flat to take on the crowds. It was like New York City on steroids – louder, brighter, and with sights and smells that either tempted your taste buds or made your stomach turn.

As a traveler, all judgment should be suspended and a willingness to sample local foods must take over. After a visit to Mongkok Market and seeing the remnants of an animal head that had been scraped clean of meat, and watching a woman snap a chicken’s neck before stuffing it in a bag for a customer, I was quite hesitant to dine on local fare. But I trusted my family member to guide me through the meals and was more than pleasantly surprised by the fresh, local food. From Chinese to Thai, Japanese to Indian, sampling the truly authentic dishes of the region turned out to be the highlight of the trip.

It wasn’t long before I was navigating the crowded streets with comfort and looking forward to my next meal. Soon the cacophony of voices, cars,  and local music, the explosion of colorful signs, and the busy pace of the city began to feel more familiar…I was no longer the wide-eyed traveler. I found beauty in the raw, almost harsh street scene and I found pleasure in the fresh food being served, even if I wasn’t entirely certain of the ingredients.

I am no Anthony Bourdain or Andrew Zimmern of “Bizarre Foods” TV fame, but I was willing to order some unfamiliar and, yes, even weird dishes. The slippery noodles served with equally slippery ingredients (that I could only guess had been very recently fished out of local waters) and the dishes of more familiar meats and vegetables were an out-of-this-world experience. On occasion some gesturing and pantomiming had to occur just to order a dish or select groceries for home-cooked meals, but the fresh ingredients were worth the effort.

There is a transformation that comes from immersing yourself in local food and culture. You can resist the unfamiliar ways and long for the comforts of home, but then why travel? Or you can surrender to the reality that you are in another place and should soak up what’s being offered.

If you don’t have the opportunity to travel abroad, you can still embrace the mind-set of a traveler. Become more adventurous with what you eat, take note of the street scene, and view your own world with a new perspective.

 

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Eat healthy this holiday season

Find a New Bliss Point – Eat Healthy This Holiday Season

It’s the time of year when parties and family gatherings are at a fever pitch. Whether you’re celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa, the holiday season packs on the fun but also packs on the pounds. So why is it that people feel compelled to binge on unhealthy food this time of year? It may be to acknowledge that the days are special by doing something different. It could also be the notion that this is the time of year to “gift” yourself with a little something extra. Whatever the motivation to overeat, it is possible to thoroughly enjoy the festivities while consuming foods made from healthy ingredients without sacrificing taste.

 Consider this – the average American will consume close to eight thousand calories on Christmas day. Add to that the parties where it’s easy to take in thousands of calories in food and beverages in one evening, and soon you’re looking at a true case of overdoing it. So why do we want to eat so poorly?

The Cravings

There is a physiological reason we crave certain foods, particularly those that are high in sugar, fat or salt. Most of us have experienced the craving for one or more of these ingredients. Companies that manufacture food actually measure the satisfaction of their foods based on something called the “bliss point”. It’s the specific amount, or combination of these ingredients, that generates the most pleasure when consumed. Until that bliss point is reached, people will continue to eat foods that contain these ingredients.

 Combinations of certain flavors such as salty and sweet or crunchy and creamy can achieve the ultimate in satisfaction. The texture, chemical interaction, and base ingredients can all work to sabotage your desire to be healthy. It’s a challenge, but you can find a way to fight the urges to achieve that bliss-point through food.

Bring a Healthy Dish

How do you combat the assault of the fatty, sugary, salty treats that will be spread out in front of you at every turn over the holidays? Know what you’re eating. The best way to know what you’re consuming is to either make it yourself or purchase it from an establishment that routinely offers healthy, local food that isn’t loaded with sugar or fat. Most party hosts would be grateful if guests contribute to the food offerings. If you bring a dish, make it a healthy one that you can eat if there are no better options.

 Many appetizers and canapes don’t seem highly caloric, though they can be. Because they aren’t filling people tend to consume several. Prepare a dish made from healthy ingredients but with plenty of flavor. Generous use of seasonings and spices can take the place of the flavor provided by the fat or sugar content in many foods. Consider the texture and flavor combinations above and come up with a dish that will satisfy certain cravings in a healthier way.

Give Up the Guilt

Often people overeat at parties because they don’t want the hostess to feel bad that no one is eating. When someone goes to the trouble of preparing food for guests, we wouldn’t feel right about there being a lot of leftovers, or for them to feel that no one was enjoying the food. So, the solution is to gobble up more than we intended in order to make a show of support.

No one’s feelings will be hurt if you sample a few items and then compliment the chef on their spread. Find your holiday bliss in the company of friends, the sound of the music and laughter, and the beauty of what’s around you.

You may feel the best way to celebrate the holidays is to indulge, just this once, in caloric, sugar-laden foods. Consider this however, will you be celebrating after you’ve overeaten and feel guilty about what you’ve done? Allow moderation and healthy choices to be the gift you give yourself. Celebrate by remembering the reason for the party.

 


 

Sources: http://www.wellingtonresearch.com/whats-your-bliss-point/

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Amish Buggy

Sauerkraut – a Microcosm of Cultures

The early settlers to Pennsylvania were mostly from Germany. Colonial Philadelphia, one of the biggest cities in the British empire, is nowadays remembered as a hub of the American Revolution. It was thriving; Benjamin Franklin was printing leaflets while the city went up around him. But before all this there was a Quaker governor of the state who decided to let in persecuted Anabaptists from Germany. This sect of ultra orthodox conservative Protestants were called the Mennonites. The Mennonites had earlier split off into the Amish, forming their own communities; it was these communities that moved into Pennsylvania. Amish believed in isolation from the rest of the sinful world, cutting themselves off from modern conveniences. That may have been easier in 1800, but it’s an ethos that has persevered to this day.

The result is that a few hours drive from the glistening hub of sin, technology and progress that is New York City, sits a community of farmers who have changed little in the past 150 years.

Change, however, is inevitable. Culture and language will always develop. The German spoken by the original settlers has become a hybrid language called Pennsylvania Dutch, no relation to New Amsterdam to the west, but from the word Deutsche meaning German. The Amish have slowly been using washing machines, powering their farm tools with propane generators and slowly moving towards modern technology. Sharing the inherent ability of language to adapt, is food. As the Amish tend to decry visual arts as a waste of time, the best way to observe and experience the culture and understand its history, is by looking at its food.

The land in Pennsylvania is hard, it requires work to get vegetables out of the soil, and the staple crop is corn. This is in harsh contrast to the Rhineland vineyards and the fertile soil of the Palatinate. The Amish food system had to adapt. German recipes were pared down to their simplest form, and the ingredients were substituted with what was at hand. The result is a fairly typical rural cuisine but with the twist of a German culinary tradition that never made its way into the age of refrigeration.

The hams and salted beef are combined with sauerkraut and oatmeal, the scrapple of pig’s head is mixed with cornmeal and made into fritters. In a community where refrigeration was a relatively recent turn of events, curing and preserving food remains incredibly important to the cuisine. As the rest of Pennsylvania took their cue from the smoked meats of the south as a method of preservation, the Pennsylvania Dutch gleefully piled salt and sage on their beef or pork, mixing it with innards to create sausages that, while not entirely German, were entirely American.

Typical Amish cooking completely inhabits natural approaches to health. No artificial chemicals are used, only what they can make themselves. This incorporates pickling, salting and preserving. The most common pickle is, of course, sauerkraut. The difference in pickling various vegetables all comes down to the ratio of vinegar, salt, and water. Vegetables that have a fairly thick structure need to be broken down, things like cucumbers are mostly water, so the ratio of vinegar to salt would be much more vinegar to much less water. Things like cabbage, as for sauerkraut, can use heating to break down fully, or time and salt but this was not common in Europe. As an example:

The Amish Version of Sauerkraut from Cooking with the Horse and Buggy People is as follows:

Shred cabbage like for slaw. Press tight in quart jars. Fill jars with boiling water. For 1 qt. add 2 t. vinegar, 1 t. salt and 1 t. white sugar. Cover and let set for 6 weeks.

The German method is slightly more involved. The typical recipe would go something like this:

Shred cabbage. Toss with salt and allow to sit for 45 minutes or until a large amount of water has been drawn from the cabbage. Massage the cabbage, squeeze it and get as much liquid from it as possible. Then place the cabbage and brine into an airtight jar and allow it to ferment for a week or two.

What is the difference in these recipes? Well, the Amish method adds vinegar and sugar instead of allowing the liquid from the cabbage to do the pickling. In essence the Amish are creating a brine of salt, sugar, vinegar and hot water then adding it to the cabbage and allowing the bacteria to grow and ferment over time. The heat is the main catalyst for both bacterial growth and breaking down the tough cabbage. In the German version the cabbage is broken down with the addition of salt, which draws the moisture out. Note the huge difference in preservation time. The Amish let their cabbage sit for 6 weeks before eating it, whereas the more typical German recipe simply waits for, typically, a week. Based on these recipes we can assume, correctly, that the Amish sauerkraut has a milder flavor than its German cousin.

Why did the Amish start boiling the water to add to the cabbage? The Amish sauerkraut method is quicker to do, the time from cabbage to jar is much less, and the shelf life is extended considerably. The German method has a more time consuming prep process, and is better suited to the world of refrigeration and shorter patience. The Amish recipe is an adaption of a classic to better suit the needs of a place without refrigeration and a real need to preserve the crop in a more efficient way. They may refuse modern technology, but the Amish are evolving and adapting, creating better ways to do things, finding new solutions to almost obsolete questions.

I hope you enjoyed this story! I am developing a delicious reuben with the sauerkraut I told you about in this blog, so stop by your local Atlanta Bread and check it out as soon as it’s available. In the meantime, we would love to hear your feedback so please visit our Facebook and Twitter and let us know what you would like to hear about in future blog posts.

Thanks
– John

John Hutt has been a chef all of his professional life and has traveled around the world to experience new cuisines and cultures. Based in New York and Atlanta, he is the head chef of Atlanta Bread where he is currently developing exciting new menu items while also refining many current offerings. He is also a writer, focusing mostly on contemporary art.

Chef John Hutt

Main photo taken by Konstantin Sergeyev.

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Soup provides comfort throughout the world

Soups – Providing Comfort Around the World

There’s nothing quite like a hot bowl of soup on a cold day. When you slurp the warm liquid down, while the steam rising from the bowl obscures your view for a few moments, there’s a feeling of comfort that washes over you. Perhaps we find it comforting because soup has been the traditional offering to help someone feel better when they’re ill. But even if you’re healthy and are enjoying a bowl of soup as a starter, main course, or as a side, it’s definitely a food that provides a great sense of well-being.

 There are theories that soup may date back to the Stone Age*. As far as we can accurately verify, soup had it’s humble beginnings as an item created to clear the pantry, or as an inexpensive meal to feed a family. Today, it can be said that soups are, indeed, universal – with many cultures enjoying the flavors of local ingredients in each bowl.

In many countries, soup is often served as a first or third course. In many regions soup is the only course. They can be a traditional item for holy days in Mexico where turtle soup, bean soup and Caldo de Vigilia – a concoction of cactus and smoked fish – are common soups served for Lent.

Soups are traditional meals for the morning and evening in France, where babies and children are fed Panade, a form of bread soup that is provided in place of cereal. Soup may be served for dinner there as well, but typically only to family, not guests.

Borscht is a soup made with beets (usually served with sour cream) in countries such as Russia, Poland, and Ukraine.

Soups are certainly seen as medicinal in places other than the US, where chicken noodle soup is thought to provide a sense of relief from the symptoms of colds. It is also considered one of the “safe” things to eat after a bout of stomach issues. In Japan, women in small villages will describe how certain soups help with various ailments – plantain soup and rock sugar for colds, mugwort or carp soup for fever.

Customs for enjoying soups vary as well. In Japan it is quite customary to slurp soup from the spoon or even to drink it straight from the bowl. In China, letting out a loud belch following a meal is considered to be a compliment. In Portugal, don’t ask for salt and pepper unless it is on the table. Doing so is an insult to the chef’s seasoning abilities.

The staggering variety of soups around the world can leave your head spinning. These meals-in-a-bowl are typically made with local ingredients and often with exotic seasonings and an array of meats and vegetables. It’s somewhat comforting to know that wherever you may travel, you can still get a sense of home when there is soup on the menu. There’s something about putting spoon to mouth and drinking down that warm blend of flavors that is truly a comfort. If you aren’t abroad, you can always try a traditional soup from another land to get a real sense of a far away place.

 Soup is good for the soul. But it’s also a wonder for the taste buds.

 


Sources:

http://www.soupsong.com/icustom.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/11/dining-etiquette-around-the-world_n_3567015.html

 

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Farmer's Markets - local goodness

Farmer’s Markets: More Than Just Locally Grown Goodness

As supermarkets continue to grow and expand various departments, it’s clear that something else gets pushed by the wayside – the charm and sense of community you get when shopping at a small market. Convenience and multiple options are wonderful things, but as more and more people aim to eat healthier and support locally owned and operated businesses, farmer’s markets are becoming more popular. The number of farmer’s markets has increased 60% in the past five years!

Whether you explore on your own with a specific list in mind or make it a family trip to experience the joys of shopping al fresco, visiting a local farmer’s market is a journey you’ll want to repeat. It’s the type of event that can make you feel like you’re a part of your surroundings and inspire you to try new things.

We all spend so much time in our homes, cars, and offices that the opportunity to get out in our community and stroll the street with other shoppers can be a grounding experience. It seems we have forgotten the sheer pleasure of getting to know the people and things around us – to engage all of our senses.

This is the time to talk with farmers and learn how they got started or how they grow their food. While shoulder to shoulder with another visitor who’s picking up a vegetable you’ve never purchased, ask them how to prepare it or how it tastes. Look at the variety of colors, smell the scents of the fresh, local food, feel the texture of the items, and yes, taste the samples.

Your goal may be to support your local community or it could be to step out of the norm. Either way, a trip to a community farmer’s market could be the start of something special. It could become a routine to get out in the fresh air or maybe simply motivation to eat healthy or broadens one’s perspective.

Shopping at a farmer’s market also allow you to do something for your community by supporting local farmers. Coming armed with information helps even more – before going, learn what’s in season. Bring plenty of cash in small bills because not all stands will have enough change. A small cart works best or carry some reusable bags to tote purchases. To truly feel welcome in this community, remember there is generally no bargaining like there is in a flea market. After all, you are supporting local.

With 52% of people surveyed saying it’s more important to them to buy local than it is to buy organic*, locally owned and operated markets, businesses, and restaurants are thriving. It’s about stepping back and appreciating what’s right around you. So, as large supermarket chains continue to expand their stores and their product lines, we encourage you to expand your horizons by going small and local at a farmer’s market.

____________________________________________

Sources:

*http://www.rodalesorganiclife.com/food/farmers-market-tips-0

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Quinoa Salad

Vegetarians – Does Eating Out Have to Be a Challenge?

One of the biggest challenges vegetarians face is dining with friends. They sometimes feel guilty about steering the group away from places that would be a better fit for their meat eating friends, but does it need to be a major issue?

Most modern restaurants have vegetarian options and will even customize a dish to your diet upon request. The exceptions would be places where a customer has simply never requested a vegetarian option, such as rural diners in the Midwest or barbecue joints.   Even places you wouldn’t consider vegetarian friendly will serve salads and sides that are meat free. These options may not be ideal but they’re likely adequate. Who wants to settle for adequate, though?

What about meat eaters who have vegetarian friends? It’s more probablewe’re the ones making plans. Many meat-eaters have never considered vegetarian foods until they are exposed to a friend or acquaintance who expresses a desire to avoid meats. How do we ensure we find a place that includes our vegetarian friends? In this case, the Internet is your best asset.

Most restaurants publish their menu online, but certain restaurant types are a safe bet even without looking. For instance, a place that serves gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches will almost always have a selection of meat-free options. Pizza is another safe bet, as making meat free pizza is simple. Pasta is another safe choice, because many pasta dishes are not only vegetarian, but vegan friendly. Basil pesto pasta, anyone?

Nothing is simpler than a sandwich shop. Almost every sandwich shop in the US has vegetarian sandwiches. Even if the shop doesn’t offer vegetarian options, a request to ‘hold the meat’ on an otherwise perfect sandwich will usually work. A specialty sandwich shop without a selection of vegetarian options is almost unheard of these days.

Breakfast is always a good choice, and many restaurants will serve breakfast foods all day. Even for a meat-eater, breakfast for lunch can be a fun change of pace – Belgian waffles are not just for Sunday brunch anymore. Given the number of vegetarian items on the normal breakfast menu, finding something delicious should be simple.

Most people who look at a tremendous array of options on a menu don’t consider the limited options that may be available for vegetarians. As long as we are aware of the needs and wants of every member of our group, we can make more informed choices. The most important thing to remember is that a mindful choice and a little creativity will go a long way.

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Turkey Cranberry Sandwich

The Evolution of Sandwiches – A History of Taste

The sandwich is an enormous part of American culture, but where did it come from? Any geography buff would tell you there is an island chain in the south Atlantic called the South Sandwich Archipelago, but why would anyone name it that? The chain of islands was named for the same man as the food, and both in the 1700s, although that’s where the similarities end.

 The first written accounts of meat and bread date back to the second century BC, and ancient middle-eastern people ate them all the time. No one named the concoction until arguably 1762 when the 4th Earl of Sandwich, John Montagu, needed something he could eat that wouldn’t interrupt his gambling. Edward Gibbon first wrote the word ‘sandwich’ in his journal as a culinary reference on November 24th of that year, but the first recipe using the word wasn’t published until 1773.  The Americas were still colonial at that time, and would be, as far as the British were concerned, for another decade.

Americans didn’t widely start using the word until the 1830s. ‘Sandwich’ did, however, start appearing in cookbooks as early as 1816. The former colonists simply weren’t keen on calling anything by its British name so soon after the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. By 1924, however, the New York Times was calling for celebration of sandwiches as a convenient food, and heralding the arrival of the ‘sandwich house,’ a new type of lunch room primarily dedicated to sandwiches and their consumers. Many of the sandwiches from that era seem fairly unappetizing compared to the wonderful examples we have today, but some have survived. One of the earliest American sandwiches, the ham sandwich, is still served everywhere.

In the early days, many of the sandwiches offered by sandwich houses were vegetarian in nature. They used mostly vegetables and spreads, and the focal point was the bread. The meat centric sandwiches were essentially butter, or prepared mustard, with meat and bread. Thankfully, we’ve evolved the sandwich to an amazing array of breads, toppings, fillings and condiments.

Today, sandwich shops have a dizzying array of ingredients to choose from, like bacon and avocado, fresh vegetables, fruits, and nearly any meat you can name. Some of the most delicious sandwiches you can imagine have ingredients that you wouldn’t have considered even a decade ago. Literally anything can be put between two slices of bread and called a sandwich, but knowing which ingredients pair well together and how to bring out the best flavors and textures takes a special kind of skill.

Now we have hot sandwiches like paninis, cold sandwiches like banh mi, vegetarian sandwiches that make good use of cucumber and tomato, the always popular grilled cheese. We have sandwiches with Indian, southwest, Asian, Mediterranean, and a host of other flavors.  All of these choices can make selection a little daunting.

So, what’s with the American love affair with sandwiches? Is it the convenience of a food that can be prepared and taken anywhere? Is it the incredible variety? Is it the unending potential for customization? Many like to think it’s all of the above, but when the average American adult eats over 200 sandwiches per year, one thing is certain: sandwiches are here to stay, and they just keep getting better.

 


Sources:

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-kent-18010424

http://whatscookingamerica.net/History/SandwichHistory.htm

http://www.pbs.org/food/the-history-kitchen/history-sandwich/

http://www.foodtimeline.org/foodsandwiches.html

 

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Healthy Food

Make Eating Healthy A Family Routine

Kids are known for engaging in somewhat risky behaviors. They jump from places most parents feel are too high or run headlong into a bustling crowd without concern. As parents, these are the moments we prefer to avoid. But one situation where we might like for our kids to venture out and take a risk is with what they are willing to eat. Often times it seems like getting them to eat a healthy lunch is just a dream.

 With one in four people admitting to eating fast food on a daily basis and 52% believing that doing taxes is easier than eating healthy, there is clearly an uphill battle when it comes to setting a good example for our kids.*

With all the running around from activity to activity it’s no wonder people settle for what’s fast and easy. But don’t cave in to the pressure of time and eat on the run. What if it really is possible to take your family out for a convenient, healthy lunch – one with less fat and sugar while still full of taste? It isn’t like finding a unicorn, such meals do exist! Eating healthy can happen, you simply have to know where to look. And if you make it a routine and a behavior  you model for them, it’s likely to stick.

It’s no longer out of the norm for restaurants that typically provide high calorie, low nutrition meals to place “healthy” items on the kids menu. But when they are side-by-side with the temptation of tasty, artery-clogging meals, what good does it really do? And how much of a rut do we really want to stay in by ordering those meals? There are plenty of restaurants that carry a menu full of healthy choices and fresh ingredients without so much sugar and fat.

You want to break free, to encourage your kids to try something new. Yes, it’s hard to convince them they can enjoy a healthy lunch just as much as their usual burgers and fries, but have faith in yourself. And give your kids a little credit. Once they’ve tasted the flavors you can find in various pastas, salads, and sandwiches made with fresh, healthy ingredients, their bodies, and their taste buds, will adjust to the new norm.

Now, picture your family in a restaurant where you can grab a quick bite in the midst of your busy lifestyle or you enjoy a leisurely dining experience when the time is right. Finding a place that becomes your dining out standard makes life easier. With an ability to satisfy a variety of tastes, such a restaurant can become a part of your routine without putting you in a rut. Let the place adapt to your pace and desires and soon your family will be eating a healthy lunch or a tasty, fresh dinner without stress.

 Encourage your kids to break free from the traditional kids menu and allow them to take a risk by eating healthy meals full of flavor. You’ll feel like you’re jumping from boring to exceptional and running headlong into a new adventure. Now that’s a behavior we all want to experience!

 


 

https://www.dosomething.org/facts/11-facts-about-american-eating-habits