Around the world in 80 flavors
Mexico City is a great reference for the world in many ways, we traveled recently with the book "Eat Mexico" of Lesley Tellez as a guide.
In a city that suffers from agonizing traffic, crumbling infrastructure , and fetid air, thrives a gastronomic capital: Mexico City. Bosting regional influences from the northern border to Guatemala, the complex, flavorful foods of this city are what makes everyone talk.
In Mexico City, there are two types of markets: Mercados, generally boxy buildings full of produce stalls and eateries, and tianguis, outdoor markets that move to different neighborhoods throughout the week. Many Mercado buildings in Mexico City were constructed in the middle of the twentieth century, and there's a sense, stepping inside, that things haven't changed much.
The Mercado is as much about eating as it is shopping. Every market offers prepared food, sold either at lunch counters or small restaurants , and all of it is cooking daily or, à la minute.
You can find fresh juices and tortas, guisados (stew) and tacos, and pitchers of aguas frescas. Eating there, your market bags resting at your feet, the strum of a guitar or some other music on your ear from a wandering musician , it's no hard to romanticizes the experience, particularly when you spend your life shopping at bland supermarkets.
The Tianguis, from the náhuatl word tianquitzli, meaning plaza or market, is an open-air market than usually spans several blocks, with stands offering fresh produce, prepared food, clothes, shoes and other odds and ends. The vibe is wilder than the Mercado. There are ambulant vendors too: men toting big glass jars of honey and pollen, flat baskets of fresh herbs, coolers of homemade tamales, fresh cheeses or staks of wooden bangers.
It's interesting to ponder how long all of this will go on, as mexican demographics have change. More women now work outside the home and families report having less time to cook. The Mercados and Tianguis are only open during business hours, so they don't fit the average working person's schedule. Some Mercados have lost most of their tenants , leaving huge, half empty shells in otherwise bustling residential neighborhoods.
By the way, Mexico City have the biggest Mercado in Latin America, named La Merced.
The cuisine of Transylvania is as interesting as its history, customs and legends, and varies from region to region. Rumanian cookery is quite different from Hungarian, and has a character and flavor all its own. It is light and savory with the addition of many herbs. Rumanian housewives have developed their individual style and are prone to add a bit of this and that to their creations. Cooking is not a chore for Rumanian women, but rather and accomplishment. They are hospitable to a fault, and love to show off their culinary fare.
The mother or grandmother, "Baba", is undisputed monarch of the kitchen. In Rumania two very strong culinary influences are dominant: Turkish - Balkan - Mediterranean cuisine and Austro - Hungarian cookery. "Baba" combines Eastern and Western culinary techniques, mixing eggplant, yogurt and dolmas (meat wrapped in grape or cabbage leaves) with strudel, pilaf, baklava, riasts served in wooden platters and meats barbeqcued on a spit.
Not much has been written about Hungarian cuisine prior to King Matthias' ascent to the throne in 1458. The young King had an amazing capacity for learning and his interests ran the gamut from music and writing to culinary arts.
The favorite royal Chefof this enlightened King was Gyorgy Veres, a Transylvanian gentlemen turned Master Chef,who broght all the refinements of advanced Transylvanian cuisine to court. His laboriously recorded recipes and cooking procedures which were the first culinary writings in that part of the world.
Tarragon, dill, garlic and basilica (basil) were ingredients with which Gyorgy Veres enhaced the royal fare. The King loved his cooking so much that he sent forth emissaries to Transylvania to collect seasonings, wild mushrooms and marvelous recipes.
Transylvania (called Erdely in Hungarian) today is a conglomeration of cultures and nations. Germans who settled there in the early 12th century allegedly came from Saxony. Rumanians claim they were first, and were descendants of Roman legionnaires and Greek travelers. In any case, Transylvanians are a stimulating and interesting melange, with one of the most colorful cuisines in the Carpathian region. Isolated from both Western and Eastern worlds for centuries, they developed their own culture, language and legends. They live amidst high mountains and deep gorges in a world which is somewhat unreal and populated by imaginary characters. Their mythology, folklore, culture and culinary achievement are all closely interwoven. Gypsys who roam these lands add yet another dimension to this storybook existence, with their sad songs, tales by bonfire and their own cookery carried from village to village and marketplace to marketplace. Undoubtedly this mixture has produce one of the most delightful Hungarian and Rumanian cuisines.
Pork is certainly the favorite meat of Transylvanians, and they also thrive on mutton and lamb from and unusual breed of ship which roams the mountains. Sheep hearding is an important to a Transylvanian as ate cattle, hog and horse raising to plains people of Hungary and Rumania. The meat has in own marvelous taste because the sheep graze on tarragon,wich impart a unique flavor. Sheep's cheese, "Brindza", is used extensively in the cookery as a cornmeal. Paprika is almost entirely replaced by tarragon, dill and other mountain herbs.
Today most of Transylvania is ins Rumanian hands, and slowly the magic of Erdely is being draw into the new Rumanian culture. Perhaps it is only a matter of time before the colourful,unique legends, myths and cuisine are only a memory from the past.
Transylvanians of all origins are extremely proud of their culinary achievements, and one could write volumes describing the presentation and consumption of the various food. Every day is festive when it comes to dining, and especially elaborate preparations are made for weddings and other special feasts.
Wild seasoning are as fascinating and limitless as the great auditors. A knowledge of the save versus the toxic is vital and easy to acquire. The early Americans evolved and extensive usage of seasonal, indigenous North American flavorings, which is impressive and beneficial to us today. Early Americans also knew the special properties of the Ashes mixed with their foods or in water, for various preparations. Ashes of distinctive woods such as cedar, juniper, hicko, and so on, we're definite flavorings, as well as cleansing and digestive agents. Ashes also bleach and soften some foods and add trace minera, subtly influencing taste and consistency. Ashes in the water create lye, which will harden and chemically change the substances to which it is added.
Nut and seed butters and oil were the primary nutritive seasoning among most Native Americans. They provided the greatest flavor accents and were a widely used staple in native diets.
Nuts were used extensively by many American Indian tribes who taught be early colonist how to gather and prepare them for flour, pastes, oil, butter, pottage a and dyes. Part of the Indians annual cycle of the activities included the autumn harvest of the black walnuts, acorns, hickory nuts and chestnuts. Nuts were an important item in the Indian's diet and as winter progressed and the food suply became low, they depended more and more upon them for nourishment. They deemed nuts so important that several tribes named their moons or times of the year after them.
Most nutmeats, including sweet white oak acorns, were eaten raw by a number of tribes especially the Algonquins. Nuts were pounded into meal to be used in beads, soups, and for seasonings; they were also ground in a mortar with water to make a flavorful nut "milk" to add various dishes. Nut oils were rendered by boiling the nutmeats and meal, then skimming do the oil. This nutritious staple was used to prepared and to season vegetables, potter herbs and meats, and to spread on breads.
The breads were usually "cakes" made by mixing cornmeal with what was left in the bottom of the pot after nuts oil were redendered, and then frying this batter in hot fat or roasting it in hot coals.
Sunflower seed cakes
3 cups shelled sunflower seeds, fresh or dried
3 cups water
6 tablespoons fine cornmeal
2 teaspoons maple syrup
1/2 cup oil
* Simmer the seeds in the water in a heavy saucepan, covered for 1 hour. Drain and grind.
* Mix the cornmeal and syrup into the ground seeds, 1 tablespoonful at a time to make a stiff dough.
* Shape into a firm, flat cakes 3 inches in diameter
* Brown the cakes in hot oil in a heavy skillet on both sides. Drain on brown paper and serve hot
Yogis and sages teache moderation in food and being selective about the diet. They underline that true seekers, who wish to enjoy meditation, should only fill half of their stomach and that, we are what we eat. Why do they emphasize that we are what we eat? Human beings come from food and rishis and saints, since time immemorial, have indicated the following major points for us to ponder:
Right action, dharma, depends, on the food sheat,
Pure love, prema, is an offspring of the vital intuition and mental sheath,
Peace, shanti, is an offspring of the mental sheath,
Truth, satya, is an offspring of the intellectual sheath,
Non-violence, ahimsa, is an offspring of the intuition sheath.
As an introduction to a more conducive lifestyle, we are to deepen and understand the subtler effects of food on the body-mind
organism, because it entails a major shift from our Western food habits. To be convinced, let us review a few hints of the teachings we have received:
There are five vitals energies, or pranas, which vitalize all bodily functioning. One is related to breathing, another to excretion, a third to circulation, a fourth to digestion and a fifth to the upward flow, whip energizes the higher centres.
There are five types of life-breaths (pranas). The five pranas are known as prana, apana, vyana, udana and samana vayu. Prana comes from the sun and vyana comes from air. Apana comes from earth. Udana comes from fire and samana comes from space. Our body is sustained by harmonious functioning of the five life-breaths. And as there are seventytwo thousand blood vessels in a human being, the vyana vayu blows through the entire circulatory system; therefore, whenever the air we breath is polluted, all the blood vassals also become polluted.
The entired cosmos is permeated by the potency of the three gunas and they influence even our vision of the world. The five subtle elements of space, air, fire, water and earth emerged from the Source, and each one is constituted of the three gunas; under their influence the five subtle elements evolved into the five gross elements and the cosmos through the process of permutation.
(Meat, poultry, sea food, onions, garlic, tobbacco, alcohol, drugs, processed food, frozen or canned food, mushrooms, too salty, too sour, too sweet)
Further one may define a Tamasic all the poisons in the body created by any food reheated or leftover, stale or rotten food, un ripe or overripe, food containing additives like artificial flavors, preservatives, colors, or MSG, processed food like packaged chips and any junk food like sodas and so on.
Any food that induces laziness, sadness, tiredness, narrow vision, low energy, dull intelect, meanness, no initiative, and insensitivity to others, feelings is also considered tamasic.
Whenever any type to cooed food has cooled down, it becomes tamasic food. Therefore we may be surprised to learn that even bread, crackers and biscuits are totally tamasic, because they increased the stomach acidity. Food that has become odorous is also tamasic. The longer you wait in eating, the food you have cooked, the more tamasic the food becomes. Yogis also stress that the effect of salts worse than that of wine, because adding salt pollutes the blood and the consequently our mind becomes agitated. In essence we should be aware that too salty, too sour, too sweet or strongly spiced foods are tamasic.
(All types of meat, poultry, seafood, drugs, coffee, tea, refined sugar, chilies, strong spices, eggs, onions, carbonated beverages, garlic, alcohol and liquors, tobacco, excess of diary products)
In many countries people eat food that is very hot, completely ignoring that hot spicy food strengthens our Rajasic qualities. It is also a good habit to avoid (food that is served completely dry without any oil