You are browsing the archive for Food.

Sunday Food: Mayonnaise

12:21 am in Food by Ruth Calvo



(Picture courtesy of Paul at

The final condiment in this three week series, to give it equal time, is more like a salad dressing than the previous ones, mustard and ketchup.  While many sandwich eaters will find that a mayonnaise is part of their salad sandwiches, it seems that only a minority put them on those standard hamburgers and hot dogs, or other meat sandwiches.  As a kid, I liked mayo on my sandwiches, but somewhere along the way I grew into mustard, and now that is what I prefer.

Sources place the origin of mayonnaise as being the town of Mahón in MenorcaSpain, from where it was taken to France after Armand de Vignerot du Plessis‘s victory over the British at the city’s port in 1756. According to this version, the sauce was originally known as salsa mahonesa in Spanish and maonesa (later maionesa) in Catalan (as it is still known in Menorca), later becoming mayonnaise as it was popularized by the French.[7]

The Larousse Gastronomique suggests: “Mayonnaise, in our view, is a popular corruption of moyeunaise, derived from the very old French word moyeu, which means yolk of egg.”[8] The sauce may have been christened mayennaise after Charles de Lorraine, duke of Mayenne, because he took the time to finish his meal of chicken with cold sauce before being defeated in the Battle of Arques.[9]

Nineteenth-century culinary writer Pierre Lacam suggested that in 1459, a London woman named Annamarie Turcauht stumbled upon this condiment after trying to create a custard of some sort.[10]

According to Trutter et al.: “It is highly probable that wherever olive oil existed, a simple preparation of oil and egg came about — particularly in the Mediterranean region, where aioli (oil andgarlic) is made.”[7]

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the term mayonnaise was in use in English as early as 1823 in the journal of Lady Blessington.[11]

Making mayonnaise[edit]

Mayonnaise can be made by hand with a mortar and pestle,[12] whisk or fork, or with the aid of an electric mixer or blender. Mayonnaise is made by slowly adding oil to an egg yolk, while whisking vigorously to disperse the oil. The oil and the water in yolks form a base of the emulsion, while lecithin and protein from the yolks are the emulsifiers that stabilize it.[13] Additionally, a bit of a mustard may also be added to sharpen its taste, and further stabilize the emulsion. Mustard contains small amounts of lecithin.[14] If vinegar is added directly to the yolk it can emulsify more oil, thus making more mayonnaise.[15]

For large-scale preparation of mayonnaise where mixing equipment is being employed the process typically begins with the dispersal of eggs, either powdered or liquid, into water. Once emulsified, the remaining ingredients are then added and vigorously mixed until completely hydrated and evenly dispersed. Oil is then added as rapidly as it can be absorbed. Though only a small part of the total, ingredients other than the oil are critical to proper formulation. These must be totally hydrated and dispersed within a small liquid volume, which can cause difficulties including emulsion breakdown during the oil-adding phase. Often a long agitation process is required to achieve proper dispersal/emulsification, presenting one of the trickiest phases of the production process.[16]


Commercial mayonnaise sold in jars originated in Philadelphia in 1907 when Amelia Schlorer decided to start selling her own mayonnaise recipe originally used in salads sold in the family grocery store. Mrs. Schlorer’s Mayonnaise was an instant success with local customers and eventually grew into the Schlorer Delicatessen Company.[20] Around the same time in New York City, a family from VetschauGermany, at Richard Hellmann’s delicatessen on Columbus Avenue, featured his wife’s homemade recipe in salads sold in their delicatessen. The condiment quickly became so popular that Hellmann began selling it in “wooden boats” that were used for weighing butter. In 1912, Mrs. Hellmann’s mayonnaise was mass-marketed and later was trademarked in 1926 as Hellmann’s Blue Ribbon Mayonnaise.[21]

At about the same time that Mrs. Schlorer’s and Hellmann’s Mayonnaise were thriving on the East Coast of the United States, a California company, Best Foods, introduced their own mayonnaise, which turned out to be very popular in the western United States. In 1932, Best Foods bought the Hellmann’s brand. By then, both mayonnaises had such commanding market shares in their own half of the country that it was decided that both brands be preserved. The company is now owned by Unilever.

In the southeastern part of the United States, Mrs. Eugenia Duke of Greenville, South Carolina, founded the Duke Sandwich Company in 1917 to sell sandwiches to soldiers training at nearby Fort Sevier. Her homemade mayonnaise became so popular that her company began to focus exclusively on producing and selling the mayonnaise, eventually selling out to the C. F. Sauer Company of Richmond, Virginia, in 1929. Duke’s Mayonnaise remains a popular brand of mayonnaise in the Southeast, although it is not generally available in other markets.

In addition to an almost ubiquitous presence in American sandwiches, mayonnaise forms the basis of northern Alabama’s signature white barbecue sauce. It is also used to add stability to American-style buttercream and occasionally in cakes as well.

Most of us have encountered mayonnaise used on french fries, but it’s not something I’ve ever tried.   Making potato, macaroni or egg salad is quicker with a commercial mayo, but when I do it up right, I make my own salad dressing and it really is a much better salad.

The legend of mayonnaise as growing out of the Black Plague was one I encountered back in youth, that in order to make dressing without milk, it was whipped up by the palace chefs who wanted to avoid contact with the outside world.   I don’t guarantee it as true, but it seemed interesting at the time.  Anyone else ever heard that one, or another legend about the origins of these condiments.

(Picture courtesy of  Ben Sutherland at

Tastes differ; fries with mayo

(Picture courtesy of Robin Corps at


Mayo on sandwich

Sunday Food: Ketchup

1:46 am in Food by Ruth Calvo



(Picture courtesy of Lyons at

Since we talked about mustard last week, it’s definitely time to deal with ketchup.   As I’ve mentioned, I lost my taste for ketchup some time back, and don’t use it now.   However, I’m probably in the minority there, and I do notice that the stores have at least as much ketchup on their shelves as there are mustards, with much less variety.

In the 17th century (?) the Chinese mixed a concoction of pickled fish and spices and called it (in the Amoy dialect) kôe-chiap or kê-chiap (鮭汁,Mandarin Chinese guī zhī, Cantonese gwai1 zap1) meaning the brine of pickled fish (鮭, salmon; 汁, juice) or shellfish.[6]

By the early 18th century, the table sauce had made it to the Malay states (present day Malaysia and Singapore), where it was discovered by English explorers. The Indonesian-Malay word for the sauce was kecap (pronounced “kay-chap”). That word evolved into the English word “ketchup”.[7]English settlers took ketchup with them to the American colonies.[1]

Many variations of ketchup were created, but the tomato-based version did not appear until about a century after other types. By 1801, a recipe for tomato ketchup was created by Sandy Addison and was later printed in an American cookbook, the Sugar House Book.[8]

  1. Get [the tomatoes] quite ripe on a dry day, squeeze them with your hands till reduced to a pulp, then put half a pound of fine salt to one hundred tomatoes, and boil them for two hours.
  2. Stir them to prevent burning.
  3. While hot press them through a fine sieve, with a silver spoon till nought but the skin remains, then add a little mace, 3 nutmegsallspiceclovescinnamonginger, and pepper to taste.
  4. Boil over a slow fire till quite thick, stir all the time.
  5. Bottle when cold.
  6. One hundred tomatoes will make four or five bottles and keep good for two or three years.

James Mease published another recipe in 1812. In 1824, a ketchup recipe using tomatoes appeared in The Virginia Housewife (an influential 19th-century cookbook written by Mary Randolph, Thomas Jefferson‘s cousin). American cooks also began to sweeten ketchup in the 19th century.[9]

As the century progressed, tomato ketchup began its ascent in popularity in the United States. Ketchup was popular long before fresh tomatoes were.[10] Many Americans[who?] continued to question whether it was safe to eat raw tomatoes. However, they were much less hesitant to eat tomatoes as part of a highly processed product that had been cooked and infused with vinegar and spices.[10]

Tomato ketchup was sold locally by farmers. A man named Jonas Yerks (or Yerkes) is believed[by whom?] to have been the first man to make tomato ketchup a national phenomenon. By 1837, he had produced and distributed the condiment nationally.[11] Shortly thereafter, other companies followed suit. F. & J. Heinz launched their tomato ketchup in 1876.[12] Heinz tomato ketchup was advertised: “Blessed relief for Mother and the other women in the household!”, a slogan which alluded to the lengthy and onerous process required to produce tomato ketchup in the home.[13]

The Webster’s Dictionary of 1913 defined ‘catchup’ as: “table sauce made from mushrooms, tomatoes, walnuts, etc. [Also written as ketchup].”

Modern ketchup emerged in the early years of the 20th century, out of a debate over the use of sodium benzoate as a preservative in condiments. Harvey W. Wiley, the “father” of the Food and Drug Administration in the US, challenged the safety of benzoate which was banned in the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act. In response, entrepreneurs including Henry J. Heinz, pursued an alternative recipe that eliminated the need for that preservative.[3]

Prior to Heinz (and his fellow innovators), commercial tomato ketchups of that time were watery and thin, in part due to the use of unripe tomatoes, which were low in pectin. They had less vinegar than modern ketchups; by pickling ripe tomatoes, the need for benzoate was eliminated without spoilage or degradation in flavor. But the changes driven by the desire to eliminate benzoate also produced changes[clarification needed] that some experts (such as Andrew F. Smith[14]) believe were key to the establishment of tomato ketchup as the dominant American condiment.

Ketchup has moderate health benefits.[25] Ketchup is a source of lycopene, an antioxidant which may help prevent some forms of cancer. This is particularly true of the organic brands of ketchup, which have three times as much lycopene.[26] Ketchup, much like marinara sauce and other cooked tomato foods, yields higher levels of lycopene per serving because cooking increases lycopene bioavailability.
When you squeeze the ketchup onto your burger, fries, and other food, enjoy that good tomato flavor.   I’ll have my tomatoes straight, thanks.

(Picture courtesy of Schlabotnik at

Creativity with ketchup

Sunday Food: Mustard

3:33 am in Food by Ruth Calvo


Many faces of mustard

(Picture courtesy of Jessica Watkins at

Some of us crave that bit of sour, spicy undertaste to go with our bread and fillings, cheese or meat or other sort, and I am among the ones that want it full of pickle lilt as well.   The name tells a bit of the story.

The English word “mustard” derives from the Anglo-Norman mustarde and Old French mostarde. The first element is ultimately from Latin mustum, (“must“, young wine) – the condiment was originally prepared by making the ground seeds into a paste with must. The second element comes also from Latin ardens, (hot, flaming). It is first attested in English in the late 13th century, though it is found as a surname a century earlier.[3]

Yellow or brown is the next choice, and if there’s a darker, browner one, especially with bits of the mustard seed in it, I’ll go in that direction. It’s bearable to use the yellow sort, but in my taste category that’s just baby food, I’m really happier with an earthier taste.

The most commonly used mustard in the United States and Canada is American Mustard sold as “Yellow mustard” (although most prepared mustards are yellow) and commonly referred to as just “mustard”. A very mild prepared mustard colored bright-yellow by turmeric, it was allegedly introduced in 1904 byGeorge J. French as “cream salad mustard”. American mustard is regularly used to top hot dogs, sandwiches, pretzels and hamburgers. It is also an ingredient of many potato saladsbarbecue sauces, and salad dressings.


The mustard plant ingredient itself has a sharp, hot, pungent flavor.

Mixing ground mustard seeds with water causes a chemical reaction between two compounds in the seed: the enzyme myrosinase and various glucosinolates such as sinigrinmyrosin, andsinalbin. The myrosinase enzyme turns the glucosinolates into various isothiocyanate compounds known generally as mustard oil. The concentrations of different glucosinolates in mustard plant varieties, and the different isothiocyanates that are produced, make different flavors and intensities.

Prepared mustard condiment may also have ingredients giving salt, sour (vinegar), and sweet flavors. Turmeric is often added to commercially-prepared mustards, mainly to give them a yellow color.

The preparation in a preservative sort of liquid makes mustard durable, and it does not require refrigeration. Even if it dries out, an addition of wine, vinegar, or your choice of spike, makes it perk right up and spread again.  It has a history as medicinal, and the bite it adds feels right to us mustard spreaders.

At first, mustard was considered a medicinal plant rather than a culinary one. In the sixth century B.C., Greek scientist Pythagoras used mustard as a remedy for scorpion stings. One hundred years later, Hippocrates used mustard in a variety of medicines and poultices. Mustard plasters were applied to “cure” toothaches and a number of other ailments.


Prepared mustard dates back thousands of years to the early Romans, who used to grind mustard seeds and mix them with wine into a paste not much different from the prepared mustards we know today.

Notice I have been partisan in my choice, and I admit it, I don’t like ketchup/ketsup at all. The bitter taste is one side of the table, in my experience, and that’s the side I choose.

French fries with vinegar is another choice, and I’ve been known to take along my own vinegar to make sure I have that instead of what seems to be the popular ketchup/ketsup. It’s the taste, a personal preference, and mustard also adds the bite of choice I’ve come to prefer.  It’s nice to see that they’re health food as well.

Mustard seeds are an excellent source of selenium and a very good source of omega-3 fatty acids and manganese. They are also a good source of phosphorus, magnesium, copper, and vitamin B1.

The  taste for mustard in my experience doesn’t start early, and yes, I ate ketchup/ketsup as a kid, put it into meatloaf when I was cooking for kids, also. One view of the development of a more sour palate is that our health gets less robust as we age, which develops the taste for purified foods.   Go ahead, enjoy your own choice.  It’s a condiment and you want the most important aspect of your dining, enjoyment, to be the main consideration. Read the rest of this entry →

Sunday Food; Corn Pudding

3:10 am in Food by Ruth Calvo


Corn pudding

(Picture courtesy of Joshua Bousel at

This is the time of year when Sweet Corn sales are popping up along all the roads, and signs for that delicacy are on display at all the farm markets and grocery stores.   State and county fairs are everywhere, and booths selling corn are hard to avoid.  A post from last year dealt with the subject of the sweet corn itself.   This year we’ll move on to other ways to use it besides chowing down on the ears, themselves.

Fortunately, a recipe for corn pudding was a subject of a blog I like to visit last night, eschatonblog, so I pass it on to you.   Thanks go to fellow blogger Hecate for the favor of passing it on there.


  • 2 pounds frozen corn kernels, thawed
  • Whole milk as needed (about 1 cup)
  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 6 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Chihuahua,* Monterey Jack, or Cheddar cheese
  • 1 poblano chile, roasted, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/4-inch strips
  • Half of a red bell pepper, cut into strips
  • *Chihuahua, a white cow’s-milk cheese, also known as asadero or Oaxaca cheese, becomes soft and stringy when heated and is therefore good for melting. An unaged Monterey Jack is a good substitute.


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 13-by-9-inch baking dish and set aside. In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, puree the corn with only enough milk to make a smooth puree, not to exceed 1 cup. With the machine running, add egg yolks, one at a time, and process 30 seconds after each addition. With the machine running, add the sugar a little at a time and continue processing until mixture is lighter in color and sugar is dissolved, about 3 minutes. Add butter and process until smooth. Transfer to a large bowl. In a separate bowl, combine flour, salt, and baking powder; fold into corn mixture. Beat egg whites until soft peaks form and fold into corn mixture, alternating with the shredded cheese. Pour into the prepared baking dish and garnish with strips of chile and red bell pepper. Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature.

When you are preparing the pudding, of course, the corn can be fresh just as easily as it can be frozen, at this time of year.   You may have a surplus of corn just begging to be used in any case.

(Picture courtesy of MBK at

Roadside booths sell corn

Sunday Food: Cashews

3:35 am in Food by Ruth Calvo


Cashew nuts

(Picture courtesy of Choo Yut Shing at

One of the nuts that is grown in Central America and has been familiarized in this country along with its diminishing costs is the cashew nut. A tree nut, it is rich in antioxidants, quite healthy and nutritious.  It is one of the most distinct tastes among nuts, in my opinion, and I’m really glad to have it readily available.  However, I understand that the cultivation of cashews has been a problem in the countries where it is grown.  Originating in Brazil, the tree has been dispersed into tropical areas throughout the world, and now is farmed in India and Asian countries as well.

The cashew apple, also called cashew fruit, is the fleshy part of the cashew fruit that is attached to the cashew nut. The top end of the cashew apple is attached to the stem that comes off the tree. The bottom end of the cashew apple attaches to the cashew nut, which is encased in a shell. In botanical terms, the cashew apple is an accessory fruit that grows on the cashew seed (which is the nut).

The cashew apple is a soft fruit, rich in nutrients, and contains five times more vitamin C than an orange. It is eaten fresh, cooked in curries, or fermented into vinegar, as well as an alcoholic drink. It is also used to make preserves, chutneys, and jams in some countries such as India and Brazil. In many countries, particularly in South America, the cashew apple is used to flavor drinks, both alcoholic and nonalcoholic. In Brazil, it is a popular fruit flavor for the national drink, the caipirinha.

In much of South America, people regard the cashew apple as the delicacy, rather than the nut kernel which is popular elsewhere. In fact, in many South American countries, the cashew apple is more popular as a food than is the cashew nut. A large reason for this is simply the availability of cashew apples. They tend to be popular where they are readily available.

Cashew nuts are more popular than cashew apples in many parts of the world—regions that do not grow cashews—because the fruit, unlike the nut, is difficult to transport to these places. Unlike cashew nuts, cashew apples are extremely soft and easily bruised in shipment. For this reason, cashew juice and cashew juice concentrate are often shipped to these nonlocal countries instead of the fresh fruit.


Fluctuations in world market prices for cashew nuts have been a source of discontent for communities in Tanzania which grow the nut as a cash crop; reduced payments in April 2013 sparked serious rioting in Liwale District in the south of the country.

As usual, industrial farming is not the best of answers to our needs, and individuals appear to do a better, more healthy, job of growing our food supplies.

(Picture courtesy of abcdz2000 at

Cashew apple, with fruit.


Sunday Food: August Planting

3:52 am in Food by Ruth Calvo


Vegetable garden

(Picture courtesy of Doug Beckers at

Fortunately this has been another kind of summer and the heat not building to a scorcher here in the center of the country, and I understand it’s downright chilly in parts of it.  This might be the year for you to tend the garden instead of forget it, as I usually did by late July.

For many northern gardeners, the focus will be on fast-maturing cool season crops for fall (as well as planning for winter gardening, if you have a low tunnel or greenhouse to grow in). Southern gardeners, though still dealing with high temperatures, can start looking forward to some relief as well.

Below are lists, by U.S. region, of which vegetables and herbs you can plant in August. Unless specifically listed as “transplants” the items in this list can be direct-sown in your garden this month.

Northern U.S. and Southern Canada

Central U.S./Midwest

  • Arugula
  • Beets
  • Broccoli (Transplants)
  • Brussels sprouts (Transplants)
  • Cabbage (Transplants)
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower (Transplants)
  • Chinese cabbage
  • Collard greens
  • Kale
  • Mustard greens
  • Peas
  • Radishes
  • Spinach
  • Swiss Chard
  • Turnips

The thought of fall vegetables is a good one, and I am hopeful you can get another round out of your work to build up that soil that grew your spring salad delights.

Chard and spinach are particular favorites of mine.   As I’ve been traveling this has been a hands off year for me, and I do hope you’ve all had success with your planting.   This time of year, the stores are so full of reasonably priced fresh veggies that I have to remind myself that there’s fresh stuff right out there in the garden.

(Picture courtesy of Karen Elliott at

Imaginative use of space for garden

Sunday Food; Water at Work Sites (Archaeological, especially)

2:59 am in Art, Food by Ruth Calvo

Archaeology work site, IX’noha, Belize


Hot, dirty, work going on.

An unavoidable fact of increasing complexity is our need for water, a resource that is becoming more rare and more precious as population increases and spreads into areas where it is scarce.   Working in the tropics I had daily reminders, written and oral, to stay hydrated, and we took large containers of water with us every day into the fields.

A lecture given in the field instruction was to notice if we showed signs of dehydration, that include slurred speech, crabbiness, loss of balance, and general disorientation.   We were told to watch for those signs in other workers, and the injunction was occasionally given, and taken, that we needed to go have a drink of water.  Sometimes it was a joke, and a comment on silly judgment or behavior that was taken easily.   Occasionally it was serious.

  • The signs and symptoms of dehydration range from minor to severe and include:
    • Increased thirst
    • Dry mouth and swollen tongue
    • Weakness
    • Dizziness
    • Palpitations (feeling that the heart is jumping or pounding)
    • Confusion
    • Sluggishness fainting
    • Fainting
    • Inability to sweat
    • Decreased urine output

Fussiness was a symptom that had been experienced in the field work we did, so was included in our course of instruction.

Of course, the people out there doing this work were engaged in an avocation that makes it worthwhile, and we found things that made us proud of the work.   Taking safety precautions like making sure we took along large, heavy bottles of water and constantly refilled them, and ourselves, wasn’t onerous if it kept us going.   The few who had to drop out of field work would much have preferred to go on sweating and straining.   There was a lot to do cleaning, sorting, labeling and cataloguing the objects and artifacts that came in from the field and they were producing as much as workers outside in the dirt were, also.

So many people have asked for a bit of information about archaeological digs, that I hope this answers some more questions.   The day in the field is not a full eight hours, because that would be a killer.   Also, full hour at noon for lunch was enforced.   Even our professor contingent didn’t have the lack of supervision that they might keep going.   It’s not worth dying, to take that one last shovelful.

The artifacts that come back from the field are available for display at the museums of the country they are found in, and when I visited Belize City, I did go to the archaeological museum and find a few things about out digs.   There is not a lot of money for the displays, and there is a lot in storage that you only will see if you look for it.  If you want a link to our specific work, here you are.  Incidentally, the fourth largest cache of jade artifacts found in the Americas was discovered at Blue Creek.   The dig we worked on this year is IX’noha, and is conducted by the Blue Creek project as part of its ongoing exploration of the historically rich area.    The Blue Creek jade cache was found on the last day of a dig, something that has become a modus operandi with the Maya Research Program, for reasons unknown and not appreciated.


Jade ear ornaments displayed in Belize City archaeology museum from Blue Creek.



Sunday Food: Travel Central America and Have Some Special Treats

3:53 am in Food by Ruth Calvo


Papaya smoothie

(Picture courtesy of Tee La Rosa at

Mango cut up

(Picture courtesy of Joy at

Central America produces a lot of the fruit we eat, and some we would enjoy if we knew more.  Walking through the towns of Belize City, and Copán Ruinas, I noticed that many little side of the road shops offer a variety of fruit drinks and have tried several. Yesterday I got a large cup of watermelon juice, and recently have had mango slurpee and papaya milk shake,

Bananas are a major product here and we pass trucks loaded with them often, yesterday drove by a Chiquita facility with the loaded trucks all turning down their driveway.  Pineapples also turn up everywhere, and are grown locally all around.

Each morning at the amazing hotel - Casa de Cafe – I visited at Copán Ruinas, I got a big plate every morning with breakfast, full of locally grown, freshly cut, fruit of all those kinds I just mentioned, and had to turn down the juice as it got to be more luscious fruit than I could eat.

I was introduced to Soursop while having the fresh local food at Blue Creek, Belize, and it’s fleshy and nice, but I’ll take papaya if given the choice.

If you are from the tropics you may be wondering why the hell I chose the soursop over the mango. Well I’ve always loved the soursop fruit because like most of our fruits its fleshy and juicy but the “fleshiness” of the soursop is in a whole different league. However this is not what gave it the winning edge for me. I only recently discovered that this fruit has the ability to fight cancer cells. Research as shown that it effectively targets the damaged cancer cells in the body to kill them and leaves normal cells completely unharmed. These other fruits are great, but soursop kills cancer.

Since so many of us northern climate people come here and enjoy the fruit especially, I’ve decided we were meant to be a migratory species and not always stay in one placed.

Eating local is always good, and I’ve found out from being where a lot of tourists are having a meal that you’ll get a full plate of goodies if you ask for the enchilada instead of hamburgers when ingredients natural to the scene work in enchiladas, and the burgers are not normally home folks’ choice.

Tree beside pupuseria I stopped in probably is mango


Bananas growing in garden where breakfast was served, Copán

Sunday Food: Tea

2:00 am in Food by Ruth Calvo

Wishing you all a peaceful and joyous Ramadan.

Makings of a cup of tea

(Picture courtesy of Caroline at

After doing a lot of discussing last Sunday of coffee, it’s only fair that this week I put up a chance to talk about tea. There are times when tea is perfect, and I particularly like the herbal teas.

Some of us have our tea with milk, others with lemon, and many sweeten it. Iced tea is a southern institution, as well. In some countries, the making and serving of tea are associated with elaborate ceremonies, and High Tea is a lovely practice that demands special finger foods to accompany the late day drink.

Tea has much to recommend it, and has a lot of good health benefits.

Tea originated in China as a medicinal drink.[6] It was first introduced to Portuguese priests and merchants in China during the 16th century.[7]Drinking tea became popular in Britain during the 17th century. The British introduced it to India, in order to compete with the Chinese monopoly on the product.[8]

Tea has long been promoted for having a variety of positive health benefits. Recent studies suggest that green tea may help reduce the risk ofcardiovascular disease and some forms of cancer, promote oral health, reduce blood pressure, help with weight control, improve antibacterial and antivirasic activity, provide protection from solar ultraviolet light,[9] and increase bone mineral density. Green tea is also said to have “anti-fibrotic properties, and neuroprotective power.”[10] Additional research is needed to “fully understand its contributions to human health, and advise its regular consumption in Western diets.”[10]

Tea catechins have known anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective properties, help regulate food intake, and have an affinity for cannabinoid receptors, which may suppress pain and nausea and provide calming effects.[11]

Consumption of green tea is associated with a lower risk of diseases that cause functional disability, such as “stroke, cognitive impairment, and osteoporosis” in the elderly.[12][13]

Tea contains L-theanine, an amino acid whose consumption is mildly associated with a calm but alert and focused, relatively productive (alpha wave-dominant) mental state in humans. This mental state is also common to meditative practice.[14]


Tea contains a large number of possibly bioactive chemicals, including flavonoidsamino acidsvitamins, caffeine and several polysaccharides, and a variety of health effects have been proposed and investigated.[22] It has been suggested that green and black tea may protect against cancer,[45]though the catechins found in green tea are thought to be more effective in preventing certain obesity-related cancers such as liver and colorectal cancer,[46] while both green and black teas may protect against cardiovascular disease.[45]

Negative effects of tea drinking are centered around the consumption of sugar used to sweeten the tea. Those who consume very large quantities ofbrick tea may experience fluorosis.[47]

Numerous recent epidemiological studies have been conducted to investigate the effects of green tea consumption on the incidence of human cancers. These studies suggest significant protective effects of green tea against oral, pharyngeal, oesophageal, prostate, digestive, urinary tract, pancreatic, bladder, skin, lung, colon, breast, and liver cancers, and lower risk for cancer metastasis and recurrence.[45]

A chamomile tea will soothe you through troubled times, and mint tea can be good enough for a dessert.

Sunday Food: Coffee

2:23 am in Food by Ruth Calvo



(Picture courtesy of PetjaTouru at wikipedia commons.)

Most of us start off our day with a cup, usually more, of coffee. The health aspects of it aren’t foremost on our minds when we fill the grounds basket and start the pot brewing. It’s a ritual, and the smell of brewing coffee is wonderful, plus without a cuppa there’s an emptiness about the morning.

For me, as part Cajun, it’s been part of morning since I was a toddler, the cafe au lait was a special treat, and there was never any thought of doing without. For you who are tea drinkers, all the best, but to us coffee drinkers, I can’t help thinking that you’re missing the stuff of life. 

For me, getting the roasted beans fresh ground makes it altogether a wonderful brew. If you’re okay with a can of pre-ground, more power to you, but I’m spoiled and really want the fresh taste. I’m not so pampered as to get the beans, roast and grind them myself and really fill the house with the best of scents, but my Costa Rican Father in Law did that every morning.

Coffee also, of course, is a big business and you can pick up freshest brewed on the way in to work from a variety of coffee shops and breakfast servers.

However you find it, if you’re not already on at least the second cup, you’re unusual, and if reading this didn’t make you brew a fresh pot, you don’t have the usual love of the bean, as I do.

Coffee is a brewed beverage prepared from the roasted or baked seeds of several species of an evergreen shrub of the genus Coffea. The two most common sources of coffee beans are the highly regarded Coffea arabica, and the “robusta” form of the hardier Coffea canephora. The latter is resistant to the coffee leaf rust (Hemileia vastatrix), but has a more bitter taste. Coffee plants are cultivated in more than 70 countries, primarily in equatorial Latin AmericaSoutheast Asia, and Africa. Once ripe, coffee “berries” are picked, processed and dried to yield the seeds inside. The seeds are then roasted to varying degrees, depending on the desired flavor, before being ground and brewed to create coffee.

Coffee is slightly acidic (pH 5.0–5.1[1]) and can have a stimulating effect on humans because of its caffeine content. It is one of the most popular drinks in the world.[2] It can be prepared and presented in a variety of ways. The effect of coffee on human health has been a subject of many studies; however, results have varied in terms of coffee’s relative benefit.[3] The majority of recent research suggests that moderate coffee consumption is benign or mildly beneficial in healthy adults. However, the diterpenes in coffee may increase the risk of heart disease.[4]


According to Cancer Research UK, the results of a large-scale study published in 2012[122] provided insight into the effect of coffee drinking on cancer, highlighting that there was indeed no association between the two. Study results showed that drinking coffee “had no effect on the risk of dying from cancer.”[124]

Other studies suggest coffee consumption reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s disease,[125] dementia,[125] Parkinson’s diseaseheart diseasediabetes mellitus type 2non-alcoholic fatty liver disease,[126] cirrhosis,[127] and gout.

The fact that decaffeinated coffee also exhibits preventative effects against diseases such as prostate cancer and type 2 diabetes suggests that coffee’s health benefits are not solely a product of its caffeine content.[128] Specifically, the antidiabetic effect of caffeine has been attributed to caffeic acid and chlorogenic acid.[129]

The presence of antioxidants in coffee have been shown to prevent free radicals from causing cell damage, which could lead to cancer.[130] Antioxidant levels vary depending on how the beans are roasted as well as for how long. Evidence suggests that roasted coffee has a stronger antioxidant effect than green coffee.[131]

Coffee is no longer thought to be a risk factor for coronary heart disease.[132] A 2012 meta-analysis concluded that people who drank moderate amounts of coffee had a lower rate of heart failure, with the biggest effect found for those who drank more than four cups a day. [133] Moreover, habitual coffee consumption is associated with improved vascular function.[134][135] In a ten year study among 50,739 US women (mean age, 63 years) free of depressive symptoms at baseline (in 1996), coffee consumption was negatively correlated with risk of developing clinical depression.[136] A review published in 2004 indicated a negative correlation between suicide rates and coffee consumption.[137] It was suggested that the action of caffeine in blocking the inhibitory effects of adenosine on dopamine nerves in the brain reduced feelings of depression.[137] Coffee consumption is also associated with improved endothelial function.[138] Coffee extracts have been shown to inhibit 11β-Hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 1, an enzyme which converts cortisone to cortisol and is a current pharmaceutical target for the treatment of diabetes type 2 and metabolic syndrome.[139]

Hope your morning includes a good, bracing and aromatic cuppa. The caffeine can be too much, and I always have cream in mine, also usually breakfast comes along with the second cup. Or the third, depending on how gradually my day is going.

Wishing you the best cup you can find, a truly wonderful start for your day. I raise my cup to you.

(Picture courtesy of FCRebelo at wikipedia commons.)

Coffee beans under cultivation in Brazil