Archive for the ‘Food for Thought’ Category
About 85 years ago, the Indian culinary world was affected by a new cuisine. The first Indo Chinese restaurant Eau Chew opened in Kolkata. New restaurants mushroomed all over Kolkata, and legends like Fat Mama and Kim Fa were born, offering newer dishes with fancier combinations and names like August Moon Rolls and Fiery Dragon Chicken. Indian Chinese cuisine involves a different cooking style than traditional Chinese food. They use a lot of red and green chilies, coriander, peppercorn and garam masala. The end result has got to be spicier dish with a heavy flavor. Before you knew it ‘Indian Chinese’ had tickled the taste buds of folk in every small town and city across India. No small feat for a foreign cuisine.
Indian Chinese food is now readily available in major metropolitan areas of India such as Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad, Delhi, Kolkata and Bangalore. It is also available in a number of towns and on dhabas (roadside stalls) adjacent to major Indian roads and highways. Many restaurants have a Chinese section in their menus, and some are even dedicated to serving Indian Chinese food. It can also be found in the mobile kitchen carts that ply the streets of cities, prepared in woks over a portable gas burner. Manchurian sauce, Szechwan sauce, soy sauce and Hakka noodles are available in many stores in cities across. National franchises like Yo! China, Mainland China, Hakka etc. are also making an entry into the more sanitized segment of the market.
So what is it that makes Chinese food so spectacularly popular? The answer lies with Indian food. Quick to figure out that Indians love spicy, oily preparations, the Chinese simply masala-fied and greased their cuisine into a glutinous, winning combination.
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“I am thankful for laughter, except when milk comes out of my nose.” ~Woody Allen
Why do we laugh when we think something is funny? And what exactly is laughter anyway? Despite it’s universality, laughter is actually really hard to define. Even the people at Merriam-Webster seem to have thrown in the towel, lamely defining “laughter” as:
1. the action of laughing or the sound resulting
2. an indication of amusement: with laughter in her eyes
3. Archaic a matter for or cause of laughter.
The element of surprise is crucial in eliciting laughter, as well as a sense of contrast. When the brain receives an appropriate stimulus, it sets laughter in motion. More than a hundred muscles are involved in laughing, from facial muscles to respiratory muscles, and is anatomically triggered by the epiglottis constricting the larynx.
It is also a primitive mechanism all humans are born with. Babies have the ability to laugh before they ever speak- researchers have even shown that infants as early as 17 days old have vocal laughing sounds or laughter. Even children who are born blind and deaf still retain the ability to laugh. It is a part of human behavior regulated by the brain, helping humans clarify their intentions in social interaction and providing an emotional context to conversations.
Laughter is sometimes seen as contagious, and the laughter of one person can itself provoke laughter from others as a positive feedback. In fact, the “contagious” factor accounts for the unfortunate popularity of laugh tracks amongst television sitcom producers, who will do just about anything to make their audience laugh.
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Archaeologists recently confirmed that people have coveted a killer smile since the dawn of civilization. They found mummified ancients buried with what looked like crude metal bands wrapped around individual teeth. Archaeologists have surmised that catgut, a type of cord that is made out of exactly what its name implies, closed gaps between teeth in much the same way as today’s orthodontic wire!
Even Hippocrates and Aristotle ruminated about ways to straighten teeth and to fix various frustrating and unsightly dental conditions. While Greece was in its Golden Age, the Etruscans (the precursors of the Romans) were burying their dead with appliances that were used to maintain space and prevent collapse of the dentition during life. Then in a Roman tomb in Egypt, a researcher discovered a row of teeth bound with a gold wire — the first documented ligature wire!
However, despite all this evidence and experimentation, no significant events in orthodontics really occurred until the much later, in around the 1700s (although dentistry as a whole made great advancements in the interim). It should be noted that in medieval times, specialized barbers often performed dental “operations”, extractions, and procedures such as bloodletting. Three cheers for the 21st Century!
Amazingly, NASA was responsible for the invention of one of the late 20th century’s most dramatic orthodontic breakthroughs: heat-activated nickel-titanium alloy wires. At room temperature, heat-activated nickel-titanium arch wires are very flexible. As they warm to body temperature they become active and gradually move the teeth in the anticipated direction. Because of their high-tech properties, these wires retain their tooth-moving abilities longer than ordinary metal wires and need less frequent attention from the orthodontist. Many orthodontists now employ heat-activated wires in their treatment plans.
It’s enough to make all of us former “metal mouths” seethe with resentment when we see all of these young whipper-snappers with their “barely there” braces. They will never know how good they have it……
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In Chinese communities around the world, eight is considered the most fortuitous of numbers, and is a much-coveted status symbol for addresses, phone numbers and bank accounts. In fact, the Chinese have revered the number eight as the most fortuitous of numbers for centuries, as it is supposed to portend a prosperous future. In fact, a personal license plate flush with eights in Hong Kong can cost millions of dollars. Thus, even a single eight on a license plate can confer status on its owner, because people assume they had to pay through the nose to get it.
The main reason has to do with the pronunciation of the word for the number 8 in China. It is pronounced “ba” and sounds like the word for prosperity, which is pronounced “fa”. Another reason why the number 8 could be considered lucky is because it is a perfect symmetrical shape. You can cut the number 8 in half vertically or horizontally, and both halves mirror themselves perfectly. Perfect symmetry lends itself to perfect balance. In Chinese Astrology, perfect balance is considered the ideal.
The Chinese obsession with the number eight cannot be overstated and frankly borders on the insane. A few examples:
• A telephone number of all eights was sold for $270,723.00 in Chengdu, China;
• The opening ceremony of the Summer Olympics in Beijing began on 8/8/08 at 8 seconds and 8 minutes past 8 pm (local time);
• A man in Hangzhou offered to sell his license plate reading A88888 for RMB 1.12 million (roughly $164,000.00);
• The Petronas Twin Towers in Malaysia each have 88 Floors;
• The KLM route from Hong Kong to Amsterdam is Flight KL888;
• The United Airlines route from San Francisco to Beijing is Flight 888;
• Dragon Fish Industry in Singapore, a breeder of rare Asian Arowanas (which are “lucky fish” themselves, and, being a rare species, are required to be microchipped), makes sure to use numbers with plenty of eights in their microchip tag numbers, and appears to reserve particular numbers especially rich in eights and sixes (e.g. 702088880006688) for particularly valuable specimens.
• On the date 08/08/08 there were a record number of weddings, even surpassing the number of weddings on 07/07/07.
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Bullying can take many forms: physical, emotional, verbal abuse or a combination thereof. It can involve one child bullying another, a group of children against a single child or groups against other groups (such as gang wars).
A recent report from the American Medical Association on a study of over 15,000 6th-10th graders estimates that approximately 3.7 million youths perpetrate, and more than 3.2 million are victims of, moderate or serious bullying each year.
Research indicates that “bullies” have personalities that are rigidly authoritarian, coupled with a powerful compulsion to control or dominate others. Some studies indicate that envy and resentment towards their victims often acts as an unconscious motivator for bullying behavior. This theory certainly helps to explain why eggheads catch so much flack from dumb jocks in elementary school….
Bullying behavior usually starts in early childhood and develops slowly and steadily. Thus, it is crucial that the aggressive behavior of a fledgling bully is nipped in the bud as early as possible, before it solidifies into an enduring personal trait and becomes habitual.
Indeed, there is research evidence, to indicate that bullying during childhood puts children at risk of criminal behavior and domestic violence in adulthood.
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Las Vegas, which bills itself as “The Entertainment Capital of the World,” is famous for the number of casino resorts and associated entertainment. A growing retirement and family city, it is the 28th most populous city in the United States with an estimated 2009 population of 1,902,834 for the Las Vegas metropolitan area. However, you only need scratch the surface of this glittering metropolis to unearth far more troubling statistics about the “city of sin.”
In Vegas, the odds of dying by suicide are strikingly high — twice as high as in the rest of the country. And the neon city is a risk for residents and visitors alike, according to a study in the current issue of the journal “Social Science and Medicine”. Indeed, researchers found that residents of Las Vegas had a 50 percent higher risk of suicide than folks living elsewhere in the country. When it comes to visitor suicides, statistics are comparably grim. In most cities nationwide, 1 in l00 ”visitor deaths” on average is recorded as a suicide. However, in Las Vegas, 1 in 25 visitor deaths on average is a suicide, four times the national average.
Researchers have suggested a number of possible environmental factors for this mysterious phenomenon. Compulsive and pathological gamblers have many concomitant problem behaviors, including alcoholism and drug addiction, which often contributes to suicidal behavior. Moreover, the fast-growth, boomtown nature of Vegas is at odds with community cohesiveness. With a high proportion of transients, massive population growth and demographic change, a larger proportion of the city’s denizens may find themselves socially isolated and lacking in an enduring social support network.
Still others have suggested that tortured types, who are more likely to suffer from suicidal tendencies, disproportionally choose to either settle in or visit Las Vegas. I guess self-destructive is as self-destructive does….
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Madeleines are very small sponge cakes with a distinctive shell-like shape acquired from being baked in pans with shell-shaped depressions. Aside from the traditional scalloped pan, commonly found in stores specializing in kitchen equipment and even hardware stores, no special tools are required to make madeleines. They are perhaps most famous outside France for their association with involuntary memory in the Marcel Proust novel “In Search of Lost Time,” in which the narrator experiences an awakening upon tasting a madeleine dipped in tea:
“She sent out for one of those short, plump little cakes called petites madeleines, which look as though they had been molded in the fluted scallop of a pilgrim’s shell. And soon, mechanically, weary after a dull day with the prospect of a depressing morrow, I raised to my lips a spoonful of the tea in which I had soaked a morsel of the cake. No sooner had the warm liquid, and the crumbs with it, touched my palate than a shudder ran through my whole body, and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary changes that were taking place…at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory…”
— “Remembrance of Things Past,” Volume 1: “Swann’s Way.”
There are several different versions regarding the history of the madeleine. In one version, ‘Madeleine’ was a young servant girl who had been requested to create a special treat for Stanislas Leczinski, the deposed king of Poland who had sought refuge in France in the 17th century. Thus, the Madeleine was invented for the purpose of soothing the spirits of the poor unwanted king. In another version, a different Madeleine created the special cakes in the shape of a scallop to feed to pilgrims making their way to Saint Jacques’ burial site. The scallop shell was a sign of protection which has long been associated with Saint Jacques in France, and indeed scallops are called coquilles Saint Jacques.
In any case, whoever first made the scalloped shaped madeleines had a very good idea, for their popularity has only increased over the centuries. At first they were made on a small scale, but with the industrial revolution underway, the road was paved for more large scale production.
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