Beverage Idea: Switchel

switchel-main

Ingredients for Switchel; Source: The American Table 

I had been drinking this beverage for about a year before I learned the name for it. Switchel is a vinegar based beverage that is thought to have originated in the West Indies. When I worked on the farm, I drank this a few times a day during the summer. It is a refreshing, non-alcoholic, beverage for work hours. Although alcohol is a perfectly acceptable daytime beverage when you are a farmer ūüôā

The reason I decided to share this “recipe” was because I have been drinking a lot of it this summer and realized that not many people are aware of this beverage. It is the best thirst quencher I have come across and many would call it a health tonic as well.

This drink is not for everyone. I have been drinking apple cider vinegar for about five years so, for me, this is just a more appealing way to consume it. There is no consensus on whether apple cider vinegar is good for you so I am just going to leave it at that. What they do agree is that ginger is really good for you; especially for immunity. Here is what you need:

Ingredients: Apple Cider Vinegar, Ginger, Sweetener, Lemon Juice (optional)

It’s not that complicated to make switchel. You mix the three ingredients and dilute it with water. Add ice if you like or just use cold water. Seltzer water makes it even better. Personally, I like to add qual parts of vinegar and lemon juice. It might sound counter-intuitive to add more acid but it really does make the drink more enjoyable.

You can use fresh ginger root or powdered dry ginger. The traditional sweetener of choice was molasses but that is not for everyone. Honey is a popular alternative but the trendy “hipster” versions are made with maple syrup. Use whatever appeals to you. I have even heard of people using it as a mixer for alcoholic beverages but I have not tried that.

It sort of bothers me when I see people pay good money for something that can be made at home, so easily, for so much less. Half a  quart of this stuff sells for around $8. I did the calculations and it costs me less than 25 cents to make the same quantity, even if I used maple syrup. You can make a bigger batch of this and keep it in the fridge much like iced tea.

As I said this is not for everyone. It is an acquired taste that has really grown on me. If you are not in the habit of drinking apple cider vinegar and would like to try it, this is a nice introduction. If you are just an adventurous person and want to add a new drink to you list of summer beverages, this is an interesting choice. I would encourage you to try it even just to know what the hype is all about.

Quinoa and Race

Quinoa

Quinoa grain; Source: Wikipedia

Recently, I read an academic paper titled, Race, Status, and Biodiversity: The Social Climbing of Quinoa. I found it to be super fascinating and I wanted to share a part of it with you. It explores the concept of racialization of crops with a specific focus on quinoa.

For those not familiar with it, quinoa is a grain. It is cooked in the same way as rice and has a similar nutrient composition as rice or wheat. It originated in the Andes and is mainly cultivated in Peru and Bolivia. The plant is related to spinach and amaranth. The leaves of the plant are edible but not commonly found.

Race, in this context, has a broader definition than the one we use today. It is just a classification system used to categorize plants/animals/people based on slight differences. Historically, it was used to differentiate between species of animals. Today we use it, most commonly, in relation to people. This study suggests that the plant races, specifically quinoa, is interwoven with the races of a people.

This topic is particularly relevant today when quinoa has become a popular health food around the world. The healthfulness of quinoa has increased consumption and thus increased cultivation. But quinoa production is largely limited to the Andean region. This is where the plant originated and this is where people have been consuming it for thousands of years.

Like any food crop, there are many varieties of quinoa but there are certain varieties that are more desirable for export. And that means, the people who grow those make more money and are more successful. Historically, different people groups have grown different varieties. This means that there are other Andean peoples that continue to grow different ancient varieties. It makes sense that the race of quinoa gets tied to the races of the extremely diverse Andean people.

The link between race and quinoa can be an useful thing. In fact this racialization can be one way of preserving landraces and biodiversity. There are Andeans with the knowledge and experience needed for preserving these varieties. They continue to grow the varieties that we, as outsiders, do not consume. The interconnectedness between human and plant races give us a better understanding of both plants as well as the history and culture of people linked to it.

I want to spend more time thinking about the stories behind the food I eat. I do not eat quinoa for many reasons, including the fact that I very much dislike the taste. I try not to make my food choices completely take over my enjoyment of food. But having studied what I did and being a lifelong academic, I am just inclined to analyse these things.

If you would like to read the entire paper, you can find it here. It is open-source and free for all.

I would love to hear your thoughts on the matter so please do comment.

Themed Thursday: The Role of Food in Korean and Japanese dramas

Bibimbap, Kimchi, Jjigae, various Banchan

Food is one of my favorite drama genres. When you watch a lot of dramas, one after another, it is easy for all the languages and cultural nuances to fade into the background. Food is always a reminder that I am watching something unique about each of these cultures and there is always something new to learn from them.

Here in America food is not often a part of television shows. When I was new to Asian drama watching, I was absolutely thrilled that they had entire dramas that revolve around food. I wanted to spend some time to reflect on the role of food in Japanese and Korean dramas. Food has been used in many different ways in Asian dramas but here are 4 ways I like to categorize them.

Food as a comedic element

My Girlfriend is a Gumiho (2010)

Food and eating scenes have often been used in comedic settings. In Korean shows, it is not uncommon to see individuals devour large quantities of food. The most memorable one was in one of my first dramas, My Girlfriend is a Gumiho. The heroine is a fox and has an voracious appetite for meat, specifically “cow”, as she likes to call it. The comedy that ensues as the, broke hero, tries to keep up with her insatiable hunger was a significant part of plot and definitely the most humorous.

Another drama, where food played a major role, was the Japanese comedy 1 Pound no Fukin (2008) about a boxer whose greatest weakness is food. We learn that, despite being a good athlete, he often loses matches because he is unable to concentrate on the match when he sees food. A big part of the drama is about him trying to overcome this challenge.

Food as the backdrop or setting

Oh My Ghostess (2010)

Sometimes food becomes part of the background or setting of the show. In these cases, large parts of the show, takes place is restaurants or bakeries. Making food might not be the focus but there is always food around. Both Oh My Ghostess and Flower Boy Ramen Shop are set is restaurants where one lead teaches the other to cook.

Flower Boy Ramen Shop (2011)

 

 

 

Antique (2001)  is one of the most visually appealing food shows out there. A combination of good-looking guys, delicious looking pastries, with a hint of mystery. The recent popular Japanese drama, A Girl and 3 Sweethearts (2016), focused on the business aspects of food where all main characters were involved in different aspects of running the restaurant.

 

Food for Pleasure

Let’s Eat (2013)

This might be my favorite use of food in dramas. Sometimes eating scenes are used to show the pure pleasure of enjoying good food. Let’s Eat is the one of that first dramas that come to mind when a K-Drama fan thinks of the genre. This show is often called “food-porn”. Just as it sounds, you get to watch people eat delicious food for 16 episodes as they argue about how each meal is best enjoyed.

Splash Splash Love (2015)

This is one of my favorite dramas. Splash Splash Love¬†isn’t about food but it has some of the most memorable scenes of individuals enjoying food. This is a time-travel love story about a high schooler who ends up in the Joseon Era. She spends time teaching the king mathematics. In two separate incidents, the girl introduces the king and the queen to modern, instant food. The looks of surprise and enjoyment on their faces as the king tries instant noodles and the queen tteokbokki (Spicy rice cakes) are absolutely precious.

As K-Drama fans might notice, both these dramas star my ultimate K-Pop bias, Yoon Doo Joon of Highlight, a real-life foodie. I find so much pleasure in enjoying a good meal so it makes me greatly happy when I see others feel the same way.

Food as the Heart of the Drama

Finally we have those shows where food is the heart and soul of the drama. These are dramas that really represent the food culture of these places. It provides the viewer with insight into the role of food in the lives of people. Here are three dramas that have taught me a lot about food.                                                                                                                              

Fermentation Family (2011)

Fermentation Family is about a restaurant that specializes in kimchi (spicy fermented cabbage). Every episode begins with the story of a different type of kimchi and the parallels between the dish and the lives of the characters.

Shinya Shukodo (2009) is one of the most well-known Japanese dramas and has spanned 4 ¬†seasons. It is about a diner that opens at midnight. The eatery has no menu and features only one dish per night. Every episode tells the story of one of the diner’s patrons as it relates to that night’s special dish.

Gochisousan¬†(2013) translates to “thank you for the meal.” It tells the heart-warming story of one’s woman’s love and passion for food. The drama follows her life from childhood to old-age as she moves from one region of Japan to another and tries to incorporate both cultures into her cooking.

The essence of the story is captured by a quote, “To crave for food is to have the will to live; the stronger the craving the greater the will.”

These are just some of the dramas that have watched. There are so many more to watch. I am always happy to get to at least know about some of these foods that I might never have a chance to experience in real-life.

Do you like food dramas? What makes them so enjoyable to you?