Tuesday, November 17, 2015

A Reprise: Spices and Their Value




   

This week, someone asked me to reprise the post on the value of spices.
This week, following the deaths of those who were simply enjoying an evening in a brasserie or a Cambodian restaurant in Paris, we should give thought to how much we eat out, and also whether our children should accompany us on the outing.
 This week, this post which originally appeared in May of 2015 has new relevance.





  There are many times, during emergencies, power outages, flu pandemics, or even during civil unrest that eating out becomes unwise if not dangerous.  Yet, many American families have stocked kitchens, and live a life that requires that they eat out multiple times each week.   This post is one of a several pronged attempt to examine this practice and gradually make some changes which allow eating at home as a safer, less expensive, and potentially a more pleasant experience.
 


          In the last post I explained that learning to cook was not a skill set I mastered early in my marriage.  Consistent with that, I thought that a collection of spices was an extravagance.  I did not learn until much later how important having a supply of spices and knowing how to use them, really can be.

            In the US, in the past twenty years or so, families have developed a bad habit of eating out with their children at least once a week, and often much, much more. We tell ourselves that we don't have time to cook, but often, we eat out because the food simply tastes better than something we think we might make at home.  Proper seasoning of food may be one of the reasons we might have this misperception.

           In addition, spices are not simply an extravagance. Spices not only can provide an interesting an appetizing draw to food, for only a few calories, if any, but they can provide vitamins and significant amounts of trace minerals.   Nutmeg for example is metabolized as magnesium !  Most of us could use additional dietary magnesium.   Many studies bear out the great value of dietary spices.  Although I am not personally a fan of Indian food, we know that many cancers are quite rare in India, in part because they spice their food with a particular set of spices which are now proven to benefit health.

The following is a listing of just a few spices and how you and your family can incorporate these in your normal diet


Nutmeg:

In reasonable amount used as a seasoning, many cultures from Asia to Europe use it.   I like to use it on top of hot chocolate and on baked custard, but many cultures use it on vegetables also.  Some cultures use it on potatoes, and other on vegetables like Brussel sprouts.  In any event, you are taking on additional magnesium while you are enjoying a tasty treat.




Cumin

   Cumin is also a spice which has bee widely used throughout the world for hundreds if not thousands of years.  It can be used ground, as I do, or in the seed form also.  It can add an earthy, warm taste to soups, stews and even chili.  There is scientific data which suggests that it is mildly antibacterial and antiviral and aids with digestion.




Turmeric

       This spice is used in South East Asian cuisine in both vegetable and meat dishes.  India also uses it broadly. There are too many health benefits to list in the form of a brief blog post, and so I will encourage you to research these yourself.



Cinnamon

         From French toast to flavoring your own oatmeal and healthy oatmeal cookies cinnamon  is of great benefit.  Some use cinnamon on certain potato, sweet potato or carrot dishes also.




Ginger

         From flavoring meats, poultry, to salads, ginger can provide that inexplicable something that the Asian restaurants know so well.   Ginger is also said to be an excellent way of settling a stomach.



Chili powder


              The important take away point is that being able to produce tasty food which makes eating in public during difficult times less of a necessity is an important preparedness skill.  Going out to eat should be rare, and the times you do it should be chosen.  Not only is eating out costly, but it does eating increase your exposure to the hazards of other people in difficult times (like civil unrest, for example). It exposes us and our families to potential for food  poisoning.   No matter how nice a restaurant might look, there is always the potential for food poisoning.


Cardamom

               A fairly expensive spice, this is used in teas. It is also a fantastic addition to certain breads. There are positive health uses.


               This post does not encourage you to build a spice cabinet for hundreds of dollars by Friday.  What I am saying is that bit my bit, preppers especially should begin, one by one, to gather salt, pepper, ginger, chili powder, freeze dried chives, and all manner of spices you believe you would use.  I have also bought large long term containers of powdered chicken gravy and beef gravy.   CVS and Wahlgreens also stock some low priced spices.  I am quite sure that these may not be the very best of spices available, but sometimes, when we wish to try something we have never used before, a dollar or two is all that we should spend.    Badia is also a brand of spices sold fairly inexpensively in grocery stores.  Sometimes it has a stronger flavor than other brands, but it is inexpensive and is especially good value if you enjoy spices often used in Mexican food.     There are also combinations of spices which you might invest in.  I am particularly fond of Montreal Steak Seasoning, and now there is a Montreal Chicken Seasoning also.



This was a coca cola bottle holder turned into a spice rack.





                In the interest of good health and in spending more time eating at home, for both economic and practical reasons, we owe it to ourselves and our families to begin to gather spices and experiment as to how to properly use them.   Some time ago my husband returned from a business trip in Mexico with a wonderful recipe he learned from the hotel.  A chicken breast is split and fried gently in olive oil and salt and pepper.  Then cumin is shaken on front and back of the chicken and it is cooked until it is golden brown.  Unusual and delicious !   We owe it to ourselves to learn more about spicing.


If you are unable to locate a spice you would like to try, this is an excellent source of all spices:

http://www.myspicesage.com




Regarding Reporting Food Poisoning After Eating Out   (A State by State Reporting System)

http://www.foodsafetynews.com/find-your-health-department-to-report-food-poisoning/#.VVsiFVI1fTo

Regarding Food Poisoning:

http://thechart.blogs.cnn.com/2014/06/03/food-poisoning-it-was-likely-a-restaurant-worker/