Why Cook? Why Catering?

Catering is perhaps one of the most important aspects of event planning that will help make or break any business meeting, fundraising gala or wedding events. That’s why the catering manager often takes the lead to help clients plan and execute special events and other one-day programs at hotels and other venues. And many people who enjoy choosing food and beverage dream about becoming a caterer and opening their own catering business.

When it comes a time when you’re thinking about cooking for however many people, it becomes time-consuming, that’s why numbers matter. This is why cooking for a normal family size is great, but when it becomes over 4 or 6 people let’s bring out the catering help! Consider how many people you can fit in your space – if you’re planning an outdoor event, remember everyone might end up inside if it rains! If you want to have large numbers in a small area, suggesting people drop in between certain hours rather than all arriving at a designated time can ease the crowds.

Another important tip is time management; A time plan is a really useful tool to stay on top of your plans. Write a list of everything that needs to be ordered or arranged – flowers, helping hands, food, drinks, equipment, decorations. Assign days and check them off when they’re completed. The food, drink and home preparation will need a more detailed plan and it’s worth assigning times as well as days to these. Be realistic, it’s better to give yourself too much time. If reading through your time plan makes you feel unduly stressed, you may have taken on too much so look at ways you can simplify your choices. Providing a relaxed and fun event with a small selection of different but well-cooked dishes is better than an overambitious spread which turns out to be hit and miss.

Now it’s time to invite your friends and family – Most importantly, let’s have fun. Your event invitation will make an impression on your guests and – as the first item they’ll see regarding this event – can convince them to attend or persuade them to stay home. So don’t miss out on this important opportunity to get your friends and family excited, engaged and talking about your upcoming event. Make sure your event stands out and as always remember the things to consider when planning an event.

Vinegar – The Acid We Love

Vinegar has been in use for thousands of years and traces its heritage to China, as do many other condiments and staples of the modern diet. Going back to 2000 B.C. vinegar was disdained as a beverage due to its harsh acidic taste, but was soon incorporated into a myriad of foods and other uses, taking its place on the ships of the spice traders.

But perhaps getting a jump on the Chinese were the Babylonians, as recordings start about 5000 BC, when the Babylonians were using fruits to make wine and vinegar, most likely the date palm. (Let’s face it, apples were pretty scarce in Egypt.) Residues have been found in ancient Egyptian urns as far back as 3000 B.C. and, like the Chinese, it was a popular pickling agent. Centuries later, Cleopatra used vinegar daily for her many personal beauty treatments.

The Bible frequently refers to vinegar being used for bathing and embalming, and it was offered to Jesus Christ when he was crucified on the cross. In the Islam traditions, it is thought to have been a favorite of the Prophet Mohammed. Of course the European royalty were not to be left out, using it primarily in food preparation. (They weren’t big on bathing.)

Hippocrates, the father of medicine, prescribed apple cider vinegar to be mixed with honey for a variety of health complaints, including lung congestion and coughs. He theorized that vinegar could remove infection by applying it to the wounded area,which was vital for the armies of ancient Greece.

In 218 B.C. the Carthaginian general Hannibal pressed vinegar into service when he crossed the Alps. His troops discovered that heating vinegar then pouring it over large stones would dissolve them, making passage easier for their animals.

The army of King Louis XIII of France, in the early 1600’s, used vinegar to cool off the cannons of his army in their many battles. When applied to the hot iron cannons, it not only had a cooling effect, but cleaned the surface metal, thus inhibiting rust.

Not to be outdone, many armies of the Middle Ages, when some country was always waging war, found that vinegar mixed with sand formed an abrasive material that was great for cleaning armor. (The forerunner of SOS pads?)

European alchemists in the Middle Ages poured it over lead, which created a sweet tasting substance they called “sugar of lead.” It was used into the nineteenth century to sweeten bitter ciders. As we now know, lead is highly poisonous, which resulted in the early death of many cider aficionados. They also learned the hard way not to store lead in metal containers.

In 1721, once again the Bubonic Plague reared its deadly head in many French cities. The French used imprisoned convicts to bury the dead, and the tale goes that four convicted thieves survived exposure to the infected bodies by drinking large amounts of vinegar daily, infused with garlic. Today, Four Thieve’s Vinegar is still sold in parts of France.

Not merely content to invent the pasteurization process for milk, scientist Louis Pasteur also experimented with a natural fermentation process to make vinegar, around the year 1864. It became popular for pickling vegetables and fruits, as well as a meat tenderizer. Vinegar promptly found its way into the first recipe for ketchup by the Henry J. Heinz Company and forever changed the popular condiment.

Imagine a kitchen without at least one bottle of vinegar, but more likely several varieties, including apple cider, red wine and balsamic. As many flavored vinegars continue to flourish, its popularity extends to thousands of other uses, including cleaning agents, pickling, salad dressings and a myriad of others. Regardless of who created it, Vinegar is clearly a staple of the world.

What’s So Great About Water?

It’s the ONE Element that doesn’t get the credit it deserves! Dive in for some amazing facts about this low-calorie libation…

If you count yourself among the health-conscious, you probably put in some exercise every day. Perhaps you also live on ‘health foods’, avoid smoking and never forget to brush your teeth. Top marks to you. But wait! Is there something that may be missing from your healthy routine? Do you remember to drink enough water?

Far too many of us don’t. In doing so, we unwittingly forego the wide-ranging benefits of one of the cheapest and most accessible aids to good health. Because water – just plain water – is what helps our bodies tick along smoothly, keeps our systems going and even relieves minor ailments.

Everybody knows that, without water, we’d die of thirst. But not many realize that water does much more than wet a dry mouth! That’s why we need around two to three liters (8-10 glasses) of fluid everyday. If you are currently getting by on a few sips here and there, you might wonder why such hefty amounts are needed. Here are some answers to some questions you might want to ask.

Q #1: I don’t feel very thirsty – why must I drink plenty of water?

Because water does more than quench your thirst. It works inside your body on a minute-to-minute basis. Water has a role to play in every vital function of the body.

We may be in the jet-age, but inside our body everything still works on “water-transport”! Vital supplies of food, oxygen and infection-fighting cells flow around the body through the blood, which is 83% water. Digesting food and absorbing it needs some water too, because digestive juices work better in a semi-fluid environment. Even breathing in and out needs moisture. In fact, it is possible to use up the equivalent of two glassfuls of water a day, just exhaling!

Again, many of the body ‘s waste products can be thrown out only if they are well-dissolved in water (as sweat and urine). If there is insufficient water to carry out this function, the body may retain toxins and end up being poisoned by its own waste products! Sounds far-fetched? Small proofs of this are not difficult to find. Forget to drink enough water and you may soon be suffering from constipation!

Water, when it leaves the body as sweat, is what keeps our body temperature constant even on the hottest summer day. Our body operates on delicate chemistry and it is water that maintains the internal balance. When every bodily process is using up water, imagine how vital it is to replace used-up fluids. A stray glassful can hardly do the job!

Q #2: Can’t we depend on our body to demand enough water, according to its needs?

By and large, YES. Thirst is the body’s signal that the system is “running dry”. But natural signals would be wholly dependable only if we led a wholly natural life! The farm labourer drinks water by the jugful, because he works up a powerful thirst that is hard to ignore. The average city worker, on the other hand, ends up drinking far too little water, often less than he should. The reasons are many: Sedentary work, especially in an air-conditioned room, produces only a mild thirst that is easily ignored. Fear of water-borne diseases prevents city-dwellers from drinking water away from home. People are equally finicky about using public toilets. So they play it safe by drinking as little water as possible!

And then there are umpteen myths about the “ill-effects” of drinking water. Here are some that we’ve heard – do you believe in any of them? Frequent drinking of water causes a sore throat… Cold water makes people fat… Water interferes with digestion… Drinking water aggravates a case of vomiting and diarrhoea… People with coughs and colds should avoid drinking water… Drinking water before exercise gives you cramps in the stomach…

These beliefs have no scientific basis and some of them can prove downright dangerous, say doctors. With so many misconceptions floating around, it is not surprising that the thirst signal often goes unanswered, or only nominally satisfied. A few sips of water will take the edge off your thirst, but that little amount cannot meet your needs.

Q #3: What happens if you don’t drink enough water?

If you drink sufficient water occasionally, your body adjusts: it secretes less urine and otherwise manages to function normally. But those who habitually drink too little water may develop problems. Healthy kidneys keep the body’s water at a safe level, but operating with insufficient fluid puts them under a strain. When You drink insufficient water, that fluid is used up for vital functions, leaving little for other processes. For example, hydration of the skin or digestion may be hampered, resulting in problems like dry-looking skin or constipation.

A certain amount of water should pass through the kidneys every day, otherwise bacteria which should be flushed out of the kidneys, bladder and urethra will lodge there. This give rise to urinary tract infections, with symptoms of burning while urinating, backache and so on.

Certain common drugs (including painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs) leave behind a residue in the kidneys, which must be washed out with plenty of water so that it does not accumulate and damage kidney tissue.

Insufficient water can also cause kidney stones in those predisposed to them. Regularly drinking plenty of water actually helps prevent kidney stones and infections. Provided the water is clean, of course.

In athletes and sportsperson, low fluid intake can contribute to muscle fatigue and poor performance. A lot of water is lost when you play and exercise. Interestingly enough, strenuous exercise temporarily depress your thirst, when in fact you should be replacing all that lost fluid!

So what it boils down to is simply this: While our body can ‘get by’ on insufficient water, it does no good to push it too hard!

Q #4: We consume so many other fluids… don’t they count?

Yes, they do. All the tea, coffee, juices, soups, milk, etc. that we drink do contribute to our fluid intake. And that’s precisely how most of us get by without actually drinking the large amounts of water we need. We derive some water even from solid food, especially fruits and vegetables. For example, Green beans are 89% water and lettuce 95% water! Incidentally even the adult human body holds 35 to 50 liters of water.

Q #5: Of other fluids do count, why is it important to drink plain water?

Water is not entirely replaceable, and has its own advantages. Unlike soft drinks, which are often used to quench thirst, plain water has no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives. (You don’t have to worry about BVO (Brominated Vegetable Oil), for instance!). Unlike, coffee or tea, it has no caffeine and no sugar to damage your teeth. And, compared to alcoholic drinks… well, water is guaranteed not to make a monster out of you! Before or after sport or exercise, water is the best drink to have. Very sweet drinks, which are considered energy-giving can draw out water from your muscles into the intestinal tract (instead of it being the other way round), causing internal dehydration which can result in cramps during exercise. Even for non-athletes, plain water is the best thirst-quencher. Why make your body handle all those extra substances when water serves the purpose?

Of course, when little solid food is being consumed (as during illness), other beverages are preferable because they can provide nutrition as well as fluid. But if you’re in normal health, drink as much as you like – it’s zero-fat and calorie-free!

Q #6: How much water does one need?

Needs vary, depending on your size, diet, activity and the climate you live in. In the hot climate, much water is lost through perspiration. And even more is lost by a person who has fever (due to faster breathing, sweating) and also by a person with vomiting and diarrhoea. A 60-kg, moderately active man would need about 10 glasses of fluid a day, ideally much of it water. Slightly more or less is okay. The colour of urine is good indicator – dark-coloured urine suggests that you may need more water. While this casual check is good enough for most, there are also categories of people for whom it is vital to consume plenty of water. This group includes those who have chronic chest congestion – smokers with emphysema, for instance, would benefit from keeping their system well-hydrated.

On the other hand, there are those who may be asked by their doctor not to drink too much water. A person with renal failure, congestive heart failure and some cases of liver failure may not be permitted to overload their system with water. This is either because the kidneys are not eliminating water efficiently or because the heart is not strong enough to pump too much fluid.

Q #7: Water and overweight… is there a connection?

It has become fashionable (among a certain set) to say, “I look fat only because I retain water.” If the body retains excess water instead of eliminating it through the kidneys (as do some women due to hormonal ups and downs), the person may feel slightly bloated and the scales may even show a slight gain in weight. But usually this is small and temporary. Water retention is not responsible for actual fat. So, trying to achieve weight loss via water loss is not desirable, not safe and not permanent An obese person may quickly lose one or two kilos of “water weight” by profusely sweating in a steam-bath or through violent exercise. Or diuretic drugs may step up kidney function and cause a rapid loss of water. Such drastic attempts might be useful only to jockeys and wrestlers who must show a certain weight at the time of weighting-in. But as a method of weight-control, they are worse than useless. The little weight lost by such methods come back as soon as you take in fluids. Athlete or not, trying to dehydrate the body is dangerous. To control water retention and its effects, it is better to cut down salt intake rather than water intake.

Important Facts:

  • The human body can go 5 weeks without food.
  • The human body can go without water for 5 days.
  • The kidneys use 5 glasses of water daily.
  • The human body loses 10 glasses of water daily.

 

Everyone Say Cheese!

Truly one of life’s great pleasures, who doesn’t like cheese. Stack it on your burger, add it to a sandwich,eat it plain, mix it in casseroles and that all-time favorite, mac and cheese, there is a type for every taste bud, age and budget. Dating back thousands of years B.C. cheese was first created by populations who herded milk-producing animals. The art of cheese making was refined over the centuries until it became a staple of Western Europeans, from the poor to the royals and everyone in between. Whether you’re an aficionado of fine gourmet cheeses, or an unapologetic fan of Velveeta, there’s nothing quite like it. Pity the lactose intolerant who have to pass on cheese..

Well, this time the Chinese were out of the loop. Cheese clearly was created in areas of Europe which are now Poland and its environs, possibly as far back as 7000 B.C. In all fairness, the Chinese did not use dairy and presumably didn’t herd milk-producing animals, so they had no hand in creating cheese or milk products at all.

Ancient herders discovered that milk solids could be turned into a cheese-like substance, and since cheese lasted far longer than milk, which easily spoiled, it was a popular food for travelers and shepherds. But early cheeses were undoubtedly bland, liquidy and probably resembled our present day cottage cheese. As cheese making processes were refined and different varieties created, this wonderful food took on a whole new persona. Greeks embraced cheese, which they made with sheep and goat’s milk, and their cheese tended to be crumbly, similar to present-day feta. Adding a few herbs to the milk mixture gave it flavor, and cheese traveled well, providing a good source of protein for their ancient armies.

Soon royalty had their chefs pursue the art of cheese making, and it spread through Western Europe, quickly embraced by the Roman Empire. Monks joined in, understanding that along with their staples of bread and wine, cheese provided a substantial meal in the monasteries. Once it reached France, a country synonymous with the word “cheese”, the French took it to a whole new level, enjoying the creamy textures and creating cuisine around the various varieties they produced (think Camembert, Brie and Roquefort). Today, every region of France boasts their own particular cheese.

And speaking of Roquefort, how many of us get confused by the different varieties and the interchangeable term “blue cheese?” Let’s clear this up. Blue cheese is basically a generic term. There are three major types: Roquefort (French), Gorgonzola (Italian) and Stilton (British). The U.S. was kind of left out with this variety, (but don’t tell that to people in Wisconsin). Roquefort and Gorgonzola are two variations of blue cheese. Roquefort is French, made from sheep’s milk, and Gorgonzola is Italian, made from cow’s milk. Roquefort has a sharpness, but not as strong and robust as Gorgonzola. And then there is Stilton. A popular British version, but considered to be a poor cousin in the eyes of cheese connoisseurs.

Originating in the village of Somerset, England, cheddar cheese is a hard, off-white, sharp-tasting natural cheese. (The orange color is added.) It is probably the most popular type in the U.S. and is what the so-called American cheese (which isn’t really cheese at all) is modeled after. Europeans enjoy cheddar in its natural white color and frequently end a meal with a plate of room temperature cheeses and fruits. Most foodies eschew American cheese, which adorns our fast food cheeseburgers and our beloved mac and cheese. And then there’s Velveeta, considered the bottom of the barrel (but great for cooking).

Not to be slighted, Switzerland caught up with France and created their own wonderful versions. Their most popular are Gruyere and Emmental, which is called Swiss cheese in the U.S.

With the popularity of wine these days, what better accompaniment than cheese? Whether you favor a sharp cheddar, a smooth Gouda, a tangy Swiss or a creamy Brie, there’s just no getting around it: say cheese!

Snow Formation – One of the Greatest Challenges for IQF Processors

Snow formation inside IQF freezers is strongly linked to the process of dehydration, which occurs during freezing and is represented by water loss through the product’s membrane when it meets the cold air flow inside the IQF tunnel freezer.

During the process of dehydration, the products will also suffer a loss of weight. The humidity that is transferred from the product into the air will saturate it, and at the maximum point of air humidity (100% saturated), snow is created. This phenomenon is called precipitation and it is the same as when rain or snow is created out in the atmosphere.

The major factor responsible for the occurrence of precipitation during the IQF process is the large quantity of wet and warm product that makes contact with the cold temperatures inside the IQF freezer. After precipitation, the level of saturation decreases and even more moisture can be transferred from the product to the air, leading to more weight loss for the product transported on the bedplate inside the freezer.

Therefore, if snow formation inside IQF freezers is an indicator of product loss and dehydration, how can we minimize the level of dehydration?

First of all, the process of precipitation and thus sublimation needs to be kept under a specific level, with the help of optimal aerodynamics which ensures less disruption of the air flow and better air speed.

In order to minimize dehydration you need to avoid precipitation and thus sublimation, have better aerodynamics (less disruption of the air flow) and better air speed.

Considering that temperature variations inside an IQF freezer are a common thing, snow formation cannot be completely prevented but, thanks to its advanced design features, the IQF tunnel freezer can successfully minimize snow formation, increasing the yield of the overall production.

The IQF tunnel freezer benefits of unique fans, which can be individually adjusted in order to ensure the optimal speed for the perfect air velocity and air pressure. Thanks to the good control over the aerodynamics inside the IQF tunnel freezer, the level of air humidity remains constant and the process of precipitation is significantly prevented, ensuring a level of product dehydration between 0,1% and 1%.

The fact is that the snow building up inside your freezer is product loss, and that is because an IQF freezer is a closed system and the humidity creating the precipitation doesn’t have anywhere else to come from than from the products you are freezing.

Store Your Nuts The Right Way To Keep Them Fresh And Tasty

Nuts like Almonds, Cashew, Walnuts are very much good of our health, as they are loaded with a number of Vitamins, Minerals, Proteins, and other nutrients your body requires. Choosing the best of its quality is important to reap their real benefits for your good health and not only buying, but preserving them for a longer period is also important. Storing them is the main concern most of the people face and if you also don’t know how to preserve it the right way, so, here we are with some of our tips. Take a look and store your nuts the right way without affecting their freshness and taste.

  • Keep It In Cool And Dry Condition: One of the important things you need to keep in mind to store the nuts right way is, always keep them in cool and dry conditions. They get damaged when easily get in touch with the moisture, so, always keep them in an air-tight container in cool and dry conditions to ensure their long shelf life and preserve their taste.
  • Never Leave Them Open: If you leave your nuts open, so, they easily absorb the odor of the material around them and get damaged in most of the conditions, therefore, it is important to store them in air-tight containers.
  • Keep Them In Freezer: Whether you accept it or not, but is a true fact that nuts, especially almonds if stored in the freezer or refrigerator, so they can remain as it is up to a year. Freezing won’t let them lose their taste and keep them fresh for a longer period.
  • Keep Them Away From Humid Conditions: Humidity is the true killer of nuts; they affect not only their life but taste as well. Therefore, you shouldn’t keep them in a humid atmosphere to preserve their freshness and delightful taste.
  • Seal The Bag: If you buy roasted nuts, so, you have to keep them away from coming in contact with the oxygen, therefore, it is advisable to keep them in vacuum bags or seal them properly to secure their shelf life.

These are some of the easy and common tips that help you store nuts in a better way that too for a longer period. So, the next time, don’t panic if you buy nuts in bulk quantity, as now you know the right way to store them correctly. You can even ask the dry fruits manufacturers from where you buy the nuts; they may surely provide such suggestion to you.

Underated Garium Sulphate

The Underated garium sulphate!

Over the years I have heard a lot of people condemn the intake of soaked Garri (also known as Garium Sulphate, cassava flakes) and have reduced it to a poor man’s meal. Take your time to read through this article, you will understand the nutritional benefits of taking soaked Garri as a normal meal.

Garri is a popular West African food made from cassava tuber. The soaked garri is a popular fast food for majority of people in Nigeria. Moreover, it could simply be taken as regular flakes and mostly taken when the weather is hot (in the afternoon or at night).

Best ways to soak garri

Garri is basically associated to poor people because it’s sold very cheap (measured in cups), easy to prepare and can be prepared with nothing but only water. Therefore, those that can’t afford a decent meal would rather go for it. Hey! That’s for poor people, left to me garri is for rich dudes but have been abused by the poor. I have met a lot of rich people who really enjoy taking garri as a meal. An average Nigerian in one way or the other must have taken garri. I was amazed when T-boss (from Big Brother Naija, BBN) opened her mouth to say she had never taken garri. I don’t really want to talk about that now.

Nevertheless, there are special ways of preparing your lovely soaked cassava flakes. This is how a normal garri looks like without adding anything:

Things you need to prepare it:

a. Cassava flakes
b. Water
c. Cubes of sugar
d. Groundnuts or kuli kuli
e. A tin of milk
f. Ice blocks or cold water
g. Fried/grilled fish or Pkomo (also known as Canda)
h. Coconut

Adding these things properly together makes up a decent soaked garium sulphate and can cost about N700, which is far above an average Nigerian’s meal. Moreover, there are nutritional benefits of soaked garri. Garium sulphate is rich in fiber, magnesium, Vitamin A (for yellow cassava) and copper. This directly implies that garri made from yellow cassava can improve your eye sight and when taken according to my prescription above will give you a balanced diet. Therefore you have no worries, because a plate of soaked garri can make your day (especially if your day was hectic).

Be proud of Africa and its wonderful heritage. I love My Africa!

Pile on the Pasta

Those Chinese did it again. While we think of pasta as a culturally Italian food, it likely originates from ancient Asian noodles. No one knows for sure, but credit is often given to merchant and explorer Marco Polo as responsible for bringing pasta back to Italy during the 13th century. Noodles had been a staple in China for over 2000 years. They likely were made with rice, but once Italians embraced the noodles, they began to use plentiful wheat flour to produce their famous spaghetti.

However, historical references may indeed dispute pasta’s Asian origin, as various pasta-type foods are mentioned in earlier centuries. Enter the Greeks, who originally occupied Naples, a southern region of Italy and are thought to have introduced a pasta- like food to the Neapolitans. Since Italy’s major grain producers and processors were in the south, it’s highly likely that long, thin pasta made its way north to Rome and other cities. Long before Marco Polo, first century Roman poet Horace described thin sheets of dough called lagana and served fried as an everyday food. Several centuries later, this dough was stuffed with meat and perhaps made way for present day lasagna.

By the sixteenth century, the dried version made storage easy, and who knows, perhaps Columbus carried the food on his voyage to discover America, as did many ships who made expeditions into parts unknown. The availability of pasta and its versatility made it a hit throughout Europe, and cooks found it easy to create new dishes. Originally eaten by hand, once sauces were introduced as an accompaniment, utensils took a prominent place on dining tables.

So when did the U.S. get its first taste of pasta? While it originally adorned the tables of the wealthy, in the late 1800’s our modern version of spaghetti caught on, first in the restaurants of Italian immigrants, then across the nation as a filling and economical meal for families. While some cooks did not serve it with tomato sauce, the different forms of pasta could be added to soups or mixed with vegetables.

Believe it or not, Thomas Jefferson is said to have brought back a pasta machine from his European travels, and his daughter, who was the lady of the house, served pasta dishes with Parmesan cheese. (Imagine her horror to learn that mass-produced boxes of mac and cheese would eventually populate grocery store shelves.) Later on, other fans substituted Cheddar, and it became a crowd pleaser and favorite of the American diet. What would childhood be without mac and cheese?

In the mid-twentieth century, packaged dry pastas, canned pasta products and sauces began to adorn the shelves of supermarkets, and pasta became a staple of American life. Chef Boyardee introduced children to pasta and turned off adults to his mushy ravioli and Spaghettios.

Pasta lives on in all its glory, its unending possibilities and its delicious varieties. So while the historians continue to debate, whoever created its humble beginnings, we are thankful. Pile on the pasta, any way you like.

Picnics & Pointers

Picnics have been around for as long as people have been eating meals (even if they didn’t realize it at the time). Over the years, the “dictionary definition” of picnic has changed; however, the original relaxed setting associated with a picnic still resonates today. The mention of a “picnic” versus a “cookout” or “BBQ” tends to take one down a slower, nostalgic path. Taking food out of the kitchen and moving to a less formal setting has been enjoyed throughout the ages.

Whether in a park, at a festival, on a hike in the woods, or in your own living room, having an informal meal in a setting other than your normal meal setting will put one in a frame of mind that alters significantly from what is commonly referred to as breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Formality is no longer at the forefront of the meal. The lack of formality tends to lead to more open, fun communication with those you choose to have at your picnic.

It’s best to keep the food simple. One should not over-complicate a picnic meal. Keeping the items simple and light will lend to the change being incurred with the change of scenery. Items such as finger sandwiches, crackers and cheese, meat and cheese wraps, fruits, nuts and/or vegetables are all simple foods that provide sustenance and variety when planning a picnic.

The foods and location you choose will dictate whether or not you require to keep the food cold or if it requires heating once you arrive. There are cool packs, small grills and solar warmers that can be used almost anywhere these days. Be sure to keep your food stuffs at the appropriate temperatures to prevent food born illnesses.

Whenever there’s a meal, drinks should definitely a consideration. Water, wine, soda, coffee and tea are all popular. Small coolers of ice and reusable cups are always a good idea. Should you decide on wine, be sure to pack a corkscrew or you’ll be very sorry come mealtime.

Your location will dictate some of the supplies you will need to have available and carry with you on your route. If you’re in your living room with the furniture pushed back to create a space, the weather is likely not going to have an impact on your event. However, if you choose an outdoor setting, weather is a definite consideration – from what to wear to what you might bring with you. Umbrellas are great for beaches and unpredictable weather while backpacks and outdoor gear are more suitable for true outdoor enthusiasts that may be hiking to their final destination.

As you are considering what to eat and drink and where to have your picnic, there are other items highly recommended to have on-hand. Other items that come in handy when picnicking are:

  • Plates & Utensils
  • Napkins and/or Paper Towels
  • Salt & pepper
  • Blanket (in the event there are no picnic tables where you end up)
  • Sanitizing Wipes
  • Garbage Bag(s)

If you’ve never been on a picnic or it’s simply been a long time since your last one, please make a plan and take a moment to relax and enjoy the smaller things in life; starting with a picnic.

Ketchup – Pour It on

Ketchup, undoubtedly America’s favorite condiment, (followed closely by mayonnaise and salsa) is poured on virtually everything.. Who doesn’t know a ketchup addict who can’t get through one meal without ketchup on something. Or perhaps you are unabashedly one yourself.

A bottle of ketchup is found in approximately 97 percent of U.S. homes, but the present form we enjoy is relatively new, considering it has its roots in ancient China. The origin of the word ketchup is believed to be traced back to a Chinese word that can be loosely translated as ke-tep or kio-chiap. Or possibly from a Malay language sometimes referred to as kicap, kecap, ketjap. The precursor to our ketchup was actually a fermented fish sauce made from fish entrails, meat byproducts and soybeans, usually ground into a paste. This mixture not only added flavor to food, but was easy to store on long ocean voyages. As it spread along spice trade routes to Indonesia and the Philippines, British traders got hooked on the spicy, salty taste, and by he early 1700s. they took samples home to England and promptly modified the original recipe.

Even though tomato plants were introduced to England by way of South America during the 1500s, tomatoes were widely believed to be poisonous, along with other members of the nightshade family (eggplants and potatoes). The earliest usage in England was recorded in 1690 and spelled “catchup”; later the spelling of “ketchup” appeared around 1711, and the modified spelling “catsup” in 1730.

A famine in Italy during the late 1830’s led the starving superstitious folks to finally try tomatoes, and the population was pleasantly surprised when no one became poisoned,
leading to the popularity across Europe. The first Italian tomato sauce recipe appeared soon after the famine. Imagine Italian cooking without the tomato… unthinkable.

Tomato ketchup appeared in America in the early 1800’s. An enterprising Philadelphia native named James Mease incorporated the tomato into his recipe, setting off a revolution of tomato-based ketchup. By 1896, The New York Tribune estimated that tomato ketchup had become America’s national condiment and could be found “on every table in the land.” That might have been a bit of an exaggeration at the time, but certainly prophetic for the coming twentieth century, especially with the introduction of hot dogs at the two world fairs: Chicago and St Louis. Cooks and homemakers began scrambling for ketchup recipes to make at home along with the growing popularity of bottled versions. Many cookbooks featured recipes for ketchup made of oysters, mussels, mushrooms, walnuts, lemons and celery, but the Americans were the first to make the tomato its base for the prized condiment.

With many different versions of the condiment already in the U.S., a Pittsburgh businessman named Henry J. Heinz started producing ketchup in 1876 using tomatoes and vinegar as his chief ingredients, and he soon dominated the commercial market (and still does). By1905, the company had sold five million bottles of ketchup. The first recipes Heinz tried contained allspice, cloves, cayenne pepper, mace, and cinnamon. A second
included pepper, ginger, mustard seed, celery salt, horseradish, and brown sugar, along with the two primary ingredients, tomatoes and vinegar. Soon the country was hooked.

Americans currently purchase 10 billion ounces of ketchup annually, which comes out to approximately three bottles per person per year. That figure seems low, but keep in mind that Americans consume much of their ketchup outside the home, at restaurants and fast food locations.

So today, when you shake that bottle or open that packet, be thankful that your beloved ketchup is free from entrails and fish heads… and enjoy.