Sunday, September 7, 2014

Drinking Turmeric ( cold remedy, sadly not a fancy cocktail)

 I have spent the last week battling a cold and as my mother often insists whenever anyone in the family is sick, I have had a glass of turmeric every night. Yes, it take some getting used to but I think it actually works and my throat felt like it healed up a little faster than usual. A tiny bit of internet research shows ( here and here and here)  that there are a lot of people who agree with my mother. For one thing it is known to reduce inflammation ( which is probably what helped my throat) but other sources encourage you to make it a daily habit, unlikely for me, between the taste and the price I can't completely justify it. As a cold remedy however I am pretty sold. Here is how I drink it. One spoon of turmeric powder dissolved in about half a cup of hot water, then I mix in a spoon of honey and finally I add some juice, I like orange juice but apple juice is also said to be nice.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Reading Notes: Food and Immigrants ( in the US)

I enjoyed this recent article that I read on NPR's food blog The Salt about the volunteer work of women to make the feasts and meals that devotees (of several different religions) enjoy at the places where they worship.  It  includes some great pictures and highlights the work of these volunteers in several different New York City religious communities. The story comes from a very interesting project called Feet in 2 Worlds which is intended to bring the stories of immigrant  and ethnic journalists  from the across the US to wider audiences.   The site features a number of food related stories in a series it call Food in 2 Worlds which is quickly becoming a favorite read.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Reading Notes: " Rice" a poem by Mary Oliver

By Mary Oliver

It grew in the black mud.
It grew under the tiger's orange paw.
Its stems thicker than candles, and as straight.
Its leaves like the feathers of egrets,
but green.

The grains cresting, wanting to burst.
Oh, the blood of the tigers.

I don't want you to just sit at the table.
I don't want you to just eat, and be content.
I want you to walk into the fields
Where the water is shining, and the rice has risen.
I want you to stand there,
Far from the white tablecloth.
I want you to fill your hands with mud,
Like a blessing.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Reading Notes: the Cultural and Social Context of Alcohol in Bhutan

From: Dorji, Lham ( 2012) " Alcohol Use and Abuse in Bhutan"  National Statistics Bureau, Thimphu 

In traditional Bhutanese society, people share drinks when they meet or depart. Alcohol serves as a consolatory treat during bereavement, as part of the relaxed atmosphere and pleasant sensation during festivals, a source of hospitality and as a reconciliatory agent during dispute. Festivals and other  important social events are organized with alcohol as a central enhancement substance.  The traditional offering of tshogchang to official guests as a welcome gesture is an example of the social function of alcohol. It symbolizes respect to the visitor and communal proclivity towards opulent hospitality.  
Alcohol has ritualistic and symbolic functions. It is used to please deities and as a vital substance of various offerings. In certain rituals, monks or lay monks, and nuns use alcohol thought Buddhist vows do not permit them to consume alcohol. In particular, chang used a libation offerings ( gser- skyems, literally 'golden thirst) connotes an elixir to quench thirst. Alcohol is a substantive drink consumed to quench thirsts in farming societies.  This seems to be the reason for drinking being often considered appropriate for those who are involved in manual toil than for those whose task involve mental exertion.  
Alcohol is used to ward off snakes and as protective substances from many evil, and as medicine to cure certain illnesses. Alcohol is a cultural artifact. The volatile, but valuable nature of the fluid has led to the production of a rich material culture like the production and use of chang palang, phob, etc to drink, store and transport alcohol.  
Alcohol is part of child birth observances.  Many mothers even consume alcohol as soon as babies are delivered to relieve pain and regain vigour. In many rural communities, children drinking is not been marked as a social taboo thought things are changing. It is likely that many children growing up in a drinking culture being to form their impressions about alcohol from an early age. This may be one of the reasons for their early acquisition of drinking habits.  

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Reading Notes: Archery and Feasting

From : " The Clear Mirror of Archery in Bhutan" by Chang Dorji, Former People's Representative to the National Assembly of Bhutan ( 2001) KMT Press, Phuentsholing, Bhutan

"Except in times of sickness and death in the village, archery is usually played among friends and acquaintances on festive occasions like the New Year. The most preferred stake among archers is a feast. There are two types of feast. In one case, the winners take only their phorp and toray; in the  the other, butter and cooking oil while losers provide meat and other delicacies. However, both the teams have to supply rice and other provisions. This system is called the tashi gyal or the ' auspicious stake.  Usually the winners have to prepare the feast. 

The following day, another match called the zalog or ' returning the feast' is held. If the winner of the previous day wins the first match played for a score of five, the second match should be played for a total of ten scores, and the third, out of a total of fifteen. If again this is won, losers have to once again host a feast. Another zalog match can be played. The total score this time would be equivalent to the age of the oldest player of the winning team. However , there would be no stake for the feast if the same team  once again loses.  There is a saying that even a woman will eventually win a zalog, because the matches will be played until the loser wins. "

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Reading Notes: Other people's recipes

I wanted to share to some recent-ish blog posts with recipes ( and great photos) of two Bhutanese dishes: Bathup ( homemade noodle soup) and Hoentoe ( buckwheat dumplings)

 The first is from a blog kept by Andrea, the Australian teacher in Bumthang who I have mentioned in a previous Reading Notes. She write about preparing a vegetarian version of Bathup. If you ( like me!) still prefer your noodle soup with some bones and mustard greens you can find our version on my blog here.

The second is from a blog kept by Matt, another Australian teacher working in Bhutan. He recently wrote about a trip to Haa where Hoentoe are made to celebrate Lomba. In my post on Hoentoe nearly a year ago I wrote about the pleasures of eating these delicious dumplings, Matt however is able to show and tell you how to make them!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Reading Note: a nutritional take on Suja

I noticed that someone recently found this blog with the keyword search "calories in bhutaneese suja " ( sic) .  I am sure anyone who has had a cup and seen the way that a shiny layer of oil sits on top of the tea has probably wondered the same thing. I have an answer of sorts.

The wonderful K2 weekend magazine ( hands down one of the most consistently interesting and well-written publications in Bhutan)  that come with the Kuensel on Saturday recently did a really great issue on tea . They included  an interview with a local nutritionist Laigden Dzed  asking just that question. Sadly suja fan are not going to like the answer.  He advises that anything more than one cup of suja once a month is too much!  He notes that a single teaspoon of butter has 45 calories and to put it mildly the average cup of suja has many a teaspoon of butter!

Friday, January 3, 2014

More cheese please!

Bhutanese frequently use cheese in their cooking, particularly vegetable dishes. However many households are now more likely to use imported processed Indian cheese to cook with then the traditional Bhutanese datsi. Datshi is made from buttermilk and frequently described as cottage cheese, except a lot of the moisture you expect in cottage cheese is squeezed out as the cheese compressed into palm-sized white balls. Datsi is still available but quality varies widely. We are loath to eat it fresh unless it made by my aunt who still has her own cows and still make her own cheese.  

One quick and easy datshi dish we ONLY make with our aunt cheese, is fried datshi. Its a go-to-dish in our household when a meat-eater unexpectedly shows up for a dinner that is mostly vegetarian.

Recently Sonny and my cousin Bones who is currently living with us, let me photograph the process of making some emergency fried datshi.

The first step is crush the ball of datshi. You can either use a ladle to do the crushing like my cousin Bones or just use your hand like Sonny on the right.

The next step is optional, which is to finely chop some green chili. Bones removed the seeds to bring the heat down a little bit

The you want to melt butter in a deep frying pan to which you first add some beaten eggs. Then you add the broken up cheese.....

... and shortly after that the chopped green chili which gives the mixture a nice pop of green.

The mixture has to be stirred more or less continuously until it becomes a large sticky mass.  To serve you cut pieces off of it much as you would if you were sharing an omelet.