Friday, July 16, 2010

Squeeeze your lemons

I know what you are thinking: what an awkward title for a food blog. I promise you the subject of this article is probably the farthest thing from your mind. Have you ever made fresh salmon or mackerel in your oven or indoor grill? If you have then you are familiar with the awful fishy smell that’s left behind on your furniture and kitchen for days. Even before cooking fish most of us have experienced the challenge associated with cleaning fish. Unless you have an ocean behind where you live, you are probably buying aquarium raised, frozen or even thawed from frozen fish at your local grocer (I know ewww eh). Anyway, this reality means you often have had some issues with regards to cleaning your fish properly. Now most of us get our fish ‘cleaned’ (ie de-gutted and de-scaled) by the fish agent. But, I don’t know about you, I often find I still have to deal with the gutty-smell and as far I’m concerned, this smell ruins the result of an otherwise perfect fish stew. That is where squeezing lemons comes to the rescue.

I love lemons not only because they give most dishes that extra zing. But, they are a good prep agent for foods especially, fish (all kinds even smoked salmon or mackerel) and meat. Let’s face-it the ‘aroma’ (I will use a beautiful word to dignify an ugly child) of some food should be killed immediately after consumption and fish is one of those foods. So, if you’ve ever boycotted fish because of the smell be-it before or after cooking maybe you should try squeezing your lemons. They are excellent for ‘neutralizing’ the smell of fish before, during and after cooking. Use a few cut slices of lemon to wash the skin and gut of those slimy suckers and you’ll notice a difference in the results of your food and on your taste buds. Or throw cut-up pieces of (2 or 3) lemons inside a pot with water add some cloves or mint leaves and boil for about 10 minutes uncovered and voila, odour in your house is dead. Or use it to wash your hands after slicing smoked salmon and mackerel and bingo! Gone So, next time you hear Led Zeppelin’s song squeeze my lemons: think of the culinary benefits of literally squeezing those lemons.
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Saturday, July 3, 2010

Bon Appétit

Recently, I had the opportunity to taste frituras de malanga (or malanga for short) and realized it was exactly the same thing that I used to eat back home in Nigeria decades ago. Malanga is a fried appetizer/snack made from grated coco yams and eggs lightly season with spices (usually, salt, garlic and eggs…I like to add a tiny bit of ginger to give it an extra zing and reduce the sliminess of the produce). Even though back home in Nigeria an identical snack is a form of ‘street food’ which I indulged in regularly, I was surprised that it was served at a popular tourist restaurant in Havana as an appetizer. The emotions that were awaken by tasting this food was indescribable. It was as if, I could connect with these people (CUBANS) whom I had be indifferent towards the very moment I entered the country. Albeit, this indifference was sparked by the harrassment I received at the hands of the customs at the airport for being a Cuban look-alike (since when is that a cause for harrassment?) But, I digress, all annoyance created by this inconvenience changed as soon as I tasted Malanga. Aside from the fact that it was delicious, my feeling was nostalgic because it reminded me of home in Africa, my familiar place, my roots. It was like they - Cubans - were now my friends that I had left back home in Nigeria decades ago and Cuba the country was now my home. My indifference turned to fondness. Eating malanga in Cuba confirmed to me that there is more that unites humanity than that which divides.

The food of one unfamiliar place can stimulate feelings and emotions of our own culture, of all that we respect and love. Could sharing food more often have the potential to cure some human intolerance? Ok, I know what you are thinking, universal unity through food is a bit of a stretch but think about it…in a world where strife, racism and wars are destroying lives because of the consequences of differences/indifference or intolerance we all could use a little flavour from someone else’s culture. Food is the chain that binds us all. So, I say: try it more often. Bon Appétit.