Monday, August 6, 2012

Week 3: India, the Spice of Life

Welcome to the Republic of India!

If you're like me you don't know much about India, maybe you've seen Slumdog Millionaire or had some Tikki Masala, but did you know that it was the birthplace of 4 major religions? Or that it has the 2nd largest population of any other country? Well neither did I, so lets learn something about India because it's a fascinating country!

Located at 21.7 N/ 78.8 E on your world latitude/longitude grid, India (or Bharat as they call themselves) is in South Asia.  Look for the large triangle shaped country jutting into the Indian Ocean with the Arabian Sea on the left, the Bay of Bengal to the right and the Himalayan Mountains on top.  It has been home to some of the earliest civilizations, with people having lived there since roughly 30,000 BC.  It is a country steeped in religious significance and was the birthplace of 4 major religions - Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism.  Christianity and Islam arrived soon after.  These religions all live peacefully together in a country known for it's peaceful nature.  In over 100,000 years, India has never invaded another country!  Perhaps this peaceful nature has been the reason why some great ideas have come from this region.  Chess was invented sometime around the 6th century AD.  Yoga has been practiced in India for at least 5,000 years and, for you math lovers, the value of "pi" (3.14? why do I remember that) was invented by the great mathematician Budhayana!  Whip that tidbit out at your next trivia party :)

India is also known for it's animals - Bengal tigers, peacocks, Asian Elephants, Rhinos, and cows, lots and lots of cows.  The Hindu religion considers cows sacred animals that are to be revered and respected.  They are allowed free reign. In fact, India is home to more than 200,000,000 cows. Got milk? 

 One thing I've known about India for quite a few years now is that I LOVE THEIR FOOD!!  Most people think of Indian food and they think "curry", that spice your mom used to sprinkle on chicken salad or devilled eggs when she wanted to be exotic.  In India, curry is more of a way of cooking than just a single spice.  Many, many spices go into a single dish and meats,seafood, and vegetables are simmered for hours in fragrant sauces that can range from mild to "burn your eyelids off" hot!  Because the dishes are so complex and labor intensive, the kids and I are going to be making some very simple forays into Indian cuisine at home this week, but will probably be hitting a local Indian restaurant on Friday :)

Project 1: Mango Lassie

Every Indian restaurant I've ever been to has this drink on it's menu.  It comes in salty or sweet but I've never tried a salty one.  I imagine that in a country where temps are often well over 100' they drink salty drinks to help their water retention and electrolytes from sweating so much.  Me? I live in the San Francisco Bay Area where temps rarely are over 80' and the fog rolls over the mountain almost every afternoon, so I'll stick with the sweet version :)  The recipe is basically a smoothie but the addition of cardmom gives it a different taste and it really takes the sting out of a spicy vindaloo!

You will need:
  • 1 cup curd (plain non-fat yogurt)
  • 1 cup peeled and chopped ripe mango
  • 2 T sugar (or substitute)
  • 1/4 t ground cardamom - it was readily available at the grocery store but quite expensive - kinda has a spicy-sweet flavor so maybe ginger could be a good substitute? or just leave it out!
  • few ice cubes
Put all the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.  Pour into a tall glass, order takeout from the local Indian food joint and enjoy the taste of paradise...

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