History of Food

History of Food

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

National Chocolate Covered Cashew Day (4/21/2010)

What a day to cheer and celebrate!

While I couldn't find any particular history about National Chocolate Covered Cashew Day, I decided to take this opportunity to learn a little more about cashews.

Cashews are native to the Americas, however since the 16th century cashews are now widely growin in Africa and India.

Did you know???
  • You will never see cashews sold in their sell in the store of markets
  • Cashews have two shells and between the two shells there is a VERY caustic oil
  • To get the outer shells off first the cashew is roasted or burned off with the oil - even the smoke from this process is an irritant
  • To remove the inner shell the cashew is boiled or roasted again allowing the inner shell to come off
  • Cashews are native to the Amazon region
  • Cashews were introduced to India by the Portuguese in the 16th Century
  • Oil from cashew nut shells is used in insecticides, brake linings, and rubber and plastic manufacturing
  • The milky sap from the tree is used to make a varnish
  • The cashew family includes: cashew, sumac, varnish tree, smoke tree, mombin, kafir plum, mango, pistachio, Peruvian pepper tree and poison ivy
  • The cashew (Anacardium occidentale; syn. Anacardium curatellifolium A.St.-Hil.) is a tree in the flowering plant family Anacardiaceae
  • The cashew tree is native to northeastern Brazil. Its English name derives from the Portuguese name for the fruit of the cashew tree, caju, which in turn derives from the indigenous Tupi name, acaj├║.
  • In Goa, India and Mtwara, Tanzania and Mozambique the cashew apple (the accessory fruit) is mashed and juice is extracted & kept for fermentation for 2-3 days. Fermented juice then undergoes double distillation process to make a strong liquor.
  • The fats and oils in cashew nuts are 54% monounsaturated fat (18:1), 18% polyunsaturated fat (18:2), and 16% saturated fat (9% palmitic acid (16:0) and 7% stearic acid (18:0)).
These are cashews ready for harvest.
A Cashew Tree

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Prawns versus Shrimp

Prawns look like Shrimp, Shrimp look like prawns. Prawns and shrimp are used interchangeably in restaurants.  They bear the resemblance of each other in appearance, they have very similar taste, but they are not the same creatures biologically.  Prawns and shrimp:  what is generally referred to shrimp in the United States is referred to prawns in England.  How can we sort it all out?  Well, let's try....

At first look, first taste, it is often difficult to differeniate between the two.  Let's look at the similarities:
  • Appearance - they look like the same creature.
  • Taste - they seem to have the same taste and flavors.
  • They both are decapod crustaceans, which means they both exhibit exoskeletons and feature 10 legs.
  • They are typically found swimming in salt and fresh water sources across the globe, in search of food.
  • Because of this, they are considered scavengers, thus they are NOT kosher
  • They tend to dwell near the ocean floor and come in scores of sizes, from minuscule to large
  • Both are edible crustaceansm but biologically different
  • Both are very high in protein, low in fat, and calories
  • Although shrimps and prawns have a high cholesterol content, they are low in saturated fat, which is the fat that raises cholesterol levels in the body and is bad for you.  For this reason, there is no need to avoid eating shrimps or prawns, as the cholesterol in the food is not the same as the cholesterol in one's blood.
  • Shrimps and prawns do contain a lot of omega-3 fatty acids, but these fatty acids are good for you and help prevent against heart disease, circulatory diseases and many other types of illnesses. 
  • Prawns and shrimps also contains high levels of vitamin B12, zinc, iodine, phosphorous, potassium, selenium and iron and have smaller quantities of calcium, magnesium and sodium. Many of these vitamins are essential for healthy skin, bones and teeth. 

Now on to the differences of Shrimp and Pawns - Biologists distinguish the true shrimp from the true prawn because of the differences in their gill structures.
  • Shrimp have two pairs of claws
  • Pranws have three pairs of claws
  • With the structure of the shrimp, the second segment of the abdomen overlaps the segments on either side
  • Prawns do not have an even-sized segments on the abdomen
  • The Shrimp abdomen shows a pronounced caridean bend
  • The Prawn has no pronounced bend in the abdomen
  • The term “prawn” is also loosely used to describe any large shrimp, especially those that come 15 (or fewer) to the pound (such as “king prawns”, yet sometimes known as “jumbo shrimp”)
  • Prawns are larger than shrimp referring to approximately 15 per pound
  • Prawns are like lobsters in that they have two pair of penchers and shrimp do not.