Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Trahanic Cues

Coming from a country where the word food is synonomous with spices and amalgamations of aromas and flavours, I am always pleasantly surprised by food from the Mediterranean region. Mediterranean food though sans infusions of spices retains its simplistic yet delicately delicious flavour. Although, I am a die hard spicophillic, yet trying a simple savoury dish of Trahana soup prepared by a greek friend(with hint of lemon and home made bread) has reinforced my belief that more doesnt always translate merrier- especially when it comes to spices and flavours.

Trahana is a type of fermented granular pasta which amongst other things can perhaps be called as world’s first dessicated soup. The word can possibly be traced to the ancient greek word trakton or tragos which means grain. Trahana is prepared by mixing flour, egg, with milk or yoghurt or butter milk; letting the mixture ferment; then drying, grinding, and sieving the result. The fermentation produces lactic acid and other compounds giving tarhana its characteristic taste. The low pH and drying results in a medium inhospitable to mocroorganism growth and at the same time preserves the milk proteins. It isvery popular in Greece, Cyprus, Turkey, Persia and there are different varieties of it with flavours ranging from sour to sweet.

An interesting legend pertaining to Tarhana which I came across mentions the origin of this popular dish as follows: Once upon a time, A king, whilst on a military operation was a guest in the home of a poor peasant . Having little to offer, the resourceful peasant housewife quickly boiled up a soup. Embarrassed at having to make such a meager offering, she said, “‘Dar hane’ soup is all I have to offer you, my liege. May you eat it with appetite!” In time this ‘dar hane’ soup became known as Tarhana and soon came to head the list of staple nourishments of both settled and nomadic people living in the Mediterranean region.

The origin of Trahana has been subject of much studies and confusion, while some say its Greek in origin while others claim its Persian. Whatever the origin, having recently discovered it, I plan to experiment with it and try different recipes which hugely differ from region to region. Maybe my Hellenic and Cypriot friends would enlighten me in exploring variety of flavours that Trahana has to offer. I’ll keep you posted with my Trahanic adventures! ;)

Saturday, 4 October 2008

Silly things people ask about India and cheeky answers to them!

Q. What does that red dot on women's forehead mean?
A. Well, in ancient times, Indian men used to practice archery skills by target practicing by aiming at their wife's red dot. In fact, that is one of the reasons why they had many wives. You see, once they mastered the art of archery and hit the target....

Q. You're from India, aren't you? I have read so much about the country. All those wonderful places, the forests, the snake charmers, the elephants! Do you still use elephants for transportation?
A. Absolutely. In fact we used to have our own elephant in our house. But later, we started elephant pooling with our neighbours, to save the air. You see elephants have an "emission" problem...

Q. Are all Indians vegetarian?
A. Yes. Even tigers in India are vegetarian.

Q. How come you speak English so well?
A. You see when the British were ruling India, they employed Indians as servants. It took too long for the Indians to learn English. So the British isolated an "English-language" gene and infused their servants' babies with it and since then all babies born are born speaking English.

A variation to the above is a compliment --- "You speak very good English."
Response: Thanks. So do you.

Q. India is very hot, isn't it?
A. It is so hot there that all the water boils spontaneously. That is why tea is such a popular drink in India.

Q. Indians cannot eat beef, huh?
A. Cows provide milk, which is a very essential part of Indian diet. So eating cows is forbidden. However in order to decrease the population of the country, the government is trying to encourage everyone to eat human meat.

Q. Why do you sometimes wear Indian clothes to work?
A. I prefer it than to coming in naked.

Q. Are you a Hindi?
A. Yes. I am spoken everyday in Northern India.

Q. Do you speak Hindu?
A. Yes, I also speak Jewish, Islam and Christianity.

Q. Is it true that everyone there is very corrupt?
A. Yes, in fact, I had to bribe my parents so that they would let me go to school.