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Why did we have to go to Raging Burrito again?

And every single time for Mexican food here in the US?

Because most authentic Mexican refried beans have lard. And it’s hard to convince people that Taco Bell doesn’t. No, really.

But why does authentic (=traditional) Mexican food have lard, anyway? After all, pigs weren’t native to America anyway, right? [ Unless you’re talking about guinea pigs (I remember seeing a litter in Peru being kept for future food – urgh!)].

Pigs have been domesticated since ancient times in the Old World and are known for their exceptional intelligence. Domestic Pigs are found across Europe and the Middle East and extend into Asia as far as Indonesia and Japan. They were brought to southeastern North America from Europe by De Soto and other early Spanish explorers.

But this, as everything else, has to do with major patriarchial and religious wang-wagging. Read on:

With the culmination of the Reconquista and the rise of Catholic fundamentalism at the time of the Catholic Monarchs, pork came to be seen as a sure sign of faith in a land of half- and falsely-converted Moriscos and Jews, and so was the dominant use of lard {manteca} in detriment to olive oil, which began to be associated with plebes, peasants and people with suspicious blood lineages. As the Galician writer and gastronome, Julio Cambra put it, ‘Spanish cooking overflows with garlic and religious prejudices”.

Olive oil did not, however, lose its reputation as an efficacious health tonic. In the south and along the coast, olive oil continued as the dominant fat, yet it wasn’t until the late 19th century that Spanish cookery writers, notably Angel Muro in ‘El Practicón’, began to extol its virtues over lard.

So it’s all because of the sighing Moor that lost his kingdom that we keep going back to the one trustworthy Mexican restaurant with the moustached Mona Lisa.

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Categories: culture, diary, food, health, race

Depression

September 12, 2007 Leave a comment

Apparently depression is more dangerous than Diabetes, Asthma and Arthritis.

So I should be worried. More worried, in fact, than I was all of last year, when the whole illness thing was upon me (oh, yes, I was ill, and for some six whole months – we made acquaintance with many varied members of the medical community in this city). It had been nice then to talk about random symptoms to doctors who couldn’t for the life of them figure out what was wrong with me, and I reveled in the attention. To re-live it, I had:

  • A continuous low-grade fever (which I attributed to missing P on his long Canada trip)
  • Weight loss (I went from 140 lb to 95 lb; I celebrated so much, of course, at P’s cousin’s wedding when my darling women-in-law went literally green. Weight issues are so critical to them)
  • Night sweats (I remember throwing off the sheets in Dublin and sleeping near-naked next to a snoring P and two other semi-patient strangers)
  • Day chills (when I would load myself up with more sweaters and jackets than the average TV mom would demand of her ‘beta’; and of course with all that we couldn’t really walk around much except go eat lunch at a vegetarian-friendly place, which almost always turned out to be Indian- or Indian-influenced).
  • Fatigue. This last was embarrassing, and I could only think about my grandmom. When my granddad and she go out, she routinely walks some 10 steps behind him, and not out of respect for her husband, but because he simply refuses to walk slower and she cannot walk faster. She decided at 15 that she was going to be ill most of her life, and has suffered one illness after another till this day.

I remember times last year when going to the next-door Publix was a long, well-planned ‘evening out’ and I’d come back exhausted. I remember not seeing the car P bought for three days because I couldn’t get up and walk out the front door. I remember days when P left home for work in the mornings and found me exactly in the same place when he came back, not having moved all day, not even for food or water. I remember him loading the Container Store nightstand (one of our first purchases) with a fruit, water, a tic-tac and a book. I remember always leaving the book untouched because I was too tired to read.

So, that was fun; at least it wasn’t Lymphoma. But to get to the point, all that is not totally in the past. In the last few months, I’ve relieved the same existence. And not out of physical fatigue – no, I drive, I walk, I talk loudly, and I do have energy when needed. But other days, like this past week, I’ve stayed in bed – all day, every day. I don’t eat because I don’t feel hungry, I don’t talk to anyone, I do not go out for days on end. And I feel guilty, useless – considering I’m burdened with the paradox of being a fiercely feministic housewife, my life’s strings are all neatly tied up.

So when I read the news article about depression, I took a few of the 3 zillion depression-self-tests. Guess what, I passed (or failed, depending upon how each one was framed) each one of them – I’m clinically depressed. You gotta love this century, they have a name for everything. That does really make it easier to bear.

I’m going and getting St.John’s Wart tomorrow.

Categories: diary, family, food, general, health, P

The old debate on globalization

April 17, 2006 2 comments

So now that science magazines are also focusing on non-natural sciences, it can only be for the good of all. Or not?

Scientific American’s April print issue’s economic feature by Pranab Bardhan is a thought article on globalization and whether it really helps or hurts the world’s poor. Often it veers more towards drawing room discussion than a scientific reasoning with clear assumptions & conclusions, and the central conclusion (answer: both. Globalization alone doesn’t do much evil or good by itself, it’s other factors that tilt the balance) is fitting of the typical fence-sitting economist.

But I love the anecdotes. Did you know that “between 1981 and 2001 the percentage of rural people living on less than $1 a day decreased from 79 to 27 percent in China”. That’s one stark drop – I’m going to look to find something that has this translated into cost of living/purchasing power terms to see how it actually changed standard of living. And also in terms of average vs. median income to see how many people this actually benefited or harmed.

The corresponding figures for India are 63 to 42 percent. And this is even before the whole liberalization process started (India shining!), as Bardhan goes on to explain.

And this:

One of the few, published in 2003 by Gunnar Eskeland of the World Bank and Ann Harrison of the University of California, Berkeley, considered Mexico, Morocco, Venezuela and Ivory Coast. It found very little evidence that companies chose to invest in these countries to shirk pollution-abatement costs in rich countries; the single most important factor in determining the amount of investment was the size of the local market. Within a given industry, foreign plants tended to
pollute less than their local peers.

Isn’t it surprising that the single biggest factor in companies’ choice of destination is size of local market? I would’ve thought that in this age, the comparative advantage logic would ensure that local investment was dictated by relative cost of production/delivery from that location vs. other locations.

Seriously, size of local market? Delivery costs (of goods & services incl. marketing services, etc.) are hardly that overwhelming, what with cheap communication & shipping. The only possible logic is that (a) local access & presence is important to effectively sell market the goods/services (which I would contest. Look at Procter & Gamble!), or (b) huge barriers to intra-country trade (ditto. They manufacture shampoo for all of Asia in Bangkok). Of course, option (c) is that people in these companies haven’t done their analysis right!

Categories: economics, food, journalism, science

Quick, what would you fast for?

April 17, 2006 Leave a comment

I mistook Modi’s age for his weight (via India Uncut) and was seriously depressed for a while and wanted to go off on a fast myself, real fast. Before I could decide on a cause, or many, fortunately I read on.

But seriously, if you were to fast unto death or for 51 hours, whichever being earlier, what would be your preferred cause? (I know, I know, it should’ve been the other way round: what causes are important to you –> decreasing order of importance –> which all causes in your list would you be willing to fast for, etc., but humour me. Real-time thinking wins hands down on a blog…monkeys and keyboards). My list goes:

  • Good inexpensive vegetarian food around the world
  • An end to sexual harassment – any form, every form, by anyone
  • Accessible, trouble-free, free technology for all (at least for me!) and a competent IT helpdesk. (yes, I know that without charging people for technology there’s no profits to be made and so no incentive for anyone to actually create or innovate on existing technology, but this is a wishlist and I’m not fasting anytime soon, so if you’re an economists – Shh! already)
  • Accessible, trouble-free, free books & music for all (ditto!).
  • Gun control. Did you know that 50% of the world’s arms exports are by the United States? (find out more here) – and most of this finds its way into Africa and into the arms of the despots & dictators and fundamentalists and terrorists who perpetrate hunger, sexual harassment, destroy industry/economy/trade/tourism, etc.

Anyway, that’s a start. Of course, this listing is not just dependant on what causes you hold dear: a big factor would be how easy/difficult it is for you to keep the fast. Considering that I need – NEED – to eat something (preferably with a little rice) every two hours, this list just goes on to show how dear the causes are important to me. And it’s more than a little ironical to fast for ‘good inexpensive vegetarian food’, but hey, that’s important for me!

Categories: food, lists