Monday, August 19, 2013

A World of Flavours

One reason I love traveling is because you get to experience different cultures and their foods.  There may be similar ingredients, but perhaps they are used in different ways.  When I talk about mindful eating, that involves enjoying the many flavours of your food.  Whether you're cooking the food yourself or lucky enough to just get to eat it (I love cooking, don't get me wrong!), it's important to stop and savour the tastes - the sweetness of cinnamon, the 'meatiness' of cumin, the memories I have that I associate with mint.  We will all have preferences and familiar flavours, but I do enjoy cooking with different ingredients and spices and seeing/experiencing how other people flavour their food.

The smells are also very important when we think of taste and flavour.  My mom used to say to start sauteing onions and garlic to at least give the impression that the meal is on the way (even if you still have lots of prepping, you'll also have drooling guests).  I think I still need to work on my detection of different spices, but that just means I can continue to slow down and discuss my food with others and pick out the different flavours.  At my wedding shower, we played a 'guess the spice' game, which was a perfect game for a foodie bride, but the blends got me and I definitely wasn't the winner!

Many cities celebrate culture with a type of folk festival.  We just had ours in Saskatoon and I sampled great food and spent time with family and friends.  As we were leaving, my husband and I noticed some informational signs in the Caribbean pavilion, so I made sure to capture them to share with you.

They give some background on flavours used in Caribbean food and connections to Indian food (curry).  This reminded me of our cooking class in Thailand and how we noticed just a slight change in the ingredients meant a huge difference in the curry paste.

If you're like many people, you might have a cupboard full of spices, but you have your favourites (or the ones that you're comfortable using) and then you have ones that were in a rare recipe or that you don't know what to do with.  Spices can be a great ingredient to share with others since they may come in much larger portions than you need.  You can also start looking for new ways to spice up or flavour your meals.  Herbs and spices can be a great way to reduce salt, fat, and sugar in our diets, but still leave us feeling satisfied.

Dietitians of Canada has created a chart with suggested flavour enhancers to inspire your cooking efforts.  And if you're not sure what to do with that marjoram or cardamom, EatRight Ontario has brief descriptions and recipes for a variety of herbs and spices.  This may give you ideas for fresh herbs from your garden or local farmer's market as well.  There are also lots of infographics out there to help you create spice blends or determine which spices go best with which ingredients.

Here's to delicious food!
Steph Langdon, RD
something nutrishus counselling & coaching