Archive for the ‘Soul Food’ Category
These days, it seems like there’s nothing you can’t do with bamboo. Surely you’ve heard about bamboo flooring. If you’ve ever been to Bambu Batu then you know about bamboo clothing and sheets and towels. You’ve probably heard about things like bamboo bicycles and toothbrushes. Then there are the more obscure items like bamboo charcoal and bamboo toothpaste. Most of those topics have been covered in our blogs, so you can follow the links to read more about them.
NOTE: To make shopping easier, this article may include one or two affiliate links.Can you eat bamboo?
So if you can wear bamboo, and sleep on it, and brush your teeth with it, and build a house from it, you sort of have to wonder: can I eat it too? Not surprisingly, the answer is YES.
Eating bamboo is actually one of the oldest bamboo uses of all. It’s difficult to say for certain, but people in Asia have probably been eating bamboo as long as they have been eating rice. Some sources suggest that the cultivation of bamboo as a food source dates back some 7,000 years.
You might wonder how people could eat such a woody plant, prized for its hardness, used in flooring and cutting boards. In fact, when the fresh culms (or shoots) sprout up at the beginning of the growing season, usually spring or early summer, they are actually quite soft and tender. The important thing to know is that raw bamboo contains natural toxins (glycocides), and therefore must be cooked or fermented before they can be consumed by humans. So when we say to eat it fresh (which is usually best), that does not mean uncooked, it just means not dried, canned or fermented.What are the best varieties of edible bamboo?
Of course, it’s a different story for the bamboo-loving panda bears. Their massive and specialized jaws, teeth and stomachs allow them to eat their bamboo mature and uncooked (i.e. hard and woody). For obvious reasons, we do NOT recommend trying this at home!
Among the couple thousand species of bamboo, there are just a handful of varieties that the connoisseurs consider most suitable for eating. So unless you’re growing one of the following strains, don’t go rushing into your bamboo garden to throw together a bamboo salad.Bambusa oldhamii: Here’s a variety that might even be growing in your garden. Oldhamii is a giant timber bamboo, and the most widely grown strain in the U.S. Its shoots are highly valued and known to be tender, fragrant and delicious. If your grove is fully grown and healthy enough, you might try harvesting some fresh shoots. Just remember to boil them before eating. If you buy canned bamboo shoots from the store, they are likely to be this variety. Phyllostachys edulis: Also called Moso Bamboo, this giant timber variety is indigenous to China and Taiwan, and is also the most widely used for bamboo textiles. Mature stalks can grow nearly 100 feet tall and get to be several inches in diameter. Fresh shoots from a well-established grove can weigh more than 5 pounds; that’s a quite a meal. Depending what time of year it’s harvested, it may be dried or eaten fresh. Phyllostachys bambusoides: a large timber bamboo from Japan whose shoots are eaten either fresh or dried.
If you plan to harvest shoots from your own bamboo garden, do it early in the growing season when the fresh culms are just beginning to emerge. Supposedly, the new culms that are still completely underground will taste the best. Slice them lengthwise in narrow strips for preparation.How nutritious are bamboo shoots?
You wouldn’t think of woody bamboo stalks as being particularly high in nutrients. And they’re not, which is why panda bears have to spend almost the entire day eating (and chewing) just to get enough vitamins and minerals.
But as with many freshly sprouted seeds and grains, the young and tender bamboo culms are actually packed with nutrition. That’s the stage when the nutrients are available and most highly concentrated. And when you think about the growth rate of these giant timber bamboos — some of them shoot up a foot or two a day — it should come as no surprise that those fresh, new sprouts are just loaded with fuel.
Essentially, the young bamboo shoots are a great source of protein, minerals and fiber. At the same time, they are low in fat and sugar. By virtue of its growth habit, bamboo does not require any pesticides or fertilizers, unlike most commercial food crops. New research on the subject also suggests that bamboo can improve appetite and digestion, and even treat diseases like cancer.How does it taste?
Today bamboo shoots remain a very popular component in a wide variety of dishes throughout southeast Asia and beyond. But we don’t usually cook with bamboo because its exquisite flavor. Instead we use bamboo to add a little extra texture, as well as some fiber and protein. When it comes to flavor, we let those exotic Asian spices do the talking.
Bamboo makes an excellent addition to just about any kind of soup, curry or mixed vegetable dish. Meals that incorporate bamboo and coconut milk are especially popular in Indonesia and southeast Asia. Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about!
Fermented bamboo is common in Nepal and northern India. If you’re a fan of fermentation, you can check this recipe for Bastenga and Kesei. You might also enjoy this recipe for kimchi and this article on the science of sauerkraut.
The variety of culinary uses for bamboo shoots is virtually unlimited. So get a hold of some culms and get into it. If you don’t have a good grove in your backyard or a fresh bamboo vendor at your local farmers market, you can find canned bamboo shoots at most Asian specialty shops or major supermarkets.
We’ve heard that bamboo and spinach also go very well together. If you have a favorite bamboo recipe you’d like to share, please let us know in the comments section below.Cooking with bamboo kitchenwares
If you like cooking and eating bamboo, chances are you also enjoy cooking and eating with bamboo kitchen implements. Bambu Batu carries a wide selection of kitchen tools, from travel utensils to cutting boards. If you check online, you can also find some very high quality bamboo cutting boards at Amazon. Ideal for use in the kitchen, wood from bamboo is extremely hard and naturally antimicrobial, making it resistant to germs and easy to keep clean.
Featured Image: Bamboo shoots in a Japanese market (Wikipedia)
In today’s post, we derive our inspiration from an often overlooked passage of the classic Muppet melody, “The Rainbow Connection,” a song that unquestionably and unapologetically takes up a dialog with the wisdom of the Other Side.
“Have you been half asleep and have you heard voices?
I’ve heard them calling my name
Is this the sweet sound that calls the young sailors?
The voice might be one and the same
I’ve heard it too many times to ignore it
It’s something that I’m supposed to be”
-Kermit the Frog
Messages from the Deep
The role of frogs and toads in folklore and fairy tales is widespread and well-documented throughout the world. As a window into the collective unconscious, fairy tales serve as a kind of secular scripture, and it is no exaggeration to say that the frog takes a preeminent place in this light-hearted yet deep-seeking genre. The Brothers Grimm’s “Frog Prince” is among the best known stories in their comprehensive anthology, and one that has equivalents from dozens of other cultures across Europe and Asia where the motif is repeated and revised into countless variations.
One need not look hard to find the traits that give frogs a unique, if not magical, status among the animal kingdom. Their very life cycle is a wonder to behold, as they mature from aquatic tadpole into amphibious adult. Water itself is an elemental symbol loaded with meaning. As a source of life, water can mean the mother; as a taker of lives, it can equally denote death. It can be clear and cleansing or dark and murky, smooth and reflective or rough and choppy, but always deep and mysterious, like the cloudy depths of the subconscious.
In the variety of frog prince fairy tales, the creature’s capacity for transformation is explicit, but the frog’s greatest fascination comes from its dual nature, as much at home in the water as it is on land. It’s a rare being who has knowledge of both elements and can move effortlessly between the two. Archetypally speaking, this amphibious nature suggests a preternatural ability to move between realms of the conscious and the unconscious, or mythically speaking, between the land of the living and the land of the dead, heaven and earth.Mythic dimensions
Such characters are of chief importance in the mythological pantheon, generally referred to as tricksters or psychopomps, the best known in western culture being Hermes (or Mercury). In addition to his function as divine messenger, Hermes is known as a “guardian and guide,” and “bringer of good luck.” (Iliad) Besides stirring up mischief, deities of this sort serve as the connective tissue between the sacred and the mundane, holding the communicative key that unlocks the secrets of the spirit world.
The frog’s cyclical lifespan and amphibious lifestyle have also earned it a mercurial reputation in the Far East, where Taoist tradition associates these pond squatters with healing and immortality, and regards them as spirits recovered from the deep “well of truth.” (It is noteworthy that Hermes carries the staff of Caduceus, whose twin snakes have come to symbolize medicine, making the link between Greco-Roman trickster and Oriental toad even less remote.)
Certainly Kermit’s keen intuition and ardent empathy support the frog’s legendary distinction as intermediary to the stars. When he speaks of voices who call when you’re half asleep, he is recalling the language of dreams, the language our unconscious uses to address our waking mind. It is a language scarcely intelligible without the aid of a skilled amphibian to perform the translation. But a creature like Kermit has the rare ability to see through what ordinary beings would consider an opaque boundary, and to guide us across the barrier like Charon over the river Styx.
The text further invokes the voyage of Odysseus, whose crew of sailors are lured by the sweet song of Sirens, one more obstacle on his epic journey back to Ithica and his long lost Penelope. The sweet voices in the case of our text, however, are not a distracting temptation, but the true calling. So beware, Kermit warns us, listen closely and discern, for the truth can all too easily be mistaken for the distraction, and vice versa. Listen carefully to the inner voice, trust in your self, and you will know not to ignore it.Resonating rainbows
“And some day you’ll find it, the rainbow connection.” When the light of higher truth penetrates our temporal reality, the deep will suffuse the shallow, and a ray of light will spread out into every color of the rainbow. The imagery points now to Mount Ararat, where Noah has survived the flood and docks his trusty ark on the hilltop. After delivering the devastating, nearly apocalyptic deluge, God promises never again to enact such destruction, and seals his promise with a rainbow, to signify the “everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.” (Genesis 9:12-16)
After showing the way as translator and spirit guide, the prophet Kermit also guarantees his words with a rainbow. Like the Noahic covenant of the Old Testament, the Rainbow Connection seals the pact between the earthly and the divine, the sacred and the profane. The voices have entered from another realm, and with highest thanks and praise to Kermit, we are blessed with “ears that hear and eyes that see.” (Proverbs 20:12)
If you enjoy this sort of archetypal exegesis, you’ll also want to read about the meanings of the Mandala, and the symbolism of the Indian Ganesh. And you can always share your own thoughts and ideas in the comments section below.
Fermentation is on the rebound! And considering it is probably the oldest form of food and beverage preparation known to mankind, this resurgence is a long time coming. That’s right. Even before the scintillating discovery of fire, our bumbling ancestors had probably already found ways of storing their roots, grains and vegetables that made them more nutritious and delicious. Not to mention mood-enhancing, of course, because beer and wine are both products of fermentation that our species has enjoyed since time immemorial.
You know it in your gut, and the science confirms it: the benefits of naturally fermented probiotic bacteria are multitudinous. Whether you’re aiming to promote better digestion, trying to alleviate anxiety and depression, or simply looking for a good buzz, there’s a fermented culture to meet your needs.
Amidst this flurry of fermentation, legions of would-be mad scientists are now brewing all manner of probiotic cultures in their own homes, filling cupboards, pantries and laundry rooms with jars of pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi, ginger ale, and don’t forget the sourdough baked goods!
It’s an amazing process, one that borders on dark sorcery, shrouded in mystery and enchantment, but we’d like to take this opportunity to pull back the veil and reveal for you the scientific fundamentals of fermentation. (For the sake of brevity, we’re just going to talk about sauerkraut, with the understanding that most forms of fermentation abide by the same principles.)
So it all starts with salt and cabbage; the ingredients could not be simpler. And the result is a delectably savory side dish, sour, but not salty. So how does it work?
The secret fuel driving the engine of sauerkraut fermentation is a little something called Lactobacilli, which is just a fancy way of saying, lactic acid-producing bacteria. The lactic acid-producing bacteria come in a few varieties, but generally they are anaerobic, which means that they thrive in an oxygen-free environment. Sauerkraut actually contains both Lactobacilli and Leuconostoc, which are technically microaerophiles, meaning they need very little oxygen, which they find in ample supply in the top half inch or so of your well-sealed jar or crock pot.
The first stage of fermentation begins with Leuconostoc mesenteroides, as it consumes that bit of oxygen and replaces it with (or converts it into) carbon dioxide. You can observe this process by watching the bubbles rise and fizz in your jar. With the oxygen depleted, Lactobacillus plantarum and Lactobacillus cucumeris now kick into high gear, raising the acidity ever higher (or bringing the pH ever lower).
As this happens, the bacteria is essentially living off of the salt in your recipe and the sugar occurring naturally in your cabbage. At the same time, the increased acidity creates an environment hostile to unfriendly bacteria and fungi. Eventually, about the time the acidity reaches 2-2.5%, the sauerkraut will achieve a sufficiently sour flavor and stop fizzing. Store in a cool, dark place, for about 2 to 3 weeks, and burp them in once in while to be sure that your jars don’t explode. And easy as that, it’s ready to eat.Fit to be Pickled
This is basically the same process used to turn cucumbers into pickles, or do most any other type of pickling. But there of many types of fermentation involving all sorts of yummy bacteria varieties. Experiment with care, and may the fruits of your methodology be always delicious!
PHOTO: Homemade jars of sauerkraut and kimchi in my kitchen.
A big part of healthy living is definitely healthy eating. After taking a couple of classes from Virginia at Vert Foods, we’ve been on a sourdough kick. A healthy sourdough starter on the kitchen counter and endless possibilities at your fingertips.
Here’s a super easy recipe that I adapted, replacing the commercial yeast with my starter. There are many reasons why you want to use the wild yeasts of a sourdough starter over the commercial yeast available in every grocery store. If you follow Vert Foods on their Facebook page, you’ll learn about this and much more.
But now to the recipe:
Ingredients: 1c fed sourdough starter 200g (7oz) white flour 200g (7oz) whole wheat or rye flour 325g (11 fl.oz) filtered water 9g (~1.5 tsp) sea salt 3g (~0.5 tsp) bread spice* 150g (5oz) seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, sesame, flax,…)
*For making the bread spice, grind 2tsp fennel seeds, 2tsp anise seeds, 2tsp caraway seeds and 1 tsp coriander and mix. Store in an airtight container. This makes enough for about 4 loaves.
Instructions: The night before you want to bake, mix all ingredients EXCEPT the seeds into a loose dough ball in a non-reactive bowl (glass). It’ll be very sticky. Cover and let it rise overnight.
In the morning (or whenever you’re ready), deflate the dough, which will be significantly bigger and bubbly by then, and fold in the seeds. The dough is very wet, but it should stick together more than sticking to the bowl.
Grease a bread pan (mine is a 5.5” x 10.5” pyrex pan) and sprinkle it with corn meal or wheat bran (optional).
Poor your dough into the pan, sprinkle it with a bit of flour, cover it with a towel and keep it in a warm spot. I use the same towel for this every time. It has flour on it and I keep it in my proofing bowl.
After an hour or so, test the dough by poking it gently with a finger. If the hole dent pops half way back out, you’re dough is ready for baking. If it pops right back out and disappears, let it rest a little longer. (Read more here about the myth of “double in size”) Depending on how warm your selected spot is, this takes 30 min to 2h.
About 15 min before you think you’ll be ready to bake, preheat your oven to 450º.
When your loaf is done proofing, mist it with water and sprinkle more seeds, oats, etc on top. Put it into the oven and bake for 20 min. Then turn your oven down to 400º, mist the top of the loaf again and return to oven for 25 more min.
Let it sit for a few minutes, then take it out of the pan. Wrap it into a towel and let it cool down completely before you cut into it. We have great selection of awesome bamboo cutting boards and I also highly recommend a good bread knife.
My German grandpa always said: “A good bread only needs butter on top.” This bread really doesn’t need anything else…
I’m just starting out with sourdough baking, so if any of you seasoned bakers out there have any tips on how to improve this recipe, please chime in and share your secrets!
What’s your favorite sourdough recipe? Please share!
*EDITS & NOTES:* You can make a simpler bread by just using water, flour, salt and sourdough starter. Leave the seeds and bread spice out, or just sprinkle some seeds on top before you put the bread into the oven. It’s just as yummy, I promise!
Also, you don’t have to put corn meal or wheat germ into the pan either. Just grease it generously, and when you’re bread comes out of the oven, let it sit in the pan for a few minutes. It should come out relatively easily.
Heading up the coast anytime soon? You probably should. Gonna get hungry on the way? I bet you will. Have you tried Centrally Grown? You absolutely must!
Yes, the first turn after Cambria, just across the highway from Moonstone Beach, there’s a charming little turn off called Exotic Gardens Drive that will lead you directly into an enchanting food forest, cafe, grocery store and paradise known as Centrally Grown.
Whether you’re picking up groceries to picnic in Big Sur, grabbing a quick sandwich, or seeking an all-afternoon diversion to sip wine, admire the ocean view and stroll through the immaculate edible gardens, Centrally Grown on the outskirts of Cambria has all your needs met. Everything is made fresh, and all variety of diets are served and satisfied, from vegan to paleo, gluten free to pastry junkie. The juice bar abounds with the vivid palette of oranges, reds and greens that comprise their super-nutritious smoothies. Daily specials incorporate local seafood, grass fed meats, and estate grown veggies of every stripe.
Living on the Central Coast, where we daily enjoy a choice of two or three farmers markets for fresh grown produce, we’ve known for some time how spoiled we are. But no place drives that point home like Centrally Grown. Of course, they also boast an impressive list of local wines and beers, and there’s even a cocktail bar outside by the gardens where their charismatic mixologist serves you in style. And yes, this is kind of place where even the bartender has the kind of glow that you would only associate with a superlatively healthy lifestyle.
Put it on your itinerary or make it your destination; with the abundance of stunning attractions in the immediate vicinity, here’s a day trip that just gets better by the mile.
Once upon a time in a faraway kingdom there lived a bright young prince who believed in all things but three. He did not believe in volcanos, he did not believe in princesses, and he did not believe in God.
One clear summer day, under a sky as blue as corydalis, the prince took his horse on a long, long ride, beyond the boundaries of his father’s vast dominions. Near the summit of a high mountain he met a strange old man, with a long wispy beard. This foreigner spoke to the prince of his own homeland, near the volcanoes, among gentlemen and beautiful princesses.
The prince did not believe these stories, so he demanded to see proof. With the old man, he traveled for another day until they passed a pair of princesses on the road. And later that same day they climbed to the rim of a volcano.
The prince hurried home on his steed, and ran straight to the king. “Father! I have seen volcanos! I have seen princesses! I have seen God!”
“But son,” the king replied, “volcanos, princesses and God do not exist.”
“But father,” he insisted, “I saw them!”
“Tell me what God looked like.” So the prince described the long beard and the unusual hat as he remembered them. The king sat back and laughed. “You have described a magician. You did not meet God. You were fooled. The princesses and volcanos were simply illusions.”
Disappointed, the prince hopped right back on his horse to cross the hills and find the old man. “You lied to me,” he said. “My father is the king and he has explained your tricks. There are no volcanos and there are no princesses.”
“Aha. Very interesting hypothesis,” said the old man, while stroking his whiskers. “But I haven’t tricked you. There are volcanos and princesses in your kingdom as well. Only you can’t see them, because you are under your father’s spell. For he is a magician as well.”
When the prince returned home again, he looked his father in the eyes and asked him, “Is it true, father, what they say? That you are not a real king, but just a magician?”
“Yes,” the father meekly confessed, “I am only a magician.”
“So the man in the faraway land really was God,” the prince protested.
“No, son, that man was just another magician.”
“But I must know the real truth, beyond magic,” the young man demanded.
“But there is no truth beyond magic,” said the king.
At this the prince sunk his head in despair and declared, “I can’t go on like this. The uncertainty, the meaninglessness, I can’t stand it. I have no choice but to kill myself.”
So the king used his magic and called on Death to appear. Face to face with the reaper, the prince trembled in fear. His mind raced this way and that. Until gradually his thoughts then returned to the incredible volcanos, and especially to the beautiful princesses that he had seen in that faraway land.
“Alright then,” he said, pulling himself together. “I can bear it.”
“Very good, my son,” said the king. “You too are becoming a magician!”
The preceding parable was adapted from a passage in The Magus, a tremendously profound and enjoyable novel by John Fowles. For more enchanted Zen Parables to tickle your mind and soothe your soul, be sure to check out Heaven and Hell, Everything Flows, and Mind is the Forerunner of All Things. You might also be interested in our article on Bamboo Symbolism and Mythology.
PHOTO CREDIT: The Magician from the Rider-Waite tarot deck. With one hand reaching upwards toward heaven and the other pointing down toward the earth, the Magicians embodies the union of the sacred and the mundane. As spirits inhabiting these earthly shells, this is a balance we should all seek to achieve.
Recipe serves two simple meals or four lip-smacking kale salad appetizers. Prep time approximately 15 minutes. No cooking involved.
Start with one hearty bunch of kale — Tuscan, dino, curly, any variety will do. Carefully remove the leaves and tear into more-or-less bite sized squares, discarding the fibrous stalks into your nearest compost receptacle.
Mix the following in a measuring cup: 1/4 cup olive oil 1/4 cup lemon juice 1/4 cup Braggs® aminos
Then add roughly 1/4 cup of minced red onion, to taste. Let the onions soak in the juices for about 10 minutes if you want to take the edge off of the raw onion flavor.
Pour the dressing over the bite-sized strips of kale and massage gently and evenly until the kale feels tender. NOTE: it is important to actually massage the kale, rubbing and squeezing with your hands to really get the oil and lemon juice in there and soften up the leaves.
Finally, sprinkle with roasted pepitas and call it done. You can add a pinch of salt and pepper, but it’s really unnecessary. You can also add other salad toppings, depending on what’s in season. Our summertime kale salad often has fresh tomatoes and avocado. Serve it up with some homemade sourdough bread, and you’re good to go!
Mothers have reported that “the teenagers just devour it!” But rest assured, ordinary children and adults clearly crave it as well.
Halloween must be one of the year’s best holidays. Children and adults alike have an excuse to dress as the characters and creatures they most wish to embody, and go house-to-house in pursuit of treats. For the kids, candy is the reward of choice. For those over 21, a good cocktail helps celebrate the night of spirits. For Bambu Batu’s next Art After Dark Celebration on November 1 from 6-9pm, we will be holding hard alcohol tastings from Re:Find in Paso Robles. The evening will also feature astrology readings from celestial superstar Harry Farmer and Tarot card reading by Francesca, plus live music and prizes for the best costumes.
Re:Find Handcrafted Spirits from Paso Robles uses saignée, or the free-run juice from grapes removed prior to fermentation, to produce their vodka, gin, and brandy. The juice is triple distilled to create the highest small-production spirits. The company is the result of Alex and Monica Villicana’s efforts to promote sustainability through using an often ignored artisan product. While most gins and vodkas are made from grain and sometimes potatoes, grapes produce glycerol which are responsible for the “legs” found in wine. The unique base accounts for their unique flavor profiles as well as providing locavores a handcrafted option for their liquor cabinet.
For more information, or to find a location where Re:Find is sold, check out their website, call: 805.239.9456, or email: email@example.com. Tours and tastings are offered from 11:am to 5pm daily at their distillery located at 2725 Adelaida Road, Paso Robles, CA 93446.
Whatever happened to the good old days when deciding what to eat didn’t have to be a political statement or involve enough research to qualify for a doctoral dissertation? Now, if you want to be sure that you are consuming food that is free of pesticides, genetic modification or the influence of big agribusiness, it’s necessary to be hyper-vigilant about what goes into your body. Among the major offenders to the environment, small farmers, and decency in general, is Monsanto, the maker of Roundup and a number of GMOs that have infected other crops, created superweeds, and potentially affected the health of millions around the world.
From its poisonous pantry of industrial seed stock, Monsanto boasts a wide variety of “Roundup Ready” crops — including soybeans, alfalfa, corn, sugar beets, canola and cotton — whose DNA has been altered to withstand heavy doses of their own trademarked herbicide. This allows farmers to spray their fields with toxins, eradicating the weeds and leaving behind nothing but their cash crop, albeit laden with Roundup®. These Roundup Ready crops grow prolifically in the United States, although they have been banned throughout the European Union and much of South America.
Make a strong statement by using a little sense of humor! Start a conversation and a revolution to take back control of our food supply. Roundup may be what’s for dinner, but Monsanto will get their just desserts.
NOTE: Although our parody of Monsanto is protected by the Fair Use Act, we have opted not to list this t-shirt on our website, due to biotech behemoth’s notoriously aggressive legal practices, regardless of what side of the law they are on. Please contact us directly to order a “Roundup” shirt, and we’ll gladly send one your way.