Monday, 2 January 2012

Food and Drink

Food and Drink is any substance or liquid, composed of carbohydrates, water, fats and/or proteins, that is eaten or drunk by any animal, which includes humans, this can be for nutrition or just for pleasure. Items considered as ‘food’ are often sourced from plants or animals, but sometimes from other categories, such as fungus. Although typically food and drink was once sourced by hunting and gathering, today most cultures use farming, ranching and fishing, with hunting, foraging and other methods of a local nature are included, but play a very minor role.

Many different traditions have recognizable cuisine different from all others, or a specific set of cooking traditions using various different spices or combinations of flavour unique to that culture, other differences can include variations hot and cold, or spicy and mild. Many different cultures around the world have diversified their foods by means of preparation, cooking methods and manufacturing. This also includes complex food trade, which helps the cultures to economically survive by-way-of food, not just by consumption. Some of the most popular types of ethnic food and drink include Italian, French, Japanese, Chinese, Indian and Thai.

Sources of Food and Drink

Almost all foods and drinks originate from plants or animals some plants, such as Nori, is an underwater plant that is eaten with sushi in Japanese cuisine. Seafood refers to underwater life, especially fish, for food sources; however, water and salt are both important parts of the human diet too. Salt is often added as a flavouring, but is typically used as a preservative in canned foods. Salt has had a very long history of being used to preserve meats and fish, to the point where it has been used as a means of payment in the past. Other foods that are not from animal or plant sources include various forms of edible fungi, such as mushrooms. Fungi and ambient bacteria are used in the preparation of fermented and pickled foods, such as leavened breads, alcohol and alcoholic drinks, cheese, pickles and yogurt.

Food from Plants

Many plants or plant parts are eaten as food. There are around 2,000 plant species which are cultivated for food. Seeds of plants are a good source of food for animals, including humans because they contain nutrients necessary for the plant’s initial growth, including many healthy fats, such as Omega fats. In fact, the majority of food consumed by human beings are seed-based foods. Edible seeds include cereals (such as maize, wheat, and rice), legumes (such as beans, peas, and lentils), and nuts. Oil seeds are often pressed to produce rich oils, such as sunflower, flaxseed, rapeseed and sesame seed oils. One of the earliest food recipes made from ground chickpeas is called hummus, and can be traced all the way back to Ancient Egyptian times.

Fruit is the ripened ovaries of plants; this includes the seeds you find within them. Fruit make up a significant part of the diets of most cultures; however some botanical fruits, such as tomatoes, pumpkins and eggplants, are often eaten as vegetables. Veg is the second type of plant matter that is commonly eaten as a food stud, and this includes any root vegetables (such as potatoes and carrots), leafy vegetables (spinach and lettuce), stem vegetables (bamboo shoots and asparagus), and inflorescence vegetables (like broccoli). Many herbs and spices are also highly flavoursome vegetables.

Food from Animals

Animals can be used as a food source either directly or indirectly by the products that they produce. Meat is an example of a direct product taken from an animal, and usually comes from either muscle systems or organs. Food products produced by animals include milk produced by mammary glands, which in many cultures is drunk or processed into dairy products such as cheese or butter. In addition birds and other animals lay eggs, which are often eaten, and bees produce honey – a reduced nectar from flowers, which is a popular sweetener in many cultures.

The Tastes of Food and Drink

Humans have 5 different types of taste, which are sweet, sour, salty, bitter and what is known as ‘umami’. As we have evolved over the years, the tastes that provide the more energy, such as sugary and fatty foods, give us the most energy, whereas more unpleasant tastes, such as bitter foods, are not as enjoyable, Fats, such as oil and cream, are thicker and rich and are thus enjoyable to eat. Water is the only true liquid with no taste to it, as most of our body and saliva is composed of it.

- Sweet

Generally regarded as one of the most pleasant tastes, sweetness is almost always caused by a type of simple sugar, such as glucose or fructose. Artificial sweeteners such as sucralose are used to mimic the sugar molecule, giving one the sense of sweet, without the calories. Other types of sugar include raw sugar which is known for its amber color, as it is unprocessed. As sugar is vital for energy and survival, the taste of sugar is pleasant.

- Sour

Sour tastes are usually regarded as unpleasant, however some people enjoy them. Sourness is caused by the taste of acids such as vinegar or ethanol in alcoholic beverages. Sour foods can also include citrus fruits, specifically lemons and limes, and to a certain degree, oranges too. Most foods are slightly sour as it can help to stimulate the taste buds and enhance flavour.

- Salty

Saltiness is the taste of sodium, and is found in almost every food, ranging from low to moderate proportions, in order to enhance flavour, however, eating pure salt is extremely unpleasant and not very good for you. There are many different varieties of salt, including sea salt, fleur de sel, mined salt and grey salt. Salt is significant and necessary within the body because it maintains a delicate electrolyte balance, but too much salt and very little water can lead to dehydration and death, so the taste of salt is significant for it’s evolution, we have learned to find the taste on its own unpleasant in order to safe guard us.

- Bitter

Bitterness is a highly unpleasant taste, and it is characterized by having a sharp, pungent taste, foods that are bitter tend to be unsweetened chocolate, coffee, lemon rind and also some types of fruit.

- Umami

Umami is one of the least know tastes in Western culture, but has always had a very long tradition within Asian cuisines. Umami is characterized as savory, meaty and delicious; foods such as salmon and mushrooms are both high in Umami.

Eating with our eyes

It is well known that when we are presented with food or drink, we tend to ‘eat with out eyes’ first, a universal psychological phenomenon. Food that is presented in a clean and appetizing way will encourage a good taste, possibly even if it only tastes average, or ‘okay’. Similarly, food is usually garnished with a main ingredient in the dish so that the consumer will know what to expect when prior to consumption. For example, a lemon curd would appropriately be garnished with some lemon slices so that the eater will anticipate a satisfying lemon taste. Consequentially, messy or poorly ‘plated’ dishes, such as drippings, burnt spots or the inclusion of any hair are not appetizing to eat as they psychologically and trigger thoughts of un-cleanliness and potential contamination, especially if one has a previously foreseen expected knowledge of how the plate should look.

Popular Drinks

One of the most popular alcoholic drinks, drank worldwide, has to be wine. Wine is an alcoholic beverage typically made from fermented grape juice. The natural chemical balance of grapes is such that they can ferment without the addition of sugars, acids, enzymes or other nutrients. Wine is produced by fermenting crushed grapes using various different types of yeast. Yeast consumes the sugars found within grapes and turns them into alcohol. Different varieties of grapes and strains of yeasts are used depending on the type of wine being produced. Other popular drinks include milk, taken from animals and then pasteurized, and fruit juices.

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