Tex Mex Food Surprises Best Wine Storage Practices How To Build Your Own Wine Cellar What Is Organic And Fairtrade Tea And Coffee

The evolution of North Mexican cuisine in Texas is the cocktail of Texas and Mexican style giving birth to Tex Mex food, which is a highly spiced and vibrantly styled cuisine. History points out that Tex Mex food dates back to 1940’s when Spanish and Mexican recipes combined with Anglo fare. Today it is a 20th Century phenomenon for Americans.

The first Tex Mex restaurant surfaced in the southwest region, which had a dense Mexican population. The gourmet Tex Mex began in 1970’s and appealed to the young generation. Diana Kennedy brought this common food to a trendy fare in her book Cuisines of Mexico in 1972. Robb Walsh has also commented in The Tex Mex Cookbook.

Tex Mex Cuisine

Main characteristic of Tex Mex food is heavy use of meat, especially beef, beans and spices. Some inventions are nachos, crispy tacos, crispy chalupas, chilli con queso, chilli con carne, chilly gravy and fajitas. Serving tortilla chips, hot sauce or salsa is an appetizer in original Tex Mex style. Along with these Mexican dishes some Texas specialty like ribs and chili are served in Texas restaurants.

What is Tex Mex?

It may be described as native foreign food, ‘native’ because it does not exist elsewhere. To distinguish between Tex Mex and Mexican food we can only say that Mexican food has more variety and is regional but the whole of U.S. is following this form and style of Tex Mex food, an amalgamation of Northern Mexico peasant food with Texas and cowboy fare.

In olden days, Texans went to Mexican restaurants and ate where the mixed plate was served. The Americanized Mexican food came to be known as Tex Mex, which stood as an insult to Texas Mexican restaurant owners. The insult launched the success story. It evoked images of cantinas, cowboys and Wild West. Dozens of Tex Mex restaurants sprang up in Paris, spread to Europe and to Bangkok, Buenos Aries and Abu Dhabi. Tortilla chips, margaritas and chili con carne are world famous.

Tex Mex is a combo of American Indian and Spanish cuisines and cultural differences of Mexican American in South and West Texas. Corn is widely used in American Indian cuisine in the form of Corn tortillas, which are usually bought from stores these days. Many make flour tortillas, which are easier to cook. It is the basis of many popular dishes – enchiladas, tacos, chilaquiles, chalupas, quesadillas, tostadas, botanas and many more. Strangely. most Texas – Mexican dishes and equipment acquire names from Aztec language.

Another staple eaten daily is frijoles or beans of various kinds – kidney beans, tepary beans, black beans, pinto beans etc. They may be served combined with other food like ‘frijoles con chorizo’ and ‘frijoles con quielites’ to name a few.

Numerous dishes are prepared from meats. Traditional ones are from pork called ‘chicharrones’. Preparation from goats is known as ‘cabrito’ and ‘machitos’, while dishes prepared from cattle include fajitas. Another traditional dish of west Texas is ‘morcilla’ made from pig blood. Various soups and pickled meat dish are common.

Although traditional food reveals strong cultural ties between Mexican American in West and South Texas, they also showed cultural difference. Fajitas are common folk cuisine in South Texas but not in West Texas. Mexicans in South Texas like ‘tripitas’ though it is not popular in West Texas. Morcilla is common in West but not in South Texas.

In spite of these differences in folk levels Tex Mex food is popular all over the world.

So you have learnt a lot about health benefits of wine and want to try it out. Great! So, you are into the process of purchasing the best wine that’s available around. You have made an expensive investment and are happy to bring home the treasure. Now that you have brought your favorite wine home, you need to know about how to store it properly to make sure that you do not ruin it. Storage of wine is an important topic and one requires to know a lot about it in order to keep the wine in good and drinking conditions.

Are you aware that the major factors affecting storage of wine are present in the environment? Yes, it is true. You need to know about how you can actually store wine to retain its original quality and taste that made you fall for it at the first place.

Here are some of the factors you need to consider in order to store your wine in a perfect manner. Understand the factors given below and follow the instructions so that you don’t end up wasting your hard earned money.

a) Proper hygiene of the facility:

This is a vital factor that affects wine storage. It is very important to maintain the cleanliness of the place where the wine is stored. Never store wine in a poor ventilated place or a place full of grime or dirt. Poor ventilation transforms the taste of the wine and the dirt will spoil the label on the bottle. Thereby, affecting the overall resale value of the wine.

b) Lighting:

Light is known to have a great impact on the properties of wine. It can promote premature aging of wine. If wine is stored at a place where there is an access to a lot of light, it may ‘turn’ the wine.

c) Angle of the bottle:

Always store wine at a horizontal position against the upright one. This will not dry out the cork. In case, the wine comes into contact with the cork, it will not dry out. If you don’t store the wine bottle at a horizontal angle, the cork will dry up. This facilitates the air to come in contact with the wine earlier than it actually should and ruin it.

d) Vibration:

You should never store wine in a vibration free environment.

e) Humidity:

About 70 percent of humidity at a facility is acceptable for storing wine. Higher amount of humidity will destroy the label and lower amount of humidity will sped up the process of oxidation and end up in ruining the wine.

f) Temperature:

The optimum temperature to be maintained at a wine storage facility is between fifty and forty five degrees Fahrenheit. Lower temperature than this will delay the nature aging process and higher temperature will speed up this process.

You should work towards maintaining a healthy balance between all the above mentioned factors. This will help in proper storage of wine. The taste will be maintained. Wine storage is an art and you need to learn it before you actually practice it.

What does a wine cellar do? Think before you answer, because you need to be absolutely certain of the purpose of a wine cellar before you begin to build a wine cellar of your own. Increasingly, given the rising number of wine aficionados around the world, a residential wine cellar is gaining ground as a status symbol for both the mature connoisseur as well as the entry-level enthusiast, but its utility extends far beyond that.

Essentially, a wine cellar is a storage space that protects wine from potentially damaging external influences. Because wine is a natural, perishable food product, it is vulnerable to exposure mainly from heat, light, and humidity. However, if stored properly, wines not only retain their quality, but also improve with regard to aroma, flavor, and richness as they mature.

Building your own wine cellar

Before you begin, remember that the ideal wine cellar must provide constant temperature, humidity, and darkness. Add to that well-ventilated and clean surroundings, and your favorite Chardonnay and Cabernet are in good hands. So what are the basic steps to keep in mind?

– The more you research, the better your chances of building the perfect wine cellar. The Internet offers a vast number of sites that offer wine cellar kits. Prices for these kits may range from USD 2000 to about 4000, but that’s a slightly conservative estimate, and process can increase depending on the quality of your wine cellar racks. Bottom line: don’t scrimp on costs because ultimately, your expensive wines will suffer.

– Depending on the size of your house, you may choose to place your wine cellar below or above ground. Obviously, those with larger houses can accommodate wine cellars above ground, but the basement is the safest bet because it will support the combined weight of the cooler and the racks.

– Your area selected, begin work on insulation. All inner walls must have at least R-11 insulation while outer walls and the ceiling must have at least R-19. If you choose the basement, a vapor barrier with a concrete sealant over it will be adequate for the floor. The vapor barrier – usually a 6mm polyethylene plastic sheet – should face outward (the ‘warm’ side of the cellar), as opposed to the ‘cold’ side. This is something you have to be careful of: if the sheeting faces inward, damp will set in and damage the walls.

– Next, install a door. The ideal door must be solid, windowless, and insulated – NOT wooden, because they are not adequately insulated. Also ensure that the weather stripping is adequate and the door is airtight.

– A very important step is to place the cooler, which is ideally placed at the back of the area for aesthetic purposes! Typically, the cooler should be placed between crosswise boards about 6 inches down from the ceiling.

– Finally, finish the walls and lights. Use a drywall to finish off the walls and cover up with durable strip paneling. When installing the lights, avoid recessed lights because they make the cellar less than airtight. Aim for simplicity and you’ll be ok. But remember, light switches are best placed outside, or else they get in the way of your wine racks.

The UK is known as a nation of tea drinkers, one Polish person once asked me if we drank tea at 3 oclock everyday as some sort of ritual! Most of us dont realise that this tea is often grown on tea plantations in the developing world where the crops are sprayed with many chemicals and pesticides and the workers that pick the leaves are not only exposed to this danger but are often paid a pittance of a wage as well.

Organic and Fairtrade tea, coffee and cocoa are growing in popularity as people realise the benefits of spending those extra pennies per box and the payback in both health and human terms.

Why buy organic tea, coffee or cocoa?

Consumers usually decide to buy because production is carried out using sustainable farming practices, specifically not allowing deforestation to occur as part of plantation farming techniques.

Some producers go down the Fairtrade route, which gives the consumer further altruistic benefit in terms of assurance that the workers on the tea or coffee plantations have been working under improved terms and conditions, giving them a better quality of life and reducing exploitation. You can now buy organic, Fairtrade tea which is not much more expensive then just organic tea. I buy Morrisons own branded organic, fairtrade tea bags as its cheaper than the branded products such as clipper teas.

What exactly is organic I hear you ask?

Tea or coffee qualifies as organic only when environment-friendly techniques are employed in its production. An organic unit should essentially be a self-sustaining one, designing the farm at the time of establishment of new organic tea or coffee plantation is crucial for optimum utilization of resources within the plantation itself.

In order to establish organic tea fields or coffee plantations, it is necessary to build up inherent nutrient levels and neutralise the chemical residues left in soils from past cultivation. This requires an interim period – called the conversion period. Based on the agro-ecological conditions, this period may vary from 3 to 5 years. If plantation is taken up before conversion period is over, chemical residues may show up in the product. These processing techniques are sufficient to make it highly unusual for any pesticides to be present in the end product.

Insect pest and disease management

Insect and disease management in organic farming systems rely on the inherent equilibrium in nature. This includes using natural enemies of pests to keep their numbers in check.

There are many varieties of organic herbal teas now available also. Some of these have the added benefit of possessing medicinal properties. For example, peppermint tea aids indigestion and chamomile can soothe and relax you.

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