Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Pepper Plantation

Think "tropical island" and you probably conjure up sandy beaches, swaying palm trees and glistening sunsets. Phu Quoc, just off the coast of Cambodia has all of that. It also has fishing villages, fish sauce and pepper plantations. So guess where my breaks from the pool were spent?

Pepper is such a common ingredient it's easy to not give it a second thought. But seeing it grown and fortunately for me, seeing it harvested, is something I'll never forget. The berries are only harvested once a year so I can't believe my luck in being there just in time.

Pepper or piper nigrum grows on a vine that is staked to the ground. The towering plants grow and bear fruit for 18 years. From the same vines and fruit we get the most common black pepper, the less common white pepper and most uncommon green pepper. The green peppercorns are sometimes bottled when fresh and usually you only find them in recipes for steak sauce. They are much more prevalent in Asia where they are grown than they are at home. In fact, I don't think I'd ever seen the fresh stuff before, and certainly not on the vine.

The ripe pepper berries are actually red. The fleshy berry has a pearly white "corn" inside. The green or unripe berries, when picked and dried, wrinkle up and turn black. That's where black pepper comes from. This was all news to me! Even on vacation there is the possiblity to learn something new, everyday...


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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Coming Home with Groceries

My month of travel is almost over. I am now on a tropical island doing a whole lot of nothing. But before I left Saigon the last time I did a little grocery shopping at a local department store. Ok, a lot of grocery shopping. And it's possible I will do even more before my flight leaves.

While it is sometimes a bother to choose knick knacks for your friends and relations, I find nothing so satisfying as grocery shopping in a foreign country. With globalization there is much to be found "everywhere" but not everything. For instance here in Vietnam there are tons of teas and nut candies and brittle that I would be hard pressed to find at home, and not nearly as cheaply.

In Thailand, China and Vietnam you find all kinds of nut brittle--cashew, sesame seed, melon seed and peanut. Some have thin little layers or rice paper too. They are freshly made, crisp and crunchy and taste better than anything I can find at home. I bought it in a myriad of combinations and sizes.

I've also grown accustomed to both the Lotus and Jasmine tea here. In addition I'm bringing home some lovely flowering teas that I have never tried before. Last time I even brought home some "Yellow Label Lipton" which is also found all over Asia. No worries about sizes or favorite colors, when it comes to foodie gifts one size fits all. I have decided not to bring home any bottles of fish sauce though, I'm afraid that's too risky!

Monday, January 1, 2007

Living with a pantry full of Diabetic Supplies

Everyone knows that Diabetes is an increasingly common ailment that people all over the world are facing, and this is a demon that needs to be reigned as soon as possible. Diabetes affects the body's ability to use blood sugar for energy. The main types include type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, and gestational diabetes. Diabetes insipidus, a rare disorder, is not related to diabetes mellitus (sugar diabetes). Diabetes symptoms may include increased thirst and urination, blurred vision, and fatigue.

Diabetes may make the body more vulnerable to skin infections and other illnesses. Up to a third of diabetes patients have diabetes-related skin problems at some point in their lives. Eye Problems, Heart Disease and High Blood Pressure conditions like Hyperglycemia, hypoglycemia and ketoacidosis are all common side effects of Diabetes, and quite common in elders suffering wit this disease.

In such a scenario, it is imperative to have knowledge about the right type and amount of drugs, medicines or diabetic supplies that can keep this serious condition under control. Make sure you have your sugar/insulin levels checked regularly, and also be on the lookout of other diabetes symptoms. Find a good doctor and get proper medication. These days, it is easy to get confused with all the recalls in the medicine and drug industry, so try getting your medical supplies from a good pharmacy or medical supply store, so they can inform you about any recalls or defects associated with a prescribed drug.

Take control of your health, and be advised about your condition, as well as new resarch in the field of medicine. With a little prudence and lots of care, you can surely keep Diabetes at bay!