Grabbing the Gusto

Deirdre Reid – Freelance Writer & Home Cook

Every week we read about a new study extolling the benefits or disadvantages of eating some type of food. Maybe this one will be debunked in a week, but, for now, I’m a believer. Scientists at Purdue University found that capsaicin, the “hot” in hot peppers, raises the body’s core temperature during digestion. Not surprising in itself, but here’s why this is worthy news – we burn more calories because of this effect. Jim, who always has a small dish of peppers to accompany his meals, I call it his relish tray, didn’t find this news as exciting as I did. He thinks the amount of calories burned is probably minuscule. He’s probably right, but don’t be surprised to see even more spicy recipes from me in the future.

Think about how many onions you’ve peeled and chopped in your life. Even if you only chop one onion a week, you’d hit a thousand in 20 years. Since onions are one of my staples, I’m sure I’ve chopped or sliced several thousand at home alone, never mind the ones in restaurant kitchens. And still I cry. I don’t mind it so much. I figure tears, like sweat, are good for the body, releasing all our nasty toxins. That’s my science. Like Clotilde at the Chocolate & Zucchini blog, I’ve read all the remedies for crying while chopping onions. But holding a slice of bread in your mouth while doing it? That’s a new one for me too.

On Fridays my friend Ilina shares recipes for cocktails on her Dirt & Noise blog. I’ve come close to making impromptu trips to the ABC store after reading about her Pink Ladies and Mexican Bloody Marys. Now I have a tempting cocktail recipe from Saveur for Ilina: The Manhattan Extra Special. I’m not usually a whiskey drinker, although I do like a little bourbon now and then. So why is this cocktail so appealing to me? I’m a chilled coffee lover. Yes, iced coffee too, but my usual morning beverage is a chilled glass of coffee, no ice, with milk and coffee syrup.

Coffee syrup is coffee-flavored syrup, usually found in coffee milk, the state drink of Rhode Island. You can find coffee syrup on supermarket shelves in Rhode Island and Massachusetts or on the web. Although I stock up on trips home, my mother will occasionally offer to mail me some if I’m running low. Now that you know about my chilled coffee habit, you’ll understand why I’m excited to discover Manhattan Special espresso coffee soda, the base of Saveur’s cocktail.

If I can’t find any of their soda around here, I can always go back to my favorite, Starbucks Double Shot. Serious Eats just did a tasting of canned coffee drinks and Double Shot tied for second place. Perhaps it’s time for me to check out the competition. But I better do it quick because, like everything else, coffee prices are going up again.

Charles Simic emigrated to the U.S. from Yugoslavia as a teenager. His experiences of war-torn Belgrade live on in his poetry, although this one seems to reflect a different inevitable memory.

The Melon

By Charles Simic

There was a melon fresh from the garden
So ripe the knife slurped
As it cut it into six slices.
The children were going back to school.
Their mother, passing out paper plates,
Would not live to see the leaves fall.
I remember a hornet, too, that flew in
Through the open window
Mad to taste the sweet fruit
While we ducked and screamed,
Covered our heads and faces,
And sat laughing after it was gone.
hot peppers capsaicin calories chopping onions coffee syrup drinks

photo by Alan Levine


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