Monday, July 15, 2013

There is a place for jack halva in the refrigerated American landscape

By now, my Facebook friends, and regular readers of this blog, surely know about my fascination for jack fruit and the halva made by mother.  Right, friend?

The last couple of times I was in India, mother wanted to make jack fruit halva for me to take to the US.  I told her I didn't want any because I still have old stock in the freezer.  I wish I had put a date stamp on them--I think the oldest packet I have is from four years ago, or perhaps even five!  It amuses, and amazes, people in India that I have a stock of halva here.  A surprise that I have not eaten them all, and an amazement that four years and the halva is frozen in time.

Even normally, a well made jack halva stays fresh for months--without a refrigerator--as long as the fruit was handled hygienically throughout the process, and later with a hygienic handling of the halva too. Which is why we kids with messy hands were banned from touching the halva--there was no fridge at home in Neyveli nor at Sengottai.  A typical kid with messy fingers could introduce micro-organisms that would then turn the halva rancid in a mater of days.

So, yes, I have years-old home-made jack fruit halva here, which I take out every once in a while and have it with coffee after thawing and warming it up.  As I warm it up in the microwave, the clarified butter (ghee) shines up the halva and it tastes like it was made only yesterday.  (Yes, I am drooling here.  You know what I am planning to do after completing this post!)

Freshly brewed coffee with thawed and warmed up mother's jack halva

The most important reason why this is possible: the highly reliable supply of electricity.  Unless the system is knocked out by some super storm, power outage is very rare, and is barely for a couple of hours even when that happens.  A couple of hours of loss of power doesn't affect the frozen halva.  So, all is well.

The refrigerator at my home is an extremely important equipment for my health.  This refrigerator is a tiny speck in the extensive refrigerated landscape of America.
The diet of the average American is almost entirely dependent on the existence of a vast, distributed winter--a seamless network of artificially chilled processing plants, distribution centers, shipping containers, and retail display cases that creates the permanent global summertime of our supermarket aisles.
That is no hyperbole.  Not even a tad.
At least 70 percent of the food we eat each year passes through or is entirely dependent on the cold chain for its journey from farm to fork, including foods that, on the surface, seem unlikely candidates for refrigeration," Twilley writes in introducing her show. "Peanuts, for example, are stored between 34 and 41 degrees Fahrenheit in giant refrigerated warehouses across Georgia (which produces nearly half of the country's peanut harvest).
It is a near-magical world in which we now live.  I don't have to say "open sesame" in order to find amazing riches.  Orange juice (which I don't drink because of acidity issues) is no longer seasonal thanks to gigantic refrigerated juice tanks.  No produce, for all purposes, is seasonal anymore--thanks to refrigeration, we can move grapes all the way from Chile and display them on grocery shelves here during the off-season.

To a large extent, this convenience has also been our downfall--such abundance at relatively low prices does not help with our biological drive to maximize calories in the most inexpensive ways possible.  The population gets obese.  And without the tough-love mothers and grandmothers like mine, kids can eat whatever they want and we end up with childhood obesity!

So, think twice, even thrice, before you open that refrigerator or freezer.  
This is your world: you're the last link in the chain.
The last link in this refrigerated and frozen food chain.

But, hey, it never hurts to have a couple of packets of mother's home-made jack halva in the freezer.  Maybe I should bring back one more packet when I go to India the next time, and stay away from the ice cream.  Hello, mother!


Ramesh said...

What do we say about you

- Jack fruit halwa ??????????
- Then you freeze it
- Then you heat it
- Then you have it with coffee !!!!!!
- And you eat ice cream with brand names like Tillamook and Umpque

You sure are a strange guy :):)

Sriram Khé said...

This does not make me a strange guy ... there are lots of others that do ;)

Tillamook and Umpqua are local names ... so, yes, the ice cream is also very Oregonian ... hehe ;) I cant even recall the last time I bought one of those national brands!

Sooner or later I should call it quits with such posts on life, and get back to economic and geopolitical and academic issues. But, dammit, reflecting on life is a lot more fascinating, it seems. Fascinating to me, that is ... muahahaha

Ramesh said...

It will be a sad day if you ever turned your blog into a pure political, academic, economic, research paper. What is the fun in life, if you can't confess to a fondness for jack fruit halwa and me wisecracking on it ?????

They have ice cream in Oregon ??? Muhahaha

Sriram Khé said...

what's so funny about ice cream in oregon? am i missing the punchline? are you on some sugar high from the ice cream you had? ;)

Sriram Khé said...

btw, did you notice the different spellings you and i use: mine is "halva" and yours is "halwa" ...?

i think it ought to be with a "v" because in the indian languages there is no "w" sound. think about how those words are written in tamil or hindi ...

a long time ago, i blogged about it:

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