Some Science On Ramon

RamSci1Ramón and Maya Ruins: An Ecological, not an Economic, Relation

 J. D. H. Lambert and J. T. Arnason
Science

New Series, Vol. 216, No. 4543 (Apr. 16, 1982), pp. 298-299

RamSci2Observations on Maya Subsistence and the Ecology of a Tropical Tree

Charles M. Peters
American Antiquity
Vol. 48, No. 3 (Jul., 1983), pp. 610-615
We have a sizable team, including our staff members of Maya heritage as well as those who know the forest ecology as part of their work, plus two summer interns, a chef, and a design director among others–all looking into this tree and its fruit. These journal articles, less dry than some academia and fresher than their age would suggest were brought to my attention by Nicoletta Maestri who I thank for the article below. For my team mates and me this is food for thought on our path to determining how this tree, introduced millennia ago by Mayans, plays into the future of Chan Chich Lodge:

Brosimum Alicastrum, The Ancient Maya Breadnut Tree

Did the Maya Build Forests of Breadnut Trees?

The breadnut tree (Brosimum alicastrum) is an important species of tree that grows in the wet and dry tropical forests of Mexico and Central America, as well as in the Caribbean Islands. Also known as the ramón tree, asli or Cha Kook in the Mayan language, the breadnut tree usually grows in regions that are between 300 and 2,000 meters (1,000-6,500 feet) above sea level. The fruits have a small, elongated shape, similar to apricots, although they are not particularly sweet. Continue reading

Southern Roots Run Deep

Ms. Gomez grew up pulling mangoes from the trees and buying sugar cane from the vendors gathered outside her parochial school. Evan Sung for The New York Times

While Crist may have had the good fortune to enjoy a taste of Kerala with Asha Gomez during travel away from our home there, I was busy exploring the market byways for local ingredients and food ways. What a fascinating story to hear that Asha is actually experiencing that same sense of discovery and exploration within her own home state.

It looks like Crist might have gotten his wish for Asha to come to Kerala, after all!

A Chef’s Quest in India: Win Respect for Its Cooking

“I think I had disconnected myself from this place in some way by saying for so long that the U.S. was home,” said Ms. Gomez, 47, who had moved from the Indian state of Kerala to the state of Michigan as a teenager. “There is still so much a part of me here. I think I had forgotten that.”

Ms. Gomez had come to this land of ports, tea estates and spice gardens not only to reconnect with a part of herself, but also to find new ways to use her camera-ready personality and kitchen chops to lasso Kerala’s beautiful food culture and drag it back to the United States.

“I have to remove people from the mentality that all Indian food should be clumped up into nine dishes that are not really Indian dishes,” she said. “Not all Indian food belongs on a buffet line at $4.99. Indian food is 5,000 years of tradition and history, and it belongs right up there with French cuisine.”

Her frustration over American interpretations of the beloved coconut-scented fish curries, dosas and carefully layered beef biryanis of her homeland echoes the lament of countless cooks who have immigrated from countries like China, Mexico or Vietnam only to find their food mangled to meet the limitations of a new country’s palate and relegated to its cheap-eats guides.

“I wish I could say to every immigrant cook in America, ‘Why do you think your food should be any less than any other cuisine that comes from anywhere else in the world?’” Ms. Gomez said. Continue reading

Foraging Forays

Taking a break from packing for my upcoming return to Belize, I joined a group of old friends from the Georgia Mushroom Club in a foray near the Georgia/South Carolina border. Fresh air, a walk in the woods, good company, and foraging for mushrooms – what better way to spend a morning?

The weather has been warm and wet, great conditions for mushrooms and we were happy to find patches of chanterelles. As we searched we talked about Chan Chich Lodge and Belize, and that we’re in the midst of brainstorming collaborations with the staff and local community who carry the ancestral knowledge of the old Mayan and Belizean foodways, and chefs who focus on foraging in the creation of their menus. We’ve recently discovered a variety of foods that are plentifully available from the Chan Chich forests, and are excited to incorporate them into our culinary story.  Continue reading

The Wonders Of Trees Never Cease

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Goats climb an argan tree in Morocco to dine on its fruit. Jeremy Horner/Getty Images

At Chan Chich Lodge we are just embarking on a tree-related culinary journey, so any counterintuitive story about trees is likely to catch my attention these days.

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Thanks to Marc Silver at National Public Radio for the story about the picture above, Do Tree-Climbing Goats Help Plant New Trees? It is a short read and worth every second of your attention if you are interested in arboreal foodstuff.

This image to the left, while not as amusing as the one above, shows a deer doing the same thing with less panache. That deer will spread the seeds of that wild fig far and wide in the forest, increasing food supply. Continue reading

Food Sleuthing

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The remnant of an old apple orchard among wheat fields in Steptoe Butte State Park in Washington. Credit Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

Yesterday magic happened. After sharing in the morning a quick mention of why my thoughts are on agriculture, I was walking with a member of Chan Chich Lodge’s groundskeeping team to review some work he had completed. On the way, we encountered a tree showering small fruits onto the ground. Fragrant. I asked him what it was and he said a word I did not recognize that sounded like “yo”.

About the size of a blueberry but not a berry, nor resembling anything I could identify. Until I opened it and its inside looked exactly like that of my favorite fruit. And then I realized my colleague had said higo, the Spanish word for fig. He then told me that in his village the old Mayans use this to make a flour, something they have done since olden times. He paused a moment, a bit of reverie I could tell, and then he continued about how the tortilla made from this is the best. It’s got me thinking. Thanks to Kirk Johnson for this second unexpected pleasure of a story:

Hunting Down the Lost Apples of the Pacific Northwest

STEPTOE, Wash. — David Benscoter honed his craft as an investigator for the F.B.I. and the United States Treasury, cornering corrupt politicians and tax evaders. The lost apple trees that he hunts down now are really not so different. People and things, he said, tend to hide in plain sight if you know how and where to look. Continue reading

Foraging Classes

HornFarmCenterLogoStacked-72-540x540WhiteBGA mushroom dropped in on my life, in an unexpected manner, and now I find myself wandering to unexpected places, such as rural Pennsylvania. I am sharing here mainly as a record of how I have come across the resources that inform how we approach bringing foraging to Chan Chich Lodge.

So, bravo and thanks to our friends at the Horn Farm Center for Agricultural Education, which is my latest find in these wanderings. I particularly like their clearly laid out information on the educational resources they offer, most notably this section on foraging classes: Continue reading

Newtonian Moment At Chan Chich Lodge

ForageCCL.jpgEach morning at dawn, and then again at dusk, I walk the trails at Chan Chich Lodge. The walks serve multiple purposes, but they also serve no particular purpose; and when I get that just right, ideas present themselves.

This tree, not a standout in any way I can see, is a marker for me now. It is on a trail where I have had some wonderful wildlife sightings, the best of which, camera-less, was with a tapir. More recently, a troupe of peccaries was snouting around the base of this tree.

And most days there are two species of primate in the vicinity, each challenging the other for territory in their own way–one with grunting howls and the other by shaking clusters of branches vigorously to appear more intimidating than their common name, spider monkey, would imply. Yesterday, a Newtonian inspiration, tailored to my own interests, came to me right here. I saw these bursts of light on the tree trunk at the same moment that I heard a plop in the leaves on the ground right in front of the tree.

ForageCCL2Instead of an apple, and instead of my head, it was some sort of a fungus, a cluster of mushrooms by the look of it, that fell from the canopy into the ground cover. Gravity already having had its heyday of consideration, I instead turned my thoughts to the possibility of a new dimension to the Chan Chich Lodge food program.

I had never heard of mushrooms growing in the forest canopy, but why should I not expect such a thing? I know from our friend Meg, among others, that the vast majority of biodiversity in a rainforest is concentrated in the canopy. So, hmmmm. Is it an edible one?

I snapped these photographs and sent them to one of the two fellows who I always consult on these matters. Answer: too dry to make a positive id. Don’t eat. Of course I will not! But, and here’s the closest I will get to a Newtonian moment of inspiration… Continue reading

Food For The Ages

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Cole Wilson for The New York Times

Shoutout to our food friends in Ithaca, among other places and to all the back to the land folks who make our food better in terms of both taste and ecology:

The Hippies Have Won (the Plate, at Least)

By

The current food mood may also be a reaction to the more exhausting aspects of life in the digital era.

“It’s a weird mixture of technology and palo santo” — iPhones and incense — said the chef Gerardo Gonzalez, suggesting that people who live online may be moved to seek out the restorative properties of natural foods. “You’re constantly in this thing that’s not reality, and eating food can be the most real act you can partake in.”

It’s Moosewood’s world. We’re just eating in it. Continue reading

Food We Enjoy Reading About, For Inspirational Purposes

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Credit Benjamin Norman for The New York Times

As noted yesterday, and earlier, we have food on our mind recently, so more than ever I am following reviews and other food stories in the various publications I read. Even when he is tough on his subject, Pete Wells delivers the reader something to brighten the day. This review has a few paragraphs that define his style to me, including a graceful set of kisses followed by a bracing slap on the cheek:

…Restaurants don’t need to do new things if they do the old things right.

The leg of lamb has not been reinvented. Having spun on a rotisserie under a coat of herbs, it is carved off in long strips, like shawarma, and draped over very soft flageolets. A cheese soufflé appetizer recalls the warm pot de fromage at Cherche Midi; it’s delicious, even if it is breadier than a classic soufflé, more like a Gruyère-and-Parmesan popover. Continue reading

Getting A Restaurant Ready

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Thanks to the Atlantic and its author Erica Moriarty for A Restaurant Brings New Traditions to an 18th-Century Irish Home, with video by The Perennial Plate. These are 20 minutes well spent, especially if you have been through a similar process more than once recently, and even more so if you are contemplating doing so again:

Since the 1700s, the Fennell family has lived on the same property in County Kildare, Ireland. In the past, they were able to generate income from their small farm to support themselves. Continue reading

Eat More Sweets

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When fighting for the rights of immigrants, food just might be an unexpected weapon. PHOTOGRAPH BY ANNA QUAGLIA / ALAMY

Here is an idea I can believe in, not strictly because I like the type of sweets in the photo to the right (akin to those in my home growing up, made by my immigrant mom) but including that; mainly I like the idea of consuming certain items as a proxy for something more important. In a post titled THE SRIRACHA ARGUMENT FOR IMMIGRATION, by David Sax, this proxy is made clear in a concise 5-minute read:

Ethiopian Options

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I have stated my own preferences for certain pros critiquing and explaining food and the places where you can explore it anew. I have recently been appreciating those like this one–not least because I love Ethiopia, and its contributions to humanity, and in general I am an Ethiopian diaspora fanboy–by the newer reviewer, Nicholas Niarchos and look forward to his providing many more. I am happy to see in the image accompanying his review what appears at first to be popcorn on the lower left, but is more likely a lightly toasted version of a superfood we came to favor when in Ethiopia, (speaking of superfoods):

A Vegan Ethiopian Feast at Bunna Café

The absence of meat and dairy isn’t obvious while you’re there, but when you leave your step will have a new spring in it.

Continue reading

Super Food, If Not Superfood

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The Good Sort. Photo: Bobby Doherty/New York Magazine

Our preferred blank canvas, at least in the morning, has been oats when we have developed new restaurants recently. And we have tended to look at superfoods when we do our scouting and conceptualization for new menu ideas, and that is about food that (we try to ensure) provides health for both humans and the planet.  We have not put congee on any menus, nor has it even been on our radar, but perhaps it should be:

Congee Is the Original Grain Bowl

By Robin Raisfeld and Rob Patronite

Congee, also known as jook, or rice gruel, has long been the breakfast of billions in China — filling, cheap, energizing, and easily digestible, fit for infants and nonagenarians alike. Some swear by it as a post-exercise pick-me-up; others as a superb hangover cure. Its soothing properties are considered so powerful that congee is even served at funerals. Continue reading

Vermontini & Other Delicacies

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Braun Hughes, a cook, center, stokes a fire while another cook, Andy Risner, keeps watch. Drew Anthony Smith for The New York Times

Last week at Chan Chich Lodge we had guests from Vermont who were on their 6th visit, the first having been back in 1998. This couple started at dawn each day and while primarily birding they witnessed plenty of the other wildlife. Each sunset they enjoyed a classic dry martini with olives, and some conversation with Migde (yes, that is the spelling, pronounced mig-day) the bartender.

By the end of the week watching their sunset ritual, I had the image of a martini we might create in their honor. Instead of their favored olives we would put a few small cubes of chilled Harrington’s of Vermont smoked ham. Perhaps just to humor me, they said they would like to try that during their next visit. In the last few days I have been looking into the matter and I can find no evidence that this is a good idea.

I can also find no evidence that it is a bad idea. So I am continuing the investigation. And today I am happy to see a review related to another form of smoked meat, quite different from that of Harrington’s, in this case at a restaurant in Texas. Pete Wells now holds my attention better than any reviewer, on any topic. Anthony Lane, for a long time, held it on the residual strength of the laughter produced by one film review in 2005; his predecessor Pauline Kael also held it a long time before that. In the era of crowd-sourced reviews, the professional is still relevant for a reason. Today’s restaurant review is a case in point:

AUSTIN, Tex. — “How much brisket are you having?” Continue reading

Accentuate The Positive

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On the flip side, the study found that diets containing low amounts of nuts and seeds were linked to about 9 percent of deaths from heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. John Lawson/Belhaven/Getty Images

All things in moderation. If you follow that general rule, this article may not be of interest to you. But for most of us, the salt’s (thank you National Public Radio, USA) item for us today is worth a glance. After you collect some stardust, sprinkle it on a handful of nuts:

…We know, it may be tough to cut back on foods you love. Bacon is so alluring to many that it has even been called the ‘gateway’ to meat for vegetarians!

But, here’s the flip side: The researchers also found there’s a significant risk in eating too little of certain healthy foods. So, think of it this way: You can start consuming more of the foods that are protective… Continue reading

Coming To A Lodge Near You

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A bright cabbage slaw and a flour tortilla complement corned beef’s fatty saltiness. Credit Melina Hammer for The New York Times

Vegetarians, look away. Guests who have enjoyed the food program at Chan Chich Lodge, and have visited Gallon Jug Farm, normally come to know our commitment to fresh, all natural menu items. Including some of the finest beef in the world. And fresh tortillas. And bright cabbage slaw. Habaneros nearby. And a cold Belikin beer to accompany the meal. As Chef Ram explores all the options that the farm allows for his kitchen, we can imagine him making good use of the book below, brought to our attention by the Food Editor at the New York Times:

What if You Could Make Great Corned Beef?

By

51gO0bcPi8L._SL500_AA300_.jpg…You can do it easily, said Michael Ruhlman, a passionate advocate of the process and the author, with Brian Polcyn, of “Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking and Curing.” You need only start by corning your own beef. “You can achieve tastes that aren’t available in the mass-produced versions,” he said. “Also, it’s a genuine thrill to transform plain old beef into something so tangy and piquant and red and delicious.”

Corned beef takes its name from the salt that was originally used to brine it, the crystals so large they resembled kernels of corn. Curing and packing plants in Ireland used that salt in the 19th century to cure slabs of beef that went into barrels, later cans, and onto ships to feed, among others, British colonists, troops, slaves and laborers across the globe. Eventually someone in Boston or the Bahamas fished out a cut of beef neck or a brisket and boiled it into submission with a head of cabbage, and that was dinner. Continue reading

Impossible’s Intriguing Inclination

Impossible.jpgMeatless is not even a concept yet for some, but we’re working on that. Many of us contributing on this platform have already started taking it seriously even if not totally converted–reducing meat consumption rather than going all out vegetarian, let alone vegan–for all kinds of good reasons.

We have already expressed our interest as best we can without having yet tasted one of these, but thanks to this Guardian review we are now a step closer to the impossible. We do not need to have tasted it to have high expectations and hopes to match the ambitions of the company:

Impossible Foods is on the cusp of big things. But as the company lines up its first burger chain, it still needs to show it can convert the meat-loving masses Continue reading

Liquid Renaissance

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Sullivan Doh, owner-mixologist at Le Syndicat in Paris.Credit Charissa Fay

We are pleased to read of Mr. Field, in some ways doing in Paris what we have just noted happening with cacao in the Caribbean–a kind of renaissance of beverages that is also on our agenda in Belize:

The Slow Rise of Craft Cocktails in Paris

By

28tmag-cocktails-slide-Q0D3-master180.jpgIn her new book, “The New Paris: The People, Places & Ideas Fueling a Movement” ($30, amazon.com), the writer (and T contributor) Lindsey Tramuta documents the creative and cultural shift she has witnessed in the city in recent years. Below is a passage on the rise of craft cocktails there.

To say that cocktails are a new phenomenon in Paris is to overlook a culture of distilling liquors dating back to the 1800s, one that gained greater traction more than one hundred years later during American prohibition, when newly unemployed bartenders came to Europe in droves and landed in some of the continent’s best hotel bars. Continue reading

Eat Your Vegetables, If You Can Find Them

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Vegetables were rationed at supermarkets in the U.K. due to poor weather conditions in Europe. Here, lettuce, broccoli and zucchini were rationed at a Tesco store in London. Victoria Jones/PA Images via Getty Images

Thanks to National Public Radio (USA) and the folks at the salt for this story about the implications of vegetable shortages in the UK:

It started in late January. At my local grocery store in South London, salad seemed to be just a few pence pricier than usual. But I didn’t think much of it.

Later that week, the same market had conspicuously run out of zucchini. I’m not particularly fond of it, but I lamented for the carb-conscious yuppies who depended — and subsisted — on spiralized zucchini spaghetti. How would they cope? Continue reading