Sunday, September 20, 2009

Oils of the Gods

Since I heard that there existed an essential oil of lotus, I have been trying to get close enough to one to find out what the scent is like. Unfortunately, these were in the middle of a pond in Kalbarri, far away from any chance of a sniff and it's still too cold here at home - all the plants still firmly sleeping in the mud. So when I saw Lotus essential oil in a catalogue, I had to buy some.

The lotus was recognised by ancient Egyptians, Indians, Greeks and American Indians as a powerful sacred symbol of spiritual rebirth and the universe. Its seductive power was immortalised by Homer when he described the land of the lotus eaters where his shipmates quickly succumbed to the happy indolence said to be one of its effects when the petals are steeped in wine!

The pink lotus, nelumbo nucifera, is associated with Buddha, who is often depicted sitting on a thousand-petaled pink lotus, the symbol of enlightenment. Its qualities of purity, delicateness and beauty claim to be able to help in 'opening the knots of the heart.' The scent is floral, warm and exotic. It calms and soothes and is reputed to be an aphrodisiac.

Sacred to Lakshmi Devi, the Indian goddess of wealth, the white lotus is also known by the same Latin name - nelumbo nucifera. The oil has a more delicate, ethereal scent, a top note for a perfume blend. Emotionally it promotes contentment, kindness, forgiveness and love in the environment in which you live and can assist in gaining self-esteem and confidence.

The blue lotus, nymphaea caerulea is a symbol of the sun associated with the Egyptian gods Ra, Hapi and Horus, as well as others. Its petals were found scattered over the body of Tutankhamen in his tomb.Its relaxing and euphoric qualities no doubt helped him on his journey. Medicinally it can be used as an antispasmodic.

Lotus flowers don't produce much oil and the oils are best purchased in a 3% blend with jojoba oil. Blue Lotus oil, produced in Thailand, is the most expensive of the three at $US75per ml. I haven't found anyone who can describe it for me. If you manage to get close enough to the real thing, let me know.

Thanks, Nirala

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Food for Seduction

Watching cooking competitions on television is my form of armchair exercise. I scream, yell and abuse the umpires like the best of footy fans. Last week, one challenge was to create a menu from Moreton Bay Bugs, oysters and strawberries with the theme of romance. It wouldn't have worked for me. I don't find seafood sexy, hate oysters and strawberries remind me of the Melbourne Cup and champagne hangovers.

The aphrodisiac qualities of food can be imaginary, magic or just plain hopeful. A few have some scientific evidence to back them up. (You didn't think they really meant ROMANCE, did you?) There are lots of suggestions about what works.

The absolutely obvious are those who are suggestive in appearance and supposedly resemble seeds, fertility symbols, genitalia and other body parts. Think asparagus, bananas, figs, snails, oysters and peaches. Stranger still are the body parts of animals. Although they are not usually served for dinner they could be slipped into a pre dinner drink!

Some are tricksters - chilli can make you hot and sweaty and increase your heart rate. Although this could be useful if you need to 'fake it', the risk of chilli ending up somewhere it shouldn't is rather risky.

Bananas, chocolate and honey provide various nutrients that can help the metabolism of hormones, increase stamina and increase serotonin levels to bring on that happy mood. If you added ice cream and a few nuts you could make a banana split - how easy could seduction get?

Honey also has an historical link to fertility. Couples were encouraged to drink honey mead for a month leading up to their marriage. It was a 'honeymoon' to build up their stamina before the big day.

Of course, sexy food will always be a matter of personal preference. Here are a few tips:

What ever you choose for that special meal must look, taste and smell wonderful.
Check for allergies before planning your menu to avoid disaster as emergency rooms are not sexy!
Add some soft lights, gentle music and a beautifully laid table with flowers.
Bribe the children to go out and give the dog a large bone.
Nutritious, small, tasty morsels will titillate the palate.
Eat lightly and drink in moderation. A roast with red wine and steamed pudding will soon find you both snoring on the couch.
Plan on a dessert that can be served cold or at room temperature - if the main meal works its magic, you may not need it until later.

My favourites are a man in an apron cooking for me and sharing something messy. (I also end up snoring on the couch quite a lot!)

I believe that any meal that is planned with care, prepared with love and served to some one special is one of the loveliest gifts we can give each other.

Maybe its time I went back to the kitchen..its less than six months to Valentines Day.


Monday, September 7, 2009

Miles of Food

A couple of people have asked me to explain the term “food miles’, so here goes…

Food miles are one indicator of the energy that is expended to produce our food. The first Australian food miles study, presented by Sophie Gaballa in 2005 featured 29 supermarkets items in a basket of food designed to feed two adults healthy meals for a week. 25 items were produced in Australia and transported a total of 21,000 klm by road. When the imported baked beans, sausage, tea and chocolate were added the total shot up to 70,000 klm!

Made in Australia can also be misleading – The Powerhouse Museum in Sydney show an example of chips ‘Made in Australia’…true, but also discover the inks used contain components from India, China, the US and Europe and that the aluminium from Italy, added in Melbourne, was probably smelted from Australian bauxite. This is all before it gets to the supermarket!

In the UK, lambs are raised on poorer pastures, often needing extra fodder and winter shelter. It takes less energy to raise lamb in New Zealand with its rich clover pastures and hydro power and ship it by sea, making it the better option when you weigh up all the factors.

Consider too that frozen and perishable foods need to be transported in refrigerated trucks, using still more fuel. Over packaged goods need more space in transportation. Packaging, printing and wrapping also need to be shipped from their place of manufacture to the food processor, adding to the food miles of the finished product.

We also need to consider how food is grown, what amounts of water, fertilizer and chemicals are used and what effect crops are having on the environment in terms of clearing, land degradation, salinity and the impact on wildlife and native cultures.

Sweden, Canada and the UK now have labeling that states when a product has been air freighted – informed consumers can make their own choices. What can we do? There is no need to become a food miles detective or spend hours reading (and trying to understand) labels.

Eat produce in season.
Choose products with little or no packaging.
Avoid buying processed products with multiple ingredients.
Consider eating less meat and dairy products.
Shop wisely and frugally, buy only what you need, America could feed the world with what it throws away.
Explore your local produce.
Where possible, grow your own.
Read Barbara Kingsolver’s book: “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.”
Become a locovore (look it up!).

Don’t forget, it is okay to eat Swiss chocolate, Italian cheese and Indonesian coffee - we also need to treat ourselves occasionally whilst supporting a global economy!

Happy shopping,

Friday, September 4, 2009

Winter Break

We have just returned from a quick trip north, hoping to escape the winter weather. Although it was slightly warmer, the rain persisted for all but a few days. The rain that we were heartilty sick of had provoked a spectacular display of exquisite wildflowers. In every colour imaginable, in size and forms that ranged from the tiniest ground covers to orchids, banksias and the ancient zamia palms, often hidden in the most unlikely places. I am always amazed by the way the cliffs and sandplains miraculously bloom for these short weeks. It was well worth dashing out of the car inbetween the showers to take a few pictures to share.