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History > Rosemary: how a little plant offers lots of flavor July 9, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Food Greece.
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In previous posts (see our Food and Drinks category) we wrote about rosemary and how you can use it into your cooking, adding that special flavor it offers.

In this post we are gathering some additional historical facts.

Ancient Romans considered it sacred, the Greeks decorated statues with wreaths of the herb and the Egyptians used it in cleansing rituals.

In the never-ending battle of the sexes, legend states the feisty little shrub will thrive only in a home where a woman rules and folklore says a man cannot truly love any woman if he’s impervious to the resinous scent of the herb.

Because of that long-lasting aroma, rosemary came to symbolize remembrance, and  brides in Victorian England would tuck sprigs of it into their wedding bouquets to represent fidelity.

Shakespeare’s Ophelia tells us that “rosemary is for remembrance” and over time it has come to be known as such. It is given in the hope that you will be thought about or to signify that someone is on your mind. Did Ophelia mean remembrance or remembering? The ancient Greeks wore garlands of rosemary during exams to improve memory. It is being used today to improve the thinking process in Alzheimer patients. It appears that Ophelia’s meaning may have been misunderstood.

Whatever the case, rosemary is a plant worth a gardener’s efforts. Rosmarinus officinalis is an evergreen herb that has the scent of pine, camphor, and lemon.  The leaves vary from delicate gray needles to broader greener ones. Its habit may be tall or prostrate, twisted or straight, bushy or sparse. The clustered flowers include shades of violet, blue, pink, or white. These variations are determined by the plant species and will add vibrancy to any garden all year long.

Blue Spire grows upright to five feet tall as well as wide and can be shaped if consistently trimmed. The tiny flowers grow along the stem and are deep blue in color. Prostratus displays lavender blue flowers in its low growing or trailing fashion, spilling down hills and over rocks. Majorca Pink grows to three feet high by four feet wide. It twists into picturesque shapes with pink, fruit-scented flowers. Albus has white flowers with streaks of lilac and grows semi-upright to four feet tall and wide. With its golden edged leaves during cold weather, Golden Rain is bushy and grows upright to three feet high and wide. The flowers are a deep violet-blue. These are just a few of the many varieties available to fill your garden with color and fragrance.

Rosemary stands tall and pungent as a culinary herb with all varieties edible but not equal in taste. I suggest you sample a leaf before purchasing a plant if you plan to cook with it. It enhances potent vegetables such as cauliflower, brussel sprouts and broccoli. It augments the flavor of meats, sauces, gravies, drinks and breads. Bruise fresh leaves by crushing them with the flat side of a fork to release the essential oils and impart maximum flavor. When rosemary is dried it is stronger tasting because the water has been removed and the oils are concentrated. Typical of all herbs you only need half as much of the dried herb as the fresh in cooking. It can be overpowering but if used in moderation it will please your sense of smell and taste.

As a medicinal herb it is effective through three of our senses. Essential oil is used in massage ointments for the external treatment of body aches because it is absorbed through the skin. Rosemary oil stimulates blood flow when massaged on painful areas. It takes 500 pounds of rosemary to produce one pound of essential oil so it is expensive. I suggest you test it on a small area of your skin in case there is a skin sensitivity. Caution: Medicinal doses of rosemary should not be taken during pregnancy or if one suffers from seizures. The amounts used in cooking are perfectly safe.

Because of absorption through the olfactory system it is effective in steamers and bouquets. The essential oil of rosemary is used in aromatherapy to enhance concentration and memory. When aromatics like rosemary are inhaled they stimulate receptors in the brain that trigger the release of hormones and chemicals producing a sense of well being.

Rosemary can be ingested in a tincture made by filling a small bottle with the leaves and covering it with vodka. Allow it to set for four weeks, and strain out the leaves. The body will quickly absorb several drops under the tongue. It can be used in your evening cocktail as well.

Rosemary has myriad uses and benefits, in a galaxy of plants. It couldn’t be better. It is plant worth having whether it increases memory or thoughtfulness. Try some and you may find that it enhances both.

On shelves in New Age kind of stores, I’ve seen tiny little bottles of the essential oil that some people claim clears the mind, stimulates mental clarity and banishes melancholy. The naturally occurring oils are said to aid digestion and, made into a tonic, have astringent and antiseptic properties.

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Greek Taste > Try these recipes using rosemary July 9, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Food Greece, Food Recipes.
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Rosemary Focaccia Rolls

• 1 pound frozen bread dough, thawed
• 1 quarter cup olive oil
• 3 tbs. fresh chopped rosemary, or 1 tbs. dried rosemary
• Course ground sea salt to taste

Preheat oven to 425°. Grease baking sheet and divide dough into 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece into four-inch circles on a floured board. Prick each piece several times with a fork and brush with half of the olive oil. Let dough rise until puffy. Sprinkle with rosemary and salt. Bake for 10 minutes or until edges are golden. Remove from oven and drizzle with remaining olive oil. Serves 12.

Rosemary Punch

• 5 sprigs of rosemary (six inches long)
• 2 cups of water
• 1 (12-ounce) can frozen orange concentrate*
• 1 liter chilled ginger ale

Boil the rosemary in water. Simmer for five minutes. Cover and cool. Strain out rosemary. Stir liquid and the concentrate together. Refrigerate until ready to use. Add ginger ale and serve.

*Substitute with pineapple or other concentrate.

Use fresh rosemary sprigs (new growth from the tips of the plant).

Greek Taste > Cooking with rosemary July 9, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Food Greece, Food Recipes.
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How a little plant adds lots of flavor in my cooking 

A small ashy-looking evergreen nestles between some willowy lavender and sweet-scented thyme in my back yard. It’s a rosemary bush. I can’t walk past it without running my fingers through it, then bringing my hand to my face to breathe in that heady, rich scent that sets it apart from all other herbs.

The ancient Romans considered it sacred, the Greeks decorated statues with wreaths of the herb and the Egyptians used it in cleansing rituals.

All that . . . and it tastes good, too. No wonder it’s one of my favorite herbs.

This potato soup is a long-time favorite. I add plenty of fresh-snipped rosemary and some red pepper puree for a little added brightness. It’s a breeze to make and a perfect way to use summer’s bounty of tomatoes.

Be sure you leave this soup a bit lumpy. Some wonderful texture makes a big difference.

Potato-Tomato Soup with Rosemary

Serves: 4

1 small onion
4 tablespoons olive oil
8 plum tomatoes
3 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
2 large potatoes
Water
2 tablespoons red pepper puree (optional)
Salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste

Peel and dice the onion. In a soup pot, cook the onion in olive oil over a medium heat until tender. Rough chop the tomatoes. Add the tomatoes and rosemary to the onion and simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring to prevent scorching.

Peel and chop the potatoes into 1 inch cubes. Stir them into the pot and cook for about 5 minutes. Add water, as needed, to reach a stewlike consistency. (Start with about 1-1/2 cups and work up from there.) Continue simmering.

When the potatoes are cooked through, use a potato masher, immersion blender or serving fork to break them up into a lumpy consistency. Stir in the red pepper puree, if desired. Continue simmering for about 30 minutes to develop the flavor, adding more water as needed to keep the desired thickness. Add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with a little more fresh snipped rosemary. Serve hot.

History > More on football July 9, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Football.
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The history of football

Football is truly the world’s sport. It is played in every nation on Earth by more than 300 million people. It is the number one sport in the majority of countries and it also attracts the largest number of spectators. According to FIFA, in 2002, a cumulative in-home audience of 28.8 billion viewers watched the World Cup. This record will most likely be shattered by the viewership of the Germany 2006 matches. Football is also a major global industry complete with multimillion-dollar player contracts, lucrative merchandising and high-earning teams.

FOOTBALL ­> THE BEGINNING

It is difficult to say exactly when and where football started, but it is clear that a game involving the kicking of a ball into a net dates back some 3,000 years. Members of the Chinese military during the Han Dynasty around the second and third centuries BC, are credited with being the first to play such a game. Other evidence points to a similar game being played in Japan around 1004 BC. Interestingly, third-century Chinese frescoes show women playing a game involving kicking a ball. The women’s game, today, although not nearly as popular as the men’s, continues to grow each year, increasing its number of supporters and players.

The Greeks and ancient Romans are also said to have played a type of game involving kicking a ball (www.athleticscholarships.net/history-of-soccer.htm, www.sportsknowhow.com/soccer/history/soccer-history.shtml). Similarly, the North American Indians are said to have played a game called pasuckuakohowog (National Geographic, June 2006).

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History > Football, soccer or World Cup’s saga July 9, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Football.
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The Greeks and ancient Romans are also said to have played a type of game involving kicking a ball.

Saga of world soccer > Football has driven people crazy in the past weeks. But what is the history of the game?

As with most other games, cricket, tennis, golf and rugby, it was British who “taught the world to play” football or soccer as we know it today. But there is a long history behind that. The Greeks and Romans used to play a game called Harpastum by passing a small hard ball by hand on a rectangular field to be grounded behind the opponent’s line.

In 1066, when the Normans invaded Britain they brought with them a game called Lasoule, possibly derived from Harpastum. In medieval Britain what was called mob football became popular. On public holidays youth in teams of sometimes 500 engaged in day long struggle to force the ball across boundaries miles apart. King Richard II, in 1388, replaced it with archery as the Sunday sport for the “servants and labourers”. By 17th century, the puritans having failed to suppress it, the middle class once again revived the game, which spread to Scotland. With the dawn of the 19th century and the age of organised sport, soccer too became a game with rules. In 1823, 16-year-old William Webb Ellis made his historic run, carrying the ball in hand, which ended not only in a “goal” for Rugby, it also founded a new game of Rugby.

Between 1855 and 1857, the first ever soccer club was founded in Sheffield. In 1862, the game left the hard enclosures of monasteries and came to be played on open grass fields. In 1863, members of eleven clubs formed the first football association. Association Football soon followed when they drew up a set of national rules which included the size of the field and goal posts and the mode of starting the game. The style of outfit began with jerseys and knickerbockers and by 1865 the number of players making up a team was reduced to 11.

In 1878, the first flood light match was played at Sheffield.

Football tournaments began in 1872 when the coveted FA cup was inaugurated. Professionalism entered the game soon and the FA committee decided to admit professionals in 1885. Clubs began to charge admission fees and paid players compensation for lost wages and expenses. In 1888 the football league was born with 12 teams to start with. Meanwhile the outfit went through further changes. From knickerbockers it changed to shorts, first cut at below the knees and later above it. And umpires off the field were replaced by a referee on it with a set of powers in 1891.

The first international game was played in 1870 between England and Scotland at the Oval which the former won 1-0. Around this time overseas Britons in Germany started the game there.

In 1875, Oxford University team made the first overseas tour of Germany. British soldiers first played football in Brazil in 1884 during shore leave. The Brazilians took up the game with flair almost natural. Seven years later, in 1901, the first football club was founded in Rio. Italy was taught the game in 1892 when the local Britons there founded a club which also played cricket. By the end of the 19th century Britain had spread the game round the world. Wherever their trade spread the game also spread.

Modern soccer began in the beginning of the 20th century when in 1904 six countries, Belgium, Denmark, France, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland, formed the Federation International Football Association , popularly called FIFA. The first tournament by FIFA was staged in 1908 at the Olympic games.

The rest is recent history.

History > Soap > luxurious necessity July 9, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Culture History Mythology, Health & Fitness.
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Since its first manufacture, soap has gradually metamorphosed into a daily necessity from luxury item and no doubt the most common and useful item in the home.

Indeed, one 19th century chemist declared that the quantity of soap consumed by a nation was an accurate measure of its wealth and civilisation. Today, it is regarded as essential to hygiene and good health.

Decades ago, little evidence showed the use of soap in personal hygiene before the common era. There are reasons to doubt that this is a reference to what we know as soap-whether bars, powder or otherwise.

A modern translation of the prophet’s words reads “Take to yourself large quantities of Iye”, an alkali cleanser that is for difference from the soap in use today.

The Greeks and later the Romans typically made use of perfumed oils for cleaning their bodies. They may have learned the art of soap making from the celts. In his work Natural History, first century Roman writer Pliary the Elder uses the Gallic word saipo, from which it is said, we derive the word “soap”.

One of the first detailed recipes for soap appears in a 12th –century compilation of trade secrets for artisans. Over the years the chemical process for its production has remained fundamentally unchanged. Oils and fats from various sources were boiled with a caustic alkaline solution in a process that produces a crude soap. This reaction is called saponification.

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History and Mythology > Ammonite’s perfection July 9, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Culture History Mythology.
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Ammonite is a crystal that breaks open when it is ready to reveal a beautiful pattern of energy (and the pattern is the same every time).

The word ammonite is derived from Ammon, an Egyptian god who took the form of a ram. Ammonites are similar in appearance to a ram’s horn. 

Ammonite is a stone of protection.

It provides for insight and it helps to assist one in seeing the “whole picture”. It gives stability to its user. Since it is associated with the root chakra, it encourages our survival instincts. It is believed to ease birthing pains and bring relaxation. It helps to remind us to keep breathing due to its circular design. Ammonite is believed by feng shui masters to be associated to the scales of the mythical creature “Chi Lin”. Therefore, it is said to be a powerful wealth stone and brings prosperity, grandeur and illustrious sons. 

Now extinct, the ammonite mollusk was a shelled cephalopod, usually appearing in a coiled, spiral shape. The extinction of ammonites coincided with the extinction of dinosaurs. Ammonites inhabited the world’s oceans and now appear as fossils in marine rocks. Because of their rapid evolution and wide distribution, ammonite fossils provide a useful tool for indexing and dating rocks.

It is said that the original discus used by the ancient Greeks in their Olympics was in fact a fossilised ammonite.