Sunday, May 25, 2008

All About Mustard

Mustard is the oldest condiment known. No one knows who first used mustard to flavor food. Mustard seeds have been found in tombs of the ancient Egyptian pharaohs and the ancient Romans used mustard seeds in some of their crude sauces. But mustard as we know it, a condiment sauce made from the seed of the mustard plant in combination with some liquid (water, wine, beer, etc.), goes back to the 14th century and perhaps even earlier.

The earliest reference to mustard in the Dijon region of France dates back to 1336, but we can assume that the early monks had developed the art of mustard making many years earlier. The ruling leaders of France enacted strict laws to govern the methods of making mustard and the ingredients allowed in its manufacture. Even today, French law regulates the making of mustard; only the brown or black seed is permitted in the manufacture of Dijon mustard. The French have brought mustard making to new culinary heights over the years. Today, Dijon mustard is the standard (for many) against which all mustards are measured.

The English developed their own style of mustard throughout the ages. It was originally made in homes or in monasteries, with little commercial activity involved. In the mid-1600's, the town of Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire became famous for its thick horseradish mustard that was the rage of English cookery. Shakespeare (a mustard lover himself) wrote of this famous mustard: "His wit's as thick as Tewkesbury mustard!" (Henry IV, Part II). For reasons we may never know, the mustard industry of Tewkesbury vanished nearly as quickly as it had appeared.

The greatest name in English mustard came upon the scene in 1804 when Jeremiah Colman began milling mustard seed at Norwich. Through the use of brilliant marketing techniques, Colman's mustard became the quintessential English mustard. Its most famous advertising campaign was "The Mustard Club," a whimsical fictitious club of odd characters (Master Mustard, Lady Di Gester, and its president Baron de Beef, to name a few).

The American mustard scene was different. We used very little mustard until the beginning of the twentieth century. Francis French, a New York spice merchant, developed a mild yellow mustard sauce that quickly caught the attention of the consuming public. French's "Cream Salad Mustard" became the national rage. At the same time, J.W. Raye was producing prodigious quantities of a similar mustard sauce for the sardine packing industry. Some claim that Mr. French and Mr. Raye entered into a "gentlemen's agreement" under which French would stay out of the then lucrative sardine market and Raye would stay out of the then speculative domestic household market. French's, of course, is America's largest producer of mustard but the Raye company has survived with its own line of specialty mustards.

Mustard in America has developed its own daring voice over the last thirty years. People have taken a strong interest in "gourmet" cooking. Chefs like Julia Child and James Beard turned America on to fine cuisine. Grey Poupon, American-made but decidedly French in style, took advantage of this new trend and brought a new kind of mustard to the American scene, aided in large part by a brilliant advertising campaign ("Pardon me, but do you have any Grey Poupon?).

Today, American mustards are as varied and numerous as the cuisines and restaurants across the country. Flavors such as curry, chocolate, merlot wine, cranberry, and even cheese may be found in gourmet mustards. They may sound "weird" but they taste great.

Mustard has always been a versatile and healthful (low in calories, with virtually no fat or cholesterol) condiment and fits in with today's active lifestyle. It is truly an international condiment, as countries put their own distinctive mark on the mustards they make.

The Mount Horeb Mustard Museum, in Mount Horeb, Wisconsin, holds the largest collection of prepared mustards in the world - more than 4,600. The Museum also is home to hundreds of items of great mustard historical importance, including mustard pots and vintage mustard advertisements; the French's ad to the right is from the April 1936 issue of Good Housekeeping.

Did you know that there is even a day set aside to celebrate mustard? National Mustard Day is held annually on the first Saturday in August at the Mustard Museum in Mount Horeb and in communities around the country.

Should you refrigerate mustard? Even though mustard is a very safe food and is not likely to grow anything harmful if left unrefrigerated, I recommend refrigeration of all mustards in order to keep the flavor brighter and fresher. Keep mustards tightly covered but if you discover that your mustard has dried up, do not panic. Add a little water and it will bounce back to life.

Barry Levenson (Curator, Mount Horeb Mustard Museum)

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Friday, May 23, 2008

The Little Things

After Sept. 11th, one company invited the remaining members of other companies who had been decimated by the attack on the Twin Towers to share their available office space.

At a morning meeting, the head of security told stories of why these people were alive... and all the stories were just: the 'LITTLE' things.

  • As you might know, the head of the company survived that day because his son started kindergarten.
  • Another fellow was alive because it was his turn to bring donuts.
  • One woman was late because her alarm clock didn't go off in time.
  • One was late because of being stuck on the NJ Turnpike because of an auto accident.
  • One of them missed his bus.
  • One spilled food on her clothes and had to take time to change.
  • One's car wouldn't start.
  • One went back to answer the telephone.
  • One had a child that dawdled and didn't get ready as soon as he should have.
  • One couldn't get a taxi.

The one that struck me was the man who put on a new pair of shoes that morning, took the various means to get to work but before he ! got there, he developed a blister on his foot. He stopped at a drugstore to buy a Band-Aid. That is why he is alive today.

Now when I am stuck in traffic, miss an elevator, turn back to answer a ringing telephone...all the little things that annoy me. I think to myself,this is exactly where God wants me to be at this very moment..

Next time your morning seems to be going wrong, the children are slow getting dressed, you can't seem to find the car keys, you hit every traffic light, don't get mad or frustrated;

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Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Credit Cards - The Info You Should Have About Them

Nice Information about Credit Cards... Hope most of you know...

Informative Reading !!!!!!!!!!!!

Priya: I want to buy a Sony digital camera costing Rs.20,000, but I don?t have any cash right now.

Raj: Why don?t you use your ICICI Bank credit card? Never heard them say ? Hum Hain Na ??

Priya: I am quite skeptic about using these cards. I pay using the card, get a bill after 30 days and pay after another 20 days. This is a maximum of 50 days interest free loan. Why does any bank do it?

If I borrow Rs.20,000 on personal loan at 11%.
Interest to be paid for 50 days = Rs. 20,000 * 11% * (50/365) = Rs. 301.40.

Here the bank is giving me a loan without interest when I use the credit card. Something is wrong somewhere!

Raj: Well! let me tell you how it works when you use your card to pay for the camera. You present your ICICI Bank credit card ? a VISA card.
Sony World swipes your card on a machine provided by Citibank. Lets call Citibank ? the acquirer bank and the process of Sony World swiping the card on that machine ? requesting authorization .Citibank communicates with the card issuer ? ICICI Bank through VISA Network to check if the card is valid and has the required credit limit.

ICICI Bank reviews and approves / declines which is communicated back to Sony World. You sign a receipt called Sales Draft given by Citibank. This is the obligation on your part to pay the money to ICICI Bank. Data on this receipt can be captured electronically and transmitted.

At the end of day or at the end of some period Sony World chooses:
Sony World submits the receipt you signed to Citibank who pays Sony World the money. Sony World pays Citibank a fee called Merchant Discount .
Let us say this is 6% of the sale value = 6% * 20,000 = Rs. 1200 Citibank sends the receipt electronically to a Visa data center which in turn sends it to ICICI Bank. ICICI Bank transfers the money to a settlement bank which in turn transfers the funds to Citibank.
Citibank pays ICICI Bank an Interchange Fee of 4% of the sale value = 4% * 20,000 = Rs. 800
20 to 50 days later ICICI Bank gets the money from you ? and you don?t pay the interest!!

Priya: Interesting! So Sony World pays more than the interest that I should have paid for the loan that I take. I, as a card holder have the following benefits

  1. Convenience of not having to carry cash.
  2. Credit availability ? free of interest.

However what benefits does Sony World get for paying so much money? Isn't it more profitable for them to take cash? They can save as much as Rs.1200.

Raj: Certainly. Some retail outlets offer you discounts if you pay by cash, don?t they?

However when you don?t count the money that you are spending, you tend to buy more! Cards encourage this ? called impulse purchase .

If you did not have access to credit, you would not have bought the camera this month ? or may be not any time soon either. By accepting cards, the merchant is actually extending you credit at the risk of the card issuer. He pays money to the banks to carry that risk.

Priya: So ICICI Bank uses this money to pay back to us when they announce 5% cash back. They insist that the Sales draft that I sign at the retailer should also be from ICICI Bank. This means they are saving on the Interchange Fee and also pay me a part of the Merchant Discount that they get.

Raj: Exactly! If you have noticed, ICICI Bank gives you the cash back in the next credit card statement. They keep the ?cash back? money for a maximum of 60 days before passing on a part to you. This accrues them
interest too.

Say if ICICI Bank earns an interest of 6% per annum for the cash they carry ? they get Rs.1000 * 6% * (60/365) = Rs. 10

That is not huge, but money nevertheless. And when you consider that almost everyone in this city shops with a credit card these days, it is a big sum.

Priya: And that also explains why banks tie up with petrol pumps ? like ICICI Bank has tied up with HPCL and I could re-fuel there without having to pay the fuel surcharge of 2.5%. The card issuer and the acquiring bank is the same and that saves interchange fees.

Raj: Good! You seem to have figured out how it all works! Let me summarize:

All the numbers used to explain concepts in this article must be treated only as an example. Merchant Discounts may vary from bank to bank. Interchange Fee is regulated by VISA and MasterCard.

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