The importance of acid and base ingredients
June 7 (Monday) Cooking Ingredients: Condiments or Vinegars or Oils & Shortenings
When we cook something we need either one or two of these food enhancers.
“Boy, bring me shortening.” the Greek cook will always order me when he forgot to bring his ingredients from the provision room located at the upper deck of the ship. At first I didn’t knew what it was; I thought it was butter, but when his order became a frequent routine everyday, I became accustomed to the name, every time he made biscuits for snacks.
Shortening is a made from the fats of the pig or what we call lard. It is very transparent when heated; it’s good in making biscuit, leaving a light taste to the tongue than when you use butter or vegetable oil. Just avoid being burn by the heated oil; I’ve been hit by it’s trickling particles from the frying pan. When we ran out of vegetable cooking oil, it becomes an alternative oil when frying chicken or fish.
Vinegar is an acetic acid that can be commercially or naturally made. The sap of coconut flower is a good source of natural vinegar. Coconut farmers in the Philippines, still make natural vinegar that are popular among the locals in the countryside. If you are traveling in the province, you can buy it bottled along the road. While in the cities, commercially-made vinegar is consist of 5 to 10 per cent acetic chemical and water that you can buy in either plastic pouch or bottle. You can make wine or balsam vinegar or apple cider, too.
Oil is basically used for frying and sautéing but it’s also important in salads, bread and pastry (cakes, etc.). In bread making, it is essential to add oil in order to make the dough more softer; same when making a cake. Olive oil is cholesterol free, so most salad lovers use it frequently. Greeks grow more olive trees and export its fruits and oil. My Greek friends boast that if you have two or three olive trees at home, you will be richer if you take care and harvest its fruits properly.
Basic condiments consist of salt and pepper. It’s a basic food taste enhancer, aside from vinegar and olive oil. Every dining table should have it . I remember my first captain said that our prepared dish should not be too salty. Because he’s Greek, he’s used to food with bland taste and the best thing to correct it is to use basic condiments, like salt and pepper.
I should say that these ‘essential’ ingredients should never be forgotten when you go to the market. What will happen to our dishes if we don’t have these? I doubt if will have quality bread, cakes, and the rest of food dishes.