The Life of a Digital Nomad: Cooking the Culture
"He who controls the spice controls the universe." — Frank Herbert
It's been 10 months of travel with no end in sight, and the latest destination in this digital nomad's journey is the Black Sea coastline. I've been in Bulgaria a little over a week, and so far the vibe is similar to other sunshine-soaked spots I've explored up until this point. Though there's a difference in atmosphere, weather, language — I must confess, I'm in a constant state of confusion, but also, strangely, tranquility — fashion, and species of stray animals, the biggest change that I've experienced relates to the availability of food products. As a vegetarian travelling through countries that consider meat their primary, and sometimes sole food group, lack of fresh ingredients does not go unnoticed. That being said, I can always make do with what's available, whether that's (another) four cheese pasta or a crisp garden salad with fresh tomatoes. But when I cook, I take every chance I get to express myself through the local cuisine. My go to? Savory spice combinations that expand the flavor profile of a dish and leave the eater with a deep sense of satisfaction. While in Mexico, I used some local aromatics — Tajin (a tangy chili lime and sea salt seasoning), dehydrated chile de árbol (literally translated as "chili of the tree," this small-but-mighty Mexican chili pepper gives a medium pop of heat and a deliciously spicy aroma), widely available fresh ginger, fresh garlic, rich Mexican mole, and a combination of typically-Indian spices like turmeric, coriander, cumin and cloves — to craft ethnically-inspired dishes. With the wide availability of spices, I was also able to live out my Master Chef dreams and make a curry spice mix from scratch, testing the depth of flavor with each bowl of veggie curry. The Golden Goddess
One of the spices I've adopted a newfound appreciation for is turmeric. I cooked extensively with it in Mexico and then dropped it for about a month. But, it's caught my eye again. And for good reason.
This earthy orange spice belongs to the ginger family, and calls Southeast Asia its home. It's been used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine — one of the world's oldest and most renowned systems of holistic wellness — to soothe skin ailments, improve digestion, and help treat respiratory conditions, among other things. While the uses of turmeric in modern day healing range from speculative to scientific, evidence relating to the potency of its active ingredient, curcumin, shows benefits when it comes to:
Reducing inflammation which can potentially prevent heart disease, cancer, metabolic syndrome, arthritis, Alzheimers and other conditions associated with low-level inflammation.
Increasing the body's antioxidant capacity which helps neutralize the free radicals that contribute to aging and gene mutations.
Boosting brain-derived-neurotrophic-factor (BDNF) which plays a key role in memory and learning, and may delay the onset of decreases in brain function.
Helping those with depression because curcumin increases levels of BDNF, and may boost levels of serotonin and dopamine.
Sounds pretty good, right? All that said, I'll be the first to admit that there's a need for additional research when it comes to the efficacy of turmeric. From a scientific standpoint, at least. The Anecdotal Evidence
If you're like me, then your outlook probably mirrors the phrase, "I'll believe it when I see it." My "aha" moment with turmeric was inspired by a longing for golden milk — something I used to make one of my coffee shop regulars on those cool Calgary days. So, I picked up some turmeric and my choice lactose-free beverage, unsweetened soy milk, and whipped up the tasty treat.
The Easiest Golden Milk Recipe here's what you'll need - 1 tbsp ground turmeric
- 1/2 tsp black pepper - a small pot - soy milk (or any other milk alternative you're into) - optional: other spices (like ginger, cinnamon, or clove) or sweetener (honey, sugar, or agave) here's how to make it 1. pour the turmeric, black pepper, and soy milk into a pot 2. turn up the heat and whisk to combine 3. pour in a cup and drink to your health! After consuming the contents of my cup, I felt satiated. But, past the instant satisfaction, I noticed that my right knee wasn't as inflamed as it had been that morning. The pain in my tibialis anterior had subsided. It felt like all of the pressure had released from my body, and without getting into too much detail, I felt relieved from the inside out. The science may have some catching up to do, but I'm all for a spice that can reduce overall inflammation, support healthy brain activity, and give me that cozy feeling inside. Plus, what's the harm in giving bland dishes a bit of personality with an Ayurveda-approved condiment?
Hot tip! When taken in combination with black pepper (piperine), curcumin becomes 2000 times more potent! So, if you want some curcumin in your life, make sure to freckle in a couple pepper flakes for good measure.