Thursday, December 26, 2013

Pan Asian Blend

A decade ago, I started saving my spare funds for a lifetime trip which would trace my ancestral heritage through millennia. I had planned to go from Manchuria and end up in Mongolia. Most Koreans assume that the peninsula was settled from the north by way of China with a mix from the Mongol invasion. But now I have actual DNA results, I am at a loss.

Even though I am 100% ethnically Korean, according to new analyses from 23andme, my ancestors as of 500 years ago were tad more Japanese than they were Korean. My family hails from the very southern tip of the peninsula less than 160 miles away from Japan. Even 500 years ago, 160 mile stretch of water could be readily traversed by even small fishing boats so such race mixing should not at all be shocking news.  

However given the history of World War II,  uncovering a Japanese heritage was not exactly welcome news. My great grand uncle who was studying abroad in Tokyo was force drafted as a kamikaze pilot.  My great grandmother was forever heartbroken over his early demise. My grandfather was imprisoned by the Japanese about to be shipped off to slave labor in Japan.  Thankfully he was spared after my grandmother plead his case by presenting an exquisite cedar box filled with moss and fish to the Japanese district prefect.  My grandfather was simply allowed to perform the hard labor at home. 

It's rather uncomfortable news to know that you share common ancestors with a race that directly oppressed your family members and countless other countrymen.  If my grandfather were alive, he would probably refuse to believe he had any Japanese heritage at all.  And would the Japanese who perpetrated the war crimes upon the Koreans behave any differently knowing they had shared ancestry?

What to make of such a revelation? Well, it clears up the mystery of being mistaken for being a Japanese tourist in Korea and being mistaken for being Japanese in Japan. I think the worst identity crisis wrought by genetic testing was a case of a black American who turned out not to have African ancestry- no more than any other human. He descended from ancestors from the Middle East making him question his whole notion of himself as an African American.  

But 500 years past is distant enough that I need not agonize over my Korean identity too much.  Despite any genetic heritage surprises lurking, I'm now legally and culturally a tax-paying American.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Brewed Cacao

I was swayed by a new package in the coffee "alternatives" shelf at Rainbow Grocery.  I could not resist a product touting a bevy of health claims such as "Support your heart, brain and bones with magnesium" or "Maintain healthy blood sugar levels with chromium and zinc". Who doesn't want to support their vital organs for a mere ten dollars? Actually the other month, I had read from the Amano Chocolate's facebook page about brewing tea from the cacao bean's husks. So when I spied this bag, I was reeled in even though this was the actual bean itself and not the throwaway husk.  Years ago I used to buy giant bags of cacao husks as a garden mulch;  the husks smell marvelous but molds way too quickly.  I had never thought to brew a portion since it was meant to be spread on the ground. Who knows what magic brew hides in a waste product but I'll be on the lookout.

This Crio Bru bag contains ground roasted beans which you can brew like coffee or add it to coffee for a mocha flavor.  You could also cook with it and make cacao pesto.  When I brewed it like coffee, there definitely is a raw bitterness which rounds out with milk. Nonetheless I felt ho hum all around.  When brewed with coffee, you do get a mild cocoa taste.  Also with the leftover grounds which are perfectly edible, I added chipotle sauce to make a dip for blue corn chips. 
I am simply unmoved by this product- of course there is the bean quality to consider. This company offers two varieties- one from the Ivory Coast and the other from Ecuador which probably is the more interesting Nacional beans.  I want to like it but feel underwhelmed tasteswise. So in such cases as these, I fobbed it off to my willing husband. He says it gives him a nice alertness without jitteryness. 

The Maya used cacao beans for currency and I was trying to figure out the conversion rates for my bag of 12 oz. beans.  Accounts seem to vary but most often it's repeated that four beans buy a rabbit, 10 are needed for the services of a prostitute and a 100 for a slave.  I would have to have snared quite a few bunnies for this bag alone.