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Nature's nutritive sweetener, mmm, honey
Saturday, 12 January, 2008, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
ntly attracting full houses may be a play on the term "B movie" but where entertainment is concerned, Bee Movie is decidedly an A-lister about those tiny insects who make the viscuous golden coloured liquid that we love to spread on rusk or blend into egg nog or garam chai or slather on apple slices with a pinch of cinnamon. After the infinitely entertaining Shrek and Madagascar, you'd think Spielberg's DreamWorks Animation would have a hard act to follow. But no. The slew of talent in this Golden Globe-nominated toon is the icing on a scrumptious cake enhanced by impressive CGI animation and a great voice cast that includes the musician Sting (a frequent visitor to India) and Ray Liotta (who plays a honey-peddling version of himself).
Jerry Seinfeld's Barry B. Benson is a restless, young bee who is far from stumped by the Hamletian poser To be(e) or not to be(e). BBB decidedly knows what he wants: to be as busy as the select band which travels as far as 55,000 miles to visit more than two million flowers collecting nectar in their mouths. (This nectar mixes with special enzymes in the bees' saliva, an alchemical process that turns it into honey. Returning to the hive, the bees deposit the honey into the cells of the hive's walls.)
Exploring the world for the first time outside the hive, BBB discovers how humans live in the Big City, after being stuck to a tennis ball during a frenzied game! Soon, he befriends the human florist, Vanessa (Renee Zellweger) Bloome who has saved him from being squatted into extinction. Tea, cookies and conversation with Vanessa lead him to discover how the human race exploits his species for the honey.
Made naturally by bees for their own nourishment, honey has been used by humans since ancient times both as a food and as a medicine. Laughter is the best medicine, but it's no laughing matter for the poor bees whose honey is extracted (or stolen) by beekeepers. Now, there's plenty of humour honeycombing the main plot - puny bees suing humans for stealing and selling honey - reminding your columnist of us Indians suing some Westerners over their attempts to patent turmeric properties, yoga and even palm off their (inferior) rice as Basmati.
In a way, we are all honey-chors, whose of us who consume nature's nutritive sweeteners not to speak of the beekeepers, unless of course, we are part of a culture that has a sustainable (i.e., thousands of years old) tradition of respectfully gathering honey like that found in the Malaysian rainforest where honey hunters climb 100 foot trees to take honey from the giant Apis dorsata. In the US and Canada, bees are bred commercially for their abilities to pollinate crops-90 different farm-grown foods.
Of late, the USA's National Honey Board and closer home, Dabur Foods which has 40 % of the market share, have been extolling the virtues of honey, since it contains trace of enzymes, minerals, amino acids and vitamins like calcium and iron. Research also indicates that honey is useful as an antimicrobial agent and antioxidant if consumed daily. Honey is known to aid the process of healing wounds. Eating honey is said to help reduce allergies, bee venom is advocated for multiple sclerosis and pollen is said to be more nutritious than some foods when eaten in comparable quantities. And then, there's royal jelly( the queen bee's food.) A wide variety of medicinal, therapeutic and cosmetic properties have been attributed to royal jelly over the years. But there are those who insist honey is basically just sugar minus complex carbohydrates and that the amino acids present have virtually no nutritional value. They also say that the enzymes present in honey are likely to have been deactivated during the heating that honey undergoes during processing.
HI FI SPIRITS
Everybody chuckled when the Bee Movie soundtrack wafted The Archies' superhit, "Sugar, Ahh, Honey, Honey". Which reminds me of skokiaan, a South African song named for a Zulu tribal drink. Skokiaan actually is a type of moonshine or illegal alcoholic beverage typically brewed over one day that may contain dangerous ingredients, such as methylated spirits. At least eight different hit versions of the song have been released, six in 1954 including one by the great Louis Armstrong who would perform in Bombay.
It was originally written in 1947 in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) by musician August Msarurgwa who recorded the instrumental composition in the tsaba-tsaba big band style that succeeded marabi. Tsaba tsaba was the dance at the time of the American Jitterbug, known locally as 'jive', while marabi, regularly performed at shebeens, was the defining music of urban ghettoes in South Africa.
What's a shebeen you may well ask. It's a Gaelic word for "little shop," coined by Irish policemen in Cape Town, for illegal establishments which sold alcohol (in various home-brewed forms, known as "utshwala" or "kaffir beer"; as well as the more colloquial "isikilimikwiki," or "kill me quick") to black South Africans.
Early in the 20th century, the South African government attempted to control access to beer by monopolising the product and stipulating that it could only be consumed in municipal beer halls. Shebeens, often held in black homes and usually sponsored by women ( a bit like the Prohibition era bars run by Dhobitalao aunties ) were the underground answer to this and similar decrees. Unlike the Bombay bars which were strictly desi booze and snack joints, the shebeens featured music, theatre and dancing and were a frequent site of underground political activity.
HIGH ON THAI
Thailand caters to the vacation needs of cosmopolitan Indians by offering a multi-faceted destination experience. Indian visitors in Thailand crossed 308,495 arrivals by July 2007. To further strengthen its position in the Indian market, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) kicked off a multi-city travel roadshow in the Yuletide in Kolkata, Hyderabad and Chennai. Led by Prakit Piriyakiet, Executive Director, South Asia and South Pacific Region, TAT representatives emphasised its rich culture & heritage, exquisite beach resorts, water and adventure sports, eco-tourism and wellness. Chattan Kunjara Na Ayudhya, Director, TAT's New Delhi Office, said " We will also explore cross-branding opportunities in key cities to increase the level of interest in Thailand..."
Not a word about Tom yam gung aka Thai cuisine, which is greatly influenced by India, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia and China. Rice is a staple component of Thai food, as it is of most Asian cuisines. Thai food is also known for its use of fish sauce and coconut milk, as well as fresh herbs like ginger (galangal) turmeric and lemon grass. So you can see why us coastal peoples have an affinity for Thai food. But why only us! Discerning foodies equally relish Thai delicacies if the success of Thai eateries in India and the world, are anything to go by. Me, I could get high on Thai!
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