August 22, 2014

An Exploration of Port Wine, its History and Terrior...

To me, there is no better after dinner apéritif than a good Port and I have been a fan for quite some time. The older and dryer the better. Elegant yet bold, a good glass of Port, Porto, or whichever moniker you prefer, is the perfect ending to a great meal. Come with me on an exploration of Port Wine, its history and its terrior.

Douro Valley
Portuguese, fortified wine from the Douro Valley, Port wine, also known as Vinho do Porto, Oporto, Porto and often simply Port, is made in the northern provinces of Portugal and is produced from grapes grown and processed in the Douro region. It is typically richer, sweeter, heavier and possesses a higher alcohol content than most other wines and it is  is commonly served after meals as a dessert wine, often with cheese; commonly Stilton, or a heavy Bleu. White and tawny Ports are often served as an apéritif and it is typically a sweet wine, but also comes as a dry or semi-dry as well. Wines in the style of the Portuguese product called Port are also produced in Australia, South Africa, India, Canada, Argentina, as well as the United States, but European Union guidelines are quite clear that only the product that actually comes from Portugal may be called and labeled as Port. In the United States, federal law states that the Portuguese-made product be labeled Porto or Vinho do Porto.

 A rabelos; flat bottom boat
The wine received its name, Port, from the seaport city of Porto, at the mouth of the Douro River, where much of the product was brought to market or for export to other countries in Europe from the Leixões docks in the latter half of the 17th century. The Douro Valley was defined and established as a protected region, or appellation in 1756 making it the oldest defined and protected wine region in the world. Traditionally, the wine was taken downriver in flat-bottom boats called rabelos, to be stored in barrels in cellars in Vila Nova de Gaia, just across the river from Porto. During the 1950s and 1960s, several hydroelectric power dams were built along the river, ending this traditional conveyance down the river and currently, the wine is transported from the vineyards by tanker trucks.

Port, from Portugal, comes in several styles, which can be divided into two broad categories:
  • Wines that are matured in sealed tanks or bottles with no exposure to air experiencing what is known as reductive aging. This process leads to the wine losing its color very slowly, producing a wine which is smoother on the palate and less tannic.
  • Wines that are matured in wooden barrels, whose permeability allows a small amount of exposure to oxygen experiencing what is known as oxidative aging. They also lose color, but at a faster pace. If red grapes are used, in time the red color lightens to a tawny color obviously the origin of the descriptor, tawny. They also lose volume to evaporation, leaving behind a wine that is slightly more viscous and intense. As a result, they gradually mellow to a golden-brown color. The exposure to wood imparts nutty flavors to the wine, which is blended to match the particular house style.
Types of Port

Ruby Port
Ruby Port is a blend from several harvests, different years and different quintas. It spends a minimum of two years in very large vats before being bottled. The large vats minimize the amount of air that comes in contact with the wine, which reduces oxidization so the wine retains its bright red hue. Ready to drink when it is bottled, it has a rich red color and a full fruity taste. It is the cheapest and most extensively produced type of Port. The wine is usually blended to match the style of the brand to which it is to be sold. The wine is fined and cold filtered before bottling and does not generally improve with age.

Tawny Port
A Tawny Port is also a blend from several harvests, but is aged for two to seven years in casks. The smaller storage vessels allow more oxidization than the vats used for Ruby Ports and it is also ready to drink as soon as it is bottled. As its name implies, Tawny port has a deep mahogany color, with a drier and nuttier taste.

Aged Tawny Port
Aged Tawny is the best Tawny Port. It can have an age of 10, 20, 30 or more than 40 years. The age will be indicated on the label and describes the average age of the wines in the blend. In a twenty year old aged Tawny, there may be some 100 year old Ports  added, to give more complexity to the wine. Aged Tawny port has a refined, subtle taste.

Colheita Port
A Colheita (pronounced "call yay ta" which means "harvest") is a Tawny Port made with grapes from a single harvest. It is aged at least seven years in casks, or, in wood, but is usually aged much longer. Some Port wine houses have Colheitas for almost every year, dating back to the past two centuries.

White Port
White Ports have a lighter taste and vary from quite sweet to very dry. The sweetest are called lagrima. White Port is made from white grapes, and should always be served cool or cold. It can be used as the basis for a cocktail, or served on its own. There is a range of styles of white Port, from dry to very sweet. These wines are made from a blend white grapes from different vineyards and different quintas and may have a small amount of juice from red grapes. The wine spends two to three years in casks and is ready to drink when it is bottled. White port is usually served as an aperitif and makes a very tasty and refreshing drink called a Port Splash or Portonic (mix of half White Port, half tonic water, ice and a twist of lemon)

Crusted Port
Crusted Port is a type of Ruby and spends three years in a cask, but most of its aging is in a bottle. It is a blend of wines from several different years and gets its name from the sediment that appears in the bottle as the wine ages, since the wine is not filtered. This crust is mainly tiny pieces of grape skin plus bits of seed and stems that settle in the lowest part of the bottle. Sediment does not taste or feel good so the Port must be decanted.

Vintage Character
Vintage Character Port is a higher quality Ruby blend of port wines that ages four to six years in the cask - "in wood". It is filtered to remove any sediment then bottled. Vintage Character is a full-bodied, fruity wine.

Single Quinta Port
Single-Quinta Ports are made with wine from one vineyard. They may be Tawny or Vintage styles. After aging two years in wood, they are bottled and spend from 5 to 50 years maturing. The label will indicate the Vintage year and bottling date. Single quinta Port has a complex and refined taste.

Late Bottled Vintage Port

Late-Bottled Vintage port (LBV) is made from grapes grown in a single year. The Port is aged four to six years in wood before bottling. The label will indicate the Vintage and bottling date. The LBV port is ready to drink earlier than Vintage port and when labeled Traditional, it may have some sediment. For this reason, L.B.V Traditional Ports, like Vintage Ports, needs decanting.

Vintage Port
Vintage Port comes from a single harvest of exceptional quality and is bottled after two years in wood. The wine then spends many years aging in the bottle (in glass) and the label will show the year of the Vintage and the year the wine was bottled. This is one of the most sought-after and rare wines in the world, From 1901 to 1999, only fourteen Port Vintages have been declared.

Although it accounts for only about two percent of production, Vintage Port is the flagship wine of all Portugal. It is made entirely from the grapes of a declared vintage year. Not every year is declared a vintage in the Douro; only being declared when conditions are favorable to the production of a fine and lasting wine. The decision to declare a vintage is made by each individual Port House, often referred to as a 'shipper'. The Port industry is one where reputations are hard won and easily lost, so the decision is never taken lightly. During periods of recession and war, potential 'declarations' have sometimes been missed for economic reasons. In recent years, some shippers have adopted the 'chateau' principle for declarations, declaring all but the worst years. More conventional shippers will declare, on average, about three times a decade.

While it is by far the most renowned type of Porto, from a volume and revenue standpoint, Vintage Port actually makes up only a small percentage of the production of most shippers. Vintage Ports are aged in barrels for a maximum of two and a half years before bottling and generally require another ten to thirty years of aging in the bottle before reaching what is considered a proper drinking age. Since they are aged in barrels for only a short time, they retain their dark ruby color and fresh fruit flavors. Particularly fine Vintage Ports can continue to gain complexity and drink wonderfully for many decades after they were bottled and therefore can be particularly sought-after and expensive wines. That said, compared with the very high prices of Bordeaux wines, vintage ports, even from the best years (at least from smaller concerns) are still affordable, albeit for many only for special occasions. Wine dealers, specializing in fine wines in the United Kingdom have, for example, excellent examples (some over twenty years old) at around $51, with the very best starting at around $122 per bottle (2008 prices) or even less. Examples of the famed 1963 vintage are available at time of writing for $145 (Cockburns 1963, bottle, duty paid). Similar classics from Bordeaux and Burgundy are sold in the hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars, even for recent vintages. The situation in the United States is much the same.

Batalha Monastery
The History of Port
Bridges and roads built by Roman soldiers in Portugal are still used today and Roman officers often wrote about wine from the Douro Valley region, so we know its history goes back at least two thousand years. The commercial production of Port Wine is much more recent. In 1678, two English merchants traveling through Portugal stayed one night at a monastery in Lamego. At dinner, they enjoyed a wine they had never tasted before. This may well have been the first taste of port by the English and the two merchants quickly realized the wine's export potential. There are many other stories about the origins of Port Wine but this is the one most accepted. It is interesting to note that in the 17th Century, not even the people in the country's capital Lisbon, about 300 kilometres away, knew much about the wine produced in the Douro Valley.

By the 18th Century, the English completely dominated the Port Trade and demand for the product during the Napoleonic Wars was very high, because French wine was not available. The English involvement explains why so many of the terms relating to the wine, its organizations, labels and producing company names are not Portuguese.

Baron de Forrester
One of the most controversial Englishmen in the history of Port was Joseph James Forrester, a man of many many accomplishments. Baron de Forrester was a successful wine merchant who felt the adding of grape spirits to the wine to stop its fermentation was an adulteration (In fact, unscrupulous producers of the time often added questionable liquids to increase their profits, including ox blood). In addition to stopping such additions, the baron wanted Portugal's wines to be fermented completely, as the country's exceptional table wines are today.

He spent two years surveying the Douro Valley, drawing extraordinarily detailed maps of the region. He lived aboard a kind of boat designed specifically for travel on this fast-moving river called a barco rabelo. Ironically, he drowned when his boat overturned in one of the rapids. He was wearing a money belt filled with gold coins to pay his workers, which weighed him down and his body was never recovered.

As the Port trade grew and became more lucrative, the King of Portugal took steps to regain control from the English in the late 18th century. He sent his Minister, the Marquês de Pombal, to lay out the grape growing area of the Douro. Many original demarcation posts still stand because they were made of the natural rock of the Douro called schist. This is the very first demarcated wine region in the world.

Dona Ferreira
After that, Portuguese nobility moved into the Port trade. One of the most remarkable was Dona Antonia Adelaide Ferreira who owned many properties in the Douro Valley in the nine tenth century. Not only was she a "mere" woman in a business dominated by men, she was a widow, with a young daughter, but despite the challenges she faced, Ferreira worked hard and prospered.

Port became very popular in England after the Methuen Treaty of 1703, when merchants were permitted to import it at a low duty, while war with France deprived English wine drinkers of French wine. The long trip to England often resulted in spoiled wine; the fortification of the wine was introduced to improve the shipping and shelf-life of the wine for its journey. The continued English involvement in the Port trade can be seen in the names of many port shippers: Cockburn, Croft, Dow, Graham, Osborne, Sandeman, Taylor and Warre being amongst the best known. Shippers of Dutch and German origin are also prominent, such as Niepoort and Burmester.

The Proper Way To Enjoy Port

Hoggett Decanter
There is a unique body of English ritual and etiquette surrounding the consumption of Port, stemming from British naval custom. Traditionally, the wine is passed "port to port": the host will pour a glass for the person seated at their right and then pass the bottle or decanter to the left (the port side); this practice is then repeated around the table. If the Port becomes forestalled at some point, it is considered poor form to ask for the decanter directly. Instead, the person seeking a refill would ask of the person who has the bottle: "Do you know the Bishop of Norwich?" (after the notoriously stingy Bishop). If the person being thus queried does not know the ritual (and so replies in the negative), the querent will remark "He's an awfully nice fellow, but he never remembers to pass the Port." A technical solution to the potential problem of a guest forgetting their manners and "hogging" the port can be found in a Hoggett Decanter, which has a rounded bottom and makes it impossible to put it down until it has been returned to the host, who can rest it in a specially designed wooden stand known as "the Hoggett." In other old English traditions, when Port is decanted, commonly at the dining table, the whole bottle should be finished in one sitting by the diners and the table should not be vacated until this is done. Now that is my kind of tradition.

Storing
Port, like other wine, should be stored in a cool, but not cold, dark location (as light can damage the port), with a steady temperature, laying the bottle on its side if the bottle has a cork, or standing up if stoppered. By storing with the label up, you can identify the Port without disturbing the bottle. More importantly, however, any sediment in the port collects in the lowest part of the bottle. When you pick the wine up, carry and decant it, you should hold the bottle in the same position with the label up. This insures that the sediment will stay in the same place and you can pour the Port off it more easily. Once opened, Port wines must be consumed within a short period of time. (another rule I like, lol) Those with stoppers can be kept for a couple of months in a dark place, but if it has a cork, it must be consumed sooner. Typically, the older the vintage, the quicker it must you must drink it.

Port wines that are unfiltered (Such as Vintage ports, Crusted and some LBVs), form a sediment (or crust) in the bottle and require decanting. This process also allows the port to breathe; however, how long before serving is dependent on the age of the port (particularly in the case of Vintage Ports, which, once decanted are recommended to be consumed within 3-4 days.)

Porto, Portugal, The Region
Porto, Portugal
Porto lies just to the north of a coastal Mediterranean climate zone that encompasses most of central and southern Portugal. As a result, its climate shares many characteristics with the coastal south: temperate dry summers and mild rainy winters. Unlike the south, however, cool and rainy interludes can interrupt the summer dry season and the season's average length is considerably shorter. Also, the city's more northern position and coastal location off the Atlantic often results in notably cooler weather in Porto than to its south, especially during summer. The city is located in the estuary of the Douro river in northern Portugal. The largest city in the region, Porto is considered the economic and cultural heart of the entire region.

City of Port, Portugal
Porto is well known for its enterprising spirit, characteristic culture, people, and local cuisine. It is one of the most industrialized districts in Portugal, and Maia, one of Porto's satellite cities, has one of the largest industrial parks in the country.

In the 14th and the 15th centuries, the shipyards of Porto contributed to the development of the Portuguese fleet. In 1415, Henry the Navigator, son of João I, left from Porto to conquest the Muslim port of Ceuta in northern Morocco. This expedition led to the exploratory voyages that he later sent down the coast of Africa. Portuenses are referred to this day as tripeiros, in reference to the fact that higher quality meat would be loaded onto ships to feed sailors, while off-cuts and by-products such as tripe would be left behind and eaten by the citizens of Porto. Tripe remains a culturally important dish in modern day Porto.

Wine, produced in the Douro valley, was already in the 13th century, transported to Porto in barcos rabelos (flat sailing vessels). In 1703 the Methuen Treaty established the trade relations between Portugal and England. It allowed English woolen cloth to be admitted into Portugal free of duty. In return, Portuguese wines imported into England would be subject to a third less duty in contrast to French imported wines. This was particularly important with regards to the Port industry.

As England was at war with France it became increasingly difficult to acquire wine and so Port started to become a popular replacement. In 1717 a first English trading post was established in Porto. The production of Port wine then gradually passed into the hands of a few English firms. To counter this English dominance, prime minister Marquis of Pombal established a Portuguese firm receiving the monopoly of the wines from the Douro valley. He demarcated the region for production of port, to ensure the wine's quality; his was the first attempt to control wine quality and production in Europe. The small winegrowers revolted against his strict policies on Shrove Tuesday, burning down the buildings of this firm. The revolt was called Revolta dos Borrachos (revolt of the drunks) and became a symbol of the freedom spirit of the inhabitants of Porto.

This year The Center, a Washington D.C.-based organization founded in 2005 by the wine growing regions of Porto, Portugal and Champagne, France, announced on January 27th the first-ever International Port Day. This inaugural event is an effort to remind consumers about the importance of the fortified wine.

Here are a few recommendations from  Wine Enthusiast Magazine for you to try:

94 Fonseca 2004 Quinta do Panascal Vintage Port
In the Fonseca tradition, this is a hugely rich wine, very dense. It is not all weight, with excellently integrated firm tannins and a range of complex flavors, from nuts and berry fruits to full frontal ripeness. There is some dryness to finish.
abv: 20% Price: $49

A powerhouse, but one that shows a certain degree of lushness to its robust blackberry and mint flavors. Finishes long and minerally, bolstered by slightly drying tannins. Should be more approachable by 2015 and last for three decades beyond that. Premium Port Wines Inc.
abv: NA% Price: $80

Aged for around 30 years in wood, this wine has gained the most delicious toffee character to go with the old gold feel and wood acidity. There is a lovely rounded character, so smooth as well as intense. The Port is bottled ready to drink. Maisons Marques & Domaines USA.
abv: 19.5% Price: $110

91 Wiese & Krohn NV 20 Anos Tawny Port
With a 20-year-old aged tawny, you find a marvelous balance between fruit and extreme concentration. So burnt wood-aged flavors and acidity play with raisins, black figs to give a sweet wine with a hint of dryness. Ready to drink. Megawine Inc.
abv: 20.5%  Price: $60

I hope this little journey has whet your appetite to try Port wines. I have found that the more I know about a product, be it food, wine or otherwise, the more I find I enjoy its nuances and specialties. My goal is that these articles do the same for you. So do yourself a favor and discover the joys of drinking port for yourself. You'll be glad you did.

As always Bon Appetit,

Lou
en.wikipedia.org, FreeDigitalPhotos.net winecommune.com Wine Enthusiast Magazine

August 21, 2014

Long Form vs. Short Form Content, which is right for your business? The answer is both!

In today's ever changing search engine algorithm Internet and fast paced society, getting information to your target audience or customer in the right format is becoming harder and harder for small to mid-sized businesses to figure out. One social media expert or article says short form, yet another says long form! It can be quite confusing to a marketing department head. Who do you listen to? My answer is both are correct.

Content marketing expert Bill Belew says long form content is only to be used judiciously, under the right circumstances. “Posting quality, bite-sized (short-form) articles multiple times a day versus once a day produced more than 10 times the organic search results.” says Belew. While that may be the case, I say it depends on the audience and target market for your organization or product, so it's important do the due diligence first to make sure that you are not wasting resources creating something that does not appeal to your target market. And, with the search engine algorithms like Google Panda lowering the rank of "low quality or thin sites," and returning higher quality, more meaty sites near the top of the search results, long form content should definitely be a part of your messaging strategy.

In many cases both strategies need to work hand in hand, complimenting each other. So first, let's define each and see where and how it may fit into the overall messaging of your organization.

Short Term Content
The primary purpose of short-form content is to drive traffic and build brand awareness. Examples of short-form content include posts on social media platforms such as Twitter , FaceBook, Pinterest, YouTube, LinkedIn, Vine, etc. Effective short term content is created and consumed quickly and produced frequently and consistently. Short form content is used to engage and grab the attention of your target audience. It does not, however, provide the necessary in-depth information your potential customer will need to make the decision to buy your product or service. If the majority of your readers are short for time due to busy schedules, time constraints, or intensive work hours, then short form is the way to go as you can get them the pertinent info they may need to hear, quickly and efficiently. In most cases, if done right, this audience will access the long form content at a later date or time, garnering the information you need them to have in order to 'convert' them into a client or customer.

The downside of short form content is that it has a high turnover rate and its virtual life is limited to a short period of time. Savvy social media/content managers understand this however and overcome this aspect by making sure this content is constantly and consistently produced, at the right times, in order to maximize its exposure to the largest percentage of your audience possible.

Long-Form Content
The purpose of long-form content is to provide detailed information specific to your and your 'prospect or customers field of interest. It is often consumed by members of your target audience, especially professionals that are already interested in your area of expertise, products or the solutions you represent. This interest is often instigated by the short-form content you produce. Examples of long-form content include longer blog posts, articles, white papers and e-books. Long form strategy works, but it should be engaging, informative, helpful and interspersed occasionally.

The downside to long form content is that in today's fast paced society, you may lose a percentage of your target audience simply due to time constraints. Again, the savvy social media/content manager knows this and can over come this obstacle by producing, quality, fun, easy to access and easy to read content that compels the reader to 'make the time' because the content gives them the information or solutions that are pertinent and important to their lives, businesses or professions.

So you see, both are important but, they play different roles in your messaging strategy. Short form content should be the conduit to your long form content. Balance in everything is always key.

Just food for thought...

Lou

July 07, 2014

Mango & Pineapple Soup

An absolutely refreshing recipe, fantastic for summer. Lite and full of flavor, this recipe takes your fruit course outside the box and to the next level. Best yet, you can simply use this recipe as a guide, substituting fruit or adding it and many other ingredient combinations, such as coconut, or cloves. Be as creative as your palate desires and don't be afraid to experiment. A favorite with party guests, you can serve it in a wine glass, using the cinnamon stick as a swizzle stick. Makes for an classy and unique presentation. Enjoy

Mango & Pineapple Soup

Ingredients
Soup
1 fresh mango peeled and cubed
1 c simple syrup*
*Simple syrup
1 cup of sugar
1 ½ cup of water
Add sugar to water and bring it to boil and you have simple syrup.

Method for soup

Place mango into a blender and gradually add syrup, making sure to test for sweetness. Once you achieve the desired sweetness, set aside and prepare the curd.

Mango and Pineapple Curd
Ingredients
1 ½ cup mango
1 ½ cups pineapple juice
8 oz sugar
6 eggs
3 oz egg yolks
1/2 oz or 6 sheets of gelatin
12 oz butter


Method
Note: You must continue to whip the mixture from the start to finish. Whip until smooth and all the air bubbles have been removed. Continue to whip for two minutes more. Mixture should be creamy and smooth.
In the top of a double boiler, dissolve the gelatin in the mango & pineapple juice. Once the water is boiling, add the sugar, eggs, yolks and butter and stir until melted. Pour into molds and freeze.

Cinnamon sticks

Ingredients
1 sheet of puff pastry
cinnamon sugar

Method
Preheat to 375 F
Brush some water on the puff pastry sheet and sprinkle with cinnamon, then cut into a sticks. Bake 10-15 minutes.

To Plate
Using a bowl or a plate with some depth to it, pour some of the soup mix into the bowl or plate. Un-mold the mango and pineapple curd and place in the center. Slice some strawberries and place around the mango and pineapple curd to give it some color. If you choose to, you can add some other fruit to the soup as well. Garnish with the sticks and serve.


Bon Appetit,

Lou

June 28, 2014

Coffee A-Z: The Legend of Kaldi and the Dancing Goats

Long ago, in what is now called Ethiopia, a young goat-herder named Kaldi awoke one morning to discover his goats missing. As one cannot be a goat-herder without goats, Kaldi immediately set off to search the hillsides for his wayward flock. Beneath the hot sun, an exhausted Kaldi looked high and low when, much to his surprise, he stumbled upon his goats frolicking about each other as if dancing. Shocked and tired, the young man gazed in awe at the capricious dance. Slowly, Kaldi returned from his wonderment and noticed some of the goats eating the red fruit of a nearby shrub. Having searched all day Kaldi was tired, but he was also very hungry as well. Without thought he began walking toward the fruit. "Yet, what if this fruit was the cause of his heretofore halcyon goats' boisterous behavior?" Kaldi paused. Then again, he mulled, "What if the goats only appear to be dancing because of my extraordinary hunger?" Throwing caution to the wind, Kaldi joined the goats' feast.

Sometime later, a monk from a local monastery passed nearby the same hill. Hearing a great and raucous clamor the imam investigated. "I am over tired and have fallen asleep at prayer again, for surely I must be dreaming!" thought the imam, for before him danced a local goat-herder and his goats. The imam rubbed his eyes, but the merry dancers remained. He pinched himself, yet still the boy and his goats spun, jumped, and whirled. Aghast, the imam pulled Kaldi away and demanded an explanation for such bizarre behavior. After many questions the imam deduced that this energetic glee must have at its root the red fruit growing about them. Seeking greater understanding, he gathered some for further testing at his monastery. It was there he at last sampled the cherry himself and became infused with a great joie de vivre. That night, the imam spent more hours at prayer than ever before. "This is no ordinary fruit!" exclaimed the imam. Realizing the spiritual value of such a gift, he shared it so that all his fellow monks would remain energetic and pray with greater fervor.

And so the legend goes. Today, coffee has become the second most valuable commodity in the world after oil and 125 million people today depend on coffee for their livelihood. The World Bank estimates that nearly 500 million people are involved in the business, if you include all of the ancillary industries that provide their wares to the coffee consumer. Coffee has become big business, and with the recent explosion in coffeehouses around the world, it shows no sign of slowing down.

I will admit, this topic for me was a complete no brainer. As I sit writing this, a hot, steaming cup sits on the desk invigorating me with its aroma. I will also admit that I probably overdo my consumption of the ancient elixir. I drink it all day, in fact, I am rarely without a full cup when working here in the office. One thing, dear reader, I can guarantee. My java predilection will result in an informative, fun and quite thorough look into the world of coffee. I must pause here....I could swear that I just saw a mustachioed gentleman in a sombrero and leading a donkey just pass by the office window. Hmmm...oh well, I digress. Must have been my imagination. Let us begin...

History
The history of coffee has been recorded as far back as the ninth century. At first, coffee remained largely confined to Ethiopia, where its native beans were first cultivated by Ethiopian highlanders. However, the Arab world began expanding its trade horizons, and the beans moved into northern Africa and were mass-cultivated. From there, the beans entered the Indian and European markets, and the popularity of the beverage spread.

The word "coffee" entered the English lexicon in 1598 via Italian caffè. This word was created via Turkish kahve, which in turn came into being via Arabic qahwa, a truncation of qahhwat al-bun or wine of the bean. Islam prohibits the use of alcohol as a beverage and coffee provided a suitable alternative to wine. The earliest mention of coffee may be a reference to Bunchum in the works of the 10th century CE Persian physician Razi, but more definite information on the preparation of a beverage from roasted coffee berries dates from several centuries later.

The most important of the early writers on coffee was Abd al-Qadir al-Jaziri, who in 1587 compiled a work tracing the history and legal controversies of coffee entitled Umdat al safwa fi hill al-qahwa. (glad I had to type that and not say it) He reported that one Sheikh, Jamal-al-Din al-Dhabhani, mufti of Aden, was the first to adopt the use of coffee (circa 1454). Coffee's usefulness in driving away sleep made it popular among Sufis. A translation traces the spread of coffee from Arabia Felix (the present day Yemen), northward to Mecca and Medina and then to the larger cities of Cairo, Damascus, Baghdad and Istanbul.

Mehmet Ebussuud el-İmadi
Coffee beans were first exported from Ethiopia to Yemen. Yemeni traders brought coffee back to their homeland and began to cultivate the bean. The first coffee house was Kiva Han, which opened in Istanbul in 1471. Coffee was at first not well received. In 1511, it was forbidden for its stimulating effect by conservative, orthodox imams at a theological court in Mecca. However, the popularity of the drink led these bans to be overturned in 1524 by an order of the Ottoman Turkish Sultan Selim I, with Grand Mufti Mehmet Ebussuud el-İmadi issuing a celebrated fatwa allowing the consumption of coffee. In Cairo, Egypt, a similar ban was instituted in 1532, and the coffeehouses and warehouses containing coffee beans were sacked.

Similarly, coffee was banned by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church some time before the 17th century. However, in the second half of the 19th century, Ethiopian attitudes softened towards coffee drinking, and its consumption spread rapidly between 1880 and 1886; according to Richard Pankhurst, "this was largely due to Emperor Menelek , who himself drank it and to Abuna Matewos, who did much to dispel the belief of the clergy that it was a Muslim drink."

How coffee came to Europe

Cafe Florian, Venice
Italy
Coffee was first imported to Italy. At that time, trade between the Italian city of Venice and the Muslims in North Africa, Egypt and the East brought a large variety of African goods, including coffee, to this leading European port. Venetian merchants, always looking toward higher profits, decided to introduce coffee to the wealthy in Venice, charging them heavily for the beverage. It really became a sought after beverage when it was "baptized" by Pope Clement VIII in 1600, despite appeals to ban the 'Muslim' drink. The first European coffee house (apart from those in the Ottoman Empire, mentioned above) was opened in Italy in 1645.

England
The drink then found its way to England largely through the efforts of the British East India Company and the Dutch East India Company. The first coffee-house in England was opened in St. Michael's Alley in Cornhill. The proprietor, Pasqua Rosée was the servant of Daniel Edwards, a trader in Turkish goods. Edwards imported the coffee and assisted Rosée in setting up the establishment. The popularity of coffeehouses spread rapidly and by 1675, there were more than 3,000 coffeehouses in England.

France
Thevenot
Antoine Galland (1646-1715) described the Muslim association with coffee, tea and chocolate: "We are indebted to these great [Arab] physicians for introducing coffee to the modern world through their writings, as well as sugar, tea, and chocolate." Galland reported that he was informed by Mr. de la Croix, the interpreter of King Louis XIV of France, that coffee was brought to Paris by a certain Mr. Thevenot, who had traveled through the East. On his return to that city in 1657, Thevenot gave some of the beans to his friends, one of whom was de la Croix. In 1669, Soleiman Agha, Ambassador from Sultan Mehmed IV, arrived in Paris with his entourage bringing with him a large quantity of coffee beans. Not only did they provide their French and European guests with coffee to drink, but they also donated some beans to the royal court. Between July 1669 and May 1670, the Ambassador managed to firmly establish the custom of drinking coffee among Parisians.

Austria
The first coffee-house in Austria opened in Vienna in 1683 after the Battle of Vienna, by using supplies from the spoils obtained after defeating the Turks. The officer who received the coffee beans, Polish military officer of Ukrainian origin, Jerzy Franciszek Kulczycki, opened the coffee house and helped popularize the custom of adding sugar and milk. Until recently, this was celebrated in Viennese coffee-houses by hanging a picture of Kulczycki in the window. Melange is the typical Viennese coffee, which comes mixed with hot foamed milk and a glass of water.

Holland
The race among Europeans to make off with some live coffee trees or beans was eventually won by the Dutch in the late 17th century, when they allied with the natives of Kerala against the Portuguese and brought some live plants back from Malabar to Holland, where they were grown in greenhouses. The Dutch began growing coffee at their forts in Malabar, India, and in 1699 took some to Batavia in Java, in what is now Indonesia. Within a few years the Dutch colonies (Java in Asia, Surinam in Americas) had become the main suppliers of coffee to Europe. Today, coffeehouses in Holland are synonymous with not only coffee berries, but cannabis "buds" as well. *-)

The Caribbean and the Americas
Chevalier Gabriel Mathiew de Clieu brought sprouts from the Noble Tree to Martinique in the Caribbean circa 1714. Those sprouts flourished and 50 years later there were 18,680 coffee trees in Martinique enabling the spread of coffee cultivation to Haiti, Mexico and other islands of the Caribbean. The Noble Tree also found its way to the island of Réunion in the Indian Ocean known as the Isle of Bourbon. The plant produced smaller beans and was deemed a different variety of Arabica known as var. Bourbon. The infamous Santos coffee of Brazil and the Oaxaca coffee of Mexico are the progeny of that Bourbon tree.

In 1727, the Emperor of Brazil sent Francisco de Mello Palheta to French Guinea to obtain coffee seeds to become a part of the coffee market. Francisco initially had difficulty obtaining these seeds yet he captivated the French Governor's wife and she in turn, sent him enough seeds and shoots which would commence the coffee industry of Brazil. In 1893, the coffee from Brazil was introduced into Kenya and Tanzania (Tanganyika), not far from its place of origin in Ethiopia, 600 years prior, ending its transcontinental journey.

Production
For many decades in the 19th and early 20th centuries, Brazil was the biggest producer of coffee and a virtual monopolist in the trade. However, a policy of maintaining high prices soon opened opportunities to other nations, such as Colombia, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Indonesia and Vietnam, now second only to Brazil as the major coffee producer in the world. Large-scale production in Vietnam began following normalization of trade relations with the US in 1995. Nearly all of the coffee grown there is Robusta. Despite the origins of coffee cultivation in Ethiopia, that country produced only a small amount for export until the Twentieth Century, and much of that not from the south of the country but from the environs of Harar in the northeast.

The Kingdom of Kaffa, home of the plant, was estimated to produce between 50,000 and 60,000 kilograms of coffee beans in the 1880s. Commercial production effectively began in 1907 with the founding of the inland port of Gambela, and greatly increased afterwards: 100,000 kilograms of coffee was exported from Gambela in 1908, while in 1927-8 over 4 million kilograms passed through that port. Coffee plantations were also developed in Arsi Province at the same time, and were eventually exported by means of the Addis Ababa - Djibouti Railway. While only 245,000 kilograms were freighted by the Railway, this amount jumped to 2,240,000 kilograms by 1922, surpassed exports of "Harari" coffee by 1925, and reached 9,260,000 kilograms in 1936.

Australia is a minor coffee producer, with little product for export, but its coffee history goes back to 1880 when the first of 500 acres began to be developed in an area between northern New South Wales and Cooktown. Today there are several producers of Arabica coffee in Australia that use a mechanical harvesting system invented in 1981.

Biology
Coffea (coffee) is a large genus (containing more than 90 species) of flowering plants in the family Rubiaceae. They are shrubs or small trees, native to subtropical Africa and southern Asia. After their outer hull is removed, the seeds are commonly called "beans." Coffee beans are widely cultivated in tropical and sub-tropical countries on plantations, for both local consumption and export to every other country in the world. Coffee ranks as one of the world's most valuable and widely traded commodity crops and is an important export of a number of countries.

When grown in the tropics, coffee is a vigorous bush or small tree which usually grows to a height of 3–3.5 m (10–12 feet). Most commonly cultivated coffee species grow best at high elevations. Although they are hardy and capable of withstanding severe pruning, they are nevertheless not very tolerant of sub-freezing temperatures and hence cannot be grown in temperate climate zones. To produce a maximum yield of coffee berries the plants need substantial amounts of water and fertilizer. Since they grow best in alkaline soils, calcium carbonate and other lime minerals are sometimes used to reduce acidity in the soil, which can occur due to run off of minerals from the soil in mountainous areas. The caffeine in coffee "beans" is a natural defense: a toxic substance which repels many creatures that would otherwise eat the seeds - as with the nicotine in tobacco leaves.

Arabian Coffee
This is the quintessential coffee of the world. Arabia lends its name to the highest quality coffee plant in the world, Coffea Arabica. This coffee accounts for about 80% of all coffee produced in the world. It prefers higher elevations and drier climates than its cousin C. Robusta.

The tropics of South America provide ideal conditions for growing Arabian Coffee, which grows best between 3,000 and 6,500 feet but has been grown as high as 9,000 feet. Generally, the higher the plant is grown the slower it matures. This gives it time to develop the internal elements and oils that give coffee its aromatic flavor. It is said that all the Arabica Coffee grown in the world started from this plant as cuttings were transplanted all over the world. Coffee from Arabia is truly the source of all coffee throughout the world.

There are several species of coffee that may be grown for the beans, but Coffea arabica is considered by many, to have the best overall flavor and quality. The other species (especially Coffea canephora (var. robusta)) are usually grown on land unsuitable for Coffea arabica. The tree produces red or purple fruits (drupes), which contain two seeds (the "coffee beans", which — despite their name — are not true beans, which are the seeds of the legume family). In about 5-10% of any crop of coffee cherries, the cherry will contain only a single bean, rather than the two usually found. This is called a 'peaberry', which is smaller and rounder than a normal coffee bean. It is often removed from the yield and either sold separately, (as in New Guinea Peaberry) or discarded.

The tree of Coffea arabica will grow fruits after 3 – 5 years and will produce for about 50 – 60 years (although up to 100 years is possible). The blossom of the coffee tree is similar to jasmine in color and smell and the fruit takes about nine months to ripen. Worldwide, an estimated 15 billion coffee trees are grown on 39,000 sq miles of land. Shade grown coffee

In its natural environment, coffea most often grows in the shade. However, most cultivated coffee is produced on full-sun, mono-cropping plantations, as are most commercial crops, in order to maximize production per unit of land. This practice is, however, detrimental to the natural environment since the natural habitats which existed prior to the establishment of the plantations are destroyed, and all non-Coffea flora and fauna are suppressed - often with chemical pesticides and herbicides. Shade-grown coffee is favored by conservationists, since it permits a much more natural, complex ecosystem to survive on the land occupied by the plantation. Also, it naturally mulches the soil it grows in, lives twice as long as sun-grown varieties, and depletes less of the soil's resources - hence less fertilizer is needed. In addition, shade-grown coffee is considered by some to be of higher quality than sun-grown varieties, as the cherries produced by the Coffea plants in the shade are not as large as commercial varieties; some believe that this smaller cherry concentrates the flavors of the cherry into the seed (bean) itself. Shade-grown coffee is also associated with environmentally friendly ecosystems that provide a wider variety and number of migratory birds than those of sun-grown coffea farms.

Health properties of Green Coffee
Green coffee beans are a rich source of antioxidants, such as polyphenols and mannitol producing good protection against chemical oxidation. The high content of arabinogalactans can stimulate the immune system of the gastrointestinal tract and might help to overcome problems of irritable colon or inflammable bowel diseases. Extracts of green coffee have been shown to improve vasoactivity (the ability of the blood vessels to contract or expand freely) in humans. Green coffee is most often consumed by humans in capsules because of the nauseating odor of the volatile compounds of the green coffee beans.

Recently, two new species of coffee plants have been discovered in Cameroon: Coffea charrieriana and Coffea anthonyi. These species could introduce two new features to cultivated coffee plants: 1) beans without caffeine and 2) self-pollination. By crossing the new species with other known coffees (e.g., C. arabica and C. robusta), new coffee hybrids might allow these new improvements at regular coffee plantations (e.g. in Kenya, since C. arabica and C. robusta are accustomed to these growing conditions).

Coffee of Note

Kona Coffee
Kona Coffee is gourmet coffee grown only one place in the world... on the Island of Hawaii, on the golden Kona Coast, on a very small number of Kona coffee farms... most of them owned by the same kama'aina families for generations. But, there is a difference between one Kona coffee and another. This coffee has developed a reputation that has made it one of the most expensive and sought-after coffees in the world. Only coffee from the Kona Districts can be legally described as "Kona". The Kona weather pattern of bright sunny mornings, humid rainy afternoons and mild nights creates favorable coffee growing conditions.

Coffee trees thrive on the cool slopes of the Hualalai and Mauna Loa Mountains in rich volcanic soil and afternoon cloud cover. Growing in this unique environment, Kona coffee has a distinct advantage over coffees grown in other parts of the world. Coffee trees typically bloom after Kona's dry winters and are harvested in autumn. Coffee cultivated in the North and South districts of Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii is the only coffee that can truly be called Kona Coffee. Kona coffee blooms in February and March. Small white flowers cover the tree and are known as Kona Snow. In April, green berries begin to appear on the trees. By late August, red fruit, called "cherry" because of the resemblance of the ripe berry to a cherry fruit, start to ripen for picking. Each tree will be hand-picked several times between August and January, and provides around 20-30 pounds of cherry.

It is then hand picked, pulped, dried and hulled. Machinery at the coffee mill sorts the beans into different grades by size and shape. Peaberry is top of the line. A peaberry bean is formed when one side of the flower fuses with the other leaving only one bean in the coffee cherry. This gives the peaberry a more concentrated flavor and makes up only about 5% to 10% of the total Kona Coffee harvest. Top grades (in descending order) include extra fancy, fancy, No.1 and prime.

To purchase 100% pure Kona Coffee, check the label. Kona Blend means it only contains 10% Kona beans. These are usually mixed with those from Brazil, Central America, Africa and Indonesia. If you go to the Big Island of Hawaii and the Kona Coast, be sure to check out the numerous farms and coffee mills in the Kona Coffee Belt.

Jamaican Blue Mountain
In 1728, Sir Nicholas Lawes, the then Governor of Jamaica, imported coffee into Jamaica from Martinique. The country was ideal for this cultivation and nine years after its introduction 83,000 lbs. of coffee was exported.Between 1728 and 1768, the coffee industry developed largely in the foothills of St. Andrew, but gradually the cultivation extended into the Blue Mountains.

Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee or Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee is a classification of coffee grown in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica. The best lots of Blue Mountain coffee are noted for their mild flavor and lack of bitterness. Over the last several decades, this coffee has developed a reputation that has made it one of the most expensive and sought-after coffees in the world. In addition to its use for brewed coffee, the beans are the flavor base of Tia Maria coffee liqueur.

Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee is a globally protected certification mark meaning that only coffee certified by the Coffee Industry Board of Jamaica can be labeled as such. It comes from a recognized growing region in the Blue Mountain region of Jamaica and its cultivation is monitored by the Coffee Industry Board of Jamaica.

The Blue Mountains are generally located between Kingston to the south and Port Maria to the north. Rising to 2,300 meters (7,500 ft), they are some of the highest mountains in the Caribbean. The climate of the region is cool and misty with high rainfall. The soil is rich with excellent drainage. This combination of climate and soil is considered ideal for coffee.

Sumatran Coffee
Beans from Sumatra have always been highly prized not only because of their full flavor, but also because of their distinct appearance. Sumatran coffee beans, when green, are often asymmetrical in shape and have a deep aquamarine tint. Beginning in the 18th Century when the popularity of Sumatran coffee rose significantly, the unique shape and hue helped European merchants recognize authentic Sumatran coffee beans.

However, Sumatran coffee’s distinct appearance isn’t the only factor contributing to the coffee’s uniqueness. The unusual drying techniques employed by Sumatran coffee farmers also contribute to the coffee’s distinctiveness. These techniques involve an extended period of the coffee bean’s exposure to the pulp of the berry after the berry has been harvested—a process which is believed to produce deeper tones in the brewed coffee.

Besides the exquisite flavor, the cooperative that grows this coffee has many reasons to be proud of their beans. Known as the Gayo Organic Farmers Association, this coop grows 100 percent organic beans. With the funds from their coffee sales, this community of growers has started a project to bring safe drinking water to more than 1,500 people. The cooperative has also saved funds to help farmers with the reconstruction of their homes, many of which were destroyed in the war, and to aid in the construction of two new schools. This coffee has truly delightful qualities in its origin as well as in the cup.

The most expensive bean in the world is produced in Indonesia. Called Kopi Luwak, it costs $700 US for a kilogram (2.2 lb) and has a flavor that is impossible to imitate. The reason for this is that the Civet cat chews on the ripe cherries and the stone, or coffee bean, is retrieved by farmers once it has taken its natural course through the cat. The bean is then washed and roasted, and the intense odor of the drink comes from the musk secreted by the anal glands of the cat.

Ethiopian Coffee
Ethiopia produces some of the most unique and fascinating coffees in the world. The three main regions where Ethiopia coffee beans originate are Harrar, Ghimbi, and Sidamo (Yirgacheffe). Ethiopian Harrar coffee beans are grown on small farms in the eastern part of the country. They are dry-processed and are labeled as longberry (large), shortberry (smaller), or Mocha (peaberry). Ethiopian Harrar coffee can have a strong dry edge, winy to fruit like acidity, rich aroma, and a heavy body. In the best Harrar coffees, one can observe an intense aroma of blueberries or blackberries. Ethiopian Harrar coffee is often used in espresso blends to capture the fine aromatics in the crema.Washed coffees of Ethiopia include Ghimbi and Yirgacheffe. Ghimbi coffee beans are grown in the western parts of the country and are more balanced, heavier, and has a longer lasting body than the Harrars.

The Ethiopian Yirgacheffee coffee bean, is the most favored coffee grown in southern Ethiopia. It is more mild, fruit-like, and aromatic. Ethiopian Yirgacheffee coffee may also be labeled as Sidamo, which is the district where it is produced. It is grown at the highest altitude in the world, 7,000 ft (2.13 km), and is an unusually good accompaniment to curries. Indonesia has Aged Sukawesi, which is stored in palm-thatched barns under humid conditions for several years. The result is a heavy flavor and a total absence of acidity.

Brewing and Drinking Coffee beans must be ground and brewed in order to create a beverage. Grinding the roasted coffee beans is done at a roastery, in a grocery store, or in the home. They are most commonly ground at a roastery and then packaged and sold to the consumer, though "whole bean" coffee can be ground at home. Coffee beans may be ground in several ways. A burr mill uses revolving elements to shear the bean; an electric grinder smashes the beans with blunt blades moving at high speed; and a mortar and pestle crushes the beans.

The type of grind is often named after the brewing method for which it is generally used. Turkish grind is the finest grind, while coffee percolator or French press are the coarsest grinds. The most common grinds are between the extremes; a medium grind is used in most common home coffee brewing machines.

Coffee may be brewed by several methods: boiled, steeped, or pressured. Brewing coffee by boiling was the earliest method, and Turkish coffee is an example of this method. It is prepared by powdering the beans with a mortar and pestle, then adding the powder to water and bringing it to a boil in a pot called a cezve or, in Greek, a briki. This produces a strong coffee with a layer of foam on the surface.

Coffee may also be brewed by steeping in a device such as a French press (also known as a cafetière or coffee press). Ground coffee and hot water are combined in a coffee press and left to brew for a few minutes. A plunger is then depressed to separate the coffee grounds, which remain at the bottom of the container. Because the coffee grounds are in direct contact with the water, all the coffee oils remain in the beverage, making it stronger and leaving more sediment than in coffee made by an automatic coffee machine.
The espresso method forces hot (but not boiling) pressurized water through ground coffee. As a result of brewing under high pressure ideally between 9–10 , the espresso beverage is more concentrated (as much as 10 to 15 times the amount of coffee to water as gravity-brewing methods can produce) and has a more complex physical and chemical constitution. A well-prepared espresso has a reddish-brown foam called crema that floats on the surface. The drink "Americano" is popularly thought to have been named after American soldiers in WW II who found the European way of drinking espresso too strong; baristas would cut the espresso with hot water for them. Coffee may also be produced via a cold brew process, in which the water used is not heated before hand. This preparation typically involves steeping coarsely ground beans in cold water for several hours, then removing the grounds with a filter.

Once brewed, coffee may be presented in a variety of ways. Drip-brewed, percolated, or French-pressed/cafetière coffee may be served with no additives or sugar (colloquially known as black) or with milk, cream, or both. When served cold, it is called iced coffee.

Espresso-based coffee has a wide variety of possible presentations. In its most basic form, it is served alone as a shot or in the more watered-down style café américano—a shot or two of espresso with hot water added, reversing the process by adding espresso to hot water preserves the crema, and is known as a long black). Milk can be added in various forms to espresso: steamed milk makes a cafè latte, equal parts steamed milk and milk froth make a cappuccino, and a dollop of hot foamed milk on top creates a caffè macchiato. The use of steamed milk to form patterns such as hearts or maple leaves is referred to as latte art.

No matter how you like your coffee one thing can be said; as the world becomes more fast paced, coffee drinkers are consuming more and more to keep up. For me, it's a love affair. I enjoy the taste, be it in a cup, coffee flavored ice cream, espresso flavored chocolate truffles, or the fabulous creations coming out of the kitchens of some of the top chefs in the world. Well, my cup is about empty so it's time for me to get a refill and.......sorry...I've got to run....seems there is a burro trampling my plants! "Hey!....HEY! Mr. Valdez!..... Please get that donkey out of my garden!"

Bon Appetit!
Lou

Image Sources:  Simon Howden travel.nationalgeographic.com konacoffeeco.com eco-index.org coffeeshop.us  chagres.com  foto76 coffeetea.info crossingitaly.net en.wikipedia.org telegraph.co.uk  Darren Robertson

June 26, 2014

One man's journey...and my pledge to No Kid Hungry...

Hello My friends,

Been a long time since I wrote regularly here at Kitchen Rap, but that is about to change. For those who may not know or be aware, on May 19th, 2014, I suffered a massive heart attack, went into cardiac arrest and had to be resuscitated back to life. Yea I know right? Pretty scary. Pretty severe. As per my usual life and the way it has been for the past 50 years, I seem to do things on a grand scale. The doctors are actually baffled...they say I shouldn't be alive.

You see, seems after suffering a 4 hour heart attack that would have killed anyone else permanently, I am still here, defying the norm, the rules and the odds. For those who have known me for any length of time, this will not come as a surprise. I never, EVER do what's expected. Here, I suffered a major, 100% blockage in my heart in the worst possible place it could occur, a place I now know is called (cue music:.Duhn Duhn Duhhhhh!!) THE WIDOWMAKER (echo here) maker maker, maker maker... the left anterior descending artery.

What baffles the doctors is that they have rarely, if ever, seen someone survive this much damage to the heart, over 70%, in this location. Until now.

The doctors did surgery, placing a stent into my heart, unblocking the flow and I spent 5 days in Intensive Care. I now take 8 pills a day from blood thinners to anti angina medication to, well you name the heart medication, seems I'm taking it. The doctors words, "if you don't take your meds you will die" ring in my ears every glorious morning I wake up. They told me no stress. Bed rest and eventually sent me home to do nothing and recuperate.

So what did I do? Yup, you are starting to get me...I did the complete opposite. Just days out of the hospital, I helped coordinate and lead (via Support Vehicle) a group of cyclists from the NYC to DC for the #ChefsRide4NKH, a 3 day, 300 mile bicycle ride, with lead rider Chef Jason Roberts and helped raise $23,000 to help in the fight against childhood hunger. I then promptly had another episode of angina and went back to the hospital where they did another angioplasty and found more damage and blockages. This time the doctor said, "I don't think you're getting this Mr. Luzzo, you have 30% heart function as compared to the normal heart. You need complete rest and relaxation and it will take years to heal, if ever. I can't explain why you're still alive, but you need to take this seriously if you want to STAY ALIVE!'


I had been spending days, actually, taking this very seriously and thinking about my life and this supposed 'second chance'; the special things I have done and accomplished, the public awareness of me, the special chefs and celebrities I know, some of whom I am blessed to call friend. I wondered, "Why did I survive? Why Am I alive?" And I knew  the answer immediately . So, when the Doc made that statement above, I answered without hesitation. "I'm still here because of two people: Deb and Billy Shore, founders of Share Our Strength and a special organization they run called No Kid Hungry. I believe that I'm am supposed to help be a voice for this cause here in America and that's why I'm alive."

For those not aware, this year over 45 million people in America will be food deficient at some point and over 16 million of those who are going hungry are children. With their Cooking Matters, School BreakfastDine OutTaste of the NationBake SaleNo Kid Hungry This Summer programs and proper nutrition initiatives, No Kid Hungry is committed to making sure that our children get the food they need to grow, be healthy and lead productive lives.

So my friends, let's get to the important part of this blog post. I recently took the No Kid Hungry Pledge and have committed to being a part of the No Kid Hungry Team! I also committed to being a No Kid Hungry Blogger, doing what I can to be a beacon, a voice, helping to get the message out. I am asking you all, especially during this current pledge drive to do the same.

If you are a blogger, writer or journalist who has a public voice I am asking you to use your voice and join me and this worthwhile organization and help us eradicate childhood hunger in our lifetime. To find out how to become a No Kid Hungry Blogger, just go to this link; BECOME A NO KID HUNGRY BLOGGER, answer a few questions and get the details on how you can help.

For the rest of you , I am asking you to step up with me, take the No Kid Hungry Pledge, join the fight against childhood hunger and do whatever it is you can to help. Whether you simply donate, or hold a bake sale, or have a barbecue, is no matter. What does matter is that you do something, because together, we can make sure that we leave No Kid Hungry!

All the best and thank you,

Lou