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19 October 2008

Learning the Fine Art of Haggling

One of our major objectives whenever we go to market to buy goods we need is to bargain as much as we can. I guess this is human nature in the sense that we always anticipate the reward of gratification after being able to fulfill this goal. But, did you know, there are effective ways to execute haggling in such a way a win-win game is reached between us buyers and the vendor?

At a very young age I was exposed to this activity as my aunt Isabel would always tagged me along to bring the basket for her while she carried on her buying routine. During the process, I vividly remember how she politely persuaded each vendor on the stuff she wanted to buy. And from here I learned my early lessons on how one can effectively bargain without leaving an arrogant impression to the seller. In fact, Tita Isabel would always tell me that in haggling, for as long as you do it right, one can even win respect and that this translates to good business relationship with the seller in the long run. In the local Filipino dialect, this relationship is termed “suki”. It means a regular customer, a frequent buyer or a loyal shopper. She also pointed out that one who does not haggle leaves a rude impression to the vendor. It is a sign of economic arrogance, she added.

From this simple yet remarkable lesson I learned from her, I am sharing with you the tricks she handed on to me.

  • Never negotiate the price of an item you do not intend to buy. Bear in mind that this is unfair to the seller and to other buyers who are interested on the same item you like.
  • Be rational and not selfish. In order to stay in business the seller must make profit, so do not make offensive discount demands. It will be easier to work with if the seller believes that your intentions are genuine and not just trying to cheat him or her.
  • Be calm and polite at all times. Keep in mind that your goal is to get the best possible deal you can. Be cautious enough with your actions so that the seller will be convinced that you really are interested on the item you are negotiating.
  • Do not forget to say THANK YOU. You are completely aware that not all attempts will be successful. It is very important to thank the merchant even if a desirable negotiation is not triumphantly reached. Most sellers will appreciate this approach more than an abrupt exit. This attitude will create an outstanding impact that a vendor will always seek ways to help you close a good deal the next time you come around.

There you have it folks. I hope this lesson has somehow convinced you that there is really a fine way to haggle.

Best of luck in the future as you practice haggling using these simple tips.

By the way, I have repeatedly used these tricks. Trust me! They do really work.

Happy weakened!

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Photo Credit: Haggling

05 October 2008

Turmeric | Meet the "Queen" of Spices

Turmeric (Curcuma longa), a botanical relative of Ginger, has long been valued in almost all parts of Asia as the “Queen of all Spices” due to its various food and industrial uses as well as for its powerful healing properties.

It has been used for over 4000 years in India, where it was most likely first utilized as a natural coloring for foods and dye for fabrics. Locals and villagers concocted turmeric with other plant pigments and made paint for various folk painting traditions. They also used the paste in painting their doorways to ward off insects.

Turmeric has also wide applicability in cosmetics. Traditionally, Indian women rub turmeric on their cheeks and other parts of their skin to produce a natural golden glow. They do this in many celebrations but most especially as an aesthetic ritual prior to their wedding. Washing in turmeric improves skin complexion and reduces hair growth on body. For this reason, turmeric is considered as a natural depilatory. The oil and extract of turmeric leaf is used as sunscreen while turmeric powder combined with milk is an effective cosmetic combination that acts as pure cleanser for stubborn acne and in restoring or maintaining youth by controlling wrinkle formation.

As spice, turmeric, finds its application in cooking by adding distinctive yellow color and a warm, mild flavor to foods. It is most familiar in Indian and other Asian curries and found in American prepared mustard. The mellow flavor and stunning color that primarily characterize turmeric make it an absolute substitute to the most rare and expensive saffron. Although many discriminating experts maintain that it may not impart the same distinct taste, it is often used as the appropriate alternative to enhance or mask the blunt character of food when the very dear saffron is out of reach.

But, why do I know this? Let me cut the story of the “Queen” for a while and pull in a short tale on how I first learned about turmeric’s utility in cooking.

My first encounter with turmeric was when my late mother introduced to me her famous biringhe (Pampangueño’s version of Spanish paella and sometimes fondly called aroz a la valenciana). It is an “all-in-one” rice recipe made of savory sticky rice cooked with coconut cream, chicken and liver topped with slices of boiled or salted eggs and raisins. According to her, the dish can be made delectable and appetizing even in the absence of the very dear saffron. With turmeric around, she emphasized while I interestingly watched her prepare the popular local delicacy,there is no reason you can’t make the best biringhe in town. I took her word and whenever we have the chance to cook her specialty we don’t panic if saffron would not make it as an ingredient.

OK, back to where we were before I intentionally changed my gear. The story about the “Queen” of the spices, right?

Moving on, we will now discuss the medicinal properties of turmeric.

Turmeric, with the flavonoid curcumin as active component, is an amazing spice. It is well recognized to possess many potential medicinal properties.

Scientific investigations suggest that curcumin is a potent antioxidant that may help prevent breast cancer as well as prostate, lung and colon cancers. Turmeric is likewise useful for all inflammatory disorders and for autoimmune conditions. Some forms of arthritis are caused or exacerbated by inflammation and free radicals, so turmeric may help. This is perhaps the reason why some villagers in Asia are recommending turmeric to help alleviate pain attributed to arthritis. It also may have a role in the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer's disease. A number of animal studies have shown that curcumin blocked the formation and accumulation of amyloid plaque that characterizes Alzheimer's. Indians appear to have the lowest rate of Alzheimer's in the world, possibly because they eat turmeric with almost every meal.

Recent research has shown that dietary turmeric may combat underlying cause of obesity, help with some complications of diabetes, help lower blood cholesterol levels and has shown promise in slowing the progression of multiple sclerosis.

Although these exciting revelations are starting to surface, we can’t simply discount the many traditional uses of turmeric that were long adored by our forefathers.

Turmeric purifies the blood, aids digestion of protein and promotes proper metabolism. It is used in the treatment of fever, mild stomach upset & ulcers, infection, dysentery, jaundice and other liver & gallbladder problems. Ancient Chinese physicians used turmeric to treat chest congestion, menstrual discomforts, depression and many more ailments. Indians used it as a readily available antiseptic for cuts and burns. For thousands of years, Ayurvedic doctors have recognized turmeric as a key balancing and detoxifying herb. In fact, the Ayurvedic text recommends a daily dose of turmeric to boost the body’s immune system. The inhalation of smoke from burning turmeric is also said to relieve hysterical fits.

Aside from these many healing attributes, turmeric is also very rich and an excellent source of alkaloids, B vitamins, essential minerals (iron, manganese and potassium), dietary fiber and protein.

Overall, turmeric appears to be not only useful in cooking curries and perhaps my mother’s biringhe, as you have learned from these compiled notes. It is collectively a wonder spice more than deserving to be hailed as the “Queen of all Spices”.

What do you think? Do you have other interesting stories to share on turmeric?

Feel free to leave your comments and share this information to your friends and family.

Photo credits: Turmeric