Posted in Daily, Food

“Raisin” It Up

“Inject a few raisins of conversation into the tasteless dough of existence.” O. Henry

Being simply dried sweet grapes, raisins were the second in choice as a sweetener till the medieval times with honey being the top choice. The majority of the world’s supply of raisins comes from California, dried from Thompson seedless (95 percent), muscadine, or Black Corinth (Zante) grapes. Other main producers of Mosctael grapes are the USA, Turkey, Greece and Australia.

Originating from the Latin Racemus, from the ancient times raisins were in use. As evidence from history shows, raisins were an accidental discovery when they were found dried on the vines as early as 2000BC. The ancient Phoenicians and Armenians had taken the first steps in perfecting viticulture, the process of grape growing and selection.

While the Phoenicians started colonial vineyards in the areas of Malaga and Valencia of Spain and in Corinth (Greece)around 120-900BC; the Armenians founded their vineyards in Persia. These high yield growing areas had the perfect climate for making raisins and were also close to Greece and Rome, the first markets for raisins. Muscat raisins (over-sized with seeds and of fruity full flavor) were the primary crop in Malaga and Valencia. Corinth had grown the “Currants” which were tiny seedless, tangy raisins, where historians believe they got their name.

As the Phoenicians and Armenians began to trade raisins with the Greeks and the Romans who consumed them in large quantities; their popularity grew as well as their value. From being given as prizes to barter to trade or cure for ailments; raisins were always in demand. Raisins were a part of Hannibal’s troops rations when he had crossed the Alps.

“Raisins are a thing that lasts, they come in small boxes, and you always feel like eating raisins, even at six in the morning. A raisin is always an appropriate snack.” Fran Lebowitz

Although in popular demand, it wasn’t until the 11th century that raisins were seen in Europe. One of the reasons were the difficulty in maintaining the quality of the raisins for the long travel. By the 11th century, with improved packing and shipping techniques as well knights returning home from the crusades bringing back raisins with them, a huge market and demand was created.

By mid-14th century, the English cuisine included raisins and currants as it’s integral parts. As viticulture spread to France and Germany, grapes and raisins had entered the European cuisine spreading over to their colonial conquests. As viticulture had been perfected in Spain, grapes were being used to make products such as dry table wine, sweet dessert wines and Muscat raisins. With the colonization of the Americas and Mexico of today, their knowledge of viticulture had followed them there. By the 18th century, the Franciscan fathers had settled as far north as present-day Sonoma, California. Viticulture and its strong influence on California agriculture, was one of the enduring legacies left behind by the colonial rule. With the seedless grape variety (thin-skinned, seedless, sweet and tasty) being grown by the English immigrant William Thompson, newer variants of the products were created. By the late 1800s, once the Armenians (descended from the first founders of vineyards in Persia) began settling in the San Joaquin Valley, viticulture had progressed in California with supplies for raisins to nearly half the world, making it the largest producer anywhere.

“The wrinklier the raisin, the sweeter the fruit.” Alan Tudyk

Like most dried fruits, raisins can add the flavour to most recipes, ranging from the breakfast menu to elaborate meals as well as desserts. While buying raisins, their freshness can be determined by the containers being squeezable less hard and less rattling when shaken. Being blanched or plumped up (soak in hot water), sliced or chopped, added midway or at the end; the mode of introducing them into the recipes alters the flavours of the cooking giving a different effect at each step. Their popularity is marked by April holding two raisin days as National Raisin & Spice Bar Day (April 5th) and National Raisin Day (April 30th) celebrated by foodimentarians. Either way, into recipes or had directly, raisins spruce up the meal, both for the palate and nutrition wise.

“My indulgences are Skittles and rum raisin ice cream.” Sanya Richards-Ross

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Posted in Daily, Family and Society, Life, Personal Musings, poetry, Quotes

Treasured Memories

“Childhood means simplicity. Look at the world with the child’s eye – it is very beautiful.” Kailash Satyarthi

The joyous days of fun, laughter and treasures are something that time or age can ever erase. For parents and guardians, having children around brings to mind and memory of their days. As children, they try to make out and see the best of everything. While it may be because they haven’t yet caught the cynicism and attitude of the world, the gentleness of children brings joy to the dark days.

“Imagination and invention go hand in hand. Remember how lack of resources was never a problem in childhood games? Shift a few pieces of furniture around the living room, and you have yourself a fort.” Alexandra Adornetto

Yet what happens when they grow up ? Caught in the modern paced world of consumerism, materialism as well as ambition; along the lines the simplicity of childhood is lost. As parents, care givers, guardians and nurturers of the future generations, care should be taken that in the modernism that we surround ourselves, children shouldn’t lose out on their best years of their life, their childhood. True that academics, cultural and sports do matter; cultivate their talents but let them do what they love. Forcing them into a mould from the very early days, breaks them from their very essence.

“One of the luckiest things that can happen to you in life is, I think, to have a happy childhood.” Agatha Christie

Roaming the lanes, exploring the backyard, learning how a frog leaps or why some plants creep and others grow tall, how the wind pane moves and the like are what engages their attention or interest. Their talents of dance, music and ball do matter; but let them pique their inquisitiveness as their minds grow. Draw the lines, set the limits but never curb their rightful curiosity. Let them grow and treasure the memories of their childhood; for its’ their right.

“If you carry your childhood with you, you never become older.” Tom Stoppard

In childhood, when we were immortal,
Were our wealth countless.
Each pebble was precious,
Life – well-dressed, as if on stage

Even fragments of broken dishes
Once again came to life in the mystery of a miracle.
There was no more beautiful doll rag,
It was not sweeter trickle krinynnoy.

Behind the wheel with an iron jump
into the future, boys ran away …
Old books, rare films
Were kept, were loved …

We, that we had a taste of the earthly paradise,
Were not surprised by the promise of another …
Believe me …
In childhood, when they were still immortal …

L. Znakovskaya

Posted in Family and Society, Life, Personal Musings

Affinity, Soul and Time

“How will a person know, Selina, when the soul that has the affinity with hers is near it?” She answered, “She will know. Does she look for air, before she breathes it? This love will be guided to her; and when it comes, she will know. And she will do anything to keep that love about her, then. Because to lose it will be like a death to her.” Sarah Waters (… the author of Affinity)

Boy meets girl, by chance. Sparks fly but not much more after that. Fast forward years later. Lady meets a gentleman. Sparks fly and the fire is lit. If not, years on, an elderly man meets the woman of his dreams. Both old, yet sparks fly and the fire is lit. Forever or not, only time will know.

The above scenario may seem familiar. Our story or the story of someone we know or have heard of, may resonate with certain events as written above. What strikes one most on looking back, is the affinity between the two souls, no matter how far away. While “reel life” dramatizes the whole concept to “first look of pure love”; real life can range in varying degrees from mutual acceptance or comfort to instant attraction or the deep feeling of being complete. It varies from person to person.

For some “soul affinity” strikes instantly; while for others, it does not arise suddenly. Love with all its’ due respect, doesn’t arise from nothing. Where there is a fire, there are sparks. True love grows from a small sprout, of respect and admiration for a person, to love, affection and friendship comprising of pleasant moments through the attention given to each other. Love encompasses knowing the other; respecting the differences as well providing empathy, care and attention. Once experienced, its’ a feeling best described by emotions, memories and moments, more than the words that one can say.

“Love is the affinity which links and draws together the elements of the world… Love, in fact, is the agent of universal synthesis.” Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Posted in Daily, Food

Of Pretzels, Origin and Evolution

When facing an unexpected situation, the first emotion that one comes across is the “feeling of something happening, of being twisted and knotted” or the most popular feeling of “butterflies in the stomach”. With the month of April drawing to a close, it would be remiss if one would miss this month of “poetry, jazz, soft pretzels and humour” without experiencing the feeling of being in “pretzels”.

Originating in Europe, possible among the monks of the Middle Ages, “pretzel” were baked bread products made from dough, commonly shaped twisted into a knot. With the traditional pretzel in distinctive non-symmetrical loops; the modern pretzels comes in a varied range of shapes with exotic and common seasonings like chocolate, glazed, with nuts, seeds or with the flavours of several varieties of cheese. Today pretzels can be had “soft”, eaten shortly after preparation or “hard-baked” with a long shelf life.

“My mother always said, ‘When you’re eating pretzels, chew before you swallow’. Always listen to your mother.” George W. Bush

The true origin of pretzels have been traced to numerous accounts, though not verified. From the very early Italian monks making pretzels as rewards to children who learn their prayers or as a derivation of communion bread. In Germany, legends state that pretzels were the invention of desperate bakers held hostage by local dignitaries whereas, other legends elsewhere believe that pretzels were substitute for the heathen baking traditions of “sun cross” and the like.

Either way, the popularity of pretzels in the early years where evidenced as their use as an emblem by the various baker guilds. With the “knot of the pretzel” believed to be hands folded in prayer, pretzels had a religious significance in the Church based on their ingredients and shape. Additionally the three holes of the pretzels signified the Holy Trinity. As pretzels could be made by simply using flour and water (no eggs or lard were permitted during Lent); they provided a proper substitute during the Lent. Over the years, no Lent or Easter would be complete without pretzels, with them being sometimes substituted as Easter eggs. (https://tasty.co/recipe/homemade-soft-pretzels)

“Between evening and bedtime, Night is on the prowl for pretzels….” Rajat Kanti Chakrabarty

Despite the insignificant size and knotted shape, pretzels have an extensive influence on landscape architecture and sculpture (Pretzel Park, Philadelphia), in culture (pretzel dance move in swing dancing), furniture design inspired pretzel chairs and adoption of “pretzel logo” by Municipal government of City of Freeport, Illinois. Fashion, photography and the entertainment industry too have adapted the “pretzel” in a variety of styles, ranging from clothing to ecosystem techniques as well being a part of the literature, poetry and music. Although pretzels are no longer in fashion like the initial days, looks like they will still be around.

Posted in Life, poetry, Reflections

Essence of Man

The other day, we had heard some disturbing news of a close friend of the family. Although we had kept in regular contact, little did we realize that time and circumstance can be so cruel at times. Disease, disaster and death; these events are never in our control, although man tries his best to master them.

The events of yesterday brought to mind, the words of Yevgeny Yevtushenko’s poem, “People”. Each of our lives is like a map, with a course, evidence and impressions that we leave behind when we finally end our time. While time is never in our control, the route that we take along with the diversions, destinations and rest stops is ours alone. Decision, choices and changes are always in our hands, hence using them wisely is what we can and should do.

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” Barack Obama

People

No people are uninteresting.
Their fate is like the chronicle of planets.

Nothing in them in not particular,
and planet is dissimilar from planet.

And if a man lived in obscurity
making his friends in that obscurity
obscurity is not uninteresting.

To each his world is private
and in that world one excellent minute.

And in that world one tragic minute
These are private.

In any man who dies there dies with him
his first snow and kiss and fight it goes with him.

There are left books and bridges
and painted canvas and machinery
Whose fate is to survive.

But what has gone is also not nothing:
by the rule of the game something has gone.
Not people die but worlds die in them.

Whom we knew as faulty, the earth’s creatures
Of whom, essentially, what did we know?

Brother of a brother? Friend of friends?
Lover of lover?

We who knew our fathers
in everything, in nothing.

They perish. They cannot be brought back.
The secret worlds are not regenerated.

And every time again and again
I make my lament against destruction.

Yevgeny Yevtushenko

Posted in Daily, Family and Society, Life, Personal Musings, Quotes, Stories Around the World, Work

Communication Fillers and Gaps

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” George Bernard Shaw

One of the recently circulated video on my social network pages, shows a social experiment in which four queues of employees are made to stand, with a message being conveyed as a sequence of actions likened to starting a motorbike. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FH_7F3KI8yg)

Unfortunately as the message, in the form of sequence of actions, were passed on, minor alterations were being added on, which eventually resulted in the last person of the queue mimicking the actions that were no where close to the initial sequence or message that the first person had initiated. Although the video may seem hilarious at the end, on reflecting later, the lack of communication as well as the errors in the message being conveyed, understood and repeated are alarming.

“Communication – the human connection – is the key to personal and career success.” Paul J. Meyer

At every walk in life, communication is what brings man apart from other living species. Knowing how to convey ideas, bring about changes as well discuss and share various aspects makes human life meaningful, interesting and enriched. Yet when thoughts are shared wrong, with each one modifying the truth as per one’s short-lived understanding, thinking or viewpoint, the real sequence of events gets distorted, destroying the harmony and peaceful thinking.

“The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.” Peter Drucker

Each time we come across any information, words or actions, thinking about them before e repeat them elsewhere would go a long way in maintaining one’s own peace and harmony. The process of adding one’s own bit to the real sequence of events, when not understood the right way, can do significant harm than plausible.

Posted in Family and Society, Personal Musings, Quotes, Stories Around the World

To Care and Nurture

“Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.” Margaret Mead

During my early years of university, attending classes and taking care of my infant was difficult. Unwilling to put my infant son in a daycare so early, I had turned to my parents and in laws for help. Besides stepping in completely and covering during my classes and training schedules, as my child grew under their care; their happiness and joy were marked to be seen.

“A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.” James Keller

One of the oldest concepts of family has been their since civilization. Besides belonging to a fold, family helps and takes care of each other. The sociological concept of “nurture” has been widely studied and debated with the “nature” concept. Real life examples are present in our daily encounters, once we look around and observe.

“To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world.”
Unknown

Caring for someone or nurturing them helps not the nurtured but also the nurturer. Besides giving new dimensions to focus on, the health, happiness as well as life for both becomes more meaningful and joyous. On the days that one in bone-tired, dejected, weary and worried; taking care of someone decreases the problems and gives the fuel to move on. Caring for others brings many closer, not just relationships by blood but also fragile relationships which become stronger out of the mutual love, respect and care for the other.

“I feel the capacity to care is the thing which gives life its deepest significance.” Pablo Casals

An old fox lived its’ last days in the zoo. Old, decrepit and shabby. When a couple of young foxes were left without their mother. And the young foxes were hooked to the old fox, as they were left without a mother. The decrepit fox began to take care of the little ones. The caring instincts were involved. And the old fox became younger, fluffy and energetic. She gained new youth and health; lived very well for several years, until the foxes grew up and became independent. (Source: A.Kiryanova)