Posted in Food

Thin or Thick, Stuffed or Impressed

With the Lenten period still on and more hours at home, the breakfast menu has been varied depending on the choice of each as well as the helping hands available on deck. Which is why there is plenty of batter made in the morning. From pancakes to waffles, there is plenty of fun and chaos to welcome the mornings.

Interestingly waffles aren’t a recent recipe, but can be traced to the ancient Greeks. Believed to have descended from the Ancient Greek obleios, it was flat cakes made by baking batter between two hot irons. For the impressed patterns, exclusive to places or establishments, had originated in the middle ages. The early Middle Ages (9th to 10th century) saw the simultaneous emergence of communion wafer irons (fer à hosties or hostieijzers) and the wafer irons (moule à oublies). While the former depicted typically the imagery of Jesus and His crucifixion; the latter had impressions of more trivial Biblical scenes or just simple impressed designs often serving as emblems.

Both the communion wafer and the oublie, was mostly made of grain flour and water. From the 11th century onward, flavorings like orange blossom water, sourced honey and other ingredients came to being and establishing themselves firmly in the list of ingredients. Eaten piping hot, the initial waffles were sold on great religious feasts days with the best quality waffles known as metiers.

“The ancient Greeks used to cook very flat cakes, which they called obleios, between two hot metal plates. This method of cooking continued to be used in the Middle Ages by the obloyeurs who made all sorts of oublies, which were flat or rolled into coronets. The oublie became the waffle in the 13th century, when a craftsman had the idea of forging some cookie plates reproducing the characteristic pattern of honeycombs, which at that time were called gaufres (from the Old French wafla).” Larousse Gastronomique, Completely Revised and Updated [Clarkson Potter:New York] 2001 (p. 1285)

Though the initial waffles had originated on one side of the world, it had crossed the continents to entrench themselves into the local cuisine. Exploring the flavour of waffles, the subtle or gross changes have been made in the various ingredients going into the batter.

Known locally as “grid cake” or “grid biscuits”, the Hong Kong style waffles are usually made on the streets. Large, round and divided into four quarters; these waffles served as snacks with peanut butter, butter and sugar spread on it. Sweetened by the addition of eggs, evaporated milk; these waffles have the rich flavour of yolk, chocolate or honey melon. Changing the pattern to the ball-shaped form, these waffles are then known as eggette or gai daan jai. Adding a little of pandan (herbaceous tropical plant) and coconut milk into the batter, Vietnamese pandan waffles gives the distinctive green and chewy feel inside, though brown and crispy look outside; often best eaten plain. Keeping the batter a little more spicy, one can add a little of wasabi to give the touch of Japanese cuisine. Coming to a more variant style are the Thailand hot-dog waffles. With the hot dog cooked within the long waffles, they bear their similarity to the corn dogs. Otherwise the essential batter remains the same.

At home, while adding the South East Asian flavour to the waffles, a little of fine chopped spring onion greens, couple of coriander chopped, a bit of mashed carrot and beets gave the waffles a burst of colour. With plenty of jam, honey and sugar; the colorful waffles may have found favour with the young eaters. If not, there are always plenty of pancake batter to go around.

[1849]
“Waffles
Put two pints of rich milk into separate pans. Cut up and melt in one of them a quarter of a pound of butter, warming it slightly; then, when it is melted, stir it about, and set it away to cool. Beat eight eggs till very light, and mix them gradually into the other pan of milk, alternately with half a pound of flour. The mix it by degrees the milk that has the butter in it. Lastly, stir in a large table-spoonfull of strong fresh yeast. Cover the pan and set it near the fire to rise. When the batter is quite light, heat your waffle-iron, by putting it among the coals of a clear bright fire; grease the inside with butter tied in a rag, and then put in some batter. Shut the iron closely, and when the waffle is done on one side, turn the iron on the other. Take the cake out by slipping a knife underneath; and then heat and grease the iron for another waffle. Send them to table quite hot, four or six on a plage; having buttered them and strewed over each a mixture of powdered cinnamon, and white sugar. Or you may send the sugar and cinnamon in a little glass bowl.” 
-Directions for Cookery in its Various Branches, Miss Leslie [Philadelphia, 1849]. (p. 359)

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Posted in Daily, Personal Musings, poetry, Quotes

Step Back, Rest..Move Ahead

A while back, with new addition of a sister-in-law to the family, the entire family tree, complete with two generations of grandparent siblings and their couples as well as the next generation of siblings, cousins and respective families, had decided for a family meet at one of the hilltop enclaves. While the journey was breath-taking, getting there was a series of “ups” and “downs”, similar to a roller coaster ride, albeit the loops and screaming. With the constant tug-of-war with time, we had yet again run short of time and navigating out of the city was a mess.

As we took turns, shifted gears and made our way, complete with kids, dog and other paraphernalia; it was the rests at the quintessential cafe’s and inns on the way that put us in a good mood the entire journey. Despite the nagging worry of whether we would be there, none of us forget to appreciate the view and the journey and take snapshot memories of the same. Finally we did get to the hilltop in time, with no regrets for the length of the journey or the hassles faced. The views accompanied by the moments of joy, laughter, peace and happiness made up, much more and beyond for the tedious drive up-hill.

“Some beautiful paths can’t be discovered without getting lost.” Erol Ozan

Driving uphill or unknown roads and off-beaten paths is something that we often feel in a similar vein, in our daily life. One really doesn’t need to be aligned with the wheel, but even on foot it takes plenty of effort to go up and against the pull downwards. When the pull gets too strong, stopping for a while to rest makes a big difference. Each of us have our own set of winding roads. Though one mayn’t manage to navigate through on the first few tries, losing heart doesn’t get us anywhere. Instead rest to rejuvenate and recharge, gather the courage to reassess, reclaim own strengths and travel again along the same or slightly altered but right paths. Eventually one will get there when the mind, soul and spirit go hand in hand. The view from the road uphill around, above and below makes every arduous climb worth the effort. That is what the essence of the drive and life in totality, is all about.

“It’s easier to go down a hill than up it but the view is much better at the top.” Henry Ward Beecher

Up-Hill

Does the road wind up-hill all the way?
Yes, to the very end.
Will the day’s journey take the whole long day?
From morn to night, my friend.

But is there for the night a resting-place?
A roof for when the slow dark hours begin.
May not the darkness hide it from my face?
You cannot miss that inn.

Shall I meet other wayfarers at night?
Those who have gone before.
Then must I knock, or call when just in sight?
They will not keep you standing at that door.

Shall I find comfort, travel-sore and weak?
Of labour you shall find the sum.
Will there be beds for me and all who seek?
Yea, beds for all who come.
– Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)

Posted in Christian, Daily, Family and Society

Stay on Track

Watching the sports field as the shades of dusk settled, there was a hub of activity. As the preparations for the annual sports day was underway, the drill team were having their final instructions, the pit lines were being drawn and the tracks were being freshly marked. Observing the fresh white marked being poured to mark the race tracks, they were finely poured with measured distances between the lines. Everyone knows what happens when the tracks get drawn in a shabby manner. Too little space for the runners, or worst of all, they run into each other’s track fields resulting in a whole of confusion and shoving.

Like wise in life, we too have our own tracks that help us stay in line. These tracks guide us, correct us when things go wrong and map out a course for us to run along. Such is the guidance of His Spirit. Life on earth, is never predictable. So are the paths that we follow, roads that we take and the unexpected roadblocks that we encounter. To stay on the track, in the course of events would be difficult at times. By His Spirit, the tendency to wander, get lost or be disheartened is lessened.

“Then His people remembered the days of old, of Moses Where is He who brought them up out of the sea with the shepherds of His flock? Where is He who put His Holy Spirit in the midst of them, Who caused His glorious arm to go at the right hand of Moses, Who divided the waters before them to make for Himself an everlasting name, Who led them through the depths? Like the horse in the wilderness, they did not stumble…” (Isaiah 63:11-14)

As one encounters the tough moments of life, His Spirit guides us on to which path to take, options to choose and heed to. One may call it the inner conscience, moral compass or the sixth sense, but it is His Spirit that stays in the mind and guides us through these actions, words and behaviour. The Spirit is strengthened by His Word and His Grace. for those to all come into being, one would need to walk in His Faith. Faith is not borne fruit by prayers alone, but complete belief in His Word and in His Law. When all these things come into proper balance, the gift of His Spirit and His Guidance would guide us through all the different race tracks or dirt tracks that we may run into throughout our lifetime.

“The Spirit teaches you everything you need to know, and what he teaches is true—it is not a lie.” (1 John 2:27)

Posted in Food

From Corn, Tacky and Baked

Entering the Lenten period, experimentation and going innovative is what makes the cooking in the kitchen interesting. As a part of bringing the Mexican cuisine home, yesterday evening was all about quesadilla.

Typically different from the famous Mexican dish of tacos, quesadilla consists of a Mexican tortilla (usually corn) filled primarily with cheese, with addition of beans, vegetables, spices or meats, depending on choice and then cooked on a griddle. Made into a full cheesy version (as two tortilla with a layer of cheese between them) or a half moon griddles version, the former is a dinner favourite.

With origins in colonial Mexico, this dish has evolved and adapted with plenty of variations. Though the usual typical filling is cheese, one can go with purred vegetables or meat fillings like chicharron or tinga. In addition they can be had with toppings of guacamole, salsas, chopped onion, tomatoes, serrano chillies or cilantro being most commonly used.

With slight twists on the preparation, one variation includes the entire package of cheese and additional ingredients sandwiched between two flour tortillas grilled on the oiled griddle and flipped so that both sides are cooked and the cheese is melted fusing it like a sealed pie, often cut into wedges and served.

“Cooking is at once child’s play and adult joy. And cooking done with care is an act of love.” Craig Claiborne

The quesadilla sincronizada, often found in the traditional Mexican recipes is a tortilla-based sandwich made by placing ham, re-fried beans or chorizo with a portion of cheese ( preferably Oaxaca) between two flour tortillas. Grilled or even lightly fried; these tortillas become crispy as the cheese melts. They are then cut into halves or wedges and served, usually with other toppings and condiments like salsa, pico de gallo, avocado or guacamole.

Served as a snack meal, main course or even as appetizers; each recipe calls for a subtle change depending on the chef’s choice. One variation is the pizzadilla, which has the ingredients and cooking technique of quesadilla, complete with pizza toppings. As for the tortilla base, with corn flour readily available; making the base is no longer a harried process. Giving the quesadilla a sweet touch with ingredients of chocolate, butterscotch or caramel; makes the dessert variant a beautiful addition to the regular bowl of ice-cream.

With plenty of recipes to choose from, home cooking in the holidays is what keeps the mischief makers at bay. As for family traditions, there is a new one to create for every holiday season. And the latter is what makes life fun, a little of variety with or without the spice.

Posted in Life, poetry, Random Thoughts

To Rest, Free

Weekends are precious. At times it is so because one tries to squeeze in the dues from the week before or catch up with family and friends who have been neglected for a while, or to catch up with own personal stuff. Though at times, weekends are more precious because it’s one of the days when one tries to simply do nothing. To a point, my husband and I try to fit the weekend in the last category. With the children kept busy till lunch; the post lunch session includes an hour or two of their favourite cartoons or movie, while as adults we resolve to just lie in the yard, free of any thoughts or plans.

“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.” John Lubbock

Trying to stay “thought free” for a hour or half every weekend does wonders for the soul. To contemplate or think about nothing, while one is still alert is an art in itself. While an idle mind mayn’t be a bad workshop, to be free of thoughts for a while is on a totally different plane. Each of us have plenty of inner worries that often tend to surface when the hands stay still and the mind wanders. To still that wandering mind of worries takes effort and plenty of faith laced with hope.

“The most valuable thing we can do for the psyche, occasionally, is to let it rest, wander, live in the changing light of room, not try to be or do anything whatever.” May Sarton

To rest and feel free is a wonderful gift to experience. To relax doesn’t require one to be kept busy or watch plenty of visuals. One of the best ways to de-stress would be just to lie in the hammock and watch the sunset or to close the eyes and feel the smell of dewy grass. All these provide rest for the psyche. Still those wandering unbidden thoughts and instead, just do nothing but lie still. Those moments of stillness are quite enough to rejuvenate one for the never ending chaos and cares of the current times.

The House of Rest

I will build a house of rest,
Square the corners every one:
At each angle on his breast
Shall a cherub take the sun;
Rising, risen, sinking, down,
Weaving day’s unequal crown.

In the chambers, light as air,
Shall responsive footsteps fall:
Brother, sister, art thou there?
Hush! we need not jar nor call;
Need not turn to seek the face
Shut in rapture’s hiding-place.

Heavy load and mocking care
Shall from back and bosom part;
Thought shall reach the thrill of prayer,
Patience plan the dome of art.
None shall praise or merit claim,
Not a joy be called by name.

With a free, unmeasured tread
Shall we pace the cloisters through:
Rest, enfranchised, like the Dead;
Rest till Love be born anew.
Weary Thought shall take his time,
Free of task-work, loosed from rhyme.

No reproof shall grieve or chill;
Every sin doth stand confest;
None need murmur, ‘This was ill’:
Therefore do they grant us rest;
Contemplation making whole
Every ruin of the soul.

Pictures shall as softly look
As in distance shows delight;
Slowly shall each saintly book
Turn its pages in our sight;
Not the study’s wealth confuse,
Urging zeal to pale abuse.

Children through the windows peep,
Not reproachful, though our own;
Hushed the parent passion deep,
And the household’s eager tone.
One above, divine and true,
Makes us children like to you.

Measured bread shall build us up
At the hospitable board;
In Contentment’s golden cup
Is the guileless liquor poured.
May the beggar pledge the king
In that spirit gathering,

Oh! my house is far away;
Yet it sometimes shuts me in.
Imperfection mars each day
While the perfect works begin.
In the house of labor best
Can I build the house of rest.
-Julia Ward Howe

Source: She Wields a Pen: American Women Poets of the Nineteenth Century (University of Iowa Press, 1997)

Posted in Daily, Family and Society, poetry, Random Thoughts, Stories Around the World

Record in the Storm

On May 6, 1954 at Oxford University’s Iffley Road Track, when Roger Bannister had broken the four-minute barrier; it was a marvellous achievement. For he had not just set a proven record of being the first to run a mile under four minutes; but he had also broken the calculations set by the science of physics, mechanics and human biology. Since then, many more athletes have broken the four minute barrier. Such and similar achievements of people have left often amazed about the infinite possibilities of man and his abilities.

“The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word ‘crisis.’ One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the danger–but recognize the opportunity.” John F. Kennedy

All of us have it in us, the ability to do the best of ourselves. At times, these come to forefront only when challenged or mired in a crisis. Imagine being stuck in a deep crevice, there are only two options then; to either go down deep and perish or gain footholds and climb up till one finds a way out. Being put against odds, helps one to find the strength within. Many a time, it is these rough patches that help to find ourselves. One is never beaten unless one thinks one is. The strength depends on the state of the mind. As one learns to climb the rough rocks, gain a foothold, test own wings and fly; does one get to see fresh beauty, soar to new heights and touch fresh skies.

A State of Mind
by A Walter D. Wintle
If you think you are beaten, your are
If you think you dare not, you won’t,
If you like to win, but don’t think you can
It’s almost a cinch you won’t

If you think you’ll lose, you’re lost
For out in the world you’ll find,
Success begins with a fellow’s will
It’s all in a state of mind

For many a game is lost
Ere even a play is run,
And many a coward fails
Ere even his work is begun

Think big and your deeds will grow
Think small and you’ll fall behind
Think that you can and you will
It’s all a state of mind

If you think you are out-classed, your are
You’ve got to think high to rise
You’ve got to be sure of yourself before
You can ever win a prize

Life battles don’t always go
To the stronger or faster man
But sooner or later, the man who wins
Is the fellow who thinks he can

Posted in Family and Society, Life, Random Thoughts, Stories Around the World

One Vs. Two

Reading from the storybook wasn’t exactly a night ritual but more of an evening time practice. While the young mind holds thoughts of lions not getting their dinner or the stag running from the hunter; they are busy figuring out how the ending works and all are happy or sad. Yet for the adult mind, these ending linger and reflect out the similar analogy in the modern busy lives.

One of the recent reads was about the “lion who didn’t get it’s meal” because for a scant second he though to get more and gave chase without securing his first catch. Area lot of us like this lion ? A few of times, each of us may have felt a similar vein. Entering the race for securing a better project or incentive as compare to one hand, in view of better long term incentives. In few cases the decision may have been alright, while in the other cases it may have cost us quite a bit for that extra run. Whether the “cost” was worth it, only hindsight would prove.

“When one door closes another door opens; but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us.” Alexander Graham Bell

The importance lies in knowing when to give chase and when to recognize the opportunity at hand, secure it and then embark on the hunt for the better opportunity. As the “greedy lion” always teaches us that a bird in hand is worth two in the bush; the difference lies in not just recognizing the essence or what is held within the hand but also to keep it anchored and use it to better ourselves. Identifying is one, but using it is another. In the hunt for the dove flying above, the sparrow at hand has more to offer. Learning that difference helps us to not just climb ladders for growth or success but also to pursue the meaningful things at own door than be embroiled in the fathomless pursuit of “deemed happiness or requirements” of life in general.

“The Greedy Lion. It was an incredibly hot day and a lion was feeling very hungry. He crawled out of his den and searched here and there, but he could only find a small hare. He caught the hare, but with some hesitation as he knew the hare wouldn’t fill him up. As the lion was about to kill the hare, he spotted a deer coming his way and thought, “Instead of eating this small hare, let me eat that big deer.” So he let the hare go and went after the deer, but it vanished in the forest. The lion now had nothing to eat as the hare was also long gone.” (Source: vk.com)

‘Der Spatz in der Hand ist besser als die Taube auf dem Dach’.