Posted in Daily, Food, Stories Around the World

The “Meringue” Way

“To make white bisket bread.
Take a pound & a half of sugar, & an handfull of fine white flower, the whites of twelve eggs beaten verie finelie, and a little annisseed brused, temper all this together, till it be no thicker than pap, make coffins with paper, and put it into the oven, after the manchet is drawen.”
– Recipe for the “white biskit bread” in the book of recipes started (1604) by Lady Elinor Poole Fettiplace (c.1570 – c.1647) of Gloucestershire.
(Fettiplace, Eleanor Poole (1994). Hilary Spurling (ed.). Elinor Fettiplace’s Receipt Book. Translated by John Spurling. Bristol (U.K.): Stuart Press. Volume 1, page 23) noted by Muster (ref.)

Made from egg whites and sugar, whipped up to a finesse with a binding agent (salt, cornstarch or gelatin) and an occasional acidic ingredient (lemon, vinegar or cream of tartar) or flavorings of vanilla, coconut or almond; meringue had graced the dessert menu especially to highlight a special occasion or simply enjoy the pleasures of an exquisite delight. The origin till date, is a point of contention for food historians.

The name “meringue” had first appeared in cookbook by François Massialot (1692) (“XXVIII: Des Meringues & Macarons”. Nouvelle instruction pour les confitures, les liqueurs et les fruits (in French). Paris: Charles de Sercy. pp. 186–188). While the word “meringue” had first appeared in English in an English translation of Massialot’s book (1706); two considerably earlier seventeenth-century English manuscript books of recipes give instructions for confections known as “white bisket bread” and “pets” of what are today are recognizable as meringue. The other claim was that meringue was invented in the Swiss village of Meiringen and improved by an Italian chef named Gasparini between the end of the 17th century and the beginning of the 18th century.

“To make Pets
Take a pownd of Drye fine searsed [sifted] suger, & beat the whites very wel then take off froutgh [froth] & put your suger, bye litle & litle in to it — contineually stiring it & beating it with a spoone ore laydle, and when it is exceedingly well beaten, then have some pye plates ready buttred & wipe the buter of because the lesse buter it hath the beter, then drope them upon the plate & put in to every drope a carieway seede or coriander then let your oven be very temparate and watch them with a candle all the while & if they be right they will rise and looke very white, it is good at the first to set a scilet [skillet] of water, with them in to the oven,& when they be thowrow [thoroughly] drye then take them out, you must in the mixing of them put 12 graines of muske & 12 of Abergrisse [Ambergris] which you must bruse with suger before you stire it in to the egge & suger.”
– Recipe for a baked beaten-egg-white-and-sugar confection (1630) is given in a manuscript of collected recipes written, by Lady Rachel Fane (1612/13 – 1680) of Knole, Kent. (Barry, Michael (1995). Old English Recipes. Jarrod (archived at the Centre for Kentish Studies, Maidstone, Kent). p. 64f.)

The faster they are beaten, the better is the flavour. The key to the formation of a good meringue is the formation of stiff peaks by denaturing the protein of egg whites by pure mechanical shear force. Today these light, airy and sweet confections are made at home (more chewy and soft, and crisp exterior), though the commercial ones still thrive. Interestingly, meringues were traditionally shaped between two large spoons (still done so at the home kitchens) till Antonin Carême piped the “meringue through a pastry bag”.

Over the years, various techniques have been improvised to bring forth the French or basic meringue, Italian, Swiss and even the vegan meringue. From biscuits, desserts to embellishment, each meringue based recipe like the lemon meringue pie, baked Alaska, dacquoise, Esterházy torte to mention a few, all have a story and art of their own to tell. With meringue taking the form of whimsical shapes such as mushrooms; or piped into a crisp basket that is baked and filled with cake, fruit, or flowers are few of the many reasons why these delicacies are here to stay and transform the art and flavours of dessert.

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

Reality….Over The Years

“A person is formed by experiences. The past is a blind sculptor. To deny that artist his masterwork is to mock your own experience.” Jim Starlin

One of the biggest reality checks of being an adult is that one has to battle with a host of consequences, decisions, situations and regrets often moving along as a chain of sorts. At times, they may not be in one’s hands but a lot dependent as an outcome of the actions of others. Yet those actions incite the reaction in one, which has the drastic consequences. Thereby the cycle gets initiated and events set in motion.

“The truth is, we all face hardships of some kind, and you never know the struggles a person is going through. Behind every smile, there’s a story of a personal struggle.” Adrienne C. Moore

Reality is, no matter how hard one tries; how careful or pleasant one attempts to be, there are bound to be many “ups” and “downs” in the short time that we have on earth. The way how one handles them and moves on, is what matters the most. While sometimes we may be able to figure out things or set a pattern; there would be never be a hard and fast rule that would ensure everything would be done by the right way.

“He who knows no hardships will know no hardihood. He who faces no calamity will need no courage. Mysterious though it is, the characteristics in human nature which we love best grow in a soil with a strong mixture of troubles.” Harry Emerson Fosdick

The beauty of time, is that it helps us to grow and learn from the past for the future. Mistakes or struggles, at times in a similar manner may happen time and again, but learning to overcome them makes all the difference. As proved through the tests of time over centuries and as history has shown man; eventually we will overcome and things would make sense at the end; as long as one never loses hope.

“And then things would be fine. Then I’d be fine.” Sarah J. Maas

As we grow up, we learn that even the one person that wasn’t supposed to ever let you down probably will.
You will have your heart broken probably more than once and it’s harder every time.
You’ll break hearts too, so remember how it felt when yours was broken.
You’ll fight with your best friend.
You’ll blame a new love for things an old one did.
You’ll cry because time is passing too fast, and you’ll eventually lose someone you love.
So take too many pictures, laugh too much, and love like you’ve never been hurt because every sixty seconds you spend upset is a minute of happiness you’ll never get back.
Don’t be afraid that your life will end, be afraid that it will never begin.
Author Unknown

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

Of Own Niche

“Don’t set your goals by what other people deem important.” Jaachynma N.E. Agu

Leafing through the high school year book and the annual school magazine, recollections of the younger days resurface to mind. From photographs with class teachers, medal winners of sports, academic and cultural snaps to the articles written by juniors, seniors and classmates bring out the nostalgia. Those days the aspirations were to be successful in life, have fun and do what we love to do.

“What we love to do in life”

Many a time, the daily grind forces us to be something that one doesn’t want to be, especially career wise. Whether it be an artist trapped in accounting, a writer trapped in the office network, a musician taking salesman post for a living; all these are required when one needs to earn their bread and butter. However, the gifted talents should never be wasted. Yet pursuing something that is completely out of one’s league is alarmingly dangerous not only to them, but to other colleagues. While attaining a basic education and graduation is important; let it not drive one to kill their own originality and become something that one never was. Each one is gifted with a special talent. While it may necessary to engage in the working network to earn the daily living; let those God-given talents never be wasted but worked on, no matter how small the progress be and let one’s work shine and speak for themselves.

“Every man has a specific skill, whether it is discovered or not, that more readily and naturally comes to him than it would to another, and his own should be sought and polished. He excels best in his niche – originality loses its authenticity in one’s efforts to obtain originality.” Criss Jami

Call him Johnnie Martin, a young Canadian boy. He was the son of a carpenter, and his mother worked as a housekeeper. They lived frugal lives, saving their money for the day when they could send their son to college. Johnnie had reached the second year in high school when the blow fell. A psychologist attached to the school called the young man, just reached sixteen, into his private office and this is what he said. ‘Johnnie, I’ve been studying your marks and I’ve gone over your various tests in motor and sensory impressions – your physical examination. I’ve made a very careful study of you and your achievements.’ ‘I’ve been trying hard,’ put in Johnnie. ‘That’s just the trouble.’ said the psychologist. ‘You have worked very hard indeed – but it has not helped. You just don’t seem able to get ahead in your studies. You’re just not cut out for it, and for you to remain in high school would, in my opinion, be a waste of time.’ The boy buried his face in his hands. ‘This will be hard on my mother and father,’ he said. ‘Their one idea is for me to be a college man.’ The psychologist laid his hand on the boy’s shoulder. ‘People have different kinds of talents, Johnnie,’ he said. ‘There are painters who were never able to learn the multiplication table, and engineers who can’t sing on key. But every one of us has something special – and you are no exception. Some day you will find what your special gift is and when you do, you will make your parents very proud of you.’ Johnnie never went back to school. Jobs were scarce in town, but he managed to keep busy mowing the lawns of the householders and puttering in their flower-beds. And then a curious thing happened. Before long his customers began to notice that Johnnie had what they called a ‘green thumb’. The plants he tended grew and blossomed, and the rose trees blossomed. He fell into the habit of making suggestions for re-arranging the tiny front-yard landscapes. He had an eye for colour and could make surprising combinations that pleased the eye.

One day while he was down town he happened to notice a stretch of unused land behind the city hall. Chance or fate or whatever you may like to call it brought one of the town’s alderman round the corner just at that moment. Impetuously the boy said, ‘I can make a garden out of this dump, if you’ll let me.’ ‘The town’s got no money for frills,’ said the alderman. ‘I don’t want any money for it,’ said the boy – ‘I just want to do it.’
The alderman, being a politician, was astounded to find anyone who did not want money, under any and all circumstances. He took Johnnie into an office, and when the young man came out he had the authority to clean up the public eyesore. That very afternoon he borrowed extra tools and seeds and soil. Someone gave him a few young trees to plant. When others heard of it they offered rose-bushes and even a hedge. Then the town’s leading manufacturer heard of it, and volunteered to supply some benches. Before long the dreary old dump had become a little park. There were grassy lawns and little curving walks and restful seats and little house for birds. All the towns people were talking about what a lovely improvement the young man had made. But it was also a kind of show window for Johnnie. People saw the result of his skill and knew him for a natural landscape gardener.

That was twenty five years ago. Today Johnnie is the head of a prosperous business in landscape gardening. His customers extend into neighbouring provinces. Johnnie still cannot speak French or translate Latin, trigonometry is unknown to him. But colour and light and lovely prospects are his bread and butter. His aging parents are proud of Johnnie, for he is not only a success – a man of affairs and a member of the best clubs in town – he has also made his part of the world a lovelier place to live in. Where ever he and his men go, they spread beauty before the eyes of people.
Source – Modern Parables by Fulton Oursler. First published in 1951

Posted in Daily, Life, Personal Musings, poetry, Quotes, Work

From Sand to Pearl

“Nobody is exempt from the trials of life, but everyone can always find something positive in everything even in the worst of times.” Roy T. Bennett

Imagine waking up on the busy week days with no electricity in the house. From breakfast to lunch to be made ready and ironing not possible; the day starts off with a feeling of incompleteness marked by irritation. While commuting, the long unexpected long traffic jams increases the probability of being late for the kid’s school as well as office, driving the sense of irritation stronger and higher. Other instances like waiting for the teller in the long queue, till the point when it is one’s turn, midday break is due; or when during major retail and wholesale shopping queues are merged when cash counter machines default; or when one is stuck in the elevator, getting late for a meeting and a power outage happens. There are many more instances that can fill a page, wherein one is forced to bitten by the irritation bug and is helpless to do anything about it.

“If you are irritated by every rub, how will you be polished?” Rumi

What one fails to realize many a time, is that although the situation may be beyond our control, the reaction to it is in our hands. Being human, the feel of irritation will happen; yet how to face it, use it, temper it down and master the situation to one’s benefit will go a long way in changing the entire scenario, either in the short or the long run. Like the fire that brightens the silver and gold; one can get better of the common day hindrances. Those situations that may initially seem like a blight on the day, can be worked out and later be used to refine oneself to become a better human.

“I’ve found that worry and irritation vanish into thin air the moment I open my mind to the many blessings i possess.” Dale Carnegie

The Oyster
There once was an oyster whose story I tell,
who found that some sand had got into his shell.

It was only a grain, but it gave him great pain,
for oysters have feelings although they’re so plain.

Now, did he berate the harsh workings of fate
that brought him to such a deplorable state?

Did he curse at the government, cry for election,
and claim that the sea should have given him protection?

No – he said to himself as he lay on a shell,
since I cannot remove it I shall try to improve it.

Now the years have rolled around, as the years always do.
and he came to his ultimate destiny, a stew.

And the small grain of sand that had bothered him so,
was a beautiful pearl all richly aglow.

Now the tale has a moral, for isn’t it grand,
what an oyster can do with a morsel of sand?

What couldn’t we do if we’d only begin,
with some of the things that get under our skin?

Author Unknown

Posted in Daily, Food, Quotes

Lessons from the Kitchen

“Find something you’re passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it.” Julia Child

The second week of August always results in a tussle for the television remote, especially during the evening hours, before dinner. Eventually one gets to watch the latest sports round up or the current political scenes; while the other ends up watching You Tube for the vintage episodes of Julia Child’s shows namely “The French Chef”. Marking the birth week of Julia Child who had made French cooking sound feasible, few shows presenting her famous recipes, episodes or the iconic movie Julie & Julia (2009), paying a tribute to this legendary chef. Though one mayn’t be an avid chef or interested in the art of cooking, there are a couple of lessons on the kitchen front that Julia Child had taught her viewers over the years.

“You’ll never know everything about anything, especially something you love.” Julia Child

“…no one is born a great cook, one learns by doing.” Julia Child, My Life in France

The first few years away from the home environment results in one learning the basic few cooking skills. As the years move on, with the intermixing of cuisines and experimentation, taste buds refine and the likes develop. Entering into relationships and the adult life of the family, cooking for loved ones including making or recreating dishes as per their taste. As one’s own family evolves, cooking comes from the heart. In sequence, what comes from the heart is born out of love, care and interest for the loved ones. Such purpose will conquer the fear of “the dish going bad or wrong”. Along with finesse, it is the dash of love that matters the most.

“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.” Julia Child

“You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces – just good food from fresh ingredients.” Julia Child

During the early years, kitchens were fun especially during the rainy days. Learning to mix the flour, knead it and make flatbread was more about fun and doing, than understanding what happens. Then as home science begins during the middle school and science is explored further, one begins to comprehend the science in the kitchen. Later once alone, cooking becomes an experimentation of flavours, mix of colours, interest and imagination. Eventually cooking evolves into a form of art and science, spiking the interest of the mind as well as the senses.

“The more you know, the more you can create. There’s no end to imagination in the kitchen.” Julia Child via Lynn Gilbert, Particular Passions: Talks With Women Who Have Shaped Our Times

“One of the secrets, and pleasures, of cooking is to learn to correct something if it goes awry; and one of the lessons is to grin and bear it if it cannot be fixed.” Julia Child, My Life in France

Over the years from a novice to learning to master the meals for family and friends, there have been epic disasters, emergency restaurant bookings, late night takeaways and unplanned visits for the family homestead dinners. Yet through the mess, mistakes have been understood and corrected. New recipes and cuisines experimented, modified and old, tested or tried recipes redone with one’s own signature style. Through the uphills and downhills in the kitchen, it is still the fun that stays in the memories made for the self, with children, family and friends around. Man mayn’t live by bread alone, but making it in style, from scratch and with own flavours gives a full sense of accomplishment, happiness within and fun memories to hold onto for a lifetime.

“This is my invariable advice to people: Learn how to cook- try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless, and above all have fun!” Julia Child, My Life in France

Posted in Daily, Family and Society, poetry, Quotes, Reflections, Work

Deep Within

“The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor man perfected without trials.” Chinese Proverb

While stepping into primary school, the enjoyment of the preschooler or kinder-gardener child is at times, marred by the sudden fear of how will school be, will their pre-school friends be there and above all, will one survive. Similar emotions resurface on entering middle school and high school. During each step, there is a constant surge of excitement on attaining the next level, albeit marked by the shadows of fear. During the later high school years, choices, decisions and plans have to be made, on how one wants to shape out their individual lives. From then on, the daily grind involves a battle of fears and uncertainties in own potential as well as the world around one.

“Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you’re doing the impossible.” Francis of Assisi

While attending the graduation of children of family friends, the emotions across many “graduated faces” all echoed the above sentiments. Looking back on own struggles, difference and growth in life largely involves believing in oneself. During the struggle for the better, emotions range from determination, intermittent fear and insecurity as well as hopes continuously flit in and out. The degree of how much one gives in to the “negative emotions” than the positive ones, all changes the outlook, the effort and ultimately the outcome.

“Turn your wounds into wisdom.” Oprah Winfrey

Each individual has the potential to be better than the other at something or the other. Talents are unique in manner, form, presentation and outcome. While others may view facets of these; the entire picture is viewed by the individual alone. That alone makes the big difference for it settles the restlessness in one’s mind, body and soul. The journey in life moves forward by keeping all the senses in motion. For happiness, peace and contentment to touch one’s life, learning to conquer their inner world made of fears, temporary obstacles, insecurities and the like, makes the “better parts of life” attainable and worth every effort to get them.

“The pessimist complains about the wind, the optimist expects it to change and the realist adjusts the sails.” William Arthur Ward

There’s nothing you cannot do
There’s nothing to fear, you’re as good as the best.
As strong as the mightiest, too.
You can win in every battle or test.
For there’s no one just like you.

There’s only one you in the world today.
So nobody else, you see.
Can do your work in as fine a way.
You’re the only you there’ll be.

So face the world, and all life is yours.
To conquer and love and live.
And you’ll find the happiness that endures.
In just the measure you give.

There’s nothing too good for you to possess.
Nor heights where you cannot go.
Your power is more than belief or guess.
It is something you have to know.

There is nothing to fear, you can and you will.
For you are the invincible you.
Set your foot on the highest hill.
There’s nothing you cannot do.
Author Unknown

“The most beautiful people I’ve known are those who have known trials, have known struggles, have known loss, and have found their way out of the depths.” Elizabeth Kübler-Ross

Posted in Christian, Daily, poetry, Random Thoughts, Work

To HIS Tune

It is he who made the earth by his power,
who established the world by his wisdom,
and by his understanding stretched out the heavens. (Jeremiah 10:12)

This Sunday marked the beginning of the month’s inter-church cultural activities. On the lines similar to the school or college based events like prose, elocution, recital, music, bible verse memorization, quiz and so on; children from each church had participated and competed to represent each of their individual church in the zonal event and finally state based events to be held later this year. It was the poetry or recital that had caught my attention this morning.

Essentially, man is created with each one having their own style of distinctiveness. In the natural order, even identical twins have their individual style, which may be felt by their close ones alone. Despite the special talent that each one has, when one decides to let God be a part of their lives, the music played has more eloquence and beauty than when strung alone. For this to happen, it is necessary to let go of the entire control of one’s plans and commit them to His Hand with each one putting their best forward. Plan but don’t over-plan or draw the minute exactness. Be prepared for things to go change. Trust those plans into His Hands. At the end of the day, even if things go haywire, the notes written, the music strung and the words will still be of the finest, when committed into His Hands.

But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Mathew 19:26)

The Touch Of The Master’s Hand
Myra Brooks Welch

It was battered and scarred,
And the auctioneer thought it
Hardly worth his while
To waste his time on the old violin,
But he held it up with a smile.
“What am I bid, good people”, he cried,
“Who starts the bidding for me?”
“One dollar, one dollar, Do I hear two?”
“Two dollars, who makes it three?”

“Three dollars once, three dollars twice,
Going for three”. . . but no!
From the room far back a gray-haired man
Came forward and picked up the bow;
Then wiping the dust from the old violin,
And tightening up the strings,
He played a melody, pure and sweet,
As sweet as an angel sings.

The music ceased and the auctioneer
With a voice that was quiet and low,
Said “What now am I bid for this old violin?”
As he held it aloft with its bow.
“One thousand, one thousand, Do I hear two?”
“Two thousand, Who makes it three?”
“Three thousand once, three thousand twice,
Going and gone”, said he.

The people cheered, but some of them cried,
“We do not quite understand.
What changed its worth?” Swift came the reply:
“The touch of the Master’s hand.”
And many a man with life out of tune,
And battered and scarred with sin,
Is auctioned cheap to the thoughtless crowd
Much like the old violin.

A “mess of pottage,” a glass of wine,
A game and he travels on,
He’s going once, and going twice –
He’s going – and almost gone!
But the MASTER comes, and the foolish crowd,
Never can quite understand,
The worth of a soul, and the change that’s wrought
By the touch of the MASTER’S hand.

“The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” Zephaniah 3:17