Posted in Daily, Stories Around the World, Food

“Grill or Barbecue” Summer

With the scent of summer and warm weather, there’s nothing more fun than having an outdoor cooking session. Open space, vegetables and meat or fish with lots of sauces, condiments, rice as well as firewood or outdoor grills and everyone is getting set for the weekend family cookout. Interestingly one may be naturally guess that the concept of outdoor cooking has been there since the time of the prehistoric man. While in the early years, it was more of a necessity than leisure; over time it became an occasion for gatherings, mass cooking as well as festive or season celebrations.

“If summer had one defining scent, it’d definitely be the smell of barbecue.” Katie Lee

Contrary to popular notion, grilling and barbecue aren’t the same. The initial years had seen majority of outdoor or open fire cooking where in the art of getting vegetables and meat well done were perfected. Slowly there were distinct methods and styles as well as flavours of getting food well done over fire were learnt and modified, like smoking, roasting or baking, braising and grilling. While these may be largely encompassed under the banner of barbecue, there subtle distinctions by the manner each is done. Each technique by which it is named so involves cooking using smoke at low temperatures and the duration of cooking hours from few to several. While baking uses an oven to convection cook with moderate temperatures for an average cooking time of about an hour; braising combines direct, dry heat charbroiling on a ribbed surface with a broth-filled pot for moist heat. Grilling is done over direct, dry heat, usually over a hot fire for a few minutes. Technically barbecue is a method as well as an apparatus for cooking meat, poultry and occasionally fish with the heat and hot smoke of fire, smoking wood or hot coals of charcoal.

“There are two different things: there’s grilling, and there’s barbecue. Grilling is when people say, ‘We’re going to turn up the heat, make it really hot and sear a steak, sear a burger, cook a chicken.’ Barbecue is going low and slow.” Guy Fieri

Since the pre-colonization era, grilling had existed in the Americas. However, the origin of the term “barbecue” can’t be exactly determined. The earliest records were that when the Spanish, upon landing in the Caribbean, had seen the natives like the Arawak people of South America or the Caribbean Taino Indians (accounts vary) who had a method of slow-cooking meat over a wooden (or green sticks) structure known as “barbacoa” in Spanish. For centuries, the term barbacoa referred to the wooden structure and not the act of grilling, but it was eventually modified to “barbecue”.

As per the records of the earliest English tales of barbecue as written by Edward Ward ( 18th century) in his travel accounts, “The Barbacue Feast: or, the three pigs of Peckham, broil’d under an apple-tree.” As per his story, the social aspects of “cooking food over fire” for several hours while enjoying the evening was a new and noteworthy experience. Later on this techniques had caught on and with the spread of colonies, civil wars and later, as festive or celebratory occasions, the technique, art, style and precision of cooking by “barbecue” were perfect and made into an enjoyable social as well as family occasion.

“Cooking and eating food outdoors makes it taste infinitely better than the same meal prepared and consumed indoors.” Fennel Hudson

Across the globe, similar techniques were being practiced like the Korean barbecue features thin slices of beef or pork cooked and served with rice, Argentinian “asado” or marinade-free meat cooked in a smokeless pit and the Indian “tandoor” cooking. The “tandoor” is a large pot, typically buried in the ground up to its neck with hot coals added to the bottom. Made of ceramic, the Tandoor holds in the heat and focuses it on the food cooked inside. With the “true barbecue” has evolved into its’ distinct style over the years; summer evenings and holidays turned into occasions of fun, beating the heat and humid season. With a range of styles from open pit or fire cooking to grills or barbecue, outdoor cooking of summer is indeed an experience to try as well as appreciate.

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

Far from the Blanket

“Judgments prevent us from seeing the good that lies beyond appearances.” Wayne Dyer

One of the benefits of shopping over the weekends is the discount sales that are commonly offered. Yet on closer scrutiny at the price list, our requirements, the discount amount with the manufacturing and expiry dates, at the end of the day; the weekend rush isn’t worth the effort for the offered discount. For the days when we need them, they do help. But when weekends are the only day to recuperate from the busy week, spending some personal time as well as family time may be more worth with the treasures of memories.

“It is with our judgments as with our watches: no two go just alike, yet each believes his own.” Alexander Pope

Comparing this with few situations in our life, many a time we make judgments under the guise of certain notions or thinking. Yet on close scrutiny, one may discover that not everything is as it seems to be. Very often, we tend to put people under an umbrella. Like during school days, the scholarship as well as class toppers were believed to be geeks; yet imagine the surprise when their added talents ranged widely in the field of music, arts and some in sports as well. Similarly at the workplace or the community, when one is busy labeling the others; we lose out not only on their friendship but also the kinship that we would establish once we really get to know them. No one is like the other; neither do all fit under one blanket. When asked about ourselves, this dictum would be what we would prefer others would use to view us; then why not the same for them too. In life, open minds and kind words go a longer way than sudden opinions, quick judgments and hasty impressions.

“In our judgment of human transactions, the law of optics is reversed, we see most dimly the objects which are close around us.” Richard Whately

Not everyone who is punished is guilty.
Not everyone who is acquitted is not guilty.
Not everyone who called himself a brother is a brother.
The unity of souls is not due to blood.

Not everyone is a friend who held a hand,
Not every enemy really hates.
Raised dagger is not so dangerous,
Like a thirst for revenge in the most hidden form.

Not everyone hugging is in love,
And standing on the side is indifferent.
Not everyone is inspired by the bright feeling,
Who flies his ears with flattery.

Not everyone falls under the pattern,
but each created it once.
And he does not suspect that he is the
same for someone “not everyone” ..
– Rus Svyataya

“Do not condemn the judgment of another because it differs from your own. You may both be wrong.” Dandemis

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

Cups, Perfection or Happiness

“Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be.” Abraham Lincoln

As per the recent health surveys, the growing levels of stress are increasing steadily, not only among white collar workers, but also among young adults, adolescents and even at school level. In 2016, an estimate of over 1.1 billion people worldwide ( 1 in 6 or 15-20%) had mental or substance use disorder with around 4 percent of population had anxiety disorder ( Source: Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, Global Burden of Disease study). As per the Cigna 360 Well Being Survey (2018), around 9 in 10 Indians suffer from stress. With all this statistical evidence and data of mental as well physical health correlations, the glaring fact or query is whether happiness or health is defined by the boundaries of pre-defined standardized success or by the quiet inner serenity of “being successful within”.

“You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.” Albert Camus

One of the reasons why we often sink into the pits in our journey in life, is because we are too busy looking around to notice our own. One becomes too busy in concentrating on how “our coffee cup” is shaped, styled and modeled in comparison to others either by wealth, career, assets or other parameters. Unfortunately in doing so, we fail to enjoy to taste, flavours and pleasure of indulging in the freshly brewed coffee in our own cup. Wouldn’t it be better if we enjoyed our own cup in the short time that we have?

“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.” Albert Schweitzer

To attain the happiness in life, doesn’t imply to concentrate only on the cup that we have. Perfection doesn’t define happiness. Rather define what is important to one and find comfort and peace of mind in those. The choice to remain at peace and serene lies within us and our thoughts. Choose to stay calm, happy and content by finding the value and worth in things that really matter to us and our inner peace.

“Happiness depends upon ourselves.” Aristotle

A Cup and Coffee

A group of highly established alumni got together to visit their old university professor. The conversation among them soon turned into complaints about their stressful work and life. The professor went to his kitchen and returned with a large pot of coffee and an assortment of cups, including porcelain, plastic, glass, crystal, some plain-looking, some expensive and some exquisite. The professor told them to help themselves to the coffee. After all the students had a cup of coffee in their hands, the professor said: “ Did you notice all the nice looking cups are taken and only the plain inexpensive ones are left behind. While it is normal for everyone to want the best for themselves, but that is the source of problems and stress in your life. “ “ The cup itself adds no quality to the coffee. In most of the cases, it’s just more expensive and hides what we drink.”, the professor continued. “What all of you really wanted was coffee, not the cup, but all of you consciously went for good looking expensive cups and then began eyeing on each other’ s cups.”
“Let’s consider that life is the coffee and the jobs, houses, cars, things, money and position are the cups. The type of cup we have, does not define or change the quality of our lives.”

Posted in Daily, Food

“Quiche” on the Menu

Fill the pastry crust with cheese, tomatoes, egg custard and smoked meat or mushrooms or any ingredient by choice, bake it without covering the pastry and viola’ the “homemade quiche’ ” is ready for the get-together with the extended family, friends, colleagues, neighbours or for a quiet light meal for two.

This savoury open flan consisting of pastry crust filled with eggs, milk or cream with cheese, meat, seafood or vegetables, quiche is one of the popular dishes of the French cuisine which has reached over to various parts and countries of the world albeit with or without modifications.

While the word “quiche” was first attested in French (1805) and the first English usage as “quiche Lorraine” was recorded in the Indiana Evening Gazette in 1925; the origins of this dish may be traced to the German roots. For the word “quiche” may originate from the German “Kuchen” meaning “cake” or “tart”. Food historians have traced the roots of “quiche” to the medieval kingdom of Lothringen, under German rule, which the French later renamed as Lorraine.

Although this may be debatable as using eggs and cream in pastry was practiced in most cuisines as early as the 13th century. In fact the ” Forme of Cury” and the “Italian Libro de arte coquinaria” of the 13th and 14th century cookbooks have references of recipes known as ” Crustardes of flesh” or ” Crustade” which spell out steps for eggs and cream baked in pastry containing meat, fish and fruit. Since then, these recipes have caught on.

“I do not like a quiche with wet, undercooked pastry underneath, and that is that.” Mary Berry

Quiche can be made with a variety of ingredients with the variants often named descriptively in French like the quiche au fromage ( with cheese), quiche aux champignons (with mushrooms) or conventionally like florentine (spinach) and provençale (tomatoes) to list a few. Although there are many variants of quiche, one of the most popular and famous one is the ” Quiche Lorraine”, which has its’ own National Day as per the foodimentarians ( May 20th).

The authentic Quiche Lorraine originated from the German culture in which the “quiche” was an egg custard pie baked in a brioche pastry (and not in the typical French pie dough). Over the years this recipe had evolved into its’ classical form containing heavy cream, eggs and bacon or chopped ham, but no cheese. This mouth-watering wintry dish is baked until the pastry crust is browning. It can be served as a starter with a dressed crisp salad or as a brunch dish, often enjoyed at room temperature or little warm to keep the pie still crunchy. While the most popular Quiche recipe, includes French soft cheese (emmenthal or gruyere); many modern variations like the Alsatian-style including onions to modern versions with goat cheese, salmon, leek or even broccoli are made today.

So for a quick change from the regular, trying this simple recipe after a busy day may be fun. For the lack of ovens, this dish works fine on cooking with “instant pot” or ” by double boiling” techniques too . As often said, cooking is all about ” experimentation, cuisine mixing with modifications keeping it simple, tasty and artsy as well as fun”.

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

From the Ashes to Hope

“The darkest hours are just before dawn.” English proverb

Of recent times, the town had seen a couple of new start ups’, businesses that have been flourishing over the past three years. Initially they had started small, one had crashed in between and had later had caught on; while few others had stayed steady on from the beginning. Yet what comes to mind on walking down the market road, was how fragile time is and how we must learn to rise up every now and then from the ashes of our efforts, similar to the phoenix.

“Hope lies in dreams, in imagination, and in the courage of those who dare to make dreams into reality.” Jonas Salk

 

As per the Greek mythology, the phoenix (Ancient Greek: φοῖνιξ, phoînix) was a long-lived bird that cyclically regenerates or is otherwise born again. Associated with the Sun, a phoenix obtains new life by arising from the ashes of its predecessor. The phoenix is believed to die in a show of flames and combustion, although there are other sources that claim that the legendary bird dies and simply decomposes before being born again. Among the different traditions concerning the lifespan of the phoenix, by most accounts the phoenix lived for 500 years before rebirth. Among the old records of Herodotus, Pliny the Elder, Pope Clement I, Ovid among others, the retelling and transmission of the phoenix motif has been done in detail. As per these historical records, the phoenix symbolized renewal in general as well as the sun, time, the Empire, metempsychosis, consecration, resurrection, life in the heavenly Paradise, Christ, Mary, virginity, the exceptional man, and certain aspects of Christian life”. In the Old English Exeter Book,  an anonymous 677-line 9th-century alliterative poem has been written consisting of a paraphrase and abbreviation of Lactantius, followed by an explication of the Phoenix as an allegory for the resurrection of Christ.

Þisses fugles gecynd fela gelices
bi þam gecornum Cristes þegnum;
beacnað in burgum hu hi beorhtne gefean
þurh Fæder fultum on þar frecnan tid
healdaþ under heofonum & him heanna blæd
in þam uplican eðle gestrynaþ. (In the Original Old English)

This bird’s nature is much like
to the chosen servants of Christ;
pointeth out to men how they bright joy
through the Father’s aid in this perilous time
may under heaven possess, and exalted happiness
in the celestial country may gain. (In Modern English translation )

Source:Thorpe, Benjamin; Corson, Hiram (1842). “Codex exoniensis. A collection of Anglo-Saxon poetry, from a manuscript in the library of the dean and chapter of Exeter”. p. 244.

 

“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.” Helen Keller

In the various phases of one’s life, we have all our “phoenix” moments, to rise from the ashes of downfall. With the turn from winter to spring, nature teaches us time and again that hope will bear fruit as long as we aim to work for it. With the new crops planted in the last few weeks, one can hardly believe that few months ago it was the time of cold, dry and rainy days of the winters. As the season changes and time moves on, staying stuck lasts only as long as we allow it to be so. Like all plans and dreams that may be fulfilled or go astray; it’s the will to survive that beats the intermittent thunders and storms in one’s life as well as to dust ourselves from the ashes to start rebuilding.

“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.” Desmond Tutu

 

I will return as grass in spring,
I’ll try to reach you, germinating,
As buds reach forward to the green
When they are waiting to awaken.

To start the blossoming anew
One morning, secretly and shyly,
Already sparkling with the dew,
That dries away if sun is shining.

The sun arises every time
To warm the humid earth for seeding,
It reaches joyously your eyes
But I already do not see it.

It cannot raise my heavy eaves,
My closed eyelids, cannot force them.
And it’s ridiculous to grieve
For me as for a single person.

For I am grass and autumn leaves
That fly and fall to putrefaction,
But there is nothing new in these
Banal ideas and reflections.

It’s the eternal hope and dream –
To be, to stay, at least, as grass does,
To grow through the soil in spring
And join the life, the new one, lasting.

Gennady Shpalikov

 

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

Unexpected Rays of “Providence”

“Every disability conceals a vocation, if only we can find it, which will ‘turn the necessity to glorious gain.” C.S. Lewis

Unexpected occasions arise in one’s life at different points in their time frame. Yet while one mayn’t look for it, help often comes by His Grace.

Often unexpectedly, at a good hour, one may meet a person who disperses the clouds that have gathered in our soul, unwittingly resolving some of our personal problems.

” “Can you discover the depths of God? Can you discover the limits of the Almighty? “They are high as the heavens, what can you do? Deeper than Sheol, what can you know? “Its measure is longer than the earth And broader than the sea.” (Job 11:7-9)

Often it may be so that one happens to hear from another person a word that pleases them, or to say someone an encouraging word. Or suddenly one may receive a letter from someone, and precisely when it is necessary be it at a low point in one’s life or when one has been waiting for the “lost” opportunity for some time.

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

Often when one is deeply entangled in the circumstances life has thrown them into, when one is desperately trying to reason within their views and thinking, trying to get out of the hopeless situation; when suddenly something happens that radically changes the situation. Thus by inference unexpected meetings, kind words, cherished and promised letters and such situations as well as kind deeds towards oneself are all signs given to as reminders, lessons, admonitions, encouragement or as a call to remind one of the Grace of God and the gift of Providence.

“Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?” (Mathew 6:26)

Among the phrases handed down in the various cultures, there is a Chinese saying that all the darkness of the universe can not extinguish the smallest candle. It would do well to remember this during the dark phases of one’s life. When one knows and learns of this, the most ugly situations and the most terrible people may be viewed by different angles and seek out the spark of light. For Providence does indeed hold out the light, only it mayn’t be somewhere expected. When one believes in His Grace, Faith and Love; along the way one will find the rays that Providence throws offering the sparks and the rays to live.

“Numerous have been the manifestations of God’s providence in sustaining us. In the gloomy period of adversity, we have had ‘our cloud by day and pillar of fire by night.’ We have been reduced to distress, and the arm of Omnipotence has raised us up.” Samuel Adams

“Life is but a Weaving” (the Tapestry Poem)

“My life is but a weaving
Between my God and me.
I cannot choose the colors
He weaveth steadily.

Oft’ times He weaveth sorrow;
And I in foolish pride
Forget He sees the upper
And I the underside.

Not ’til the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly
Will God unroll the canvas
And reveal the reason why.

The dark threads are as needful
In the weaver’s skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned

He knows, He loves, He cares;
Nothing this truth can dim.
He gives the very best to those
Who leave the choice to Him.”
― Corrie ten Boom

“……and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation…” (Acts 17:26)

Posted in Daily, Food, Stories Around the World

Of Origin and Evolution…”Soufflé”

“You can’t make a souffle rise twice.” Alice Roosevelt Longworth

One of the main dishes that declares one’s success in the kitchen is the “souffle'”. Although records have traced its’ appearance to the early eighteenth century in France, soufflés may have been around ever since flour, milk, eggs and butter have been whipped up into different concoctions to please the palate. Essentially a soufflé is a baked egg-based dish made with egg yolks and beaten egg whites combined with various other ingredients and served as a savory main dish or sweetened as a dessert. “Soufflé” is the past participle of the French verb souffler which means “to blow”, “to breathe”, “to inflate” or “to puff”.

 

While, few food historians state that the first appearance is by the French master cook Vincent de la Chappelle in the early 1700s; the popularization of souffle perfected to an art was credited to the French chef, Marie-Antoine Carême, who was “a product of post-revolutionary Paris.” As per Antoine Beauvilliers, who is credited with the “first grand restaurant of Paris, had described the soufflé in “The Art of the Cook” (L’Art du Cuisinier, 1814) as,

“Put in the size of an egg of good butter, a little nutmeg and the yolks of four fresh eggs, the white of which must be whipped apart as for biscuit; mix them by little and little into the puree though hot, mix all well, and pour it into a silver dish or paper mould, put it in the oven. When the soufflé is well risen, touch it lightly, if it resist a little it is enough; it must be served immediately, as it is apt to fall.”

Baked in individual ramekins or typical dishes, soufflés are typically prepared from two basic components; the base as a flavored crème pâtissière, cream sauce (or béchamel) or a purée and the egg whites beaten to a soft peak. While the base provides the flavor, the egg whites provide the “lift” or puffiness to the dish. The base can be flavored with varied ingredients including herbs, cheese and vegetables for savory varieties or jam, fruits, berries,chocolate, banana or lemons and the like, for dessert soufflés. In fact, the savory soufflés can incorporate poultry, bacon, ham or seafood for a more substantial dish.

“The only thing that will make a souffle fall is if it knows you’re afraid of it.” James Beard

 

One of the main defaults while preparing a souffle’ is when it fails to rise. Yet as most chefs will say, one thing to keep in mind in soufflé preparation is that it really doesn’t matter how high the bubbly mixture poufs up while it bakes as long as the ingredients hidden inside should taste heavenly and cloud-like.

“If a dish doesn’t turn out right, change the name and don’t bat an eyelid. A fallen souffle is only a risen omelette. It depends on the self-confidence with which you present it.” Lionel Blue

For avid movie watchers as well as fans of the movies of the black and white era, one may have seen “Sabrina”, the 1954 film starring Audrey Hepburn. One of the scenes is where Hepburn is humiliated at the Parisian culinary school when the master chef humiliates her (and almost everyone) and critiqued their failed efforts at soufflé from “Too low; too high; too heavy; sloppy”. Hepburn sighs to her French baron friend (whose soufflé is perfect) “I don’t know what happened.”
He explains to her that she forgot to turn on her oven. “Your mind has not been on the cooking,” he says. “It has been elsewhere. A woman happy in love, she burns the soufflé. A woman unhappy in love she forgets to turn on the oven.”

While “the fallen soufflés” may be depicted in cartoons, comedies and children’s programs as a source of humor; the process of making it will be easy and fun if one learns to proportionate the ingredients and time the baking right. As they always say “Practice makes perfect”, trying a souffle’ for the National Cheese Souffle’ (May 18th) or Chocolate Souffle’ (February 28th) Day would be a first step towards mastering this art. If not to master, then at least experimenting to make one can result in some “kitchen fun” and good use of leftovers; or simple have and enjoy the “heavenly and light as air” experience.