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

Beyond the Odds

Thomas Edison tried two thousand different materials in search of a filament for the light bulb. When none worked satisfactorily, his assistant complained, “All our work is in vain. We have learned nothing.” Edison replied very confidently, “Oh, we have come a long way and we have learned a lot. We know that there are two thousand elements which we cannot use to make a good light bulb.”

“You can steer yourself in any direction you choose.” Dr. Seuss

It wouldn’t be just the assistant of Edison alone felt defeated, but thousands of like minded innovators and entrepreneurs who would have had similar feelings during their line of work. While working out their dreams and designs, many a time the negativism felt would have to be replaced with practical optimism for things to succeed. What would have been the outcome if they were still stuck in the crypts of negativity ? While the obvious was that they may have lost out on their invention; the reality is that they may lost out on their dream.

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.” Eleanor Roosevelt

Every experience has something to teach each one of us. Being human, one is bound to make mistakes, feel low during the time of repeated setbacks, open criticism and rejection. Coming out of those dumps is what makes the difference for each one of us. Life is all about growth and finding new shores. Find the realistic optimistic side of each failures or setback. Use them as stones to rebuild the dream and finally one would achieve it over the course of time.

“If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.” Henry David Thoreau

Posted in Daily, Food, Stories Around the World

The “Petit Four” Story

“It was the best first kiss in the history of first kisses. It was as sweet as sugar. And it was warm, as warm as pie. The whole world opened up and I fell inside. I don’t know where I was, but I didn’t care. I didn’t care because the only person who mattered was there with me.” Sarah Addison Allen (author of The Sugar Queen)

Craving for a snack between meals, especially during office hours wherein it is a situation between the need for the sugar versus the knowing that control is a must (mind vs. body), the deli across the road offers a relief during the short breaks. With the variety of mignardises of petit four on display, these cravings can be satisfied when their effect runs too hard.

Known more commonly as petit four than mignardises, the former word when literally translated from French means “small oven”. These small bite sized single piece confectionery or savoury appetizer arose in the 18th and 19th century French cuisine.

Before the gas ovens had been invented, those years saw the large brick ovens (more common Dutch design) being used. The latter used to take a long time to heat up (especially to the bread baking temperatures) as well as cool down. Taking advantage of the stored heat, bakers used these ovens to bake pastry during the cooling process which was known as baking à petit four (literally “at small oven”).

Walking into any French patisserie, these assorted small desserts are usually called mignardises; whereas the hard, buttery biscuits are called petits fours. Similar to the petit four is the classical Austrian confection of pastry known as Punschkrapfen or Punschkrapferl (punch cake), which has a legend of it’s own.

These petits fours come in three main varieties, as Petit Fours Glacé (“glazed”) predominantly served as iced or decorated tiny cakes topped with marzipan covered in fondant or icing. The second category includes savoury bite-sized appetizers usually served at cocktail parties or buffets known as Salé (“salted”). The third category are the Sec (“dry”) which encompasses dry cookies, dainty biscuits, baked meringues, macarons, sable beurre, palmiers, duchesses and puff pastries, all baked at low temperatures for a long time. Other categorizations also include the Petits fours frais which are any small pastries like sponge cakes like madeleine, financiers, creme filled pastries like eclairs or tartlets, all these must be eaten the same day they are made for the quality is lost if they sit longer. On the healthier front, there is the “Petits fours Deguises”, made of fresh or dried fruit dipped in a sweet coating such as chocolate or cooked sugar.

Homemade petit fours can be made on a more simple and creative way with plenty of icing sugar, fondant, candied bit and pieces as well as the good old chocolate to add to the flavours and sparkle it to a work of art. With this wide assortment of treats, petit fours are indeed a delightful to enjoy that little bit of sugar, the concentrated way or slightly less or simply be savoury for a change.

Posted in Christian, Daily, Reflections, Stories Around the World

Of Faith and Prayer

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)

Lost opportunities, being unemployed, opportunities being cut down and so on. What drives one to go through the difficult times ? While it is true that the core inner will and perseverance may be strong; yet the pillar of support arises from different sources. One of the most strongest grounds is one’s own Faith. The faith that lies in His Grace and His Hand guiding one out of the current mess. For Faith is one of the most powerful aspects of life.

“So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17)

The Christian faith has various facets. From steadfastness in the teachings and beliefs to being a gift of His Grace and His Mercy; faith involves not just prayer but living by His Will and His Word. Faith exists as a part of salvation through Christ but also as strength from the Lord for man to face the trials, temptations and tribulations. Faith is what gives water to the kernels of hope during the hard times, the times of self doubt and difficulties. Yet faith doesn’t grow by itself. It too needs it’s own nourishment through prayer and growth in the Scriptures. When one learns to grow in His Faith, miracles no matter how small they be or difficulties no matter how mentally overwhelming they may be, will be faced and brought down through His Love, His Works and by His Grace.

“….that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love,..” (Ephesians 3:17)

A poor woman from a small family was a believer. And one day, when there was not enough money even to feed the children, she called the radio station and left there an appeal to God for help. While employees of the radio reacted with understanding to the believing woman, one of the listeners was touched by her words.
He was a staunch atheist and decided to indulge himself by mocking the stranger. The man found out her address, called the secretary and instructed her to buy many products. What was her surprise when the boss gave the following order: deliver the products to the address and if the woman asks who sent the food, say it is from the devil. When the secretary handed the products to the stranger, she was so grateful that tears flowed from her eyes. She never ceased to thank and bless the girl. But when the woman had already begun to say goodbye, the secretary asked: “And you do not want to know who you these products?” To which the woman replied: No. It doesn’t matter at all, because when God gives an order, even the devil obeys.

“So that in the name of Jesus every knee of the heavenly, earthly, and underworld bows, And every tongue confessed that the Lord Jesus Christ was in the glory of God the Father.” Phil. 2: 10-11.

Posted in Daily, Family and Society, Reflections, Stories Around the World

Foggy Glasses

Although the winds are changing to the tune of autumn, certain areas still have their afternoon muggy heat to hold true to. On such times of the day, the car air-conditioner saves one from the humidity. Yet the incessant fogginess lurking when one steps out from the vehicle serves to keep the glass wipes always at hand, especially for spectacle wearers like yours truly. Yesterday while on errands, I had to repeatedly clean off the haziness on my glasses, while stepping out of my car. If one forgets to, the blurred surroundings remind that what one perceives isn’t what it is out there. The repeated cleaning reminded me of the article I had read across my social media pages of “Dirty Laundry”.

“The self-righteous scream judgments against others to hide the noise of skeletons dancing in their own closets.” John Mark Green

A lot of instances in our lives involve cleaning the glasses or windows. To pint a finger and critically decide is far easier than getting down to the task of cleaning own windows. What one persistently fails to realize is the loss of missing out on the beautiful views of life, than just saying words that may burn later. Life is too short to miss out on the panoramic views it offers. Getting down to cleaning the glasses may leave us feeling more content and happy, than sitting simply twiddling thumbs and pointing fingers. So why would one want to miss out on the gifts of relationships, views and people that life offers ?

“We have an inner window through which we can see the world, and though it gets cloudy in life, it’s our job to wipe it clean and see things as they really are.” Sebastian Koch

A young, successful couple found their dream home. Shortly after purchasing it, the couple sat at their kitchen table to indulge in a delicious breakfast. The wife looked out the window, and to her surprise, she saw her neighbor hanging dirty laundry on the clothesline. ‘That laundry isn’t clean, it’s still dirty!’ she said to her husband. ‘Someone needs to teach her a thing or two when it comes to washing her clothes!’

A couple of days later, the couple sat down at their kitchen table for another meal. The wife saw her neighbor hanging clothes on the clothesline. But this time something was different. ‘Wow, look!’ the surprised wife said to her husband, ‘Her clothes are clean! Someone must have taught her how to wash her clothes!’ Without raising his head from his plate, the husband kindly responded, ‘Actually, honey, I got up early this morning and washed the window.’

And so it is with life—what we see when watching others depends on the window through which we look. Washing our own windows from time to time changes our perspective.  (©Copyright WisdomShare — All Rights Reserved)

Posted in Daily, Food, Photography Art, Stories Around the World

Little like the “Donut”

Deeply fried, made from flour dough, typically ring shaped with a hole or similar round shaped (without the hole), or filled with various toppings and flavourings, this sugar delight goes by the more popular name of “donut”. While donut may be considered more of an 18th century preparation with their origin more likely from the Dutch oliekoek, fried dough based confectionery has been there for quite some time in the various indigenous cuisines across the globe. The tradition of frying foods in edible oils have been evidenced to the era of Ancient Greece and Rome. As other cultures began to adapt their own methods over time, different variations came into the local cuisines, though the roots may trace back to common ground.

Made usually from flour (can include finely milled or regular variety) with a mix of water, eggs, milk, sugar, oil, shortening or leavening agents as well as flavourings added to the dough which is then shaped(or not) and deep fried. While doughnuts may be based on their shapes as rings, filled, balls, flattened spheres or twists; other variants include the cake type (like old fashioned doughnut) and the yeast-risen doughnuts. Exploring the indigenous variants to the modern “doughnuts” based on the indigenous cuisines, there a huge number of delicacies that fill the list with legends of their own.

“New mysteries. New day. Fresh doughnuts.” David Lynch

What happens when a baker accidentally drops a ball of dough into a pan of hot oil ? The resulting culinary experimentation would result in a light, spongy ring of dough fried in oil, when had in the Maghrebi cuisine, is known as “Sfenj” (translated as sponge). Also known as Khfaf (Algeria) or bambalouni (Tunisia), Sfenj is usually had for breakfast or tea, had plain or sprinkled with sugar or dipped to drizzled in honey or sweet syrup. Originating in the Al-Andalus era (8th to 10th century), the accidental drop of dough, had evolved to be an important part of the Andalusi cuisine, spreading over to the Banumarin dynasty (Morocco, 1270-1465) and then onto the France (13th century) where it had inspired beignets. Making homemade Sfenj, all depends on how long one wants the dough to rise and temperature of the oil while frying. Of recent, there have been recent variations to the regular sfenj, that is “Sfenj matifiyya” (sfenj pounded flat and fried a second time) and the “Sfenj matifiyya bil-baydh” (sfenj matifiyya with an egg added before refrying).

Moving across to the French Beignet (almost similar to the English fritter), these are basically a type of deep-fried pastry. Although beignets were more popular in the medieval French cuisine, the earliest similar forms may have been there in Ancient Rome. With the basic ingredients of flour, granulated sugar, evaporated milk, shortening agents and confectioner’s sugar; beignets can be made in various varieties depending on the pastry type used. While the French-style beignet is essentially deep fried choux pastry, beignets made with yeast pastry ( boules de Berlin) or those made with chestnut flour (Corsica, beignets de farine de châtaigne) with the latter being known as fritelli, are just few of the variants made. While making at home, many variations, add-ons or substitutes to the usual dough mix may be made, starting with the flour or adding of mashed bananas (plantains) or berries just to start off a few changes. Beignets may be served either as sweet desserts or breakfast food, the choice is own.

There are countless styles and variations to the various forms of “deep-fried dough” across the globe. While exploring and experimenting with the various cuisines, absorbing those recipes into the home kitchen and indigenous cuisine makes the fun part of cooking. Food is essential to life. Imbibing a litte bit of the food culture into the usual mix would not only excite the cooking bug or the palatal buds, but also start off a pleasant home and family tradition. After all, experiences are the what fills the treasure chests of life.

“Frosting was his favorite. He liked to eat doughnuts at every meal. Because it was healthier to eat six small meals a day than three large ones, he restricted himself: jellied for breakfast, glazed for brunch, cream-filled for lunch, frosting for linner, chocolate for dinner, and powdered sugar for 2 a.m. supermarket stakeout. Because linner coincided with the daily crime peak, he always ate his favorite variety to ease him. Frosting was his only choice now, and upsetting his routine was a quiet thrill.” Benson Bruno ( author of A Story That Talks about Talking Is Like Chatter to Chattering Teeth, and Every Set of Dentures Can Attest to the Fact That No..)

Posted in Daily, Personal Musings, poetry, Quotes, Reflections

End of the Trail

To experience the feeling of happiness after any difficult situation is indeed a blessing. The feeling running across the family with a member suffering from a grave illness, the joy of getting a job after constant rejection, the success of an idea which was first viewed with skepticism or the clearing of exams in the midst of personal issues are few of the many ways wherein the initial adverse moments have been diminished with the final outcome.

“What seems to us as bitter trials are often blessings in disguise.” Oscar Wilde

As each one crosses each stage of life, the manner and range of adversities vary. Yet what runs common across them all, is the strong will to categorize the various opinions, behaviour, words and emotions; sift them and take up what is progressive for the task at hand and let the wind blow the rest away. More than the circumstances; it is how one reacts to them, that matters the most. The potential of each one of us is never completely tapped, for each day one has the capacity to learn new different matter, master diverse talents and achieve the hidden dreams which float in the corners of the mind.

“Life is ten percent what you experience and ninety percent how you respond to it.” Dorothy M. Neddermeyer

We Made It

We made it.
Despite the fear and predictions of doom.
We made it.
Even though there were days when we were tired
and there were days when we forgot who we were.
We made it.
And we must thank the stars for this.
And the birds for their beautiful songs.
And the strangers who were careful to smile.
We made it.
– Ron Atchison

“When the awareness of what is achievable brushes your life, your journey has begun.” Lorii Myers

Posted in Daily, Food, Stories Around the World

As Simple as “Sandwich”

Typically there in almost every household menu, whether it be a snack meal, lunch or dinner or simply a flash picnic meal, ranging from being savoury to sweet or deli made as well as simple and loaded with plenty of fillings, sandwiches have been undeniably had by the old and the young, at some point of time. The popularity lies in it’s ease in making it as well as having it, tapering each menu as per own individual choice.

“The idea of a sandwich as a snack goes back to Roman times. Scandinavians perfected the technique with the Danish open-faced sandwich, or smorroebrod, consisting of thinly sliced, buttered bread and many delectable toppings.” DeeDee Stovel ( author of Picnic: 125 Recipes with 29 Seasonal Menus)

Fillings of either a savoury kind (vegetables, sliced cheese, meat and the like) or simply something sweet and buttery placed on or between slices of bread (two or more) make up the basic sandwich. Although in general, if two or more pieces of bread serve as a wrap or container holding in a set of fillings, which can be had as finger foods, constitute “the sandwich”. Though the name “sandwich” is attributed to John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich, this basic combination has been there quite earlier.

The use of bread (including flat-breads) or bread-like staple to lie over and under or simply cover up or used to scoop up, enclose or wrap up another mix of ingredients was used in such a fashion in various cultures across the continents. Throughout Western Asia and northern Africa areas, the indigenous cuisine had the use of flat-breads ( bread baked in flat rounds, contrasted tot he European loaf), whih were used to scoop or wrap small amounts of food (in a spoon like fashion) while having the meal.

As per records, Hillel the Elder (ancient Jewish sage) had wrapped meat from the Paschal lamb and bitter herbs in a soft matzah—flat, unleavened bread—during Passover (like a modern wrap). The European Middle Ages saw “trenchers” (thick slabs of coarse and usually stale bread) being used as plates. After the meal, these food-soaked trenchers were fed to dogs. Seventeenth century Netherlands had the immediate culinary precursor (with a direct connection to the English sandwich)as recorded by the naturalist John Ray that in the taverns beef hung from the rafters “which they cut into thin slices and eat with bread and butter laying the slices upon the butter”, which were served as the Dutch “belegde broodje” an open-faced sandwich.

“It’s like making a sandwich. I start with the bread and the meat. That’s the architecture. Add some cheese, lettuce and tomato. That’s character development and polishing. Then, the fun part. All the little historical details and the slang and the humor is the mayonnaise. I go back and slather that shit everywhere. The mayo is the best part. I’m a bit messy with the mayo.” Laini Giles

Moving forwards to the eighteenth century England, the popularity of the sandwich arose as the popular myth that bread and meat sustained Lord Sandwich at the gambling table (as recorded in Tour to London by Pierre-Jean Grosley). As legend goes Lord Sandwich ( being a very conversant gambler and into many portfolios for the government) didn’t take the time to have a meal during his long hours playing at the card table. Instead he would ask his servants to bring him slices of meat between two slices of bread. This habit (well known among his gambling friends) enticed them to order as “the same as Sandwich!”. Thus the terminology “sandwich” was born. Alternative account as written by N.A.M.Rodger (Sandwich’s biographer), who suggests that Sandwich’s commitments to the navy, politics and the arts meant that the first sandwich was more likely to have been consumed at his work desk. As per records the original sandwich was a piece of salt beef between two slices of toasted bread.

What was initially perceived as food that men shared while enjoying a game or drink as social nights, the sandwich slowly began appearing in polite society as a late-night meal among the aristocracy. With the rise of the industrial era and the working classes as well as the ease of making and inexpensive ingredients, the popularity of the sandwich rose in the nineteenth century. The street vendors had popularized the sandwich sales (London, 1850). Also typically serving liver and beef sandwiches, sandwich bars were set up (especially in western Holland). The sandwich was first promoted as an elaborate meal at supper, in the United States. As bread became a staple of the American diet (early 20th century), the sandwich became the same kind of popular, quick meal following the widespread trend of the Mediterranean and European cuisine.

“I love sandwiches. Let’s face it, life is better between two pieces of bread.” Jeff Mauro

By itself, sandwich has a wide range of varieties, from the simple PB&J sandwich to the more complicated fillings. Broadly mentioning the major types of sandwich include those with the two slices of bread (or halves of a baguette or roll) with other ingredients between; more complex sandwiches like club, hero, hoagie or submarine sandwich, open-faced sandwich and the pocket sandwiches. Based on the fillings as well as type of sandwich, there is the BLT, cheese sandwich, French dip, hamburger, Monte Cristo, muffuletta, pastrami on rye, peanut butter and jelly sandwich, cheese-steak, Reuben and sloppy joe to mention a few.

Few misnomers include the sandwich cookies and ice cream sandwiches, named by analogy not because of them being bread containing food are generally not considered sandwiches in the sense of a bread-containing bits. Another variant is the layer cake or sandwich cake, made of multiple stacked sheets of cake, held together by frosting or another filling type like such as jam or other preserves.

“Enjoy every sandwich.” Warren Zevon

Sandwiches, today can be filled with a variety of fillings, ingredients based on choice, availability, ingenuity and locality. From the Baloney salad sandwich to the Vietnamese Bánh mì or the Chilean Churrasco, French croque-madam, Chinese Rou jia mo, Southeast Asian Roti john, Finnish Ruisleipä and Hunagrian Zsíroskenyér to mention a few, the sandwich culture has evolved in a way. Keeping in a more creative manner fillings can range from the more bizarre like popcorn or marshmellows to Oreo cookies or the more intricate and spicy curry for a change. So when in a flurry for time, getting creative with a sandwich can o wonders for the body, mind and soul.

“I put some flour, salt, and spices in a freezer bag and then put the pieces of lamb in and then went shake-shake-shake. The lamb was nicely covered with the flour. I browned the lamb and then put it aside. Then I fried some onion with cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom, added some tomatoes and then the lamb, and cooked until the lamb was all flaky. I mixed chopped lettuce, pieces of avocado, and pomegranate seeds, along with a little bit of lemon juice. I cut the pita bread open, put the lamb curry in, and then the lettuce-avocado mixture. All done!” Amulya Malladi (author of Serving Crazy with Curry)