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

Of the White Handkerchief

” We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

Many of us, during our school or college days, may have those “friends” who were a part of needless teasing and mocking group who had often made days miserable, troublesome and quite depressing, in those times. Fast forward years later, when emails and contact with them were kept to a bare minimum or ignored to prevent emotional setbacks, thinking of those days. Suddenly out of the blue, a phone call or an appointment with the very same people who were directly or indirectly involved then. Will it be within each one of us to forgive them or not ? The old adage, “let bygones be bygone” may sound simple; but when faced with reality, it will never be easy.

“13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:13)

As life and time teaches us again and again; there would be nothing good in fostering the hatred, regrets or dark memories. While those may have happened, it’s how we move on ahead that matters.

” 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” ( Ephesians 4:31-32)

On abetting the bad memories, we often lose out on enjoying and gaining our own happiness in life. When one part of us says, “forgive and move on” and the other holds us back with “the memories”; learn to chose the right one.

” 3 So watch yourselves. “If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. 4 Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.” ( Luke 17:3-4)

All of us have been bad in someone’s books; which we may or mayn’t know about. When given a chance or opportunity to “do good”, do so without letting the memories of “what has happened with them” keep us from doing the right thing. We all need forgiveness from somebody at some point of our life, be it at the resent, in the past or the future. As life and the scriptures teach us, unless we learn to hold the olive branch; no one will lend us one or share the one in our hand. Above all what goes around, comes back to us; so despite all the setbacks and disappointments or dark memories of people, be kind, forgive and do good; if not for their happiness but for our happiness as well as one’s own peace of mind.

“25 And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” (Mark 11:25)

White Handkerchief

Freed from imprisonment, he returned home by train. The railway ran through their native places, and approaching its station, it would certainly pass by its native home. But the closer the house came, the more restless it became in his heart. It was hard for him to realize; how much grief he brought to his parents.
Despite the fact that the separation lasted for many years, he loved his parents and dreamed of meeting with them. The fact that he often neglected the love of his parents was even more his than the crime he committed.
He was not at all sure whether they would accept him at home or not. Therefore, he wrote home a letter in advance asking; hang a white handkerchief in the yard if parents are ready to take it. If the scarf will not …
However, the closer the house came, the stronger the heart beats. The house is still far away, but he does not take his eyes off, looks intently into the distance, to the place where people endlessly close to him live.
They are waiting for me at home, or I, the outcast, have to roam the world; for many days these thoughts have not given him peace.
As slowly as this train goes, it seems that it deliberately intensifies its suffering with its slow speed.
And in the distance they appeared at home. Soon will be his home. There is a white handkerchief in the courtyard of the house or not …
And suddenly … tears gushed from his eyes. He saw his home and yard, which was covered with large white sheets … ( Translated from Russian)

This above story may have been shared with similar versions across the world, either by word of mouth or in some forgotten book or been told an acquaintance or friends as “real stories” to those known by them. Maybe this story is one of those that emerge every few years, told new in one form or another. Even though the setting and the people may shift; the message endures. The feeling that it did happen, somewhere and at sometime helps one to believe int he spirit of forgiveness as well as the kindness, love and humaneness of man and society.

“When you forgive, you in no way change the past – but you sure do change the future.” Bernard Meltzer

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

The “Air” That We Breathe

“The environment is where we all meet; where we all have a mutual interest; it is the one thing all of us share.” Lady Bird Johnson

As the world gears up to acknowledge the environment today as World Environment Day (June 5th); the focus for this year is on “the air around us”. For the basic survival of man, the dependence on nature and her elements are huge. Since the beginning many things have been taken for granted, from the earth forests for shelter; water to drink; other living resources as food to the availability of air for existence. Unfortunately over time, the trend has changed from use to misuse and abuse. For those of us who live thoughtless of the future, little do we realise how much the present affects us. The rise of air pollution based diseases creeping early into childhood years to early phases of “bad lungs” from young adulthood; the impact is vast and huge.

“The ultimate test of man’s conscience may be his willingness to sacrifice something today for future generations whose words of thanks will not be heard.” Gaylord Nelson

Although this focus is on the “air” for now; gradual understanding and implementation of measures to address the core issues of climate change and pollution have to be done on small scale as well large scale to repair the significant damage done and avoid more harm. As the saying goes, “little drops of water make rivers and lakes, finally leading into seas and oceans.”

“Away, away, from men and towns,
To the wild wood and the downs, —
To the silent wilderness,
Where the soul need not repress its music.”
—Percy Bysshe Shelley

Habits started young, stay for life. Hence start small measures for now, keeping it up to slowly add on and lead to big changes. With children at home, from using water wisely, replenishing water back into the soil, recycling old toys and reusing the plastic around for school projects are few of the many measures to start off. For adolescents and young adults, options for changes act at a more significant level like carpooling, cleanliness and planting drives as well taking significant measures to reduce and reuse plastic, switch to conserve electricity as well as power use are few of the many efforts that can be made for helping to sustain the environment that we live on.

Growing older, sticking to these measures and putting them into the daily practical life is what matters the most. The clash is always between convenience, comfort, essential and effort. To “reduce, reuse and recycle”, use wisely or even sustain and conserve, is never easy but requires tremendous care, foresight and planning from one. After all, to maintain the best things in life, it was never easy. The environment is never ours alone but to be shared across all species and it has the potential to sustain us when used wise and destroy us when the balance is harmed.

The Brook
By Alfred Tennyson

I come from haunts of coot and hern,
I make a sudden sally
And sparkle out among the fern,
To bicker down a valley.

By thirty hills I hurry down,
Or slip between the ridges,
By twenty thorpes, a little town,
And half a hundred bridges.

Till last by Philip’s farm I flow
To join the brimming river,
For men may come and men may go,
But I go on for ever……

Posted in Daily, Food, Stories Around the World

Of “Catchup” and Origins…

“Three tomatoes are walking down the street – a papa tomato, a mama tomato and a little baby tomato. Baby tomato starts lagging behind. Papa tomato get angry, goes over to Baby tomato and squishes him…..and says ‘Ketchup!”
-Uma Thurman in ‘Pulp Fiction’ (1994)

Sweet and tangy, often used as a condiment for the “hot or fried, greasy” dishes and at times, as an add on for dressings, sauces or flavouring for the main course dishes; “ketchup” or “catchup” has evolved into being almost a must in every household. In fact, to flavour the most mundane or for a quick scratch meal; ketchup is the answer. Little wonder then with hoards of “tomato sauce” enthusiasts around, a whole day has been dedicated as National Ketchup Day (June 5th).

Typically made from tomatoes, sugar, vinegar, assorted seasonings and spices; this sauce had initial recipes of egg whites, mushrooms, oysters, mussels, or walnuts, among other ingredients. Some of these ingredients have been modified and labelled under other sauces; such that the term “ketchup” (earlier known as catsup, catchup, red sauce, ketsup) refers to the unmodified tomato ketchup (not the mushroom ketchup). While the specific spices and flavors may vary; most commonly include onions, allspice, coriander, cloves, cumin, garlic, mustard and sometimes celery, cinnamon or ginger.

“You know, you really can’t beat a household commodity – the ketchup bottle on the kitchen table.” Adlai Stevenson

Condiments and sauces have been an accompaniment for main course meals a s well as snacks from the very early days of civilizations. Delving into the origins and roots of “ketchup”, this concoction of the Orient had been passed on to the colonists. The 17th century Chinese cuisine included a concoction of pickled fish and spices; known as kôe-chiap (Amoy dialect) or kê-chiap meaning the brine of pickled fish (like salmon juice) or shellfish. Seen in the Malay States (Malaysia and Singapore) of early 18th century; as kicap or kecap (pronounced “kay-chap”) English colonists had first tasted it. The English settlers had taken it back with them, later to their American colonies. Over time “kecap” had evolved into catchup” or “ketchup”. From an etymological point of view, multiple competing theories offer explanations for the name “ketchup”, yet the most widely believed is the Malay or Chinese origin.

“I mix mayonnaise, ketchup and brandy and a little bit of mustard. This is a heck of a good sauce for seafood.” Jose Andres

Originally and historically, the initial preparations of the English ketchup had mushroom (sometimes even walnuts) rather than tomatoes as primary ingredient(1750 to 1850). While many variations of ketchup were created, the tomato-based version appeared a century later after other types. The early versions had anchovies placing its’ roots to fish-sauce ancestry. The mid-1850s saw anchovies being dropped from the ingredients.

Gather a gallon of fine, red, and full ripe tomatoes; mash them with one pound of salt.
Let them rest for three days, press off the juice, and to each quart add a quarter of a pound of anchovies, two ounces of shallots, and an ounce of ground black pepper.
Boil up together for half an hour, strain through a sieve, and put to it the following spices; a quarter of an ounce of mace, the same of allspice and ginger, half an ounce of nutmeg, a drachm of coriander seed, and half a drachm of cochineal.
Pound all together; let them simmer gently for twenty minutes, and strain through a bag: when cold, bottle it, adding to each bottle a wineglass of brandy. It will keep for seven years. – Recipe for “Tomato Catsup” from 1817
(Source: Wikipedia and Apicius Redivivus: Or, The Cook’s Oracle: Wherein Especially the Art of …)

“I can fry hollandaise, I can fry ketchup, I can fry mustard.” Wylie Dufresne

Besides the primary use as a condiment, add on to the marinade or to the minced mix as well as converting it sauces like brown ( barbeque) sauce, sweet and sour sauce or red remoulade; ketchup has its’ own special uses too.

  • Shine copper and silverware with ketchup, with the latter being a very effective cleaning agent. At times, mixing it with Worcestershire Sauce enhances the cleaning effect. Ketchup can be used to clean up the tarnish from the car parts, as well as a great agent to shine up alloy based metals; though it won’t clean up the dirt. The technique would be to first clean and remove the dirt, then use ketchup to add the shine.
  • To correct green highlights in bleached hair, ketchup can be used. Besides ketchup acts as a great conditioner, bringing back the natural oils into the hair.
  • Last but the most creative use of ketchup is its’ use as fake theatrical blood. Additionally ketchup as well as its’ bottle acts as a great base for food based paints and dyes for “toddler art and paint fun”.

With more than the “food” factor for ketchup, this condiment will continue to remain as an essential part of the pantry and the household, whatever may come.  For every food experimenter, getting creative and adding a bit of sweet, sour and tangy flavours to the routine recipes can lead to entertaining and surprising new flavours, combinations as well as artistic renderings ( like Eureka!!).  

 

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

To Say Something

“If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all”.

For avid animation film viewers or parents of children, Bambi may have made an appearance on their screens or watch list. As the original movie Bambi (1942) revolves around the life of a fawn, who would be the future guardian of the forest; one of his close friends was an eager, energetic rabbit named Thumper.

When Bambi, newly born, was being presented to all the forest creatures as the future young prince of the glen, Thumper remarks accurately that he is “kinda wobbly” whereupon his own mother inquired if he remembered what his father had impressed upon him earlier that day. Thumper, drawing circles with his hind left foot, says haltingly, “If you can’t say something nice… don’t say nothing at all.” Also known as the “Thumperian principle”, “Thumper’s rule” or “Thumper’s law”; this principle holds true then and even now.

“Be nice. And if you can’t do that, just don’t be mean.” Richelle E. Goodrich

When looking deeply into the growing society, one often sees unkindness, thoughtless words, bullying and impolite talk becoming more rampant day by day, especially towards those on less social standing than oneself. In order to instill a sense of pleasantness, kind thoughts and gracious behaviour; Mayor Keith Summey of North Charleston proclaimed June 1st as “Say Something Nice Day” (2006). Joined by Dr. Mitchell Carnell, the author of Say Something Nice: Be a Lifter at Work, the South Baptist Convention and the Charleston-Atlantic Presbytery; this day was recognized to remember and celebrate people who provide society with a variety of services from bus drivers, teachers, healthcare workers, law and order. Additionally it was marked as a day to be kind to the special people in our lives, like children, grandparents and the elderly. Above all, this day offers a great opportunity to apologize to people that one may have wronged or hurt them through one’s behaviour, especially when done intentionally be it when in range or fit of anger.

“Be nice to each other. You can make a whole day a different day for everybody.” Richard Dawson

To one’s surprise and perhaps the biggest truth, is that, it doesn’t take much to be nice for a day. True that each one has their own share of likes, dislikes, opinions, understanding, perceptions, assumptions, expectations and thoughts, and so on. Yet the beauty of coexistence as a humane society is that there is place for all. From appreciation of others, noticing or acknowledging their presence by kind words or simple courtesy greetings to complimenting personality traits to styles, or simply greeting others with pleasant words are few of the many ways to be spread ” the happy feel” around oneself. While each one of us may have our own personal inner struggles, it doesn’t give a leeway to be rude or obnoxious to others. Life has always it’s curves and it’s how we navigate the choppy waters and narrow hard beaten roads that makes all the difference during the travel. These roads that we take are what matters more than somehow just reaching the final destination.

“The main thing that you have to remember on this journey is, just be nice to everyone and always smile.” Ed Sheeran

Posted in Daily, Food, Musique, Stories Around the World

“Rocky Road” When On the Go

“I am not plain, or average or – God forbid – vanilla. I am peanut butter rocky road with multicolored sprinkles, hot fudge and a cherry on top.” Wendy Mass

Imagine a sewing scissors, ice cream and the whole house to oneself. As per one source, when William Dreyer of Oakland, California ( March 1929) had eyed these items on a spring day; he had cut up some walnuts and marshmallows and added them to his chocolate ice cream; similar to his friend Joseph Edy’s chocolate candy creation with walnuts and marshmallows. Later walnuts were replaced by pieces of toasted almonds. Variations of this combination with add on of nuts, whole or diced and even flavoured marshmallows with chocolate ice cream ( no choclate chips in the original one) had led to the creation of “rocky road ice cream”.

Post the era of the Wall Street Crash of 1929, Dreyer and Edy gave the flavor its current name “to give folks something to smile about in the midst of the Great Depression.” Another claim to this creation was by Fentons Creamery, Oakland who stated that Dreyer based his recipe on a Rocky Road-style ice cream flavor invented there by George Farren. The latter had blended his own Rocky Road-style candy bar into ice cream which Dreyer had modified.

“I hope your only rocky road is chocolate.” Amanda Mosher

While in Australia (1853), the “rocky road” was created. Rocky road was a type of cake made up of milk chocolate and marshmallow which is usually served in individual portions such as a cupcake or brownie. With exact origins debatable, the rocky road was created as a way to sell confectionery which had lost it’s flavour during the long trip from Europe and was mixed with locally-grown nuts and cheap chocolate to enhance the taste. As per this account, the name “rocky road” comes from the rocky road that travelers had to take to reach the gold fields. Although, many companies based in the Americas have laid claim to this creation as well.

Rocky road has it’s own variations as per the local flavour. With the traditional Australian rocky road being made of glace cherries, milk chocolate (sometimes dark or white chocolate), desiccated coconut, nuts (mostly peanuts) and marshmallow; Bahrain’s rocky road has milk chocolate, Nutella and pistachios. Moving west ward bound, the traditional British Rocky Road (1971) contains dried fruit, biscuit, milk chocolate ( rarely substituted by dark or white chocolate) with a light dusting of icing sugar over it.

Regardless of the type of Rocky road, whether as store bought or homemade cake, brownies, ice cream or served as topping over coffee, hot chocolate, sundaes or other sweet combinations; missing out on this delight before the summer comes to an end would be sinful. With foodimentarians celebrating tomorrow as National Rocky Road Day ( June 2nd); it would be fun, creative as well as a palatal delight to indulge in this delectable dessert for a change.

“I hear those ice cream bells and I start to drool,
Keep a couple quarts in my locker at school
Yeah, but chocolate’s gettin’ old,
And vanilla just leaves me cold,
There’s just one flavor good enough for me, yeah me,
Don’t gimme no crummy taste spoon, I know what I need, baby
I love rocky road,
So won’t you go and buy a half gallon baby
I love rocky road,
So have another triple scoop with me, OW!”

Lyrics of “I Love Rocky Road” by “Weird Al” Yankovic (1983)

Posted in Daily, Food

Of Macaron and Macaroon

“Orange pekoe flavor, with that gold confection dust on the top.” She holds one up to demonstrate. “Mascarpone filling.” She bites it clean in half and shows me the middle. “Rose jelly in the center.”
“Sounds good to me. What shall we call it?”
“I don’t know.”
I reach over and pick up a macaron, the texture, weight, and balance all perfect. Symmetry, lightness, both shells with excellent feet, wedded together with a smooth filling. Nodding with approval, I place it on my tongue. She is right; the orange and rose flavors melt lustily in your mouth. It’s just like Mama- all bright and full of surprises.” – Hannah Tunnicliffe, The Color of Tea

Known as “macaron” or “French macaroon”, this sweet meringue-based confection is made with egg white, icing sugar, granulated sugar, almond powder or ground almond and food coloring. Typically served with a ganache, buttercream or jam filling sandwiched between two such cookies (similar to a sandwich cookie), macarons have been one of the little delights gaining wide popularity globally. Mildly moist, melting when eaten; this confection is characterized by a smooth squared top, a ruffled circumference, referred to as the “crown” (or “foot” or “pied”) and a flat base. Macarons can be made in a wide variety of flavors that range from the traditional vanilla, raspberry, chocolate to the unusual flavours of foie gras, matcha and so on. There is some variation in whether the term macaron or macaroon is used, and the related coconut macaroon is often confused with the macaron.

 

Macarons are a little different from macaroons, wherein both start off with a base of egg whites and sugar. But macaroons are with the base is typically whipped into a stiff meringue , like meringue cookies. Whereas, for macarons after the meringue is whipped, a combination of powdered sugar and finely ground almonds gets folded in, not too much or too little. The resulting semi-liquid batter is piped into exact rounds and baked.

The origin of the macarons are quite debatable. Although macarons today are credited to France, the first known appearance of the macaron in Europe was believed to be back in the Middle Ages. In those times, the macaron was a small sweet made of almonds, egg white and sugar, crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. As some food historians believe that, these “macarons” were initially made in Italy as a consequence of the Arab troops from modern Tunisia ( around 9th century AD), landing in Sicily. They had brought new foods along with them like lemons, rice, pistachios as well as a rich repertoire of nut-based sweets like almond paste candies wrapped in dough. In fact, the term “macaron” shares similarity to the Italian macaroni, which puts a shadow of doubt over it being a French creation.

 

Since the 8th century, Macarons have been produced in the Venetian monasteries. Yet they gained wide popularity in the French court, when the Italian pastry chef who were brought by Catherine de’ Medici when she had married King Henry II of France, during the Renaissance Era. During those years of the 16th century, macarons were known as ‘priest’s bellybuttons,’ due to the pastry’s shape. Yet as per Larousse Gastronomique, the macaron was created in 1791 in a convent near Cormery. Legend says that two Carmelite nuns, seeking asylum in Nancy during the French Revolution (1792), baked and sold the macaron cookies in order to pay for their housing. Later these nuns were known as the “Macaron Sisters”. These early years saw macarons being served without special flavors or fillings.

Towards the early 1990s, the modern day macarons had began to take shape. Largely credited to Pierre Desfontaines, the pastry chef and owner of the Parisian café, Ladurée; the modern day macaron was made when he had decided to take two macarons and fill them with ganache. The result was an instant success. These original “Gerbet” or “Paris Macaron” were composed of two almond meringue discs filled with a layer of buttercream, jam, or ganache filling. Similar styles were also claimed to be started by another baker, Claude Gerbet.

By the 1930s, macarons were served in two’s with the addition of jams, liqueurs, and spices. Since then macarons have evolved from a humble almond cookie to a versatile treat, coming in a variety of colours and flavours; alluring both to the taste buds, the experimenters’ kitchen as well as the creative mind. Towards the 21st century, confectioners started offering macarons with a difference in flavor between filling and cookie, in both savoury (Basil mint or Thai curry) and sweet styles. Little wonder that there are two days devoted to macarons with Macaron Day (March 20th) and National Macaroon Day ( May 31st) being celebrated across the world. Explore this little treat to enter another world of desserts, more than sandwich cookies, little delights both flavour some and edible art.

 

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

Patience to Thy Own

“Patience is when you’re supposed to get mad, but you choose to understand.” Anonymous

At the grocers’ en-route from work, as the shopping was underway, the realization that the long list taped to the refrigerator door was still stuck on there, had raised the annoyance levels. Consequently the shopping was a very quick one and while paying for the bill and for the rest of the journey, the niggling sense that the shopping was incomplete and things were still undone was lingering on. The journey back was disturbing for one’s peace of mind. Later on, while defusing the day’s stress with tea, the fact that one is least patient with one’s own self struck the core thoughts.

“One minute of patience, ten years of peace.” ~ Greek proverb

One of the first subjects is patience towards oneself, although we often tend to lose sight of this fact. By tolerating oneself means that on seeing our own mistakes and shortcomings or failures, one shouldn’t be distraught to an unnecessary extent or be greatly upset or indignant. For all these are signs of pride, leading to one’s own downfall. Instead accept that even oneself is prone to make mistakes. Understanding this requires the patience towards self first. For once we learn to be patient with one’s self, then only will the art of patience with others’ and in our daily lives be the routine norm.

“Have patience, my friend, have patience; For Rome wasn’t built in a day! You wear yourself out for nothing In many and many a way! Why are you nervous and fretty When things do not move along fast; Why let yourself get excited Over things that will soon be past?” – Gertrude Tooley Buckingham, “Patience”

Being human implies that all of us will make mistakes. There are no perfect people in this world. One is prone to stumble and fall, on way or the other. Unless we learn to have patience to correct our steps and put one foot in front of the other, we will never move on or away from our own troubles. Accepting the ignorance of own mind, heart and thoughts; learning to be careful and cautious but having the patience to accept the fact that we have been wrong, will aid us in finding help from His Grace, to rise again and turn the day’s mood from sour to happy. Patience with own help us not only to learn from our mistakes, but also to grow ourselves. If one is not patience with oneself, who else will be patient with us.

“Have courage for the great sorrows of life and patience for the small ones; and when you have laboriously accomplished your daily task, go to sleep in peace. God is awake.” Victor Hugo

“Patience Is Not the Ability to Wait:
Patience is not the ability to wait. Patience is to be calm no matter what happens, constantly take action to turn it to positive growth opportunities, and have faith to believe that it will all work out in the end while you are waiting.” Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart