Posted in Family and Society, Life, Musique, Stories Around the World

Of Summers and Picnics

Although “eating outdoors” may have been a part of civilization since the beginning, the concept of enjoying a picturesque relaxed lunch were in fad post French revolution (1789) when the royal parks were opened to the French public. This concept saw a gradual evolution with hunting parties, Renaissance era country feasts and Victorian garden parties, especially the latter as grand occasions complete with tables, chairs, linens, crystals, catering and gourmet food to top it. Known as “pique-nique” (France, 1794) then, this event turned out to be a social calendar earmarked occasion, catching the trend across Europe and became officially known as “picnic”.

The tales of Robin Hood are one of the first accounts of picnicking when Robin with his band of Merry Men would dine informally under the shelter of trees. The concept of “picnicking” once started had caught on with picnic societies, long picnics as well as “picnic fashion” and “themed social picnics” being created. With International Picnic Day today (June 18th) and to get the most reluctant picnic goers out there, here are a few picnic trivia around the world to get one started.

To have a superb picnics with cushions, rugs and furniture, one would have to go to Turkey, where the trend was initiated. Along with comfort, games and string lighting; a potluck-style selection of stuffed veggies, grilled meats and desserts are often brought. Towards nightfall, picnics still going on turn into bonfires complete with music, dancing and raki (Turkish licorice-flavored alcohol).

Enjoying the National Picnic Week held each June in Britain, it would be incomplete without the Scotch Egg. One of the most iconic picnic foods created towards the late 18th century, these fried sausage-wrapped boiled eggs were easy to be eaten on the road. Other choices like pasta salad, fish and chips, potato salad, deviled eggs, cheese, brownies, cookies, sandwiches, subs and many more form form the huge list of picnic foods which taste good when served cold.

Picnics in the French outdoors especially Bastille Day involves fine dining especially as far as wines are concerned. Plastic cups spoil the flavour and aroma of wine with fresh air. On a personal front, keeping plastic to a minimum and enjoying reusable Tupperware will make the outdoor dining more enjoyable and nature safe.

To enjoy Christmas picnics, the Argentinian beaches would be good place to start. Holidays outdoors are celebrated complete with roasted or barbecued turkey or goat. Going north, Americans enjoy picnics specially on the Fourth of July where along with competitive races, three legged races and other picnic games; speed eating contests of pies, watermelons, burgers and the like have become the major “game attraction”.

While cherry blossoms or “hanami” announce the Japanese picnicking season; the Italians prefer Easter Monday, known as Angel’s Monday or Pasquetta as picnic time. One of the most iconic picnics was the Pan-European Picnic (August 19, 1989) where picnics were held with hundreds of East Germans grabbed the opportunity to cross into Austria. Weeks later Hungary had opened the border, the Iron Curtain had been breached, and on 9th November the Berlin Wall came down. While croquet, soccer, and badminton are common picnic games; kubb is a regular game in Denmark, Finland and Sweden. This lawn game is a mix between bowling and chess, where players attempt to knock over wooden blocks called kubbs with wooden batons.

With the great outdoor weather, it would be remiss to lose out on the opportunity to go back to childhood, capture the bliss of the summer skies and comfort food, while finding peace in the midst of nature. The only catch is to enjoy, being nature safe and eco-friendly. As the best things of life are captured by moments and memories; the essence to living is to make more and enjoy them too.

“If you go down in the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise
If you go down in the woods today, you’d better go in disguise
For every bear that ever there was will gather there for certain
Because today’s the day the teddy bears have their picnic

Every teddy bear who’s been good is sure of a treat today
There’s lots of marvellous things to eat and wonderful games to play
Beneath the trees where nobody sees they’ll hide and seek as long as they please

That’s the way the teddy bears have their picnic “

….The Teddy Bear’s Picnic by Henry Hall

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

To “Sharpen” Thyself

“The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra.” Jimmy Johnson

Working on any difficult task, project or activity, one of the first things said is to make it different or “think outside the box”. While many of us do set the grey cells things and speculate and calculate the various possibilities and outcome; very few engage in the activity of going back and revising or re-training their skills. Consequently very often we fail to improve and work with the regular or even less output.

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

The work environment in today’s world revolves around not just the “output” but also being different and innovative. Yet through all this what runs silently through is the “basics”. Unless one takes the effort to sit down and review, revisit and relearn the new and the old; progress would be limited. For it’s the little things that matter the most. What may appear as a “waste of time” may be more time saving of all the options.

“The man who will use his skill and constructive imagination to see how much he can give for a dollar, instead of how little he can give for a dollar, is bound to succeed.” Henry Ford

Whether one is an entrepreneur, baker, artist, structural engineer, theologian, health administrator, stock traders or a poet as the list goes on; unless one learns to sharpen their skill by being willing to learn or re-learn, change for the better mayn’t be the very best shot that one can give. Doing the work with full persistence and effort isn’t just enough; doing it smart with effectiveness and renewing their skills is better, for not only improving the output but also for one’s own self-satisfaction.

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” Abraham Lincoln

The two lumberjacks

It was the annual lumberjack competition and the final was between an older, experienced lumberjack and a younger, stronger lumberjack. The rule of the competition was quite simply who could fell the most trees in a day was the winner.
The younger lumberjack was full of enthusiasm and went off into the wood and set to work straight away. He worked all through the day and all through the night. As he worked, he could hear the older lumberjack working in another part of the forest and he felt more and more confident with every tree he felled that he would win. At regular intervals throughout the day, the noise of trees being felled coming from the other part of the forest would stop. The younger lumberjack took heart from this, knowing that this meant the older lumberjack was taking a rest, whereas he could use his superior youth and strength and stamina to keep going. At the end of the competition, the younger lumberjack felt confident he had won. He looked in front of him at the piles of felled trees that were the result of his superhuman effort.
At the medal ceremony, he stood on the podium confident and expecting to be awarded the prize of champion lumberjack. Next to him stood the older lumberjack who looked surprisingly less exhausted than he felt.
When the results were read out, he was devastated to hear that the older lumberjack had chopped down significantly more trees than he had. He turned to the older lumber jack and said: “How can this be? I heard you take a rest every hour and I worked continuously through the night. What’s more, I am stronger and fitter than you old man”.
The older lumberjack turned to him and said: “Every hour, I took a break to rest and sharpen my saw”.

“The expectations of life depend upon diligence; the mechanic that would perfect his work must first sharpen his tools.” Confucius

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

Evolution of the “Accidental Fudge”

“Sandra turned to the page with the title “Toklas’ Hashich Fudge.” The original hashish brownies. ‘Peppercorns, nutmeg, cinnamon, coriander, stone dates, dried figs, shelled almonds, peanuts,… A bunch of canibus sativa can be pulverized. This along with the spices should be dusted over the mixed fruit and nuts… it should be eaten with care. Two pieces are quite sufficient…” – Allegra Goodman, The Cookbook Collector

Like most of the “delectable sweet pleasures of the palate “, this sugar candy made flavoured with choclate, fruits, nuts and other flavours; had hot or cold has made its’ own mark in the sweet world. These days, various flavours of “fudge” are made, giving them a vibrant as well as visual appeal to the eyes and the palate.

Technically, fudge is made by mixing sugar, butter and milk, heating it to the soft-ball stage and then beating the mixture while it cools down to get a smooth, creamy consistency with fruits, nuts, chocolate, caramel, candies and other flavoring agents being added either inside or on top. Yet the true origins of “fudge” can’t be exactly traced, though it’s believed to have been originated and gained popularity in late 19th century America. However popular belief among food historians was that the first batch was an accidental “fudged” batch of caramels; hence the name “fudge”.

 

A letter in the archives of Vasser College (1921) written by Emelyn Battersby Hartridge reveals the first documentation of “fudge”. Emelyn wrote that her schoolmate’s cousin made fudge in Baltimore (1886) and sold it for 40 cents a pound. This was the first known sale of fudge. In 1888, Miss Hartridge asked for the fudge recipe, and made 30 pounds of fudge for the Vassar Senior Auction. The recipe was very popular at the school from that point forward. The diary of another student mentions making “fudges” in 1892.

What is it that we love the best,
Of all the candies east or west,
Although to make them is a pest?
Fudges. **

 

An 1893 letter from another Vassar College student describes “fudges” as containing sugar, chocolate, milk and butter. “Fudges at Vassar” was a recipe printed in The Sun (1895) describing the confections as “Vassar chocolates”, which comprises of sugar, milk, butter and vanilla extract. Fudge became a new confection after word spread to other women’s colleges of the tasty delight. Later, Smith and Wellesley schools each developed their own recipe for fudge. Later fudge-making evolved a variety of flavors and additives as it grew beyond its popularity at colleges.

What perches us upon a chair
To stir a sauce-pan held in air,
Which, tipping, pours upon our hair —
Fudges. **

While the first recipe specified butter, milk and sugar, today, American fudge often differs with whipped cream instead of butter and the addition of chocolate flavouring. There are different types of similar recipes to “fudge” across the globe with the Indian “Barfi”, Polish “Krówki” ( Polish fudge, semi-soft milk toffee candies), the Italian “Penuche” which is a fudge-like candy made from brown sugar, butter, milk and vanilla flavouring; as well as the Scottish “Tablet” (taiblet in Scots). Tablet is a medium-hard, sugary confection made from sugar, condensed milk and butter, brought boiled to a soft-ball stage and allowed to crystallise. It is often flavoured with vanilla or whisky, and sometimes has nut pieces in it.

The versatility of fudge is that it can be had alone cold, or served on top of sundaes,  ice cream and even cakes as hot fudge. With various assortment, variety and fun in the process of fudge making; little wonder then that “a set of ditties”  (**) were made by the college girls during and for the “fudge making process”. On the occasion of National Fudge Day (June 16th), it would be time for some fun, rhymes and sweet cooking for all the “home kitchen chefs” or tasting for the food connoisseurs.

What needs more stirring than oat-mush,
And more still when we’re in a rush,
But what’s e’en sweeter than a “crush”?
Fudges.

What subtle odor doth recall,
To artless minds that “long-owed call,”
On the sweet maiden up the hall?
Fudges. **

 

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

Do we need these “stickers” ?

“Be a good human being, a warm hearted, affectionate person. That is my fundamental belief.”  Dalai Lama

A car ahead was moving like a turtle and not giving me way in-spite of my continuous honking! I was on brink of losing my cool when I noticed the small sticker on the car’s rear!
“Physically challenged; Please be patient.”
And that changed everything!! I immediately went calm & slowed down!! In fact, I got a little protective of the car & the driver!!! I reached home a few minutes late, but it was ok! And then it struck me. Would I have been patient if there was no sticker? Why do we need stickers to be patient with people!? Will we be more patient & kind with others if people had labels pasted on their foreheads?
Labels like “ Lost my job” , “Fighting cancer”, “Going through a bad divorce”,
“Suffering Emotional abuse “, “Lost a loved one”, “Feeling worthless”,
“Financially broken” and more like these!!
Everyone is fighting a battle we know nothing about. The least we can do is to be patient ,kind & compassionate. Let us respect the Invisible Labels !!!????
Have a Great day.

-CA Devanand Jethanandani ( Read more at: https://www.caclubindia.com /forum/ let-us-respect-the-invisible-labels-461171.asp )

This was one of the posts that had popped up on one of my social network services. Reading the above message had set me thinking for quite some time. The underlying question that the author had asked, “Do we need “stickers” to remind us to be human, empathetic and compassionate” continues to remain unanswered. Very often when stuck in traffic jams as well as the regular traffic, the car in front of us holds labels so that the driver behind remains aware of the situation within the vehicle at front. More as a precaution, these stickers help all to remain safe and above, to practice patience and stay calm on the road. Keeping them will save a number of lives. For putting the fickle nature of man into perspective, not everyone will take heed of caution or realize that their actions will have a drastic, immediate consequence on others’ lives.

“We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery, we need humanity; more than cleverness, we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost.” Charles Chaplin

When the society reforms to be the Utopian concept of being compassionate, patient and obeying the laws, keeping the calm and staying sane; then no reminders are needed to stay safe. To reach this, each one should respect the other, their struggles and practice a little patience laced with kindness. Although this may sound simple, this is quite a remarkable feat to achieve remembering the practical difficulties as well as the innate fickle and impatient human nature. Yet to try and fill each day with love, kindness, compassion and empathy would be good, for one never knows which day, hour or moment is going to be their respective last.

Keeping the very fragile aspect of life in mind, trying to change for the better would make the journey and time in this world more fulfilling leaving us both happy and satisfied.

“Each of us must work for his own improvement, and at the same time share a general responsibility for all humanity.” Marie Curie

Posted in Family and Society, Life, Quotes, Reflections, Stories Around the World

Seeing through “Piper’s” Eyes

“There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception.” Aldous Huxley

As a part of restricting “media-time” for my toddler, an allotted period of one hour is given for viewing any “smart screen” device. Being too small to understand complex cartoons, the tastes range from the all-time favourite of “Mickey Mouse”, to “Tom and Jerry” among the few that he likes. Yet once in a while, animation movies feature in the list, especially over the weekend. Last week it was “Piper”, the Oscar Animation Movie Winner (2018) which though lasted for around three minutes carries a wealth of meaning.

“Miracles happen everyday, change your perception of what a miracle is and you’ll see them all around you.” Jon Bon Jovi

This short animation film revolves around the dog who when accompanying his master on the morning fishing trip, chases away a heron who tries to repeatedly snatch the worms stored as bait in the can. After the successful attempt of chasing it away, the dog watches as it flies back to its’ nest of three young kids where its’ small young ones refuse to feed on the “hard” fish and are crying for “soft” food. With understanding and compassion on its’ face, the little dog offers an entire ball of worms to the stork. A little while later, the dog is startled when the fish is being dropped on the deck by the heron. Realizing that the numerous fish caught in the heron’s beak is for them, in return for the kindness shown earlier, both the dog and the master are elated with the morning’s outcome.

“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.” W.B. Yeats

Highlighting the concept of “humaneness”, this movie brings to light how the “real life” may actually differ for one person, when another views them as a “nuisance”. Each one of us have their own set of struggles everyday. Some will receive help, others will not. Few will use the help the right way, while the rest may waste it away. With varied sets of worries wearing one down, no one can be viewed as “bad” unless given a chance to “reform” and set things right.

Humanity does matter, for there in lies the core of man’s social co-existence and inner peace. When one opens the doors of humanity, one realizes that the “shades of gray” do colour the world and set a different picture from what was initially perceived. Each one of us need to give others’ a second chance and deal with others’ with humanness; for one day when we are in despair or in a downfall, we may need it too. As we learn to practice the art of humaneness with patience, fortitude,  love, kindness and hope; the chain of events started off will make a difference for the better in the lives of those around us too. 

“If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.” William Blake

Posted in Daily, Food, Stories Around the World

Of Falafel, Vada and Beyond…

Soak the raw chickpeas (with or without baking soda) overnight. Ground them with parsley, scallions, garlic as batter and add spices coriander or cumin, if needed. Instead of chickpeas, dried fava beans can be used similarly. They are stone ground and mixed with leek, parsley, coriander, cumin and dry coriander. Shape the mixture into balls or patties. Serve deep fried or oven baked. Falafel from the original Levantine cuisine is ready. Have them alone, wrapped (within lafa) or stuffed (into a hollow pita) with tahini and garnishes of tomatoes, cucumber, lettuce or even pickles.

One of the basic things of life, that brings together different cultures, places, and origins to a common area of interest is “food”. As one explores the different resources and basic ingredients; varieties are made, experienced and experimented with subtle differences across the cultures and cuisines. With International Falafel Day being held tomorrow (June 12th), it would be quite interesting to learn of similar recipes and try a few in the home kitchens or experiment with local ingredients making subtle changes.

Soak the legumes in water. Ground them for the batter. Season the batter with cumin seeds, onions, curry leaves ( sauteed or plain), salt, chillies, black pepper with or without minced or sauteed vegetables for more taste or nutrition. Add ginger or baking soda for large batch fermentation or more fluffiness respectively. Shape the mixture and deep fry. The Indian “Vada” is ready. Alternatives to legumes (pigeon pea, chickpea, black or green gram) are sago or potatoes. Serve hot or crunchy with or without dip.

Served as savoury fried snacks or even for breakfast; “Vada” also known as wada, vade, vadai, wadeh or bara have been a staple of South Indian cuisine as early as 12th century. There are varied types of vadas described as fritters, cutlets, doughnuts or dumplings. Popular ones include the medu vada of South India, batata vada of West India or mixed as food preparations like dahi vada or vada pav.

Season cooked and mashed black eyed peas with salt and chopped onions. Mould the mix as a large scone and deep fry in palm oil. Serve split in half and stuff with spicy pastes of vatapa, caruru made of shrimps, ground cashew, palm oil, okra, coconut milk and more. For vegans, serve with paste of hot peppers and green tomatoes. Acarje of West African and Brazilian cuisine are ready. Boil the basic ingredients (instead of frying) and abara is ready.

Derived from the Yoruba language, Àkàrà is a generic word meaning “bread” or “pastry” or the dish itself. “Acarajé” (brazilian) is derived from either the Yoruba word combinations “àkàrà” (bread) and “onje” (food) or “àkará” (a round pastry) and “je” (to eat). Popular in West Africa and a part of their culture; akara (rice flour, mashed banana, baking powder, sugar) was often fried and prepared for major occasions like childbirth, weddings, parties or funerals. When sold on the street with addition of ingredients like fried beef, mutton, dried shrimp, coconut among others; acarje was created and struck mass popularity since then on. Various similar combinations like acaca (steamed corn mush) have also coexisted.

Thus for a break from the “known dishes”, it would be fun to attempt newer simple recipes for a little different, spicy and healthy combination to keep the palate as well as “the kitchen experimentation spirit” going. With varied and subtle variations of familiar ingredients, it would be interesting to create a new family or home masterpiece or tradition to carry over to the next generations.

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

The “Atmosphere” Around Us

Once a wise man was asked: “How can you recognize a good man?”
The sage replied: “This is not what he says or what he seems to be, but the atmosphere that is created in his presence. That is what evidence is. For no one is able to create an atmosphere that does not belong to his spirit.”

In the daily, once-in-a-while or chance encounters in our life, there are numerous people that we meet. Like the colleague from another department whom we meet when at lunch once in a while or the acquaintance at the gym or at the coffee shop line up whose times match ours and so on. The list is endless. Yet some people stay on in our minds. While these people may have done something remarkable, friendly or not; their presence is noted by us and at times we look forward to those encounters. What makes those “chance encounters” significant ? May be its’ because we like to meet them or they remind us of ourselves or simply put, it may be because of the aura or atmosphere around them.

“People are sent into our lives to teach us things that we need to learn about ourselves.” Mandy Hale

Each person has a presence about them, reflecting their state of mind. When one is happy, we spread the happiness. When one is constantly plagued by troubled thoughts and insecurities, the “feel” around us would be one of “worries”. Likewise this “feel around us ” is what others perceive. We reflect ourselves around.

“It is when you lose sight of yourself, that you lose your way. To keep your truth in sight you must keep yourself in sight and the world to you should be a mirror to reflect to you your image; the world should be a mirror that you reflect upon.” C. JoyBell C.

Whether is it really important to concern ourselves with ” the atmosphere” we create, is a matter of perspective. In today’s society, life has innumerable opportunities and chances. Yet by constantly blocking them with the “negative vibes” around us would cause more regrets and lost “chances” down the lane. When a person has a good feel around them, spreading the happiness; we internally learn to deal and overcome the sorrows that we hold. Life is not always a cup of tea. Even for the “most rich and bountiful” it holds true in some aspect or the other. Just as no one is perfect, a person with a really perfect life is an abstract thought or reality. Each one has their own share of difficulties; but whether we chose to carry them like a “heavy bucket” along with us or learn to use them to “water other opportunities” in our lives; is in our hands. The choice is always one’s own.

“Unless you learn to face your own shadows, you will continue to see them in others, because the world outside you is only a reflection of the world inside you.” Unknown

More than words or emotions, it’s the vibes around us that stay on. We need “happiness” to live life with serenity. The “vibes” we create, tempered with kind thoughts, honest words and sincere actions, goes a long way in giving the “good feel” within us. The latter is what goes around and helps us in the quest of finding as well as living with happiness.

“The journey into self-love and self-acceptance must begin with self-examination… until you take the journey of self-reflection, it is almost impossible to grow or learn in life.” Iyanla Vanzant