Posted in Food, Stories Around the World

Layers with a Tale

“The fine arts are five in number, namely: painting, sculpture, poetry, music, and architecture, the principal branch of the latter being pastry.” Marie-Antoine Careme

One of the perks of having a sweet-tooth family, is the adventures into the desert arena. With Easter and holidays, little hands had joined in. This time round it was the layered desserts took the centre-stage. The best part of these desserts are they have both types, the simple to the more complex ones. Layered desserts have been around for quite some time, but each area across the continents have their own special and delicious versions of it. From the Indonesian Spekkoek , the Bavarian Prinzregententorte or the Hungarian Dobos Torte to the Goan Bebinca; each one has their story to tell.

“Pastry is different from cooking because you have to consider the chemistry, beauty and flavor. It’s not just sugar and eggs thrown together. I tell my pastry chefs to be in tune for all of this. You have to be challenged by using secret or unusual ingredients.” Ron Ben-Israel

Going through the legend behind the Bavarian torte, “Prinzregententorte” which is at least six to seven thin layered sponge cake inter-laid with chocolate buttercream with a topping of apricot jam at the top and the exterior is coated in dark chocolate glaze. Named after the prince regent of Bavaria, Luitpold (1886); the exact origin is in dispute. The cake’s exact origin remains in dispute; but there is a meaning to the layers. Originally the torte consisted of eight layers of cake and cream but after World War I Bavaria lost the district Pfalz and the torte was reduced to seven layers. Spekkoek (kue lapis legit or spekuk in Indonesian) a type of Indonesian layer cake developed during Dutch East Indies colonial times, made of flour and yolk contains a mix of Indonesian spices, such as cardamom, cinnamon, clove, mace and anise.

Coming to Bebinca, the queen of Goan desserts is a decadent multi-layered baked pudding cake made rich with coconut and warm spices, especially cardamom. Though the ingredients may seem simple, this few layers to seven to as many of sixteen layers is best made in tizals (special earthenware oven) over fires made of coconut husks to enable uneven heating to get it caramelized right. The batter of flour, sugar, egg yolk and coconut milk is consecutively baked in soft-ghee soaked layers to give buttery and smoky flavour. As most food historians believe, the roots of this pudding cake belong to Bibiona, a nun at the Convento da Santa Monica in Old Goa. One of her early versions was crafted with seven layers to represent the seven hills of Lisbon and Old Goa. As it was found to small, the layers had increased. Served along with coffee or ice-cream, or just as it is, a bite of bebinca is a feeling of bliss which can’t be expressed by words alone.

While these layered cakes to puddings just touch the tip of the entire world, the Russian medovik and the Hungarian dobos-torte are next on the list. With travelling being restricted, these recipes help bring a part of these places to the doorstep. And then would be time for another adventure of not just the palate but also an insight into the story of those times of then to the now.

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

Reality of “ad confidunt”

As the calendar states that it is mid-March, the weather-man begs to differ by sending a couple of heat waves across. Consequently as the heat and humidity rises, the power outages happen, almost on a proportional scale. For the first couple of hours, the invertor works till they run out too. It’s the late nights that are the worst. Being scared of the pitch black darkness, the kids had begun to cry as they woke up from their sleep. Then through the darkness, what calmed them down were the familiar voice that soothed them through the night, the voice that they put their trust in and let their fears rest.

Reflecting on this incident was the likeness with the sudden bouts of uneasiness that flare up within the self. They just happened, some as a consequence or a build-up; while other times they had happened just out of the blue. What calmed the soul and the restless mind when one tried to do so, were His Words.

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” (Psalm 56:3)

All of us have our own set of fears and problems. To find a resolution is a must, but at times it goes beyond us. Those are the days when we need to learn to put our complete faith and trust in the Lord. Saying it easier then doing so. For many of us, trust never comes easy. We often tend to fear opening up, especially if it may be used against us at a later stage. Such is human nature.

Yet God’s trust and faith are way different from what is perceived by man. His Faith not only encourages us, but empowers one to face obstacles as they come. Here, faith and trust go hand in hand. His mere presence through the scriptures and teachings brings the flame of hope and strength through the dark hours. For all this we need to truly believe. Learning to trust like the babe in the cradle enables us to grow in His Grace and His Love. Such a gift of true faith and trust is what clears the perceived gray clouds in the mind, bringing a fresh lease of life to the day. Whether our lives be short or long, we don’t know. But what we will know or realize is that, by putting our complete faith and trust in Him, we will find the beauty of life and joy of living, in each hour and day as they come by.

The amazing story of Charles Blondin, a famous French tightrope walker, is a wonderful illustration of what true faith is. Blondin’s greatest fame came on September 14, 1860, when he became the first person to cross a tightrope stretched 11,000 feet (over a quarter of a mile) across the mighty Niagara Falls. People from both Canada and America came from miles away to see this great feat. He walked across, 160 feet above the falls, several times… each time with a different daring feat – once in a sack, on stilts, on a bicycle, in the dark, and blindfolded. One time he even carried a stove and cooked an omelet in the middle of the rope!

A large crowd gathered and the buzz of excitement ran along both sides of the river bank. The crowd “Oohed and Aahed!” as Blondin carefully walked across – one dangerous step after another – pushing a wheelbarrow holding a sack of potatoes. Then a one point, he asked for the participation of a volunteer. Upon reaching the other side, the crowd’s applause was louder than the roar of the falls! Blondin suddenly stopped and addressed his audience: “Do you believe I can carry a person across in this wheelbarrow?” The crowd enthusiastically yelled, “Yes! You are the greatest tightrope walker in the world. We believe!” “Okay,” said Blondin, “Who wants to get into the wheelbarrow.”

As far as the Blondin story goes, no one did at the time!

This unique story illustrates a real life picture of what faith actually is. The crowd watched these daring feats. They said they believed. But… their actions proved they truly did not believe.Similarly, it is one thing for us to say we believe in God. However, it’s true faith when we believe God and put our faith and trust in His Son, Jesus Christ.
Note: In August of 1859, Charles Blondin’s manager, Harry Colcord, did ride on Blondin’s back across the Falls. Author Unknown
Source: inspire21.com

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

The Gem Within

Ever experienced the niggling sense or foreboding that the self is being taken for a ride. The sixth sense in us, comes out of the dormancy and starts issuing the alert, slowly increasing in tempo and then we finally make a decision or a move. Sometimes it’s easy to get hold of own self and walk away, other times we may be swept with the tide and barely escape from being drowned. Worst, when we know we are sinking and far too gone. Hindsight is a pretty powerful thing, ain’t it ?!

“Sometimes walking away has nothing to do with weakness and everything to do with strength. We walk away not because we want others to realize our worth and value, but because we finally realize our own.” Anonymous

No matter the situation one is placed in, we all have a choice; whether to do or not, how much to do or not or when to do or not. The choice depends on a lot of things, but quite often we tend to overlook how much “the doing or not” changes us deep within. No one is indispensable, neither is anyone of us disposable. Each of us has that little something, that makes us extra special for the other.

Never let go of that something; for that is what makes the pleasant and vibrant colours of the fields. As nature always says, there are many shads of green, but the riot brought by the flowers is what brings the green to life.

“Never see your importance through the standards of the world.” Anonymous

Lend a hand, but not to lose oursleves in the process. Working for the daily bread and butter, doesn’t mean to lose the self. Each one of us needs to better the “special wihtin us” and doing so, gives the feeling that truly life is beautiful.

“A father before he died said to his son: “this is a watch your grandfather gave and this is more than 200 years old, but before I give it to you go to the watch shop on the first street, and tell him I want to sell it, and see how much it is”.
He went and then came back to his father, and said, “the watchmaker paid 5 dollars because it’s old”.
He said to him: “go to the coffee shop”. He went and then came back, and said: “He paid $15 father”.
“Go to the museum and show that watch”.
— He went then came back, and said to his father “They offered me a million dollars for this piece”.
The father said: “I wanted to let you know that the right place values your value in a way right, don’t put yourself in the wrong place and get angry if you don’t. Who knows your value is who appreciates you, don’t stay in a place that doesn’t suit you”.
Source: The Internet

“People always think that the most painful thing in life is losing the one you value. The truth is, the most painful thing is losing yourself in the process of valuing someone too much and forgetting that you are special too.” Anonymous

Posted in Daily, Food, Stories Around the World

Twist in the “Cup”

Quiet mornings are high on the wish-list these days, so when the weekend rolls over; the lure of the peace is strengthened by a hearty cuppa. With the new trend of butter to bulletproof coffee, yours truly did a couple of twist after intense research and experimentation to give a different flavour to each weekend of the month. As the new saying may be like something new, something old and then an extra something borrowed (not blue) gives a new vibe for the coming week.

Coming to coffee trend across the continents, the Austrian Kaisemelange can keep one guessing the ingredients. Traditionally made by mixing the egg yolk and honey, and adding strong black coffee while stirring gradually; the flavours give a different meaning for the day. Doing it at home, it took quite a number of tries to get all the proportions in sync.

On the other hand, the traditional Finnish “Kaffeost” combines the cheese to the coffee. Into the birch burl carved mug, a cube of cheese (originally juustoleipä from reindeer milk, leipäjuusto or juusto; recipe variations mention about bread cheese) is placed at the bottom and boiling black coffee is poured into it. As the coffee is being sipped, the softened chunks can be spooned out or left behind as dregs. This coffee flavoured cheese and the nutty buttery coffee flavour, gives off a dessert-ish vibe and especially enrich the morning routine.

“Like a symphony, coffee’s power rests in the hands of a few individuals who orchestrate its appeal. So much can go wrong during the journey from soil to cup that when everything goes right, it is nothing short of brilliant! After all, coffee doesn’t lie. It can’t. Every sip is proof of the artistry – technical as well as human – that went into its creation.” Howard Schultz

Going across to the next continent, the traditional Malaysian “Ipoh White Coffee” is made by roasting the coffee beans with margarine and no added sugar. Roasting the beans with wheat, sugar and margarine gives the other popular Malaysian ‘black’ coffee roast (Kopi-O). Coming to the Indian kitchen, the ever popular spice rack holds a special position there. Which is why the Mexican Café de Olla was on the “to try” list. Made traditionally in the earthen clay pot, the basic ingredients include ground coffee, cinnamon and piloncillo (unrefined whole cane sugar or dark brown sugar); served with optional ingredients like orange peel, anise, and clove to spice it up. pot brewed coffee with raw sugar and spices. The coffee is prepared in a stainless steel saucepan with water, brown sugar, cinnamon and dark roasted ground coffee and served in a cup with an orange peel.

All in all, the different “coffee trends” around the globe makes for an interesting experience, whether it be in the popular cafe or in the comfort of our kitchen. Each “cuppa joe” has its’ own special story, to share, experience and relish in; a voyage even in the these times.

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

In the Flow

Because I can count on my fingers the number of sunsets I have left, and I don’t want to miss any of them.” Suzanne Collins (author of Catching Fire)

The hustle and bustle of daily living gets to us at times, especially when we see someone whose time is drawing to a close. Even though some professional sectors especially the emergency sectors, healthcare workers, military and the like see it on a more frequent scale; each life threatening event strikes the core of own self, knowingly or unknowingly. It wouldn’t be something new for those who work in a field where one is deals too close to death like the healthcare sector, the police or even the military. For some of us (or maybe many) it would be a wake-up call; either being involved directly or indirectly (through someone) in a near brush with near-death situation as simple as a road traffic accident. Then we can feel the waves crashing around us wondering about the point of wearing ourselves down with life when death is one surety for all.

In such an event, it is time to step and see the bigger picture especially through the eyes of those who have survived near-death. We then realize that the beauty of living is when the smaller things add up and we become a part of someone else’s life. Just as “no man is an island” we are all part of a bigger orchestra to play the symphony. It is the little notes that finally sing the big tune. No matter how dreary our lives seem, there are others who have had it worse. Yet no matter whichever way it maybe, the echoes of death teach us to appreciate the hidden joys of the daily living. Each of us form a small thread in the fabric of life, be it our own or of those around us. At the end of the day, these little waves are what brings the harmony to the shore.

“Waves are the voices of tides. Tides are life,” murmured Niko. “They bring new food for shore creatures, and take ships out to sea. They are the ocean’s pulse, and our own heartbeat.” Tamora Pierce

The cycle of life and death, is an innate part of each of us. Many a time we chase behind the big wave or the bigger ride, forgetting that they came come few and far between. Instead chasing after the little clouds in our own sky zone, helps us to complete and draw a better picture than before. Not to get me wrong, do chase your dreams but learning not to forget that we are a small thread in the whole fabric makes the woven cloth a vibrancy of colours; a life of it’s own. In the face of that, the flaming embers don’t hide the gift that we all have received, been blessed with and have passed it on with our heart and soul.

The little wave The story is about a little wave, bobbing along in the ocean, having a grand old time. He’s enjoying the wind and the fresh air – until he notices the other waves in front of him, crashing against the shore. “My God, this terrible”, the wave says. “Look what’s going to happen to me!” Then along comes another wave. It sees the first wave, looking grim, and it says to him: “Why do you look so sad?” The first wave says: “You don’t understand! We’re all going to crash! All of us waves are going to be nothing! Isn’t it terrible?” The second wave says: “No, you don’t understand. You’re not a wave, you’re part of the ocean.” Source: “Tuesdays With Morrie” by Mitch Albom

Posted in Life, Personal Musings, Random Thoughts, Stories Around the World

Angles to the Plane

Already a week into the new year, the way things are going across the world; it does sound like a rerun of the year past. But again, that is to one’s own perspective.

Each of us have come across plenty of illusions in our life. Often they are masked in the manner of dreams and hopes, other times they may be buried under the category of “futile thoughts”. What one doesn’t realize is that some of those “illusions” are on our own perception, but the rest on what has been fed to us by those around us or by what we seen through their eyes.

“What I need is perspective. The illusion of depth, created by a frame, the arrangement of shapes on a flat surface. Perspective is necessary. Otherwise there are only two dimensions. Otherwise you live with your face squashed up against a wall, everything a huge foreground, of details, close-ups, hairs, the weave of the bedsheet, the molecules of the face. Your own skin like a map, a diagram of futility, criscrossed with tiny roads that lead nowhere. Otherwise you live in the moment. Which is not where I want to be.” Margaret Atwood

The question then arises, the illusions that of theirs, why do they stay on in us. That’s when one needs to morph them into the varied angles through their own familiar planes; for it is our own perspective that matters in the end. For the urbanite, the city is the haven; whereas for the sylvan heart and soul the haven of the former becomes a nightmare. Those illusion made by the wayward thoughts need to be given their due depth and space depending on how one really wants it.

Placing all these illusions of colours onto the frame, raising them through their own angles gives a renewed perspective on how to see things. For this to happen, one has to place these choices in their own hands. Each of us have own canvas to colour, let’s do them as to the perspective that we hold. If not as in the year before, may this year echo such thoughts, dreams and hopes.

Different perspectives
The Minister travelled for days by train and car and boat to one of the furthest islands in the nation. As he surveyed the bleak but inspiring landscape, he turned to a local villager and said: “You’re very remote here, aren’t you?” She responded: “Remote from what?”
Source: The Internet

Posted in Christian, Life, Musique, Personal Musings, Stories Around the World

Wonder across the Sky

“Skywatchers are in for an end-of-year treat. What has become known popularly as the “Christmas Star” is an especially vibrant planetary conjunction easily visible in the evening sky over the next two weeks as the bright planets Jupiter and Saturn come together, culminating on the night of Dec. 21.” (Source:nasa.gov)

“The celestial conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn planets will take place on Monday, December 21, 2020. … During this conjunction, the two large planets come so close that they appear to make a bright double planet.” (Source: timesofindia.com)

After the chaos of settling down the house for the evening, it was a quick sneak up the terrace for a view of the “celestial conjunction” or as popularly put as the “Christmas Star” for this year. An eagle-eyed search lead the seeker to believe that the eyes have made out this “end-of-the-year treat”. On locating what was believed to be “the treat”, the eyes went a couple of planes ahead and above. Oh behold, the magnificence of the sky.

To witness the gift of His creation, one doesn’t need to visit the exotic places or the most eagerly anticipated trips to the seven natural wonders of the world. The wonders lie in our own backyards, terrace and skies above our abode and oh yes, even in us as well. Though sometimes to find it, we need to be still and know ourselves.

Truth is we all have that something special in each one of us. In our haste to explore the world, we lose ourselves in the chaos and fail to reconnect and embrace life as a whole. As the gifts of the sky and His Grace always show; sometimes one needs to just stand still and believe in order to appreciate the beauty in this world around us.

Life is such that, happiness isn’t always enclosed in gaily wrapped packages. Sometimes it’s there in the air, but we don’t see it. Instead we crave for the next one or the forbidden, missing out on what was there in grasp. As Christmas always says, His Glory and His Grace is always there; when one finds it, the happiness, joy and above all, the peace that one always longs for will be in our reach.

“Silent night, holy night!
Shepherds quake at the sight!
Glories stream from heaven afar;
Heavenly hosts sing Al-le-lu-ia!
Christ the Savior is born!
Christ the Savior is born!”….
(Lyrics from Silent Night lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group, Songtrust Ave; Source: LyricFind, Songwriters: Traditional)

There are innumerable glories as well as countless gifts and blessings that we come across. Some we know, many we don’t. Yet the more we know and learn to appreciate, these would be put to better use. As the year comes to a close, let this season teach us not only to share the love and joy, but also learn to be still, find ourselves and on the whole, be a part of His miracle.