Posted in Daily, Food, Stories Around the World

Of Origin and Evolution…”Soufflé”

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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Posted in Daily, Family and Society, Life, Personal Musings, Quotes, Work

Hold the Condemnation

“What we don’t speak burns more than the spoken words especially when the actions, expressions and emotions radiate the sense of censure as the silent unspoken disapproval.”

If we ever sit down and reflect on the number of times we had condemned or felt extreme disapproval at the actions of others or towards the circumstances, the list would be formed for most of us. The tendency to condemn or sentence another is one of the most common follies and fallacies of man. If we look on the pages of the local town news or reflect on the “hearsay” at the office, communities, neighbourhood centers and even schools, the “good news” gets less attention when compared to the “bad”. Though it is indeed important to know both, a fact that stands true is that the more disreputable the news is, the faster it spreads and believed.

“We cannot change anything until we accept it. Condemnation does not liberate, it oppresses.” Carl Jung

 

One of the sad realities of the social order is that people are more engaged in passing the “bad news” rather than the good happenings especially of others. Unfortunately condemning anyone unless the entire picture is known will strike back at us, especially when we are at our worse. To not condemn anyone may seem simple when said, but to actually do it is quite difficult. At some point of time, each one of us would have been at the wrong end of the receiving line, sometimes at no fault of ours or we have been grossly wronged. In such situations, it seems easier to condemn and castigate the other. However one’s real character is reflected when we hold such thoughts, emotions and actions.

 

When the wrong has been done to us, instead of engaging in harsh words or negative behaviour, feel angry but don’t feed the anger. Then acknowledge that what has been done was wrong and just move on. The harsh words, gestures or behaviour may aid one in letting off some steam for the moment, but a little later the regret, guilt and ramifications set in. The more we engage in the act of condemnation, the guilt may not bother us; yet when the day back to us as a boomerang it may be too late for the remedial actions or reparative measures. Eventually if we try, we can learn and master the art of  avoiding condemnation. If we do so, one discovers life’s simple pleasures and good moments. Above all, we learn to move with the flow, treasuring the memories of happiness, kindness and simple joys.

“Any fool can criticize, complain, and condemn—and most fools do. But it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving.” Dale Carnegie (How to Win Friends and Influence People)

 

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

Time, Change and Addresses

“All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.” Anatole France

Like all events that come to an eventual close, yesterday had marked the farewell of two colleagues at the workplace. While attending the meet, what came to mind was the fact that predictability and stability works only for a time. During my younger years, with both parents working, transfers and promotions went in hand with address change. Although as kids we had met many friends and been to many localities, there was always an underlying feeling in me that certain things can never be permanent or sure.

“People lose people, we lose things in our life as we’re constantly growing and changing. That’s what life is is change, and a lot of that is loss. It’s what you gain from that loss that makes life.” Thomas Jane

Change, development and growth go in tandem in life. People change, addresses change and routine alters, yet nature remains true to its’ unpredictability. As literature and history, unfolds the story of the great conqueror of their times, Alexander the Great, the truth that we come carrying nothing and we leave empty handed too holds true. But what we do leave behind, is the legacy of our work as footprints behind. Every man will disappear, but leaving those marks for the future to learn from them, is dependent on each individual alone. One always has the choice to change, either for the better or worse. The wiser we act, think and live; the happier, serene and at peace, we will be.

“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” Lao Tzu

Addresses Change

The people change addresses, move,
They part and leave and disappear,
And only an autumn grove
Is permanent, it will be here.
And only an autumn grove
Is permanent, it will be here.

What in the very end remains?
Not idle talks or strained relations, –
– A mowed field, the vast of plains,
A forest road to a train station.

The path by empty villas winds,
The homes of wealth, prestige, renown.
An old dray-cart left us behind –
A guy was driving to the town.

And this is what, for sure, stays:
The river, white in the night haze,
It is bewitched and charmed by mist,
Adorned by a camp-fire shimmer
And beacons twinkling in the midst –
All for the safety of shipping.

The people change addresses, move,
They part and leave and disappear,
And only an autumn grove
Is permanent, it will be here.
And only an autumn grove
Is permanent, it will be here.

Gennady Shpalikov

“We know what we are, but know not what we may be.” William Shakespeare

Posted in Daily, Food

Staying “Summer” Fresh

“If life gives you lemons, make apple juice and make people wonder how the hell you did it.” Gurbaksh Chahal

With summer reaching it’s peak, staying hydrated is quite important. Add holidays, children, get together weekends or picnics as well as spending time with friends and family; getting creative is a necessity. With plenty of fruits available this season as well the vegetable garden thriving, it would be fun to experiment and serve something more than chilled lemonade this summer.

“If life gives you lemons, make some kind of fruity juice.” Conan O’Brien

 

Before getting started, few practical tips would make the experimentation more fun and feasible as well as palatable. As per most nutrition experts and chefs, carrots can be juiced with any fruit and apples can be mixed with any vegetables. Cabbage, kale or collard greens shouldn’t be juiced. A little of mint, basil or rosemary gives a distinct flavour to the regular fruit juices. Adding a little of parsley or watercress will not only cleanse the blood but also give a distinct flavour.

Before juicing, washing the vegetables and fruits is a must. A quick tip to clean the berries would be to soak them for a few minutes in a solution of vinegar and water of one cup to ten, respectively and dry them completely. Not only will they remain fresh mould free but also be cleansed. Have fruit juices fresh and early in the morning would ease the health for the day. Fruit juice once made, should be consumed fresh as they may turn too sweet when kept in the fridge for long, or turn rancid or sour when kept outside. T have it cold, add a few ice cubes which can contain a hint of crushed mint in the water frozen as ice cubes.

 

Before juicing, rough skins like those of pineapple and avocado as well as pits and seeds should be removed. An exception to the peels are apple skin and citrus (not oranges) peels which are edible and anti-oxidant rich. And the removed pulp can be added to mayonnaise for a delicious mock salad, or to pancakes, cookies, and even hummus. Not all seeds and greens can be added to food as some can cause gastric upsets as well as food allergies. Few of the more vibrant juices, as seen by their colours fall into the category of :
Big RED: Beetroot, Carrot, Celery, Apple, Pomegranate.
Yummy Carrot: Carrots, Apple, Ginger, Turmeric or Parsley and Lemon.
Green: Kale, Spinach, Cucumber, Parsley, Celery, Apple.
The Detoxifier: Beets, Carrots, Lemon, Ginger, Apple
The Vision: Carrots, Oranges, Ginger with or without turmeric

If the taste of the juice isn’t sweet enough to the palate initially, try adding some stevia or things like cucumber, beetroot and carrot, which can make the juices easier to drink for a newbie. Also although lemonade is one of the summer drinks since school, a dash of lime any juice would spruce it up a bit.

 

Posted in Daily, Food

Hummus: From “Then” to “Now”

From parties to the routine meals or for the dieters as well as snack food for the cravings time after work or before the ” big meal”, this dip has been popular across the world. Little wonder then that with International Hummus Day ( May 13th) gone by, one mayn’t know enough about this dip.

Known as “Hummus” or “hummus bi tahini”, this Levantine dip or spread, is made from cooked or mashed chickpeas or other beans, blended with tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and garlic. The word “Hummus” comes from the Arabic word meaning “chickpeas”. However likely from the Greek origins, hummus a part of the local cuisine in both Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot communities, it is known as “humoi” . While originally placed in the Middle East and Mediterranean cuisine, today it has been featured in many local cuisine and recipes around the globe.

While there are a number of different theories and claims of origins in various parts of the Middle East and the Mediterranean, there is insufficient evidence to determine the exact or precise details. The basic ingredients of chickpeas, sesame, lemon, and garlic have been combined and eaten in their local cuisine over centuries. While some food historians believe that variations of this recipe were there during the ancient Egyptian civilizations where then chickpeas were widely eaten as cooked in stews and other hot dishes; they had also been a part of the Greek cuisine and cooking. However records of pureed chickpeas eaten cold with tahini do not appear before the Abbasid period in Egypt and the Levant.

Cookbooks of 13th century Cairo record recipes for dish resembling hummus bi tahina; like the recipe of a cold puree of chickpeas with vinegar and pickled lemons with herbs, spices, and oil, but no tahini or garlic.  Over the years variations exists in the amount of ingredients of the beans, chickpeas pureed as well as mixing of vinegar or olive oil, tahini as well as different spices, herbs or nuts, with or without garlic; made or served by rolling it out and letting it sit overnight. With trade playing a significant role in the spread and share of cuisines, hummus may be one among the numerous foods that had crossed over during the historical periods across the Middle East and the Mediterranean.

Being used as an appetizer or dip, or served with meals; hummus can be had in an numerous ways. It can be scooped with flatbread, such as pita or served as part of a meze (selection of appetizers) or as an accompaniment to falafel, grilled chicken, fish or eggplant as well as with tortilla chips or crackers. Hummus can be garnished with numerous available ingredients like chopped tomato, cucumber, coriander, parsley, caramelized onions, sautéed mushrooms, whole chickpeas, olive oil, hard-boiled eggs, paprika, sumac, olives, pickles and pine nuts. It can also be topped by a mixture of fava beans or can be made with yogurt, butter and topped with pieces of toasted bread ( Jordan and Palestine areas).

There are many variations to the preparation of “hummus” with the various changes of civilizations, culture mixing as well as immigration. Variations like hummus with fried eggplant and boiled eggs, as a chickpea soup or hummus with traditional skhug hot sauce to name a few, are popular in their locale areas. Of recent, African cuisine have brought specialties such as Sudanese Hummus Darfur with eggs, tomatoes, and grated cheese. Many restaurants offer varieties of warm hummus which may be served as chick peas softened with baking soda along with garlic, olive oil, cumin and tahini or as “msabbaha” made of whole chick peas garnishing the tahini (lemon spiked) with a drizzle of olive oil and sprinkling of paprika.

With hummus being gluten free, nut-free, dairy free as well as a perfect spread or dip for snacks, fresh fruits, bread, meat, pita chips and the like; it has gained widespread acceptance across many cultures and cuisines as well for the weight watchers, medical reasons or just for its’ own unique taste and blend. Making hummus isn’t just a work of ingredients but also of art and creativity. With its’ quick and easy preparation with locally available ingredients; “hummus” is something that everyone should try at least once in a lifetime.

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

Choices, Expectations and Opportunities

“Applications are closed.”

The above sentence, seen across recruitment pages of websites, office circulars, school bulletins and so on; have caused numerous emotions, ranging from regret, anger, hopelessness, defeat, despair to feeling of unfairness, on the events that have taken place. Yet one constant reminder through all these circumstances is the irrevocable fact that time is always short and the windows or doors are left open only for a limited period of time.

“Opportunities are like sunrises. If you wait too long, you miss them.” William Arthur Ward

 

Reflecting back on missed chances, the reason for the delay when examined seem inconsequential then but significant now. From the excuses of lack of time, failure to read the notice, busy schedules, lack of planning and the like; all these when compared to the chances lost lead to severe regret and mental anguish for a time.

“Change can be frightening, and the temptation is often to resist it. But change almost always provides opportunities – to learn new things, to rethink tired processes, and to improve the way we work.” Klaus Schwab

As history has taught us, every one gets their fair share of opportunities, but unless we keep our eyes, ears and minds open with hearts and will brave, we will never have the option to use them. “Fortune does favour the bold.” Not because they were lucky, but they were willing to change to give a try. Contrarily always flitting around in search of greener pastures, would cause us to miss the fruit that the first garden bore. As nature always teaches us, everything happens in His time as long as we take the Chance when offered, instead of whiling away in self comfort and idleness. If one chance is missed, learn from it and don’t lose out on the next.

“A great attitude does much more than turn on the lights in our worlds; it seems to magically connect us to all sorts of serendipitous opportunities that were somehow absent before the change.” Earl Nightingale

 

The parable of “Not a Fulfilled Dream”

There lived a young man in the world. And he had a dream – to have a high-paying job, marry a beautiful woman and become famous throughout the world. Once in a frosty winter, a man was in a hurry for an interview at a well-known company.
Suddenly an elderly man fell right in front of him. The man looked at the fallen, the thought arose in his head that he was most likely drunk and did not give a hand. This helped not to be late for the scheduled meeting. But the interview was unsuccessful: the person was not taken to the desired position.
Somehow a man walked around the city on a summer evening. Noticing a troupe of street performers, he stopped to enjoy the spectacle. After the end of the action, applause rang out and people began to disperse. The young man also turned back, but someone timidly touched his shoulder. It was the main character of the play, the old woman-clown. She began to ask him about whether he liked the show, whether he was pleased with the actors. But the man did not want to lead the conversation and, disgustedly turned away, went home.
Once on a rainy evening, a man hurried home from a friend’s birthday. He was very tired, and thoughts of a fragrant bath and a cozy warm bed flashed through his head. Suddenly he heard someone muffled sobbing. This is a woman crying. She sat on a bench near the man’s house, without an umbrella. On noticing the young man, she turned to him for help. She had a family affliction. And she needed only a spiritual companion. The young man wondered, a bath and a bed appeared in front of his gaze, and he hurried into the porch.
This man had lived an unhappy life. And he died. Once in heaven, a man met his Guardian Angel. He said, “You know, I lived a very miserable and worthless life. I had three dreams, but nothing came true. It’s a pity.” “My friend,” the Guardian Angel replied, “I did everything to make all your dreams come true, but for this you only needed your hand, your eyes and your heart.”

– Do you remember a fallen man on a slippery winter road? I will now show you this picture … That person was the CEO of the company you wanted to get into. You waited dizzy career. All that is required of you is your hand.
– Do you remember the old clown who, after a street performance, came to you with questions? It was a young beauty actress who fell in love with you at first sight. You were waiting for a happy future, children, undying love. All that was required of you was your eyes.
– Do you remember the crying woman near your entrance? It was a rainy evening, and she was soaking wet from tears … It was a famous writer. She was experiencing a family crisis, and she really needed emotional support. If you helped her to warm up in her apartment, to warm herself with Soul thanks to your wise words of consolation, she would have written a book in which she would have told about this incident. The book would become known to the whole world, and you would become famous, because on the main page the author would indicate the name of the person who became the muse of this work. And all that was required of you then was your heart. You were inattentive, my friend.
The man sighed and walked along the lunar path into the star’s distance …
Listen to the world, it offers opportunities. One should not only ask for help, but also be able to accept the help and help others with dignity.

“To succeed, jump as quickly at opportunities as you do at conclusions.” Benjamin Franklin

 

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

A Mother’s Love

“Mother is the name for God in the lips and hearts of little children.” William Makepeace Thackeray

Traditionally celebrations honouring motherhood have existed since the beginning. Like the Greek cult to Cybele and the Roman festival of Hilaria, both honouring mothers’ in the form of the the mother goddess in Asia Minor area, Cybele, similar to the aspects of the the Earth-goddess Gaia, the possibly Minoan equivalent Rhea and the harvest–mother goddess Demeter. Similar Christian tradition of Mothering Sunday was started and celebrated mostly by the Church of English, Anglican parishes and the churches in the UK, wherein the fourth Sunday of Lent, exactly three weeks before Easter Day; where people would visit their mother church (baptized church or local parish church or the nearest cathedral). Of late, this celebration also marks as an occasion for honouring mothers’ and giving them presents.

“Youth fades; love droops; the leaves of friendship fall; A mother’s secret hope outlives them all.” Oliver Wendell Holmes

However, the modern Mother’s Day celebrated in many countries as the second Sunday of May, was first celebrated in 1908, when Anna Jarvis held a memorial for her mother at St Andrew’s Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia. Her mother Ann Jarvis had been a peace activist, who cared for wounded soldiers on both sides of the American Civil War and created Mother’s Day Work Clubs to address public health issues. Her daughter, Anna Jarvis wanted to honor her mother by continuing the work she had started and to set aside a day to honor all mothers because she believed a mother is “the person who has done more for you than anyone in the world”. Her campaign had set off the tradition of honouring mothers’ on the second Sunday of May.

“When you look into your mother’s eyes, you know that is the purest love you can find on this earth.” Mitch Albom

To honour one’s mother goes beyond buying ready made cards and gifts. It involves doing something physical and creatively giving a personal touch as handmade simple gifts, writings, remembrances and memorabilia; marking this day, not as a part of global celebration, but more of a personal and emotional nature. For appreciating and honor their mothers through handwritten letters or personal efforts expressing their love and gratitude, would carry a more emotional note of acknowledge the significant effort, contribution and molding they had played in our lives.

“God could not be everywhere, and therefore he made mothers.” Rudyard Kipling

Mothering would be in all senses physical, emotional, mental and spiritual way in which we have learned to trust, lean and rely on, in our early days. While all of us may have not had the best childhood or the perfect “mothers”, celebrating this day by paying a tribute to that special person who had moulded us, would be parallel to celebrating this special day.

“A mother’s happiness is like a beacon, lighting up the future but reflected also on the past in the guise of fond memories.” Honore de Balzac

The yellow moon is sleeping behind the clouds.
I look into the sky, as if in a dark forest.
Somewhere among the stars mom got lost,
And she looks with love at me from heaven.

Somewhere among the stars mom got lost,
And she looks with love at me from heaven.

How many years have passed, I’m still the same:
I never expect miracles from fate.
In the most difficult hour I have a mom,
And she looks with love at me from heaven.

In the most difficult hour I have a mom,
And she looks with love at me from heaven.

If my heart is both melancholy and autumn,
I drive myself from the usual places:
Mom will ask the Lord for me,
After all, she looks with love at me from heaven.

Mom will ask the Lord for me,
Because she looks with love at me from heaven.

Andrey Vasilyev