Posted in Family and Society, Life, Personal Musings

Letters to Cherish

“PS, I Love You” the first novel written by Cecelia Ahern, published in 2004 was adapted as a film three years later. The book is based on a married couple Gerry and Holly, deeply in love with occasional fights, yet both are inseparable. When Gerry suddenly dies of a brain tumor, Holly is set adrift in despair and grief, unable to deal with his death and withdrawing from friends and family. One day her mother calls her informing her of a package addressed to her. It held a series of letters Gerry had left for her before he died, containing messages from him, all ending with “P.S. I Love You”. Each new message fills her with encouragement every month and with Gerry’s words as her guide, Holly slowly embarks on a journey of rediscovery.

Both the book and the movie are heart touching, though I preferred the former. Yet the underlying message beyond the fact that time is never predictable is that we should treasure the good moments to always fall back on. Waiting for a warning bell to strike and remind us of how everything can end in a matter of minutes, it is better to string the good memories for our family and friends as we go on our daily lives.

For our friends, once in a while write about what we love about them, the sorrows which they helped us to overcome, the celebrations that they were there for as well as the occasional clashes and better times. When we journal these events, we realize that we have lots to thank them for. Carry this trend into family, for our husband, kids and parents. There is nothing more precious than the written words of care, love and affection that the digital age can’t equalize. Till this day, I hold the letter that my mother and sister wrote to me when I was in college and they bring back fresh memories every time I feel like reading them.

Once a year, write a letter to your child, regaling the funny stories about what had happened to them that year; about the difficulties, mishaps, joys and fun times. Write down your thoughts concerning their future, your memories and emotions as they went about their days, the important events of that year for family and for each one of them. Add on to the letter with photos, postcards, little stick-ons, tiny notes and other memorabilia which would otherwise disappear later. In the end of the letter, don’t forget to tell them that you love them.

After closing the letter, put it in a binder and forget about it. Keep on writing a letter this every year till they reach the age of majority. On the day they reach the official age of adulthood, give them the folder. It will be an invaluable repository of parental love and memory of their childhood. These letters would be with them through joyful as well as difficult moments and trying times. Above all, it will be a reminder that your love will be with them always.

 

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Posted in Daily, Food, Stories Around the World

Of Chips and Crisps

“No One Can Eat Just One”

Ask any school kid, most would know the famous tag line, “Betcha Can’t Eat Just One” of Lay’s® Potato Chip Slogan from the early 1960’s. Over the years, although the slogans have under gone a little modification with endorsers changing, the flavours still holds us captive.

Early recipes similar to the potato crisps of today, was in William Kitchiner’s cookbook “The Cook’s Oracle” (1817) with “Potatoes fried in Slices or Shavings”. The methodology reads to “peel large potatoes, slice them about a quarter of an inch thick, or cut them in shavings round and round, as you would peel a lemon; dry them well in a clean cloth, and fry them in lard or dripping”.

Yet legend attributes the first potato “chips” to George Crum, an American chef of African American and Native American heritage at Saratoga Springs, New York in 1853. Trying to appease an unhappy customer on August 24th, 1853 who had kept sending his French-fried potatoes back, complaining that they were too thick, too “soggy,” and/or not salted well enough. Frustrated, Crum personally sliced several potatoes extremely thin, fried them to a crisp, and seasoned them with extra salt. To Crum’s surprise, the customer loved them and soon came to be called “Saratoga Chips”. Food history truly appreciates Crum’s customer Cornelius Vanderbilt for triggering the innovation.

Since then packaging and production took over the regular potato chips to a mass commercial enterprise. In United Kingdom and Ireland, “Potato Chips” are referred to as “crisps” when eaten at room temperature, while when served hot and fried are “chips”. But in many places, largely these terminologies are interchangeable and not very specific.

“Did you know that when potatoes go to the barbers, they can either have a straight cut, a crinkle cut or a slice?” Anthony T. Hincks

The mass popularity of “potato chips” is evidenced by the regional varieties as well as local flavours and seasonings like dill pickle, ketchup. red paprika and so on. Additional variants like potato sticks, also known as shoestring potatoes; baked potato chips have been marketed. The “chips” craze has also been spread to corn, rice, arrowroot or cassava as well as root vegetables like carrots, parsnips and rutabagas. Though not known as chips, but crisps in some places, the snacking options are varied and plentiful.

“Every potato is just a chip waiting to get out.” Anthony T. Hincks

One can be quite innovative with potato crisps, besides having them direct from the packet, they can be tossed into salads or crushed to make spicy mixes for “party snacks”, as “chaats”, sandwich fillers “sweet, sour or spicy and hot” and the like.  Though not advisable on a regular basis, “potato chips” are here to stay. Better late than never, what better to celebrate “National Potato Chip Day” (March 14th) by indulging in a couple of them. As they say, all good things come in small packages; keeping “potato chips” in moderation would help us in indulging these cravings for snacking once in a while, for a longer time.

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

Beauty Around Us

Recently as we were browsing for a gift for new home owners in the neighbourhood, the choices were based on whether to get a gift for its’ usefulness or for decorative purpose. Going through the choices for both, one would be struck on how has changed to match the beauty, aesthetics, colours and background of the new era; to the extent that most of our homes can be labelled “ancient”. Today the sense of style and beauty evolves at a fast rate, so that new of today is “old of tomorrow”, not “next month”.

“Walking in the mountains helps me unwind, but it also reminds me in a painful way that the real beauty in life is nature and animals, and that the human race, in all its arrogance, is intent on destroying it.” Sylvie Guillem

No matter how old we grow or how modern we become, nature in her elements never fails to make us appreciate the true beauty of life. From time to time when we stop with surprise at her magnificent marvels; we never fail to appreciate her wonder. The churning waves, the coloured hue of maple leaves, the first snow, the shining of the sun on frost, the changing shapes and white of the clouds, the colors of the sky are just few of the many artistic marvels of nature.

“I appreciate simplicity, true beauty that lasts over time, and a little wit and eclecticism that make life more fun.” Elliott Erwitt

We all are immersed in beauty for the world is unbearably beautiful; just that we don’t pay enough attention to it. True beauty is the world created for us. People with their lively nature of laughing eyes, songs and honest laughter, small children running about with joy and fun, birds chirping in the morning; all these are few of the many things that we miss or take for granted daily. Everything that is beautiful and wonderful is realized when we pay attention. For the artist is not the one who can draw, the artist is the one who is able to notice the beauty of the surrounding world.

“I think that it’s when we step out of the road, step outside the box, become our own person, and we walk fearlessly down paths other people wouldn’t look at, that true progress comes. And sometimes true beauty as well.” JohnMcAfee

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

For “Better” Tomorrow

“You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.” ~ Abraham Lincoln

Many of us keep planners and appointments, sometimes a s a part of our work requirements and other times to get our work done. Not to get the context wrong, keeping planners is important for without a plan, one would be steered wrong and get lost in the chaos. Yet as life will teach us, there are certain that we can’t keep postponing or rescheduling waiting for the “better tomorrow”.

As we go about our day, keeping a continuous watch on our humaneness is a must irrespective of whether we are in a lack of time or stressed and so on. The more we make excuses, the higher the chances that things will be put off again for the “next tomorrow”. The joy of the gift of “present” or “today” is realized only when we look back at the “yesterday” from the “tomorrows” that we enter. Unless we learn to treat the relationships of today with respect, give time for oneself today and be kind now; there would be no guarantee that tomorrow we may be able to do so. Being aware of this is important as “Time” is known for its fickle nature.

“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Learn from it… tomorrow is a new day.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

We think tomorrow we will be more diligent
And better, more useful, kind
Today we are rude, but tomorrow we are gentle,
After all, tomorrow we will be wiser.

Tomorrow we will see an old friend,
And tomorrow we will write to our relatives.
And tomorrow we will do someone a favor,
Not only our own, but someone else’s.

Tomorrow we will forgive each other without reproach,
And tomorrow we will understand each other.
And tomorrow we will apply the whole experience of spiritual lessons,
and will carry it out!

Tomorrow we will repent in the life of a barren
In the last death-delirium.
Dress naked, feed the hungry,
Share someone else’s need.

So in the plans for tomorrow, then hidden in the fog,
Year after year is carried away …
And what if tomorrow takes and deceives?
What if it doesn’t come at all?

Vera Kushnir

Posted in Daily, Food, Stories Around the World

Of Noodle, Origin, Evolution and Style

“Noodles are not only amusing but delicious.” ~ Julia Child

Derived from the German word “Nudel”, noodles has been one of the earliest staple food for many civilizations. Made from unleavened dough which is stretched, extruded or rolled flat and cut into a variety of shapes,as long thin strips or strings to waves, helices, tubes, strings or shells to mention a few.  Often pan fried or deep fried, they can be made from wheat, rice, buckwheat, acorn meal and even seaweed.

The oldest historical mention of noodles are in the Chinese records as per a book dated to the eastern Han dynasty (25 to 220 BC). Archaeological evidence unearthed an earthenware bowl that contained 4000-year-old noodles at the Lajia, China. These noodle were said to resemble “lamian”, which are a type of Chinese noodle that is made by repeatedly pulling and stretching the dough by hand. In fact records show that the earliest Chinese noodles, don’t appear as strands of dough but were shaped into little bits, formed from bread dough and thrown into a wok of boiling water. This type of noodles, known as “mian pian” is still eaten in modern day China.

The udon (wheat noodles) of Japan were adapted from the Chinese by Buddhist monks. Across Europe and Near East, records mention about fried sheets of dough called lagana ( first century BC). Greek and Latinized itrium refer to homogenous mixture of flour and water, boiled in the case of the latter. The Jerusalem Talmud (fifth century A.D.) mentions itrium. Arabs adapted the form to a string-like pasta, “itriyya” made of semolina and dried before cooking. Regional specializations of noodles and pasta began, with concrete information traced back to 13th and 14th century Italy. Since then on, pasta as well as noodles have been globalized.

Various varieties have been present globally, forming the staple diet of many local cuisines. While in China, chefs pull the thinnest of noodles, “la mian”, bathing them in a long-simmering beef soup with chili, coriander and crumbles of meat. Whereas, “Spätzle” egg noodles are the highlight in Germany and the Alps and Italy delicate thin sheets of spinach noodles are rolled out, baked with bolognese and bechemel sauce. The Indian cuisine has its’ own rice noodles, “idiyappam” and Thai cusine have their “Khanom chin”.

Bake it, chill or fry them, or toss them along with rice after boiling them, noodles can be simple and basic or artsy and innovative, the choice is ours. Little wonder why then march 11th has been celebrated as “Eat your Noodles” Day by foodimentarians globally.

“I wouldn’t exactly call it ‘cooking’ but I can make noodles. That means I can boil water, put the pasta in and wait until it’s done.” ~ Devon Werkheiser

Posted in Daily, Food

Basics, Creativity and Flour

“Your bread assumes the shape of the pan you use to bake your flour. Therefore stand still and know that you can’t use a rounded pan and ever get squared bread. Change the pan and change the shape of the bread!” Israelmore Ayivor

One of the items landing a place on the “weekly shopping list” is flour and the like. Whether the principal cereal we take be cassava or wheat, rice, corn or chickpea; flour is the necessity of any home cooking or kitchen experimentation.

While the earliest archaeological evidence for wheat seeds crushed between simple millstones to make flour dates to 6000 BC; other types of flour have been in use in various countries. With the Industrial Revolution, mills as well preservation techniques of flour were drastically modified and improved. As flour began to be enriched and trade and transport options increased; flour trading became prosperous. Throw in the green revolution and flour of all types began to be available in any places.

“I love using rice as a flour; I’ll grind roasted rice and dip fish in that. It gives a beautiful, crunchy texture.” Marcus Samuelsson

Being in the National Flour month (as per most foodimentarians), for those of us with gluten problems can resort to rice flour, chickpea flour as well as banana flour. There are many replacements for wheat in the recipes. More fascinating aspects is that non cereal flours like soybean, arrowroot, quinoa are other options to look into. And flour doesn’t restrict itself to being in the meal or as desserts but can also be a part of the gravy as well. With all varieties being available in most supermarkets and groceries; trying new recipes ( all time favourite of rice flour vadais or besan laddoos) can be fun for family, friends as well as a break from the busy world of work, entertainment and schedules.

Gravy is the simplest, tastiest, most memory-laden dish I know how to make: a little flour, salt and pepper, crispy bits of whatever meat anchored the meal, a couple of cups of water or milk and slow stirring to break up lumps.” Dorothy Allison

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

Fruitful but Maligned

Somethings Never Change.

Returning from the workplace last evening, felt like a scene back from the high school days; with the immense relief felt when escaping the hurtful environment of words, snide comments and remarks, done on the pretext “good-natured” ribbing.

“Some people won’t be happy until they’ve pushed you to the ground. What you have to do is have the courage to stand your ground and not give them the time of day. Hold on to your power and never give it away.” Donna Schoenrock

Fast forwarding from school days to college and university and then on to the work area, these things still keep happening. Ironically while today often grievous insults and behaviours come to front; in a very large scale, bullying is still been done in a very silent manner. As children, initially when related to parents and teachers; most of the time one is told to take things in stride or to deal with it in a quiet manner. Once when things get out of hand, authorities are involved. Though by then, most damage is done. This same cycle, involving the bully, bully-victim and victim continues on through the lives of the involved.

Breaking this trend is never easy. The first start is through education both at home and school grounds, followed by neighbourhood and community. As children, the streak of cruelty and bullying varies depending on temperament, environment and influence; though school is the place where they exercise it very often. Curbing these tends and making them understand the harm caused is important.

“Words have great power that could make or break others…so please be care with them.” Timothy Pina

Recently one teacher decided to share her experience in a similar situation. Her method was very successful, so she decided to talk about it in one of the social networks; which has been posted below.

“Once, before starting classes, I went to the store and bought two apples. They were almost the same: the same color, about the same size … At the very beginning of the classroom hour I asked the children: “What is the difference between these apples?”. They were silent, because there was not really much difference between the fruits. Then I took one of the apples and, turning to him, said: “I don’t like you! You are a nasty apple! ” After that, I threw the fruit on the floor. The disciples looked at me as if they were crazy. Then I handed the apple to one of them and said: “Find something in it that you don’t like and throw it on the ground too”. The disciple obediently fulfilled the request. After that I asked to transfer the apple further. I must say that children easily found some flaws in the apple: “I don’t like your tail! You have a nasty skin! Yes, there are only worms in you! ”They said, and each time they threw an apple on the ground.
When the fruit came back to me, I again asked if the children saw any difference between this apple and the second one, which all this time was lying on my table. They were again confused, because, despite the fact that we regularly threw an apple on the floor, it did not receive any serious external damage and looked almost the same as the second one. Then I cut both apples. The one that lay on the table was snow-white inside, everyone liked it very much. The children agreed that they would have eaten it with pleasure. But the second was inside brown, covered with bruises, which we set for him. Nobody wanted to eat it. Then I said: “Guys, but this is because we made him that way! This is our fault! ”
In the class there was a deathly silence. A minute later, I continued: “The same happens with people when we insult or call them names. Outwardly, this practically does not affect them, but we inflict a huge amount of internal wounds!” Before my children, nothing ever came so quickly. Everyone began to share their life experiences, how unpleasant they were when they were called names. We all cried one by one, and then laughed together,” the teacher told her story.

“With ignorance comes fear- from fear comes bigotry. Education is the key to acceptance.” Kathleen Patel