Posted in Food, Stories Around the World

Pull of the “P”

One of the new trends in the home kitchen as a sequelae of the incessant intermittent snacking, is the preference to single dish setting for the three main meals. While breakfast may be limited by steamed foods; it’s the lunch and dinner that has seen a drastic shift from elaborate meals to the glow of the “single pie” almost every now and then. As long as this trend lasts, the hours off the kitchen have increased.

“The idea of enclosing meat inside a sort of pastry made from flour and oil originated in ancient Rome, but it was the northern European use of lard and butter to make a pastry shell that could be rolled out and moulded that led to the advent of true pie.” An A-Z of Food & Drink, John Ayto [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 2002 (p. 254)

As often said, the entire outcome of when filling and pastry meet up in different grades and variations, make up for one of the simple and well-loved dish, the pie. Though essentially had as desserts, at home now the trend is to the savoury variants. While the shepherd’s pie, pot pies and related variants often grace the table; there have been a lot more experimentation from the varied recipes found online.

One of the newer pie versions learnt was the “homity pie”, a traditional British open vegetable pie. Covered with a filling of potatoes, onion and leek mixture (though, the choice of vegetables can be changed) covered with cheese on an open pastry base; this pie is one for those who want a little bit of vegetarianism in their diet. Extrapolating the recipe, a lot of leftovers can be used, especially if they are less curryish in nature. For the rich gravy ones, there’s always the curry pie to look forward to. Giving into the urge to top up the pastry base with onions and potato, voila one has a version of the “butter pie” (aka the “Air Pie”).

Alternatively, trying to opt for a more pie preparation for an early dinner, one of the recent add-ons was the “alooe pie”. Popular in cuisine of Trinidad and Tobago, this pie is made by frying dumplings of soft pastry (flour and water), splitting and filling them with boiled, spiced and mashed potatoes, green peas or chana dal. Essentially similar to a calazone and larger than the samosa. Coming to the samosa (or singara, sambusac), this is one of the “mini pies”, a go-to for short meetings and quick filling snacks. More than the regular pie, these samosas (or pies) are indigenous to the local Indian cuisine.

Each pie version has it’s own special story behind it. From potato pies, “keema pie” to “Chicken balti pie”, the variety is endless and the best part, is one can use the simple curry to make up the pie stuffing. Such a lot of history and potential in this dish. Savoury or sweet, this dish can swing both ways. But above all, it can be elaborate and rich or just a simple and wholesome fare. Sometimes that’s what one needs after a dry washed out day, a simple and wholesome piece of savoury pie.

Posted in Daily, Random Thoughts, Work

Need to Disconnect

While on the commute back home, after a necessary day of work from office, the traffic lights that go “red” are a welcome break. For that short break is the time for a quick look at the small screen and then switch the focus back on the road. Among the first few steps on stepping across the front door, is to ditch the phone along with the office folders on top of the shelf. This recent habit has paid dividends as far as getting the youngsters over their incessant and constant hungering for their time on the handheld screens of the present “mobile phones”.

Ironically the invention of the mobile phones was primarily to place a call when in motion, or simply put, the ease of access to a voice when on the move. Over the years, the technical point has developed to the ease of access to any information when on the move and not just as pones but as notepads and laptops as well. Though sometimes too much of activity and information can fry the grey cells. More of less, screen devices especially phones have become the “go=to” especially when bored.

“In his phone, Chase had found a place easier to exist in than inside his own skin. That was tragic, because inside the itchiness of our own skin is where we discover who we are. When we are bored, we ask ourselves: What do I want to do with myself?” Glennon Doyle, Untamed

No where in the books of development (at least not that I have read of), is it deemed necessary to keep children or anyone of us mentally occupied twenty-four seven. Sometimes it would be simply good to lie down and smell the grass in the garden. Or to close our eyes and drift to the quiet sounds of nature. Being still is what lets our imaginations grow and inner peace come out from within to the surface. Phones aren’t meant to keep us being busy, but to be connected to the others as and when needed. Regulating the time as per as requirement, is needed, especially as it sets the pattern for the young ones.

With the amount of online schooling, these screen-free moments are needed to bond with each other and to just find ourselves as well as to reconnect with those around us. Having being a part of both the eras, the generation with and without these “walking screens”, both are needed in optimal doses. Technology is ideal to be used in proportion. It was never meant to be antidote for the itchiness within. On the other hand, it is the “itchiness” that helps one to delve within and find their own path of self-discovery and creativity. The temporary respite for the itchiness, as offered by technology, is just that, temporary. Learning to address the restlessness with creativity is what makes us tick in the long run. So once in a while, it feels really good to switch off for a couple of hours each day. Oh the rest and respite of just being with ourselves, is worth it all.

Posted in Daily, Food

Whole and Toasted

Warm, toasted and sizzling; there’s something special about experiencing it. In fact, one of the best parts of the recipes of today, is that they can be blended to make a bit of the “old and the new”. Which is why for a quick snack, quesadillas have undergone a recent kitchen experimentation, though of a more outdoorsy nature.

Originally as per the Mexican cuisine, a “quesadilla” is a tortilla (flat circle of cooked corn masa) warmed, softened, folded in half and filled with the typical Oaxaca cheese, cooked on a comal till the cheese is melted and gooey. Usually cooked without any oil, had with green or red salsa or chopped onions; these days the fillings can be as varied as own choice. From cooked vegetables, like potatoes with chorizo, mushrooms, epazote or even different types of cooked meat (chicharron, tinga of chicken or beef or cooked pork) or even as simple as avocado or guacamole, chopped onions, tomato, serrano chiles and cilantro. In essence, a quesadilla is simply a turnover food, or a “special Mexican version of the portable pie”.

Modifying the quesadilla with pizza toppings to make the “pizzadilla” or even desert quesadilla with chocolate, butterscotch, caramel, candied fruits and the like, are just an eye-opener to the versatility and ease of turnover foods. Likewise the breakfast quesadillas are also made, using ingredients such as eggs, cheese and bacon. Trying to modify the recipe to a bit of the local Indian cuisine, the tortilla was substituted with a roti (wheat) and stuffed with paneer(Indian cottage cheese) and shredded chicken.Alternatively certain recipes substitute the wheat base with chickpea flour or even a combination of all-purpose flour and rice flour.

Making a blend of the Old World tradition and New World foods; these recipes bring not just a feeling of goodness with the meal, but also a wholesomeness to it. Somewhere along the lines, amateur food experimenters, too have added their little bit to the food culture around the world. And that brings a feeling of content, warmth and happiness, along with satitey; an experience which brings a pleasant feel to the end of any day.

[1944]
“Quesadilla (Tortilla Stuffed with Cheese)
Take fresh tortillas (bought in a Mexican store), place generous piece of Monterey cream cheese (or American cheese) in the center, and fold it over as you would a turnover. Pin top with toothpicks to hold. Place in hot, ungreased skillet and cook lightly, turing often until cheese is melted. Delicious with refried beans.” Elena’s Famous Mexican and Spanish Recipes, Elena Zelayeta [Dettners Printing House: San Francisco] October 1944 (p. 35)

Posted in Life, poetry, Random Thoughts

One to Experience

The stillness of the noon hours was a rare experience, more so when it is a full house with pitter-patter of feet and paws, along with the continuous yells, shouts and thumps of the ball outside. Though the chance of a siesta beckoned, the caution and wariness of the absence of the noise stayed uppermost in the mind. Which is why in stealth mode, the silent steps stopped outside the pantry. Cookie jar, empty (check) and the rustling of paper and crunching. With the steam levels rising, before the stern words could come out it was the proud announcement that “mom, tea is ready”. It was to be stern then on. True that the kitchen was a mess, along with jammy fingers and crumbs on the floor. But as always said, it is the thought that counts.

“We want someone to love us, but in fact it’s more important that we love!” Joyce Meyer

Love comes in numerous forms. From the morning cup of tea made ready after a long night or work from home experience shift to the blessing of a few hours of domestic respite to the unasked help in the garden, love comes in many different shapes and sizes. One never realizes its’ true form, until one looks back and reflects on those good feelings within. Love can be noisy as well, but also transient and fleeting. It can be true or false, fake or real as well as an apparition or “an effect of the moment”. Though underlining through all these forms, one needs to give to experience it.

Such is human love, to experience it’s true form, it needs to be shared from within the heart. Such love is always meant to be caught, treasured, experienced, shared and brought back to life for the dark and dull moments. May we wish each other to experience such moments in the days, that we breathe the air around us. For what is life without such an emotion, futile and hopeless; but with it, so full of that inner happiness and peace.

Want to tell you about love?
But not about the one that passion, debauchery, disorder,
What kindles us a fire in the blood
And makes us commit folly.

I will tell you about another love –
When you come home from work in the evening,
And at home all of your relatives, all of your own,
And behind the threshold, care is taken off.

Such a love I wish you friends,
To always rush home from work.
It can not be found in a single moment,
But you can grow with patience and care.

Margarita Fortier

Posted in Daily, Family and Society, Life, Personal Musings, Reflections

Just those “Five”

“Wait for five minutes…when the sliced onions turn golden brown, pour the sauce and saute.”
“Five minutes more…I’ll switch off the television after this episode”.
“Snooze”. Five more minutes.

Reality and time are a formidable combination, especially when they turn events to be one of the life-changing moments. Every now and then, they snatch the net that holds our fall or by saving grace, they stretch the net to break the fall. Either way, their significance is not to be underestimated. In just “five” minutes, they highlight the balance of life, that we humans need to find and attain. Whether it be five, more or less; time always brings the one on the highest rung on the ladder down with a thud, or help us to grow our wings slowly.

“Balance suggests a perfect equilibrium. There is no such thing. That is a false expectation…. There are going to be priorities and dimensions of your life; how you integrate them is how you find true happiness.” Denise Morrison

Sticking to the universal “five minutes”, one can feel or do a lot of things in that time. When time is a whole bunch, those five minutes seem a lot of time. But as the second whiz by, it becomes too little.

Or those five minutes can be mean so much. Five minutes to talk to our parents. Five minutes to play wit our pet. Five minutes to sing a raucous song with the kid, or admire and share in their drawings. Five minutes to hug our better halves and show much much they fill a part to makes us whole. Five minutes to hold hands and walk under the night sky. Five minutes of shared words, whispered conversations and fears, and support.

Those five minutes is what pulls us through our worst moments in life. Those five minutes is what makes one smile from the heart, even though they may not be near in real. Those five minutes become the most important thing to us. In a way, “those five minutes” pale in comparison to those endless hours of “important meetings and projects”. In fact, “those five minutes” become the safety net for the inevitable fall that one may make when the carpet is pulled under our feet.

So let us all have those occasional “five minutes”; to be on those important things, the ones that matter the most. For those five minutes of “simple things” will last for an eternity, or expensive than eternity and more.

Posted in Daily, Food

An “In-dul-gence”

More than forty eight hours, still the excuse to indulge in a little of the delectable sweetness of “c” stays on. On a frank note, the gift from the simple cacao seeds don’t really need any special day to be enjoyed; yet on the need for a reason to binge on it, these special choclate based days are noted and celebrated. On such a note, a couple of us “chocolate-fanatics” decided to give the online chocolataire a whirl and oh what a visual treat was it. Though obsolete now, a chocolate themed social gathering gives a boost tot he low morale during these “locked in periods”.

“Chocolate Wine. Take a pint of Sherry, or a pint and a half of Port, four ounces and a half of chocolate, six ounces of fine sugar, and half an ounce of white starch, or find flour; mix, dissolve, and boil all these together for about ten or twelve minutes. But if your chocolate is made with sugar, take double the quantity of chocolate, and half the quantity of sugar.” (The Cook’s Own Book: Being a Culinary Encyclopedia, Mrs. N.K.M. Lee, facsimile 1832 edition [Arno Press:New York] 1972 (p. 51))

From being processed, blended, conched, tempered and stored, chocolate has undergone a bit more changes, primarily to the percentages of cocoa solid, fats or both along with added ingredients, to give the many varieties of today. Interestingly cocoa can be combined with vegetable fat (tropical or hydrogenated fats) to give the confection of compound chocolate. Though not legally “chocolate”, it can be used as a dipping sauce, candy bar coatings or just to give the feel of chocolate to a simple dessert, biscuits or even pie. Alternatively for amateur home experimenters (like yours truly); melting chocolate with glucose, golden or corn syrup to make the modeling chocolate for homemade decorations to sponge cakes, cupcakes and the like brings a feeling of bringing a bit of the delicatessen home. On a very sweet and sour note, chocolate too has its’ own tune with the creation of Callebaut’s Ruby chocolate. Made from the Ruby cocoa bean, the distinct red colour gives a flair to the dramatic taste.

The quest to find a “cool and practical recipe” for the impromptu chocolataire has opened up a whole range of ideas and range of experimentation. With many recipes being borrowed, jotted and modified; chocolate will be one of the musts for cacao based desert crazy folks. As they say old is gold; with a little bit of “this and that”, it gives a good feel for the taste buds and an enjoyable ride for the memory cells especially as they age over time.

[1957]
“Chocolate Fondue: Hot Dessert
2 squares (ounces) unsweetened chocolate, 1 cup milk, 1 cup soft breadcrumbs, 1 tablespoon butter, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 3 eggs separated. Add chocolate, broken in pieces, to milk. Heat till chocolate melts; stir till blended. Add crumbs, butter, sugar, salt. Beat egg yolks slightly. Stir in a little of the hot milk, add to milk mixture, cool. Beat egg whites till stiff; fold into cooled mixture. Turn into a five-cup greased baking dish. Bake in moderate oven (350 degrees F.) about forty minutes. Serve hot with whipped cream. Yield: Four servings.” (“Our Daily Bread,” Jane Nickerson New York Times, September 8, 1957 (p. SM46))

Posted in Family and Society, Life, Personal Musings, poetry

Unparalleled

For one to realize the frailty of life versus time given to one, scanning the first few pages of the newspaper is enough, or just listen to the morning news hour. For some who thought they had time, there wasn’t any. Whereas others have been blessed with a second chance, good or bad, only time knows the final outcome. Through all this one realizes how blessed one has been. In fact, these thought bring out the true meaning of what “we have never realized”.

One never realizes how blessed one has been with a job or any form of employment, till the day the wages stop coming and the money is out of the hand. One never knows the gift of a family, unless they come back to an empty set of rooms with no voices, but only those of the media. One never realizes how much they were blessed with their own path to walk and friends to visit, until they are forced to confine within. Instead of realizing the simple gifts of time and life as a whole, we crib that theatres are shut, malls are out and we are all stuck.

“Life’s not about expecting, hoping and wishing, it’s about doing, being and becoming.” Mike Dooley

True that life may put one in a bind at times; yet for every things there aren’t just one or two but many sides which can be explored. While we crib about what we may have missed out on, learn not to lose out on what we have right now.

If one had to truly measure up the gifts we have been blessed with, the list made would put out the “so called better things” out with a whiff. As time shows us how fickle she can be with life, let each day be a highlight of the gifts that she offers us, put to use and not left behind in the chase for the perceived better.

How Much Would This Cost?
Courtland W. Sayers

One midnight deep in starlight still
I dreamed that I received this bill:
…………..In account with life:
Five thousand breathless dawns all new;
Five thousand flowers fresh in dew;
Five thousand sunsets wrapped in gold;
One million snowflakes served ice cold,
Five quiet friends; one baby’s love;
One white-mad sea with clouds above;
One hundred music-haunted dreams
Of moon drenched roads and hurrying streams,
One June night in a fragrant wood;
One heart that loved and understood.
I wondered when I woke that day
‘How much this would cost if I had to pay?’