Eskimo Nebula

Eskimo Nebula
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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Reflections: The Philippines

Hello again, people of Cyberia and the Blogosphere,

I've written previous drafts about the Philippines on a number of topics, but I was never satisfied with what I had tried to explain and paint with words to describe the Philippines. So, instead of trying to plan out too many things or find just the right photos to go with this and that, I think that I'll return to my impromptu approach and write whatever my conscious decides to bring to to the surface. This is just a tiny reflection about what the Philippines means to me.

Rep├║blika ng Pilipinas

The Philippines is important to me because it's where my parents and most of my close relatives grew up, it's their homeland. So, I can never forget my roots or my family's culture. I grew up bilingual, knowing both English and Tagalog.

 Growing up as the first generation of my family in the United States was new ground for my parents and for their children too. Where we grew up was fairly homogeneous and we were one of just a handful of 'diverse,' families in the neighborhood or school district. This led to some interesting interactions at times with people at school.

Whenever we had a chance to share our culture at school my parents would be more than glad to help. (I'm pretty sure that I've previously written about some of this background, but like I said I'm following whatever comes to mind). We explained how Christmas was celebrated in the Philippines, my Mom came to my music class one time to demonstrate how to dance Tiniklilng and I sold lumpiang shanghai for a school marketing project (everybody loves an egg roll).

I've only been to the Philippines a total of 3 times now; so you can imagine that for most of them there was a wide gap of time between visits. I've seen changes in the geography and culture (the most dramatic being from the 1980's and the 2000's) .  If it were up to me; I would be visiting more often, but since nobody offers free flights back and forth (as far as I know) there has to be some stretch of time in between visits.

I'll be going on my fourth voyage to the Philippines, very soon. My last visit was filled with heartfelt reunions, lots of laughter and a few tears too. My last visit to the Philippines was the last time that I saw my last living grandparent, my Lola Frances, it was also the last time that I saw my cousin Jojo. I also lost one of my Aunt's from my Father's side of the family. If you've read my previous posts about them, you already know that it was bittersweet and heartbreaking when they left this world.

When I return to the Philippines; it will be bittersweet once again because I go there for the christening of new life and lives. My cousin's son is getting married and another of my cousin and her husband just had their first child.  I also return there to pay my respects at my cousin Jojo and my Aunt Irene's graves and at my Lola's columbarium.

I know that life is always a combination of joy and pain. We see it each day when we watch the news and see both wonderful and also terrifying things that are going on in the world. So, I cannot let myself feel too joyous or overly sad at the prospects of going back to the Philippines, knowing what I will face.

I recognize the natural beauty of the Philippines that allures so many people, but I think what I always look forward too is seeing my family, relatives and hearing new stories about my parents or 'the good old days, ' from my relatives. I of course cannot deny the glee of being able to enjoy all of the fresh vegetables and fruits that would cost me 2 arms and 2 legs over here, but it's in the sharing of the experience with others, that really makes me happy.

It's never really where you are, it's the people with whom you share the experience, that makes all the difference.

There's something that I noticed when my parents, relatives or family friends mention the Philippines about somebody taking a trip there, they always say 'We're going home/I'm going home or We went home, etc. '
Even, when my parents talk about us, their children; if we go the Philippines, they say that 'They're going home.' I always found this funny because as their children who grew up in the U.S., I don't think that I could really refer to the Philippines, as 'home.' I think that maybe the reason why they still might consider the Philippines as 'home,' for us, is that maybe they know that it's a place that's familiar to them and it's where a majority of our family still are. Maybe, it's because they know that their homeland will always have a place for us and show us the Filipino 'Mabuhay,'  warm spirit of welcoming. You never know, we may fully validate their stance that The Philippines, is our home ; if my siblings and I were to apply for dual citizenship ;)

The Philippines is more than just a place to me. It's where my cultural roots are, where loved ones are where memories were made and will be made.

Mahal kita, Pilipinas - I love you, Philippines <3

See you soon!


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Jess' Collection: Interesting Kitchen Tools - Mamoul Moulds and Falafel Mould/Dispenser

Hello again,

While I contemplate my other writings for a future entry about the Philippines, here is a short diversion about some interesting kitchen tools that I own and use. I guess I just introduced a new series about my various collections.

In this installment I'll show you some moulds ( I prefer to use the British spelling of mould because it looks better than typing 'mold,' (also looks similar to the way I spell Mamoul too!) in my opinion anyway) from my collection.

One of the fancier types of cookies/biscuits that I make are Middle Eastern style Mamoul. Traditonally they are made out of a basic kind of shortbread dough made with semolina and filled with different types of filling (see the captions of the photos for more information).

You already know that I do not usually follow the traditional recipes for anything; so of course in my version of Mamoul, the dough and fillings are both Vegan and Gluten Free. If you've ever scrolled through my photo gallery or previous posts; you've probably already seen photos of the Mamoul cookies that I've made.

These moulds are all handcarved and are quite beautiful as they are. Even if you didn't use them for actual, Mamoul making; you could definitely have them as works of art in your collection.

I cannot tell you all about the history about Mamoul and how they started making them, but I can tell you that they are just as tasty as they are beautiful. They are wonderful with a cup of tea and good company.

You have to fill a ball of pastry with the filling before you press it into the mould and then you tap it quite jarringly to release it from the mould. It takes some practice to get the technique down, but once you get it; you never forget it. Just like riding a bike!

These are not, bowling pins.

These are wooden moulds for making Mamoul

This is the traditional design used for date filled Mamoul

This is the traditional design for  walnut filled Mamoul.

This is the traditional designed for pistachio filled Mamoul.
The cookies in the background are Mamoul using the mould for the walnut filling.
These were made using the mould for date filled Mamoul.

Falafel! I think that the first falafel that I really thought was super fantastic was from a local place where the mix was just right, the spices didn't over power the nuttiness of the chickpea/fava beans, it contained chlorophyll from chopped parsley, maybe a bit of mint, but above all it would be well cooked and super crispy. Eating falafel when it's super fresh is one of those magical gleeful experiences.

I have made my own homemade falafel before and it can be tricky if you don't have everything prepared to go. There is a lot of preparation time in order to let the falafel mixture set (especially if you are really following the traditional way of soaking and grinding the beans yourself instead of using bean flours) and getting the oil temperature right and maintaining that perfect temperature.

The raw falafel mixture is rather sticky; so you definitely cannot use your hands to form the patties. You can use two spoons in the same way you make a 'drop donut,' or cannelles, but a falafel mould/dispenser is far faster and more efficient. I always remember Alton Brown, droning on about Uni-taskers, but honestly you could use this mould for other applications (think a cookie mould or maybe to form perfect little circles of rice or any other grains etc.

The best part of all is that this tool is not very expensive. In fact, this falafel mould/dispenser came with an instant mix for falafel, I think it was less than 4 dollars all together.
This photo is from a previous post where I gave a recipe for Indian style carrot and scallion bhajis.  You can check out that post here :   The falafel are the ones that are dark brown colored with green throughout them.

These are not the perfect falafel, but they were tasty!

This is a falafel mould.

It looks a bit like a telescope in this position.

When you press on the spring loaded lever; it slides back the flat surface. I had a small metal spatula (that you use to fill the empty mould)  that came with this mould, but it was buried in the kitchen drawer. Alas it did not make it to the photo shoot in time. 

Once you let go of the lever; it pushes the formed falafel patty out of the mould and straight into the hot oil.

So, those are just a few of my interesting kitchen tools from my collection. I hope that you found it somewhat interesting. What about you? What are some of your more interesting kitchen tools that you use in the kitchen or for culinary uses?

Until next time, peace, good eating and happy cooking! ( I know that I'm channeling Ming and Jacques again...... ;p