Monthly Archives: July 2018

Socialist Bananas And Limited Ice Cream

One summer, shortly after we arrived in East Berlin, my parents and we children were out and about walking and enjoying the day, when we ran across a stall, which had a long line of East Germans patiently queued for whatever it was being sold.

My father being always curious, decided to look at what the stall had to offer: bananas! Since the queue was rather long, I was sent to mind my younger brother while sitting on a nearby bench, while he and my mother got in line, telling us we’d have bananas for a snack. I remember my Dad being excited because they were very cheap, and smelled good despite starting to have brown spots on a number of them. Later, Mom told me what had happened, while they were there. The line moved along at a fairly steady rate, so it wasn’t long before they were at the front. A plastic bag was handed to my Dad, and he happily started filling his bag with bananas.

My mother started nudging him – first discreetly, then a little harder, then hissed at him in his native Romblomanon to have a quick look at the other people. Puzzled, he did, only to realise that the other people in the queue behind him were glaring daggers at his back, and the others who were selecting their bananas were only taking a few pieces – perhaps only enough for one each of their family members, or enough to cut in half and share if they were a larger family. Nobody was filling an entire bag full, like Dad was!

Shamefacedly, Dad carefully put the bananas back, and refused the stall-minder’s saying they surely could get one each! He and my mother walked back to us, saying we’ll get bananas next time. When we were far enough away, Dad explained that we could get bananas any time we liked from the groceries in West Berlin, as much as we wanted, while the East Berliners could only get these whenever a different socialist country – probably somewhere in South America – sent them something like that, which would then be distributed to sell to the locals in stalls across the city, and once they were gone, they were not likely to get any until the next shipment, which might not happen until the next year. So, it was nicer to let them have their special treat, since we could get nicer, larger bananas when we went across the border.

But for the East Germans, that’s all they’d get.

My parents had a way of explaining things so we would understand and not complain if we didn’t get a thing. (If anyone encounters me in real life, this is why I have issues understanding why children aren’t better disciplined in this day and age.)

I don’t really know where the bananas came from. Dad thought maybe Cuba, or Venezuela.

The other memory I have of such stalls and lines involves ice cream. It was pretty hot that day (a different day from the bananas one), so Dad lined up for ice cream one day. But by the time he got there, they no longer had any ice cream (there had been only two flavors – vanilla, and chocolate; chocolate had run out first, then the vanilla) and all that was left were the little shaped wafer dishes that had been used to serve out a single scoop of ice cream per person, which the stall-minder gave to him as an apology. I remember not minding not getting ice cream, because I liked the wafer; and Dad making an especial point of getting a supply of neopolitain ice cream from West Berlin that weekend.

Some time afterward, I remember Dad telling us not to line up for the things that were sold by street seller unless they were a regularly available thing, like bratwurst, and only to do so to treat our friends, because we could always eat the delicious treats the East Germans were lining up for anytime we wanted, while they might not get those things at all. If we were out by ourselves, we would not line up for those things. The government was in charge of all the things that they would get; and things that they weren’t able to grow or manufacture themselves, well, those were special treats, that the government was able to arrange for. The ordinary Germans could enjoy them – in limited quantity – and if they missed out, oh well.

Speaking of bratwurst, I really miss, to this day, the bratwursts we ate there. I remember them well – fat slightly greyish-mostly-brown sausages, boiling in the cart, put between a sliced piece of brotchen, their juices softening the hard bread, which may or may not have had a thin swipe of butter on them. The sausages, when bitten into crunched as you got through the sausage skin, and I remember hurriedly wiping my chin with the edges of my bread to catch the delicious meat juices. The sausages were slightly salty, and a single one was filling.

We always patronised the bratwurst sellers; they were common enough that Dad didn’t feel bad about buying from them nor did he feel that he was depriving someone else of a treat by getting some for us. I’m rather glad about this, because eating bratwurst, especially on a cold autumn, winter or spring day, was a wonderful feeling, and I remember the men selling them being so pleased that we children were really enjoying the food.

To this day, I can still remember how tasty those bratwursts were.

Marshmallow Meringue Frosting

Filipino-style mocha cake with coffee buttercream and dark chocolate coffee bean candies and sprinkles

The cake I sent with Rhys for his birthday. Delicious and was devoured to rave reviews, despite its’ flaws.

So, I made a Filipino-style mocha cake for Rhys’ birthday, that he took to work. It was delicious; but because I kept getting interrupted (by external reasons, lots of phone calls, etc) it ended up a bit denser than normal. Apparently everyone got excited seeing the cake and thought it looked at tasted ‘absolutely amazing.’

However, both Rhys and I knew I could do better. So I made a devil’s food cake, (2 layers, 8 inches each) and decided that it should have a marshmallow meringue frosting, and dark chocolate drip ganache topping it, that he will take with him to work.

Devil's food cake with marshmallow meringue frosting and dark chocolate ganache

Better effort, with Rhys decorating it this time.

 

Rhys got keen on frosting the cake to be brought along, so he did the frosting on this one that I’ve taken a photo of up top. The chocolate ganache is pooled at the bottom ‘because yum.’ I love that man. ^_^

I had Vincent make a cake for practice a few days ago, to teach him the correct order in which one adds melted butter into a cake, versus accidentally cooking the egg added into a cake and it tastes awesome, but was very crumby (it’s also devil’s food cake). The leftover marshmallow meringue frosting is slathered on top like a fluffy sugar cloud. Kiddo’s learning a lot this school holidays; baking cakes, cooking dinner, assembling a whole workstation class computer from scratch with very minimal help (only putting on the liquid cooler and the thermal paste) – and it worked perfectly!

Devil's food cake with marshmallow meringue frosting

Son’s practice cake, now with frosting =9

But, as you can see, it makes a lot of frosting (that’s a 10 inch single layer cake) so it probably has enough for a 2 layer 9 inch cake.

I like using a little bit of cream of tartar to get the egg whites started on frothing before I put them in the double boiler, but other recipes don’t include it, so you may omit if you like.

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Marshmallow Meringue Frosting
Use as a frosting, or as a layer on top of a cake and then cover with ganache, use on top of a mousse or top and sear with a kitchen blowtorch, or pipe, or blop on for a casual, fluffy but engaging frosting style! Makes enough to frost 2 layers of a 9 inch cake, with enough to spare.
Course dessert, frosting
Servings
Ingredients
Course dessert, frosting
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Start by boiling water in a large saucepan, enough to heat the bottom of your bowl. Bring to a boil, then lower to simmer.
  2. Mix together the egg whites, cream of tartar and vanilla, until lightly frothy, in a bowl, using a handheld electric mixer with the whisk attachments. For ease and sanity, I tend to use the same mixing bowl that my stand mixer uses. When slightly frothy, place bowl in the water.
  3. Moving the speed of your mixer to high, mixing all the while, add the sugar, either shaking it in gradually from your bowl or 1/8 cup at a time. Make sure it is dissolved.
  4. Mix for 7 minutes, on highest speed, moving your mixer's whisks around to make the marshmallow white and silky.
  5. Immediately move the bowl to your stand mixer, tapping out the leftover meringue from your whisks into the bowl. Beat on the highest speed your stand mixer can do for 10-12 minutes.
  6. Use as desired; on your cake, sear with a kitchen blowtorch on top of your pie or mousse, etc.
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Portabello Mushroom Cream Sauce

There’s a restaurant who has a small ‘fast food’ version of their pub food at our local mall. I love the place. They make delicious steak, and it’s got a mushroom sauce that they have with the thick sliced chips… oh, heaven. I love the stuff.

They’re local to the state I’m in though, so I figured I’d try to reverse…uhm… engineer? their sauce. I probably should have chopped up the mushrooms into much smaller pieces, to better get a mushroom flavor throughout. I am not too far off, mostly because I’m erring on the side of caution on the saltiness (I’m kind of aware at the moment that my sense of taste is a bit off thanks to a recent cold) but that’s not too bad, all considered.

The amount of butter is essential though, as is the cream, because you want a creamy, smooth sauce.

Print Recipe
Portabello Mushroom Cream Sauce
A lovely sauce with chopped up portabello mushrooms, that's really good to have with steak and for dipping with thick-cut chips (French fries). You can refrigerate the rest!
Course sauce
Cuisine sauce, Western
Keyword sauce
Cook Time 45 minutes
Servings
Ingredients
Course sauce
Cuisine sauce, Western
Keyword sauce
Cook Time 45 minutes
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. In a saucepan, melt half the butter and brown the onion and the garlic.
  2. Add the mushroom and cook through, until you smell that lovely 'cooked mushroom' meaty smell.
  3. Pour the cream, stirring vigorously, then add the water.
  4. Stirring all the while, add the cheese, 1/4c at a time, Season with the salt as you stir.
  5. Allow to come to a boil, as you stir. When it is boiling, add the flour slurry while stirring quickly. Keep stirring as the flour thickens.
  6. Add the other half of the butter, stirring until it melts through. Taste and season the sauce to your liking.
  7. Serve with steak and chips/fries, or have as a dipping sauce with chips. Refrigerate leftovers in portions/freeze for later eating.
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Exciting new developments in development

I’m very excited to have stumbled across this article, which talks about tests being done with extremely premature lambs transferred to artificial wombs. While the tests were done with lambs, it is quite easy to see how this could benefit human neonates – premature babies.

While (the first link) is titled about how the new technology ‘undermines abortion’ – which is something that the referred to bioethicist discusses – I’m very excited about the potentials that this technology brings, as it has great positive potentials for both medical reasons and societal reasons. (For my previous articles on my science-based observations against the ‘blob of cells’ lie, see Moral and Informed Choices and Let There Be Light, the latter of which is a scientific observation of what occurs at the moment of conception.)

First, this is fantastic potential for expectant parents who have had their children born too soon, ‘before viability’ – they now have a chance at life and being saved, and could be put on life support. Doctors wouldn’t have the excuse any more to claim that this child is not viable; and as technology progresses, this line could be moved further and further back (as I have predicted previously.) There may be a point in time where true artificial wombs will come to be, which could then benefit infertile couples and/or homosexual couples without the need for a surrogate mother (which could then eliminate the battles and troubles regarding surrogacy.) What effect this might have on the development of the baby itself (the baby does hear and develop quite a bit as an individual from things like what the mother’s voice is like, the mother’s heartbeat, what she eats, etc) could and likely will be of some concern,* but that is neither here nor now. For the moment, this new technology is a much-needed one to save the lives of wanted children, a lifeboat, so to speak, that will help the the extremely premature move to the greater viability stages of development. Protection of the extreme neonate from the external environment’s demands, which the neonate is unable to withstand by itself, has had surprising discoveries – like the ‘sandwich bag solution‘. Kangaroo care has been seen as very beneficial to the prematurely born baby, and is most famously known for reviving the stillborn son of Kate and David Ogg. (Yes, I am aware that the little boy was very likely to have only stopped breathing a very, very short time before; the procedure would not be beneficial to those babies who had passed well after the brain-death stage of time limits.)

Further, this gives a great potential option for babies who need to be born prematurely; such as c-sections required because the mother has severe pre-eclampsia or other medical issues that could threaten the health of both mother and the child, avoiding the tragedy of having to choose between one’s life and one’s child. While I do not think it would be possible, at present for this to apply to ectopic pregnancies, it certainly could apply to women whose babies can be moved to the new form of life support.

Secondly, this gives a third option for those children who are unwanted, or are wanted by the non-gestating parent – ergo, fathers. Women now have the potential to have their cake (to choose to no longer be pregnant, abort their pregnancy) without the death of the child being necessary (and metaphorically have that cake without guilt). This has a number of secondary benefits that the abortion industry is unwilling to acknowledge – that a number of women who have had abortions have mental health problems post-abortion. This has great appeal to me, not ‘just because it doesn’t kill the baby’, but Continue reading

Growing Up Asian

So, my housemate links me this video, and goes ‘You have gotta see this.’

He’s a mutt, so before anyone screams racist, his Dad was from India; so when I brought home some indian sweets the other week, he just couldn’t get excited; though he did tell me the store I got it from had some delicious spicy stuff – and I guess that explains his cast iron stomach.

Anyway, a lot of this was relatable – some wasn’t,  because I had an allowance, for example, and while my dad, oddly enough, never really pushed me to have super good grades, my mom kind of did; even though my grades were pretty good (80+ to 90s… well, except PE and Filipino, because I hated those classes) and I spent my youth pretty much with my head buried in a book. I’m not really sure what gave me my study ethic, other than “if I get this all done and out of the way already I can go do stuff I like to do” so I tended to do my homework during recess (which some teachers had issues with, and some didn’t; but this saved my ass in college because holy crap the reams of homework I had to come home with.) These days kids barely have a fraction of the seatwork or homework we had! Such low standards these days… /asianmomgrumbling

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