Hooked!

My mom and grandmother taught my sisters and me how to crochet.  As survival skills go, my mom undoubtedly needed a couple, she had 3 daughters.  (This was a few years before my youngest sibling arrived, when there were only three of us) Teaching we three to entertain ourselves with a hobby or two was a survival skill for her as well as for us. With three kids in a small house, it wasn’t hard to realize that you needed to keep minds busy, or the kids would get themselves into trouble.  Being one of those youth and spirit filled 3, the amount of realization from my perspective …was well, not so much.  First lessons started when I believe I was around 8 or 9 years of age.  We were taught as a group, my sister and I but she was left-handed, and I was right. We sat facing teacher as she worked so my sister could mirror her actions.  It came fairly naturally to me… put yarn loops on hook and then take them off again to get one stitch.  Use that stitch to make blocks…. put spacers between blocks to create a foundation for future rows and the rows build upon each other.  I had the basic concept of how this could grow and build in size pretty quickly.  The humble granny square, a foundational educating basic in crochet, only uses two basic stitches.   Beyond making a foundational loop and ending off when you’ve had enough,  you only make two stiches, chains and doubles.  Our challenge was supposed to be to work together to create something of the same size so projects could be finished effectively, sounds like a plan doesn’t it.  Yes, this was how my twin sister, and I handled the world, as a team. Very soon we realized that we didn’t accomplish task the same way.  We tried, but crochet tension is a uniquely personal thing.  No two people create needlecraft gauge exactly the same, especially when one is right-handed, and another a lefty.  I created fabric tightly while hers was more loosely crafted. There began the enigma of why our works weren’t the same.  We thought we were the same in most every way imaginable.  We looked the same, sounded the same, thought the same and even finished each other’s sentences. 

We were NOT the same.  She liked chocolate I liked vanilla, but I had always believed that was just a way to express independence.  Diversity was a novelty to me as a child.  I grew up thinking having a mirror of myself was normal and that even though most people have to seek out their mirrored person I was special because mine wasn’t a mystery to me.  My mirror has been right there beside me from the beginning.  It mattered very little to me that crafting made us different.  I understood there were going to be perceptible differences between us.  Mirrors are always too honest anyway.  I still don’t like mirrors to this day.

My crochet journey was meditative and full of tactile focus.  I enjoyed the feeling of the hook in my hands and the work even when it was scratchy, it felt oddly familiar and comforting.  Making something complex from a continuous strand was something good.  We were DIY-er’s.  We made pillow covers and tiny medallions from inexpensive scratchy yarn with large hooks and hoped they passed inspection even as much as they helped to pass the time.  Most of the time they didn’t and proud work was ripped back and had to be repeated.  You were tasked, judged, found wanting, and sent back to work and re work.  This pattern repeated until you felt trapped in a bucket or changed.  Why did I continue?  I was learning to think in a simple, straightforward and linear fashion.  I wanted validation that I was handy at something.  I wanted to please my mother. This mentality would also cover basic sewing, mending and embroidery for me.

So as it happens when you get older life got busier and took a few turns.  The crochet time was replaced with reading, music, study, RPG’s, being social, and learning to like things your friends liked so you had a network outside your family structures.  Crochet was put on the back burner but the nature at the very heart of skills is that skills are collectible. 

A few years later, after the college experience, and marriage I returned to my quiet time skills.  I found myself in a foreign country, unable to work because of structured rules.  I learned to adult in new ways being separated from the familiar by an ocean and language.  I toyed with cross stich projects as well as simple embroidery.   I dabbled in caricature art a bit.  I took up computer gaming, because text adventures were cool and mentally stimulating.  I practiced my secondary education language skills, giving my time to volunteerism as I studied living abroad within the structures of being a military spouse.  It was a whole new world.  I loved the Spain years.  I was only required to immerse in the culture provisionally, it was safe and comfortable.  I met new people, learned new things and had many cultural experiences.  We didn’t have a telephone and only limited television.  We learned to communicate face to face, through letters, being neighborly and entertain ourselves with self-development thriving in our new environment.

With my free time, I took up crochet again, but I had to source new tools in unfamiliar territory. The people I was surrounded by also knew crochet but not in the same way that I held in my limited experience.  I found a new format in doily making.  Kind of similar to granny square crochet for pillows and afghans but also kind of not.  It used different tools and a different size and gauge of material.  Both foreign and familiar it felt completely new in my hands, and I immediately wanted to learn everything about it inside and out.  Gone was the scratch of cheap yarn, and the large clunky chunky aluminum hook.  It felt free of negativity, and I was able to immerse myself in it completely.  This form of crochet used fine steel needles and required much greater accuracy, patterning and focus. It was something that was original to me, all my own.  I did not share this with my sisters, it was something just for me.  Having said that, my mother was accomplished in thread crochet making large projects like tablecloths, but never taught us to do it. 

I found friends who also crocheted in thread and shared their histories, experience and method.  I learned that there was a lot to learn about variation of size, style and technique. I was not bound to one conventional way of thinking and I could experiment freely.  I will forever be indebted and grateful to those who shared their passion for doily work with me.  I felt transformed.

I eagerly crocheted on the couch after work, aerobicizing, pre-dinner prep and while listening to music on cassette.  I looked forward to my thread time.  People started giving me their partially used and abandoned balls of thread, hooks and patterns, I was overjoyed, because now I had different sizes, colors and projects to study and practice!  Crochet provided endless hours of happy stimulation.  Crochet was portable.  You could put it down, pick it back up and there were magazines with lovely diagrams and written patterns to follow.  I shared my love of crochet with friends at work which led to making more new friends.  Hobby interests were bridges and pathways leading to lifelong connections in multiple languages.  I practiced my second language sharing crochet time.  I started to make worldly connections continuing to grow and thrive.  

During this time in my life, I devoured everything crochet I could get my hands on. I borrowed books from friends, Xerox copied patterns making collections of things I preferred.  I wanted to learn how to make crochet in every way possible, inside, outside, upside and down.  I pushed my boundaries. I dove headlong into joining and closures, all the different ways imaginable that stitches could be made and the terminology of thread crochet as a language.  My fascination lead me towards publishing.  What if I could work in the industry for the rest of my life!  I wasn’t a writer, I was an artist with minor and very glitchy clerical skills.  For some people crochet design and publishing became a business.  Could I be a crochet pattern designer?  Coffee Klatch Crochet was my first business concept.  I used desktop publishing to create an identity and kept learning, growing and thriving through experience. 

I wanted to know how crochet magazines were produced and how those lovely diagrams I followed were created and printed.  I started teaching myself to hand draw and write crochet pattern notation in notebooks.  I used a kind of abbreviated shorthand to speed up the writing so I could test and revise my ideas as I wrote them down.  It was a fulfilling new process.   Computers made creating faster and saving ideas easier.  I was now able to craft doilies without a pattern.  I had a knack and patience for it.  I filled whole notebooks with patterns.  I could make sketches of ideas and then try to work them out in real life, problem solving them step by step and writing down the ideas that worked and delighted me.  What did I know about journaling?  Eventually I did have one of my designs published in a magazine.  That was a whole new experience but also a validation that I could break into the industry as a new designer.  I was a crochet designer now and it was thrilling.  I still have those early notebooks filled with my humble beginnings in doily design.  You can find my design Pumpkin Patch Doily in the publication A Year of Doilies – Book #4, look at the October design page.   I love to pour over my old journals reading the shorthand in the same way other enjoyed photo albums.  The way you communicate your ideas through the shorthand changes with times does as does the terminology.  Each generation evolves in new understanding and practices.  With the advent of the internet, Pinterest and social media things became more visual.  Now you discover, learn and share things by taking a photo and posting it openly upon the world’s stage.

I hope that magazines don’t completely disappear.   Print media is still easier on the tired eyes of an aging needle crafter than looking at a back lit screen.  However, I will say I do like being able to zoom into a diagram on my phone or tablet when I have to count stitches.  Convenience and instant gratification change the world fairly rapidly.  I hope people don’t forget to take time to do some things in slow methodical ways, like reading a good book in print, drawing a picture with pencil on paper or bridging the gaps through sharing or just talking.  Who taught you to Crochet and what’s your story?

 

စားကောင်းပါစေး

Enjoy your meal

Have you ever woken to the smell of bacon frying in the morning? You feel the sizzle in the pan as dancing edges pop, jump and roll in the hot oil. Even before your eyes begin to open the aroma reaches every nerve in your instantly hungry psyche. You’re focused. Asleep to alert and awake in point three. Motivated like a starving man to water! That is what my favorite foods do to me every time. More than just fuel, food is an extension of our love, family, caring and comfort. Food moves us in extraordinary ways. Today I offer Burmese rice and eggs and Marinated Green Tea Leaf Salad.

The people of Myanmar love their food. A meal in this country is no small affair. A lot of love and effort goes into the cooking of Myanmar cuisine and then a good bit of time more is spent eating and appreciating their food.  The cooks of Myanmar are well known for taking simple, natural and healthy ingredients and turning them into magical taste creations.

Food is love; an international language universally understood no matter where it comes from.”

Naomi Boucher

*The person who taught me what little I know about these things is a sister to me – Thank you my sister, Naomi Boucher. For if it were not for you, I surely would have starved! * 

In Myanmar culture, most family members enjoy cooking.  Cooking is a passion, one that they share the art and act of doing together as a family.  All Myanmar dishes have a great deal of flavor, it is flavor that enriches your life as you come together to prepare it, to share in and enjoy it.  Let’s get to the good stuff – the food!

Burmese Rice and Egg Breakfast

This is a very versatile dish to make. It can be eaten for a delicious fast breakfast or as a meal on its own by adding additional fried rice style ingredients like, hot pepper pastes or dried fish with hot peppers or any dried fried chili pepper. 

TO MAKE:   Start with a generous portion of fresh garlic.  Mince it or crush it as you prefer. Heat the garlic in a pan with a little oil.  Heating the garlic and oil together to flavor the oil not to brown the garlic. You coat the pan with the oil and garlic infusion, so the rice doesn’t stick as badly but also to distribute the flavor throughout the dish.  Then scramble your eggs into the pan stirring and chopping the egg scrambles until firm but not dry.  Mix in your cold rice and heat through. That is all there is to it. Strangely, you never seem to make enough.  There is never a scrap of anything left over. You always leave your family wanting more. ” Excuse me, are you going to eat that?” This dish leaves a lasting impression upon you from the first taste and teaches hard lessons in gratitude and sharing. This dish, once introduced, is your new taste best friend!

This is how it was taught to me.  You can add a little salt if you must but it’s better for you not to. I could eat my weight in this dish all by myself, if I was allowed. 


Laphet Thoke – Marinated Green Tea

There is an old Burmese adage about its most prized foods, “if it’s meat, it’s pork; if it’s fruit, it’s mango; and if it’s leaf, it’s tea.”

Tea shops around Myanmar pour gallons of green and black tea every day. Laphet is essentially green tea. Half of all the tea in Myanmar is eaten, not consumed as a beverage. Fresh, hand-picked assam tea leaves are steamed and buried underground to ferment for months. When ready, they are eaten with shredded lettuce or cabbage, crispy fried garlic, sesame seeds, roasted peanuts, dried split peas, tomato, jalapeno, chilies and or dried shrimp depending on the region. Laphet Thoke has immeasurable umami!

A Laphet = လက်ဖက် = Tea Leaf A Thoke = အသုပ် = To Mix = Salad

It’s hard to explain why Laphet Thoke is so universally addictive. If I had to make a suggestion, I would guess it has something to do with the caffeine. The tea leaves are first flush harvest, or the first pick of only the best leaves and have the highest content of natural antioxidants and caffeine. This dish is often prepared for university students studying to complete grueling test preparation. Snacking on this dish will most definitely keep you awake and alert if you are studying. Traditionally prepared, this dish is also served to conclude a meal, celebrate visitors or to entertain guests.

You can get kits with the ingredients for making this dish in world market style stores or from Burmese suppliers. Marinated tea leaves come sealed in jars or foil packets and can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a year. The heat of this dish is customized easily by varying the amount and variety of chopped chilies you add to the dish. You can easily make this dish yourself at home. I will outline how to make the tea leaves for the salad as well as how to make the salad for the adventurous.

To ferment tea at home.

There’s no way to replicate the original flavor of Laphet at home unless you’re professionally trained in its growth and preparation. Myanmar families do not make this for themselves at home because the original flavor is the best. Although, by brewing a pot of green tea and saving the leaves to ferment you can pull together a lighter, more pesto like faked version. Start by brewing a pot of good quality loose leaf green tea.

METHOD: Put 2 tablespoons of Chinese Dragon Well or Japanese Sencha in a small pot or large mug. Add hot water (about 190 degrees or just below boiling temperature) and steep for 3 minutes. Strain tea into separate cup and go ahead and drink it. Press out the excess water from the leaves and transfer to a glass or plastic container with a lid. Partially cover and leave at room temperature for 2-3 days. The tea should take on an aroma resembling over ripe fruit but not smell spoiled.

Place one clove of garlic and an equal amount of grated fresh ginger into the food processor with the tea leaves and pulse to mix it together and break up the leaves. Drizzle this with 3 tablespoons of oil and one teaspoon of distilled white vinegar. The mixture is now ready to use in Tea Leaf Salad Recipes but its better if you keep it overnight allowing for a deeper flavor to develop.

Tea Leaf Dressing

1/2 Cup packed (about 2 ounces) whole fermented tea leaves (Laphet)

OR – 1/3 Cup packed seasoned tea leaf paste (without oil)

1/4 tsp. dried chili flakes

1 tsp. Lime or Lemon juice

Salt to taste. Omit if necessary.

If using whole, unseasoned Laphet leaves, soak them for 5 minutes in cold water to remove some of the residual bitterness. Drain, squeezing the excess water out of the leaves. Taste the tea leaves. Repeat this step if the leaves still have a bitter taste. Skip this step if you are using a seasoned tea leaf paste.

Put the leaves or paste in a food processor with garlic and chili flakes and pulse a few times to mix. Add the citrus juice and half the oil, pulsing again briefly in the food processor and then while leaving the processor running, drizzle in the remaining oil. If your leaves were not pre seasoned at this point you can add some salt to taste. You should have about 1/2 Cup of tea leaf dressing. This is a basic preparation.

Whether you choose to serve this as a family style (one plate to share) dish with rice on the side or mix it together in a large bowl for others to spoon out for themselves and enjoy makes little difference. If you need to stretch this for larger groups, you add more fresh ingredients and or mix with rice to make it go farther. Also, if you like this dish spicy, the rice helps to cut the heat for lose who need a lighter, savory-er taste experience.

Laphet Thoke – Marinated Green Tea Leaf Salad-family style

  • 6 C finely shredded lettuce
  • 1/2 C Tea Leaf Dressing
  • 1/4 C fried garlic chips
  • 1/4 C fried yellow split peas
  • 1/4 C chopped toasted Peanuts
  • 1/4 C toasted sunflower seeds
  • 1 Tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 Roma tomato, seeded and chopped
  • 1 small Jalapeno, seeded and diced (about 1/4 C)
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • Lemon or Limes cut into wedges for seasoning and garnish.

Method: Place the lettuce in the center of a large plate or platter. Spoon the Tea Leaf Dressing into the center of the lettuce. Around the lettuce, arrange separate piles of all save the last two ingredients. Drizzle with the fish sauce and just before serving, squeeze 2 wedges of the citrus juice over the plate. Using 2 forks gently mix all ingredients together until the tea leaves lightly coat the lettuce. Be sure to taste to see if it needs more seasoning with either salt or fish sauce. You can always add more at the table as per your guests’ personal tastes. Have a separate bowl of rice to share or prepare individual bowls for each guest and have it ready at the table beforehand.

***Alternatively, you can mix this together with rice and serve in one large bowl allowing everyone to serve themselves, I mean if you trust them! ***

Amazon Link to where you can find the serving dish.  https://a.co/d/2mlwj0K

Amazon Link to find pickled tea leaves in jars.    https://www.ahttps://a.co/d/2mlwj0Krborteas.com/burmese-tea-leaf-salad-or-lahpet-thoke-recipe/?fbclid=IwAR115BqVXDsvpFlPKHXRn3oL5GRO_JtA8gZ4fC75RJ1te8_QWXGILRjz0yw

Tea Leaf Salad kits with dried ingredients.  https://teasalad.com/store/p19/tea-pickled-fermented-burmese-myanmar-food-online-store.html

*** Special thanks to Mrs. Naomi Boucher for her help and assistance in ensuring this article is functionally and factually correct, appropriate, and well, because you know me, and you know how I spell! – Karla ***

CRIT Happens.

I was introduced to RPG dice in my youth.  I never actually owned any at that time.  Our little band of study hall adventurers shared the use of one communal set of polyhedral dice, property of the Dungeon Master.  In D&D, every well laid plan is ultimately at some point at the mercy of the rolling of the dice.  Players can research, scheme, plot and plan but nothing happens without the hand of fate or the will of the dungeon master.  Now I am not insinuating that the DM is the one holding the fates of all the players in his hands.  While he may literally be holding all the dice, be a dice goblin or even a master of knowledge he too must abide by the rulings of mistress fate.  The dice hold all sway; that is why we play!

Gamers use dice because there is a love of randomness, surprise and probability in RPG’s.  Dice are fickle indeed.  Fickle as F*ck!  One moment they seem giving and gloriously generous and without as much as a by your leave they can turn on you!  The dice giveth and the dice taketh away.  What can you do?  The fortunate might dive into their stashes to swap out ill-behaved dice for a new set hoping new dice will bring better luck to the situation.  Others employ either dice praising or dice shaming to sway the hand of fate in their favor.  Is it the dices fault we all have dice expectation? I have thought to myself on numerous occasions, “Come on baby, mama needs a new pair of shoes!!”

Dice praising/Dice shaming, a definition of sorts – A fanciful behavioral tactic employed by gamers in hopes of effecting a preferred outcome in the world of RPG depending upon their choice of psychology.  Upon either case of dice roll, high or low, the recipient takes a photo of the dice with a note to publicly shame or praise their dice.

Similar to the act of pet shaming, dice shaming or praise rises and falls in popularity with awareness. Good dice etiquette is teachable skill.  You learn at a very early age that you have to abide by the roll of dice, there’s no crying over bad rolls, or do overs.  We’ve all had our good and bad moments at the hands of the dice.  It’s our behavior in the moment that makes or breaks the situation making it memorable.   Rolling a rare but devastating critical fail or “GASP” the unimaginable double critical failure garners any poor sod an immediate shower of pity in their fellow campaigners and should be immortalized in a photo.  Because as fish stories go no one ever believes you when you tell the real story after the fact.    Either way the dice land, high or low, I bet you never saw it coming. 

…  “The straight-line randomness of the d20 means that rolling a “20” and rolling a “1” have equal odds.  Some folks don’t like that because no matter how good your character is, there’s always a 5% chance the dice hate you.”

Daren McCormick

Whether you put fate favored dice on a lofty pedestal showering it with praise or toss ill-behaved dice into dice jail, dice have no real feelings.  I’d go as far as to say (while rapping on wood for luck, of course) dice hardly think of you at all or even give you a moments’ pause.  Dice behavior can be brutally cold, unfeeling as a corpse and wholeheartedly unreliable.   Some advocate that the noble D20 needs to clearly understand that bad rolls come with the promise of repercussions.  Users have been known to teach lessons by shutting their dice in the freezer, putting dice into time outs and dice jails, smashing offending dice with hammers, even melting them in fire to teach the other dice what fate awaits them if they produce bad rolls. Remarkably, RPG dice can still be glorious, shiny, treasured and beloved!  Gamers pamper their dice with love, kindness, fancy dice bags & display boxes, rolling mats or trays all in the hopes of achieving good dice rolls. 

True lovers of the game develop a deeply rooted bond with probability.  Chance is hope!  There is always hope that perfect dice exist that only roll critical hits!  And that is why I always want and need more dice.  “I have too many dice!” said no one ever.  The prevalent thinking in dice ownership is “ ALL THE MORE!

” But if I suddenly abandon my quest for the set of perfect dice one day, don’t bother asking why… Because I would never ever tell you where I got mine! — Alea Iacta Est

Just for today…

Have you experienced things in your life that you might term, “woo – woo?” Perhaps you’re familiar with things like energy work, healing, peace, love, mother earth, universe, chanting, crystals and or even magik. Sorry, this is not that kind of story.

Happiness is our true purpose!

Happiness is something we all strive for. We are all seekers of love and purpose, the kind that is for your highest benefit and greatest good. What is yours? Your sense of purpose should bring you joy! Happiness is our divine right, our one true earthly function. We were put on this earth to remember love and do what makes us happy.

I am a jack of many varied trades, a master of none, but I love Reiki. Reiki has become commonly known as a universal healing energy therapy and tool for deeply transformative renewal and relaxation. Since my first level of initiation, it has been a deeply rooted indispensable function of my everyday living. I can hardly imagine my life without Reiki as a daily self-practice or service to my community. Reiki opened the door for me to becoming a lightworker and gave me a spiritual practice. It was within the structures of Reiki where I found purpose, balance and a sense of wonder. Reiki brings me joy!

You can go out to the internet and easily find the translation, definition and origins of Reiki freely available and clearly explained. I encourage you to do so for your own knowledge and interest, but for this post I want to keep things simple. Reiki is universal life force energy, something everything in the cosmos is made of. Everything can be broken down to energy, you, me, the air, the rocks, trees, water, earth everything, even thought is energy. Ever moving, flowing, changing and seeking balance, energy is infinite in a never-ending cycle. Everything can be seen as energy in motion.

“Reiki is an energy exchange between two or more beings for the mutual healing benefit of one or both beings.”

Bruce Taylor -Reiki and Holistic Wellness Teacher & Practitioner. 

In general, the goal of healing is to support or facilitate a return to homeostasis, harmony and balance. Homeostasis refers to the ability of an organism to maintain the internal environment of the body within limits that allow it to survive. When operating within this state the human body can maintain a state of balanced wellbeing and if needed heal itself. Our bodies are truly miraculous things. Reiki is just one of many ways to bring yourself back into a state of balance, but it is my chosen path.

In Reiki there is no doing Reiki, there is only being. Reiki is simply being – being balanced, being open, being mindful, being happy …. being an embodiment of love.

Reiki is also a journey. Some believe it to be a journey toward enlightenment. Some have found it a pathway to peace. When you embark on the Reiki journey you are instructed and encouraged to practice twice daily and recite 5 simple core precepts. A precept is a code of practice. The precepts are intentions or affirmations given as a prescription for a happy life, as a tonic for the soul. They encourage us to embody Reiki daily and exemplify mindfulness in our daily living. There are multiple levels of initiation before mastery is achieved. Your first Initiation unlocks your innate connection to the life force energy flowing within you and through self-practice puts your feet firmly on a personal spiritual path. From that moment forward you are on an inward journey of self-discovery. As you grow and progress along your path you develop a depth of understanding and intimate relationship with both Reiki Healing Energy and self. You learn the benefits of turning inward, pausing and connecting regularly with your personal flow of Life force energy, Ki, Chi, Qi, Prana, elan-vital, lifeblood, shakti or spirit. Your energy seems to grow, and your senses deepen with every practice, and you feel full, happy and satisfied. If you’ve experienced renewal from a Reiki treatment under a trained practitioners’ hands, you know what I am talking about. It’s been described as transformational, clearing, relaxing…. renewing. That is what Reiki is.

“When you take time to replenish your spirit, it allows you to serve others from the overflow. You cannot serve from an empty vessel.

Eleanor Brownn

Learning to pause and take stock in your current state of being with mindfulness is a key part of everyday happiness and wellbeing. Whether you choose to do this only on occasion, routinely, through the practice of Qigong, Yoga, breathwork, meditation, Kundalini, Reiki or any other energy modality the pursuit is clearly measurable. More than simple self-reflection, my experiences in Reiki have opened new avenues before me and helped me find a true sense of purpose, joy and fulfillment. Turn inward, rediscover your innermost self, your highest self and I hope you find calm, renewed happiness, true purpose, and a sense of wonder.

Every Outward Journey – Begins Within!

Essen-ce of Taste

The Dumpling Edition V.1 [Swabian Ravioli and Finger Dumplings]

Every culture in the world has a passionate love of noodles, to include the humble dumpling. Ask any Swabian and they will proudly tell you they have the best food in all of Germany. Swabian food is unpretentious, and nurturing. Created to satisfy you mind, body and soul. Swabish cuisine is considered peasant food by its regional neighbors, but Swabian food is the food of the people.


Good food and Swabia go hand in hand. Swabish food is considered the low country food of Germany, but don’t be fooled Swabians are masters in the art of transforming simple basic ingredients into wonderfully delicious and memorable culinary experiences. Southern Germans have more than one dumpling in their repertoire of fabulous cuisine. In this installment of the Dumpling Chronicles, I offer my understanding of the versatile Maultaschen and Spatzle.

Maultaschen, a pasta parcel filled with savory meats, spinach, onions and herbs is similar in appearance to a large Italian ravioli. Maultaschen is intensely versatile in nature and has an interesting, if not a bit foggy origin.

It is believed that Southern Germany’s most well-known dumplings were first created in the 17th century by the unruly Cistercian monks of an Abbey in the town of Maulbronn, not far from Stuttgart. The name Maultaschen can be split into two words. The first word, “maul” means “mouth,” while the second, “taschen” means “pockets”. The literal translation of “Mouth Pockets” is less than glamourous but the term Maul as it is associated with the town of Maulbronn (Maultaschen being the shortened version of Maulbronn Taschen) makes for a more widely accepted meaning.

Traditionally associated with the catholic season of lent, Swabian ravioli were created as a means of Lenten evasion, hiding the fact that the Cistercian monks continued eating meat under the ever-vigilant watchful eyes of God. In cleverly hiding the meal beneath a layer of pasta, God could not see their offenses, and if that were the case, then neither could the monks themselves. With that the “Herrgottscheißerle” or Maulbronn taschen were invented.  “Herrgottscheißerle” translates to Cheating God or “fooling the good lord.” The fable lives on to this day as an illustrated children’s book about a naughty Bruder Jakob and his “dumplings of sacrilege.” Who doesn’t love a good dumpling scandal?

Swabian Ravioli is an extremely versatile dish. There’s no limit to the ways it can be prepared and enjoyed save the limits of your own imagination. Whether it’s served with wine, cheeses, or eggs in a pan, as a casserole smothered in onions and bacon, in a steaming bath of flavor rich broth or with potato salad – Swabia’s most loved dish is Eine Kleines Stuck Vom Himmel, ” a little slice of heaven!”

Spätzle, or Swabian finger dumpling is the second most loved food of southern Germany. Swabia is well known for its soups, sauces, meats, wursts, and salads, and these German style egg noodles are simple basic comfort food at its best.


Spätzle is a special type of egg noodle made using a carbonated water called Sprudelwasser; enjoyed with sauces and gravies and incorporated into a diverse variety of mouthwatering dishes.  One example is Käsespätzle, a casserole of cheese laden Spätzle with crispy fried onions is the German macaroni and cheese.

Where did the name “Spätzle” originate?  The word “Spätzle” comes from the German word Spatzen, meaning “little sparrows,” because that’s what the noodles were thought to resemble when they were traditionally made by hand.

You can serve Spaetzle as you would any type of pasta.  They’re traditionally eaten fresh with butter / gravy or added to soups.  Spätzle is delicious with any kind of sauce or gravy and is often paired with other popular German main dishes such as Jagerschnitzel, Sauerbraten or Zwiebelrostbraten. A popular Fest-food, Spätzle “krautschupfnudeln” style is served at biergartens and festivals in Southern Germany. It’s a savory harmonious blend of spätzle, sauerkraut, onions, sausage or speck. With the right beer pairing you just transport yourself straight to Munich’s Oktoberfest.

Maultashen – https://yeoldekitchen.com/en/blog/maultaschen-swabian-ravioli/

Spätzle “krautschupfnudeln” – https://www.kitchenstories.com/de/rezepte/krautschupfnudeln

Käsespätzle – https://www.daringgourmet.com/kaesespaetzle-swabian-german-macaroni-and-cheese/

UMAMI – The 5th Taste

I often get asked if I understand Umami. Umami is a masterclass in taste – Let me explain.

“Umami is the earthiness of a meaty mushroom or the fermented flavor of a good soy sauce; it is also the layer of aged parmesan that you add to a bowl of buttery pasta or the sweet goodness of a roasted garlic bulb.”

Discovered over a century ago by a Japanese Chemist by the name of Kikunae Ikeda, Umami is a taste sensation that has been hiding in plain sight for thousands of years. Present throughout cultures all around the globe, you can find Umami in Asian foods like Dashi, Miso and Soy sauces. Byzantine and Arabian Cultures enjoy Umami in “Murri. In the west, reaching as far back as roman times you would find Umami In “Garum” – a type of fish sauce, aged cheeses, cured meats and in today’s world even ketchup!

A combination of two Japanese words, “Umai” – meaning Delicious and “Mi” – meaning Taste. Together these two words are understood as meaning the essence of deliciousness, or delicious taste. When the fifth taste stands in balance with the other 4 core tastes it plays a very important role in determining the deliciousness of a dish.

Our sense of taste is just one of the tools we humans use to learn to adapt and survive in the world. Being able to distinguish the 5 primary tastes is an indispensable human survival skill allowing us to avoid risky or dangerous foods in place of nutritionally valuable foods in a safe and efficient manner.

Umami is a signal to the body that we have consumed protein which is essential for human survival. Consuming foods with a sweet taste communicate to the body that it has found food that serves as a source of energy. Foods with a sour and or bitter taste trigger the body to understand unripe or rotten foods. Saltiness tells the body it’s found minerals necessary to regulate and maintain the balance of bodily fluids.

Yes, but what does Umami taste like? Umami is Savory. Brothy. Meaty. Mouthwatering. The essence of deliciousness. There is no exact English equivalent of umami, but people have uttered all of these phrases to describe its taste. It’s a flavor that adds a feeling of satisfaction to the aroma. When you taste it, you know it.

Being more than a buzz word for today’s foodies, Umami joined the previously established grouping of unique or primary tastes in 2002. Umami is an inherent taste universally enjoyed in the same way as you would understand it’s other 4 core taste siblings sweet, sour, bitter and salty. These 5 primary/unique tastes are defined as being tastes that cannot be created by mixing or combining other tastes.

Umami has 3 Properties:

  1. Umami taste spreads across the tongue.
    1. coating it, tastes are then experienced more intensely all across the surface of the tongue.
  2. Umami lasts longer than other basic tastes.
    1. Persistence- even after spitting substances out of the mouth their flavor is found to linger much longer before fading than other foods, imparting an aftertaste.
  3. Umami provides a mouthwatering sensation.
    1. Salivation, while sour tastes are widely known to increase salivation, Umami tastes produce a more viscus and sustained saliva for a longer period of time.

You can see now how Umami plays a vital role in our ability to sense, taste and swallow food smoothly.

“Umami is mouthwatering” – literally, leaving you wanting more!

Umami promotes healthy eating. Incorporating umami skillfully into our daily diet allows us to enjoy more flavorful and nutritionally enriching meals, with less salt and animal fats.  The use of umami allows salt content to be reduced without compromising taste or satisfaction, allowing a healthier lifestyle through mindful food practices. Live joyfully incorporating all of your 5 senses and savor the 5th taste as if no one were watching.

https://www.eatingwell.com/gallery/12190/recipes-for-umami-foods/

https://asianfoodnetwork.com/en/articles/10-addictive-umami-recipes.html

Emlenton Brew Pub

Enjoy casual dining, German inspired food, everything from brats to pretzels.

A rising star eatery in an unexpected western Pennsylvania river town. First impressions of this casual, local gathering place were extremely favorable!

I’m not known for being much of a beer drinker and seldom do I stray from my own farmhouse table for dining. The Emlenton Brew Pub was my husband’s idea touting it was worth checking out. The beers offered here are very good! You can sample a few or even get a flight.

Kudos to the owner and to the chef!! My little foodie heart skipped a beat upon reading they had poutine on their decidedly German style menu. Now poutine is a Canada thing as I understand it. This version is structured around a base layer of soft pretzel bites and white cheddar cheese curds which are then smothered in a stout gravy. By “Stout” I mean this appetizer has substance, and is all about the rich and flavorful gravy. Stout, savory, substantial, all adequate words aptly describing this soul stirring temptation daring you to lick the plate in public!

MMMmmm – GRAVY – deeply satisfying and comforting, a word synonymous with love. The gravy in this dish is based on their Victor Bravo Stout is a memorable experience in and of itself. An ABV: 6% /IBU 37 stout brewed from bourbon, and whole vanilla beans, Victor Bravo has notes of rich coffee and a chocolatey smooth finish.

I enjoyed mine with the Cannonball Kolsch, a crisp, light & refreshing German summer ale.

Frequent this brew pub often for gaming and community, but do not ignore this appetizer, it is a must try. A great casual dining place to bring family and friends and make lasting memories. Pop in often, practice pairing your favorite foods and beers, experiment with the diversity of offerings, discover new delights and combinations but don’t leave without checking out the games!

In the lower floor, downstairs you’ll find two beautifully refurbished circa 1910-1920 duck pin bowling lanes, a 70-year-old shuffleboard table and pool. I’ve tried the duck pin bowling and it is good fun! When folks are downstairs playing, you can hear it while you dine and that sound is enticing to say the least. Hearing the cheers and jeers from below is more than enough intrigue to bring you downstairs just to watch. The Thursday night specials are half price burgers and games, so who’s with me! Let’s do this thing!! This is my new favorite place. Pssst, the buzz I’ve heard is… they plan to open a coffee house soon too!

Emlenton Brew Haus: 610 Main Street PO Box 223 Emlenton, PA 16373

​https://https://www.emlentonbrewhaus.com/

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