Five of the Week #19

“Trick or treat!!!” – that’s what we’re going to hear today. Today’s Halloween and the shops are luring us into the scary trap by having as much costumes on display as before Carnival. Why buy an expensive costume for just one day? It doesn’t make much sense to me. Anyways, tomorrow’s Halloween and I wanted to know exactly why we celebrate it. So I asked myself some question and tried to find satisfying answers. I hope some of you want to know about Halloween too and I can extend your knowledge (extend your knowledge I will :-)).

1. Where exactly does Halloween come from?
According to the Encyclopedia Britannica Halloween has its origins in ancient Britain and Ireland. The Celts celebrated a festival called Samhain (End of Summer), held on November 1st, where they believed the gods were visible for mankind and playing tricks on them. Therefore, the Celts brought sacrifices because they believed that this way they could counteract the behavior of the gods and overcome the dangers of the winter.

2. How did Halloween spread around the World?
When we think of Halloween we automatically think of the USA. But how did Halloween get there? Irish immigrants to the US retained their old customs in the foreign land. The Americans seemed to like the idea of celebrating Halloween and so they adapted it into their own culture. Today it has become on of the most important holidays in the US and Canada.
Since 1990 France seems to be the point from where Halloween spread over Europe. Why France? I don’t know. But since the 90s one can see Halloween influencing regional customs, e.g. the so-called “Rübengeistern” in Germany, Austria and Switzerland is influenced by Halloween.

3. Why do people carve out Pumpkins and light them?
The Irish did so because they believed that once there had been a villain called Jack Oldfield. Oldfield is said to have caught the devil and later released him under the condition that he, the devil, would never again step into Jack’s way. When Jack died he was, of course, denied access to heaven (as he was a villain) but he wasn’t allowed into hell either (for he betrayed the devil).  However, the devil had mercy and gave him a turnip and live coal so that Jack could wander around in the darkness. With the years the turnip was exchanged for pumpkins because there were so many of the latter grown in the US. The pumpkins became known as Jack O’ Lanterns. Their scary faces shall keep away bad spirits.

4. Why wear a Costume?
As mentioned before Halloween has its roots in the ancient Celtic festival Samhain. At Samhain gods, fairies and spirits were said to be alive and wander about the earth. As some of those spirits were harmful it is a common belief that the people disguised themselves as a protection from the bad spirits.

5. Trick-or-Treat
Who hasn’t heard this sentence before? Today it means that the children go from house to house, say their line and are, most often, rewarded with candy. “Trick” is a threat posed to the homeowners “perform mischief [on them] or their property” (quoted from Wikipedia). However, the wandering from house to house was already know before in Great Britain and Ireland where it was called “souling”. This means that children and poor people went from door to door singing and saying prayers for the dead in return for cakes. Even the wearing of costume is known for a long time. Children disguised themselves in Scotland as early as 1895, then known as “guising”, and went from door to door to be rewarded with cakes, fruits and money. However, saying trick or treat has only recently become common.

Happy Halloween!!!


Five of the Week #18

Halloween is approaching and those of us who don’t do any trick-or-treating might search for another pastime. If you hate Halloween just turn off your doorbell and enjoy a quite evening. Maybe you should switch the light off in order not to have your house pelted with eggs by pissed off trick-or-treaters. Anyways, if you like Halloween, and maybe have some little trick-or-treaters running about your house or you’re invited to a party, you can do yourself and the people around you a small favor: start baking 🙂 Honestly, I’m not the most creative baker myself, however, last year I tried some recipes and I guess it didn’t turn out too bad. You can see for yourself below.

So, this “Five of the Week” is about 5 (hopefully) scary Halloween pastries/sweets.

1. Chocolate Spiders
200 g Dark Chocolate
100 g Chopped Hazelnuts
75 g Butter
100 g Brown Sugar
1 Egg
1 Pinch of Salt
1 Packet of Vanillin Sugar
250 g Flour
1 Pinch of Baking Powder
3 Packets (à 75 g, à 32 pieces) Chocolate Sticks
100 g Icing Sugar
44 Pearls of Sugar  (blue, green or red)
Baking Paper

Takes 1 Hour, Makes 22

1. Chop the chocolate and melt half of it. Then melt the butter and mix in: sugar, egg, salt and vanillin sugar. Stir in the flour and baking powder. Then mix in the melted chocolate and afterwards fold in the rest of the chocolate and the chopped hazelnuts.

2. Take two baking trays, cover them with baking paper and put 11 small heaps of dough on each of them. Then put one tray at time for 15-18 minutes into the preheated oven (Electric Cooker: 175 °C/Gas: 2/Fan oven: 150 °C). Divide the chocolate sticks in half. When getting the spiders out of the oven immediately put in 4 sticks on each side of the spider’s body. Those are the legs. Let the spiders cool.

3. Mix the icing sugar with 1 tbsp. of water. Put two small white sugar dot on the spiders’ heads and add two pearls for the eyes. Use the icing sugar to draw crosses on some spiders’ backs.

2. Zombie-Fingers
My personal favorite as they look so disgusting (in a positive way 🙂 )

11 Sliced Almonds
1 Egg
250 g Marzipan Paste
60 g Icing Sugar
30 g Flour
1 Pinch of Baking Powder
1 Tbsp. of Whipping Cream
Baking Paper

Takes 40 minutes, Makes approx. 22

1. Separate the egg. Stir the egg white, marzipan, icing sugar, flour and baking powder until smooth. With wetted hands form approx. 22 fingers (with varied lengths, 6-8 cm). Put them on a tray with baking paper and push in the sliced almonds at on end of the finger to form a fingernail. Mix the egg yolk with the whipping cream and brush the fingers with the mixture. Bake for 15-20 minutes in the preheated oven (Electric Cooker: 175 °C/Fan: 150 °C). Afterwards let them cool on a cooling rack.

3. Brains-and-Eyes Muffins

250 g Flour
2½ tsp. Baking Powder
½ tsp. Baking Soda
1 Egg
125 g Sugar
1 Packet Vanillin Sugar
8 tbsp. Rapeseed Oil
¼ l Milk
1 tbsp. Strawberry or Raspberry Jelly
120 g Double Cream Cheese
400 g Icing Sugar
Tube Icing (red and brown)
6 Chocolate Beans (green or blue)
24 Baking Forms for Muffins

Takes 1 Hour, Makes 12

1. Put two baking forms into each “hollow” of a muffin tray. Mix flour, baking powder and baking soda. Whisk the egg in a mixing bowl, then add sugar, vanillin sugar, rapeseed oil and milk. Stir until well mixed and mix in the flour-powder-soda-mixture.

2. Spread the dough evenly into each “hollow”. Bake for 20-25 minutes in the preheated oven (Electric Cooker: 175 °C/Gas: 2/Fan oven: 150 °C). Afterwards let them cool an a cooling rack, i.e. take the muffins out of the “hollows”.

3. Warm the jelly, then let it cool a bit. Mix the double cream cheese with the icing sugar and take away 1/3 of the mass. Mix the rest of the mass with the jelly. Spread the white mass on 6 muffins and decorate them with tube icing and chocolate beans so they look like eyes. Put the rest of the mass (the one mixed with jelly) into an icing bag with a small round tip and spread it as “brains” on the 6 remaining muffins. Let them cool for 1 hour.

4. Finger Sausages
Unfortunately, I don’t have a recipe but these sausages are quite easy to make. Break in half as much sausages as you like and put sliced almonds on the “undamaged” ends. Put some ketchup on the damaged ends and you’ll have beautiful, severed fingers.

5. Eyeballs
Take stoned lychee and put cherries in their middle. Pierce the “eyes” with toothpicks. Fill a bowl with the cherry juice and put the eyes into it.

Happy Halloween!!!

Quid pro quo #2

Hello Maddy,

thanks for your answer to my question. I hope you received my feedback/thoughts in your comment box under your post. So, now it’s my turn to answer a question again and I won’t beat around the bush for too long.

What is our life purpose and why were we born in the first place?

To be honest those are no easy questions, however, I’ll try my best. I am going to answer each part of the question seperately and in the end I’ll draw a conclusion by linking my answers.

Why were we born in the first place?
To give you an answer of striking simplicity: Our parents wanted us to be born. We are a wish come true. Of course I was thinking about different answers (ranging from God’s Will to destiny) but why not, in this case, take the most obvious answer? Why not see ourselves as the tiny miracles mankind can create? I’m afraid there is nothing more I can say.

What is our life purpose?
“A child will be born tomorrow
As open as an empty cup
And we’ll fill it with hope and sorrow
The very things that messed us up.”
(Mike & the Mechanics – Someone always hates someone)

The first three lines (I added the fourth simply to complete the rhyme) hold a lot of truth. As soon as we’re born we’re under a lot of influences, mostly from our parents. The little cup (our mind) is being filled. When we get older the cup gets bigger and is filled more and more. In order to not run over we have to filter certain things so that all that remains in our minds are the things we deem necessary. Of course there are certain things we can’t get rid of that linger somewhere in the backs of our minds. Anyway, once we start to filter things we begin to create goals. Some are temporary and some last until we die. However, everyone creates their own goals. Well, there might be standardized goals, i.e. ask three people what they want to reach in their lives and I’m pretty sure they’ll mention having a family and a decent job. However, the motivation for these goals might differ. One might want to have a family because he’s lonely while another one always thinks having a wife and children part of a perfect life.
So, I’d say our life purpose is to achieve the goals we set for ourselves, it’s the motivation that makes us go on even if we suffer a heavy setback.

Considering that having a family is a goal that many people want to achieve in their lives we can be pretty sure that once we were this goal, namely, when our parents wished for a child. Their motivations might have been quite different but finally they all reached their goal. Now, the older we get the more we take our lives into our hands, thus creating our own goals out of our own motivations. While we strive to reach our goals, while we are motivated to do something with our lives we find our life purposes. We find the things that make our lives worth living.

I hope my answers make sense and my text is at least a bit coherent. Please let me know what you think 🙂

Last but not least here is my question for you: Do you think that with all the technical means of communication (facebook, smartphones etc.) people might “unlearn” to talk to each other in person?

Five of the Week #17

As a student I don’t always have the possibility to have dinner at home. While searching for a good place with decent food I stumbled across a very good canteen. It’s a nice place where they offer good food for a fair price. Another good thing is that the range of meals on offer is quite wide (from traditional rice pudding to deer stew) so that choosing between three meals never gets boring. Lately, I’ve been there around 10 am, had a coffee and saw the breakfast they offer. It made my mouth water so this is the next thing I’m going to try. Eating there on a regular basis for three years now, I happened across all kinds of eaters. Here are five of them.

1. Eat and Leave
The first type of eaters enters the canteen, grabs a tray, cutlery and a glass of water. He orders, pays and walks to the empty table he aimed for since he entered the canteen. Sitting down he bolts the meal without losing any time with chewing. That’s what the water is for. He finishes his meal, wipes his mouth, downs the rest of his water and leaves. This type of eater spends not more than 10 minutes in the canteen.

2. The lone Eaters
You’ll find them sitting at a single table in the corner of the room. Some of them even stare absent-mindedly at their forks and it seems that they don’t make any progress at all. When you look at their plates now and in five minutes you can hardly see any difference. The lone eaters kind of hide in the corner although they always seem to hope that someone might sit down at their table and bear them company.

3. The (Over)Talkative
You’re hungry, you’re eating and suddenly someone approaches your table and asks if the seat’s taken. Polite as you are you tell him: “No, sit down. Enjoy your meal.” and then they start talking. In fact, your new canteen companion starts to babble without breathing which is pretty annoying after two or three minutes. And as you’re (in his opinion or perception) best buddies now he will tell you the most uninteresting things that have bothered him for a long long time.

4. The Messy/Clean One
Both types of eaters are rare as most of the people are somewhere in between the two extremes. Nevertheless, they shall be mentioned here.
The clean one organizes his plate as much as possible (peas on the left, meat on the right etc.) and even his tray is wonderfully arranged. The plate can be found in the middle of the tray, the drink on the right and the dessert on the left side. Of course the clean one eates with pleasure and watching him cut his meat always reminds one of a surgical precision. When he’s finished the plate looks like it’s never been used and one won’t find the slightest piece of meal where the clean one just ate.
The messy is quite the contrary. His tray looks like a village after a bomb attack and so it might be that the dessert already becomes part of the main course. When he eats he gobbles more than anything else. If you are lucky enough the messy even smacks and slurps. When he leaves you can tell what he ate by looking under his chair.

5. The Blatant Beast
This is nothing against old people but it’s mostly them who bitch about other people. I witnessed an old lady talking to a friend of hers about one of the canteen employees. The employee was a bit chubby and the lady said something like: “Look, she walks like a bear.” or “I don’t think she’ll be able to work here without her mommy.” (who worked in the canteen as well). Anyways, the lady went on like this for I don’t know how long but it became pretty annoying.

Five of the Week #16

“I’d kill for a burger.”
“A kingdom for a bed.”

We say something like this every day to express our urgent need of something. When we’re watching a movie and a child gets abducted the parents (mostly the fathers) tell the police they’re “going to kill the bastard who took my child” and the TV viewers say “Right, I’d do the same.” But, how far would we really go in extreme situations? This was the question that came into my mind. I mean it’s quite easy to sit in your comfortable armchair watching something you never expect to happen in your life and comment on it. What if it would really happen? I wish nobody ill, however, these things happen around us all the time.
So, this time I’m going to keep this post rather short by just posing the questions and I encourage anyone who might read this post to answer (at least) one of them.

1. Would you give a kingdom (i.e. all your worldly possessions) for a good night’s rest?

2. Would you kill for a burger before starving?

3. “If you break my heart, I’ll break your legs.” Would you?

4. Would you “kill the bastard who took my child”?

5. Would you pay somebody back in kind (i.e. fight fire with fire)?

Think carefully as you’re answering these questions from an outside perspective.