January 7, 2013

The Charm of Cheating & Blood Orange Mousse

Remember I told you I went to college at the birthplace of the Free Speech Movement? Yeah, that school is the beautiful University of California, Berkeley. There are a couple of cold, hard facts you catch on to pretty quick when you come to Cal. 

For starters, it's where Smart, meets Smarter. Feelings of insecurity and inadequacy are expected side-effects of attending such an awesome institution. Also, anything out of the ordinary isn't just okay, it's encouraged. Most importantly though, you learn the difference between a good education and a great education; a good education cultivates casual curiosity, a great education imparts an unharnessed eagerness to explore your options.

I was the lucky recipient of the latter.

It's the only rational explanation for  how I went from expertly manipulating the masses to regularly writing for such a small, specialized segment.

Of course, back in B-school, when I was busy being bred for the boardroom, I never thought I'd end up typing out tales instead of tackling target markets, but to quote John Lennon, "Life is what happens to you when you're busy making other plans." God, I love him!

And life did indeed "happen", so here I am.

So what do marketeers and writers have in common? Simple. To succeed they need to be stellar story-tellers. In other words, they have to brilliant in the art of BS. This is how it works; we gauge your gullibility and scrounge up a story to sucker you in.

Case in point, I once convinced my brother that if he stuck his finger in his belly button, he'd be able to hear his own heartbeat. The poor boy sat there, serious, silent and still, for at least 5 minutes, hoping to hear the pump-a-thump of his heart, before I put an end to his pain and my perverse pleasure.

Granted, he's disgustingly easy to dupe, but you catch my drift.

To be fair, I'm not immune from idiocy either.

A long time ago, someone suckered me into believing there was a way to guarantee a great upcoming year; celebrate New Year's eve making merry in a way that mirrored how I'd like the next year to turn out. For example, ringing in the new year with waterworks was a bad idea, unless I wanted to experience random bouts of bawling over the next 12 months.

I took this sound sounding advice and honestly, this New Year's eve was the best I've had in about a decade.

What'd I do? I'll get to that in a second, but first let me tell you what I didn't do.

Praise the Good Lord, people, for I did not partake in any partying. No, Sir. I was snug in bed, watching the Will Ferrel SNL special, super-psyched that I'd be ending an incredibly exciting 2012 in silence and solace and spend the next year the same way.

By the way, a note to whoever fed me this horse-feed: consider yourself lucky, I don't remember who you are, but one day I will track you down, and there will be blood. I recommend you sleep with one eye open.

Why, you ask?

Because instead of serenity, 2013 started with a scandal.

In a nutshell, my previous post was plagiarized and I'm pretty peeved. I'm even more traumatized that it was published in a top-tier paper like the Tribune.

Am I being paranoid? Maybe.

Am I seriously surprised? No.

Is this a declaration of war? Yes!

They may steal my English, but they'll never steal my experiences!

I swear I'm not being dramatic when I say, the entire experience has me incredibly irked.  Let's examine what rubbed me the wrong way. 

For starters, I believe there are two kinds of people in this world; the patient and the other kind. I've spent decades trying to be the former, but age and exhaustion are taking their toll. And so, I've accepted that I'm just not one of those people who takes forever to get worked up. 

The patient variety basically requires their very existence to be threatened before they react. You know what it takes for me to flare up in a frenzy? Well, something as little as...well, anything, really. 

Moving on, ethics was the first class I took at B-School. I'm pretty sure that's because Enron was collapsing and whistle-blowers were all the rage and because they didn't want the "Arthur Anderson" auditorium to morally sway it's students. Good call, Haas. You might not have made me a saint, but you did make me morally stubborn. My judgement calls are pretty black and white. What can I say, I'm not good with grey areas.

And this blog is my baby, dammit!

You want my job, be my guest. I'll give you a brief job description, just so you know what you'll have to juggle: babbling in baby-talk all day, taking countless pictures till you nail the perfect shot, and carving out time for what can feel a lot like a creative writing class at least 5 days a week whether you like it or not, Oh, and, this is an unpaid position. Like an indefinite internship. Good luck and God speed.

I get what's going on though.

These days in Pakistan, it's like the powers that be have created a country-wide campaign centered on cheating. The King of Cons is our president, for crying out loud! Even if you choose to put that pathetic piece of information aside, we still run the gamut of shady shenanigans. That means, everyone from extortionist invigilators and reprehensible reporters to pilfering politicians and sneaky spouses, are hailed as heroes for pulling a fast one on us fools. 

Needless to say, we're a malleable, monkey-see-monkey-do society. 

Think I'm being being a harsh hater? Allow me to paint a pretty little picture to prove my point

Lahore is the land of lemmings. A haven for herd-mentality. The birthplace of the bandwagon. The capital of copycat culture. If you're planning on moving here, brace yourself, because in order to be initiated into the "in" crowd you must bid adieu to your individuality. Ladies, prepare to put on your palazzos, pop on your Pradas and puff your hair like pigeons. Boys, you're fated to fake an accent and make a futile attempt at being fashionable with a faux-hawk.

Looking for a luxe lifestyle? Pop on by because it's all about living a lie. All the shortcuts to success are lined right up. Flash that cash, flaunt the family name, fit right in. No pressure, just paisa.

I did some research (Wikipedia-ing for a couple of hours is research, right?) across the spectrum of sneakiness and it turns out, size really does matter. Of course, by "size" I mean the size of the ego. Anyone who's full of themselves has one the size of Texas and it's as flimsy and frail as a fairy. In other words, the bigger they are, the harder they fall.

And finally, because I majored in marketing and I'd be a flailing failure if I didn't know why you were here, let's get the juicy juice, infidelity.

There's something about this season that makes it sizzle with sauciness. And really, there isn't a tackier, but true trend, this time of the year. Socialites scurry to indulge in sleaze and scandal, like they're going out of style. 

Yeah, yeah I know you're in a bad marriage; woman's a witch, man's a monster. Save the speech

Wait, what's that? You're staying together for the kids? Right, I forgot that pillar of parenting where you set them up for a lifetime of reckless relationships. 

And then there are the nonsensical numbers. Apparently, all men cheat, so that means 50% of Pakistan isn't mindful of it's morality. Then, unless the boys have a secret to spill, it's fair to fault at least a fraction of the female populous too, right? I know I'm awful at arithmetic, but that seems like a seriously shocking number of unscrupulous singletons and spouses!

Either way, for the society-set sneaking around on their spouses and significant others, you can slink around all you want, but you've got  to be debilitating-ly daft if you think you'll never get caught. I recommend you sleep with both eyes open. You never know when those secrets will spontaneously spill out. 

And  now, a brief message to the thief of my thoughts: do not infringe on my intellect and ideas. I have a pretty firm handle on human psychology, so if you're interested in taking me on in a game of spin-the-story, prepare for a shameful defeat. 

Finally, this week, because I sort of cheated myself by having Muneeze Khalid make you guys dessert instead of taking on the task myself and 'cause my blood is boiling, I'm making a dessert that I was taught way back in the days of Grammar in the food and nutrition class, but this adaption has more of a seasonal sparkle; blood orange mousse. 

A little neglected these days, mousse was a really refined dessert back in the 70's, ideal for entertaining because you could prepare it ahead of time. Swapping ordinary oranges for blood oranges and using the zest makes a mundane mousse bright and zingy.

This is definitely not a dull dessert. 

Blood Orange Mousse (6 servings)
Adapted from Orange Mousse, by the Lahore Grammar School Nutrition Dept.

  • 1 tablespoon gelatin
  • 1/4 cup hot water
  • 1 cup fresh blood orange juice, strained
  • Zest of 2 oranges, finely grated
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 4 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 cup whipped cream
  • 2 egg whites
  • 3 tablespoons caster sugar
- Dissolve the gelatin in the hot water. 

- In a saucepan, over a low heat, combine the juice and sugar. Stir in the gelatin and lemon juice.

- Remove from the heat and pour out into a bowl to let it cool. Stir the mixture occasionally, until it is cold and has thickened slightly. 

- Whip the cream until stiff. A tip on whipping cream; use a clean steel bowl, making sure it is absolutely dry. The metal bowl retains the coolness that the cream will require to whip properly. Also, make sure your cream has been chilled in the fridge overnight. Cold cream gives the best results in the least amount of time.

- Beat the eggs whites with the caster sugar, until they look glossy and form stiff peaks. 

- First, gently fold the whipped cream and orange zest into the juice and gelatin mixture. Then, carefully fold in the egg whites. It might look like a runny mess, but it'll set in the fridge.

- Pour the mousse into individual serving glasses and refrigerate for 2-3 hours, until set. 

Until next time, friends and foes, in the words of the ridiculously funny Ron Burgundy  "Stay classy!" 

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  1. Hey Insha,

    Love your blog's tagline "Simple food. Complex life."!! Seems to have summed it all up perfectly hehe.

    I remember you telling me about the timing for the perfect lighting for your photographs. Well the pains you took are completely worth it. They have turned out great :D

    Lastly, but most importantly, love your writing style!!

    Best of luck and look forward to reading more of "Hunger and Haw Hai"!!


  2. Thanks a million, Nida :) Glad you dropped by! My legs were cursing me the day after this shoot lol. Stay tuned for more! xx


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