Food For Soul

Mouths Wide Shut

I am not a picky eater, unless you count being a vegetarian as picky. But I love to cook and like to eat! Food is a complete sensory experience for me, the beautifully coloured vegetables on the plate, the aroma of spices, the different tastes exploding in your mouth and the different textures belonging to the kind of food you are eating….it is a complete feast for your tongue, your eyes, and your olfactory receptors! It doesn’t always have to be fancy or exotic, it just has to hit the spot at the right moment. Sometimes a deliciously home cooked meal does the job and sometimes a fancy dish from an exotic cuisine is what you want, and sometimes a veggie loaded burger with curly fries is what you heart craves. Some of my favorite foods:

  • Like any Indian worth his/her salt the best kind of food is”Maa ke haath ka ghar ka khana!” Translation: home cooked food made by your mother! Some of my favorite foods are what my mom makes and exactly the way my mom makes them.

Veggie cutlets loaded with beets, potatoes, green beans, peas, spices, and coated in bread crumbs and shallow fried over stove.

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-Onion uttappas which are an Indian version of pancakes but made savory with rice flour, onions, tomatoes and served with lentil soup!

-Dhokla (it is a traditional dish from western part of India) made with fermented rice flour and steamed like dumplings…and it is absolutely delicious!

2)    I am a modest person, but not where my own cooking is concerned…and I love what I make! J Not always perfect and usually I like what I make. My cooking style is mainly adopted from my mother, but adapted into my current living style. I still make the traditional Indian food the way my mother taught me, but it is sometimes more garlicky and a bit more spicy. I also try to incorporate some the vegetables available here in US to replace the ones available in India and the results are quite fascinating for me.

– My veggie and cheese loaded nachos are my own absolute favorite.

– Roasted cauliflower curry is something that is partly my mom and partly me on the plate.

Cabbage salad with peanut dressing, is a dish I wouldn’t have ever eaten back home, but is something that I have tried to make after expanding my palette and eating style.

3) Other foods which I really love are the roadside food vendors in India. They serve all sorts of food: spicy, sweet, hot on cool winter days and cold on hot and humid Mumbai days.

– Bhel Puri/Sev Puri: Bhel Puri is puffed rice served with puris (kind of thick chips made from flour) It is then drizzled with tamarind and date paste, onions, coriander chutney, garlic chutney, tomatoes, mixed and eaten with the puri! Absolutely delicious and should be tried if you ever go to Mumbai.

– Pani Puri : These are circular puris (thin, hollow and very small orbs) and different from the puris used in Bhel. These are then filled with spicy water made from coriander, chillies and ginger, boiled potatoes and tamarind paste and then eaten as a full orb. Another delicious delicacy, which always tastes better at the roadside vendor.

There are many more exotic, vegetarian dishes to try out, not just from the Indian sub-continent but from everywhere else! Mediterranean cuisine is my other favorite simply because it has so many delicious vegetarian options. People often ask me, so how do you get your protein if you are a vegetarian? Simple: there are so many choices out there, beautiful lentils, beans, amazing array of vegetables, how can one be starved of proteins??

Food is a treat for all your senses and anyone who tells me they don’t care about food, and what they eat is, just sad!

 

Conversational Gambit!

The Daily Post

For someone as talkative as me, talking for only four minutes is a little difficult. Could a room full of strangers be interested in knowing about a confused Indian expat? I would say definitely yes, would I be interested in disclosing myself to a bunch of strangers, not really, as some things are better left unsaid. But if my years of working have taught me anything it is the art of small talk. Small talks – they are a great conversational tool; whether you are trying to prevent awkward glances in the elevator, when you are sitting with your boss at the company meetings, or when you are having a dinner alone by yourself sitting at a bar, or trying to mingle with a room full of strangers! I enjoy small talks with strangers, if listened carefully they tell you a lot about a person.

This is what I would do when if I were to enter a room of strangers; grab something to drink or eat and then scope around the place, looking for friendly faces to join in. On finding a good group, I would try and listen to the conversation for a bit. Then give my input to the topic and when I have their attention, introduce myself with my complicated Indian name. There would definitely be more than couple of “Excuse mes!” on hearing my name, with most people asking me to spell it or slowly pronounce it. Since it’s an exotic name there will be few requests for the meaning, and then some background information will follow. This will easily take up 2-3 minutes, which is usually enough to break ice.

These four minutes are good enough for superficial introductions. Any more information than this will not happen until it is a more personal introduction. After all a mere four minute personal conversation is better than 4 hours of online chatter that everyone indulges into these days.

Smart Write!

Overload Alert

There is so much information available today. Every device you open, every person you talk to provides you with a continuous information overload, from people’s private lives on display on Facebook to the world and celebrity affairs on Twitter, to continuous news monitoring on the e-newspapers. Everywhere you are bombarded by information! Ages ago in the world of only print newspapers, you wouldn’t hear of the news until the next day courtesy of all the reporters scrambling to finish their reports for the early morning edition. Today the news online get updated with breaking news all the time, there is no chance you will miss anything important!

Does all this information make you dumber? I believe information is knowledge, always usable. Whether it is the knowledge about latest celebrity troubles or world troubles, it can be used for conversation. Depending on the crowd you are conversing with, you could switch your topics around. Does so much information desensitize you? That is a resounding yes! The continuous inflow of violence, deaths and revolutions around the world are definitely killing the emotions. There is so much of this stuff happening around, nobody is shocked anymore. Instead the attitude now is that we talk about the events for about five minutes before moving on with our own lives and troubles. Something like this, “Oh one more killing! One more bombing! Damn shame. All right who is up for drinks tonight to celebrate my promotion?”

The information is so easily and so readily available, no one values it anymore. The biggest example is the use of the word “Google” as a verb instead of the noun that it is. Instead of saying, “I am going to search using Google,” Everyone says, “I am going to google it!” The current generation doesn’t even know that the information has always been available on their finger tips, just in books and not on their smart devices. I don’t think the information is making people lose their common sense, I think it is the fact that, it is so readily available that is making people dumb, because they have never had to look for it.

The information boom is a blessing and a curse, depending on the way one looks at it. Use it the right way and it is a tool, but if you don’t know how to use or what to do with the information you have, then no amount of it is of any use to you. The devices are getting smarter; from smart phones, smart TV’s to smart watches, and the people using them are getting dumber!

The hand-me downs that matter!

Hand-me downs

None of us are strangers to hand me downs, which come in all sizes, shapes, emotions and traditions. Some of these legacies are the ones that inspire you to continually improve whereas others bog you down and it is not easy to pick and choose. I am sure many of you now catch yourselves aping some of your parents’ mannerisms that you hated while growing up! That is legacy, hand-me downs and genes.

Growing up I never had to use hand-me down clothes because of the age difference between me and my sibling, but I did get handed down the sense of responsibility for your words, action and money. My sister has been better at accepting that legacy than me and I have tried to learn from her. Here are some of the major legacies which continue to influence me, mould me and continuously evolve me.

  • Cooking: I never liked cooking growing up, and would only bother with the kitchen during meal times. But when I started living on my own, I realized the extent of my mother’s and sister’s influence on my cooking style and tastes and what more, I started enjoying it. Even though I didn’t formally learn recipes from my mother until later, so much of my cooking style was already my mom’s! My love for cooking and the idea that you could throw 5 different things together in a pan and come up with an awesome dinner is my hand-down from my mom. Cooking and family recipes are a great way to pass on your family legacy and I am proud of what I have learnt and continue to learn from my family!
  • Traditions: Indians are big on traditions and I didn’t realize the influence of these traditions on me until I moved out of India. I was brought up in a traditional Hindu family, taught to have respect and a healthy fear for the millions of gods and goddesses. Every major public holiday in India is to celebrate the birth of a god/goddess or the triumph of good vs evil. Even though I am not a very traditional person, these traditions have defined me for as long as I remember. Until I left home, I didn’t realize how much these traditions which are sometimes comforting and sometimes stifling, are a part of my identity and proud legacy.

The one thing that I can say I haven’t received in legacy is prejudice. I am sure every adult has their set of prejudices, obtained from their parents or developed on their own. But, all my prejudices are my own! Fortunately or unfortunately instead of catching on to the ones that my parents have, I found some of my own!

Nightmare Jobs!

Daily Challenge

There are a couple of jobs which I don’t think I ever handle. I think any jobs that require me to make on the spot life and death decisions are pretty much beyond me.

  • Doctors: At one time I desperately wanted to become a doctor. When I couldn’t clear the medical entrance exams I was bitterly disappointed and then opted for pharmaceutical sciences instead. I held on to my disappointment for a long time, until one day I realized that I am easily freaked out if I am responsible to make someone’s life and death decisions.
  • Military: I am sure I couldn’t do anything that will require me to point a gun at an unknown enemy and start shooting. Killing an enemy that you can’t see takes a tremendous amount of courage, even with the knowledge that if you don’t kill, the enemy might kill you first.
  • President/Prime Minister in a democracy: There is no chance of my ever being this! But the possibility that at one command from you, people will do your bidding and then ask you for explanations, is too much to handle. That kind of power while intoxicating to some, is just suffocating for me. Today’s high commands are answerable to the present as well as future generations. The quote, “Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown!” says it all!