Earlier this year, I decided to attend The Big Traveling Potluck in southern California. I knew absolutely no one else who was attending. It took place in way more sunshine than my foggy San Francisco existence can now handle. I prefer solitude in my personal life. When it comes to interacting with people I would rather have one-to-one interactions or small groups of friends. Given that even at events where I know people, I’m likely to hang out at the periphery, this endeavor did not have the makings of a good idea. It was altogether so far out of my comfort zone, I would need a map to navigate my way back. But the event itself promised to be a good one to, focused on community, learning things others have to teach and I have to learn, and sharing a few meals in the process. I thought I might try it.
Our opportunities for self-assessment go down as we get older and are often tied to our jobs or our families, with little reflection on ourselves. This, for me, was a step in a series of attempts to do something that I didn’t have to do or wasn’t pushed along to try because of the time I am at in my life. To shake things up. There was no deliberation on what I hoped to achieve from it, except that I would be committing to doing something that I would normally shy away from.
Through your visits here, I hope you have gotten to know a few things about me. Things such as how excited I get about the recipes we try. I write about them here because I want to share them with you, but I try not be bossy. I rarely like being unequivocally told what to do and so I assume, neither would you. With most of the recipes, I gently coax you try them, hoping you will enjoy them as we did. I don’t post every meal we eat, but I hope that the recipes we do post are interesting to you. Through either the memory of the meal or its impression off a page, they were interesting to me, and that excites me enough to bring them to you.
For the most part, it is a calm interest, a gentle excitement. Every once in a while though, I come across a recipe that fairly shrieks out to me. Not literally – I know that would be very odd, and probably unsettling – but it captures my attention with just as much alacrity and focus. I cannot rest until I’m cooking it in the kitchen. At times, it turns out that recipe sounded better than it ends up tasting. But this recipe, this is not that kind. This was a time that the dish turned way better than I imagined it.
Conventional wisdom about entertaining at home indicates that practice is key to being a successful cook and host. There are unending volumes written on the subject filled with well-heeled advice that stress on planning menus, organizing your ingredients and having practice runs well in advance of the big event. They especially espouse caution when trying out new recipes. There is talk of the importance of being a relaxed host or hostess, and how you are unlikely to be one if you have been channeling the Road Runner right up the moment your guests arrive. All this running around is simply not done, they tell us earnestly.
Do you do everything you are told? Yeah, me neither. I used to, once, a long time ago. Back then, there was an implied threat of getting rid of reading time. But now? There isn’t a chance in hell I’ll do what I’m told. No way, no how.
That’s right. I listen to own tune, chart my course, pave my road. I’m a rebel, baby!!
Sigh. Who am I kidding? Let me proceed to ruin that rather defiant impression I just painted of myself with this carefully annotated bullet-point list…
These were the experimental chicken tacos in mentioned in my last post. They turned out pretty good for what was essentially messing around with several ingredients, but frankly the next time I’m going to turn up the heat on them a bit more. Probably Mexican oregano would add another nuance of flavour too. Nevertheless, they work on their on or a a base for more flavour.
Stop and stare on any street in Bombay and your eye is likely to register at least three places to eat in any direction, be it the ubiquitous sandwich seller or chaat house. (I don’t suggest you do this though. You’re likely to get shoved about and cursed at in seven different languages if you stop longer than 5 seconds. Just like in New York, waffling about in Bombay will raise temperatures faster than the heat of the summer.) Bombayites, present and former, love food. We love eating it, arguing about it and seeking it out. You will be spoilt for choice with all that the city has to offer. Naturally, any native will have categorical and vociferous opinions about where the best “insert suitable food item here” is available. It will not necessarily be the fanciest restaurant around, though there are a fair amount of luxurious examples with incredible food. No, sometimes the best of things can be found in street food or in your humble, no-nonsense lunch homes.
One such no-frills restaurant was Lucky Restaurant in the West Bandra neighbourhood. This is where I first tasted biryani and where I fell irrevocably in love with it. When I was growing up, this establishment served some of the best available restaurant biryani around. For the uninitiated, biryani is one of the most delicious things you could eat. There is stewed meat cooked slowly with yoghurt and spices, along with the irresistibly fragrant basmati rice. The resultant dish is a thing of delight, a delicacy of dreams. Over the years, the quality of Lucky became a bit unreliable. That you had to be ‘lucky to have a good meal at Lucky‘ became a standing joke. I hear it still has its good days along with its bad ones, but the good ones are pretty great.