I have hopes for getting a few things done this year. There are aspirations to be travelling more, cooking more, writing more, learning more. I aim to get my architectural license before the year is through. I aspire to meet up with my friends more and call my mom more often. Well, I’ll have to watch that last one carefully. She might begin to suspect I’m terminally ill if I don’t ease her into it. Don’t want to ping her sonar for no reason. Nothing good has ever come of that.
Time has soared by quickly. We are already at the end of January. The cold winter means no long walks on the beach, my primary place for random thought. Without them, thoughts have no focus or room. They crowd into my head and push everything else out. Amey has caught me staring into space more often than usual this month. Only two things have really kept my attention. Architecture and cooking.
Taken together, they aren’t quite all that diverse. Here’s how the charge sheet would look if you tried to compare.
☕ Both respond to basic human needs, cooking is to food what architecture is to shelter.
☕ Both aspire to do so much more than just fulfilling a need.
☕ Architecture is both an art and a science. So is cooking.
☕ Either one of them revels in experimentation, often with fantastic results.
☕ Both have a long history and have evolved in response to period and place (Up to a point in time. Both have felt the effects of globalization.)
☕ Never were there two art forms that, as a whole, focus on the person who creates them as much as on those for whom they are created.
☕ A good example of either will satisfy you to your very soul. You may not recognize it immediately but your day will be so much the better for it.
My friend once mentioned that he has never seen a more contented lot than architects. Before all the unhappy ones out there rush to argue this, allow me to explain what he meant. Architecture pales in comparison to the initial monetary compensation of investment bankers, or those in technological fields (the aforementioned friend’s profession). This results in tons of frustration for some, and those who are conflicted about this, leave. This is not a profession you stay in lightly. It is your life.
2009 is limping towards its ineluctable exit and very few people, I’m guessing, are going to be sorry to see it go. As years go in the psyche of the human collective, this one has been rather truculent and petty. To put it plainly, it mostly blew for most people. But you know what? While it wasn’t the best, there were parts of it I liked. Like the fact that this country swore in its first African-American president, the same year that I get to be a permanent resident of it. The part where I took six architectural exams in six months was pretty cool, especially when I passed all of them. The fact that all of my result letters have a stamp on a top corner that says “Arnold Schwarzenegger, Governor” is spectacular. (I get my results from the Terminator y’all! Affirmative.) Then there’s the part where Amey and I actually managed to stay on and benefit from a fitness regimen with results. That last bit while I did my favourite new thing this year, cooking all kinds of new stuff and starting this blog.
My little piece of the virtual world has been a fabulous place to be in. I’ve gotten to combine my love of writing with my love of cooking and experimentation. I’ve been able to enjoy new things and tackle some of the tougher ones and live to talk about it. It hasn’t been easy but the work has been its own reward. When I began, I thought that’s all it would be. But what’s been amazing is that I met some great new people and reconnected with some wonderful old friends. Combine this with the talented people I interact with on a daily basis in the real world, I’d say that I’m surrounded online and offline with some fabulous, fantastic people. Quite frankly, I can think of few things that are as exciting as doing something you love around people you like. I get to do this and share it with you. The readership to this blog has grown exponentially since I started in early 2009. For all the support and camaraderie, I am thankful to you, dear readers. At the close of the year, this calls for a celebration of some sort. With sweets for all. I wish there was a way I could send you real cake virtually. But they haven’t quite figured out how to do that yet. Also, I find myself without flour and sugar. Essential components to cake. Never fear though, in my home there are always options. I think you’ll find this one very welcome.
(I grew up calling the delicate ones biscuits, and the ones with chocolate and other chips in them, cookies. I still try to stick with the English I love and grew up with, though it has hybridised into the English I hear every day in the country I now call home. So sometimes it is neither here nor there. England and America may be two continents divided by a common language, but India taught me that divisions exist only as long as you let them. With that, I invite you to continue on into my biscuit-cookie meanderings. For the purpose of this post, they mean *exactly* the same thing. The title? I’m sorry but cookie monster rolls off way better than the alternative, biscuit zombie)
Christmas, it seems, is right around the corner. Can’t quite claim it crept up quietly. The subtle-as-a-hippo-in-tights signs have been everywhere since Halloween. In the past weeks, you couldn’t turn a fraction of a degree without having your senses assaulted by holiday commercialism. (Wait, did I say commercialism? I mean holiday spirit. I seem to be (un)intentionally channelling Festivus.) But then I take a deep breath and open my eyes; all you see is glimmers of hope and quiet smiles. Everyone wishes that this year will sound clear, high notes when it ends compared to those began with.
In this season of renewed hope, I thought I’d try something I don’t necessarily do, making holiday season sweets. Do I hear you gasp in shock? Hold on, before you follow it with disappointed heads shaking, allow me to explain. Every year, Diwali shows up about a month or so before the December holiday season. This is one time when I sorely miss being back in India. I go overboard trying to recreate the spirit of the festival, with the lights, and the food. This leads to an unavoidable surfeit of sweets. Setting about making them again seems impossible. But this year I decided to go for it. More importantly, I decided to make holiday cookies. This is significant for another reason. Everyone has their nemesis. Sherlock Holmes (yay! Sherlock Holmes!) had Moriarty. I have cookie-making.
*This post came up here a lee-tle late. I was a bit under the weather.*
So I know it’s Halloween and everyone is obsessed with all things scary and icky. I love the idea but I don’t do scary or icky very well. I’m hopeless. I’d be like that colleague of mine at work who tried to prank me with a wormy apple but dissolved into helpless laughter before he got four words into his prank.
I also don’t get the yucky food schtick. Gross food, for me, is sacrilege. I’m going to grow up someday to be the mom who’s a real party pooper in this regard. I cannot get behind “blood-and-guts” potatoes or “barf soup” or even “jellyworms”. No, no and no! Why go through this when you can freak a kid out simply by dishing them a bowl of spinach soup? I did once though it was not my intention. Suffice to say that my nephew runs a mile away when he sees anything green in my hands.
So believe me when I say it was not my intention to mess up the plating of this dessert that I want to tell you about today. Really it wasn’t. My attempts at emulating Pollock were ill-fated from the start, as they would be since I am in fact, a far cry from absolutely any kind of painter. Sad really, because the dessert is fabulous, easy and divinely delicious. Try not to be put off by the drowning-in-chocolate sauce scenario. The gremlins of Halloween are cackling with glee somewhere at the irony.
It’s Diwali…the festival of lights! Everywhere in India, diyas and electric lights brighten homes, turning night into day. This is a time for family and friends, festivities and merriment; wonderful food eaten next to flickering lights while enjoying shimmering and stentorian firecrackers…. an annual celebration of the triumph of light over darkness.
All these years, I’ve succumbed to the time-saving promise of the microwave pedha and quick-fix barfi. Not to take anything away from these convenient modern versions, but there is something to be said for the traditional fare, the ritual of planning your time and variety in the weeks before the festival, preparing to cook various Diwali delicacies, aside from the regular cooking of lunches and dinner. I thought I’d give this route a shot this time. I’ve been cooking for a while now. How hard could all of this be, right?