Spring is here!

Spring is here! by Sharmila B
Spring is here!, a photo by Sharmila B on Flickr.

My favourite part about spring is the garden coming back to life and the flowers. The kale plant was the first one to spring to life with an explosion of buds and flowers! I love having things from the garden in my home. Here, I put the kale flowers together with some rosemary and a daisy.

Happy Spring!

Coffee-cardamom banana bread with cashew nuts

My assigned childhood role was that of the good kid. The quiet one. The one who didn’t wreck tables and could be counted on to not torture the dog. Who worshiped books and didn’t need to be told that one doesn’t make paper airplanes and boats with sheets torn out of their history notebook. But even good kids aren’t perfect, because mom and I had our share of disagreements. Perhaps because I steadfastly refused to learn how to de-vein those prawns (ick!) properly. Or because I didn’t wipe the dishes completely dry. But mostly because my mother was convinced that you needed to take pride in whatever you do, be it writing an essay, drying a dish or folding a shirt. I subscribed to a much looser interpretation of this: that there were some things you took pride in doing, and that others were just work that you finished to get to the things you want to do. For me, folding laundry squarely fell in this category, but it was my chore. So when the day’s wash was off the clothesline, I would drag my feet over, rush through the sorting and folding and hurry back to my books and to intriguing statistics such as how much rice was grown in China versus India. I would remain thus engrossed until I heard the inevitable yell which signalled that mom had spotted my handiwork.

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It was a cool and pleasant morning. I sat in my mother’s kitchen with a cup of hot chai, one she had forced upon me as she has always done. I never needed any help from caffeine growing up either and we used to argue about this incessantly. She could never abide by my no-tea-no-coffee habit. “How on earth will you find the resolve you need to galvanize into action for your day?” It was one of so many things my mother didn’t understand about her middle child. I put up a feeble protest, but my heart wasn’t in it. This time, more than any other, I was just so gosh darn happy to be home.

Home. Never thought there would be a day two distinct places would define that word for me. Our lovely apartment in San Francisco is home to me, but so is this charming old flat in Bombay, with its cool mosaic tiled floor and ventilated windows. My whole life was here before the age of twenty-five. I tried to pack as much of it into three suitcases when I moved halfway across the world. I thought I was also taking along a lifetime of memories, but then I went and left the keys to so many of them back here. Each time I’m back in this city that I grew up in, I find myself rediscovering it with all the excitement of that child I left here somewhere – reliving experiences that unlock tons of memories.

I’ve been more fortunate than most. Not only did I grow up in just the one place, it also happens to be the same place my dad grew up. So some of my childhood experiences overlap his. There was this jack-fruit tree in our front yard. Large and lofty, I spent many of my growing years playing hide-and-seek around it, just as he had. Carving my initials with an arrow under where my dad had carved his when he was eight was one of my proudest moments. We both loved that tree. Our common regret was that the tree was barren and had no fruit.

…until it magically did.
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Squash, Sweet potato & Chickpea Stew

I love flying in the rain. That may sound like an odd thing to like. Most people have a problem with this, but not me. Sure, these flights can be tedious before take-off but in the rain, there is a slowing down of things. The little window shows you a shiny tarmac in a world washed clean. People in cheery neon raincoats scurry about their jobs working to get your flight going on its way, hardly minding the dull weather. The bright orange cones and yellow leader signs dot the grey landscape, firmly guiding the planes. They lie scattered amidst the large gleaming tubes that lugubriously lumber about like lounging whales. It seems impossible that any of them could get moving with any amount of haste, let alone take off the ground and into the air. I love the unfolding choreographed drama of it all.

The drops of rain steadily trickle down the  window reminding me as they always do now of the title sequence of the movie The Matrix. I turn to check my IPad to see if I have a copy of it on there. I don’t, so I continue to watch the rain. It will be time to turn off electronic devices soon anyway.

Despite having been on numerous flights, I still have that breathless moment at take-off when it feels like this tin can I am in is straining every nerve and will likely never manage to pull off the take off. But, slowly, then with growing urgency, it always does. The ground falls away along with all of the roads, buildings and people on it.

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A new year and Russian Salad

Happy new year, you guys! Hope everyone had a wonderful couple of weeks.

Last year slipped away quickly from me at the end there. There was some traveling for work and wrapping up of projects. And then, when I was ready to find relaxation, the universe decided I wasn’t quite ready yet. I got hit by a nasty bug between Xmas and the new year that was quite tenacious in its hold on me. It was like nothing I’ve seen before and with my propensity for colds and coughs, that’s saying something. As I lay under my inadequately warm comforter, I imagined pumpkin bread pudding and strengthening stews to make when I got better, things you would find useful in this winter weather. But when I did get better, my stove decided to go on the fritz.

I can’t say the new year has started in the best possible fashion for me.

There are only two good things that came out of my stove throwing a tantrum. One is that I got to use ‘on the fritz’, a phrase that make me think of malfunctioning wires releasing sparks and makes me happy all out of proportion. The other is, I get to tell you about this salad.

One story about this salad is that it was developed in Russia by a restaurant chef who was basically robbing the owner blind. Well, they don’t say that exactly, but the story is tantamount to the same thing. It is said they gave him a kitchen allowance for supplies and told him that he could keep what was left at the end of the month. So he came up with this salad that is rich in taste but doesn’t need a lot of ingredients, thereby being able to pocket more of the money. There’s another story that says this chef developed the salad for his restaurant and it was a huge hit. It consisted of expensive ingredients like seafood and good cuts of meat and its recipe was a closely guarded secret. Then, one of the chef’s employees stole the recipe, became the chef at a competing restaurant and started serving a version of this salad, albeit with less expensive ingredients. It is said the exact original recipe died with its creator but copycat versions of the salad are still known as Salad Olivier in his honour. In India, we knew it simply as Russian Salad.

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