Happy Thanksgiving, you guys!
The most glorious sunshine is falling over this beautiful city and this may be our warmest Thanksgiving here yet. Yet, there is a crispness to the air. I love autumn sun. It is golden and warm and spills out all slanted at an angle, totally keeping in line with the pumpkin-yellow-orange Thanksgiving theme. Each and every one of the white and beige buildings opposite ours are gilded and warm. Don’t you just love it when nature decides to get all colour-coordinated? We’re off to enjoy the day but before we do, we wanted to wish anyone who stopped by to visit here today. Also, to bring you three wonderful San Francisco creators of baked goods.
I am always incredibly excited about new bakeries, far more so than any new restaurant. Back home, the Irani restaurants with their bun maska and delicious mutton and vegetable pattices were cool and inviting, fascinating to the child I was. Here, I get that from bakeries. There is always an element of excitement walking into a bakery, perusing what is on offer and then making your choice. And if I’m in luck and the bakery knows what it is doing, what is on offer is wonderful. It can make my entire day.
There are some famous bakeries out here in the Bay area. But everywhere you look there are wonderful small ones that are nourishing bodies and satisfying souls in their neighbourhood. These three that I’m going to tell you about here are exceptional.
It has been raining intermittently and the streets are slick and shiny, something I’m happy to be able to observe from the warmth of my home. My thoughts have turned towards the big holiday staring us in the face. Thanksgiving had rounded the corner and is hurtling towards us at breakneck speed. It is the season of gratitude and there are always reasons to be thankful and we are. Thankful for family & friends. For the roof over our head that keeps us out of the rain. For the food we eat that we cook in our warm kitchen. For the plants that grow in our backyard and instill a sense of wonderment for nature and her incredible workings each time we’re in there. For the seashore that is a stone’s throw away from where we live and that is my source of unending inspiration. For the ability to breathe in the warm fragrance that rises from the soil with the first rains.
Mostly this month, we’re grateful for this incredible opportunity to interact with you.
If we’ve gotten so far with this blog, it is only because of all the encouragement we have gotten along the way. Each and every one of all you fabulous readers, thank you so much for returning here and giving us a shout out when you have. To everyone who has said a kind word about this space or has taken the time to praise and appreciate our efforts, we are grateful you choose to spend time with us. We appreciate this opportunity of sharing our food with you. It is day 20 of NaBloPoMo and I have to admit to fatigue. I used to write posts that I could at least give an editing once-over to, but this month that hasn’t been possible. It has been a practice in speed writing with all these past month’s posts. With days spent at work, I seem to finish just before midnight every night. I’ve been cutting it close. Perhaps the pace is catching up with me, because I was staring at this blank space for the longest time before I got even these words down. I’m finding a way to power through, which is good because it is after all why I joined the challenge to begin with. This is not a sprint, it is a marathon. The point of a marathon, for me at least, is to finish, but finish well, still as eager about it as I was when I began, despite the tiredness. Your encouragement makes the late nights all worthwhile.
The day I first had dhansak is vividly clear in my mind. I was over at my best friend’s house to work on a project and her mother invited me to stay for lunch. I remember sitting down at the table with her mom deftly filling two plates and putting them in front of us. It looked like rice and dal which made me happy. Varan bhat is pretty much a perennial favourite of mine. But the dal was more the colour of sambar and the rice seemed to be brown rice. I took a bite. I remember my taste buds being going into overload with all sorts of flavour.
I took another bite and just couldn’t stop smiling. My friend’s mom asked me if anything was wrong and I told her this was one of the most wonderful things I had eaten. I remember this thoroughly amused her because dhansak is also considered funeral food. I asked my friend in a low voice that if this was Parsi funeral food, was their celebration food so good that people died in ecstasy eating it. My poor friend laughed so hard she almost choked.
I’ve eaten dhansak many times since then, each time with just as much enthusiasm. I knew the dish well-enough that I was quite surprised when Amey told me he was sure he had eaten it but had no memory of it. It’s one of the big reasons I bought My Bombay Kitchen. I felt as a lover of all things dal, it was essential that Amey taste this gem of its kind.
Bombay is a vibrant, exciting city but I’m certain that even its most ardent supporters would agree that it isn’t the prettiest one out there. Yet, it had these particular settings, these spots which were serene and sublime. Most of these were by the sea – Worli Seaface, or Marine Drive. One of my favourites was the view from the Mahalaxmi temple. Situated on top of a cliff, the view of the Arabian sea behind the temple is a beautiful one.
One of the other things I loved about that temple was that it was the only one at the time that offered lotus flowers for worship. These lovely pastel-hued blossoms are some of the most graceful flowers there are. I thought of them as a thing of beauty. It was when I got invited to dinner one time at Amey’s house that I learnt that the lotus plant is also delicious.