Tagged: Original/ Family recipe

Stir-fried bhindi (okra) & potato

Up to about the age of six, I was a super picky eater. I’ve chronicled my hatred of fish before but that was just the tip of the food-berg. As far as I was concerned there was an embargo on radish, squash, pumpkin, any kind of gourd, string beans, even okra. Even back then, my little mind could not fathom my distaste for okra. I thought it was the cutest vegetable ever (in India we call them lady’s fingers how cute is that?). I loved the flavour of the vegetable my mother made. I mean it had potatoes. I’ll eat pretty much anything with potatoes. And yet, I couldn’t stand to eat it. I’d separate out the potatoes from the okra. My younger sister was easily distracted and excelled at slipping the pieces of okra into her plate when she wasn’t looking.

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Diwali faral: Shankarpali

The blue glow of the gas flame cast as eerie flickering glow on my kitchen walls. It was a bright, crisp November morning but my kitchen is at the back of my apartment. It has no windows and only enjoys borrowed light from my living room unless I turn on the lamp overhead. There was no need for that to heat a cup of water for tea.

Stirring the chai in my cup. I contemplated what sweet should be made for Diwali, which has approached much too fast this year. (Weren’t we just celebrating Holi?) I had the savoury portion covered with the poha chivda I made earlier this week. I just needed on sweet thing to complete the picture. I didn’t really want to step out to the shops today. Looking around, I saw my AP flour jar and immediately knew it was going to be shankarpali. It takes some doing but the ingredient list is three things: flour, sugar and ghee.
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Roasted Broccoli & Fennel with spices

Do you find yourself talking back to your television? Amey does when he’s yelling at sports team for fouling a pitch or making an awesome catch. (Two different games. He’s all over the map with sports love.) I used to find it cute in a you’re-so-dorky-and-I-love-you-but-you-will-never-see-me-do-that kind of way. I would laugh and then carry on with the reading a book, Twitter feed, whatever was at hand. (He watches sports. I sit next to him and pretend to care because I love him. That’s our deal. Also, the rocking chair in the living room is the comfy-est seat in the house.)

They say couples take on each others personalities eventually. This was brought home to me in stark reality when I found myself doing exactly what he does. I was watching this cooking show on TV. The chef/host made a meatloaf and gravy with lavish attention, then added a vegetable side. It all looked real pretty when it landed in that platter. But the veggies? They had just been boiled in salted water and were then given the mandatory grinding of black pepper when they were served up. I found myself jumping up out of that rocking chair and yelling, “What the heck is up with that?!”

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Diwali faral: Mom’s Poha Chivda

The holiday season is approaching fast. Diwali, my favourite festival is fast approaching. In India, this means the thorough cleaning of houses and frantic preparation of sweets in time for the first day of the festival of lights. In households everywhere, there are sweets being readied for the annual Diwali exchange, when neighbours send each other the best of the season along with plates full of good things. These freshly home-made sweets and snacks are also the traditional way to greet friends and family that drop in to wish you.

Every year while my mom prepared the sweet stuff, she also made traditional Maharashtrian poha chivda. If I was to try to define chivda, I’d call it a savoury rice based trail mix-type snack. Its main component is poha or flattened rice. You can find thick and thin varieties of poha. What you are looking for here is the thin variety. You can find this easily at your friendly neighbourhood Indian store. You will also find copra or dried coconut slices there. This is responsible for the characteristic flavour of chivda. I start with raw peanuts because they get imbued with the flavour of the garlic, coconut and spice better through the cooking process. Daliya or roasted chana dal brings its own unique nuttiness to the mixture.

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Pumpkin & Brinjal (Eggplant) Stew

It started out so well. The city enjoyed a bright and sunny weekend. Blue skies; gorgeous golden light. Away from home, the SF Giants swept the World series last evening.

Then came the night. It all went to hell pretty quickly.

Reports started to emerge of “Celebration rioting” across various neighbourhoods in the city. People tweeting about fires and getting hit in the face with beer cans. Rabid fans trashing cars and dumpsters and public transport. People aggressively searching for fights in the street, looking to trash anyone who didn’t look as jazzed about the win as they were.

I come from a country where rioting expresses public outrage. The frustrations of living in a country with many races, vast economic differences smoulder just beneath the surface. It takes but one unhappy spark to ignite the tinderbox. Riots occur as an outlet, when the common man is past endurance, out of fear and unhappiness. They stem from anger and long-seeded frustrations. When one is unhappy, one lashes out at anything for any reason. You want the world to feel your pain.

Why would anyone riot as an act of celebration? Wouldn’t happiness want to spread with acts of kindness and generosity? Why should happiness be so destructive? I can find no explanation.

The next morning dawned cold and grey. Gone was the sunshine of the weekend. The city seemed moody, as if confused by the conflict. The news of the East Coast hunkering down for one of the biggest storms possible did nothing to alleviate the nameless fears that had held me captive in my nightmares the previous night. As the day wore on, the storm began wrecking havoc along the coast. I prayed for friends and family on there, wishing them cover and warmth. I looked to Twitter for updates, hoping all was well. That was a mistake.

As great as social networks are, misinformation abounds. At times like this, for someone who is already terrified and powerless to help, too much information just feeds the fear. Then there are those clueless or callous few who just don’t know when to keep away from social networks. And there are others who are just waiting to heap scathing vitriol on such pitiable fools. Retweet after retweet, cursing each other out.

Few take the high road anymore. Few focus their abundant energies mainly on prayer and faith that those they care about will pull through. Precious few are concerned about curbing their negativity instead of putting it out there in the world in a time of crisis. In the real world, people were irritated and tense today. It is like the fog has taken a grip on our collective psyche.

My mind, it had had enough. I left work when the day was done and took a few long, deep calming breaths. I focused my thoughts on the few good interactions of the day, on good advice from a trusted colleague, on smiling compliments from another, forcing myself to forget all other unworthy exchanges. As I stepped off the bus and walked home, the mist hung low and clung to me like a cloak, threatening to wrap the dread around me once more.

Then I heard it. A joyous sound. The uninhibited laughter of a gaggle of children.

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