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.
Cupcakes are endearing, cute even. One would need to have a heart of stone, nay, no heart at all, to resist their winsome twee appeal. Sure, eating them is good fun too. You have cake; you have cream, all gone in three bites or less. What’s not to like?
The notion of making them, that’s what.
In the new movie Valentine’s Day, there is a scene toward the end between Jennifer Garner and Ashton Kutcher, who play long-time best friends in the movie. It is one to which Amey and I can relate. Being married to your best friend means there is almost nothing that you cannot discuss with your other half, whether it be the dissection of a ‘moment’ or an irrational obsession with all things marshmallow.
It’s pre-Valentine’s day and a gorgeous, sunny February day in NorCal. I should be outside, revelling in the light and soaking up the sunshine. Instead I’m sitting here, glued to my computer and feverishly tapping away on the keyboard. Why? Because the marshmallow made me do it. It was aided and abetted by the chocolate.
That is how intensely good these homemade marshmallows are. If you are a sucker for these soft white melting pillows, and I am, you will be riotously giddy about how easy this recipe is and how entertaining they are to make. I haven’t had this much serious fun cooking since I made plasticine pies when I was five. There is the same sort of creative discovery and satisfaction to be found here. An intensely childlike glee takes root in you as you watch the alpine white fluff come together around a whirring whisk, which is weaving meandering furrows through it.
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?
It would be rare to see coffee in my hand. I reach for it only when I absolutely need a boost for an early morning or from a long and tiring day. It wasn’t always like this. While I never drank copious amounts, it used to be what I asked for often instead of tea. But either the beans or the processing here is different from India. And whatever the change is, it leaves me with a bitter taste, both literally and figuratively. The smell of some coffee beans brewing early in the morning can make me nauseous. I’m sorely disappointed that I can’t enjoy any and all varieties. I read somewhere that the palette changes every seven years. I do hope mine learns to like all coffee. Meanwhile I’ll stick to the tried and tested. I get my coffee from a jar bought in the Indian store.
Working where I do brings with it, among other good things, every other Friday off. Though most of my weekends these past months have involved wrestling with books filled with cost estimation, grades of soil, Modernism and the like, I’m nevertheless still thankful for these alternating long weekends. I wake up early in the morning, grab the requisite cup of coffee to help keep my eyes open and jog my brain, and hit the books with the fervent hope that they won’t hit back too hard. It’s difficult to put up much of a fight when I’m just about barely awake.
Today, the caffeine carried me through some part of the morning.Then I realized methods of project delivery were starting to leak out of my head. My early morning meant that I was hungry earlier than usual as well. Luckily, there was still some orange bread left over. While I would normally never advocate this for a meal; indeed, it’s original intention had been for an afternoon snack, I was glad to have it at hand. It meant I didn’t have to get up and futz around the stove, racking my already hurting brain about what to cook.