Category Archives: For the Love of Food

Not My Cup of Tea

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In India, a cup of tea is the most common beverage to kick-start your day.

Extensive promotions of Western-style coffee bars that have sprouted across the country luring the ‘cool’ generation with lattes and other caffeinated beverages are yet to rob a country of its love affair with a hot glass of ‘chai’.

In my family, tea is more than a ritual that you begin your day with.

It is the elixir of life itself.

The deliciously warm magic potion became a joyful addition in times of happiness, an aromatic balm that can soothe your sorrow, a faithful companion on a bored day, a welcome addition to the warmth and flavor to a plate of crispy ‘pakoras’ on a rainy day, a soulful mate fueling your thoughts in times of quiet intellect or simply because you crave for yet another cup.

It has been the essential and integral part of the rhythm of life for every member of my family – except me.

I was the Horlicks baby who had the audacity to throw up at the mere sight or aroma of my family’s favorite beverage.

I gradually got used to relatives stop midsentence an intense session of gossip and stare with their open mouths unceremoniously showcasing their tea- stained dental makeup when they heard me refuse a hot cup and chose to sip on water instead. Mother was bombarded with questions as a few handy tips were thrown in along with plotting ways to introduce me the beverage before I turned into a complete anti-tea outcast.

A few had gone a step ahead and declared that my I-don’t-drink-tea ways might even come in the way of my happy marriage, an area of research that even the acclaimed Stanford University is yet to prove – the correlation between a happy marriage and passionate drinking tea.

Luckily, my in-laws or the husband are blatantly unaware of this prophecy as they are more than happy to lend me a cup of coffee during tea times at home.

To this day, I have friends and family who don’t waste a moment to comment on my antisocial untea-friendly ways as I politely refuse a cup and stick to my choices.

Over the years, I have fine-tuned my tea making skills with variations as per what the occasion demands. I have even come to enjoy ‘the Sulaimani’ or the spiced black tea.

So if you happen to visit us at home, be sure to enjoy a steaming cup of cardamom or spiced ginger or mint tea but with a traditional filter-‘kaapi’ lover for company.

The Curse of the Indian Pancake

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My family and I are under the dangerous spiral of an enticing, aromatic spell.

Do I blame it on the deep-rooted gastronomic tendencies of my ancestors or simply my South Indian roots?

A spell that has been cast by the golden brown, wafer-thin, crispy, rightly-sour concentric spirals merged into a single perfect circle sizzled on a hot griddle, drizzled with ghee and rolled to perfection; delicious by its lonesome self or dunked in thick coconut chutney or a spicy tangy lentil-based gravy called sambar.

No, I am not referring to the French crepe or Gordon Ramsay’s glamorous spicy potato breakfast pancake but under the charm of the delicious spell, I have tasted wisdom that the most amazing things in life are simple – like the humble Indian Dosa.

For those foodie fashionistas who fuss over dairy-free, gluten-free meal – this pancake that finds its first reference in the Tamil Sangam Literature in 6th century AD, that applies the science of soaking rice and legumes overnight and then fermenting the ground batter lending to its sourness as well as breaking down the starch so that it can be readily metabolized into the body, becomes the cool and tasty answer to your hunger pangs.

For diabetics, diet-freaks and my fussy children – this good-carbohydrate-rich, lightly salted, sugar-and saturated fat-free (discount the ghee) variations of the crispy dosa is a life saver.

For the lot of you who are just too posh to cook – just accidentally pour a ladle of dosa batter (readily available at all supermarkets) onto a hot griddle, lo and behold, a meal that is high on your taste-o-meter is ready.

Could I blame my children (who have trained their taste buds to cat and flower-shaped dosas in their school snack box, appeased their hungry tummies with crispy ghee drizzled variations for breakfast, dinner, a healthy snack and occasionally for lunch too) for placing an order of a Chinese variation of the dosa at a popular Chinese restaurant, leaving the confused Asian waiter in his clumsy Chinese attire to forget to sauce his English with the usual hint of Chinese.

So, up until the Chinese come up with a duplicate of the humble Indian pancake, that has found its way out of Indian kitchens into the Oxford dictionary and elevated to the status of a star street food in Europe and Americas, my family and I (and three-quarters of Indians) will continue to stay bewitched under its mouth-watering spell and proudly call it Indian!

 

 

References : Dosa Days, The Khaleej Times 

 

 

Dearest Microwave,

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Happy 50th birthday!

I sincerely apologize that it took me more than a year of your arrival into my kitchen to thaw my paranoid mind to tapping into your efficiency and speed. But ever since I have dared to try my hand at baking, your convectional abilities have empowered me to surprise family and friends with my baking fantasies, but I wonder if the latest wheat, rye and oat cake has something to do with family members and friends doing disappearing acts from their homes when I plan to surprise them.

Last week when my cooking range failed me, I cannot thank you enough for standing by me. That morning I discovered that your radiating warmth is enough to cook up a breakfast of fluffy rice cakes and cups of hot tea under ten minutes. You are forgiven for altering the molecular structure of food in the heating process, as for a generation of humans like us who are thriving on chemically-treated vegetables and fruits, hormone-addled poultry and meat, hyper processed salty snacks – a few changes at the molecular level means nothing at all.

When President Donald Trump’s smartest advisers, Ms. Kellyanne Conway, raised concerns about microwaves spying on us, I made sure that I dressed up (at least gave up faded nightdresses that has seen better days) and sang English songs while I eyed you ( the dishwasher and the food processor) suspiciously. But the husband reassured me that no one would dare spy on our kitchen (through the microwave at least) as they would be risking their lives to ‘yeast’ poisoning and that my efforts in singing will cause them to give up spying altogether.

On your special year, I wish you more power to fill the hungry stomachs of busy women, lazy men and smart children across the world with your radiating warmth. Just in case you also spy, I also hope that your owner has the voice of a golden hen.

Yours Sincerely,

Owner

PS: I sincerely hope that no Greeting Card Giants get to read this post for that could result in ‘Microwaves Day’. This addition to the calendar might cause the companies to unanimously elect Kellyanne Conway as their brand ambassador for the ‘Microwave’ line of greeting cards! 

 

Organically Perplexed!

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'Enjoy your meal! We grow everything ourselves!'

During a visit to the supermarket, I spotted bunches of fresh green palak leaves stacked to perfection on one side with its equally-fresh ‘organic’ counterpart stacked on the next. I was left in a dilemma as to whether it was healthier to feed my family to cubes of cottage cheese simmered in blanched and pureed palak leaves that have been treated to a good healthy dose of pesticides or a crisp green batch of the same that have been treated to manure (or dung) from organic-fed cows and generously watered with fresh treated sewage water.

As my not-so-green fingers and pathetic gardening abilities forbade me from growing  my own batch of herbs, I thought that my family will be better off on a diet minus the delicious ‘palak paneer’. I instead chose a batch of perfectly-rounded, red ‘hydroponic’ variety of tomatoes. I have not bothered snooping around at Google’s doorstep trying to find fault with the ‘hydroponic’ technique of farming, as ignorance (in this case at least) is bliss.

As I glanced upon the white glistening crystals of ‘organic’ sugar, I willed my mind not to think of the unusual ‘organic’ techniques employed to give it its beautiful white sheen.

At the poultry section, I came across a variety of eggs, priced exorbitantly, that had a picture of a fat, healthy and happy hen that appeared to be smiling. Upon checking, I learnt that the ‘smiling’ hen had actually been put on a ‘vegetarian diet’ as the owner had decided to go on a mission to improve humanity’s brain function and immunity with this brand of eggs. We must applaud the owner for this creative marketing strategy and forgive the fact that this person is just by the way earning some extra bucks in the process.

Thankfully, extensive marketing techniques coupled with a drastic increase in the educated lot of customers opting for anything that claims to be produced organically, we have a new brand of bottled water that claims to be organic.

Yes, you heard it right – ORGANIC water.

There is already the Smart Water that improves brain function, Vitamin Water to boost your health and Diet Water to make you skinny.

What could be next, a new range of gluten-free water or Trans fat-free water?

Thank goodness that even in this world of ruthless industrialization and inhumane marketing strategies, somebody still cares about our health!

 

Eating Write

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A weekend afternoon saw us amoung a crowd of hungry human beings at the waiting area of a popular restaurant. The irresistible aroma of delicious food wafting in from the restaurant caused my salivary glands to drool and stomach to rumble embarrassingly as my hunger-fatigued mind transported me to my mother’s kitchen, my grandmother’s modest kitchen, and shockingly even my own kitchen.

The husband, who had to distract Sid from ogling at the happy people enjoying their meal on the other side of the glass window, looked dazed as he reminisced on a ‘tasty’ chunk of nostalgia – the ‘pani-puri’ man who skillfully dipped crispy stuffed puffs of ‘puri’ into spiced tamarind water and served a crowd of children with skillful deftness that kept none of his ‘little’ customers waiting but leaving them hungry for more. These street vendors – our childhood stars – got us literally eating out of their bare hands and often made a comeback into our thoughts when hunger pangs caused mental bloating and hallucinations.

After a long wait, we were finally showed into the restaurant and even offered a table with a view.

We are what we eat, says actor, R. Madhavan, in his talk at Radiant Wellness Conclave. Mr. Madhavan, who enrolled himself at an Austrian Wellness Institute that practiced techniques learned and used in India, explains that our stomach is our second brain. Eating healthy is much more than incorporating fruits and vegetables; eating right means ‘drinking’ your food and ‘chewing’ your water. Conditioning the lifestyle that you lead while you eat your food determines what aspect of food is absorbed into your body, as your emotions, success, and your relationships are all dependent on what you eat.

So the next time you indulge in your favorite food and worry about your widening waistline, please remind yourself to chew your food 40 times until your brain short circuits with the exercise and signals you to stop eating or simply make sure that the next time you are at your favorite restaurant, you are given a table with a view – a view of hungry humans ogling at you treating your taste buds to the culinary best.