Category Archives: For the Love of Food

Thank you!

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When Little Princess’s world expanded from the confines of our home into the exciting world of Kindergarten, she first tasted the sweetness of friendship and the bitterness of fights.

Soon enough, she found her ‘best friend’. The girls were inseparable; however, the days when her bestie did not show up, the void was occupied by another ‘best friend’ who suited her needs for that one day.

As for us grown ups living in a virtually connected world, making friends is a mere click away.

It takes people with a singular passion for the written word to contrive an alluring world of fantasy and imagination that are skillfully woven into delicately beautiful strings of meaningful poetry, prose and stories.

And I am glad to be a proud citizen of this creative world.

It has been two wonderful years since I wrote my first post (after months of contemplation) and hit the ‘publish’ button.

As I fumbled through the expanse of the blogosphere, I found new friends who read, encouraged and paved the path for me to tread on my journey with hope and confidence.

Realizing my dream – one post at a time – has given more meaning to life as it opened doors to sweet friendship and unimaginable opportunities.

Thank you, dear friends, for your time, support and your valuable feedback.

It means the world to me!

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To the Mother with Love

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It has been more than a year since my cousin’s wedding and that dreaded phone call from Father. While I presumed that my parents were enjoying the grandeur of a big fat Indian wedding, Mother had been silently nursing a gnawing discomfort in her stomach.

By the end of the three-day celebration and after concerned relatives had packed and left, Mother’s agony pushed her to visit a doctor.

Hospitalisation in a place far from home quickly followed surgery.

Mother has always been petrified of doctors and hospitals. Whenever the situation to visit a doctor arose, she would cook up a list of excuses and if that failed she escaped into the confines of her sacred space — the kitchen — and cooked up a storm.

Entrapped in the trance of her culinary magic, we succumbed to her excuses. In hindsight, we had come to believe that Mother had a solution to all her problems — just as she always had one for ours.

Her efforts were always taken for granted until it was my turn to wear Mother’s hat.

I now know that patience is a virtue and not a boon that a new Mother is granted after the birth of her first child; that none of the objects that are strewn about after a busy morning grew legs and walked back into place and that it takes love, attention and effort to transform a house into a home.

Post her surgery and recovery, we have understood that Mother is no magic machine and like one of us, she too requires to be cared and sometimes coaxed into ensuring that she is well taken care of.

While she has learnt that her one-size-fits-all remedies might only give her more time at the hospital dreading needles and doctors, away from her favourite space — the kitchen — and to find it topsy-turvy after she makes a comeback.

After her new-found life lesson, Mother made that much-needed dental appointment. She must have been a dentist’s dream for she has quickly elevated to becoming a priority patient.

Dear Mothers, your efforts are often taken for granted as it is your children’s way of reassuring themselves that you are always there for them.

While you continue to love, fret and worry for your children even years after they have left home, it will give your children immense happiness and relief if you were to take care of yourself too.

Here is a reminder that you are a woman like no other and will always hold a special place in your children’s heart!

 

Dear Friends,

This is an extract from the article published in the Gulf News. To view the full article please click here.  Wishing your Mommy and all the lovely Mommies in the blogosphere a very happy Mother’s Day. 

 

The Conspiracy of Time Keepers

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There once was a red timepiece,

That clocked my childhood days,

The dainty golden needles,

Dancing about in circles at a leisurely unhurried pace.

 

That same red clock,

That one reliable of them all,

It’s still dainty needles have alarmingly picked up pace,

Running about in circles, as if in an endless race.

 

From the little timepieces to the Big Ben that stands tall,

From my favorite red clock to the intricate designer time piece on the wall,

These keepers of time are conspiring against human race,

For sane adults are seen hurrying about life at a frantic pace.

 

And when the screen entices the deprived mind and the frustrated soul,

Hypnotizing the eager spirit under its glowing spell,

The conspiring time keepers malevolently intervene,

Dissolving minutes into hours like a magician in a dispelling act.

 

While we spend our waking hours ruled by these time keepers, here are a few tips to outdo these conspirators,

Try easing those eyes off the enticing and exciting mirage of the virtual world and take a good look around,

The joys of real friendship, true love, innocence of a child and the sounds of nature are still to be found.

Lending a helping hand, enjoying a good laugh, a solitary walk under the stars still rejuvenates the deprived soul.

 

And what is more,

I have often noticed that these little acts of ‘real’ joy,

Force the dainty golden needles of my red clock that is locked in an eternal race,

To dance in circles at an unhurried leisurely pace.

 

 

 

When I think that I can think no more

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"We interrupt this program because we've completely run out of ideas."

I have been basking in the eerie glow of my laptop screen, my mind as blank as the glowing screen before me.

Like the taps at Cape Town, my creative tap that occasionally drips a trickle of quirky tales has – to my dismay – dried up.

I am oddly reminded of Father’s bike that used to refuse to kick start on a cold winter morning.

I panic at a fleeting thought of ‘Day Zero’ – when my creative tap would dry out for good.

I wonder if I must choose to alternate cooking on odd days and engage the even ones in keeping up the connect between the creative tap and the well that churns mundane imperfections into bizarre tales.

I give up the idea at the thought of the husband and son enjoying greasy takeaways.

I wonder if Little Princess, who, I realize, has been frighteningly occupied, could shake up the dormant creative well.

She is seen creating ‘beauty’ in her room, that, for some strange reason appears as ‘mess’ to my eyes.

I wonder if this is what the ‘generation gap’ is all about.

Could it be old age setting in?

Just before launching into a careful scrutiny of my face for lines or worse – wrinkles, we clean up the creative mess and try something safer – coloring rabbits blue and the skies pink.

Luckily, lines and crow’s feet that are official markers to aging are yet to make an appearance and realization has dawned that creativity has little to do with age.

I am back behind the blank screen, my creative connection still undone.

I am beginning to empathize with the plumber who has failed to show up even after multiple calls to mend a dripping tap. Today, I love dripping taps.

While I am off on a quest for creative inspiration, let me know what you think of this one.

Dear Friends, Wishing you all a happy Sunday.  My heartiest wishes to  all those who are celebrating their New Year.

Save the Earth! It is the only planet with chocolate….

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"The doctor said I need more calcium, so I'm switching from dark to milk chocolate."

What do you do when you know that global warming could target one of the sweetest solutions you have always counted on — that chocolate (or the cocoa plant) is at a risk of extinction in a few decades?

I decided to drown my melancholy in an entire bar of chocolate that I realised at the other side of my criminally-calorific break must have been saved up by one of my children.

Luckily, the brain had me covered with the build-up of the goodness of endorphins and serotonin that magically transformed my guilt and melancholy into an inexplicable feeling of warmth and goodness — albeit temporarily.

The word ‘chocolate’ itself feels like an invitation to joy, happiness and a reason to smile, unlike words like ‘eggplant’ that causes a certain adult and a child in my household to try hard to keep up a straight face and suffer from a sudden onset of ‘loss of appetite’ while the other child — who is still on the road to learning the tricks of the trade — is seen to scream her disapproval.

Chocolate comes wrapped in the pleasures of delicious moments that trigger sweet childhood memories.

Being the Five-Star and Dairy Milk generation of kids, my cousins and I willingly shared our clothes and sometimes even our homework but fought tooth and nail for a fair share of the rare chocolate treat that was painstakingly divided to the last millimetre.

On the bright side, it was during these rare moments that we put every apparatus in our mathematical instrument box and our math skills to good use.

Summer vacations meant freedom from school work and hovering in stealth mode near my aunt’s refrigerator trying to get our hands inside the colourful tins of chocolate that it treasured — the wrappers of which were saved away between the pages of our notebooks where both its ‘chocolatey’ scent and memory lingered on for days

Along with chocolate are coffee, potatoes, apples among many others in the global food chain that are found to be at a risk of extinction. While the company, Mars, is working on using scientific methodologies like the gene-editing technology to aid in developing plants that will be able to survive in the expected conditions, we have one more ‘sweet’ reason to do our bit in saving our home from the devastating effects of global warming.

As for me, the gnawing grief is making a comeback with the effect of the ‘happy chemicals’ waning. Now if you will excuse me, I need to grab another bar.

 

This is an extract from the publication in the Off the Cuff column of The Gulf News. For the entire article please click here.

Wishing you all a very Happy Easter!

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A Competition Called Life

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“Seize every minute of this day”

“Don’t watch the clock; do what it does. Keep going”

There is no dearth for motivation on social media. Reminder in 50s and 100s every morning is a good thing so that we put on our running shoes and throw ourselves into the breathless crowd that is racing against time to achieve set goals and targets.

On a weekend morning, we decided to seize the day treating ourselves to an early lunch followed by a visit to the shopping mall.

After clicking pictures with a robot that walked, talked, sang songs and did all that was expected of it, we took a cue from Sid and made our way to a bookstore to get our dose of food for the brain (while we seize the rest of the day).

Little Princess settles in the seating area with an improvised Peppa Pig storybook that appeared to be bigger than her and did a snort with every page turn.

Sid already had his nose in a fact finder.

It was then that we bumped into a friend who was leaving the store balancing a bag full of books. After the pleasantries, I enquired about his wife and son.

“They are at home preparing for his Olympiads” he said, “I am here to pick up some additional reference material for the KenDoku competition that is soon to follow.”

“Some books on logical thinking and the public speaking course that he takes,” he explained, “we let him play chess during his free time so a book to perfect the game too,” he finished.

I was reminded of the robot that we clicked pictures with as it had gone about perfecting all that was expected of it as the proud father gave us an account of the rigorous effort that went into preparing their son to keep pace with the pell-mell rush to stand out in the rising competition.

I looked at the husband hopelessly.

Sid spent his evening reading books, playing with friends, attempting hard to get a tennis ball across a net with a racquet – none of which qualified as academically enlightening.

Even his weekly swimming classes were not geared on getting him to swim the English Channel but to be able to save his life or another if a situation may arise.

Disappointed at being unable to exercise our bragging rights in this area of parenting, we bid him adieu after managing to lend our ear with a smiles and nods.

On our way back, I find myself questioning my ‘unambitious’ parenting ways.

Little Princess has learnt to snort.

Sid rants on about his new find – ‘Monday with the Mad Genius’ – a fact finder about Leonardo da Vinci. The ‘Salvator Mundi’ that was sold for $450.3 million has piqued his interest.

Questions and doubts that build up into a full-fledged quiz about his newly acquired knowledge ensues, leaving me fumbling and scrabbling at Google’s doorstep.

My son may be far from the mad rush of competition where children are dragged from pillar to post perfecting every task among the endless ones on offer, but I am glad that I find myself in this blissful scrabbling mess as Sid embraces childhood at his own pace – one fact finder at a time.

 

 

The Internet of Cooking

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If cooking is art then Mother is my favorite artist.

Every dish that her magical hands whipped up acquired an ethereal grace that transcended even our gluttonous ways to appear beautiful.

When I left home, armed with a book detailing Mother’s recipes that could put Era Longhi’s grocery list to shame, I assumed that Mother’s genes and the precious book were all that I needed to whip up a perfect meal.

Within three days of my cooking expedition, the smoke alarm cheered on my efforts – not once but thrice. The same recipe yielded a fresh new dish every time – the only constant was the burnt brown color.

Years of trials ( or blunders) and my not-so-smart kitchen have strengthened both my cooking abilities as well as the husband’s digestive system.

In the kitchen of the future, cooking woes will go as far as toggling between applications on your phone that manage your smart kitchen appliances making it appear as if the Autobots and the Decepticons have ‘transformed’ their ways to whip up the perfect meal while you kick up your feet after a long day.

The camera in the oven will beam you live videos of the food that is cooking.

Your smart pan screams a warning if you have added more salt than recommended causing your hungry stomach to roll in panic but will soon uplift your spirits complimenting you with a “Marvelous” after you have flipped the pancake just right.

The smart refrigerator warns you about the expiring food inside it listing recipes conforming to your taste for the usage of the same.

As if all this is not spooky enough, experts are now working on aiding communication between these smart appliances.

If cooking is aimed higher than a boiling an egg then it is best recommended that kitchen novices work on strengthening their toggling skills for the shortest way to your partner’s heart is just a smart kitchen away!

On the Other Side of the Break

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'Hope you had a good break...Welcome back!'

It is said that you can never forget how to ride a bike. Google explains that the type of memory that understands the ‘how and what’ of things or the procedural memory is responsible for this.

I cross my fingers, mutter a silent prayer and hope that registering the technique of writing a blog post too is the responsibility of the procedural memory for the fun, excitement and thrill of being amongst family and friends back home in India has kept me away from the blog for much more than I had anticipated.

Luckily, the technique of cooking three simple meals a day is one that I have still managed to remember for like any Indian family – all meetings were planned around food (all of them NOT cooked by me) and the joy of togetherness included full and happy stomachs.

When a cousin surprised us with his visit, we decided to celebrate at a South Indian restaurant that served more than a dozen varieties of starters which were relished in fervor as we chatted, laughed reminiscing old times while we carried our laden stomachs to try and retry the elaborate varieties on the main course.

My sweet-toothed sister-in-law insisted that the few sweet days in her company is sure to get sweeter with the choicest Indian sweets that begged to be relished.

As for Mother, her expression of love was served on a table laden with a variety of delicacies that only her passionate hands could magically cook up.

As I drag myself back to reality, suffering the withdrawal symptoms of a joyous break, it is evident that at the end of every happy holiday is the shock of weighing scales that tip up to unreasonable figures, clothes that have mysteriously shrunken in size and the concern that Google is unable to convince me if recollecting the technique of writing a blog post is the job of the procedural memory.

 

 

 

Chocolate-Coated Memories

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A friend who has recently moved into the UAE confessed that she allowed herself one full bar of chocolate a day. In order to appease her guilt, she relished one half in the morning and polished off the other half through the rest of the day.

Being the ‘Five Star’ and ‘Diary Milk’ generation who fought tooth and nail with our sibling for the bigger half when we just chanced to get our hands onto one, weren’t we all guilty of such sweet pleasures?

During our school vacations, my cousins, brother and I waited for the arrival of our uncles (who lived abroad). We gave them our best smiles and a cheerful welcome as our eyes strayed towards their big suitcases that would soon get a ceremonious opening,  spilling the many fantasies they contained.

The many bars of chocolate that later filled the better part of my aunt’s refrigerator led us to believe that our lucky uncles lived in a fantasy land where bars of chocolates grew on date palms.

But upon my arrival into the UAE on a hot summer afternoon and –  40 plus degrees, a new home, the new husband who politely accepted the burnt and sometimes bizarre-tasting results of cooking skills I thought I possessed (not with practice but genetically acquired), a new job and new friends later –  it became evident that only dates grew on date palms and chocolates occupied huge racks in supermarkets and they all came with a price tag attached.

As the world celebrated World Chocolate Day on July 7, 2017, let me confess that to this day, chocolates tasted best when they were sneaked out of my aunt’s refrigerator and gobbled up, one bar at a time, while hiding from the prying eyes of my brother – who sat in another dark corner doing the same.

Are you a chocolate lover?  What is your chocolate-coated memory?

 

Dear Friends, Good morning.

I have been taking some off-screen time due to conjunctivitis. I will be catching up with all your wonderful stories, that I have missed last week, over the next few days. 

Wishing you all a happy Sunday!

Published!

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Dear Friends,

I am very happy  to inform you that I am taking my passion for writing a step from my blog to the ‘Off the Cuff’ section of the Gulf News. After reading my work, the Editor has willingly agreed to publish it.

Today, the first post was published. Please read and let me know what you think. Wishing you all a happy weekend.

Organically perplexed

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

Published: 17:12 June 29, 2017Gulf News

Pranitha Menon, Special to Gulf News

Every morning, after the cows were milked and fed, my maternal grandfather would walk up to the vegetable patch that bore the fruit of his hard work and his passionately green fingers, a basket in hand. He would scrutinise every one of his beloved plants, pulling out an unwelcome weed or a half-eaten ripe vegetable — the remnants of a stray mole’s dinner after it had eaten its fill, as he carefully chose the day’s harvest.

Most of what he brought back would get a touch of grandmother’s magical fingers and become lip-smacking dishes for a hearty lunch. The rest would be dried or pickled and carefully stored in enormous jars that would join the many others in the dark confines of the attic and found their way back into the kitchen only on a rainy day.

At home, father made his way to the vegetable market every evening with a cloth bag in hand. The place would be abuzz with vendors who occupied every inch of the sidewalks, selling their day’s fresh harvest. I watched father make his choices — sometimes striking a bargain and at other times giving into their demands.

There was the old lady who had spent the day picking and bundling up fresh herbs and leaves that father bought without a second thought and almost always paid a rupee extra earning him a blessing in return.

There was the smiling coconut vendor who gave away a tiny piece of sweet white coconut meat to children who accompanied his customers, a goodwill that earned him many customers with happy, hungry children in tow.

Those were the days when ‘organic’ was confined to the Oxford dictionary and goodwill was yet to become a marketing technique.

Left in a dilemma

This week, when I was at 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 other. 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 freshly-treated sewage water.

As my not-so-green fingers and pathetic gardening abilities, that I have not inherited from my maternal grandfather, 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 faults 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 not-so-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 earning some extra bucks in the process.

Thanks to extensive marketing techniques, coupled with a drastic increase in the educated lot of customers opting for anything that claims to be produced organically, we now have even 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 apparently 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 industrialisation and inhumane marketing strategies, somebody still cares about our health.

Pranitha Menon is a freelancer based in Dubai.

http://gulfnews.com/opinion/off-cuff/organically-perplexed-1.2050884