Of Blah-ness, An Anniversary, A Birthday, Books, And Bubboo

25 Feb

Life has been quite blah for some time now. There hasn’t been anything exciting happening, except for Bubboo’s smiles and chatter. I am not complaining – I love being Bubboo’s mother – but sometimes it feels as if my days are revolving only around the changing of nappies and dresses and wiping up spit and changing diapers. I try to go for a 20-minute walk once a day, but on some days, even that is not possible. I try to whip up quick meals in the kitchen whenever possible. Any free time is spent in reading or taking a long shower. Everything seems very blah, though. I am busy, yet not busy. I don’t really seem to have anything to do. It has been ages since I went out leisurely with the OH, ate out, explored the city, or just talked to him without time constraints. The fact that the OH has been super busy at work hasn’t helped one bit.

To top it, Bubboo has been sick. She is recovering from a bad cold and cough, and has been extremely cranky. Children’s illnesses take a toll on their parents, especially when they are too young to articulate their aches and pains, and this illness has taken its toll on us, too. I seem to have caught the bug as well, and a sore throat and running nose have made me feel even blah-er lately.

Our anniversary came and went in January. The OH was flying to Delhi the very same day, and we didn’t get the opportunity to do anything special. The same was the case with my birthday last week. Plans for a relaxed lunch or dinner outside didn’t work out, and the day just went by routinely.

The last weekend saw me splurging on some books, mostly new authors, some interesting titles that piqued my curiosity. I ended up buying a few pre-loved books on a lark, without reading any sort of reviews about them. Then, the OH’s late anniversary-cum-birthday gift arrived, as a surprise – another lot of books from my TBR list – which I had been hunting for since forever. He knew the names and had asked his cousin in the US of A to get them for me. She landed in India over the weekend, and I was surprised to be handed a bag full of books!

In the midst of all the blah-ness, such little things have been the bright spots in life, for sure.

I now have a whole lot of interesting-looking stuff to look forward to reading.

Here’s hoping these lovelies help me ward off the feeling of blah-ness soon…

Just Read

23 Feb

French Milk – Lucy Knisley

I read Lucy Knisley’s Relish: My Life In The Kitchen last year and quite enjoyed it. It is one of the very few graphic books I have read. When I got to know about another of the author’s graphic books, French Milk, I wanted to read it immediately. The in-house Santa complied with my wishes, and I recently received the book as a part of my birthday gift. I finished reading it in a day – flat! Sadly, it turned out to be an utter disappointment.

French Milk can be considered as a food-cum-travel memoir, in the graphic form. It is a graphic journal detailing all that the author and her mother did when they visited Paris for a month, on a holiday, when she was an adolescent. Many readers have told me that this book is the best by the author, that it speaks of mother-daughter bonding in a very beautiful way, but it just wasn’t my cup of tea. The author came across as a whiny, spoilt brat, smoking and drinking and shopping all the time, missing the boyfriend that she had left back at home. Yes, the mother and daughter did visit some lovely places and buy some gorgeous things, which made me crave to visit Paris, too. Beyond that, though, the book seemed to lack any depth. It reminded me of the days Amma and me used to spend exploring Ahmedabad, but I didn’t see any real mother-daughter bonding happening. The travel part of the book is good, but it  is not a great memoir, in my humble opinion. That made the book only an average read for me, in spite of the rather high expectations with which I picked it up. Of course, that could be just me! So, don’t hesitate to give this book a try if you love the genre – you might be surprised!

The Caliph’s House – Tahir Shah

I had been wanting to read Tahir Shah’s The Caliph’s House for the longest time ever. I finally got my hands on an e-copy recently, at a bargain price, much to my glee. The book didn’t disappoint totally, but it wasn’t a great read either.

The Caliph’s House is about the author’s (mis)adventures in Morocco, where he buys a house on what seems like a whim and takes his family to. The house, called the Caliph’s house or Dar Khalifa, is a beautiful, sprawling property, but there seem to be many problems therein. First of all, there are the jinns. Then, there is the huge task of getting a series of never-ending renovations done. Then, there’s the task of adjusting to the local customs and traditions, and learning to make a place in the hearts of the locals. All of this made for an interesting read, for sure. Tahir Shah is witty and humorous, and I enjoyed reading the book.

That said, the book seemed to lack depth. The author seemed to have no real interest in learning about the customs of the people living alongside him, in the same area. He seemed to do a bit of sight-seeing, but that too looked as if done without any love. His decision to move to Morocco too seems hurried, without a detailed thought process behind it. His wife and two young children seemed to face so many hassles because of this hasty decision, and the wife’s opinion seems to have hardly been considered. But then, to each his own. I don’t have any right to go judging the author’s life decisions!

This book falls into the liked-it-but-didn’t-really-love-it genre for me. Maybe you’d like it more than I did?

Have you read any/both of these books? What did you think about it/them?

What are you reading at the moment?

The One In Which I Learn How To Make Gobi Manchurian

20 Feb

These days, I see cauliflowers wherever I go. Big white heads of them, with chunky florets. Almost always, I cannot resist bringing home a couple of them. I love eating cauliflower, but know of just one or two recipes in which I can use them. In the winter months, these few recipes are repeated so often that the OH cries out of boredom. :)

Last weekend, when I again arrived with a huge cauliflower from the market, there was a cry of ‘Not again!’ from the OH. A prompt decision was made to learn more recipes using cauliflowers. The first thing I wanted to try out was gobi manchurian, a hot favourite with the husband and I in restaurants. Many recipes were referred to, and I zeroed in on this one. Using this recipe as the base, I made a few changes of my own. I gathered all the ingredients needed, and got ready to experiment. The result turned out to be wonderfully tasty!

 

Here’s the final recipe I used:

Ingredients (for 2 people):

15-20 large florets of cauliflower

3/4 cup of maida

1/2 cup of cornflour

Salt to taste

Red chilli powder to taste

Oil for frying

For the gravy:

1 tablespoon cornflour

2 tablespoons of tomato ketchup

2 tablespoons of green chilli sauce

1 tablespoon of soya sauce

1/2 cup water

2 onions, finely chopped

A 1-inch long piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped

Coriander, finely chopped, for garnish

4-5 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped

Salt to taste

2 tablespoons of oil

Red chilli powder to taste (optional)

Method:

For the manchurian balls:

1. Mix together the maida, cornflour, salt and red chilli powder to taste. Add enough water to make a paste that is neither too thick nor too thin.

2. Blanch the cauliflower in boiling salted water for about 10 minutes. Drain out all the water. Pour cold water over the florets and drain it out too. Keep aside.

3. Heat the oil in a deep-bottomed pan or kadhai.

4. Dip the cauliflower florets in the maida-cornflour paste. Fry them in the hot oil, one at a time. Keep aside.

For the sauce:

1. Heat the oil in a pan. Add the chopped ginger, garlic and onions. Fry for a few minutes till the raw smell goes away.

2. Mix the cornflour, water, green chilli sauce, soya sauce, tomato ketchup, salt to taste (be careful with the salt, as soya sauce contains salt too), and red chilli powder to taste (if using).

3. When the onions are cooked, add the cornflour and sauce paste to the pan. Cook for a while, till the sauce reaches the desired consistency. If required, add more water.

4. At this stage, add the cauliflower manchurian balls to the gravy. Let everything cook together for about 5 minutes on a low flame.

5. Garnish with finely chopped coriander leaves. Serve hot, with tomato ketchup.

How do you like your cauliflower? I’m all ears! Please do share some recipes!

Just Read

16 Feb

Bet Your Bottom Dollar – Karin Gillespie

Elizabeth, Mavis and Attalee are three friends who run the show at The Bottom Dollar Emporium in Cayboo Creek, South Carolina. The emporium’s future – and that of the three friends, too – is threatened when a new, fancy dollar store opens up in town. Bet Your Bottom Dollar is about Elizabeth’s attempts to save the emporium, and a lot about the happenings in her personal life as well.

The premise of the book is cute, yes. The book is full of Southern charm, yes. I was disappointed, though. The storyline is extremely dramatic, very Bollywood-ish, and highly predictable. I felt like I was reading the script of a typical commercial Hindi movie.

I am not sure if I will read the other books in the Bottom Dollar series, either.

Francesca’s Kitchen – Peter Pezzelli

A typical Italian grandmother, Francesca is feeling at a loose end. Her children have grown up and left home, and she no longer feels needed. She is the kind of person who needs to be needed by someone. When she sees single mother Loretta’s advertisement for a part-time nanny for her two kids, Francesca applies for the job, going against the advice of her friends. What happens after Francesca starts caring for Will and Penny, Loretta’s two children, makes up the story of Francesca’s Kitchen.

I picked up the book because the storyline sounded rather cute (something I always end up doing!), but was utterly disappointed. Will and Adam are cute, Francesca is overbearing but loveable, and fiercely independent Loretta is sweet, and the descriptions of the food that Francesca cooks are gorgeous, but the story is oh-so-predictable. In fact, it felt like watching a popular Hindi movie, again. The book underwhelmed me.

The other books by the author have charming premises, too. I am definitely curious to pick them up.

Teenage Revisited

11 Feb

When I was a teenager, I used to love ankle-length socks. I used to think they were classy and extremely stylish, but I never had any. My parents’ idea of socks were the white ones that came with the school uniform, long, stretchy ones that came to an end just below the knee. I wasn’t really a sock lover, and am not one even now – I am more of a barefoot kind of person. And then, being the fat, pimply, bespectacled teenager that I was, I was not supremely confident of my abilities to carry off something so beautiful. So it happened that I never got a chance to wear these socks.

On his recent work trip to the US of A, my brother-in-law picked up a few pairs of ankle-length socks for me, with bright colours and bold patterns. ‘I didn’t know what to get for you, so I got these,’ he told me sheepishly. I couldn’t have been more elated. The socks were worn immediately, and admired. Gone is the surly teenager – this woman now loves bold colours and doesn’t mind wearing the socks. I just love the spot of colour that they add to my life. I still feel these socks look chic.

Now, the socks get worn even when the day is not so chilly, just for the fun of it. Often, mother and daughter are seen sporting similar socks and relaxing, lying side by side.

 

Look At What Just Arrived From Delhi…

7 Feb

… with the OH, who was away on a work trip.

Delhi carrots and black carrots…

…cape gooseberries or ‘rasbhari’ or physalis peruviana

… and paneer, of course.

I am thrilled at the riot of colours in my kitchen today, and am wondering away at the myriad cooking options that these new foods have opened up to me.

Ideas, please?

Am I mom enough?

3 Feb

This is so eerily similar to what I want for Bubboo, I had to post it here. It is as if the author took a peek into my brain before she wrote this. Beautifully put.

**************************

It’s so tempting to get riled up by the Mommy Wars, isn’t it? The Time magazine cover story about extreme parenting, Are You Mom Enough?, featuring a beautiful mother in skinny jeans nursing her preschool-aged son, is infamous by now. It made me, along with the rest of the Internet, explode with righteous indignation. Mom enough? How dare they! This isn’t a contest! But, wait … what if it is? And I don’t even own skinny jeans!

The story also made me think about what I wanted to teach Andrew—I mean really teach him. I’m not talking about the trendy must-dos that crop up each year about feeding and sleeping and discipline, insecurity porn concocted just in time to fill a fresh generation of parents with self-doubt. No, I’m talking about the things that I want to impart in average, totally inextreme moments, when my breasts are covered and my skinny jeans are in the wash.

Here’s my wish list.

I hope I raise a child who says “thank you” to the bus driver when he gets off the bus, “please” to the waiter taking his order at the restaurant, and holds the elevator doors when someone’s rushing to get in.

I hope I raise a child who loses graciously and wins without bragging. I hope he learns that disappointments are fleeting and so are triumphs, and if he comes home at night to people who love him, neither one matter. Nobody is keeping score, except sometimes on Facebook.

I hope I raise a child who is kind to old people.

I hope I raise a child who realizes that life is unfair: Some people are born rich or gorgeous. Some people really are handed things that they don’t deserve. Some people luck into jobs or wealth that they don’t earn. Tough.

I hope I raise a child who gets what he wants just often enough to keep him optimistic but not enough to make him spoiled.

I hope I raise a child who knows that he’s loved and special but that he’s not the center of the universe and never, ever will be.

I hope I raise a child who will stick up for a kid who’s being bullied on the playground. I also hope I raise a child who, if he’s the one being bullied, fights back. Hard. Oh, and if he’s the bully? I hope he realizes that his mother, who once wore brown plastic glasses and read the phonebook on the school bus, will cause him more pain than a bully ever could.

I hope I raise a child who relishes life’s tiny pleasures—whether it’s a piece of music, or the color of a gorgeous flower, or Chinese takeout on a rainy Sunday night.

I hope I raise a child who is open-minded and curious about the world without being reckless.

I hope I raise a child who doesn’t need to affirm his self-worth through bigotry, snobbery, materialism, or violence.

I hope I raise a child who likes to read.

I hope I raise a child who is courageous when sick and grateful when healthy.

I hope I raise a child who begins and ends all relationships straightforwardly and honorably.

I hope I raise a child who can spot superficiality and artifice from a mile away and spends his time with people and things that feel authentic to him.

I hope I raise a child who makes quality friends and keeps them.

I hope I raise a child who realizes that his parents are flawed but loves them anyway.

And I hope that if my child turns out to be a colossal screw-up, I take it in stride. I hope I remember that he’s his own person, and there’s only so much I can do. He is not an appendage to be dangled from my breasts on the cover of a magazine, his success is not my ego’s accessory, and I am not Super Mom.

I hope for all of these things, but I know this: None of these wishes has a thing to do with how I feed him or sleep-train him or god-knows-what-else him. Which is how I know that these fabricated “wars” are phony every step of the way. I do not need the expensive stroller. I do not need to go into mourning if my “sleep-training method” is actually a “prayer ritual” that involves tiptoeing around the house in the dark. This is not a test. It’s a game called Extreme Parenting, and you can’t lose if you don’t play. And, really, why would you play? You have children to raise.

The Food Tag

31 Jan

Vidya‘s foodie tag has been doing the rounds on blogosphere, and I have had myself a fun time reading all the answers. I have been sorely tempted to do the tag myself, considering that it brings back many beautiful foodie memories.

So, here goes:

1. What is the first dish that you cooked?

Masala dosa. I was in college when I started cooking whole-heartedly. I was worried about how it would turn out, but it was pretty decent. Tasty, even.

2. What is the first dish that you cooked for your better half? (If you are not married, you can tell us what you are planning to cook for him/her)?

The OH and his family had come to Ahmedabad for the typical arranged-marriage girl-seeing ceremony. I remember I made jeera rice and tadka dal for them. It was appreciated. :)

3. Which food were you reserved to try first but then liked later it since you acquired the taste?

Bitter gourd. I used to hate it, once upon a time, but started liking it after getting wedded to the OH.

The same goes for fruits, fruit juices, rasam rice and pongal. All of these were ‘sick people’s food’ for me when I was single, and I began appreciating their nuances after the OH entered my life.

4. What is your comfort food?

Plain rice and dal tadka, Maggi noodles, rasam rice, vegetable khichdi or phulkas and aloo sabzi.

5. Which dish of yours you like the best?

Pani poori, dal tadka, bread pizzas and sandwiches.

6. Which dish of yours your family likes the best?

The OH loves my lemon rasam and beans curry, pani poori, lemon aval, grilled sandwiches, poori saagu, pongal and bread pizzas.

7. What is your favorite street food?

Most chaats, especially of the North Indian variety.

8. Tell us about any of your kitchen disaster story.

I once made keerai kootu with urad dal (instead of moong dal) and sambar with chana dal (instead of toor dal). Needless to say, they were uneatable.

9. Any one or two food confessions ;-) ;-)

I love vegetarian Italian fare, especially when it is made with a few, simple and fresh ingredients.

I am not a big fan of processed stuff, but I make an exception for Maggi noodles some times.

I get this immense craving for Chinese fare every once in a while, but don’t get to eat it very often. The OH hates Chinese food, so I usually end up with no company for a Chinese meal outside.

10. Apart from basic stuff, like milk, yogurt, veggies what you have in your fridge or in pantry? (Name any 3 items)

Amul cheese cubes

Tomato-onion chutney for dosas

Amul butter

11. Any food related or cooking resolutions for this year?

This is not a resolution, but something I try to follow every year – To try out as many new dishes as possible, and to learn to make as many new dishes as I can at home.

12. In our custom when you goto Kasi, you need to give up one of your favorite veggie and fruit. So you cannot eat that veggie or fruit from then on. Which one you would you give up? (It should be your favorite one)

I could never do that. My heart wouldn’t be in it, even if I did.

13. You need to prepare a 3 course meal for a party? What dishes will be there in your menu?

Sev poori/grilled mushrooms with soup from a packet (I am no good at making soups myself)

Aloo sabzi, dal tadka and rice/lemon rasam, beans curry and rice/onion sambar, beans curry and rice

Curd rice with a garnish of mustard seeds, green chillies, curry leaves and pomegranate seeds

Store-bought gulab jamuns/ice cream

I like to play safe when there are guests over, you see? :)

If this tag interests you and you haven’t taken it up already, please feel free to do so!

Just Read

29 Jan

The Hour Of The Goddess – Chitrita Banerji

I recently read Chitrita Banerji’s Eating India: An Odyssey Into The Food And Culture Of The Land Of Spices, and loved it. I didn’t waste any time in picking up another foodie memoir by the author, The Hour Of The Goddess. This one, too, didn’t disappoint.

The Hour Of The Goddess is all about the author’s growing-up years in Calcutta and the foods she grew up with. It is more personal than Eating India, and a delight to read. Well-written and full of warmth, this slim book took me into the homes of Calcutta, and made me crave to visit the place and eat the foods that the author writes about.

Recommended? Definitely.

The Dirty Life – Kristin Kimball

Kristin Kimball’s The Dirty Life was a book that I picked up without reading many reviews, on a whim, because the premise sounded very interesting. I am happy to say I enjoyed the book a lot.

Kristin was a New York city journalist, stuck in her modern city ways. When her job took her to the countryside to meet an organic farmer named Mark for a story, little did she know that life, as she knew it, was about to end soon. Kristin fell in love with Mark, and with the concept of organic farming as well. Before she knew it, she found herself quitting her job and setting off with Mark on a search for a perfect piece of land to start their very own organic farm. They found a plot that Mark loves, called Essex, and decided to set up there. Was Kristin able to adjust to life on a farm, after having lived in a city for so long? Did the wild-willed Mark and Kristin really find love, and were they able to build a good life together? To know what happened next, you have to read the book.

I loved the way the author writes, with a sincere voice. Her story, with all its highs and lows, rings true and strikes a chord in your heart. The descriptions of food and farming are charming, but the book made it very clear to me that farming is definitely not for the faint-hearted. At least, not the kind of organic farming that the author writes about in the book.

The Dirty Life was an interesting read for me, though I wouldn’t really call it a light read. If you are a lover of food and farm memoirs, go for it!

The New Look

27 Jan

While most of India was busy yesterday watching Narendra Modi and Barack Obama at the Republic Day parade, one little girl was busy getting her ears pierced.

IMG-20150127-WA0005

Yes, folks, Bubboo acquired her first set of earrings yesterday. :-)

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