Tag: Food

Make Sandige While The Sun Shines

Make Sandige While The Sun Shines

Isn’t that an awesome headline?

It struck me while I was making sandige while the sun shone. :P Ok pardon my lameness, I’m very happy because we just made sandige. It’s something that always fills me with glee!


When I was a school-going child, summer holidays meant it was time to wake up early and put sandige. (I say “put” sandige and not “make” sandige because in Kannada, it is sandige “haakodu.” Not sandige “maadodu.”)

My paati would do the initial setting up (which is actually “making” the sandige with all the ingredients), and then my mom, sister, my friends and I would go to the sunniest terrace and put sandige. It happened just once a year and the novelty of it excited all of us.

First of all, let me tell you what sandige is.

Sandige
(san-di-gay   |   sʌn – dɪ – geɪ) 

noun
plural: sandige

  1. a condiment usually made from rice or puffed rice (aralu puri) or tapioca pearls/sabo (sabakki/sabudana). To be fried and consumed, usually as an accompaniment with rice, rasam and sambar. Tastes heavenly with curd rice too.

And here is how you pronounce it.

I’m going to give you a tutorial to make aralu sandige. It is just one of the few forms of sandige, perhaps the tastiest, only if made right. Many people make it, but it usually becomes too hard / too spicy / too horrible. So here’s the right way of going about it. My mom’s recipe can’t go wrong, unless you really have no clue able what you’re doing!

How to make Aralu Sandige

Step 1: Buy aralu puri

This is aralu puri. Around 10 litres of aralu puri is good to make your sandige last a few months (depending on how often you eat it). Don’t eat it too often because you have to fry it in oil to consume it.

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Step 2: Separate the batta from the aralu puri

Aralu puri usually has a lot of batta in it. Batta is basically unpuffed rice. It is brown, sharp and inedible. It takes around 4-5 hours for three people to separate batta from puri (10 litres), one by one. Try to buy aralu puri that has already been cleaned to save you some back-breaking labour.

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Step 3: Gather all ingredients

I’ve listed the ingredients you require for 10 litres.

  • 10 litres cleaned aralu puri
  • 100 g green chilly
  • 1 handful of kothamri (coriander)
  • 100 g overnight soaked and cooked sabakki (sabudana / sago) (This is used mainly to bind the loose ingredients together)
  • Salt to taste
  • One big lemon (Optional)

You’ll need two big tubs/vessels. One to soak the aralu puri in water and one to mix all ingredients.

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Step 4: Dip aralu puri in water

In this step, you are cleaning the puri and also soaking it. You have to take it out of the water immediately (within five seconds) so that it doesn’t get too wet. So don’t put an entire 10 litre pile into a big vessel of water. The puri will get shrink and get ruined. Do it bit by bit.

Step 5: To the wet aralu puri, add all other ingredients

  • Chop chillies and coriander finely. You could even grind them.
  • The sabakki has to be soaked the previous night and boiled in the morning, so that it is soft and slightly sticky. It is an ingredient that holds the otherwise loose aralu puri together.
  • One option is to squeeze a lemon into the mix so that it doesn’t get too sticky.
  • Taste the mix and see if it suits your taste buds. It usually tastes E.P.I.C.

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Step 6: Gather everything you need to put sandige on the terrace

You’ll need

  • The sandige mix
  • A circular mould to put the sandige with. The lid of a pickle jar will do. Has to be around the size of your palm and flattish
  • A bowl of buttermilk, to dip your hand and the mould in
  • Plastic sheets to put the sandige on. Even a fresh panchey / veshti / dhoti will work.
  • Some rocks to use as paperweight to hold the sheets down.
  • A sunny terrace
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You’ll never find non-sleepy faces while putting sandige. It’s an early Sunday morning!

Step 7: Start putting the sandige

This is the most fun part of putting sandige. Pick up some aralu puri that you mixed, put it in the mould so that it is flat and tap it on the sheet. When it falls down in that exact same shape and stays together, it is just so gratifying! Check this.

Step 8: Remember to eat some as you’re making it

I think sandige tastes best best when you’re putting it. It’s better than when you fry it and eat it. It is also healthier! I love it like this.

Step 9: Leave it on the terrace to dry

Once you’re done putting sandige in neat lines, leave it out for the rest of the day to dry. The top layer will dry first, while the underside will be wet. Once the top portion is sufficiently dry (might take a whole day), turn it upside down and let the other side dry.

Put it out on the terrace everyday for around a week to dry it thoroughly. Bring it back inside every evening. You don’t want to leave it out all night and let all sorts of insects eat it.

It must dry completely before you “store it in a cool dry place.” If it is wet, it might catch fungus and rot. So check it properly after a week before you store it.

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Step 10: Fry it, eat it and enjoy it

Next time you’re eating rasam rice, sambar rice, curd rice or bisibelebath, bring out the sandige, fry it and eat it.

To fry it you have to dip it in boiling oil for hardly ten seconds. the hard dried up sandige fluffs up when you fry it. It becomes gorgeously crunchy! It goes amazingly well with sambar rice or bisibelebath.

Oh I’m craving for some right now.

Let me go make me some sandige.

Meanwhile, you go make some sandige while the sun shines!

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How to make epic chakkli like my mom

How to make epic chakkli like my mom

As you may all know, today is Gokulashtami / Krishna Jayanti. It’s the grandest festival in my house and we all love it; “we” being my neighbours, my friends, cousins, colleagues, random strangers who visit the house during the festival, etc. I doubt the excitement is because Krishna was born. I mean, it is, to an extent. But a lot more excitement is because of all the thindi. My mom makes chakkli, kodbale, muchchoray, tengol, kadlekai mithai, kobri mithai, kadlekai unde, puri unde, rave unde, besan laadu, chigli and so many other thindi items with weird names. She makes this every year without fail and in HUGE quantities.

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Krishna overdose

We give all our neighbours, friends and colleagues the thindies on the day of Gokulashtami. And it’s not just anyone making the thindi. It’s my mom and her best friend, Prema aunty. They’re out-and-out pros! Anyone who smells the chakkli-making immediately pops into my house for a bite. Uttara, who hadn’t come home for some six months (although she lives next door) came home yesterday, secretly broke her fast and ate a piece of chakkli. Such is the effect of the chakkli frying smell.

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Crunchy chakklies

This year, I thought I’ll help my mom out a bit. I decided to make chakkli. And I decided to write the recipe, just for fun. The mess around the house, the atta flying all over the kitchen, boxes of thindi on the dining table, the aroma of elakki, sugar, ginger, and the spicy warmth of kodbaley and tengol really added to my festive spirit.

So here’s how you go about making chakkli.

1. Ask your mom if you can help. She might usually turn you away because you’re no good. But this year, Prema aunty can’t make it because she has baby-sitting duties. So my mom gladly obliged.

2. Watch and learn. My mom works fast and she’s not the most patient person in the world. If you don’t get it right ten times, she’s gonna ask you to go away. So learn quick.

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The mould and shaping plates you need to make chakkli and other confectionaries

3. You need akki (rice), uddin bele (black gram) in a 4:1 proportion. Wash them, dry them, roast them and take them to the guy who makes it aa powder. Flour mill guy. “Bees kondu banni,” says my mom.

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The beesing guy

4. After that, add salt to taste, heat some oil and add that too.

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Before kneading

5. Add water, some hing, and knead it.

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While kneading

6. You need to smack it hard before you put it in the mould and squeeze it. You gotta smack it like you mean it. Don’t do it half-heartedly because otherwise, the chakkli will break while you’re squeezing it.

7. After that, slowly squeeze it into the chakkli shape. Make the hole in the centre big so that your chakkli looks big. (Tip: Avoid making the circular shape while squeezing. Squeeze out a straight line first and then make the shape with your fingers. The dough is delicate, so be careful.)

8. Slowly put the uncooked chakkli into pre-heated oil and let it fry until you get the desired colour.

9. Don’t eat it until you give it to Krishna for pooja. (You can skip this step if you believe that God resides in you.) I had a conversation with my mom regarding this and it went like this.

Me: Why do we make thindi for Gokulashtami?

Mom: Because Krishna was a thindi potha. Haven’t you heard all songs go, “I’ll give you that, come here. I’ll give you this, come here.”

Me: So he accepted a lot of bribes? Yeah, I think I’ve heard that. Krishna was a manipulative person and he accepted bribes. He was corrupt. Blah blah blah.

Mom: Before you say anything else, know that Krishna resides in you. So, everything you’re calling him, you are those things too.

Later…

Mom catches me eating all the thindies, bit by bit.

Mom: Swathi! You’re not supposed to eat it you mental girl!

Me: But the Krishna in me was hungry and needed the food. He is tempted easily and he couldn’t control himself.

Mom: Sighhhh

#Sorry

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Epic chakklies in the making

11. Anyway, after the pooja, you’re done! Eat it. Devour it. Try and share it.

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All the thindies

I love how yesterday went. My mum said, apparently when Krishna was born, it rained heavily with no prior warning. That’s exactly what happened yesterday. It poured in the afternoon on a REALLY hot day.

And I also went and gave some cows a few bananas.

Also, Nuvena surprised me today by turning up outside my house after a visit to Iskon.

It was such a happy, productive, festive and Krishna-ish day! :)

I hope many more youngsters like me don’t dis festivals just because religion has a role to play in it, and it’s “cool” to be agnostic or atheist or whatever. Just go with the flow, take what comes at you with an open mind, celebrate the festival without causing anyone harm and be happy!

Happy Gokulashtami! :)

Must stop making Disney movies out of everything in my head

A few years ago, I saw a meme that said, “When you see something that disgusts you, say, a worm or a lizard, and you want to kill it, just pause and make a Disney movie in your head from its point of view.” Or something on those lines. And for some godforsaken reason, that meme has remained etched in my head from that day.

Sheepie :)
Sheepie :)

Initially, I didn’t think of it much. But it was one of those thoughts that become louder and louder as years pass by. Now, it’s just messed my mind up badly. I think from every animal’s point of view, and since it’s a Disney movie in my head, everything is hopelessly cute, even a snake, even a worm. Every animal has a family, a child with an adorable baby voice and big eyes, waiting for Daddy Worm to come home. To give you a perspective, I make a Finding Nemo movie out of every animal’s life.

Looking at it from this point of view has made me think a hundred times before doing anything. Before I sit on the ground, I look for ants to make sure there are none. Before I pour water into a plant, I make sure there aren’t any catterpillars on it. If there’s a spider web in my room, I let it be. If a rat scuttles by me, I don’t mind. If a mosquito bites me, I le- ok no, mosquitoes gotta die. Every single one of them.

Anyway, it’s all right with me that I don’t want to cause harm to these beings. But what’s getting to me is that if I harm some living thing by mistake, I won’t hear the end of it from my brain. My mind tortures me about it for hours. The other day, I was doing the dishes, and just as a poured water into the sink, I noticed a small insect in the sink and before I could do anything, it got washed away and went right through the drain. I got into its head for ten seconds, I got flushed down a dirty black pipe. I grew depressed and shed a tear for it. Another time, I injured a big black ant by mistake and broke one of its legs. Immediately, I went into the ant’s head and saw a huge, monstrous me, out to finish the world, raising its hand and breaking its leg.

Clearly, I don’t know where to draw the line.

For instance, when the beef ban was announced in Maharashtra, I was celebrating like never before. But then, I read this article yesterday about how the economy of the country will be affected and how many people will be left unemployed. On the other hand, I read this article about how eating less meat is the best way to tackle climate change and saw this effective campaign by models in China fighting for animal rights. After reading these, I didn’t know what to think.

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Sheep in the mountains

There are many other things that add to this mind-boggled state of mine. My colleague, Vivian, was once telling me about sheep and cattle in the Himalayas, and how the shepherds there make a living from their products. When they’re alive, they provide milk, and subsequent milk products, they help control the landscape by grazing excessive vegetation. When they’re dead, their meat is eaten, their wool is used to make warm clothes, their skin is used to make leather, their horns are used for something else. Every body part of the dead animal helps the shepherd make a living. And they’re all well taken care of, as I saw for myself.

I’ve even read a lot of James Herriot, who was a countryside vet. He wrote in one of his books about how a few farmers would weep to send their ageing cattle to slaughterhouses because they were too attached to the animals. This made me realise that a lot of these people don’t want to kill and use these animals just for the heck of it, but they have to make a living out of it.

So I’m left in a very confused state. Is it OK and ethical to breed them, take good care of them and then kill them after they’ve had a good life? Or should I get into the animal’s head and be shocked at wtf is going on when I’m being taken to the slaughterhouse? I’d be enraged if I was the animal and not having my Right to Life. But I’d be equally upset if I was a broke farmer, who couldn’t put bread (or meat) on the table.

One thought that came to my mind when I read the above mentioned article about the beef ban was that it’s ok to have beef. But it’s NOT ok to slaughter them unethically, illegally and heartlessly.

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#LifeSucksAndThenYouDie

My friend, Sanjana, once did a documentary of illegal cow slaughter in Chennai. Slaughterhouses are supposed to follow a process that involves sedating the animals and then killing them. But none of that happens in most of these butcher shops. They just take the animal to the backyard and chop it’s head off with a blunt knife and most times, the head doesn’t even get chopped off fully. I do not want to be inside that cow’s head, or outside it. Unfortunately, Sanjana witnessed this first hand and was really upset for weeks together.

As you can see, this topic has really put me in a fix and I sure am glad that I’m neither an animal farmer nor someone who makes the rules. Even as a mere onlooker, I’m muddled up.

I’m not arguing for vegetarianism or against meat-eating. That’s a completely different topic. But I just had to put these confused thoughts down.

I wish my mind would stop wandering and entering other being’s heads. Sigh.

Maggi can take a hike

You know, I’m so glad about the way I’ve been brought up. This post might seem like a tribute to myself, but it’s every bit a tribute to my parents for having brought me up so perfectly. I’m not saying I’m perfect (although I might be), but that my upbringing has been perfect.

Feeling suicidal
Feeling suicidal?

In fact, this post is stemming from all the ruckus that Maggi has created. And then Cerelac, and then Haldirams and whatever else. Honestly, I’ve lost track because it doesn’t make a bit of a difference to me.

A few weeks ago, I went and bought myself a box of Kellogg’s Chocos. As I ate it, I giggled and revelled in the luxury I felt. It was probably the third box of Chocos I’d bought in 24 years of my life. I’d always thought it too expensive to ask my parents to buy it. Not like we’re poor people, but I’ve been taught to spend only where necessary. So, I’d always thought of Chocos as a spoilt child’s snack. In fact, when I was around 12, I did ask my mother for it once. She bought it. But I forgot all about it, until a year later, when I found a jar of soggy Chocos and threw it away. Maybe it was out of guilt, but I waited literally 12 years to buy the next box, with my own money.

The thing is, ever since I was a baby, my parents have thought a thousand times about buying packaged food. I was never given Cerelac as a baby. I was instead fed vegetables and fruits or just thuppa anna (plain rice with ghee and salt). I think the only packaged food I was spoilt with was Bournvita.

So, thanks to being brought up with such food habits, I grew up loving rice, rasam, ghee, salt, milk, curd and other home-made things. You might think it strange, but I wasn’t even introduced to cheese until I was old enough to go out and dine at a restaurant with my friends.

That’s when pizzas, burgers and sandwiches entered my life. I was perhaps 13 or 14. At first, I didn’t really like the taste of white sauce pasta, or cheese omlettes. It was all so bland. But then the taste grew on me and I began to appreciate it. Thankfully, though, my taste buds were already accustomed to homely tastes and I let fast food remain an occasional thing.

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Epicness

Last week, my sister and I ordered pizza, and both of us laughed at the fact that it was probably the third time in life we were ordering pizza. We never order anything home. Nothing tastes better than my mom’s rasam rice with kothambri soppu at the end of the day. And no meal is ever complete without curd rice.

So with a lifestyle like this, I was shocked to see so many of my friends worried about the Maggi ban. Maggi has been a rarity in my house, compared to most households that I know. I liked the taste, but seldom ate it. Same with fried food like chips, fries and other things. I try to avoid them as much as I can. I can’t remember the last time I voluntarily bought a packet of Lays or Kurkure. Ew!

With such good habits, it’s not difficult at all to stay thin and healthy. I feel bad when I see so many friends just gorging on unhealthy food, ordering in pizza every other night, drinking bottles and bottles of alcohol and bloating up. Fat is not nice, not because it’s socially unacceptable or something. It’s just unhealthy.

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I’m not saying I’m the epitome of good habits. I have bad habits like biting my nails incessantly, scratching my skin too much to leave marks behind. (Sigh.) I also have my share of alcohol, but I don’t overdo things, as my parents have taught me.

My dad drinks, but rarely. We have unopened bottles of scotch at home, and they’ve been lying around for years. My mom might be the epitome of good habits though. I can’t imagine anything she does wrong. She even does yoga thrice a week. It’s too hard to be like her.

So thank you amma and appa, for helping me stay thin, inculcating good habits in me in the right way, without ever having punished me. Thank you for making me like healthy things, rather than keeping me away from unhealthy things. You guys are awesome parents and hope the next probable parents, Su and Anand, become parents like you someday. (Muhahaha!)

Thank you! :)

Home alone diaries – When I learnt that my mom is superhuman

Today is International Happiness Day and International Story-Telling Day.

And I’m very happy, so I’m going to tell you a story.

I’m happy because my parents are coming back home tonight after 15 long days, relieving me of my home-alone stint. The story I’m going to tell you, is… well, about my home-alone stint.

My mum and dad went on a North-East trip two weeks ago, leaving me home alone for the first time in my life. “Big deal,” I thought, about managing the house by myself. And that’s exactly what it was – a big deal.

Three bedrooms, two living rooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen, two balconies, a terrace. It’s not easy to manage such a big house all alone, especially if you’re into cleanliness.

Within 24 hours, I learnt of all the chores my parents do everyday, and I learnt it the hard way. Nevertheless, I enjoyed everything I did – be it waking up at 6 am to fill up the filter with drinking water, or dashing about the house to sweep, mop, heat milk, make rice, make rasam, make breakfast, pack lunch, do snaana, drink milk and rush to office in the morning.

It was actually exhilarating! I felt responsible. I felt like without me, the world couldn’t go on. That’s always a great feeling.

I was so exhausted by the end of the day that I automatically knocked out at 11 pm and woke up at 7 am. Of course, there was that ten minute power nap in office too.

Through the course of this home-alone stint, I learnt a lot about myself and my parents.

For instance, I learnt that I’m a slightly traditional person. There was a festival day when they were away. We have always celebrated that festival at home, wherein you tie a yellow thread around your neck to ask God or thank God for a good husband. I found the yellow thread, said my prayers and was about to put on the thread when I remembered my mom telling me years ago that someone older has to tie it. Immediately, I ran to the neighbour’s house and asked Prerana’s mom to tie it. I lit the lamp every evening and lit an agarbatti. I’m not pious or anything. Just doing all this made me feel complete, like my parents were still at home and doing the things they’d do everyday.

Not only that, I watered the doorway and decorated the entrance with rangoli every day. I googled new rangoli designs and squatted outside my house, looked into my phone. I drew with intense concentration. If I missed one dot, the whole design would be messed up. While drawing with chalk is simple, not so much drawing with rangoli powder. I don’t know how and when I learnt it, but my mother has somehow silently passed on her talent to me.

That’s kind of what this post is about – how my mother has been a silent hero in my life. Without her presence, I don’t think I’d survive even a day. I’ve always been openly awed by my dad and have written blog posts about him and posted pictures of him being a cool dude. Mostly because he likes all that. But all along, my mom has been there by his side and by mine, teaching us both a good way to live, instilling in us a good lifestyle – when it comes to food, clothing, daily life, manners, everything. And she has been completely subtle about it. She is the real Wonder Woman.

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Sending a picture to my sister. “Is this toor dal?”

Without her guidance over the past 24 years, I don’t know how I’d have survived these 15 days. I’m proud to say that I didn’t order food even once when my parents were away. I made it a point to make breakfast and lunch and dinner. I learnt how to cook a few basic things. I made rice and rasam (something no one in the family can live without). I think a little credit goes to my boss, who over a random conversation, advised me not to go to my neighbour’s house everyday to eat. “Deny their offer. Cook at home. See how much you learn and how good you feel,” he had said. I did just that.

I learnt from scratch how to make rice, rasam, aalu-jeera sabzi, pudina chutney for sandwich and salad, pasta salad, etc. I was in such a bad state before this that I didn’t know which dal was supposed to go into the rasam. I still don’t know which dal is called what and when people told me to put toor dal in rasam, all I did was blink stupidly.

Now, I’m happy that I can make yummy rasam. I even got a compliment saying, “It tastes exactly like your mom’s rasam!” That was the best feeling ever. Everyone knows that my mom makes the best rasam!

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Sinful Brownie Points at Ice and Spice

But I wasn’t such a goody goody kid also. I did have some rebellious fun. I couldn’t let 15 home-alone days ago to waste! There was a 1522 evening and an Ice and Spice evening when I wasn’t bogged down with too much work. At Ice and Spice, I really indulged in some crazy food. Ah the thought of that Brownie Points dessert is still sending me to heaven!

Anyway, apart from the food, there was still a lot to be done. I had to sweep, mop, etc. In between, a coconut tree branch fell into my balcony. That required a lot of cleaning. And I hadn’t realised just how many plants we have in our house. On the terrace, in amma’s balcony, in paati’s balcony, beside the house, outside the house, behind the house. My my! I had expected some rainfall so I wouldn’t have to water all these plants but the rain god wasn’t on my side. (What’d I do to you Indra?) It was scathing hot everyday and I couldn’t forgo the plant-watering. However, I realised that there were 81 flowers on my terrace one evening! They’re all so beautiful. So I felt happy that I was making them grow.

After plants come animals. Puppy and the fishies. I had to feed them both everyday, give fishies oxygen, buy eggs for Puppy, clean her bowl. My God! Going back in time and thinking about it is making me widen my eyes at how much I did. I even made sure that the house was spotless by keeping it clean. And I had to wash clothes. Phew! Bravo Swat! You’re awesome.

But it was really really fun doing everything. I loved being on my toes and still making time to read and write a bit. I even got a JustBooks account on one of those 15 days. I brought my friends over on a couple of days and we chatted away till 3 am. Komal and Nisha were awesome enough to make aalu paratha for me for dinner. I literally let my guests take over the kitchen and cook for me. Haha!

Nisha and Komal getting ingredients ready for aalu paratha
Nisha and Komal getting ingredients ready for aalu paratha
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“What is this girl doing? Why is she doing that to her face?”

I like how I never really felt alone. My friends constantly popped in and out. Pupsicle and Piccolo were always around. Every time I needed to talk, I called them and they’d listen and even respond emotively. They’re two very intelligent doggies, who know that they should agree with everything I say.  I love my doggies. : )

But at the end of the day, my favourite part of it was going to Uttara’s house and eating her ajji‘s God-level varan bath (parapu mammu, or, Sudarshan, if you’re reading this, purp mammu). Varan bath with goad loncha (sweet lemon pickle) is the best food ever (only if it’s made in Uttara’s house). It made me do my happy dance with every bite.

Anyway, I’m glad I had these 15 days to live alone and figure out life. I am now resolved to help my mom and dad in daily chores. I definitely can’t be the super woman that my mom is, but hopefully, someday, I’ll be at least half like her.

Thank you amma, for making me who I am today. I like to believe I’m a little piece of you – judging by my likes – love for literature, trees and nature, curd rice, maavinkai and generally a tasteful, dignified approach to everything – and dislikes – garlic, meat, animal haters, smelly people. Haha! (We don’t really dislike many things.) I love you for giving me this happy outlook in life, for making me enjoy every little thing I do – be it doing potty or watering plants or riding my bike with my hair down or drinking water from streams when we’re on a tour somewhere.

And one final thank you for helping me manage the house for 15 days, without being there but somehow being there.

You’re a champ, mummy! : )

 

All the fuss about a cup of tea (totally worth it)

It’s my mom’s birthday and I thought I’ll do all the work in the kitchen today. I did the dishes, we went out for lunch and I decided to make evening tea. I make tea for my dad and myself everyday at 3pm after an afternoon nap, as we have both retired from work and are chilling at home. I make substantially good tea. But today, it tasted horrifyingly bad. I have never made tea for three people before. Besides, it was the first time I made tea after going to a tea tasting event at Infinitea, and I don’t think I can make nice tea anymore because what I had at Infinitea raised the benchmark to something I can’t reach.

This awesome picture was shot by a talented Shaam Somanna
This awesome picture was shot by a talented young man named Shaam Somanna

You must be thinking, oh what’s all the fuss about? It’s just tea. Well, whether you’re thinking so or not, I think making beautifully blended tea is an art that requires a good deal of practice. You boil it too much, it gets acidic; you add too much milk, it loses its flavour; you make it too watery and it sucks. A Geisha goes through years of practice before making the perfect tea, imagine! (I’ve been reading Memoirs of a Geisha a bit too much.)

Anyway, I have always had tea at places where they first slam a steel tumbler onto the granite slab, pour some tea decoction into it, then take a huge ladle, scoop out a good amount of milk from a barrel and lift the ladle as high as their hands can go, while tilting the ladle and pouring milk into the tumbler simultaneously. This tea usually costs around Rs.10.

At Infinitea, I had a completely different experience. Not like I’ve never been to a tea parlour before, but I’ve never really been told what and how exactly to go about drinking tea. For instance, I never knew that green tea goes best with lemon and lime mousse. Forget the flavours. I never even knew that the textures of mousse and tea go well together! So here’s what the menu for the Winter Tasting evening looked like.

Nov 2014 A5  Tea tasting menu for web
Winter Tasting. Sounds too fancy no?

 

Since it sounded so fancy, I decided to dress up like a fashionable socialite and go. By my standards, what with the bottle green pants, a belt, a MK bag and everything, I was as fashionable as possible. But by normal-ish Mount Carmel College standards, I was dressed in daily college wear. Hehe. I felt good about myself anyway, and that’s what counts.

Salted caramel butter macarons and lemon macarons. Sanjana, I ate one for you!
Salted caramel butter macarons and lemon macarons. Sanjana, I ate one for you!

The evening went really well. Nuvena and I spoke to the founder of Infinitea, Gaurav Saria, for over an hour. He is an ambitious, happy, married chap who loves his tea, and doesn’t take the easy way out as a chef. If it’s going to give him better results, he doesn’t mind having to go a notch farther to reach his goal. He gave us one of the first few batches of his fresh macarons. They were incredibly tasty! Finger licking good, if I may steal KFC’s tagline. “Most people in Bangalore make macaroons. That’s the easy way out. I have been working on these fellas for years and still haven’t perfected them,” he said about the macarons. That’s how much he knows he stuff. Who knew macarons and macaroons are different things! For many minutes there, I thought he was just pronouncing it wrong. Haha! (Macarons are delicate, meringue sandwich cookies made with egg white, sugar and almond flour. Macaroons, are made with egg whites and coconut. No almond here! Macarons are 2,000 times more difficult to make!)

This is the picture I shot when this picture was being shot.
This is the picture I shot when this picture was being shot.

The five teas served to us were top-notch, perfectly concocted and started from light teas and ended with the quintessential masala chai. Every tea tasted surprisingly different, and was made from fresh tea leaves, as opposed to packaged tea powder or tea bags. Did you know that the stuff in tea bags is just the dhool (dust) that remains after the actual tea leaves are packaged? Sigh… We were taught that good quality tea leaves are harvested, sun dried, ground in slow moving grinders, that just touch the tea leaves a bit, just enough to shred them a bit, then sent into rollers to be shaped and come out as ready to use tea leaves. We tasted tea made from oolong tea leaves. (And here I was, thinking Oolong is just a pervert character in Dragon Ball Z!) Oolong is one of the finest qualities of tea apparently, originating from China. The British actually brought it from China and planted it here in Darjeeling when they ruled. Now, India is the largest grower and consumer of tea, and the second largest industry, worth around Rs.10,000 crore! Man! There’s SO much to learn about everything in the world.

Anyway, I must say, the delicacy that accompanied every tea was every bit as delicious and rich as it sounds on the menu. I could feel the lentils of orange and lemon in the respective mousses burst in my mouth with a juicy flavour. The Belgian Chocolate Pot de Creme was out of the world! It was a little creamy bit of heaven. Every sip of tea helped wash out the flavour of the accompaniment, so every bite tasted refreshing.

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Gryffindor socks
Gryffindor socks

I find such evenings very entertaining mostly because I love to observe people. There was a little girl sitting opposite us. She held a Harry Potter book in her hand, wore a Half Blood Prince t-shirt and Gryffindor socks. I would have absolutely envied her when I was her age. I struck a conversation with her and she said her favourite house was Slytherin. Haha! She was adorable.

It’s on days like this that I learn to appreciate the knowledge other people have, of things I’ll probably never learn. Did you know that it’s good to not wash your tea cup with soap because tiny particles of the soap remain even after you wash the cup off? It’s good to let the tea stain stay, because it’ll season your cup and make your tea taste better! Every minute topic has so much to learn about. So on this day, I learnt that tea is not just tea. Of course, it tastes awesome when your mum blends it with all the love in the world, but there’s an infinite(a) amount to learn about it. : )

That’s that. It’s what a real tea party looks like!

Thanks for dropping by! And thanks Nuvena, for making the evening happen! : )
Thank you Gaurav for hosting such a fun evening. And thank you Shaam for these awesome pictures!

Until next time.

A tea-break read. I wish I could write like this

I’ve decided to put down a few paragraphs from every book I read. Just to give you the best of a particular book. If not the best, I’d like to put it down simply because I think it’s noteworthy. Here goes.

An excerpt from Three Men in a Boat, (To say nothing of the dog) by Jerome K. Jerome. Just to give you a gist of the scene, they have just put up a tent, to camp for the night and are settling for supper. 

It took us half an hours hard labour, after that, before it was properly up, and then we cleared the decks, and got out supper. We put the kettle on to boil, up in the nose of the boat, and went down to the stern and pretended to take no notice of it, but set to work to get the other things out.

That is the only way to get a kettle to boil up the river. If it sees that you are waiting for it and are anxious, it will never even sing. You have to go away and begin your meal, as if you were not going to have any tea at all. You must not even look round at it. Then you will soon hear it sputtering away, mad to be made into tea.

It is a good plan, too, if you are in a great hurry, to talk very loudly to each other about how you don ’t need any tea, and are not going to have any. You get near the kettle, so that it can overhear you, and then you shout out, I don ’t want any tea; do you, George? to which George shouts back, Oh, no, I don ’t like tea; well have lemonade instead teas so indigestible. Uponwhich the kettle boils over, and puts the stove out. We adopted this harmless bit of trickery, and the result was that, by the time everything else was ready, the tea was waiting. Then we lit the lantern, and squatted down to supper. We wanted that supper.

three men in a boat
Look at Montmorency, their brutish fox terrier

For five-and-thirty minutes not a sound was heard throughout the length and breadth of that boat, save the clank of cutlery and crockery, and the steady grinding of four sets of molars. At the end of five-and-thirty minutes, Harris said, Ah! and took his left leg out from under him and put his right one there instead.

Five minutes afterwards, George said, Ah! too, and threw his plate out on the bank; and, three minutes later than that, Montmorency gave the first sign of contentment he had exhibited since we had started, and rolled over on his side, and spread his legs out; and then I said, Ah! and bent my head back, and bumped it against one of the hoops, but I did not mind it. I did not even swear.

How good one feels when one is full how satisfied with ourselves and with the world! People who have tried it, tell me that a clear conscience makes you very happy and contented; but a full stomach does the business quite as well, and is cheaper, and more easily obtained. One feels so forgiving and generous after a substantial and well-digested meal so noble-minded, so kindly-hearted.

It is very strange, this domination of our intellect by our digestive organs. We cannot work, we cannot think, unless our stomach wills so. It dictates to us our emotions, our passions. After eggs, it says, Work! After thick slice of meat, it says, Sleep!

After a cup of tea (two spoonfuls for each cup, and don ’t let it stand more than three minutes), it says to the brain, Now, rise, and show your strength. Be eloquent, and deep, and tender; see, with a clear eye, into Nature and into life; spread your white wings of quivering thought, and soar, a god-like spirit, over the whirling world beneath you, up through long lanes of flaming stars to the gates of eternity!

After hot muffins, it says, Be dull and soulless, like a beast of the field a brainless animal, with listless eye, unlit by any ray of fancy, or of hope, or fear, or love, or life.

And after tonic, taken in sufficient quantity, it says, Now, come, fool, grin and tumble, that your fellow-men may laugh drivel in folly, and splutter in senseless sounds, and show what a helpless ninny is poor man whose wit and will are drowned, like kittens, side by side, in half an inch of tonic.

We are but the veriest, sorriest slaves of our stomach. Reach not after morality and righteousness, my friends; watch vigilantly your stomach, and diet it with care and judgment. Then virtue and contentment will come and reign within your heart, unsought by any effort of your own; and you will be a good citizen, a loving husband, and a tender father a noble, pious man.

Before our supper, Harris and George and I were quarrelsome and snappy and ill-tempered; after our supper, we sat and beamed on one another, and we beamed upon the dog, too. We loved each other, we loved everybody. Harris, in moving about, trod on Georges corn. Had this happened before supper, George would have expressed wishes and desires concerning Harriss fate in this world and the next that would have made a thoughtful man shudder.

As it was, he said: Steady, old man; ware wheat.

And Harris, instead of merely observing, in his most unpleasant tones, that a fellow could hardly help treading on some bit of Georges foot, if he had to move about at all within ten yards of where George was sitting, suggesting that George never ought to come into an ordinary sized boat with feet that length, and advising him to hang them over the side, as he would have done before supper, now said: Oh, I ’m so sorry, old chap; I hope I haven’t hurt you.

And George said: Not at all; that it was his fault; and Harris said no, it was his.

It was quite pretty to hear them. We sat, looking out on the quiet night, and talked.

George said why could not we be always like this away from the world, with its sin and temptation, leading sober, peaceful lives, and doing good. I said it was the sort of thing I had often longed for myself; and we discussed the possibility of our going away, we four, to some handy, well-fitted desert island, and living there in the woods.

 

Here, eat a fetus.

I just read the most infuriating article about the most revolting meat you’ll ever eat. The worst part is, the people who eat it aren’t disgusted at all. You see, I’m a vegetarian by choice. I’m a hopeless animal lover. I haven’t tasted meat (unless you count the crumby part of chicken popcorn that was forced upon me. I hated it btw). I eat egg at times. I tried quitting it but then I met someone who makes the tastiest cheese omlettes and unfortunately he taught me how to make it.

But every time I eat an egg, I think abortion abortion abortion. I have had my friends try and convince me a million times that the egg isn’t fertilized; the egg is farm produced; it isn’t going to hatch. But I can’t help but feel like I’m sinning every time I crack an egg and look at the yolk plop into a bowl – yolk  that might or might not have turned into a cute little chick.

But this article I read has removed all my guilt. I saw the picture the article carried and I kid you not, it made me gag. Forget removing guilt. This fetus-eating habit just made me furious! What? Didn’t get it? FETUS EATING! It’s called Balut and it’s a fertilized duck egg with an embryo inside. It is boiled with the live unborn baby inside and eaten with a fork with some seasoning. It is popular in South East Asia (Vietnam, Cambodia, etc).

Read about it here. There is a video there. I can’t get myself to see it.

I am at a loss for words, honestly. How can anyone be so disgusting! Ugh! What’s more? They have annual Balut eating competitions in Manhattan. Whoever eats the most number of unborn babies wins! This barbaric competition happens in America, supposedly the super-power-most-developed-most-forward country. I’d probably even oppose someone in Man vs Wild eating this, but perhaps not with as much angst.

See, I think I am pro choice. My rationale behind it was “if you’re going to treat the girl like shit when she is grown up, might as well finish her off before she’s born, before she goes into depression and feels suicidal and kills herself anyway.” Ok that is quite a morbid description. Erase it from your mind if you like. But I haven’t given it much thought really. I haven’t studied the pros and cons of abortion or anything. What I think, is, If a woman has a problem with the baby, and if she wishes to do so, she can opt to terminate it. It’s her life, it’s her decision to make.

Now when you eat an animal’s growing baby (whether it’s in her tummy or in an egg), isn’t it like plucking someone else’s baby off her womb and eating it without her consent? Aren’t you violating some rule? If not a rule of law, aren’t you violating basic human sense? Why do humans have to be so cruel and uncivilized? I’ll never understand.

Just remember, the next time you’re eating a fetus, imagine yourself or your wife to be pregnant and someone else eating your unborn baby.

Feel like a Berliner

Ok I figured I wasn’t done with Berlin. It seemed like I just described places I visited and never gave you a feel of the city.

I drew up a collage while sitting in a bus. Here it is. (Thinglink doesn’t let me embed it here. Bah!) It basically sums up my trip to Berlin, right from things I did, people I met, places I visited, food I ate and more. Hover your mouse over the picture to see the places you’re interested in in detail. And oh! Forgive spelling mistakes!

Berlin is a very organised city. Transport facility is excellent and food and alcohol are rather inexpensive compared to other European cities outside of Germany.

It has been one of my favourite cities so far. And I’m saying this after visiting several other cities in Europe. It is easy to get around and difficult to get lost, provided you have a map of the metro lines and about 15 euros per day for a group of five for your metro day pass.

The city is gifted with not so cold and not so warm weather. If it’s sunny it’s super pleasant, except you’ll tan like hell. Also, the rains come down on you with no prior warning. So next time you’re in Berlin and it rains and you’re with no umbrellas, don’t say I didn’t warn you!

We packed food to most of the places we went because we’re vegetarians. We couldn’t eat currywurst and hot dogs. I really wish I could taste meat because I feel like I’m missing out on a lot of good food but I just can’t get myself to do it.

Also, like everyone says, beer is indeed way cheaper than water!

The people of Berlin are very friendly. Most of the places I visited was filled with tourists though, so I didn’t get to see the natives much. Our apartment was in Leinestraße. It is a locality where Turkish people live. But we were hardly at home, so we didn’t get to see much of them either.

Berlin has an elaborate and sensitive history that has touched every Berliner deeply. Once you go into the city you begin to feel like you’re one of them. You feel like you’re re-living their history. It’s a city full of contrasts and colours. You’ll want to be a part of it and it will readily invite you to experience it as Berliners do.

Like I was telling my friend the other day, Berlin is a city that

was in ruins

is glorious and stands tall and proud

will only thrive and get better.

It is a city of perfection in the making.