Friday, October 30, 2009

yet another food related post..

It is the winter, with long cold evenings. It is pleasurable to work by the stove and do things with my hands. And then there is the produce! Strangely enough, most of the things that spell 'spring' start coming around now and last throughout the winter- lotsandlotsofgreens, zucchini, baby carrots..

But what I am writing about is a truly autumnal food. I have been wanting to make sweet potato agnolotti for a long time now- after reading this post. (warning- that blog is fun, and WILL suck you in.) Last week, I found myself at home with sweet potatoes, and a desire to stay in the kitchen.

the problem? no bacon, eggs, butter, cream, sage..and as for 'squab spice' I don't even know what that is.

But I winged it..made a pretty austere pasta dough with flour, oil, salt, water and kneaded it for 20 mins- with a clock by my side. Let it rest. Instead of the bacon, looked around for other ways to add those salty, smoky, rich punctuation marks to an otherwise smooth filling..The simplest way was to chop up some garlic and onions, and fry till crunchy and dark with a generous amount of salt. Boiled the sweet potatoes instead of roasting them, and mashed till smooooooth with some nutmeg, cinnamon, and a touch of jaggery. Folded in the onion mix. Rolled out the pasta, marked out rectangles, plopped spoonfuls of filling, rolled, folded and pinched. Dropped in boiling water and let cook for a little less than 5 minutes. Had undersalted the whole, so sprinkled salt and more nutmeg on top.

How was it? so good. It was creamy, and good, and warm, and soothing without being bland. the sprinkling of salt and nutmeg was perfect, with the taste 'crunch' it gave. With the whole wheat and lack of dairy and bacon, it turned out to be a not-rich version of the original. Something I will make again, and I will try it with bacon. But what I am most happy about is making nice agnolotti on a weekday evening without a recipe/planning/reason. Somehow I think that is so cool.

And for those purists who want the original recipe, it is from the French Laundry Cookbook, and Thomas Keller has not posted it anywhere outside the book. But it has been stolen, and it is available online, and you can look for it, and I am not linking to it.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

what I did yesterday

Looks good doesn't it? And it was..That is one x'mas pudding mix that shows plenty of promise. Made two puddings, and they are now resting in my kitchen, gently maturing and waiting for Christmas. Just in case you want to make it too, this is the recipe I used and you are just in time.

Here is a picture of what my kitchen looked like when all was done.

The big one is for M and her family, the littler one in the top RHS corner is for The One and I,  and the littlest one? Call it quality control or call it lagniappe for the cook. Actually, you can even call it George Clooney if you like- as long as one thing is absolutely clear. Mine!

Aaah, the Christmas spirit..

Friday, October 23, 2009

Himalayan Villages

This is where I was last weekend..
At Sonapani, near Sitla. And I could go on and on with the descriptions, or I can sum it up as Paradise.

the Gates..

the view from my cottage..

Peach trees and cropped lawns..
The scenery was perfect, as you can see..But there was more. There was comfortingly good food..what sort of food? the 'home-cooked by a really, really talented and generous mum' sort. and a lot of warmth and fun and cheer. And there were mornings spent watching the sunrise touch Nandakot-Nandadevi-Panchchuli. The surprise of seeing ChauKhamba unexpectedly. Walking in the pine forest. magical mornings with the mountains as witness. The incredible range of wildlife that Sonapani supports- from pollinators to predators.

go there. There is no place more breathtaking.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


My first job was that of  a site engineer. While the job profile read 'project management', a more accurate description would be a site supervisor. The work gangs I was supposedly supervising saw how green I was and took me under their collective wing where I happily chirped away. Unused to a female overseer, they would all call me 'Saheb'; first indulgently and later, with fond respect.

I learnt a lot there. From learning to read eights and sixteenths of an inch (dori and suth) to more advanced construction techniques. For quite a while, unknown to my boss, I was a happy apprentice. One of the things I loved was the way they used the earth's forces to measure line and level. Gravity (with a plumb bob) to measure the vertical, and atmospheric pressure to measure the horizontal.

Not that atm.pressure was measured using a fancy instrument. A clear plastic tube would be taken and the apprentice (often me) would suck water into it. After carefully tapping out the air bubbles, one end would be handed to the master. The apprentice would then crouch with his end of the tube held against the mark that the level was to be taken from, and the master would carefully manipulate the tube at the place that the level was to be taken to. The apprentice's job was to stay steady and trust in his partner to adjust the water level till it stayed still at that mark. This happy event would be sung out with a loud 'Ka-yam!'.

Kayam. The word just means 'stable', but on the construction site it was an occasion for happiness- an indicator of successful teamwork, of perfection achieved, of future plans made possible.

As in cabinet making, so in life. Today I have this urge to clamber up rooftops and shout.


Friday, October 16, 2009


It is Diwali, a time for family. Last night, I was homesick and told my sis so. Actually, I whined about this being the third Diwali that I was away from home.
Her reply put things in perspective for me.
I AM home, she said.  In the home that The One and I are making together. And maybe next time, we will visit each other, or not. But we will all still celebrate Diwali at home.

And today morning, I was talking to my colleagues of weekend plans.
I was asked," So, who do you have at home?"
The automatic response of 'my mother and my sister' was followed by 'my sister's family. and my woh. and his family.'

Happy Diwali. And much peace and happiness to all those who define 'home' for you.

Monday, October 12, 2009

I, Dehati

Is it that one can take the woman out of sawantwadi, but not sawantwadi out of the woman? Or is it, as i like to think, that I wear a gaia-like, Mother nature-ish aura? whatever the reason, there is something about me that makes Delhi-ites think 'village'.

And I dont mean this in a bad way. On the contrary, these interactions have left me with a warm and fuzzy glow of content.

The last time I visited Delhi, I was wandering through various government offices trying to get them to cough up data (hah!). At the Krishi Bhavan, the chaps behind the desk suggested that I visit PUSA. Well, I would be glad to, but where is it?
"Ah, you are not from here?"
"No, I have come here from Dehradun."
"are you alone? have you come with someone?"
"Yes. No."
After this, they proceeded to give me detailed instructions of how to get there. And what I loved is that the instructions included tips on using the Metro.
"The station is underground, but you will see stairs and a sign. The metro is like a train and you need to buy tickets for that. Don't be scared, it is well signposted, and if you get lost, ask someone. People will be happy to help."

I did not disillusion the man, and thanked him for his help. And I was grateful- for the spirit behind the instructions, rather than the actual help they were.

This time around too, I had a similar country-bumpkin experience. I received help, was grateful for the help, the spirit that moved it, and the utter grace with which it was given.

I took the bus to Defence colony and needed to cross the Ring road to get where I wanted. And that seemed close to impossible. While I was standing by the side, being buffeted by the slip streams of the vehicles, I was joined by two construction workers, probably Bihari from the accent. Is there a pedestrian crossing, I asked them. "Nahin, behenji."

I resigned  myself to standing there for all eternity when the man I spoke with moved around me so that he was now on the traffic side. While his friend zipped across, he waited till there was an appreciable gap and then crossed. I of course, crossed with him. On the divider, he moved around so that he was again on the traffic side and waited till I could safely cross. Once we were on the other side, he smiled shyly at my 'dhanyawaad' and went his own way. I thanked him, of course, but I couldn't thank him enough.

Like the autowallah I had mentioned earlier, the utter elegance with which help was given is something worth learning, is it not?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

I love my friends..

and apparently, they love me too.

 The Amazing M, on the banks of the Ganga at Kaudiyala

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

um..a compliment

I was walking along the street, and met a colleague walking the other way. We smiled and were about to pass each other when he did a double take.

HE (pointing in the general direction of my um..collarbones): Nii-iice!!
I: ?!
HE: I meant your necklace!
HE (much relieved): Yes, yes. Your necklace. It is nice.
I (with a straight face): um..thank you

I waited for him to pass before breaking into the broadest smile ever and continuing my walk with just a little more spring in my step.

Balconette bras- nii-iice!

lemons = lemonade?

Had a 14 hour day, all of which was spent working on a project that I am not super keen on. In fact, if it was a personal decision, I would not do it.
But anyway..
On my way back I was looking forward to three things with surprising intensity:

1. A hot bath (bucket bath, but pleasurable nonetheless)
2. eating a papaya that I had left gently ripening on my table, and that should have been perfect when i reached home
3. surfing the net while eating- a little scrabble, a little keeping in touch with friends, a little reading..

well, the best-laid plans of mice and women and all that.

My boiler wasn't working. Then I discovered that it didn't matter, because there was no water. In the 14 hours that I had been away, my papaya had gone from hard and green-tinged to a pile of mould-covered mush. And yes, the net connection had crashed too.

What did I do?
well, I saved a liter or so of water from the pipes..enough to drink, and for coffee tomorrow. Quenched thirst. Had a sponge bath using one glass of that precious water. Added eucalyptus oil to the washcloth for warmth. Oiled my hair. End result? Not too bad, if you don't look at the still-grimy feet. Disconnected the modem, and took the phone to bed. Called mum and the One. And it was good.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

being politically correct- or not

A few weeks ago, I sat in on a meeting with two other people I respect. We were talking about access to services, I believe, and one of them made a comment that included the term 'disabled'. He was instantly corrected- 'ah, you mean specially-abled'.

To this, he replied that no, he meant 'disabled'. He continued to explain that it is necessary to recognize and acknowledge the fact that there are some of us who find this world a little difficult to navigate and need some help to do so. It is only then that we can seriously apply our minds to making sure this help is available at the time and in the manner that it is desired. He said a lot more on the topic, and listening to him, I realized all over again why I respect him so.

Since then though, I have been thinking. And I can see the point of both arguments. Terms used to address someone who is a little different can easily be a form of abuse. Old government records and texts abound with references to cripples, idiots, negroes and shudras. Each of these terms if uttered in public today would earn the utterer a black eye- and rightly so. But other than that, have things changed?

Does the number of 'g's with which one spells 'African' matter as long as one does not discriminate when working/socializing/loving? How about the other way round? What I see these days is that people think that the only thing that matters is to use the politically correct term. Use the cumbersome 'he or she' as a pronoun, but only employ a woman as a receptionist. Say 'specially-abled' but retain thresholds in all your doorways.

This has led to people doing two things with equal passion: hunting out increasingly obtuse terms, and insisting that there is nothing demeaning about a spade being called a spade.

Me, I am not sure. I dont know what comes first- respect or a respectful term. What do you think?

Thursday, October 1, 2009


Every dussehra, there is a fair at Parade Ground, Dehradun.
This year, I toddled off there with a colleague, and am very glad I went.
It was fun for me- a trifle noisy, but interesting.
The gods were nice to watch, of course, but far more interesting were the people.
The gangs of little boys determined to have a good time- they would form chains and dart about blowing whistles and tooting horns. fun? well, whatever works,I suppose.
The families that came here anticipating much pleasure- with full blown picnics, with gift-buying, with street-food.
And individual people themselves:
My colleague who took so much pleasure at the shooting rinks- never mind that the target was all of 2 feet away. and the Sadhu who watched with child-like pleasure and then took his turn.

The woman who took the role of Kali with far more fierceness and dignity than a parade called for.

My colleague and I took a lot of photos, and they are posted here.
dusshera, dehradun