There is more shared between Kashmir and Bengal than a love for rice, fish, and mustard oil. There is a shared history. Eighth century Kashmiri emperor Lalitaditya’s empire is believed to have extended from Kabul right up to Bengal. But, that was centuries ago. Even in the last century there was a very strong connection between the two Indian states. West Bengal seems to have been the first choice for a majority of Kashmiri youth in my parents generation seeking scholarship outside of this remote state in the north. Nineteenth Century Calcutta was the bastion of contemporary western education. It was routine for teen Kashmiri boys to leave home for this faraway state to study medicine or engineering. Many generations owe a debt to this state of bhadrlok for their education: in my family my Dad studied at IITKgp, one uncle studied medicine at Calcutta Medical College (established by the British in 1835, it is our oldest medical college), two others studied engineering at Jadhavpur University. The Government Medical College, Srinagar, was established only in 1959, followed by the REC (Regional Engineering College) in 1960.
Archive for the ‘Vegetarian’ Category
Talk about signing up for more than your fair share! I am an adjunct faculty for a Grad program at a college nearby but ended up with full-time teaching load this semester. The work load in the office stayed unchanged which translates into ‘busy’ and is reflected in the woeful frequency of posts here the past two years. Factor in the absence of any kitchen help and you get the picture. But there must be a silver lining, surely?
I had made a case last time that I was better off without the ‘help’. Well, I think the fact that I was able to handle the additional work load was in no small way because I did not have to supervise the cooking and cleaning downstairs. In the past four months we have eaten out no more than we normally do; perhaps, even less. In fact, the folk at Andhra Bhavan might be wondering if all was well. We have resorted to a meal of bread-and-butter on very few occasions. The family has had to compromise on the freshness of their roties since I firmly believe they (roties, not the family) are not worth the trouble of the clean-up involved, twice a day. I usually cook enough roties for two meals and sometimes, with the right accompanying dishes that are best with rice, the leftovers get stretched into a third meal. Otherwise, I feel our meals have more variety, are fresher (except for the roties!), and there is less waste as I use up ingredients before they spoil.
Lest you think it has been all work and no play let me tell you that in 2012 we have already managed two holidays! The last week of January found us in Rajasthan walking the gorgeous dunes of Jaisalmer. Yes, it was the same group that did that arduous hike to the Valley of Flowers five years ago; a bit older, none the wiser. It was a bit hectic and we have resolved that the next trip together will be to a spa – a luxurious spa, not one of those detox ones where they near-starve you – and just let our hair hang down.
That is precisely what TH and I did early this month when we visited the son, now in his third year at college. This year he has opted out of the college hostel and is trying out apartment-living with two classmates. It is gladdening to watch him deal with the mundane and the interesting aspects of living on one’s own and sharing space with others with different backgrounds. While A is a carnivore, both his roommates are vegetarian; one will eat eggs while the other is a vegan and an animal-right activist to the extent that even roaches get protection! I wonder what they think of A and his ways!
The first month of this year is history already. How time flies!
After some fumbling this season, old man winter got into his groove here in Delhi. The weather has been at its frigid best for the past 6 weeks even though we celebrated Basant Panchami (the fifth day of Spring) last Saturday. I even poured myself a glass of kanji while preparing dinner the other day. But, the thaw has certainly started and if you blink the short Spring will be over.
In the fast pace of 2011 many celebrations got left out. No one got a birthday cake :shock:. The blog anniversary was overlooked since there was no time to come up with a theme, announce a party, or be a proper host to all of you. But, it is always party-time at A Mad Tea Party where we celebrate food as just that – nourishment; food that satiates, the kind that engages all our senses. Mindful eating without dissecting what is on the plate.
One-dish-themed blog-events are now commonplace. The poori-party might have been one of the first of that kind but it was quite by accident. None of the subsequent celebrations were a patch on that first party. From that party on, I have made a concerted effort to fry poories more often. Every time the son visits for holidays, poori-bhaji features on the breakfast menu on one of the days. Just the once maybe, but it is sure to be there. Then, for Ram Navmi I indulge the little girl in me who misses doing rounds of the neighbouring homes to
gather loads of prasad be part of the ritual to revere the goddess in all girls, by cooking poori, halwa, and kala chana. That adds up to at least three poori-frying sessions a year! And if there are friends or family visiting (and it is cool enough to fry in the kitchen) then it is likely they will get some deep fried love!
It has been a mixed bag this year; from the very bad to very good. All years are like that but losing a dear friend earlier this year was a dip that was really low. Even winning Third Place in a National Architectural Design Competition, a rare enough achievement, was tinged with the knowledge that I couldn’t share the news with her, my buddy through those years of design school. We would meet only a few times a year – mostly on birthdays and anniversaries. I am not a phone person so we never had long chats on the phone either. Maybe, it was enough just knowing I could call her if I needed to. Now, I catch myself thinking about her every single day.
On the work front, it has been the busiest year for me. The coming year is poised similar. Which is as well (except that it has meant just ten blog posts, if I get this one in, for the whole year!). It means I don’t bother the son, now in his third year of college, with daily phone calls. I usually catch up with him on the weekends though he and his dad chat online more often. Presently, he is home for the holidays and has promised to not game through the nights so that we can see him at lunch and through the rest of the day.
Narthangai limes and mango ginger for pickling…from a year ago
It’s not a very long story, actually. Over the past few years I gave into TH’s helpful insistence on delegating more housework to the maid so that I had less on my mind and hands. But that is more complicated than it sounds.
There are two kinds of people: those who like to have extra hands to do their work, and those who wish they could do without. If you have a slight OCD regarding how you want things in your home and kitchen, you may have to start by teaching the maid everything. And then you have to remind her constantly (about the same thing) in a kind of continuing education for her (which has nothing to do with your OCD). If you can look the other way, then it is all fine and dandy. I cannot. I cannot drink out of cups with the lightest tea-stain; I have to have my veggies cut exactly so; the rug centered, the doors shut, and the windows open. All this takes supervision. I mean, really super-vision! One time I caught her about to chutney a roach along with the coriander! I don’t know how I saw from the corner of my eye what she could not while putting the ingredients in! Enough to say that after that there was little chance of her being allowed to cook unsupervised. To me it always felt as if the maid was in control of my time!
For all my extra time and planning for Divali, I got far less done than usual! I had forgotten that one of the days I was counting as a bonus was actually the day I teach from 9 to 5! But it was not a completely lost cause. The huge cauldron of chiwda I made kept all happy. The ladoos turned out well as always and there were enough to last until Sunday! The son’s stash is all packed and ready to be mailed. I know, I procrastinate there as well! But to him Divali means chakli, which I am yet to make. I plan to get to it this weekend and also plan to record the process here before I lose the precious family recipe.
I would have gotten to the chakli surely this past weekend but TH, almost on the spur of the moment, decided enough was enough and it was time to take the car on a long drive. Off we were early the morning after Divali. There was hardly any traffic to speak of all the way from Delhi to Narkanda! I have promised myself more such holidays every year! We left home at 6am, and at just 11:00 we got our first glimpse of the mountains. We did stop for a breakfast of tandoori aloo paranthas and chai at a wayside dhaba at around 9:00. I hadn’t visited Shimla so we took a midday break there for a couple of hours. The Mall is a great place to walk forbidden as it is to all traffic. Smoking is not permitted in public spaces in Shimla making the Mall a great place to hangout. Read the rest of this entry »
Something strange is going on with the weather. We have had the wettest spring ever and the frequent showers have kept the temperatures down. I start my day wearing a vest by habit and then within an hour find myself going back down to change into a full-sleeved sweater. Climate change? Maybe that is too drastic but this is definitely not our usual Spring.
I did indulge myself in some typical spring activities anyway, such as drinking kanji and enjoying the sunshine; the spring did start out sunny. Mid-January found us traversing the city on a few occasions. One Sunday morning was spent at the IGNCA viewing Delhi: A Living Heritage exhibit. On our way back we decided to criss-cross a little and take in the city lights. We found ourselves joining the crowds watching the rehearsals for the Beating the Retreat ceremony. We stood there awhile, soaking in national pride and such emotions.
Another Sunday afternoon we first hopped on the Metro, took the city bus next, and then walked to the National Gallery of Modern Art where we heard the very articulate Anish Kapoor talk about his work (and even enjoyed a cup of tea with him!). Later we walked from the NGMA to the Chinmaya Mission auditorium for TH’s student’s Kuchipudi dance performance, and then took the Metro back home. Read the rest of this entry »
No New Year resolutions for me! Where’s the point? Didn’t I promise to turn over a new leaf just a little while back? I could use the weather as my excuse; you cannot turn over new leaves in the dead of winter. Let spring arrive…(This post has been in writing for
a couple of over three weeks, and I am afraid it almost is Spring!)
Let me wish all my friends here, in this virtual but not make-believe world, a very Happy New Year (while it is still January). I hope we continue to exchange and enjoy a healthy Madness here. If writing about food could be quick, I would post everyday! But it is not. These last two years it has been very busy at work. Blogging could not be the break I wished. At the end of the day it is hard to return to the computer for anything other than to read.
For all the work, and unusual for us, TH and I managed to squeeze out time for regular breaks. We had resolved to visit the son mid-semester each semester, irrespective of whether he could/would make the time or not. Our spring semester visit to Kochi, an overnight journey for him, coincided with his college festival. The following semester, in October, with plans to visit the temples of the Hoysalas, we landed in the middle of his exam week. We went ahead with the plans anyway and visited the ancient temples of Halebid and Belur. Once again, it was humbling to be in a shrine where our people have continued to pray for centuries, and I thought again of the little unspoiled temple by the backwaters of Aleppey where our houseboat had moored that night… Read the rest of this entry »
Winter has set in Delhi. We have had some rain this week which has further brought down the temperatures and I am beginning to regret not airing out the winter wardrobe ahead of time when the days were sunny and bright. The sun will be back in our winter soon enough and we will be found lazily shelling peanuts outside during breaks from work, or while waiting for transport. Oh, but there’s a change to that script. Those of us who have got used to Delhi’s awesome Metro may not be able to indulge in this litter-generating activity. Imagine, not-littering might become a habit with the denizens of Delhi! Hope floats!
Paneer is de rigueur for a Kashmiri vegetarian spread. Good high-fat milk is hard to come by in mountainous Kashmir since there are no water buffaloes; low fat cow milk is what you get. Despite this, dahi (yoghurt) and paneer are plentiful and a regular part of the diet. On days fasting is prescribed, all Kashmiri Pandits practice vegetarianism; even those who may not be fasting. Observing periodic dietary restrictions are to be found in most faiths and belief systems, be it Ramzan for Muslims, or Lent for Christians. Us Hindus seem rather fond of fasting and have created an immense variety of them. To add to the fun, each fast comes with its own rules: what is kosher, what is not, or the length of the fasting period (half a day to up to an entire month). You may also chose the frequency of fasting: weekly, fortnightly, monthly, or yearly. If you like to walk your own path, well, you could even customise your fasting routine.
Some food preparations are so intricately tied with f(e)asting that it is hard to imagine anyone would cook them on ‘normal’ days! Breaking of a fast with specific foods also brings a special significance to those foods and further intensifies the link between our memories of events and places with the food we eat.