Friday, April 03, 2009

I thank you and may I please!

It was just another Friday - pick up, drop off from preschool and waiting with excitement to get the day over and start the official celebrations for an uneventful or social-eventful weekend - had it not been for my sudden visit to the Siva Vishnu Temple on the eve of Ramanavami. I carried Aarti on my hip and proceeded to the free-meal section to get some prasadam once the Darshan was done. The lunch was elaborate and colorful. Okra, Dal, Medhu vada, sweet and hot pongal and Pulihora. There were little paper boat-like containers that were provided as substitute for plates. An elder woman was serving the food in the containers and putting them aside on the table. From my previous experience, I mistook the lady for a volunteer serving food and placing them on the table for the convenience of the devotees. The place was quiet deserted except for an older man on the other side of the food buffet. I examined the contents and took one of the pre-served trays containing medhu vada, lifted on the couple vadas and almost placed it to Aarti's mouth for her to eat when a almost angry voice shouted in panic "ours" "ours"
It is then that I realised that the food the lady kept aside was for herself and her people and she is not really a volunteer. I could almost feel the heat in my cheeks and placed back the vada in the container and the container on the table and apologised - obviously embarrassed. The gentleman said it was okay if I'd taken it but the Lady didn't second him. She slowly moved to this part of the table as if to safeguard her loot and almost shielded me from the food. I thought I was imagining it, but she did it. A middle aged woman and a little girl waked out of the adjacent restroom and the three ladies representing three generations collected their numerous plates of food and left to grab a place to sit and savor the grub.
For some reason, my appetite can accelerate and decelerate for no obvious reasons and triggers and right there, my ponder started and I almost forgot how hungry I was. I collected some food which Aarti eventually refused to eat. I polished the boats and placed them in the trash, sub consciously looking at this pious old woman that was rude enough to have stopped me form feeding a little girl food that was served for free. I agree she filled them herself - but hello - what happens if she lets me take one of those thingies?
I don't know what happens but the more I look at the world - the more I notice that there is no time or manners on people's hand. I remembered how I was trying to board onto a flight with two cabin baggages, a diaper bag and a kid on hip and a group of gentlemen passed by me without even caring to hold the door open, let alone offering me a helping hand when all most of them had was a sleek briefcase to carry. I remembered how people getting aboard the public transportation would not allow people to alight first and how people make self samples out of candy and cosmetics by prying open the boxes in Costco warehouse. The chewed gum on a medicine isle in the supermarket, un-flushed toilets, frozen fish fillets left on a box of diapers as a result of a fickle customer's mind and ladies bad mouthing because a five year old jumps line in a public toilet in Great Mall are all indications of how hopelessly busy, selfish and rude we are getting as a species.
The mother figure woman whom I saw in the temple was as motherly as it gets when looks are concerned. She must have travelled a distance to come and offer her prayers on the eve of an auspicious day but she was small enough to have borderline snatched free food form a toddler's mouth. It saddens my heart that this is the kind of world my little girl will one day grow up into. It makes me insecure that she might join the flow and lose the patience of smiling, being courteous or patient in a line to get to the toilet stall or a checkout counter. I fear that it might discourage me to tell her to wait her turn lest she would never get it. At the same time it makes me hopeful to look up to the moms that teach sharing, waiting and smiling, being polite and being thankful to their children.
No matter how much progress we make in science and technology and no matter how many achievements we have under our belt - I think it is of paramount importance to realise that we should have our manners in place. That people would forget what we are and how we are - but they would never forget how we make them feel.
I retire, hoping like a mom that the world has both yin and yang and they balance out.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Trumpet time - On love for cooking.

Fruit Kesari


Tomato Chutney

Fried Rice


Plantain with mustard and tamarind

My dad is self employed and slogs till date to pay his bills. My mom is self employed too and slogs to just to do what matters to her - But I, the second among three daughters and a son, along with my other siblings, was brought up like the only child and heir apparent to a vast legacy notwithstanding my parents' working class status. I tell this cause this has relevance to my cooking skills. So till a good decade ago, I did not know much about cooking cause being the Royalty I was, I did not peek into the kitchen when my mom was cooking three meals a day for a brigade that ate like pigs! Not until I was on my own in a foreign country and my innocent husband thought I was as good at cooking as I was at writing baloney in lengthy love letters.
But to his good fortune and my utter surprise, cooking came naturally to me. I realised that I have a culinary intuition and can cook without making an effort to look into a recipe. Thus, I heard my calling - My undiscovered passion which happens to be cooking.
Around this time last year, my long lost and reunited friend Usha visited me and said "you are very lucky because I approve of your cooking." Now we are dealing with a wacko like me, but I being the wacko I was, thought "you are very lucky because you have the fortune of eating what I cook" I am sounding snobbish and full of myself? Aren't I? But I cannot help. I am good at cooking and I know it and am not going to be falsely modest and say I am going to slow-poison you with my preparations. I might have an occasional bad dish to my credit, but I am a lucky cook and 99.9% of the time it clicks.
I also notice that I am not much for simplicity when it comes to cooking. I cannot steam white rice and eat it with curd even if I am dog tired and ready to collapse. I would vote for take out but never compromise for home made maggie noodles or left overs form last weekend. Those left overs become science projects and go into the green waste eventually by the way:-))
So, when I cook it has to be a stuffed paratha, or a pizza made form scratch or a healthy salad doused with processed mustard and vinegar. My sambar should have rightly steamed zucchini and pearl onions and the sambar powder should be a home made one - not the MTR or MDH that is readily available on the grocery isles. My idlis come with two chutneys made of fresh coconut and ginger respectively and piping hot sambar. My stuffed egg plants are all evenly roasted with a homemade stuffing and can be eaten by themselves. My Russian neighbor and best friend Valentina will vouch for this.
Whether it comes to combining cauliflower and okra or making Thai rice just like the take out in Hacienda crossings - I am blessed with the culinary intuition. I take an effort to make them look as good as they taste. I believe that the way veggies are cut effects their taste and cooking is a serious art form - much more complicated and serious than singing, painting or dancing and I love Remy the rat and the whole ratatouille movie since I can so relate with Remy. In fact, I think I am the human version of the rodent.
Ask my friends, my mom in law or just invite yourself over for a meal. I promise, I won't disappoint and you are free to tell me I am lucky since you like my food. I, however, will think you are lucky to have tasted it - but I will not say it aloud. I promise:-))
Picture courtesy - Aarti's mom's Nikon D40x.

Wish list.

A perfect tote, a perfect couple of quotations and a perfect wish.

The bag retails for $14.95 at Barnes and Noble. The best part is that this one is sturdy, roomy to fit my kitchen sink and is made of Canvas. Not the PVC I hate or the Leather I love to death but am on the verge of renouncing as my statement against animal cruelty. Now I have to find a friend that gifts me the bag that I ain't have! LOL.
Or better yet, buy this one at BN before I head to buying food at the grocer tomorrow morning:-))