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The 27 day Winning-at-life Challenge

You are what you do everyday.

By that definition, I’m a recovering caffeine addict with sucrose issues who sees the inside of a gymnasium once every quarter. I also have a wakeup routine that involves a daily head-rush because the jump out of bed looks more like dash out the door to meet the way-beyond-grace-period start time. Also, off late, looking down or sideways in the mirror has meant holding my breath to keep the food baby out of sight and out of mind. And the same book has been spending too much time in my bag.

Honestly, I’ve had enough (or maybe it’s one of those weekend-is-approaching-so-let’s-make-promises-to-turn-my-life-around type of things that won’t last). It does feel different this time though. For one, I am going to blog shame myself (even if there’s two people with 1.7 second attention spans reading). Second, there’s a trial period of 27 days (countdown to the start of a trip sounds about right). Third, I started today, a Thursday, which seems to be a good day for being born, starting to date, getting married, going into labour and other life changing things. Fourth, as someone who turned vegetarian one midnight and stayed that way for seven years (until the calf I was carrying made me crave flesh again), I have prior experience in sticking to will-powered plans.

Why all this need to shake things up you ask? Well, it feels like the days are meeting nights sooner than I can down a drink and they must be slowed down and absorbed and enjoyed and caught in many a breath. And there is the hope that during this shaking up, things will fall apart to eventually assemble into semi-neat patterns (who am I kidding, when has that ever happened).

But if life is a sum of days lived and if I have to make the days count for something and make them come together mostly nicely, well then there have to be rules.

Rule 1: Wake up early enough to stretch and smile.

Rule 2: Workout baby workout, atleast 30 minutes everyday.

Rule 3: Ditch processed s*** . Yes, cashew biscuits, we’re through (until further notice). Also you red meat. You’re bad news.

Rule 4: Dial down (or preferably dial out) the sugar darling.

Rule 5: The being-off-coffee-that-gave-you-jitters routine you’ve been practicing, well stick with it. No naked bean dreams, no midnight sniffing cravings. Just no, okay.

Rule 6: Read and write something that’s not an email, a report, a newspaper article. Alice Munro, Proust (again), that short story you almost wrote. Stick to the page and do do do.

Rule 7: Relax.

Rule 8: Hug more. That trick never gets old.

Rule 9: If you can’t keep at it, quit by all means but remember YOU blew it. Not Trump, your partner or the guy at the cupcake counter. It was all YOU.

Now armed with these guiding principles I set forth for 27 days of discipline and self-discovery, hoping to come out of it without a mid-milestone meltdown. I shall report from the front regularly (let’s not say daily, though that’s the dream).

Wish me luck and stay glued (ocularly not olfactorily).

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The Culinary Quest with Supriya Anand (Founder, The Food Media Company), New Delhi, India

Supriya Anand, Founder - The Food Media Company (TFMC)

Supriya Anand, Founder – The Food Media Company (TFMC)

Supriya Anand is a Delhi-based entrepreneur who took her love for food to the boardroom, founding THE FOOD MEDIA COMPANY (TFMC), which ‘celebrates and showcases innovative food related ideas through brand designing campaigns, promoting creative and inventive chefs, food product innovators, food authors and food curators.’

Approaching food, eating and culinary culture both conceptually and visually, her Arts & Literature background allowed her to work with different forms of expression with reference to food. “The thought of creating and building TFMC was to reach out & explore Culinary & Cultural experiences from around the world and to share the same with the world”. Previously she has worked as a media professional at Mr. Siddhartha Basu’s Big Synergy Media Limited for seven years as a Senior Assistant Director & Associate Producer.

I caught up with her over delicious home-made Banoffee Pie and tea to undertake a Culinary Quest, the first in this freshly brewed new Q&A series on the blog.

A dish you can eat seven days a week

Tea & a light cake

A drink you can down with any meal

I’m good with water

A dish or drink from a movie/book/television series you’d love to taste

All of Donna Hay’s & Jamie Oliver’s preparations, absolutely love their method of cooking & how they love & treat their food

An unforgettable dish you’ve had. When and where?

For this I’d have say my mother’s cooking is the most unforgettable, I truly feel nourished and happy with what and how Mumma makes anything & everything for us, with all her love & soul.

A special dish you’d like to cook for a loved one

I’d like to prepare a whole meal for a loved one

The weirdest thing you’ve ever tasted

Snails in garlic butter, the taste was still alright, the texture was horrible!

Two people (real/fictional) you’d like to have dinner with

Real life, Curtis Stone & Jamie Oliver;  Fictional: Professor Henry Higgins (from George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion); and Julia Child

A fruit or vegetable you detest

For some reason, musk melon

A fruit or vegetable you love

All, as long as they are clean & fresh

A chef (current or from history) whose preparations you’d love to taste

I’d have to say Donna Hay

If you’d like to participate in this series or nominate a wanderlust-afflicted friend, holler on Twitter or Facebook and I’ll be saying ‘Hi’ very soon!

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I Heart 7 this week, 16 – 22 Aug 2015

Weekly round-up of things I bookmarked, laughed at, wanted to do for a living (if only for a week).

READ

Isabella Rossellini on Her Mother Ingrid Bergman’s Enduring Style

Ingrid Bergman

COOK

Gratin of Tomatoes with Goat Cheese

Tomato Gtain with Goat cheese

WEAR

The perfect head-tilt

SEE

NASA’s Pluto flyby

LAUGH

LISTEN

Tum Pukar Lo – Hemant Kumar

tum-pukar-lo-02

DO

Make a Cookie Basket from a Paper Plate

 

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Rote Beete Suppe (Beet Root Soup)

It was 1975. Two Indian friends were visiting a common German friend in East Berlin, then capital of the German Democratic Republic. That friend’s parents had years ago left their Nazi occupied country and settled along the Polish-Ukraine border. She had found her way back to divided Germany. That evening she served them a pink, sour soup. It was something she’d learned from her mother.

It had enticed the taste buds of my Father-in-law, one of the visitors, so much that he learnt the recipe from her. Making it several times during his stay in the country, he eventually forgot all about it when he returned to India in the early 80s. That is, until recently, when the sight of Saure Sahne (sour cream), leftover from my mushroom soup experiment, brought back the unique flavour of the beetroot soup and he delighted us with blending it all together again.

The dish is a popular soup in Eastern Europe, finding its way into Poland and Germany, through people carrying stories and special recipes along as the settled in newer parts in the region, in the aftermath of the war. The elaborate version of this soup, with many vegetables and even meat, is referred to as borscht (in Russian) and by differing names as dialects change across borders. This is a red hot (or pink depending on how much sour cream you like in it) soup not only in its form but also in the debates surrounding its origin.

This dish has now travelled to me, sans borders and the limits names and places often impose on people, travelled like all good things do, free as stories from life should be. And now I’m sharing it with you.

Rote Beete Suppe (Beet Root Soup)

This recipe serves two.

Ingredients:

1 big bulb (or 2 medium or 3 small) of Beetroot

200 gm Saure Sahne (Sour Cream)

2 tsp Butter

Salt to taste

Method:

Peel, wash and clean the beetroot bulb. Chop it into small pieces, preferably squares.

In a grinder mix the chopped beet root and sour cream to make a paste.

In a pan heat 2 tsp butter, add a little salt to taste, add the beetroot & sour cream paste.

Stir for a minute and add water according to the consistency you want.

Once boiled, cool it.

Add Black pepper as per taste and coriander as garnish.

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Apple, Carrot and Walnut Salad in Lemon & Honey Dressing

In the past, many a cooking experiment has resulted from my not having eaten the fruit of the day. First it was bananas, which I’ve more or less begun to eat religiously first thing in the morning. Apples by contrast are reserved for that post 5pm pang, which coincides with the let’s wrap up work & run home hour. Thus resulting in a guilty apple trudging home with me. On one such evening, I decided to give it some glory once I got back, dreaming up something pomegranate-y. Finding no pomegranates at home, I found an interesting recipe for a Carrot, Apple & Walnut Salad. While I like to have a recipe hanging before me as I experiment, I always end up going with instinct on measurements. So here’s what I did:

  • Chopped 1 Apple (you could ideally skin it & slice it thin. My excuse was laziness and hunger)
  • Sliced bits of 1 orange carrot
  • Roasted 1/2 cup walnuts for 3 minutes in the microwave
  • Mixed all three in a salad bowl
  • Doused & mixed them in 1/2 squeezed lemon
  • Topped off the salad with a separate mixture of 1 tablespoon honey, 1/2 tablespoon olive oil & 1/2 lemon
  • Sprinkled a little black pepper & salt

And Voila! My 10 minute (or less, depending on your chopping speed) crunchy, lemony, bittersweet salad was ready! Apple, Carrot & Walnut Salad Tip: Go easy on the walnuts since a little more could completely overpower the flavour. But mostly, even after a long day at work, this is an easy please & a great way to get kids (and grandparents) to eat their fruits and veggies!

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Why you must not make life-transforming decisions on a Monday PLUS 5 Ways to Get Through It

Monday should long ago have been re-christened ‘Hang in There’ Day.

It officially marks the end of all that is glorious, sunny and well-fed. It is the enemy of life spent on roller-blades in empty parking lots, ruminations on the color purple (on your fingernails, not the book) and all categories of happy sounds that end in repetitive consonants.

Monday is the day you wish you were a Princess in a bow-tie (because you could), chewing Sour-Punk and watching The Thick of It to no end. Or atleast that your current partner was a filthy rich bugger who spoiled you silly and you were cannabis-happy to oblige, with no desires of ‘doing something with your life’.

Monday is just downright horrid when it drives in after a three-day long, festival followed weekend.

But it is on such very Mondays that one must never, ever, ever QUIT. Or tell a man (who is obviously wrong for you) that you love him. Or start a blog titled my-turquoise-shoes. (if you must, go for that last one.)

Because Mondays are slimy lizard things that way, designed to make you wonder at the joys of non-alarmy mornings, with what-ifs and the maybe-coulds and the even deadlier, Today-I-must-make-a-life-changing-(extremely stupid, that will only come to light post facto)-decision.

Monday, then, is best dealt with your armor on, your nose neck deep in the fluffy stuff that makes you tick, with no time for thoughts and what-not.

Here’s some things to try out…

1. It’s fine if neither you nor your book-holding arms have a place to stand during morning commute. Ditch the book and watch Outnumbered. Laugh out loud, even if people stare. Because let’s face it, you are a little nuts.

2. Answer ALL emails. It’s either that or editing a 1000 word article (written by someone who thinks Eats, Shoots & Leaves is the autobiography of the Panda from Kung-Fu Panda) on the weaving techniques used by Bedouin tribes, juxtaposed with those found in Romania and North-West Asia.  On Monday. So, emails it is.

3. To keep the warm glow of Sunday still shining over you, have Green Tea with a teaspoon of honey and freshly squeezed lemon. If you can’t get cannabis. Otherwise, have that.

4. Everyone around you will be sleepy, sorry, singing of drudgery. Don’t disown them, these are the blokes you’ll be hangin’ with over the wild wild weekend. Just practice the silent, smiling nod whilst imagining what the nice people in Iceland are doing right now.

5. During the last hour of the day, if you hit your elbow on the bathroom door at work (if it doesn’t happen on it’s own, just go bang it already), scream F*** as loud as you can silently. That will help release all and any forms of tension that may have built up during the day. Even as the excruciating and real pain of the injury passes through your arm and you slowly lose all feeling in a possibly fractured elbow, just don’t pass out in there because God knows no one wants to see that, on any day.

When you do get out, Monday will almost be over. Yayee-oo-aa-hmph.

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The Mushroom Experiment (without an A-Bomb)

For those of you who know me, or have walked in here sometimes, the image of a ladle circling apron-clad mamacita does not come to mind. On my date with food, I mostly sit in the EATING ONLY section.

But a slow, aromatic change is coming.

After an end of the day banana fix experiment months ago, and nothing afterwards, I recently decided to graduate out of the baking comfort zone to ‘real’ food, or at least appetizers. Now, I personally love some steaming mushrooms, and so does the husband. And our little girl has been granted no food choice at the moment. So I got all excited about whipping up a steaming broth for my lovelies, especially since it played on the good side of healthy eating (with only a little butter, I promise).

Mushroom Soup IngredientsTo begin, I wanted to send everyone packing to a warm room around the TV, like good house inmates. But I soon realised there wasn’t enough cream to make my soup sexy. So off went Daddy and the girl while I brought out the magic mushrooms, garlic and onion over to the chopping board for some quick and tough love.

My cream party was back just as the last mushrooms came under the knife. And within minutes off went the pan with butter on board. A bay leaf began the play, and then it was all drop, drop, churn churn with a brief interruption by the husband trying to ensure that I hadn’t burnt harmless beings alive. I shooed him out.

After minutes that felt like months at the time, a sight resembling soup came through.

Isn’t there something delightful in the word simmer, even more so when it’s accompanied by a (visually) normal and naturally peppery scent of soup. It was done.

Cream of Mushroom SoupThough I had tasted the broth in motion to see that all was good, it was quite another treat to see the family lick it off their bowls (our furry pet included). The husband even licked the pan clean (though that’s usually undesirable behaviour in my books).

Within two days I had made it again, lots more this time. And it will probably happen again soon.

Until I find a new food road to travel, we can (if we have to) live on some soup and cake.

For your notebook: I used this recipe, strictly by the book, the first time around (without nutmeg). But the second time I increased the amount of water and milk with the same mushroom quantity and extra seasonings. It was thinner but swell.

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Feasting on Friendship

Last Sunday, a dear friend and I met for lunch. Although we live less than ten kilometers from each other, we meet less than five times a year. Our last rendezvous was at a breakfast event earlier this year, which she was hosting. In between entertaining others and keeping things in check, we hardly got the time to ‘catch up’.

So this time, there was a lot we had to fill each other on, mostly her trials at running her own business, interpreting mixed signals from a certain gentleman of interest, dealing with her supportive but anxious parents with regard to her 30-year-old unmarried status and mutual exclamations at the horrors being inflicted by our ex-boss at a company we began working for right out of graduate school.

If I had to pick a best friend (among women), she would be it. In addition to being classmates at college, we had found a common interest, namely, commuting from the same location to our classroom nearly 20 kilometers away. When I wasn’t playing (and praying for) the empty bus lottery, I would hitch a ride in her cantankerous white car. Our adventures in that disheveled beast included water puddles at our feet from the leaky roof, lizards resting behind the steering wheel and a disruption in our philosophical ramblings by the sudden demise of the engine on a highway stretch with no help. The final straw was the shocking disappearance of that crippled metal mass from outside the office where we had begun our journey together into paid labor. The car was finally retrieved but by then my friend had fallen out of love with it. She gave it away to the plumber and got a swifter ride. And it has been so long since the fateful day that even the second car is being done in for a fancier ride this October.

Lunch at Cafe LotaShe and I were born in the same year, nineteen days apart. Being zodiac twins meant that over the years we had shared horoscope defined drivel that was supposed to explain our lives. To no one’s surprise, it never did. As we dug into a steaming Vegetable Stew with Appam and an aubergine curd dish with parathas, the conversation veered towards our present lives that couldn’t have been more dissimilar. Even though we spent two years at our first job together, the ensuing joys and sorrows have been uniquely our own. And yet we have been few dialed numbers away, hers being among the few that have been imprinted in my mind, unmarred by memories going digital.

Even though we haven’t been very regular with our correspondence, we ease into it when we do meet. There are no shields, pretenses or hidden cobwebs. It’s confession closet and more.

Nothing compares of course to the one time she called, nearly three years ago after a very long gap.

“Heyyyy (the long drawl is a must for our greeting)! How’ve you been? Lets meet soon. It’s been forever.”

The usual drill is for us to decide time and place, dependent mostly on which new restaurant we want to try, and then we meet soon after. This one time however, when she called I was lying flat on my back having given birth to my little girl a few hours before.

“Dude, you are not going to believe this, but I’ve just had a baby. So, yeah let’s meet soon. Come to the hospital maybe?”

And then we laughed and laughed.

Apple Jalebi at Cafe LotaSince then we’ve met several times, always with the little girl who addresses my friend as her own while distinct aromas pepper our ramblings. This time they posed and paired and shared a meal. And we parted having amassed stories until next time and after discovering that I could enjoy a sugary apple treat (with the right company) even if I’d never given it half a chance before.

For all our feelings of sisterhood, when we meet or call each other to spill all, there are portions of each other’s lives we’ve narrowly missed. That is the shape of things with us and this is how I know we’ll always be; without ceremonious chatter or forced smiles, but almost always with savory bites and hungry ears, waiting to devour the tales of lost time.

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And Then There Was Cake

The last post ended with cinnamon sprinkled hope. Little did I know it would float so soon.

So here’s what happened.

IMG_20140522_220503

In case you’re interested, the recipe was loosely based on this.

But I mixed all ingredients together and went crazy-hand-circles on it. Plus, I used the microwave instead of the oven. On High for 10 minutes.

7 people tried it and came back for more. I’d like to believe they weren’t just being nice.

And to think it all started with not eating the banana of the day.

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Sleight of Hand

Pierre Auguste Renoir, Melon and Tomatoes, 1903

I am not much of a cook. To be honest, I don’t cook at all. The kitchen has always been a space I have shunned for the (imagined) drudgery that must be carried out within its walls. Running my hands in repeat motions over a boiling broth has never defined my idea of time well spent.

And yet, I have watched enthralled as food masters and many a mistress of spices have created magic in a bowl. I have spent precious minutes devouring the choicest phrases describing a meal cooked with love. I have often led myself to imagine a life set amidst curious curries and painted pots.

The body has played its part. There is the scent sorcerer, the nose that dives for treasures unseen. Then there is the palette, which defies kitchen-hatred and is always a keen diary keeper of trusted tastes, with the oft surprise that gets a special note. The eyes linger on scrumptious sights while fingers turn crusaders.

Even as I’ve escaped daily cooking so far, there have been fluffy chocolate cake days over the years (“I don’t cook, I only bake” doesn’t look so bad), a lone sandwich or two and more recently ice-cold shakes. Many a dying banana and malfunctioning mango has been rescued by a magic swirl. Peanut Butter, Oreo Cookies, Instant Coffee have all met their milky match in these adventures.

There is hope then, for carrots and peas and crunchy beets, for onion in wine and sun-kissed lime, for hands to rise and practice each turn, for cinnamon dreams to perhaps ring true.