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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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Today I met the Queen…

…Not the octogenarian in England.

I’m referring to the Hindi film that has been receiving rave reviews since it released about two weeks ago.

Over the years most of my movie viewing experience has involved waiting for reviews (mostly from multiple ‘professional’ critics) before standing in line for a ticket. There was the sole instance of running across a deserted parking lot to catch a 10am first-day-first-show of ‘The Last Samurai’. But that was more about a Tom Cruise phase and mostly about the boy I was running with.

As it stands, I end up watching very few Hindi films in theatres. The industry produces an obscene number of very trashy material every year that I have no tolerance for. And when there is something interesting to watch there’s the challenge of finding a willing partner. One CAN watch a film alone, (It was just me at ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ for instance), but something about Hindi films makes them more family outing (adults only) friendly. As it turned out, all through dating years the boyfriend never wanted to step anywhere Hindi films. But now that he is the husband he has no choice.

So after the girls at work (and random people on twitter) were gushing over ‘Queen’ (“Every woman should watch this film”) I decided to force my man along and make a Sunday of it. Keeping clear of spoilers, I had been given to understand that this was going to be about a woman finding herself, in some form or another.

Having seen it and under no obligation to keep quiet, an elevator synopsis would explain it thus (SPOILER ALERT): Simple, sober, homely Delhi Girl gets stood up at the altar – decides to go on her honeymoon alone – Gets to Paris where she faces troubles at first but triumphs, meets French-Indian free-spirited woman who helps her loosen up (with ample alcohol) and widens her horizon (not ‘Mulholland Drive’ wide. That’s illegal here) – our Delhi girl then travels to Amsterdam where she continues her vacation at a hostel, sharing her room with three appropriately-ethnically-diverse men (French, Japanese, Russian) and finally finds herself.

I will give the film brownie points for not labouring on any matter endlessly and instead maintaining the feel of a holiday everyone is taking alongside the girl while she ‘discovers’ herself. But I will not call it a “path-breaking” film and am surprised so many people are labelling it that. It is peppered with several formulaic features like typical Delhi humour that has become quite common in recent films (Punjabi music, jokes, supporting actors and their quirks), cardboard characters she meets during her trip with their little background stories (Parisian girl with child out of wedlock because “that’s what people do here”, Muslim girl working at a strip club in Amsterdam to support her family, Japanese roommate who lost his parents in the Tsunami etc.). The only real departure it makes from the norm (of Hindi films) is side-lining the need for a male partner in the scheme of things.

It seems to me that the main reason everyone is applauding this film is the centrality of the female gaze and perspective and the fact that the film ends with a rejection of the reconciliatory advances of the fiancé who had left her at the altar. Perhaps the culmination with her walking out of his house after an honest hug is to complete the circle the film had begun with their cancelled wedding at the outset.

So riddle me this: Why is it that in coming-of-age films with central male characters, women are incidental to the story (usually only as sexual partners) and not linked to the man’s journey to self-discovery? And here everyone is rushing to applaud a film where a female character’s self-worth emanates most significantly from her rejection of a subscribed relationship?

Perhaps a truly “path-breaking” Hindi film that sets out to celebrate freedom would be one that does not need to establish a male character who must be rejected/accepted by the woman in order for her to discover herself.

And it should be family outing and popcorn-cola worthy. For all else there’s After Hours with Simone de Beauvoir.

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And then there was light

I’m all for natural lighting, to the extent that I would live in a glass house if I could. I’m the jump out of bed (well okay, not jump but curse the alarm and get out of bed) kind of person, who before anything else draws the curtains and says hello to sunshine/rain or whatever else is waiting.

And then there is the husband who would rather close every inch of space from where light could penetrate (“It becomes too hot if you open the curtains”). I told him to go live on the North Pole (actually I said ‘London’ because he’s more likely to make a living there). And while I call him names I also realise he’s not alone in his thinking. Thankfully my room-mate in college agreed with me but we would always be surprised how other people could switch on lights at 10am instead of sunbathing indoors.

What’s more, you save on electricity bills too. Of course that’s not what I’m thinking when I do what I do but it sure is an argument I’m going to use against curtain-closers. When you’re living in the city, curtain closing should only be for privacy, not because you’re a sunlight-hater. Sure there are times when you’re sunbaked enough outside to want any of that indoors. That is when you want to live in the air-conditioned, dim lighting cocoon. But no other time is an excuse mister.

And artificial light-wise, give me yellow over white any day. There’s something almost obtrusive about white light, which is why it is probably great to study under. But for all else, paint my room yellow please.

Rest assured my war against curtain closing isn’t over. I refuse to switch on house lights before sundown. And more importantly, my weekend afternoon tryst with 19th century classics is not going to involve a tube light.
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7 lies to throw around for a food-filled guilt-free Karva Chauth

It is that day of the year again. Women in their glitzy best wake up before sunrise and hog to hell before spending the entire day (till the moon is up) fasting. The annual festival of Karva Chauth keeps many a married woman (and some unwed ones) in full preparation mode with heena-ed hands and glorious shopping. Husbands, for their part, fulfill the single duty of coming home on time. Some men of honour have begun fasting alongside their wives, to profess their love by NOT eating one day of the year.

Traditionally, this day meant freedom from housework and much laughter and bonhomie with other women in the family. For those who can manage that, it sounds like a fun day of the year. But for corporate drones who’d like to save holidays for better things in life (skinny dipping in Goa maybe), it is an uninteresting proposition.

If your idea of love does not involve giving up food for one day of the year, then you might need a fool-proof way to survive the stinks and stares as you eat normal meals on this day of community farce.

Having trouble answering “Aren’t you celebrating Karva Chauth?”

You can play these 7 easy cards anytime during the day:

  1. Incredulity: What! Is that today? Ah, well. Now that I’ve eaten already, I might as well continue.
  2. All year Love: I love my husband every day of the year. I am sending love his way with every bite.
  3. Peg it on the in-laws: (Looking distraught) The festival is not celebrated in my husband’s family.
  4. Confusion: Sound all mysterious and say “Do you know the real story about Karva Chauth?” and then launch off on a diatribe designed to confuse. Infuse dungeons and dragons if it helps.
  5. Eating for one: Say you’re pregnant and you’re eating for the baby. To be used judiciously as you have to play another card after nine months when no baby pops.
  6. Watch them turn green: Oh my husband refuses to let me fast for him. But he is taking me out on a shopping spree and cooking dinner tonight.
  7. Preparing for the Hoopla: I’m a feminist and we eat well every day to keep things perky. Who knows when the next bra burning hoopla might begin?

Don’t: Fast, abuse, hate

Do: What makes you Happy

Always: Give dirt if you get dirt