The kaleidoscope of life
Has more colours
When I look through it
I came across this post about the influences of tradition on food quite by chance, and it has set me thinking. It made me think about why I like the food I do, and why I cook what I do. And the memories made me smile. It took me back to long, long ago.
I was born in Chennai, but brought up entirely in Gujarat. There would be month- and two-month long visits to Chennai in the summer holidays. Part of my family drooled over Gujarati food, while part of them liked only purely traditional South Indian. I spent part of my childhood in a locality full of Maharashtrians. I had a fast friend who was a foodie, and she was largely responsible for introducing me to a variety of tastes. My stints at eating out made me realize I am fond of Indo-Chinese and Indo-Italian food. I am married into a family that has strong Keralite connections. The husband loves Kannadiga food, and introduces me quite often to flavours from Bangalore. As a result, my taste buds and my kitchen have had one influence too many.
Mom and granny majorly used to cook traditional South Indian cuisine. I was blessed in the sense that both of them are wonderful cooks. I fell in love with Masala Dosas, Avial, Cabbage and coconut curry, and with the variety of chutneys and thokkus that these ladies used to make. I loved my nani’s vettalkozhambu and morkozhambu, and would plead with my mom to replicate the exact taste. Nani taught me the joys of adding a spoonful of liquid ghee to a plate of steaming rice and vettalkozhambu, or just plain, salted paruppu. Of course, rasam and sambar were ever-present both at our place and nani’s, but I never much fell for them. Mom and granny’s Gujarati and Marathi friends taught them a lot of recipes, which have now been passed on to me. It was in Ahmedabad that I developed a taste for sweet dal and sabzi, Bombay chutney, vegetable pulav, sabudana khichdi, chivda, khaman, undhiyu, patra, samosas, jalebi, methi na gota, paav bhaji, and dalwada, among several others. Granny and Mom learnt how to make soft parathas and roll out the fluffiest of phulkas, arts which were passed on to me. Because I should not feel different among my Gujarati friends, Mom learnt how to make several Gujarati and other dishes like Paneer Butter Masala, Patra, and Sabudana Khichdi, recipes that were painstakingly noted down by me and which I use till date.
Whenever Mom had to make South Indian food and I wasn’t in the mood to eat it, I would head off with that foodie friend of mine for some yummy but affordable street food. Ahmedabad is a heaven for food lovers, I tell you! I fell in love with the street sandwiches, pani puri, dahi puri, sev puri, et al, and even learnt to make a few of these things at home. Another option when I wanted to eat something different was Maggi – the faithful Maggi which never lets a hungry soul down. Mom and me would experiment with Maggi, and try to cook it in as many ways as possible. And then there were the Knorr soups, which made quite a regular appearance at our place in the winter months. I learnt that I prefer Indo-Chinese and Indo-Italian food over typical Italian or Chinese food. Mom and me developed our own recipes for homemade pizza and Indianised pasta, which we would keep experimenting with.
Bangalore taught me to love Bisi Bele rice, Masala Puri, Holige, and medu vada. My aunt who resides in Bangalore taught me several new recipes, like a customized version of Fried Rice, Gobi Manchurian and Kurma, which I fell in love with too. I thought rasam was only for sick people till the husband made me realize it’s not so, with his wonderful rasam. He taught me to love bajjis, smoked sweet potato, brinjal rice, papads, vadams, and his own version of sambar. The MIL taught me to love Palakkad Adai, Onion and tomato rice, Parikkai Gotzu, and Kerala style kootu and morkozhambu. Like marriage has expanded my viewpoint on a lot of things, I believe it has expanded my tastes also, and (I think) it has improved my cooking skills too.
My taste buds crave change quite often. I’m not one of those who can eat curd rice or roti-subzi or upma or Maggi for one week straight. Hence, I keep experimenting. One day our kitchen turns into a South Indian one with coconut, dry chillies and paruppu all over the place. The other day, it emanates strong smells of garlic and onion and tomato. I refer to several food blogs too, and each one of them has taught me new recipes, which have been tried and tested and loved. I prefer homemade food over outside food, the only condition being that it should be yummylicious. If I love some dish that I had somewhere, I try to get the recipe from somewhere and try it out in my own kitchen – like the mushroom sabzi that I made recently. Thankfully, I liked to eat the food that I cook, and the better half loves it too. He is more than willing to be a guinea pig for my experiments, and is generous with his praise. What else could I ask for?
I am yet to experiment with a lot of flavours – I have never tried Arabic cuisine or Mexican, amongst several others. There is a world of taste I am yet to explore, and I do want to get around to doing it.
I think I love Gujarati food above all – I love the sweetish taste of it, sans the generous quantities of oil. But then there are days when all I want is rasam rice or curd rice or Maggi. Some days, I crave for a combination of North and South – I want avial with phulkas or mushroom sabzi with dosas.
Curious people have asked me – what will your child eat? Will he/she eat roti-subzi or rice, dosa or fried rice? I honestly don’t know. I would leave it to my child to experiment and discover the joy of finding a taste that he/she loves. I can only make sure that I provide him/her ample exposure to every taste that I have had the good fortune to taste.
The Japan quake and the subsequent terror and devastation made me realise that we might be nearing THE END. We might. We might not. You never know. But we might, you know.
About a week after the quake, I was looking through the photographs of my Delhi-Agra trip. This might sound selfish, but I was so glad I could see these places while I could. Both Delhi and Agra had been dream destinations since God knows when, and I was so happy I finally made it to these places. Our trip to Kerala last year too falls in the same category. It had been on my dream-places-to-visit list for, like, always.
My parents have never been great travellers, and neither was I before marriage. Basically, I was always interested in travelling, proper hard-core travelling stuff, but lacked the company to do it with. I didn’t just want to take off to places alone. I found a willing and interested travel partner in the better half, and together, we explored several places in the 2 years we’ve been married. He has toured to many places in India on work, sometimes out of country, and travelling with him is so simple and nice – just because he has travelled so much he knows what to expect and what to be pack and what to do and all that. And also because he lets me feel the places we visit like I need to, like I want to – he doesn’t rush me up like most tourists we’ve seen do. We’ve travelled to some places new to him too – Goa for instance, or Ahmedabad – and we’ve loved those experiences too.
India itself is huge, with its rich history and natural beauty. We have heard stories about every possible place, and have longed to visit them. Then, we’ve always wanted to see the world outside India – the United States, Paris, London, and, of course, Japan too. We’ve wanted to do the touristy stuff in all these places whenver we have read about them. And then there are countries not all that popular for tourists. For instance, I was seeing some forwards about the scenic beauty of Iceland and Austria, and wondered if we would ever be visiting these places. Parts of me want to settle down in the places we visit – at least for a year or so – and feel the place. Soak in the culture of that place. Eat the food of that place. Be one with the people of that place. And that has happened at many places.
Travelling the whole of India itself – really, properly travelling – is a daunting experience. I don’t see any way I can do it before I’m sixty years of age. We can just quit our jobs and take off in a caravan or whatever, but there are the bills to be paid, and I do want a home. 😀 So, for now, it has to be a balance of work and pleasure.
Well, the point of this story is that we’ve just about started to explore the world, and there is so, so, so much to see, do and feel. It, kind of, saddens us. I don’t want the world to end. I’m not ready to go, yet. I want to see the whole world, properly, before I go out of it. Apart from the travelling, there is so much in life that I want to do.
Here comes the wishful thinking part. I wish companies could find out some way of balancing their employees’ personal and professional aspirations. Especially now. I wish I could be able to take off at a moment’s notice and explore places to my heart’s content, and still hold down a job. I wish I were able to avoid a meeting or a call just because I wanted to do some finger painting or prepare a greeting card. Or simply spend some time with the better half. I wish every employer could see ‘soul satisfaction’ as an important part of employee satisfaction.
The better half feels it would be great if companies could give their employees a year off every 5 years or so – with pay – to pursue their heart. To renew themselves. To find themselves. He says he would go on a world trip now if he could get a year’s salary credited in his account and a year off work. His dreams are grander than mine. 🙂 I just want to, possibly, explore more and do all that I want to before I realise that I can’t do everything, any more.
The Japan quake and tsunami has shaken us up. It is saddening to see photographs and videos of entire cities getting wiped out, of generations of people being displaced from the world. All the technology in the world seems so powerless in front of the fury of nature. Flames and huge sprays of water, nuclear radiation and what not – it feels as if Mother Nature is furious about all the times we have abused her.
Japan, as a country, has always been close to the hearts of the better half and me. The better half had a relative who was working in Japan years ago, and he has grown up on stories about Japan and the Japanese. The better half has always nursed dreams of visiting the country sometime in life, and his dreams have made me dream about seeing Japan too. It is tragic to see the country going through such destruction and grief.
Our prayers and wishes go out to Japan. I hope they find it in them to rise up again from the ashes and build a new country.
The Japan incident has put a question in my head – is the 2012 prediction really going to happen? Is the end nearing? All the doomsday predictions do seem true when you see such mass destruction and man being rendered so utterly powerless.
I happened to be at a hospital today morning, and I was glad I was there.
I met an aged couple there – the man, who looked over 65, was about to be admitted for a CT scan. He could not walk, and was on a stretcher. There were tubes attached to his hand, and he looked scared. His wife, about 60 years of age, was the one who brought him to the hospital. It was she who came up to the reception and confidently made all the necessary enquiries. I was waiting, in queue, and she looked at me and smiled. I don’t know how to describe it, but her spirit came across in that moment – strongly.
I later met the couple as the man was about to get inside the scan room. He was nervous, and the wife was calming him down. ‘Don’t worry. You will be out soon. And you will be discharged by noon,’ she said, adding, ‘Don’t forget to think of God. Have faith on Him.’ She was all smiles and reassuring pats, and the man seemed visibly calmer. Just before going into the scan room, she sang a song for him – in a low voice, so as not to disturb the other patients – without caring for the strange glances that the people around them gave her. I was mesmerised. The man smiled, and he was wheeled inside the room. I am sure he felt so much better in that one moment.
I didn’t get a chance to speak to them, but the old couple reaffirmed my faith in love. It touched my heart to see that two people can be there for each other, and feel stronger due to the bond. I saw how one person can make a difference in the life of another – for years and years and years – with their love. Such people are the true Valentines, aren’t they?
Two men are walking down a street. How do you differentiate between the married man and the single one?
Simple. The married man will have a bag of vegetables in one hand, and groceries in the other.
Flashback to college days. This joke used to do the rounds in our gang of friends at college, and we all used to laugh every time we used to hear it. I always felt sorry for the married man in the joke, though – I refused to believe that his condition would be so pathetic – and I vowed never to let my husband be in that position, the butt of jokes.
Back to the present. The hubby returns from a business tour of Gujarat. With a bag of ivy gourd in one hand and a bag of sago in the other. Because his darling wife always complains that she doesn’t like the ivy gourds and the sago available in Bangalore. He hands them over to a very amused and happy me. And the joke is doing the rounds once again, this time in the family – louder than ever before. I’m not complaining.
🙂 🙂 🙂
The Internet at our place is still down, in spite of repeated phone calls to BSNL. As much as the no-internet-at-home status is giving me more time to do other things, it is bugging me as well. And I, in turn, bugged the better half so much that he got his wireless Internet connection home from work over the weekend. 😀 That’s how I could upload a few pics from our Goa trip.
There’ll be more pics coming soon, but this is it for now. 🙂
Finally, the better half and me decided to take the plunge (literally!) and do the parasailing at the Colva Beach, Goa – after not doing it in Thailand and Diu. 😀 And, I must say, it was scary initally, but was lovely fun. We both LOVED the experience of flying in the air, even if it was only for a few moments. 🙂
Dear better half, may we be together as we conquer all our fears and fly high, leaving behind what we once feared, to a new ‘Us’. 🙂
Watching the sun set on a beach with the company of the better half seems to take away ALL my stress – always. I don’t think I will ever tire of beaches in my life. I just LOVE the sights, smells and sounds of a beach.
Dear better half, may we be together in all the sunsets of life. 🙂