Thursday, February 23, 2017

A taste of home: 2-ingredient Kalakand

One of the things I didn’t see made at home was sweets. Growing up in India, it was easy to step out to a halwai ki dukan (sweetmeat shop) and choose whatever caught your fancy. My mom usually made a couple of basics like halwa and kheer in her kitchen to mark a holiday, but we bought the rest. As with everything else, it’s easier to shift the responsibility of not being able to make desserts to my life as a child in India J.

It was hard to live without Indian sweets after moving to USA. Throughout my first pregnancy, I craved for boondi-ka-laddu and kaju-ki-katli.…..Things weren’t the same 15yrs ago – we had one small grocery store that sold Indian staples, and the variety of frozen food that you see today was non-existent. Even if you did drive 1-2h to the big grocery stores, things didn’t exactly taste like they should have. Over years, the sweet taste buds kind of dampened, and I started forgetting things that I’d liked in India. And then, as my daughters grew older and got to eat sweets that our friends brought back from their trips to India, my forgotten love re-ignited. We started to ask visiting friends and family to carry boxes of Indian sweets; just so the girls could enjoy them.  

Very recently have I started learning how to make a few of the common sweets at home. To many of you, these would appear trivial; for me anything that the girls decide to like, is a triumph!

Monday, February 20, 2017

When my Soup became Dinner!!


Scenario one:
Is that lentil soup?”
No- it’s sambhar ”
What’s it made of?”
Lentils, tomato, onions, water, spices…..
So…it IS lentil soup”!

Scenario two:
What do you do to get everyday protein if you don’t eat eggs or meat”.
All our meals have a bean or lentil dish. That’s protein”.
What kind of lentil dish?”
I cook lentils with water, saute onion, tomato spices etc, add to lentils…
So you make soup
No….it’s a dal. To eat with rice or bread
But it IS a soup”!

Over time, I figured it was easier to to consider my dal as “lentil soup”when eating lunch with colleagues in US.  But, somewhere, at the back of my mind, a soup was a starter- served at the beginning of a meal. The mere mention of soup takes me back to my mom’s  soups- restricted to tomato soup; carrot & tomato soup or spinach-carrot-tomato soup; all spiced with ginger, cumin and salt. She cooked her vegetables, pureed them and then strained them before serving. We’d all get a small bowl of it about 30min before dinner during winter. They were all clear liquids, meant to enhance appetite.Soup as main course; or a full mean was an alien concept.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

My Happiness Project



What do you like to do?” someone asked me recently.

It took me a while to comprehend, and a lot longer to put in perspective.

It seems like it’s been a lifetime that I have done anything that “I” liked.  I cook food that the kids would eat without a fuss and we go to restaurants that they like. Most times, I sit in front of the TV, and watch whatever the family’s watching. More often than not, I just walk away with my book and hide until they are done with TV. We go on vacations that A thinks of….which isn’t to say that I don’t enjoy them. But it isn’t quite the same as doing “what I like”.  After all, I am a firm believer in the saying, “Do what you love or Love what you do”. I think I don’t mind taking the back seat.  So I don't know what bothered me when I couldn’t think of an answer.to that simple, direct question; 

Early on in our marriage, I remember dragging A to a PhilHarmonic concert. Around the same time, he took me to a Zakir Hussain concert. The experiences were ….interesting, to say the least. He yawned the whole time, and slouched, sighed and annoyed the heck out of me. I tried going to the movies with him – a few of those popular Bollywood ones – he laughed till he cried and fell off his chair, clapped his hands and had an insanely entertaining time. I sat and fidgeted and wondered why I had to endure that 3h torture when I could have done something more productive (like reading a book!) Over time, we both gave up; never having found a middle ground for our likes.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Meetha kha, Meetha Bol. Til ki Patti

“How many harvest festivals do Indians celebrate?” was the smart-aleck Anya question this past weekend.

Reason- I had made Til ki Patti (Sesame seed Brittle) at home; and was forcing her to try a bite under the pretext that it was a special dessert made for Harvest celebration as marked by Makar Sankranti.

My first reaction was annoyance. Her tone really had that early-teen disdain for everything “parent”. One deep breath later, I figured that if she asked that question; she probably remembers the other Harvest Holidays and stories that I have told her and Baby P. This is good, in fact- better than good. After all, isn’t the goal to make them aware of our special traditions and celebrations?


So I ventured into my convoluted, Wikipedia-verified version(s) of  why we celebrate Sankranti. Anya rolled her eyes and went back to doing whatever she was doing, but remained close and kept her earphones out of her ears. A big enough achievement, under the circumstances. Baby P hung on to every word, asked tons of questions and chattered on while I tried to google apt responses for her. Somehow, she made me wish that I could hold on to her years a little longer….having a teenager on hand is surely a trial!