Reading now

28 Nov

I picked up Rajdeep Sardesai’s book because I was curious, and reading it in-turn piqued my curiosity about the back-story of the Nehru-Gandhi family and the growth of the Congress in India. And so I picked Durbar. I’m racing through it and was going to share my thoughts on both in a single post, but couldn’t wait given this mornings twist in the election tale. I’ve seen reports in three Hindi newspapers, and it seems to be scattered over the net, but has totally escaped mainstream English news in this country. Not shocking at all. It’s little events like this that illustrate just how manipulative the powers that be, can truly be. It becomes important to know and to acknowledge that most things in the news are a version of the truth, closer to fiction than truth itself. And that there is little that can be trusted, as far as political propaganda goes. For those of us who have a very different idea of good days, it becomes even more important to know that perhaps, all is not lost.

2014 The Election that Changed India, Rajdeep Sardesai
I picked it up after I watched this interview based on the number of times he said it provides a “ringside view” into the run up to the election that just passed. And that is what it is. I’m not a deeply political person. I am aware, keep myself abreast with current events and developments, know what I value as a citizen in this country, what my priorities are, and every election I have voted in has been about choosing the lesser evil. Ours wasn’t a family that openly discussed politics, and unlike many friends who tell me their entire family backs one political party or the other, I don’t remember that being very apparent for me, while growing up. I’ve also never been very keen or inclined to understand the deeper layers of our political history, until very recently, when it has become living room discussion that is hard to get around. My stand this time around has been much more deeply thought out, strong and well formed.

Given that background, this book made a good read because it goes back to landmark events from a couple of decades ago, drawing neat plot lines on how things have been steered for both the BJP and Congress, dispelling a lot of my doubts and confusion about picking sides (and my inability to pick either). It was informative, insightful and opened my eyes to many facts and implications. I understand history better when it is presented in a linear fashion, and this book did that for me.

The few revelations that shocked me:
– the colossal amounts of money spent on campaigning. I was aware they were obscene, but didn’t in my wildest dreams they would be to the tune of hundreds of crores. If our political parties could only siphon of some of that to regenerate villages, feed hungry children and do even an iota of the number of things they pontificate about, I can’t imagine the development we’d begin to see. The numbers were too huge for me to even wrap my head around them, and the mind really boggles at the fact that we could find no better use for that volume of funds. Worse still, that a lot of this is public information and cannot be questioned or challenged.
– the open disdain for the media. Considering it is the media’s job to hold a mirror up to the times we live in, I’m more than horrified at how uncomfortable the truth makes our politicians.
– The book trashes both sides equally, painting a fairly honest and disturbing picture of the horrors that both major political parties have perpetrated. Going back to every major event over the last 20 years that has shaped the personalities of the Congress and the BJP.
– By the end I began to see some semblance of why there is this impenetrable aura around Modi, and why we oscillate between pity and hatred towards Rahul Gandhi.

It made me incredibly sad to have the facts laid out rather logically, to realise that we are a truly bankrupt country, when it comes to leaders, statesmen or people of character and substance. Given the kind of gems of people our independence movement unearthed, I’m beginning to wonder if it is only that scale of suffering and that intense a fight to reclaim what should be rightfully ours, that will bring to the fore leaders of some calibre.

For that reason, it was also a deeply depressing, but essential read, I’d say. I feel it is important to know and be depressed, rather than wallow in a perfunctory cynicism like one tends to given the wave of love and hate (depending on which side you’re on) that sweeps most forms of media that I consume. Many things in the book shocked me, and therefore shaped my understanding of what might have prompted us as citizens to choose one way or another. And in many ways, though my rage remains, I think I finally understand what they mean when they say “we get the leaders we deserve.”

Durbar, Tavleen Singh
In telling the pitiful Rahul Gandhi story, The Election That Changed India goes pretty deep into the history of the politics of the Congress as a party. I was born in 1984, and the first Prime Minister I was old enough to register and know about was Rajiv Gandhi. I was 8 when he was assassinated. So I was extremely intrigued by some of the anecdotes in Rajdeep’s book, and curious to know more about what made him enter politics, what are the workings of a political family, why were the men all so reluctant, and what must it be like to be a part of a family that has been put on a pedestal for a greater part of our years as an independent country — to be given a status they don’t deserve, and then eventually to have it all come crashing down. I remembered Durbar, and bought it almost instantly after I finished The Election.

I’m half-way through and I might have to come back and edit my views on this once I’m done but here’s what I found so far. It begins in a slow and whiny manner, putting Tavleen Singh’s own angst about her fall out with the Gandhis too much in the fore. I wonder if the entire book is in itself an outpouring of this pent up anger at being rejected. It does however shed light on the details of the Emergency, and the horrors of 1984, previously unknown to me.

Considering I will probably never pick up anything academic on the matter, I think these two books have been a good way to get to know many details and developments in the six decades of our history that has shaped the times I live in. Especially considering the persistent strains of deep frustration that are constantly bubbling under, with regard to the general direction in which we are moving as a nation. At this point, anything that will help make sense of much of the insanity that our leaders are unleashing on us, is welcome.

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Shiny, new stuff

27 Nov

Well, what can I say. When more than three people write in to a) ask where you’ve disappeared to again b) remind you about a post you casually promised to finish and post and c) request you to please blog on either on of your blogs (yeah, talk about pressure!) it’s only a matter of time before you decide to give into the muddle of things you want to say, and resort to a list.

Here’s what’s new. And some news.

1) A haircut. After over a year of semi-short hair, managing curls, cursing bloody product, and reaching the point of needing a trim a little too often, I decided to bite the bullet. I’d been thinking about this for over two years now, and the original short haircut was meant to be a buzz, with the hugsband’s electric trimmer. I’m glad I didn’t do anything that drastic, because I now know how fast my hair grows, and maintaining that would have been a bigger nightmare than I was looking to deal with.

At every point that I would go in for a trim I’d request a shorter crop, only to be told my face is too small, or too long, or that it was too drastic a change, and I’d be asked if I was realllllly, realllllly sure. Apparently, just asking for it is not enough.

So finally, last month I decided enough was enough and that I had nothing to lose, but the few inches of hair I was going to chop off. And that was pretty much all there was to it. Anti-climactic end after the climax that was all the over-thinking, over-cautioning and over-dramatising.

It’s short now. So short that on day 1, the help walked in, looked at me, began to giggle and didn’t stop, pausing momentarily only to tell me, “Didi, peeche se to aap mard jaise lag rahe ho.” Okay, then.

So yes, its boy-short. Pixie-short. Don’t-need-a-comb short. Wash-it-everyday short. Roll-out-of-bed-and-nobody-would-know short. I-love-it short.

garden

2) The sister says I look like a lost farmer child in the picture above. She’s close, actually. VC snapped it when I was gardening. An activity that still makes me feel lost and at-sea. And yet, yet, yet, there’s a garden growing in my home, yougaaiis! For a whole year after we moved in here, I let the yard grow weedy, overgrown with so much rubbish, until one fine day I could take it no more. 4 snakes sighted around our colony over the span of a week might have had something to do with the sudden urgency with which I had it cleaned out. I have an abysmal track-record with growing plants. Essentially, anything I touch, dies. So in order to improve my chances with keeping a garden, I decided to get professional help. I hired a gardener who now comes in once a week to oversee all the major stuff. I’m not on my own, he makes sure I’m treating my plants well, and that they’re not being suffocated by my over-anxious over-watering.

It’s been a little over a month and my Sundays now begin with an hour of pottering about the garden, messing around in the mud, rearranging stuff and generally feeling chuffed and fascinated at how stuff grows. It’s quite thrilling to watch buds bloom overnight, tiny curled up tightly-rolled leaves unfurl and take shape, tendrils clinging on to the closest support and climbing high, seeds sprouting and pushing their baby heads out of the soil.

My entrance now sports a profusion of several kinds of Petunias that are seriously growing like they’re running out of time. There’s also a couple of pots of Impatience (called so, because they’re so impatient to grow). And I have to admit, the front of the house is transformed.

Petunias2

Petunias1

I took the friendly advice of some seasoned kitchen-gardeners, bought some good quality potting mix from the closest nursery and “scattered a few seeds from my masala dabba.” Seriously. That’s all it took. I had a pot of methi that burst to life in just a few days. I actually looked at the pot, tiny green shoots pushing their way out of the soil, and went “aww.” Little baby stalks of methi, fighting to come out and breathe, with bits of mud atop their heads. Totally adorable. And no you’re not the only one who thinks this is abnormal behaviour. A told me to stop stalking them, because it’s not like they’re going to grow up and go away to college.

plants

My over-enthusiasm to “nurture” them might have gone a little wrong, and some over-watering might have occurred. So I had to “harvest” the methi prematurely today. Young, wee tender leaves and stalks got cooked into a channa-methi dal, as suggested by someone who saw the picture on facebook. Totally yummy, and I suspect psychologically yummier still, because you know, garden-to-plate and all that hipster jazz.

I’m not writing off my slowly-turning-green-thumb yet. So I also potted a fresh batch of methi again today, determined to get it right. There’s a pot of garlic shoots that is growing out of control. I regularly snip the shoots and add them to tadkas, salads, etc. They taste like a sharp variety of chives and make for an excellent addition to pretty much anything.

Here it is, on cheesy scrambled eggs last Sunday.

Cheesy Eggs

3) The Hungry & Excited website. Yes, its new. Again. Go see! Still polishing it, tying up loose ends and figuring it out as I go. But it’s up and working, now if only I could get my email subscriptions to work seamlessly, we’d be set.

But the up-side of having the blog running again is that I have no more excuses. I kicked the lazy out of me this morning and posted a 7-month old draft. Yes, I’ve been that lazy this year.

rolls

I made these rolls in April, when it was hot, hot, hot. Perfect weather to make bread. But right now, is perfect weather to eat make meals of soup. And you know what goes with soup, right?

Dinner rolls, silly.

4) This new little gadget is currently making VC’s world go round.

VC1

It’s being used with alarming regularity.

Inter

And was used in the making of this new foodeo. Which, btw, was a total blast in the making. Read about it here. (Yes, I’m on a roll — that’s yet another new post!)

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/112622949″>Easy Chicken Biryani</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/hungryandexcited”>HungryandExcited</a&gt; on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

5) There’s been a healthy amount of new work too. Woke up on Saturday morning to tweets and facebook posts pimping my first Mint Lounge piece. A piece I really enjoyed working on. Hopefully this will be the first of many more to come.

Then there’s some work scheduled to come up on the much-talked-about and much-anticipated Huffington Post India. I’ll update when I have more details.

And if you’re in Goa next week, I’m going to be speaking on a panel on food blogging at the Goa Arts and Literatary Festival 2014. Again, I don’t have complete details. I know there’s going to be Pamela Timms, Rushina Munshaw Ghildiyal, Helene d’Souza, Karen Anand and Aparna Jain (of The Sood Family Cookbook fame). When I have more details, I’ll update them.

6) Also new, after a few gloomy weeks of feeling a bit lost and wondering where I am headed, is a new-found, burst of energy, and more importantly focus. To make things happen rather than contemplate them endlessly. To cut back the faff and focus on what matters. To count the joys, celebrate them, no matter how big or small, and treat the hiccups as they should be treated — hold your breath, count to 40, breathe out and move on.

A couple of weeks ago, I was at the lowest I’ve felt in way too long. I was blue and moping over something or the other seemed to become an everyday thing. And suddenly I had this day. Ironically, the bluest-skies-of-all-time kind of day. Just like that, out of the blue. One of those days where everything went really well without anything special happening.

There was good company, reminders of love and friendship, two fabulous surprise homecooked meals, great conversation, a kindred spirit, a good few hours of work on a fun assignment, one of the harder workouts I’ve had in a long while, a big fat endorphin rush. And these crazy skies were the cherry on the top. It felt good to just be happy, for everything the way it was. That good old, my-cup-runneth-over type feeling has returned.

And a fitting song on loop today:

Okay, back to work before some troll accuses me of having too much fun in life.

Video killed the blogger in me

10 Nov

Well almost.

Hungry & Excited has been on an unplanned but severely stretched hiatus for way longer than I care to admit. I’ve gone on unintentional, long breaks before, but none so long, and none that have left me with close to no inclination to go back and blog. Even more ironic is that this feeling swept over me like a tidal wave, close on the heels of the Indian Food Bloggers Meet. And yet, I haven’t been able to put a finger on it. This time around, I have just gone with the flow, instead of fighting it or trying too hard to pull myself out of this lull.

It’s not even like I haven’t been inspired to cook. I’ve been cooking as usual, enthusiastically, even. And I have been trying new things, making dessert, having people over etc. But cooking for the blog, pulling out the dusty camera, shooting the cooking, processing pictures, writing posts and publishing them seems like a distant dream. More so when I know I have a pile of unpublished drafts in various stages of glorious, incomplete,  imperfection. With about as much inclination to get down to it, as a hibernating bear that was rudely ask to wake up mid-winter, things have been woefully quiet on the food blog.

It could also be the fact that the hugsband and I went on a mission to overhaul it again. A mission that began in July and was supposed to last 2 weeks, but went on for 4 months. And even now, though its live, is still terribly incomplete. There are upper-case-lower-case issues to sort out, featured images to be painfully added to every post, page titles to be finalised, incomplete drafts to be pruned and published, etc etc etc.

To add to it all, I’m feeling bone lazy. A little laziness towards blogging has changed to full-blown inertia and the inability to move.

But the one thing that hasn’t stopped is the videos. In fact the hugsband has been very proactive on weekends, egging me on to make this and that, planning video-worthy things to cook and coaxing me to prep so he can make the most of his free time on Sundays. And it’s how we’ve managed to churn out quite a few videos in the last few months of silence. The words might be on a break, and the recipes are slow to come, but the food hasn’t stopped and the documentation just got better, and a lot more fun.

Video might very well have nearly killed the foodblogger in me. And believe me, with the kind of stuff I see going around in this space, I’m happy to be a little inactive. Detaching myself has inadvertently turned up the fun quotient, like it always does when we stop getting so serious about what we do, lighten up and remind ourselves why we started blogging abut food to begin with — because its fun, and its easy to share it.

On that note, I’m sharing two videos VC made recently, which somehow I have forgotten to post here!

First, this really simple eggless, yellow cake that uses custard mix out a box, rather than the one-too-many egg yolks that usually contributes to this classic cake’s yellowness. Be warned, it is seriously buttery, but really yummy. Best had warm, straight out of the oven and polished off within a few hours of making it.

And then, these classic Goan mince meat cutlets. The recipe is an adaptation, but its very similar in flavour to the legendary beef croquettes that are synonymous with Goan 7 pm hunger pangs. I used beef mince for the making of the video, but have used chicken in the past with success. My sister has used mutton mince and said it was really tasty, so I imagine it would work with any strong meat which can be bound together with the potato and egg that goes into it. Fish/crab might be a bit of a stretch. Either way its the perfect snack for a couple of cold beers. Or can also be turned into a meal with bread/burger buns and some veggies to go with it.

Yesterday we finished shooting an utterly simple, but flavourful chicken pulao I learned from my mother in law when they visited us in September and I can’t wait to share it with you guys. In the mean time do me a favour and don’t step over to the food blog, it needs a lot of fixing, and I’m on it. Bear with me as I try and battle the inertia and update things and pretty it up. Stay with me on facebook until then, its where the updates tend to flow, albeit much less frequently these days.

Maybe saying video killed the blogger in me, is a stretch. I don’t think I can give up blogging any time soon, I don’t even think I can say I no longer want to write a conventional recipe post. But this change has been good for me. And when this sort of change brings out a previously unexplored idea, it can only be a welcome one, no?

Just happy

8 Nov

Last night, I stumbled out of the gym bursting into a giggle fit that refused to end for the next few hours. Even before the drinking began. How does that happen? Happy without an apparent reason?

It’s a good day when I wake up still happy, with no real reason in sight, as yet.

The sun is shining. The weather is sweet. And no I’m not channeling my inner Bob here, it weeeally is.

923837_307805466072667_1854495985_n

And maybe I just need to kickback and bask in it. Just dig in for a change.

 

Slice of life. A happy slice of life, this.

Film, television and everyday sexism

3 Nov

You know things have reached an all new level of wrong when a major (albeit very senseless) prime-time television reality show trivialises and mocks sexual harassment, by way of a distasteful and un-funny prank (which Zee News very politely calls “the tamasha“)  Of course I was not surprised that a show like Bigg Boss scripted this in, but that the prank was played by Parineeti Chopra, who has previously been very vocal in fighting everyday sexism and gender stereotypes, irked me.

Incidentally, just earlier last week, one of the contestants Ali Quli Mirza had been admonished for crossing the line and touching Sounali Raut inappropriately, and I found myself wondering if maybe all was not lost with Indian reality TV. Could it be that the show with currently the largest audience in the country is actually trying to be the voice of reason and administer small doses in understanding alien concepts like personal space, consent and drawing the line? It was nice to see Bigg Boss put on his peacemaker hat again and question Ali’s propriety, only to receive his totally classic reaction, “But she’s friendly with me, puts her arm around my shoulder and often horses around in jest.” Read: if she is okay what that, what is a little flick on the knee/thigh, under a blanket? Why would she mind that?

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I was a bit shocked (pleasantly) to see lessons in taking no for an answer, in respecting a person’s personal space and boundaries of comfort, and need for privacy on personal issues, was being meted out on a show whose very basis is to violate privacy, display the very raw and human tendencies to erupt over the things we do, and instigate every day tussles — a lot of which tend to be of the sexist kind. Contestants are constantly getting into lengthy debates and fights over distribution of house duties. In the first week, women are always reigning the kitchen, and seen shirking tasks like sweeping the garden lest their skin gets tanned. Several tasks allotted to them demand physical strength and it is as common to see a male contestant step in and volunteer his might, as it is to see a woman step back because she doesn’t think she’s strong enough. But to pull a prank of the sort Parineeti Chopra, Salman Khan and the team did on Ali Quli Mirza — accusing him of touching Parineeti inappropriately — was an all new low.

There’s a series of short films being made by Vogue and several Indian filmmakers, addressing various issues under the #VogueEmpower banner. They were relentlessly shared, applauded and praised all over facebook and twitter for being bold and effective. But I watched them (I’ve seen two so far, don’t know if there are any more) both with a slight discomfort.

This is the first one:

And here’s what I find slightly worrisome. I understand the film depicts an unreal situation, and ideal, a utopic world, a filmi rendition of Take Back The Night. A scene where everything is typically going against the woman pictured. She’s clearly in a place “she shouldn’t be” — it’s late, the street is deserted, it’s evident she’s been out partying — and meets with the expected fate — a bunch of leery men in an SUV, who are deliberately made to look like predators just waiting for her to turn so they can attack.

I understand we live in times where we’re wont to look at all unknown men with more than just a little suspicion. Especially if it’s late at night and you’re a girl all alone. Heck, I know the first thing I do when I’m driving home by myself at night is to get into my car and lock the doors. When I get home, I make sure to look around before I unlock the door, get out and dart from the car to my door at an unreal speed. But, is it so difficult to put that stereotype aside even when we’re talking about a utopic reality? Aren’t we somewhere reinforcing the message that all men are to be feared, and it is truly unnatural to expect a bunch of men on a lonely road to come help you?

The second film troubled me even more:

How many of you thought it was all going well until the last scene, and were left thinking WTF just happened? Why are we fighting one kind of sexism with another kind? Why couldn’t the film end by just addressing the fact that crying is not a sign of weakness, instead of portraying (and reinforcing) the fact that women are often subjugated and made to cry and therefore the weaker sex? Why confuse the message by bringing in another about domestic violence? The end detracted completely from the beginning, and troubled me with the implied message that girls cry because they’re made to cry at the hands of men. By mixing the two issues (both important in their own respect) of challenging the “boys dont cry” notion and ending with “boys make girls cry”, I strongly felt the two stereotypes inherently feed into the very sexism the video ironically tries to fight.

I wonder if somewhere we’re becoming a little numb to women’s rights issues. Is it possible that the constant stream of outrage has dulled our sensitivity to it. The sheer conspicuousness of everyday attacks, sexism and violation has perhaps made it passe? I also feel it has skewed our understanding of these issues, and our reactions range from slightly strange to downright twisted.

It is not uncommon to see the words feminism and women’s rights being bandied about a little too flippantly all over social media. And in many cases feminism has come to mean being on the woman’s side = putting men down = getting one up on the opposite sex. I’m troubled by this.

Internetting

31 Oct

I have this disease. Its the compulsive need to right click and open in new tab. My ability to hoard links I want to read is much greater than my enthusiasm to plough through them all. VC often asks me what sometimes keeps me glued to my computer, no typing, no clicking, no work to do even! It is this. Jumping links, clicking through anything even remotely interesting and most times I end up with a browser full of open tabs that stay that way for weeks on end. Until one fine day when I decide I’m going to read and close them. Invariably, I save the good reads and here’s some stuff from my clean up yesterday.

happy

Tuesday saw the most gorgeous evening sky, flecked with rows of fluffy bits of clouds. After the rain has fallen (yes rain!) things have cleared up a lot around here. What’s the weather been like in your part of the world? After a week of unbearable heat, the hottest day in the last decade and many litres of sweat later, I ranted about it here. Only to be woken up by the crash of lightning and torrential rain, exactly 24 hours later. It was wonderful alright, because it didn’t stop for over 30 hours. And it was heavy like the kind of rain we see mid-June. The weekend was wet, temperatures dropped by ten degrees and it was just fabulous to have cold mornings, use two blankets at night and pretend like this is normal. Because the truth is its anything but normal. October is usually hotter than summer. We are well into the transition towards winter, which means the monsoons are long gone by now. But this freak shift in weather was attributed to the cyclonic depression that was building in the Arabian Sea and headed towards the coasts of Kuttch, Pakistan and above.

We underestimate the power nature has over us, as we go around mercilessly stripping green cover, plundering the environment in the name of industry and development. And then we wonder where these weather changes are coming from. We mess around with the natural balance of our eco-systems, and we think cleaning up our act is merely done by sweeping streets and collecting garbage. El Nino is well and truly here. Climate change is no longer a distant threat for us to worry about, but a present disaster that’s only going to show up as extreme weather changes more frequently now. I don’t know how long its going to take before we realise that rapid development and conserving our environment are not mutually exclusive. Somewhere, we need to measure how much development is too much development, and for that we need to think about how much we really need. Because what we need above all is clean air, water and the ground beneath our feet. Without that, everything else is kind of moot.

So stoked that @Lalitude is writing a weekly column that I can follow again. 9 our of 10 times, her words echo my feelings, and since she’s keeping it topical I find myself nodding my head vigorously, or sharing the link with a couple of friends I know will understand or feel the same way, or posting it on fb and twitter. In her most recent column about Diwali she writes about how much the celebration has changed since was growing up, recollecting tradition, questioning it, pondering the point of continuing it — and I read her column with much nostalgia and a flood of memories that rushed back to mind. A second time over, since I wrote this.

P of Peppercorns In My Pocket fame (currently one of my most loved blogs) has a new piece of fiction published. Bilet — a bitter-sweet story about home, moving away and the distance in between. Tender as her words are, and sweet and flowing as her style is, the story reads like her blog does — peppered with tiny details one could easily gloss over, but that she manages to soothe tiny breaths of life into. It’s not often that I look at a blog and wish I they’d write a book. But P’s writing makes me wish she would, really soon.

I don’t plan to watch Happy New Year, but I am really glad I read a few reviews. They’re probably more entertaining than the movie will ever be. After a long, long time I found a Vigil Idiot review that had me in splits. I love that SRK is a bunch of crumpled up pumped abs, making him look like a staircase. The skunk on his head is the cherry on top! And then there’s Deepika, who is just legs. Squiggles never made me laugh so much. And then there’s this review by Blogeswari that spoke to the South Indian in me, and I think SRK needs to call himself Saarugaan more often. It suits him.

And while we’re on the funnies, have you checked out Anti Serious? Such a fabulous idea for our times of too much seriousness. I had a gut-rippingly hearty laugh reading this piece. Babugiri will never be the same and I don’t think I’m ever going to be able to keep a straight face when I hear the word Babu being uttered.

When I reached the point where I could ignore period cramps, which was previously the only thing to keep me from exercising, to hit the gym and continue training, I knew I had crossed over and gone into the dark side completely. But the dark side, is the happier side. I’ve joked about being addicted, called myself a junkie and shamelessly admitted to being a little uncompromising about my exercise. This article explains why exercising is no different from taking drugs, and maybe it’s no surprise why its easy to get high and get addicted?

This article presents a point of view I have never thought about, and I loved how refreshingly different it is from the constant stream of loving cooking that I am usually in. I have some days when I don’t want to have anything to do with the kitchen. I jump on board wiht the idea of ordering in like a kid in a candy store. I love Sunday mornings when I can stay out of the kitchen and VC makes me breakfast. So to read this — “In my childlike innocence, I didn’t understand that the point of cooking isn’t fun or even duty, but rather to try to give someone something only you can give. It is all supposed to appear selfless” — was completely refreshing. And then there’s this — “Certainly, some part of my mother enjoyed making pies, and probably, when she first learned, she loved it. But then pie-making became something to get to the other side of. The prize was not the pie, but being the wonderful person who had made the pie, and this seemed like a stressful situation as you could guarantee the existence of the pie, but not of sufficient praise and attention as to have made the pie worth creating.” I do love to cook for the most part, but I cannot deny the times it does turn into a mindless chore, and the many times I want to have nothing to do with it. Sometimes there’s no better way to say it, but to admit that cooking sucks. And that probably explains the troughs and spikes I have with my enthusiasm for it.

That said, I want to also share this lovely piece form the New Yorker, about Bread and Women. If you like to bake, or you like bread, or women, or both, you might find this as interesting as I did. I don’t want to say anything more.

That’s it, folks, until my next link clean-up!

Just read: food books

29 Oct

Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain
I have to admit, reading this the second time over I had very different feelings. I loved it — but this time more for the actual content than just the writing. It left me wondering what I liked so much about it the last time I read it considering it was a time when I wasn’t the slightest bit interested in anything remotely to do with the kitchen. And the writing, though distinctive, isn’t really stellar. It is the stories, more than the style/craft that makes the book memorable. The last time around, I was a little taken by that loud, brash and in-your-face style that is Anthony Bourdain. This time around I wonder why that felt special. Because it really isn’t what makes the book fun. What I loved this time around was the story itself. The insights into kitchen secrets, the back-breaking tiring horror of the boiling pot that is the inside of a professional kitchen, and the dirty, the slippery, dark, debauched lives chefs seem to slip into, the struggles Bourdain and other like him have endured before we get to know them as the chefs they are today. But most of all the unabashedly happy lives that people in love with food seem to live. The words bring that kind of unfiltered passion to life — where long hours, grueling work, inhuman conditions etc seem to melt away in the face of creating good food. This was a fun food-memoir to read again. Some bits are entertaining, some poignant, some downright hilarious. This is definitely a book worth going back to, as I probably will again and again.

A Homemade Life, Molly Wizenberg
I don’t know why I took so long to read this memoir, considering Orangette is one of the oldest food blogs around. Molly is one of the pioneers, the forerunners of blogging about food and life together, with equal gusto, who’s been doing it way before it because the cool new thing for everyone to try. Reading her blog has touched me several times before, probably even inspired certain critical shifting-gears type moves in my own life too. While I enjoyed it, some parts (down to specific excerpts) more than others, I have to stay it wasn’t a standout book for me. For one, it was an extremely lightweight read — it reads too much like a bunch of blog posts strung together in no particular order, more than a memoir with a deeper underlying story. Perhaps it was meant to be like that, but it didn’t make me feel like I had graduated from reading Molly’s blog to reading Molly’s book. I’m also slightly disappointed that I only felt inspired to bookmark two recipes to try. More than inaccessible ingredients, obscure concepts and approaches to food itself seemed like a hurdle — not one I have had an issue with on her blog. This was a quick, light read, and while it was interesting, it hasn’t really made an impression on me.

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I know I’ve said this about my general reading list too, but I feel my food/kitchen related reading list seems to expand faster than I can knock things of it. Even when I make progress, sometimes I fall back.

I got my hands on an epub file of The Hundred-Foot Journey, but cant seem to copy it on my iPad. And Korma, Kheer and Kismet isn’t even out on the Kindle store.

Ugh. Decisions, decisions. I’ve moved on to Me Talk Pretty One Day, while I ponder over this one.

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