Sunday, 31 May 2009

Life After Marriage

Since I moved to New Jersey from Portland, Oregon I find I am perennially rushed for time. I do not read as much, exercise as much, laze as much. This despite the fact that I work from home and 8am finds me in my pajamas with a tooth brush dangling in my mouth replying to the first burst of office emails. On analysis it seems the everyday, commonplace activities in my life have become ... for lack of a better word more convoluted and a lot more time consuming.

Furniture before husband:

One hand-me-down bean bag, one hand-me-down rocking chair, one hand-me-down twin bed

Furniture after husband:

Endless bunch of colour coordinating pretty stuff bought after visiting, re visiting many stores, planning, thinking, poring over design magazines, examining, re- examining

Two week business trip without husband

One pair of jeans, one set of trousers, a whole bunch of t shirts, and one pajama bottom all fitting into one overnight bag. 

3 day weekend getaway with husband

Two dresses, 4 t shirts, two shorts, one pair of jeans, one pair of trousers, two dressy tops, 3 t shirts, three pairs of footwear, - an overnight bag and several last minute plastic bags, and some extras sneaked into the hand bag. I could pick a bigger suitcase because that would be accepting once and for all that I am no longer a light packer.

Hiking trip without husband

Old Khakis, old t shirt, lots of sun screen, water 

Hiking trip with husband 

Shorts with pleats, summery top , sun tan followed by makeup to avoid a shiny nose, eye liner to make my eyes pop, spray to make me smell good through the hike. 

Vinayaka chaturthi without husband

Get up late if holiday. Discover that it is chaturthi when chatting with ma on skype in pajamas. If not holiday - Find out that is it chaturthi when girl in office opens dabbas full of kozhkatais

Vinayaka chaturthi with husband

Find out a week earlier from multiple sources reminding me. Get up crazy early, bathe and make an attempt at the kozhakattais. Make kozhakattais that only stay together because I piled them in a box and chilled them till they were kind of frozen into that shape.

My second marriage anniversary is due in a couple of months. I was promised a sense of complacency and putting on weight and taking each other for granted. Though my battle with my weight has become more intense I am still waiting for the blessed complacency to set in. It cannot happen soon enough because all this playing house and adult behavior is killing me ....

Recipe - Vah chef again. Made sarson ka saag. The recipe can be found here. And the video with his regular jumping around can be found here. The man boils the greens in a open pot. This is done to preserve colour. I found out later that this method of cooking results in a lot of minerals being boiled away. Made me feel a little cheated..

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Doting Spouses

After a few culinary indulgences, husband and I decided to buckle down and get healthy. Hubby's ma and pa are going to be in town in a month and my husband wants to get in shape so that he can indulge in his mother's cooking without guilt (I married a planner). We worked on coming up with some guidelines that will help us eat healthier. These guidelines were as usual readily augmented by advice doled out by a friend who supplies the list while stuffing her face with pizza and starting the day with ribbon pakoda (yeah you know who are - C). Oh and remaining thin (aaarggh).

So here goes. -

- Use only olive oil. (Zero cholestrol)

- Buy vegetables/fruits based on colour. Weekly intake of every colour is apparently important. Here is the very helpful link C sent me.

- Do not overheat oil cos that will produce Trans Fat.

- Plan meals ahead so that you know what you going to eat at - say snack time on Friday at 4pm (phew that's work)

- Reduce dairy according to one

- Reduce carbohydrates according to another

- Include soluble fiber that is different apparently from the fibre that is - you guessed it insoluble (wtf). Excellent for reducing cholesterol.

And so on and so forth.

Since following all of these rules would result in a plate of colourful vegetables in cold olive oil with oats (soluble fiber) a less extreme meal plan was sought.

So we settled on relatively healthy food with a mix of fresh vegetables. Husband packed lunch and lugged it with him to office and assured me that he loves eating his dubba khanna while his coworkers amble off to get a piping hot lunch from the many, many options that New York City offers.

Three long days of measuring, poring and chewing high fiber meals went by. For dinner last night I was all set to bring on the cheese and grease. But I did not want to be the one to ruin the streak that we were having and when husband came home last night, I suggested a couple of meals options with mushrooms and greens. Husband put on his thinking face and seemed to be weighing the dinner options with gravity.

I stepped into the restroom to wash my face and freshen up before a healthy, nutritious meal :(.

Husband (on other side of door) - tho aaj bahaar jaathe hain kya? We need to buy milk

Me (being nice since husband had been up at 4 in the morning running errands for his not always demanding wife) - I will go get it, you relax.

Husband - vaise we are both tired..

Me - haan and you have been up forever...

Husband - we need a break....

Me (finally catching on and seeing the light) - haan we do... tired, yeah, I am also tired. I have a nagging headache from all that work. This bug became an emergency today (laying it on thick so he can't back out now).

Husband - thooooo... hmmmm... taco bell se take out karthe hain kya....

Me (doing victory dance, but quietly so that he sweats a little bit on the other side of the door) -hmmmm teeeekh hai... chalthe hain.

5 minutes later...

Me (dressed set to go) - vaise margarita mix bhi hai... taco bell ke saath... a drink for u, u are tired...

Husband - haan haan. It might also help with your headache (he catches on quick)...

Recipe - Alu methi... (made in olive oil by us of course)

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Hello Aunty!!

I left India in 2004 and landed in Portland, Oregon. The first week outside India I was thrilled to see any fellow Indian on the streets of the USA. I greeted every Indian I met with a smile whose warmth and emotion is perhaps best reserved for long lost twins and separated lovers reuniting on "Who Wants To Be a Millionaire". My greeting had varying results. Some people acknowledged my smile weakly after looking around them to make sure I was looking at them ( or maybe they were looking for closest exit) or surprise/ shock followed by putting their head down and walking away with a ever quickening pace. Soon I realized that since I went to graduate school and my degree was in engineering Indians on streets was not a yahoo moment but something that I should come to expect (We did form two thirds of the population of most of my classes).

So the general "Indian spotting" got old for me. I made some Indian friends but did not stalk all the Indians who had enrolled in my college or rented an apartment in my neighbourhood. I settled down and opened up and the Indian thing was soon a lot less important.

I have, however, noticed a quirk that first appeared in college and though it is dormant for the most part, rears its head every once in a while. There is no way of saying this without sounding weird but I find elder Indian parents just irresistible. My stalker alter ego, it seems did not disappear altogether -- it had only morphed itself. I am not normally a very friendly person and it takes me time to actually get a good conversation going. But with the parent type introductions, communication etc was just not a problem. I found myself brazen in my introductions and almost forceful with conversation - "Hello Aunty!!! ". In Oregon with its relatively sparse Indian population I once followed a kanchivaram saree clad maami around in the vegetable aisle offering to help carry stuff until she looked uncomfortable, suspicious and shuffled off to the checkout counter with what I suspect was only a couple of bunches of coriander (not the most convincing grocery list). When I shifted to New Jersey with its large Indian population I found I was much more at home. So I thought all my India withdrawal symptoms had disappeared altogether. Little did I know.

This Sunday husband and I went visiting old friends and lo and behold I found the mother was visiting them. All my old symptoms were back. Hello Aunty!! I followed the lady around and watched her dole out 20 fluffy chapathis with total absorption. I gushed non stop throughout the meal and kept offering to serve the lady the food she had prepared while spilling food on her lovely shawl. I enquired about when she was leaving for India and came up with different occasions for them to visit us. I also made mental plans about how I was going to get myself invited again. After spending a good hour behaving in this fashion I reined myself in and said my goodbyes. The India fever had clearly not been cured completely.

And if I am honest with myself, this fascination of mine is probably not just about missing India. Though I will never admit to missing my mother to her face, I do wish we could spend more time together so we could disagree about every single thing under the sun say over a meal I made that she is still complaining about. I have visited fairly often and we do a lot of arguing over Skye but it hardly as good as the real thing. I think I might actually admit to missing her if I say do something drastic like act on my whim of kidnapping of my friends parents or start making crank calls Ka Ka Ka Kiran style. Until then.....

Recipe - Made dabeli this weekend. I did not contribute to our dinner table much this last week.We went out a couple of times and the husband has cooking bug so insists on cooking almost everyday. I am going to milk it while it lasts :)

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Dev D - duniya yeh duniya badi gol hai

I finally saw Dev D. The movie had got some rave reviews and is on its way to become a cult classic. The hype however left me a little hesitant as all over-hyped things do. The other reason for not catching this movie when it first came out was that it never hit the theatres here and this was one movie I wanted to watch on the big screen

Anyways I finally saw the very, very R rated movie. Apart from the fact that I rejoice every time there a movie made especially for adults complete with grey areas, wearable/ affordable clothes, and realism that does not immediately transport us into a world of slums, poverty, and exploitation. After a point such depiction becomes a form of exploitation on its own (pointing fingers esp. at Madhur Bhandarkar).  

But I digress, what I loved about Dev D was the fact that despite characters in the movie that included - one sexually liberated girl and one prostitute all the women kept their clothes on. Abhay Deol on the other hand seemed to forever live in his underwear. 

And before you get ahead of yourself and accuse me of being a lech, let me explain myself. Yes, I am a lech but that was not the reason (OK OK not the sole reason) for my overwhelming approval. We are finally exploiting the male physique, after decades of unkempt men romancing beautiful women around trees. Finally the male bodies will be exposed to the cross hairs of all and sundry, something the female form has had to suffer forever. 

When John Abraham scratched his behind in Dostana, the first thoughts in my head were - “he takes off more clothes than the girl :)". Male body under female scrutiny gives me a sense of power however fake, short lived...

An era in which women wear what they want is already here but now we have an era where women are the target audience (the wielder of power) and men wear what women want :). We have come a full circle - ye duniya badi gol hai... (Though that’s not what the song was about).

Edited to add

My reaction may be a result of the little things in my everyday life. Like last Sunday, a particularly warm and balmy day. Husband and I were spending time with husband's - for lack of a better word say Friends whose birth preceded our own by high single digits/ low double digits ( oh all right they are old!!!). There was husband enjoying the sunshine in his shorts and there was me too self conscious to wear my pair of shorts - dressed in jeans and kurta and eyeing my husbands bare legs with growing irritation.

Recipe -

Methi Chole - this is a simple dish. The idea was to get some greens into my chole. The link also has a batura recipe but I have never tried that at home.

Friday, 8 May 2009

Envy of the House

It has been a very uneventful week or so. Rain has continued to plague New Jersey. I am up from 2 to 3.5 miles in my running and am blaming the rains for my slow progress. And since I have completely convinced myself that the rains are the "only" reason I am being lazy I feel no guilt in wolfing down all my meals.

The running had given me an excuse to order what I really want in place of a relatively "healthy" meal. Not that I ever ordered salads. I did resort to eating salads with "dressing" on the side before my wedding but when the food arrived it was so depressing that I had to make up for it at the next meal with some comfort food. It is my view that "dressing" is a human activity and not something to eat with raw vegetables. But sometimes I am careful enough to order idli, or low fat latte.

This weekend however I went to the local Indian joint and ordered up mirchi pakoda, dahi poori and the piece de resistance - chole bature. Bature is the equivalent of a sizzler in Indian restaurant. The food arrived and I suddenly found myself the centre of attention. While the folks whose food had arrived were only staring at my food with the corner of their eyes - darting furtive, sideways glances while they tried to go back to enjoying their food, the folks who were waiting for their food abandoned all pretences and stared openly at my food. I was feeling a strange irrational sensation of pride. I was the envy of all present company.

I have been on the other side so many times. Convinced myself that uttapam with sambhar was what I really wanted (it is a tasty dish with high protein content). When the food arrived I even enjoyed it until I saw a plate of chole bature, hot, fresh from the oil, the eye catching batura threatening to fall off the edge of the plate deposited at a table near me.

And here I was :). An American gentleman at the table on my right had clearly asked his Indian friend about my glorious meal choice because I could hear the man enunciating "BaToooRaa" again and again. It was one of the most glorious meals ever.

I have to keep up my running, not for my health but so that I can enjoy these glorious moments. Today I intend to have a beer and endless fries for dinner :).

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Rainy Days and Khana Khazana

My prayers about winter being back have gone unanswered.  Since the almighty in his wisdom did not want to inflict all the other people who populate the earth with major, life changing climatic changes just to appease the couch potatoes, it is still spring in New Jersey. However, to soften the blow he/she sent us rains. 

The rain may not deter the determined runner but I recognize a blessing when I see one. This rainy weekend I sat back and enjoyed the fruits of my husband's culinary skills. We also wandered off at night to feed our faces at a local Indian restaurant. 

When out to eat I am one of those people who takes forever to order. In fact, I am not even a big fan of conversation before I know what I want to order. Getting the order right in a restaurant requires considerable skill and it is not a decision I like to make in a hurry. A number of things need to be taken into consideration.  

The obvious -

1. How hungry you are? Planning ahead helps. I and husband starve ourselves silly and even make of our once in a blue moon visits to the gym anytime any of our friends make the mistake of inviting us over for a meal.

2. What you can expect to eat at the next meal? Planning your meals requires due consideration, foresight and practice. Only a novice would wolf down a to go meal when an invite to a far more satisfying dinner awaits

3. The specialties of the restaurant.  Every place has its limitations. For example, the burger in the local Mexican place, included there for the unadventurous patron is generally a rather unpleasant adventure.

The not so obvious

4. Can you eat of the plate of your dinner companion without incurring dinner companion’s wrath?

5. Can you expect your dinner companion to order the other entree that you wanted?

6. Can you convince your dinner companion to order the other entree with "helpful comments" or arguing and whining?

7. Will your dinner companion eat off your plate?

8. Will you be able to dissuade dinner companion from eating from your plate with glares, sarcasm, covering your plate with your hands?

When I go out with my husband the answer to 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 is yes, yes, yes, yes and a no. Eating out on any day with husband is a complete sport. So this weekend I made hay when the sun did not shine and spent the weekend perfecting this sport that I have played for a long time.

Recipe -

The recipe this week features a man whose enthusiasm for food matches my own. My husband used this recipe forwarded by our good friend C and made the most startlingly good, restaurant quality rava dosas. You can find this recipe which is in the form of a instructional video here. The man has a number of recipes on his website and most of them look great.