The X and Y Factor…

Bee of jugalbandi.info has written an excellent piece titled ‘Cooking and Chromosomes’। I wrote this piece as a comment to her post, but it turned out to be too long। So, decided to park it here…
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My husband gets a lots of comments like “You are lucky to have a wife who is career-oriented”. These are, as you might guess, from guys who are the sole financial providers for their home. No, I am not saying this is the gender stereotyping of the opposite kind. Not at all. Quite simply, these guys just do not get the jumping through the hoops, the juggling of duties and the whole phletora of syncing we do to carry it off. Through their limited sense of proportion,they envision all things remaining the same, just the wife getting in a salary and doubling the family income. We, and anyone, who is or has been in our place, know the adjustments, the lifestyle changes and the sacrifices that we and the kids have had to make. However, these are things they will learn and come to terms with, once their spouses start their professional lives. For me, a comment like that opens a whole new can of worms. Are you not belittling everything that your wife is doing now, when you utter words like that? What does that speak about your relationship?
I am left with the same set of questions when I hear comments like the one’s Bee is talking about. How much are you belittling your husband when you tell your friend that she is lucky to have a husband who shares the household duties? Sit back and think about it and observe for a couple of days, what your partner is doing around the house? Maybe, you will realise you are lucky,too (and maybe, you will stop eyeing my husband so much :-D )
Here is the other end of the spectrum. How many times have you waited at the office water cooler, for your male colleague to show up, so that he can replace the now emptied water bucket? How many times have you walked to that same cooler with your male colleague, and calmly waited till he replaced the bucket? That is gender stereotyping.
Here is what I think, is not gender-stereotyping. Making puran-polis with your MIL. My points above may seem like women-bashing, but they are not. They are just commonsense, as far as I concerned. No, I am definitely not the kind of woman who feels satisfied just by feeding and taking care of her family. No one can accuse me of being a consummate homemaker. Yes, I have had my share of bump-rides with my MIL. Through the ride, I have learned a few things. My two cents. It is never easy to get along with someone who is twice your age and not your parent, and suddenly thrust into that role. Any other person from that age-group, you would probably pay your respectful greetings and move on. There is no moving away from your in-laws, is there? By the same token, it is also not easy to get along with someone who is half your age and not your child, and suddenly thrust into that role. Yes, I have had a lot of teach-alongs with my MIL. Some I have enjoyed, some not-so-much. Some, I never saw the point of. Over the years, I have realised that just like I felt the age/experience/generation-gap, she must have, too. Yet, we had to find a common path. For her, these teach-alongs were that path. It was her way of saying “you are a part of the family”. Much as I admire Jyothsna, for standing up to that idiot with the empty coffee pot and her not-so-kosher-reply, I think by refusing to go to that puran poli teach-along, she let go of an excellent oppurtunity to find common ground with her MIL. All my instincts and my experience with relationships so far, tell me, she is going to regret that one day.
Examples of personal relationship aside, I completely see Bee’s point and it hits a really raw nerve in both me and my husband. We pride ourselves on raising our kids (a son and a daughter) to be themselves and not what someone else percieves they should be. Some things though still prick me. I never gave a second thought to the fact that my son helps me unload the dishwasher and arrange folded laundry while my daughter shows no interest in them until a visiting aunt pointed it out to me. To be fair, she was totally amused and more than a little proud of Anoushka. I still don’t see any big deal with this. I don’t see this as a plus for Anoushka niether do I see this as a minus for Aayush. The comment,though, had me thinking of other stuff. How on a recent toy buying spree, the proud daddy bought Aayush a racing car and a very cute doll for Anoushka. How I love to dress up Anoushka in a girly-girly way while with Aayush I just make sure he looks neat.How I do her hair with matching ribbons and all? Are we, subconciously, enforcing them into a sterotype when we do that? If we are, what should we be doing different?
There are two options I see. I should stop fussing with Anoushka, get her a crew cut like her brother, and stop buying dresses for her and start buying cars for her. The other option is start fussing with Aayush, let him grow his hair and start buying dresses and dolls for him . Both have their own set of problems, the main being it does not get us away from molding them into a stereotype. The former option has her fit neatly into the ‘tomboy’ mold and the second has him in the ‘sissy’ mold. They are still gender related stereotypes, aren’t they? So, how does one go about raising their kids to be ‘not gender-specific’? Even if I find a way to do that, how beneficial would it be? Yes, my son probably wouldn’t expect the female colleague to make coffee for him, but most probably, he won’t hold the door open for her, too. My daughter won’t be expected to refill the coffee pot but she,probably, would have to refill the water cooler herself. What happens when puberty hits and it becomes obvious they really aren’t that similar either?
If, by some miracle, despite all that, I end up successfully raising them gender-impartial, wouldn’t I, as a parent, still have made the greatest disservice of all to them, by not letting them be who they really are? Him, a boy and her, a girl.

McCafe ?

You read that right. Mcdonalds is going upscale. But, don’t expect to get your regular dose of molecular gastronomy at your next visit . Oh, No. It’s the look that is going upscale. And how!

A motion-detecting, automatic-opening garbage receptacle and a robotic voice saying “thank you” and “please wait” ….

A Sci-fi version of Mcdonalds has always been on my wish-list. But wait, whats this?

.. with trendy, upholstered booths, a stone fireplace and comfy lounge chairs.

There goes my Star Wars dream where Darth Vader slays the opposition, all the while eating a Big Mac! In its place is, a rotound Darth Vader, with fries in one and hand and coke in the other, belching into eternity. tch, tch…

Instead of a cardboard cutout of the “Hamburglar” next to the counter, there’s a bowl full of Granny Smith apples and a glass display of salads. There are warm tones of sage green and brown, not the traditional bright yellow and red.

Wowza!! Now all I need is a computer and I would be in Starbucks!

…will feature plasma screens playing the news, and others will have wireless Internet connections

Ahhh, I see. We are not going Starwars as much as we are going Starbucks. But what about the food? I mean, eating messy burgers and fries doesn’t so much go along with banging on the laptop at the same time, does it?

And, Dude, where’s the coffee?

Link from Slashfood, where Sarah has her own interpretation of what it means.

Phodis

There is no dearth of deep-fried goodness in konkani food. There is an seemlingly endless variety of bajjo-s, phodi-s and ambado-s , just to name a few.

This is what I understand is the difference between each.

Bajjo : They are different veggies that are dipped in batter and deep fried. They are best hot off the oil and tend to become oily when cool. They are served as part of a meal or as a snack with some hot coffee. Essentially, Bajjo is konkani-speak for pakoda. Eg : piava(Onion) Bajjo, Goola(Green Brinjal) Bajjo etc.

Ambado : is a mixture of vegetables/herbs and spices, with potato/legumes/besan used as binder. They can also be seasoned mashed vegetables/tubers dipped in a batter and deep fried. Ambado is konkani speak for vada/vade Eg: Batate (Potato) ambado, Biscoot (Seasoned Urad Dal) Ambado etc.

Phodi : They are deep-fried veggies, too. However, there is no batter involved. They are marinated with a dryish paste of (red chillies+hing+salt and rice,soaked in water). The veggies used for phodi’s tend to be vegetables which have a low content of water in them. Root Vegetables like Suran (Indian yam), Sweet Potato etc. work best. Heat levels (as in Scoville) are higher in phodis than your average bajjo.They are sliced very thin and fried on medium heat for quite a bit longer than bajjos, making them crisp and chewy. They are great at room temperature, too. eg: see below . But they really come into their own when made with cross sections of fish like mackeral or pomfret. Yummm…..

GudiPadwa_0005

Clockwise from top : Karate Phodi, Surana phodi, Kadge Phodi, Ghointa Phodi

This post talks phodi. As explained above, they are marinated with the spicy paste. We call the spicy paste ‘Goolli’ and the whole process of applying the paste to the Vegetables/fish is called “Goolli Lavche” or applying the paste. However, the english translation comes nowhere to describe the importance of its konkani counterpart. Especially, if seafood is involved. It is not that you dunk the paste and the veggies together in a bowl and swish them all around. You take each slice and apply the paste to it and set aside. It takes a lot of time, but such kind of attention to detail results in properly seasoned fish or vegetable that are just amazing. It is all about details.

The phodis are , most often than not, part of the festive meal or a very large meal. Each vegetable that is to be fried has a special shape in which it will cut for the phodi. Traditionally, five types of phodi are made for any festive meal. I could get hold of only four. The one’s I made for Sansar Padwa and their traditional shape are

1. Suran-a Phodi : Indian yam. They are usually cut into 1 mm thick/thin quadrilatrals of about 1″ * 1″. I used the frozen suran availabe in Indian store, and they are available pre-cut into cubes.

2. Kadge Phodi : Raw Jackfruit. 1 1/2 mm thick wedges . The actual width would depend upon the radius of the Jackfruit. Again, my only choice was the canned variety. I cut each piece into two cross-sectionally.

3. Ghoint-a Phodi : Parwal. Each parwal is cut into three or four pieces depending upon its thickness length-wise. My favorite.

4. Karate Phodi : Bitter gourd. They are cut into thin rounds (As thin as you can make them) and fried crisp, almost like chips. It kind of takes the edge away from the bitterness, yet maintaining it’s integrity. Even haters of this vegetable eat thid deep fried version of them.

Certain rules that are followed.

1. Each type of the vegetable should be cut in approximately the same thickness, length and breadth. They all cook at the same time that way.

2. All vegetables except karate (bittergourd, because of the bitterness) can kept in the same bowl once the “goolli” is applied.

3. Irrespective of whether the vegetables have been mixed together or not, when deep-frying fry like vegetables together. Again, different cooking times for different vegetables.

4. Always fry the bittergourd the last as changes the taste of the oil.

5. You know the veggies are crisp enough when the oil around them stops bubbling.

6. All safety rules for deep frying apply. :)

Recipe for “goolli”:

1 cup un-cooked rice, soaked for about an hour or two.
A fistful of dried red chillies (about 10-12)
1 tsp of hing powder
Salt to taste.

Grind together in a blender, using as little water as possible, to a smooth paste. Absolutely no water used when my mom makes it. But then, she has the magic mixer, too. However, my recent acquisition, the cuisinart coffee grinder, with the detachable grinder, works great for this as well for most chutneys. At $29.99 (at Bed, Bath and Beyond), it is not as hard on the pocket as some other ones. :)

Apply to the sliced/cut vegetables and keep aside for about an hour. Deep fry. Best served with Rice and Daalitoy.

Psst,Dear Behena, Pudding recipe coming soon….Dheeraj Rakh…

Update : ‘karate’ to be read as Kaa-raa-tey’. Thanks to the ever-vigilant Coffee’s comment below.

Sansar Padwe che parbe Jovan OR The typical festive lunch on Gudi Padwa/yugadi.

In those days, when questioning traditions was the norm for me, I questioned the wisdom of cooking innumerable dishes in the name of the parab (Festival). What was the point, I thought? These days, all the way in the US of A, with the freedom to cook what I want, when I want and nobody to even fault me or object for not going through the trouble of cooking the traditional feast (Well, they would object, but you know, rules of “what they don’t know won’t hurt them”, ignorance is bliss”, etc. apply), I am standing outside of my tiny kitchen, bleary-eyed, wondering why the heck am I up, at an ungodly hour, to cook up traditional parbe jovan (Festival Meal) ? I mean, seriously, why? Even in my half asleep, feet dragging mode, I can smell the beginnings of a post a mile away. What I wouldn’t give for the smell of fresh coffee to go with it…

Ah, but see, nothing is that simple in tradition-land. It never is. You see, on parab-day, you are not even supposed to step into the kitchen without having a bath –well, a shower– but it’s hair wash day, too. Yes, I said outside the kitchen earlier. After,you have purified yourself, you go ahead and give the kitchen the same treatment. What is it I hear you say? Cooking ?? Oh no, you don’t start cooking until you have cleaned the kitchen and then after you have done cooking, you clean it again. Oh yeah!

Ok, the rules are not that strident in every household. Growing up with my Bapama (read the about page, people), they were that strident in my house. She was a stickler for tradition and made sure we followed it strictly. Everything had to be done just the way it is supposed to be done, every rule followed to the T and every ritual performed. I remember times, when we visited mangalore (the heartland of everything Konkani). Our cousins, aunts and uncles would express surprise at how much us bombay-bred-teenage-brats knew about all-things konkani and I would see my Bapama beeming with pride at having brought us up right. And I remember us feeling very warm and fuzzy at having made her proud. That didn’t stop us from complaining about all her strict rules and stickler-ness (is that a word?) for traditions when not in front of everyone else, of course. See, we grew up in a multi-cultural city and the multi-cultural cuisine was what we preferred to the daily dose of Daalitoy/Saar,the Koddels and the Ghashi-s and the upkari-s etc. Nope, we wanted what the neighbors were eating and what was dished out at the restaurants and all of the so-called (in-our-view) cool food. A holiday was the only day Mom would make them for us. Now, if that holiday turned to be a parab, we were in for a Aamchi that transcended all levels of aamchi-ness((Short for Aamchigele, which is what Konkani’s call themselves, loosely means ‘our people’). And then, the no onion-garlic rule. No wonder, my brother would call it Martial Law. He still does. We still do.

So, why am I doing it? Why am I up, this early in the morning and not stepping into the kitchen to get my coffee, but taking a bath and cleaning the kitchen before I get the caffeine dose that would finally wake me up? I don’t know. I.dont.know.

And yet, I go through the steps and make the age old meal that we have had on every Sansar Padwa/Gudi Padwa/Ugadi. Conciously and subconciously, I follow the steps I have seen my mom and bapama take year after year. Steam the idlis and make the chatni for breakfast. Chop the vegetables, apply masala to the veggies for phodis (a cousin of Bhajjiyas), then make the ghashi (legumes in coconut gravy), the madgane (Roasted Chana Daal in Coconut Milk sweetened with jaggery), the upkari (a vegetable stir-fry) , then Daalitoy (the mother daal, no parab meal is complete without this),and then I deep fry the phodis as I make rice on the other burner. In that order. As I think about it, it all makes sense. The things that are to be served hot are made last, so that they remain hot as the food is being served. Even the kitchen-cleaning business makes sense, Why wouldn’t starting in a clean kitchen make sense? There is a method to the madness.

As familiar aromas waft through the suddenly active house, I see the look on my husband’s face. The same look that is echoed on mine. It is the look of comfort, of being home in a strange land, of the childhood gone by and the reluctant adult-hood that has been thrust upon us. Suddenly, I know.

It is not to uphold traditions and to keep our culture alive which was the driving force for my bapama, I think. It is not even visions of her floating down from the heavens to give me an earful for not walking on the footsteps, she went to so much trouble to make sure were there for us. Though, believe me, that is reason enough. Uffff…
I do it, to re-create and re-live those smells and memories of days gone by. I do it to create new memories for Aayush and Anoushka. Creating New ‘Old’ memories. I look at my toddlers wrinkling their nose at the food and I whisper, ‘You will know’…

Dava ki dua

“Finish you dinner, sweety”

{No response}

“Finsh your dinner, Aayush”

{No response}

“Fin-ish your Dinner, AA-yush”

{Awarded with bland look}

“Finish your dinner or else..”

{Bland look, again}

“Finish your dinner or else I will take you to doctor for more shots”

{huh! you are getting desperate , mom}

“Finsh your Dinner and I will put your favorite DVD on”

{I am not falling for that}

“Finish your dinner and I will read you as many books as you want”

{you are going to do that, anyway}

“If you finish your dinner, you can have the medicine that will stop your ear-ache”

empty plate in a few minutes..

Food Blogging ke Sholay

I have been invited to contirbute to the Dining Hall. I will be writing a monthly/bi-monthly column. My pay, I have been told will be smiles from all my fans (???). While it remains to be seen whether I will ever get paid, the idea of writing about food and food blogging, to avid foodies and colleagues in my chosen virtual avataar excites me. Sometimes funny, sometimes sentimental and sometimes serious, I plan to take this column through the ups and downs of the food blogging community, through accepting new trends and keeping old (yes, in internet-speak, last-year is old..) etiquettes in place.

I call it Vee-Speaks! Do You-Reads??

I knew it!!

I knew it, I knew it!..

Chocolate is good for you. hmph… I knew it all along!

Sample this


He found the Kuna tribe rarely suffer from high blood pressure and have much lower rates of cancer, heart disease and strokes – some of the biggest killers in the developed world – than neighbouring tribes in Panama.

He suggested this is due to their high intake of epicatechin, which they get from drinking up to five cups of cocoa a day.

Of couse, save the celebrations till later. Because,

Unfortunately for chocolate lovers, most of the naturally-occurring epicatechin is removed in the processing of cocoa beans.

and from here

Dr Hollenberg, who is a scientific advisor to several big pharmaceutical companies and has received financial backing for his research from the M&M/Mars Company, believes there is scope for nutritional companies to develop epicatechin supplements, such as chocolate bars.

M&M/Mars Company provided financial backing…

oh, well. I also knew it was too good to be true.