I have fond memories of my early years in Kanpur, India. Situated on the banks of the Ganges, Kanpur was as fertile as it could be.Our home had crisp green lawns with roses of every hue. My favorite pastime in the summer months was counting the number of tomatoes on the vine, which stretched on to the side walls of the house. I remember admiring the red plump fruit against the faded brown wall. While my dad brought home red juicy apples and healthy bunches of grapes, mom would cut a bowl of fresh tomatoes and sprinkle a little sugar, for us to eat. This was when I fell in love with fruits.
I looked outside through my kitchen window at the cloudy cold day. I remembered the vegetable sandwiches mom would make for us, she would smear 2 slices of bread with butter and add the vegetable of the day – spicy beans or hot chole, or potato fry in between and toasted it on a hot skillet. It tasted awesome.
“Want to get a Hot sandwich break” I said my husband.
He jumped at the offer. As we were driving trying to figure out the best places that made a good sandwich – TOGOs, nah! Quiznos –like it but been there too many times. I asked him what he wants, he said “your chutney sandwich” – toasted warm wheat bread spread with spicy homemade tomato chutney, layered with pepper jack cheese, warm sautéed onions and bell peppers, a layer of grilled chicken…
Native Americans call it the food of the gods that created the earth. Corn has an important place in history. Its origin dates back to 5000 years and takes us to Mexico.
With the shocking prices of rice and wheat at Indian stores, I have consciously begun to include makki ki roti (corn roti) into our weekly menu. Corn flour is abundant and a healthy substitute for other staples.
[Note: This article was published in India Currents Magazine in Feb 2008. Excerpted here….]
I looked through my kitchen window and could feel the chill. My husband was plugging away on his laptop in the office room. I peeked in and asked, “Shall we go out to lunch?” He jumped at the offer. We debated where to go. Where could we get a nice, toasty sandwich? We thought about a few fast, casual places we both knew, but none sounded quite right for a cold afternoon. Then my husband asked, “How about that chutney sandwich?” “Oh!” I said, “You mean the one with warm wheat bread, spread with spicy homemade tomato chutney, layered with pepper jack cheese, sautéed onions and bell peppers, and a layer of grilled chicken?”
Beautiful turquoise beaches, sky scraping palm trees, silver sands, glistening sunlight and romantic sunsets: the Caribbean Islands are a colorful treat for our eyes, and their cuisine is equally something to relish. There are more than 7000 islands in the Caribbean plate, that we call the West Indies.
The early inhabitants of the islands were from the northern part of South America. Their cuisine included corn, cassava, squash yams and sweet potatoes along with an extensive selection of seafood. Eventually ravaged by disease and their conquest by the Spaniards, English and French, most of the early inhabitants were wiped out. The native cuisine, called Creole, was influenced by European, African and Spanish cuisines.
One Friday evening we went out to try a new restaurant with a friend. Our friend was curious about the cuisine. I told her they had some interesting dishes and she exclaimed, “Please don’t say Fusion – it feels like the chef has a hand in all the pots, and does not have a clue where he belongs!” That sparked an interesting conversation.
Fusion marries 2 or more ingredients, from 2 different cuisines, and creates a new dish that compliments the individual flavors and ingredients. Many centuries ago when the Chinese came to America, the Africans moved to Europe and the East Indians and French learned to dine together, fusion was born.
Today, this blending of cuisines has gained momentum. This is the new trend in many metropolitan cities around the world. This New World Cuisine requires a great deal of creativity and knowledge on the part of the chef, to come up with a dish that incorporates entirely different cuisines. The world is truly flat, when it comes to Fusion food.
A few years ago, my husband had come back from India, and casually stepped on the weighing scale. My son’s jaw dropped and he said “Wow Dad! One more pound and you will be 200.” This was the moment when a switch went off, and my husband was a changed man. He went from eating just about anything, to eating healthy. And what is more remarkable is, he’s kept it going! Here is my Top Ten Steps to a healthy life style:
I was at a party the other day. I watched people chomp down on a wide array of snacks; and as they were eating, I could see the guilt on their faces. Many were making promises of an extra workout that week.
This got me thinking. Since when did we forget the sheer joy of enjoying a snack, just for what it is? Have we forgotten what “guilt free snacking” feels like anymore? So here’s to eating in moderation and relishing every bite. Here’s my all time favorite snacks:
My first encounter with Mr. Gobble was on my very first day in the U.S.A. I walked into my husband’s apartment from the airport, with a heart filled with hope. The refrigerator had a ‘Welcome Home’ sign, and some delicious food from his friends. I casually opened the freezer door…and there he was, looking straight at me. He was 12 lbs of sheer fat…huge alright! “Who is that?” I asked. “Oh! yah! That’s a turkey”, said my husband, and paused “from last year”. My jaw dropped!
Life here was filled with this, and many more interesting surprises. My first Thanksgiving was in Dallas, TX. The tradition at our cousin’s place was that the men would cook the Thanksgiving meal. We (the women) hung out, sipping margaritas. I learnt then that my husband could chop onions. The next year it was a “Tandoori Turkey”. A year later the turkey gave way to a stuffed chicken.
As we embrace this All-American tradition, we have all adapted it to reflect our own individuality. One tradition we follow is to give thanks to everyone who has touched our lives in different ways. Another tradition is donating to our local food bank, and volunteering at the shelter.
It’s 10 AM on a Saturday. You have a party to attend in the evening. You have been running around all week, with no time for a facial. You look in the mirror. Your eyes are tired. Your face is pale. You are wondering, “What do I do now?”. Well, look no further that your own pantry and refrigerator!
India is home to some of the best natural remedies. For centuries, people have used plants, vegetables, herbs and leaves to nourish their skin and bring out their beauty.
I remember a Sunday morning ritual growing up. My grand mom would heat up curry leaves, cooked in coconut oil, with fenugreek seeds. My mom would mix cream of milk, turmeric, lemon juice and chickpea flour. I would pick Hibiscus leaves from our backyard, crush it down for its juice, and mix it with shikakai (herbal powder).