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…
[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.
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.
Onam is one of the great festivals of Kerala (my home state in India). My friend Poornima throws the best Onam Party in the Bay Area. The array of Kerala food, mix of people, dressed in Kerala colors (white/off white) is something to experience.
Back in India, I remember waking up early for Onam, with the pleasant smell of sandalwood being rubbed on a stone. My job was to collect flowers from the backyard for the “Poo Kalam” (a floral design in the front of the house). The grand finale was always the “Onam Saddhi” or “Great Feast” on the day, Thiruvonam. It signified prosperity, abundance, and to me, some absolutely delightful food. Continue reading Malabar Memories: About Onam→
I am a vegetarian. I have been one all my life. ‘Oh, so you are vegetarian! Do you eat fish?’ When I first came to the USA, I did feel I was from another planet. There were enough people telling me I was missing something, by not eating meat. In a very subtle way, I was made to feel either out of place, or bothersome, or too picky. However, I was not going to give up my convictions, for anybody or any place. It boggled my mind that a country that were so tolerant in many ways, had such limited knowledge of the rest of the world, and such little patience for people with different dietary needs. Continue reading Are Vegetarians From Another Planet?→