Friday, January 30, 2009

Back from the Break!

I'll be the first to say that I've been a sloppy blogger lately. Three weeks since my last post, and not for a lack of things to write about. Much has happened, and I guess I've just been sorting my thoughts out.

My family had come down to India for a couple of weeks. We spent the first week at home in Bombay, a continuous bustle of activity, first in getting the house cleaned up (and then making sure it remained that way through the rest of the stay!), then in meeting relatives and old friends, squeezing in the all-important shopping whenever we could, and sometimes, just taking a breather and chilling out at home, enjoying each other's company again :)

We each rummaged through our cupboards and cabinets, going over stuff that we'd deemed to have too much sentimental value to throw out; wiped off the dust that had covered them during the past year, and then returned them to their places ..... to gather more dust during 2009!

I pulled out our old photo album collection, and we pored over the memories. My sis & I shuddered over some truly disastrous and censorable childhood pictures of the two of us and I fortunately managed to sneak them out; it was sis's job to hide them in a place where our doting parents wouldn't find them and be tempted to show them around {shudder, shudder}.

That week passed by all too quickly and before we knew it, it was bye-bye Bombay and Hello Bangalore. The new, sparklingly spacious airport at Bangalore seriously impressed the family, coming as we were, from the depressing dullness of the Bombay domestic terminal (they told me the international airport had deteriorated still further ..... sigh!)

I had braced them for the long drive home, given that we live quite far from the new airport and we'd arrived during the evening rush hour. But surprisingly, it took only two hours to reach home (I had expected three!).

Hubby had neatened and tidied up our apartment for his in-laws, and my family were quite impressed with all the decor improvements we'd made to the place. It was also my sister's first visit to our home and I was especially thrilled that she liked it. Of course, that delight may have just been for our TV, considering that a TV junkie like herself had just spent a week in Bombay without one!

We ended up spending most of our time relaxing at home, save for a couple of shopping trips, and the only sights seen were the mass of shops and humanity on Brigade Road. My sister discovered the game of squash at our clubhouse, and in the process, discovered the pitiful state of her fitness! A more shocking revelation was my dad's state of fitness: far, far superior than any of us had given him credit for, as he proceeded to run sis ragged almost every morning of their stay!

The highlight of the visit, and indeed, the reason for it, was (ahem!) our first anniversary. Yup, last week, hubby & I completed one year of married life. It was a quiet celebration ..... well, except for the balloons bursting!

Hubby's bro and sis-in-law joined us in the evening and we had dinner at Ebony, one of our favourite restaurants, located on the 13th floor of a building on M.G. Road. We sat on the balcony, enjoying a fine meal with a finer view of Bangalore at night down below us. The ladies were all suitably cloaked and jacketed against the chill breeze, but the men? Well, the men were men, and so manfully insisted they weren't cold. Right!

A couple of days later, the folks headed back (sigh!) But this is the optimistic me, so I'm glad for whatever time we got together and already looking forward to the next visit :)

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Sweet & Sour Sauce

Over the past year, I have discovered that the passion for cooking that runs in the veins of most of my family, surprisingly flows in mine too. I find the whole process extremely enjoyable, especially when it involves dishes off the typical home-cooking menu.

I follow in the footsteps of my mother, who believes that once you get the hang of cooking, you should feel free to experiment. She's the type of cook who feels that rigidly sticking to recipes and measurements takes all the fun out of cooking. Of course, if you're not careful, what should've been delicious can easily turn disastrous (as we've both found out!)

But nonetheless, experimenting with food is still real fun, and what I like best are dishes that are simple, scrumptious and can be tweaked to suit individual tastes. I had posted one such recipe earlier, and here's another one:

Sweet & Sour Sauce
Inspired by Kylie Kwong.

1/2 inch piece of ginger
3-4 cloves of garlic
1 piece of jaggery (or a tablespoon of brown sugar, white will also do)
1 chilli - deseeded if you don't want it too hot (red chillies are better visually)
2 tbsp chopped spring onions (regular ones could work too)
1 tbsp chopped coriander
1 tbsp soy sauces (either dark or light or ideally a mix of both: dark for colour & light for flavour) 1 tbsp vinegar (I use apple cider vinegar)
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tbsp oil (olive, peanut or sesame preferably)
Dash of any other related sauces that you may have at home: eg - fish sauce, oyster sauce, Worcestershire sauce.
Stock (veg or non-veg) to increase quantity.
(I don't use salt because the soy and other sauces are salty enough; however this depends on your taste)

1. Mince the ginger, garlic, chilli and jaggery finely.
2. Mix all the ingredients together, except the oil.
3. Heat the oil separately and when hot (smoking hot according to Kylie Kwong, but not really necessary), pour over the sauce ..... it'll sizzle and crackle deliciously!

You can serve this sauce with steamed white meat or fish (chicken in the picture), or with momos or with pretty much anything you fancy. For a vegetarian version, simply omit the fish and oyster sauces.

What I love about this sauce is that you can't really go wrong making it. Just keep tasting as you go along till you get it the way you like. Also, these measurements aren't written in stone; you can easily add more or less of the ingredients according to your taste. You don't even need every one of them: the essentials are jaggery for the sweetness and soy for the saltiness, and ginger and garlic. The rest of what goes in is limited only by your imagination!

Thursday, January 01, 2009

New Year, New Attitude

At the Christmas Mass I attended this year, or rather, last year, the sermon was delivered by a visiting priest from Indonesia. He introduced himself, very humbly, as a "baby priest" and wanted to give a sermon that was "short, but meaningful".

He began with a story from his village back home, where many people raised cows for a living. During summers, the grazing grass would turn unappetizingly dry and seeing this, the cows wouldn't feed. The people therefore developed an amusingly ingenious solution: they made green spectacles and placed them over the cows' eyes! The cows' world, especially the grass, then seemed invitingly green and fresh, and they would continue to feed as usual. The reality, the priest said, was dry grass, but with the green spectacles, the people (and the cows!) found a way to deal with it.

The priest then said that compared to his past visits to India, he'd observed something different this time: that the people seemed to be less enthusiastic about Christmas, that the spirit of the festival was somewhat subdued here. He agreed that it was only natural, given the attacks against Christians in many parts of the country, and the terrorist strike in Bombay. But Christmas, he said, is at its heart, a festival of hope and joy, that God loved the world so much that He sent His Son to live as a human.

The priest concluded by saying that we should not get so overwhelmed by the negativity in our world that we completely forget the positives; the reality of our world undeniably has a lot that's wrong, but by putting on 'spectacles' of optimism and hope, we can find a way to deal with the problems our societies face.

For me, this was a very fitting and much-needed Christmas message, something that I want to take along into the new year too. With all that goes on around us, I think its easy to become depressed and/or cynical ...... but that's NOT how I want to live. I want to be optimistic, I want to feel hopeful and joyful.

I don't mean that I'll be skipping along merrily, believing problems will just disappear on their own, but in the sense that I won't let those problems keep me down and keep me from doing my duty. I won't forget that though there is a lot that's regrettable in our world, there is a lot to be thankful for as well .......

...... (and now, very strangely, the songs running through my head are a mix of Gloria Gaynor's I Will Survive and Chumbawamba's Tubthumping!!!) Must be the lack of sleep ...... we brought in the new year the way I like it best - attended Mass and then had a not-so-quiet dinner with family.

Here's wishing you all a TERRIFIC NEW YEAR - Keep the optimism, keep the faith!