Posts Tagged 'Stories'

Not feeling the love

It’s hard to get in the mood for Valentine’s day when the day before it’s rainy cats and dogs outside, your running late for work despite the alarm going off at 4:45 am and the elevator in your apartment building is out of order, oh and when you finally do make it out of the door after a trip back up the seven flights of stairs to get your rain coat,your umbrella does an impressive back flip and jars an elderly lady walking past (which I now know is only funny in films). Frankly, by this point in my day (and it was only 5:43 am) I felt like my guts-on-the-outside-umbrella, only minus the gold medal gymnastics. There was no love in the air. nada, zilch, niente- well you get the idea.

They say things can only get better-but I can categorically say when you start the day like you’ve been thrown in the pool with your clothes on (on a winters day) and there’s no more PG-tips left, there’s very little to feel bright about. So, I did what any right-minded girl in a grump and a sodden jumper would do- I got out a set of scales. If you’re the kind of person who hasn’t yet come across an activity or the person in your life to bring you up when you’re down, then let me suggest you drag your sad little feet into the kitchen. Sweet smells from the oven warm the heart, enliven the senses and really, who hasn’t ever thought to themselves…one more biscuit will make everything better? This isn’t to say that Don, doesn’t live up to his relationship-bound duties but I didn’t want to bring him down the day before Valentine’s Day and make him forget my flowers (Don, you did buy me flowers, right?).

Walking to the subway after work I chucked my useless brolly on a pile of other discarded ones’ by the curb- seems like no matter how much you shell out there is no such thing as a good umbrella. There are however good biscuits. Happy Valentine’s Day.

Saturday morning baking

Some people unwind at the end of the week with hot bath, a yoga session or a glass of wine but for it’s baking on Saturday mornings. I feel more focused and at ease with life when I’m baking in my pyjamas as the sun comes up with a mug of tea in hand and the radio on in the background. I roll out of bed without an alarm, put on my glasses, tie my hair back and get the kettle going. Before Don has even stirred, the apartment has been filled with sweet smells and I’m already covered in flour as I jot down notes in my testing book. And no, I’m not middle-aged (eccentric, probably) I just sometimes prefer the life of one who’s considered to be middle-aged. Dinner parties, good wine, NPR and baking on Saturday mornings. This of course, makes going out partying on Friday evenings considerably undesirable. Then my Saturday mornings are spent rolling around in bed well passed the rising of the sun demanding tea and complaining how I’ve wasted my favourite day of the week. So, middle-aged Saturday’s tend to win out, despite my best attempts at being sociable on Fridays.

It is my need for baking therapy on Saturday mornings that now a year into my relocation from London to New York, I still find the nightlife in New York intimidating. The days of ‘last tube’ and ‘last call’ are well and truly over. In fact going out in New York on the weekend tends to commence when normally everyone would be downing their last pint, were it a London pub. Invitations to parties starting at 7 pm are unheard of- it’s more like 10, 11 or even 12. Relaxing at the weekends used to be sacrosanct, now they are a highly sought after commodity. As someone who loves their bed, and sleeping in it even more, you can see how this has proven to be somewhat of a complication for me. I’ve adapted to many things in New York over the last year, measuring in cups and ounces included, but shifting into the late night mode is one type of jet-lag that I decidedly will never adjust to. I thought I understood the meaning behind the city that never sleeps phrase before I moved here, but I had no idea quite how sleep-deprived this city really was. New Yorkers don’t unwind in a very relaxing manner.

I could argue that it’s how hard I work during the week, or the fact that I start work before the crack of dawn that makes me long for my bed on a Friday night- but really I know in my heart of hearts, it’s baking on Saturday mornings. AARP card not required.

In the kitchen with Don

It is on rare occasions that I will turn to Don and say “why don’t you sort out dinner tonight?” or even rarer say “I would love for you to cook me dinner tonight!”.  And when I do, it’s usually on a Sunday (when I’ve been at work and he hasn’t), I’m tired and I’m in the mood for a spaghetti bolognase, which minus the incident where he dropped the whole box of Maldon sea salt into sauce, he’s remarkably good at making.  Of course the other reason that I allow him too cook on a Sunday is because I’m generally not around on a Sunday and it has become apparent over the course of our relationship that the two of us in the kitchen are less than compatible.  For one thing, Don doesn’t like to follow recipes and he likes to “experiment”, a word, which when uttered from his smirking lips as he mischeviously waggles his fingers in the air, make my blood boil.  I’ve always found it rather fascinating that a man who has a very successful career in consulting ie: telling other what they’re doing wrong and how to fix it, can’t read the fine print- for example: “Don, that says 1 tsp chilli powder not 10.” It’s not that I’m a bad teacher but for me the kitchen is a place of combined calm and order and Don’s just not an complying student.

Don cooking is like a child with a free spirit. Essentially, he ignores some of the most basic  rules of cooking – like don’t sweat onions on a high heat or preheat the oven before you try to bake the cake.  The first time he cooked for me he made pea soup (green) for starter and thai green curry soup- it was a green soup theme and one that he thought was rather clever.  At the time, I was a culinary student having it drilled into me how important it was to mix up colours, tastes and textures from course to course and found it was all rather sweet, if ignorant. The honeymoon period quickly ended though and when Don and I moved in together and I discovered that the free spirit extended far beyond the menu planning and experimenting (smirk, waggle waggle) and also left the kitchen in a state of  complete and utter devastation.  I did not know that an individual could be capable of such destruction and abuse whilst happily marvelling his own inner genius and breathing like he was at an Ashram.

It is on this note, with which I now feel that I can appropriately defend my concerns when Don called me at work this past Sunday asking “what ingredients in the cupboard can I use?”

“what are you cooking?”

“flapjack-type-thingys-hey, do we have any coconut?”

Of course, it was on this one particular occasion that Don really did show off his inner genius and when I came home and he said “you might want to prepare yourself before you open the fridge for a feeling of complete insubordination and inadequacy”

“really?” I said, smirking.

I opened the fridge and low and behold were the most beautiful “flapjack-type-thingys” topped lavishly with nuts and chocolates and were it not for the fact that the sun had gone down I would have photographed them immediately.  Of course, we all know that looks can be deceiving and so I obviously had to taste them- and yes, I had a moment of complete inadequacy. The kitchen however remained in a state of turmoil- so I did have something to complain about.

New Years Solution

Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so. – Douglas Adams

As I bundled myself up and stomped up Brooklyn Bridge in my ‘Happy New Years!’ cone hat, popped a bottle of champagne and rung in the new year, it hadn’t even crossed my mind to think of what issues in my life needed resolving. That is until my first five days of the new year were spent having coughing fits and cold sweats whilst similtaneously working my way through several boxes of Puffs with lotion and Vicks tissues, gallons of tea and the last of my Karvel. In my misery I was unsurprisingly able to come up with rather a lot of things that I could improve on to make my life more comfortable- taking more zinc and vitamin C obviously topping the list.

The reason of course that I had not decided upon my resolutions prior to getting the lurgy was because I currently live at work- not for work, just atwork. This has averaged in at around seventy hours per week these past few months- woe is me. When people ask me if I go home and cook at the end of the day I cower in embarrassment- “no of course not, who has time to cook dinner at night?” Whereas once I would avidly spend an hour preparing dinner each night I now find myself little energy or will to cook at the end of each working day- an omelette is about the extent of my imagination come dinner time .

Coincidentally, this excessive amount of time spent at work appears to be a bit of an obstacle in achieving my newly laid-out resolutions, which all involve time and more of it. More time put into my well being, more time with Don, more time running, more time cooking, more time enjoying food, more time cooking in the evenings, more time with friends, more time traveling, reading, writing, having fun, more, more, more, more, more time! And if I spent less time at work, allowing more time for these activities, I would spend less time complaining about how many hours I work, which would be good for all of us.  So you see, this year I’ve decided that I don’t have any resolutions. I have a solution- to work less. Now I just have to work out how to tell the boss…

Oh, Paula.

There are chefs that I get to work with that inspire and challenge me- say Jamie Oliver, Ed Brown, David Chang, and Nigella Lawson, to name a few. And then there are those who make me wonder how they got so popular in the first place and who the hell follows their recipes?

Have you ever heard of Paula Dean’s holiday salad? It contains the following list of ingredients: lime and lemon Jell-O, cottage cheese, tinned pineapple, pecans and horseradish? The ingredients alone make my nostrils flare, my eyebrows shrivel and my body shake with queasiness. Ghastly ingredients list aside though- you should have seen what the finished dish looked like. It was not fit to eat let alone put on TV. I have a food tasting policy, which is: I’ll try anything once. My policy has forced me to try many a strange thing in my lifetime – chicken feet, crickets and squirrel amongst them and yet nothing could have prepared me for the turn in my stomach I experienced when touching a dab of Holiday Salad to my petrified tongue.

Why I felt compelled to taste this mixture, which is apparently whipped up and served alongside many an Americans’ holiday dinner, is utterly beyond me. This was not an experiment by Heston, but a serious side dish to accompany roasted beef tenderloin- that is a $150 cut of beef next to something resembling frog spawn- only most people aren’t actually expected to eat frog spawn. This is all aside from the fact that holiday salad is in no way a salad at all but instead a gelatin mixture full of ingredients that work perfectly well on their own and in multitudes of other combinations. Airplane food would have looked live five star fare paired next to this unsavoury concoction.

How are Americans’ supposed to know how to cook a healthy well-balanced meal at home when they’re taught to cook rubbish like this?

My rant is now over, please resume normal activities. And for a real salad that does taste good try here or here.

The London foodie eats india and okra take two

When you make it known that you’re going to India- everyone that you tell manages to dig up a trying-to-be-helpful (but not) horror story, which they proceed to recount in all its gory detail. All of these stories revolve around illness- and 90% of them focus on the stomach and its inability to correctly digest. Being one who was blessed at birth with a greedy but incredibly temperamental stomach, I have to admit that I was a little anxious. But here I am safely back in New York with nothing more than a few sniffles from the plane air vents and with cravings for raw food, beef and tap water. I must just be one of the lucky few who manages to return with their Imodium still neatly packed in away in it’s box- and having witnessed the hygiene India, I’m guessing that I was not just lucky- but very lucky.

In any case- I successfully managed to challenge my taste buds and set my mouth on fire at each opportune moment despite sticking to a mainly vegetarian (and a cautious one at that) diet. And whilst the break from meat still gave me savoury satisfaction, I’m rather pleased to be back in a country where cows don’t wear halos and the pigs don’t eat the street rubbish. Continue reading ‘The London foodie eats india and okra take two’

The london foodie in india

“This is India, Madam” my driver keeps reminding me, as I cover my face with my hands again as we face off yet another cargo truck on a rocky mountain road.

“Are there no rules?!” I squeal as we swerve back over to the left (the correct) side of the road, my stomach churning.

My driver chuckles “yes madam, but nobody follow- me and my car we are complete, no accidents” he attempts to assure me.

Driving in India is like one big game of chicken, who will hold out the longest before swerving back to their side of the road. And I thought driving in New York was crazy. But New York doesn’t have to battle with 330km of unfinished road or those worn away to form giant potholes from the recent monsoon. Indian taxis and cars share the road with cows, sheep, wild pigs, camels pulling carts piled high with grains and passengers, pedestrians, cyclists, tuk tuks and whole unhelmeted families on single motorbikes, the mother sitting side saddle in a beautiful sari clutching her baby! Jeeps are packed so full with people that you could never accurately guess how many there are- personal space issues are not something that Indian people and I have in common. I might add that these are main roads connecting the major cities of Rajastan.

In the opening pages of my Rough Guide to India it says “…an incomprehensible and bewildering continent. But for all its jarring juxtaposition, intractable paradoxes and frustrtions, India remains an utterly compelling destination.”  How better can I describe India that that?

My sister and I have been spending a lot of time in the car on this trip to India and whilst it has reduced me to endless bouts of car sickness, I am yet to be sick of what you can witness on the drives themselves. It is the only way to see the small Indian villages and though you will be stared and waved at, it’s worth it. I only wish that I somehow blended in and could watch the people carrying out their village life all day- sadly my white skin and Birkenstocks seem to give me away. Though it is a blessing that we have been spared the  words ‘TOURIST’ across our car, like many others.

In order to survive the roads in Rajastan, it is imperative to have a flexible thumb to honk your horn with. If you want somebody out of your way- honk. If you want to overtake somebody- honk. When you are facing off oncoming traffic- honk like your life depends on it, because it does.  I am certain that in later life, our driver will suffer from repetitive strain syndrome with honking as the cause. What surprises me more that the driving itself though, is the fact that despite the cow dodging and games of chicken, we have not witnessed one accident. The driving seems reason alone to get to temple.

Despite the road chaos- India has become for me ‘utterly compelling.’

“We are here, Madam” my driver says.  “Time to get fresh and we see sights. yes.”

“Yes.”

Lalmas

(Lamb Curry)

We stayed in a guesthouse called Devra in Udaipur, which I could not recommend enough to future travellers.  With only four rooms, and being set back from the hustle and bustle of the town, it makes for a magnificent retreat from the days tiring activities.  Here Joti, gave me a Rajistani heritage cooking lesson- her recipes handed down from her mother and very special.  This recipe is only a guess at the ingredient quantities, she did not have real meaurements- just a spoonful of this and two spoonfuls of that. All of her recipes use the four spices chilli, turmeric, coriander and salt.

500g stewing lamb

1/2 cup full fat yogurt (curd)

2 Tbsp crushed garlic

1 tsp chilli powder

3 tsp ground coriander

salt to taste

1 tsp turmeric

1/4 cup fresh cream

Mix together all of the ingredients and let marinate for an hour or over night. Place in a pressure cooker for ten minutes (or sit in on a low heat for about an hour- add a splash of water if necessary, but this is meant to be rather a dry curry).


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