Thursday, November 7, 2013

Unplug and Unwind

"Work is work...that's why they call it work. True should challenge us, but it should not be drudgery. We should find joy in what we do and happiness among the people with whom we work".

So, in that way it was not a bad idea to go camping with co-workers and their family. However for me it was bit different. The Sun was setting, dinner’s over and Mishti proactively offered to sleep with her flashlight and books. I was sitting with a can of Michelada by the fire. That's when it hit me: Oh, yeah. Camping is good...
Ok, these above reasons for going to camping are not so important, but being outside under the Sun for an entire day, is important, it feels different. The man-made roofs and walls were taken away; you were wrapped by dreamy limitless blue sky and surrounded by lush green trees, listening to crickets chirping... Aha blissful.
Well, if you are still not convinced and almost thinking that you will not continue to read this anymore, I have even better reason. Go to camping and eat all day long. There probably a reason why food tastes better outdoors, may be your senses are more alert, more sharp, your mind is more relaxing. I don't know, but I am sure the organizers of this camping knew. The variety of food taken was amazing. Apart from the usual Bar B Q stuff (which included vegies, Paneer, chicken, Fish, Shrimp, and off course marshmallows), there were panipuri, pauv bhaji, paan and what not.. Just Imagine!!
The best part of the camping site was, you are disconnected from phone calls, Face book, texts, twitter; rather you connect with nature, your soul. It was a "get away" from all the planning stuffs, all TBD lists on your refrigerator. In fact there were no "Must do", "Must watch" tagged things/places. May be you would like to take a stroll in a trail, watch playing the kids in dirt, watch the starry sky, discuss and debate on identifying "Saptarishi" or "Dhruvatara" (The different constellation in the night sky)... sounds like plan, huh...
This park (Martin Dies Jr. State Park) has some good demonstration on snake, crocodile, butterfly.... So if you happened to choose one such park with something like this, the little ones get a bonus deal.
This park is more than an hour drive to reach from our place. Speed limit keeps changing throughout, so you got to be really careful about speeding if you are driving or you need someone focused towards the speed limit post in your passenger seat. Do either one, because you do not want to be caught and get ticket on your way to camping.
Though initially it felt a lot of work, may be because it was first time, so was not very sure what to carry and what not to...but finally I came to conclusion that camping isn't just the packing and unpacking, the cooking and tidying, the planning and the doing. Camping is a state of mind; it will keep you close to nature's heart. It helps to wash your spirit clean.

So, where are you camping next?

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Recipe and Reminiscence

First a disclaimer - this post is not a recipe, but a trip on the memory lane about recipe.
And why not? For most of the times food reminds me of something, it awakens memories from long past. It could be someone from whom I have learned a recipe; it could be about a day when I cooked a dish for someone special!

For example, cabbage rice!  I learnt the recipe from a friend with whom—sadly—I have lost contacts. But for sure this rice dish reminds me of those days when it was just the two of us. This is one of those recipes which I used to love because they are easy and quick. So after a long day’s work, coming home and realizing that I have nothing in the fridge for dinner, I would not have the gumption to do up an elaborate dish – this dish came to the rescue. This humble dish got me started and interested in South Indian rice dishes (there are many). Born and raised in the eastern part of India, rice, to me, only meant "Sada Bhaat" (plain rice) or “Polau” (Pilaf). So doing something different with rice was novel, even exciting! Now whenever I cook Cabbage Rice, those golden days in Bangalore come crowding in my mind: how I slowly became a "Bangolrian", how I became a die-hearted fan of "Pongol," "Masala-dosa," and "Filter-Coffee"and much more!
Once we were returning from Kolkata and the moment we landed in Bangalore I strangely felt I was "back home." I am sure I did not love Kolkata any less, but Bangalore grew on me – familiarity breeds love and attachment, I guess. The city that gave me an opportunity of earning my own bread curry, the city where I experienced for the  first time how it feels to work in the “corporate” world, the city where I found a handful of dear friends who, I am sure, will reside  in my heart for ever... the city that is Bangalore!

Sometimes some dishes, like one very well-known Bengali dish "begun-tomato" (eggplant in tomato Gravy) reminds me of Maa's cooking not just the taste! But also, her process of cooking, her kitchen, her "Kadais" (skillet), her spice jars, the sound of ladle on the skillet, the aroma of the steam off the skillet! The other day as I was preparing Begun-Tomato—her way, I remembered her. She used to have two different Kadais, one of those was "Niraamish" ( for vegetarian cooking only) and the other was for "Aamish" (non-vegetarian). In the "Niramish" one she would never cook dishes that had any animal product—of course, even the stuff that are associated with Aamish cooking such as onion or garlic... and "Begun-Tomato" falls under the "Niraamish" category.
The other day, I did not have much time to cook and I was tired after a long day. When I opened my fridge and saw a "begun" (eggplant) and a couple of tomatoes, my mind travelled way back to my middle school days. I always wanted her to teach me cooking and she would to tell me "Sekhanor kichu nei, somoi hole nijei sikhe jabi, pawre toh kartei hobe"  (nothing to teach, when the time comes, you will learn automatically; one day cooking will become part of your routine). I was sometimes persistent in my “bainaa” (demand) to learn. One day as she was cooking "begun-tomato," she told me "eta bheeshon shoja" (this is very easy), you can start your training with this one! So she described to me how she did it.... Well I don’t remember all her instructions today (or, maybe I do and the memory is now in deep psyche and I forgot where it came from).. Now I do it my way (perhaps my way is also her way). All that it means is that I understood now the basics of cooking and a few steps and thought and improvisations have become natural and, perhaps, instincts.

When I think of Maa’s separate "kadai" for "Niramish", I also remember "Bapon" (my grandma -- dad's mom) because she insisted on Maa to keep a “Niramish” Kadai. In Bengal (and many parts of India) widows are forbidden to eat (read "touch") anything non-vegetarian that includes - Onion, Garlic, Moshur daal (red lentils)!
I have so much of Bapon's memory, as I was the "Bapon's girl" all the way! One bit of memory I am sure to stay with me all my life is making "noodles" for her. Well, I am not sure if I can say "for her,", as I have prepared noodles "for her" after she passed away. This is a ritual: after a loved one passes away, the family members prepare some of his or her favorite dishes place them outside the house for him or her. Bapon was very fond of noodles. Now every time I cook noodles, my eyes start watering. I miss you "Bapon!" Hmmm…no, I am not going to end this with a sad note. I always want to remember Bapon with a smile for she taught me to smile, she also taught me how to pray, how to keep faith on Almighty when in crisis and many other life-lessons that we all learn one way or the other. For me it was easy: I had my Bapon.

Sometimes I feel that the Bengali festivals have lost all its charm for me. This is probably because all festivities in my memory have many parts. I remember the maid who cleaned the house, the boy who delivered the newspaper every morning and how they all shared the same mood of festivity along with us. It was as though the whole atmosphere around me—the flowers, the birds, the sky and the air around me knew it was the festival time! It was so special. Of course, being from Bengal, if I talk about festivals I must mention “Durga Pujo” Many Indians may know that Durga Pujo is a 5-day festival, but few know that a whole month was full of so many other smaller festivals and rituals—from Laxmi Pujo, Kali Pujo to Bhaiphonta! One of my favorites was "Bhai-Phonta" (Bhai-Duj) – a festival celebrating sister-brother bond.
Whenever I reminisce about very special occasions at home, I remember "Bhai-Phonta" and I remember “Lotta maach er jhal” (Bombay-duck fish curry) and shutki (dry fish) made especially for that day by Pimani (aunt - dad's sister). That day Maa, Sonama (another paternal side aunt – kaakima in Bengali, chaachi in Hindi), Mishtima (another kaakima) used to get time off from Kitchen. Pimani took over and did all the cooking of all special dishes for her brothers. We don’t get lotta fish here; but we do get shutki and whenever I make shutki I remember Bhai-Phonta day lunch. I can close my eyes and see all of us having lunch together at the big dining table…If I could I might trade all my tomorrows for one single yesterday like this one……

This list is never ending, I remember Sonama’s  special seddho-bhat ( plain rice & vegetables boiled together), which she would cook on Fridays after her Sontoshima Pujo (one Goddess of many), I remember Didua’s (grand-mom; mom’s mom) mawtor daal seddho (yellow split lentil boiled).,I say “plain” and “boiled,” but strangely no one (including my mom) can make exactly like the way Sonama made her special seddho bhaat and Didua made her mawtor daal.

 Well, someone said it right: “you can go to other places, you can live on the other side of the world but you can never leave home!”

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Restful Relaxing Retreat

Since sometime I was feeling the need to write something for my blog. When I had started my blog, I used to think I will write at least one piece per month, however that did not happen. Though mostly the reason is obviously lack of time, but also, I am not motivated enough to pen down because I find no reason to write. Yes, as creepy as it may sounds, I really need something different occurs to life…..
What else could you ask for when you plan to go to a Bar-B-Q party with bunch of friends and after you reach there you realize you are with your family.
Yes, the planned Bar-B-Q party finally had turned out to be a lovely family get-together. Well, I am not sure if it is my babyhood recollections which compelling me to feel that way. I have grown up in a joint family where at the end of the day all used to sit together in a big table and eat dinner. The younger members used to get pampered, used to get scolded for mistakes.. The ladies of the house used to work together in the kitchen and do loads of chit-chat, whispering to each other’s ear, giggling for no reasons….
And imagine all these “sights” are happening in a place which feels and sounds like its way out in the country... A small, quiet neighborhood, slow paced environment by the side of Conroe Lake. It’s like one of those relaxing movies where nice emotional moments are shown and at the same time camera can capture outdoor scenes….I am pretty sure, given a chance, Rituporno Ghosh would have created another “Utsab” J
Well, enough of prelude to the “story”… remember we were there to do Bar-B-Q?
Life sometimes gets boring… Your eyes and mind are tired of buildings, office spaces, computer screens, traffic jams…you need to pause the monotony of the routine and plan something different. In this spree, we started talking about a Bar-B-Q party when Debjani called all of us for dinner at her place. So that was our starting point.
Lots of planning went on... What to take, what not to take… who will buy what... And many other niceties…
Finally the D day came… and we all have reached the venue after passing a frustrating “stop and go” traffic throughout the I-45. However the Last few miles drive was the perfect breather.
The first surprise of the party was definitely the “vegetable chop” by Moushumi Di. Oh what an appetizer that was… after that we kept eating and eating and eating... We never stopped… the margarita and chilled tequila shots were the perfect complement with the amazing mutton biriyani. Next day the actual Bar-B-Q started with some small initial hiccups incidents. We continued the marathon drinking and eating and gossiping sessions… also mentoring someone who just started to drink …. While some of us showed lots of patience with fishing, no luck though J
The kids have enjoyed their time with playing, watching movies with the eldest sister… Thanks Maman for taking care of them…
The final lunch was a grand feast…White Rice, Daal, Steamed Prawn in a coconut gravy.. as Mishti says “yummy on my tummy”
And then the time came… we need to return, but I was not so sad because from bottom of my heart someone was telling me, this is just starting.. Many more are yet to come….
Those interested for the location: - property #235021 at Lake Conroe

Sunday, July 29, 2012

All about parenting

The title of this post could also be - next part of “The moment”…

My friends were asking, why I am not continuing with my blog, why there are no posts. Well, apart from the time constraint, it is also to do with the single track mind state…. why single track? Read on….

She came into the world, after a long wait - 5 days after due date. Guess, she was quite well settled inside and had no plans to come out!! It was another great moment when I saw her first time… when I forgot all the pains I went thru labor. Life was thrilled, but different, difficult and very new. There was learning all single day, each single moment. Though all possible situations with babies are available over internet and we “googled” most of them by then, but still we realized the small tiny life was the best teacher. Sometime in middle of night her colic used to upset us or sometime we felt helpless when we did not know why she is crying…
And then she grew and we grew too as parents. Life shifted from proactive nappy change and feeding to something more reactive and demanding. Life started revolving around her. It’s her building blocks, her crayons, her dolls, her TV shows, her rhymes, her, her and her... and we seemed never got tired of it. We have less and less time left for us. She does not allow us to complete any discussion. She wants to be the part of our each moment. A single utter of pain, and she showers all her love and kisses. She even cheers up us for anything we do. She comforts us by saying “chinta maat karo mamma, sab theek hoga” < don’t worry mom, everything will be fine>
But we know this phase will pass soon, she will grow up, she will have her own world, friends. She will not search the nook of my arm to rest herself…
She gave us all the happiness and bliss that any parent can ask for...we only pray to God that she gives us more reasons to live, every single day...we love you

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Bon appetite – with fish curry (sorshe, posto dea rui maach)

It's been little more than one year I have been away from my blog. A busy life with our daughter, office, and finally relocating to another country has kept me busy all these days
My 'almost' new found passion for cooking is bringing me back to blog again

Its fun to browse for recipes. Over the period of time I have accumulated many recipes from my mom, mom in law, my all aunts, friends and last but not least from different recipes posted on net. So I thought why not share some of those wonderful recipes for all. What can be a better topic than food after all!!
I am not sure though that this blog will turn up to a cooking blog, who knows!!

Patience is not a virtue that I have in abundance, so the recipes which I try are generally very easy and quick to make.
This particular recipe I watched in a cooking show on TV. I have already tried this and shared the recipe with my mom as well. She has also tried this and both of them (my mom and dad) loved it. This is quite a rare occasion when my mom has learnt a recipe from me and tried, it’s mostly other way always J

  1. Rui Maach (Rohu Piece) - 6 pieces
  2. Yellow Mustard - one and a half table spoon
  3. Posto (Poppy seed) - one and a half table spoon
  4. Curd - Two Table spoon
  5. Green Chili - as per taste
  6. Turmeric powder - One+half Tea spoon
  7. Salt - as per taste
  8. Mustard Oil - For Shallow Fry + 1 Table spoon
  9. Onion - Sliced as round Piece ( 4 to 5 piece)
  10. Tomato - Sliced as round Piece ( 4 to 5 piece)
  11. Coriander Leaves - Chopped - a handful

 Step 1
Wash the fish pieces, apply salt and turmeric and coat well. Heat mustard oil in nonstick kadai and shallow fry the fish. Keep aside the fried fish pieces

Step 2
Grind mustard, poppy seed and green chili with pinch of salt to make a paste. Use as less of water as you can.

Step 3
Mix curd and half tea spoon of turmeric powder with the above paste.

Step 4
In a micro oven safe bowl arrange the fish pieces in a single layer. Pour the paste over the fish pieces.  Remember to coat well. Top this with 1 Table spoon of mustard oil

Step 5
Put in micro mode for 6 minutes

Step 6
Take out the bowl. Garnish with the Onion, Tomato and coriander leaves and put back to micro oven for another 2 minutes
Serve hot with white rice.

Note: If you do not have Rohu available, you can try with Telapia. Also in case mustard oil is not there you can use white vegetable oil.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Moment...

I will never forget the day - 12, Oct, 2008, it was a Sunday. It was a beginning to a new stage of our life. 7 years, of togetherness - some very good time, some just good time, some bad time, but together always. There were times when both of us felt horrible about each other, and then there were moments when we felt each other the reason of our life. I used to think there could never be more precious moments than those. I was unaware that, one priceless moment was yet to arrive; the moment which would completely change our lives!!!!!
12th Oct, 2008 the day when I first realized that I was pregnant, I will never be able to forget that moment. It will be an incomplete expression if I said I was very happy……. there was a mixed feeling, a felling of excitement, a feeling of completeness - felt our relationship had reached a different level altogether. Needless to say I was a little scared and skeptical, thinking of the new responsibility and if we would be able to take care of it in totality? 9 months is quite a long time, we need to take lot of extra care.
However, after the first bouts of joy and anxiety, the next thing that came to our mind was, we needed to go to Wockhardt Hospital the following day for check up. The first Ultra Sound scan, formally called as “Confirmation Scan”. Indeed, once you see, will you believe. One tiny thing (yes it looked like just an object then) was moving inside me. It brought tears to my eyes. One life was rooted in me…… S/he would develop slowly, S/he would always be there with me, S/he had become the part of me. First glimpse of our baby took the both of us to some other world. The doc then said “did you hear the heart beat”?  Heart beat for this small tiny life?????? Yes, yes…..Seeing and listening is indeed believing.  We finally brought ourselves to believe that we were going to be parents soon, or do I say we already are parents…..virtually J