Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Let's start at the very beginning. A very good place to start.

You know what I think is the biggest irony of blogging? The more you write, the easier it is to find stuff to write about. In the one and a half years that I have been blogging, I don't think that I have ever felt like I have run out of topics. There is always something to write about... something to talk about. It's been a while since I have felt that, and I here I sit, staring at the screen, words failing me in a despairing way.

And this gets me thinking. What does one blog about?

Let me count.

1. Photography
2. Fashion
3. Food
4. Babies/Pets/Husbands/Families
5. Decor & Craft
6. Books
7. Life--its idiosyncrasies and its ironies
8. All of the above

And where do I fall in? No. 8. Shame on me for not thinking that I have enough to write on!!!

So now I think I should write on one thing each from the above until I'm done with the list. In two weeks. What say? I'm gonna do this with all kinds of discipline, ok? Wanna join in?

And tomorrow's topic: Photography! To set the mood, here are a few pictures of my honeymoon in Vietnam and Thailand.

Thailand for its temples and Vietnam for its food. Always. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

On holding hands with Taye Diggs

You know how there are some things you know, but some times, when you're forced to look at it closely, you don't know whether it's right or not. Well, welcome to my life as an editor. It is a conundrum of confusing questions. 

Today, I had a simple sentence to edit. 

"You'd better hold hands with Taye Diggs," it said. 

And I was dumbstruck.

First I changed it to "You better hold hands with Taye Diggs, Liz!" Because obviously. Then I deleted the "Liz" part but remained happy. But my point is this. I am so used to saying "You better do this" and "I better do that," that I don't even realize the mistake in the sentence. 

Step two: I start wondering what the "'d" in the "you'd" stands for. I have an inkling that it is had, but I am not sure. I am questioning my education, my knowledge, my intuition, and my thinking at the point. 

Enter the Internet.This is what it says:

"We use “had better” plus the infinitive without “to”  to give advice. Although “had” is the past form of “have,” we use “had better” to give advice about the present or future."

I had forgotten!

"You had better hold hands with Taye Diggs." 

I know. 

I had better. 

Pinned Image

Monday, June 18, 2012

5 reasons why you should visit Bombay (besides me)

So what follows in the next few paragraphs read pretty much like my resume. Be warned.

I was born and brought up in Kerala (refer map below). My mother was studying to be a doctor and my father was working in Kuwait Airways and was based in Kuwait. I was therefore raised by my maternal grandparents.

Here's a picture you may have seen before.

Four years after I was born, my brother came into our lives. He was the naughtiest thing you ever saw. Yikes!!! I don't know how much I've had to beat him up to ensure that he grew up into a distinguished gentleman.

By the end of school, I was dying to get out. The bold, bright world was beckoning me, and I was all set to see it all. I went to Madras to do my Bachelors in Psychology. After that, I assisted a fashion photographer for a couple of months and then did my Masters in Mass Communication in Pune (where I met Thom).

After that got over, I immediately started working at my first job as a production executive for a film in Mumbai. This was four years ago, but the film has not been released yet. I did that for two months and then quit the job when I reached the verge of killing myself. (Worst. Job. Ever.)

Then I got a job with one of the biggest qualitative market research agencies in India and I did that for over a year. By then, Thom and I had decided to get married. I wanted to travel for a bit before I got married so I quit my job and did that. I went to a whole lot of places and lived in a whole lot of places and overall had a whale of a time. Then I went to Kerala and lived at home for a while. Then I started this blog, got married, and moved back to Bombay.

After that, I got a job with and editing company and now I am an academic editor. It's a fun job; sometimes its a funny job.

Anyways. I am making my point here in a very long winded way. I have lived in quite a few places, never feeling like it's my home and always with one foot out. I have this crazy, insane, consuming desire to to travel and everywhere I go, I almost stop myself from completely setting shop there. Places never, ever feel like home. But the good thing is that the traveller in me brings with it this crazy need to explore and find every nook, cranny, and secret sweet spot in the city. This is true of every place I have lived in and most places I have  visited.

All this while, I never did a guide to Mumbai or anything like that because I was waiting to do one on Paris or Brussels. (Don't judge me. Truth is stranger than fiction sometimes!) But I don't think that that's gonna happen any time soon and I'm gracefully going to accept that Bombay's my home, at least for now.

There. That wasn't so bad. I am only hyperventilating a little.

Now Bombay... Here's what Lonely Planet India has to say about Bomnbay...

"Measure out: one part Hollywood; six parts traffic; a bunch of rich power-moguls; stir in half a dozen colonial relics (use big ones); pour in six heaped cups of poverty; add a smattering of swish bars and restaurants (don’t skimp on quality here for best results); equal parts of mayhem and order; as many ancient bazaars as you have lying around; a handful of Hinduism; a dash of Islam; fold in your mixture with equal parts India; throw it all in a blender on high (adding generous helpings of pollution to taste) and presto: Mumbai.An inebriating mix of all the above and more, this mass of humanity is a frantic melange of India’s extremes."

And what an inebriating mix it is! Here's a list of 5 awesome things you have to do in Bombay. These are the things that I love doing, with Thom and by myself.

1. Can we start with food? :)

First, you need to eat the traditional Konkan/Malvani cuisine, which is predominantly non-vegetarian with a lot of emphasis on sea food. The curries are typically coconut based, fiery, and bursting with flavor. Things to eat in no particular order: Bombil Fry (fish fry), Sol Kadhi (a digestive drink), Bhakri (unleavened bread), Mutton Sukha (Dry Mutton), Rice. Actually, you can eat anything Malvani and it will be lip smacking good.

2. The remnants of a distant past

Walk around on the cobblestone pathways in Fort gazing at tall, ornate colonial buildings, stopping every once in a while to shoot a gorgeous picture. As with any place that's remained unchanged down the ages, the buildings in Fort, created painstakingly by the British, are a beautiful sight to behold. Start off from Victoria Terminus and walk south. On the way, make sure you stop at Jehangir Art Gallery, National Gallery of Modern art, and Colaba Causeway where you can shop to your hearts content. If I come to Bombay for a day twenty years later after a break of fifteen years, this is what I will be doing.

3. Bazaars!

The Bazaars in India are big, bold, bright, and beautiful and those in Bombay are no different. Mutton Street, though weirdly named, has the stunning antique furniture and in Crawford Market, you really get anything under the sun. It's the best place in Bombay to get lost in, as long as you have a handle on where you are. Get me?

4. Juhu Beach/Chowpatty Beach

It may be dirty, crowded, and non descript, but the spirit of India lives in the beaches of Bombay; it's where the people of Bombay go when they are broke but want to have fun. {It's where Thom and I rang in the new year!} It is a maddening melange of people, dogs, food vendors, and balloon sellers and every time I go there, I love it even more. Have the Golas (Snow Cones) and the Pav Bhaji (Bread and Curry) from any of the stalls and you will make your soul happy. (Juhu Beach is in North Bombay and Chowpatty is in South Bombay.There is no other difference, really.)

5. Go Local

You gotta get into a local train. You just got to! It's the same reason why you would go bungee jumping in New Zealand or paragliding in Africa; it's the most adventurous thing you can do in Bombay. If you're really brave and you wanna prove your mettle, you travel during rush hours in the direction of the traffic.

Raghu Rai's Churchgate Station. 

I'm telling you. The thrill that you feel after you complete a gruelling journey... there's nothing quite like it. This thrill, however, happens only after your first journey. The second journey on, it is just plain cruel. 

Ok. That's it. Please come to Bombay and meet me! I'll take you around and buy you a Vada Pav. :)

Friday, June 8, 2012

Suddenly, my body...

By God, you need to watch this Eve Ensler talk on TED

I love TED. I have a few talks on my phone and I listen to it on my drive to and from work. It's a magical time! 

This is me in my car. Her name is Kochuthresiyamamakutti. She's a pretty lady, don't you think?

 Have a nice weekend, all of you!

I am off to Kashid, a village by the beach 4 hours away, with my husband and his friends. What are you planing to do? 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Happy Feet

So yesterday, I posted on English Muse on "Shoe Essentials" as I see it. In honor of that, I wrote the post wearing this golden hued Kurt Geiger heels that I made my father buy me in the guise of wearing it at my wedding. The heels are 5 inches long and 2 millimeters wide and needless to say, have only been worn while I wrote the post; I wanted to feel in character while I wrote about a matter very close to my heart--shoes. 

And I discovered one thing. Heels may be the only thing that will rid me of my slouchy, sloppy, unfeminine, graceless posture. Automatically, I sucked all that I was supposed to, in, and thrust all that I was supposed to, out. I squared my shoulders and looked straight at the top of the fridge. I felt spectacular and powerful and spectacularly powerful. 

I have a sinking feeling that my abovementioned problems in carrying myself have a little more than little to do with the fact that  I am either barefoot or in flip-flops at all times. Even at work. Flip-flops make employment bearable.

Imagine going to work in heels! I shudder to think of my predicament. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

"Perfect" roast chicken

Have you heard of Marcus Wareing? 

He is a protégé of Gordon Ramsay, and after 15 years of working under/ with Ramsay, Wareing split from him and went on to say that Ramsay was a "sad bastard" whose influence had left him feeling "trapped and constrained." 

Anyways, now that I have given you something definite to remember Wareing by, I want to tell you about one of his cookbooks. It's called How to cook the perfect... and yes, it does the obvious. It features loads of stuff like chocolate cake, shallot  tartin, scrambled  eggs etc. And it of course has a roast chicken recipe. Now roast chicken is one of those things that is prone to being used alongside the descriptor "The prefect...", much like chocolate cake. Jamie Oliver has one; Ina Garten has one; Martha Stewart has one; Nigella Lawson has one. And when you combine all these techniques, you get absolutely amazing roast chicken (but sometimes, you get a bloody mess.) 

One of my roast chickens, unroasted
Here's how I make roast chicken now. 

1 chicken weighing about 2 kg, preferably organic
20 shallots, peeled or unpeeled
1 bulb of garlic broken into cloves, unpeeled 
2 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
1 lemon, unwaxed and organic
a small bunch of fresh thyme, rosemary, sage, or bay; or a mixture
olive oil
a knob of butter
a chicken stock cube

500 ml chicken stock
150 ml white wine (optional)
1 tbsp cornflour (optional)

Ensure that the chicken is at room temperature. Preheat your oven to 240 C/475 F/gas 9. 

Remove the giblets from the chicken and dry the outsides and the cavity well with a paper towel. (As I learnt the hard way, this step is very important, because if the chicken is not dry, the water on it will turn into steam and prevent the skin from crisping up.) Season the insides with salt and pepper. Anoint (as Nigella puts it) the chicken all over with an itsy bitsy bit of butter and/or olive oil, sprinkle salt and pepper liberally on it and rub it all over the bird. Prick the lemon all over with a fork or a sharp knife (so says Jamie) and place it in the cavity of the bird along with the bunch of herbs, a few cloves of garlic and a chicken stock cube (taking cue from the Italians via Nigella). If your lemon is waxed and/or not organic, you could skip the step of placing the lemon in the chicken cavity. Instead, sprinkle a bit of lemon juice over the chicken. Tying the chicken legs together after crossing them will ensure that your chicken looks more ladylike, if you thus prefer.

Place the shallots, the rest of the garlic cloves, and the carrots in a roasting pan and drizzle with a little olive oil. Place the chicken over this and place the pan in the oven, turn it down to 200 C/400 F/gas 6, and let it roast for about 20 minutes per 500 g plus 30 min. 

Now, Nigella tells you to place the bird breast-down for the first hour so that all the fats and juices make their way down to the white meat and flavor it up. Marcus Wareing goes all technical and instructs that after the chicken has roasted for half an hour and the breast has become crisp and brown, it must be turned to one side, basted, and allowed to cook for 10 minutes. Then, the bird needs to be turned to the other side, basted, and allowed to cook for 10 minutes. Then, the chicken needs to be placed on its breast so that its back faces up, basted, and allowed to roast for 10 minutes. Finally, it needs to be placed breast-up and allowed to roast for the remainder of the time. Phew! (Guess which option I choose.)

To check if the chicken is cooked, insert a skewer into the thick end of a thigh. If the juices run clear, the chicken is done; if there is blood, the chicken is not. Transfer the chicken to a board and let it rest for ten minutes, covered with a tent made of foil.

Remove the herb bunch and the lemon and transfer the vegetables to a serving dish. 

Strain the liquid and from the roasting pan and add the brown bits from the pan to it; this is required for the gravy. Pour out the excess fat if you want to live heartily. Pour the liquid into a saucepan and place it on the stove. Add the stock and the wine and reduce until the consistency is thick enough. If you wish for a thicker sauce, mix the cornflour in some cold water and add it to the sauce, making sure that no lumps are formed. To achieve this end, a whisk is very helpful. Adjust the seasoning and serve the gravy on the side of the chicken and the veggies.

Did I inspire you to make roast chicken or to never make roast chicken again? Don't tell me if it's the latter. I've had enough heartbreak for the day. The Spice Girls are not reuniting, didn't you hear?

Jamie's recipe: Perfect roast chicken found in Jamie's Ministry of Food and here.
Nigella's recipes: Basic roast chicken found in How to eat; Slow-roasted garlic and lemon chicken found in Forever summer.
Marcus Wareing's recipe: Roast chicken found in How to cook the perfect...
Other reads on roast chicken: Heston Blumenthal and Guardian UK's awesome food blog

perfect roast chicken
Jamie Oliver's roast chicken

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Come undone

Can I please tell you something?

I really don't know what these women who have kids are talking about when they say that they don't have time for anything and that they feel like they've let themselves and others down by just that admission. I have a job and a husband. That's it. These are the things that occupy my time. And I feel like I am neck deep in mire. At all times. Not able to move. Not able to do the hundred things I want to. So with regard to supermoms and moms who think they are not supermoms, I salute them. I think they are rock stars; God-people, if you will. How do they manage it and feel like they are breathing too! Crazy, crazy, crazy!!!!

I admit that one might find the list of things I want to do, pretty inane. It involves around 3 hours a day of reading other blogs, 5 hours of working on my blog, 3 hours of reading books, 2 hours of watching television/movies, 2 hours of non-blog writing, 8 hours of sleeping, 3 hours of cooking, an hour of walking in the park, and 2 hours of staring deeply into Thom's eyes. Is that more than 24 hours? Well, you get the point. I feel that all these needs are legitimate and completely warranted and I feel really sad and unfulfilled that I am not able to do all of it, especially that I am not able to spend more time on this blog.

Here's a list of things I want to accomplish in my lifetime. This is in all seriousness, alright? You cannot laugh at me!

1. Write my own cookbook.
2. Travel abroad at least once a year.
3. Visit all 27 states of India.
4. Be a full-time blogger at some point.
5. Set foot on all 7 continents and in the 5 oceans.

Just saying. It has nothing to do with this post.

Did you know that the average person spends two weeks waiting for the traffic lights to change?

Just saying. It has nothing to do with this post.

In the meantime, please bear with me as I try to get my grip on life as they call it. And here's to mothers and here's to fathers and here's to an appeal for days with more than 24 hours in it.