When ‘homemade’ no longer means ‘your’ home

He who depends on himself will attain the greatest happiness reads a Chinese proverb. So it comes as no surprise that everything today is ‘Made in China’ ! Unfortunately, no one really loves mass produced factory-made goods and advertisers were the first to realize this. Advertisers are always the first to realize everything. Labels like ‘Homemade’, or ‘Hand Painted’ or even ‘It’s a family company’ allow products to move into a ‘premium’ category. But when was the last time your home, your hands or your family made something (other than money)?

The process of creating by and large is always more satisfying than that of consuming. It does not need to be valuable or even praise worthy. It can simply be mediocre. Vincent Van Gogh once wrote in a letter to his brother Theo;

I do not at all despise mediocre in its simple sense. And one certainly does not rise above the mark by despising what is mediocre. In my opinion one must at least begin by having some respect for the mediocre, and know that it already means something, and is only reached with great difficulty.

These are my attempts. First being the cardamom mava cakes, which I must admit were delicious. Here is the recipe. The perfect accompaniment to a mava cake is some tea and a book. I picked up “Marrying Anita: A Quest for Love in the New India”. Now this ones far from being a classic, very far indeed, but a chick lit once in a while never hurt a soul. I even wrote a little review for the book on amazon.

This was a fun book, and I enjoyed reading it. However, you might be disappointed if you were hoping to find a deeper connection with the author and her life. I believe a lot of the negative reviews reflect that, since after a certain point it is difficult to relate to Anita’s experiences, especially the fact that her failed relationships seem to teach her nothing. Everyone has the right to act silly at any age, but one hopes the wiser ones realize their folly and correct themselves once the moment of insanity has passed. And one definitely hopes to be wise by thirty !

But I like her honestly and clarity and she is not afraid to say it like it is. She does have her preferences; she likes the poor boy from the village who works hard and becomes an artist, she does not like the poor boy from the village who works hard and becomes an IT engineer in New Jersey. But at no point is she pretentious which I find quite refreshing. She has preferences, we all do.

Surprisingly, Delhi seems to be light years ahead in terms of dating if compared to Mumbai. I can imagine smoking and drinking to your hearts content in Mumbai, every day, for FUN. But to do that when you’re here to find a husband? Hmm, never heard of that one! I have yet to meet an Indian woman who partied her way to marriage. What a boring world I live in!

So if you want to enjoy the book, don’t take everything it says too personally. It is about her, Anita, and not about the Indian woman you are, you love or hope to meet !

And finally a painting. It’s a concept called paint by numbers, where the supplier will send you a canvas with a drawing sketched out. There are even little numbers indicating the colors one must use for each section. Takes you back to primary school doesn’t it? Good old days, where the only worry you had was sticking inside the boundaries. Who says painting has to be hard work?

So there you have it. Nothing fancy, but truly homemade :)

What’s on the menu? Strawberries and cream – 15¢ only !

Mahabaleshwar and strawberries go hand in hand, mostly the hands of tourists flocking this town in the Western Ghats of Maharashtra. Few memories remain of my first visit to the plateau, which was more than a decade ago, but the one that does is of my father being rather gluttonous with the fresh strawberry cream servings! In all fairness, they were to die for. And so, when my husband and I planned a more recent visit to the town, the greedy berries and cream climbed to the top of my checklist.

“80 rupees” said the person at the counter. Did I look like a fool to him? I righteously stomped off to a stall a few blocks away. “80 rupees” came the echo. It is surprising how someone who looks so haggard and weak at one moment can appear so shrewd and businesslike the very next. I was almost certain he had a BMW hiding somewhere behind his 5 by 5 feet stall. “OK” I said at the cost of committing one of the seven deadly sins, gluttony via laute – which in Latin is the sin of eating too expensively! Now, had I been born at the end of the 19th century, I could have feasted on those delicious cream topped berries and gone straight to heaven both figuratively and literally, for in 1901, the A.M. Sweet & Son Restaurant in New York served them for only 15¢ ! And how do I know this? Well because it’s on the menu!

“What’s on the menu?”, a project by the New York Public Library is now converting its historical restaurant menu collection into a computer friendly format. They have about forty thousand of these historical menus – a data analyst’s dream, a data entry operators’s nightmare! But before you pity the later, you ought to know that that person is you! “What’s on the menu?” requires regular people like you and me to help transcribe these menus by typing in the dishes that appear on the picture of a menu card, one dish at a time. Though the task is a tad repetitive, it is definitely entertaining. When the project completes and with the magic of data mining there would be so many new things to learn about the way we ate. There are interesting things you notice even while examining a single menu, like “French Asparagus” was one of the few items that cost $1 when everything else was only around 25-50¢. Oh surely they couldn’t taste better than those strawberries!

Help What’s on the menu by visiting http://menus.nypl.org/ and relishing a few dishes yourself :)

Rasgulla !

I love the London tube, but I hate taking it. It makes me giddy. More than 20 minutes and I’m questioning the purpose of my travel. In most likelihood, taking the tube would mean going “somewhere” to buy “something”. And today that something was “kadi patta” (curry leaves). It is apparently the only thing I cannot find at my local grocery store!

So I’m off to Wembley, the “Indian” area and after two tube changes and an hour behind us, I’m finally there. Kadi Patta soon translates to masalas, methi, more masalas, random snacks and 5 kilos of “India” onions. It is amazing, but nostalgia is high when you see vegetables with mud all over their roots. You have to buy such stuff!

Each time I visit an Indian area, I have a strong desire to eat Rasmalai! This day however I was unable to find any. As I backpacked my way back with the 5 kilos of onions, giddy in the tube, I decided I would have to make them myself. I couldn’t possibly visit this place anytime soon!

Wonders of wonder I actually went ahead and made it! Well, minus the malai part. Apparently the first part to making the rasmalai is to make the rasgulla! And what a miracle, they turned out fantastic the first time around. I hate to boast but they were lovely! Of course all credit goes to a lovely lady named Manjula and her recipe that I found on You Tube (you guessed it right!)

I would have loved to share them with you, but for now all I can share is the link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=acROvuObr-Q :)

Bon app!