PHOTO: #ThrowbackThursday To ‘The Land Of Clouds’

Conversing with a tweet-friend earlier today, I was reminded of my childhood days. I spent a good ten years of that in the then Bihar, one of the eastern states in India, growing up in the wild among hills! It is an iron-ore mining township, located above and among the hills of the Bonai range. Life there was fun, to put it simply. And very simple too! There were two schools – if you didn’t get into one, you went to the other; one shopping centre – anything you wanted you got there; friends and classmates meant the same thing; all the roads were our playground and the big colony lived like one big family – everyone knew everyone else, sometimes even if they didn’t want to!

And today, sitting in my warm apartment on a cold winter night in London, I cannot help but feel terribly nostalgic about those ‘Wonder Years’! Sal trees, heavy rains, warm sunshine, elephants, waterfalls, picnics – things that are synonymous with my childhood. And no better day than this to dedicate my #ThrowbackThursday post to this wonderful small town called Meghahatuburu (meaning: the land of clouds), where I spent the most blissful of times!

I took this photo during my visit with my family in 2007. This is close to the guest house we stayed in, right next to the colony – of course quite away from the main road. I couldn’t resist the call of the valleys and hills!

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PHOTO: #ThrowbackThursday to Venice

The cobbled streets, the souvenirs shops, the small stylish cafes lining up their wooden chairs, the hustle bustle in the by lanes, the pretty gondole and charming gondoliers – oh how much I miss my time in Venice! And dedicate my #throwbackthursday to this wonderful place where time comes to a standstill as the old meets new.

I walked all through the crowded streets, taking my time to try on the Venetian masks, capturing the domes of the churches into my camera, and listening to the water boats make a splash in the grand canal; and of course treating myself to a ride in the gondola. The romance of the place is slightly overrated, but for what it’s worth, a trip for Venice’s artistic sensibilities and sustenance in the modern times will not disappoint you!

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What I Miss Most About Home

My husband and I spent all of December 2014 in India. On vacation! Travelling home is always special, for three reasons that I can think of: time with family & loved ones, delectable home food and the sunshine! Of course, the sound of the night watchman’s stick banging on the road every night in the same rhythm comes a close fourth!

I don’t know where the time flew! We spent a cumulative of 37 days among 7 cities, and meeting with a lot of family and friends. Planning such visits while trying to include as many as possible into our list is always a challenge. And this December visit was no less, but what’s fun if it’s not hard to do!

Now back in London, I often catch myself reminiscing the month that went by, so fast!

As I pack my lunch for work, I think of all the food doled out of grandma’s kitchen. You will not believe how many unique dishes I got to eat in the 15 days I stayed at grandma’s – 58! Doing the math, that’s 2 new dishes for every meal of the day! Grandpa had prepared a comprehensive menu, handwritten I must add, with all the days listed and everyone’s favourites, preferences and travel schedules incorporated into that one A4 sized sheet! It was adorable. Being the new block on the kid (oh! I don’t think I mentioned it before, I was the new kid around them as they are my husband’s grandparents and I was visiting them only the 3rd time since I got married!), I would sit with them in the evening, sipping on tea or tomato soup even and discuss to ‘fine-tune’ the menu in order to confirm next day’s plan for the kitchen. It was one of the most hilarious conversations, and exceedingly cute too!

There were, at one point, 18-19 people in the house, visiting! Including us, of course. And that inevitably meant post-dinner card-games! Given how cold it gets inside the homes at night during (Indian) winters, all of us would gather around the big divan in the lounge room, a big razai in the middle into which we tuck in our legs and sit covered in shawls. And, we played round after round of some gazillion types of card games! I didn’t even know there existed as many! Have you heard of games like 29, Bonus, Sh!thead, 3-2-5? And of course, there were ‘accusations’ of someone cheating, or tiffs on how the cards weren’t dealt correctly whenever someone lost – and that would lead to another ‘fair trial’ and suddenly it is past midnight and the house-play is only getting started!

Late nights, early mornings, heavy lunches and long dinners! Of course, I wouldn’t know where the time went. And it was not always about food. Soaking in the warm sun in the garden, a siesta by the window post lunch, an evening stroll in the by lanes just before tea – all such moments spent with love and in complete bliss!

If you are with me until here, then I haven’t bored you out. That said, the above is gist of just half my time in India. I keep the other half for another time, both the stories and the take-away from them.

Meanwhile, standing in my kitchen in London as I pack my lunch to work, these are the scenes that flash by, filling me up with not only gratitude, but also a resolve to keep my ties stronger to withstand any distance (any time zone)! There is also one other thing I realized, about what I missed the most about being at home – the Indian kitchens! The gas stoves, the utensils, the spice masala boxes and all the mess that comes with having so much happening all at once in one place!

Which is why, I am sharing some of the photographs of the lovely grandma’s lovely kitchen:

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GUEST POST: Life Lessons From Food

So I figure for everyone who writes / manages a blog, there are probably tens or hundreds who don’t! And I also know for certain everyone has thoughts & ideas, which at some point they want to express to the world. I know some of my friends do! And I felt what best than to invite them to this platform to share their thoughts.

This is the first in this new series of Guest Posts, and I have my bestie Shruti JP Mehta (follow her on twitter) with us who writes about her love for food and the lessons it’s taught her. Its not surprising she begins with ‘I love food.’ She also shares a leaf from her recipe book, I hope you will give it a try, and enjoy reading what she has to say!

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cute girl bakingI love food. And I love cooking. And I love sharing these two experiences with people I love. And these make up some of the most cherished memories of my life. Some of the earliest memories I have of cooking are of making cakes with my best friend, Ramya. Her cakes used to be perfect but my cakes would often come out looking like a burnt crater or a balloon filled with air. I would put a generous helping of chocolate sauce to hide the disaster and she would encouragingly devour them all. A decade since then, now we often share recipes and success stories from our kitchens. So when she asked me to write a guest post for her blog, I decided to write about cooking and food, a hobby she introduced me to.

Sometimes, when I stand alone in the kitchen, cooking and enjoying the warmth of the stove on a chilly morning, I realize that there are many life lessons that food itself teaches us. Like enjoy the journey. I love cooking leisurely as it gives me many moments to find joy…the aroma of garlic getting roasted on low heat, the delightful colors of fresh vegetables, the sizzling sound of some melted cheese escaping a cheese sandwich and falling on the hot pan.

Patience. There are some dishes that take 2-3 hours to prepare, and these are the some of the tastiest ones. Like gajar ka halwa (click here to know more about this delicious Indian dessert). It has to be simmered on low heat for a long time as the milk slowly thickens… the aroma of milk and carrots fills the house and makes the whole family wait in anticipation. Some of the best things in life too need to be patiently waited for.

Focus on the present moment. Many a time, I have had something very delicious while watching TV or playing on my mobile and then been disappointed that suddenly the food is over and I didn’t relish it enough. I feel that good food deserves undivided attention. At least the first few bites… the enticing aroma, the amusing crunchiness or the mushy melts-in-your-mouth softness, the wonderful combination of many spices…there is so much to experience if we just pay a little attention to it.

Make memories. Life is indeed about the good memories one can look back at and cherish. The more lovely memories we accumulate, the more enriched our life becomes. Food is an excellent way to store memories. Like every time I make toast and scrambled eggs, in my mind I am transported back to Goa. From the time we went there for a week last year and lived in a charming studio apartment with a great view. We used to go for a swim in the sea early morning and come back famished. And quickly wash off the salt in a hot water bath and make crunchy toast with a generous helping of butter and eggs with just salt and pepper. Oh it was so delicious!

And like food, life too is best enjoyed with loved ones!

If you haven’t tried your hand at cooking yet and would like to just see what the whole fuss is about, try this super easy recipe:

Cinnamon Hot Chocolate with Rum

  • Level – Beginner
  • Makes two tall mugs
  • Uses a thick bottomed vessel to boil milk, a big spoon to stir and a strainer
  • Takes 15-20 minutes

Ingredients:

  • Full cream Milk: 1/2 litre
  • Dairy milk chocolate: 30 grams bar
  • Bournville Rich Cocoa Chocolate: 30 grams bar
  • Sugar to taste: 1 teaspoon approximately
  • Cinnamon (coarsely powdered) : 1 teaspoon
  • Dark Rum: 2 Tablespoons (Optional)
  • A magic ingredient

Method of Preparation

  1. Bring the milk to boil (Give this part your full attention, as milk has a mischievous way of boiling and spilling over the moment you take your eyes off it :P)
  2. Lower the heat and stir the milk with a big spoon for a minute to make sure it does not spill over.
  3. Break the chocolate bars into 4-5 pieces each and add to the milk.
  4. Add cinnamon and keep stirring.
  5. Take a deep breath and enjoy the aroma of chocolate and cinnamon.
  6. Once the chocolate has melted completely, taste the mixture and add sugar as per your taste.
  7. Now it is time for the magic ingredient….wait for it….a pinch of salt! Yes, salt! I call it the magic invisible ingredient because it brings out the flavor of every dish and in most preparations, you don’t realize it is there unless there is too much or too little of it.

Add a pinch of salt and stir well. Let it simmer on low flame for two minutes more.

  1. Take the mixture off the stove and use a strainer while pouring into mugs to filter out the cinnamon powder.
  2. Add a tablespoon of rum to each mug. (Optional)
  3. Your hot chocolate is now ready! Best enjoyed slowly in chilly weather, in the company of loved ones or in solitude beside a big window.

Bon Appétit!

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We welcome your comments about the post and add any more lessons you think food teaches us! And yes, would also love to hear if you tried/enjoyed the recipe & have any more to share with my readers.

photo credit: http://www.fotosearch.com

PHOTO: #ThrowbackThursday to Hampi

From Rome last week, we travel to another land standing tall in its ruins, in India for this week’s #ThrowbackThursday photo. The place holds a special place in my heart for its gorgeous views & monuments and of course, the million memories that I packed into my time there. This post is dedicated to these amazing set of friends I have, how much I adore their presence in my life and just how much I miss them here!

Hampi is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, listed as a Group of Monuments. You may read more about it here.

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