That Christmas-y Feeling

As Christmas approaches, I am reminded of childhood days I spent in the wonderful city Calcutta. Every year, unfailingly.

It’s where I was introduced to the festival for the first time. We had moved to the big city a few months before I turned 10. Soon, Christmas was upon us and my parents made a number of plans for us to spend the holiday time frolicking around the city’s pockets that celebrated this festival with much fanfare.

I’m reminded of the beautifully decorated streets, lit with sparkly balls and colourful stars. They would adorn the buildings all around in areas like Park Street and Esplanade. We lived far from these areas, but that was the most fun part actually. The tram lines connected us to these places and we would jump on for a joy ride through the busy & bustling alleys of the city, observing the slow unravelling of the celebrations!

There were more than a fair share of street-sellers on this day, calling out at us to buy balloons, whistles, decoration items, small plastic toys and what not. I’d go for a couple of balloons for sure. But, we always headed out there for one reason, and one reason alone!

We would make our way through the crowd to a shop named Kathleen Confectioners – one of the best places in the city to get creamy (dreamy!), rich, most delicious cakes and pastries! And, Christmas would be our time for a treat at this wonderful (and heavily crowded!) place.

I read somewhere that Christmas is really a state of mind. It’s not only about the treats and presents we got, but also about creating a loving and warm atmosphere! And, my parents did exactly that! They helped us create wonderful memories of spending quality time together, amidst all the hustle-bustle of the city.

So, as the Christmas Day 2018 unfolded for us, we spent it connecting with loved ones, and (re)creating some of those memories! I hope yours was as joyful too!

Merry Christmas!

Indian Food For Thought

I have never been a foodie in my life. That’s not a great way to start a blog post titled Food, but it is true! For the longest time, food has simply been the fuel I needed to do all the other things I love doing. That translates to how bad a guest I become when I am invited for dinner parties. While trying to pick a restaurant, I tend to go towards a narrow set of familiar tastes, which is usually Indian; sometimes Italian or Mexican cuisines come a close second.

So, when my husband and I moved to London, newly into our marital life, I thought cooking was going to become a similar mundane activity like eating. I had only just started cooking full meals so it felt cumbersome, and I carried certain pre-conceived notions like making time to cook after work in the evenings will be tougher or that weekends would often be a break from cooking all week! Turns out, I was completely wrong.

I have been cooking Indian food at home for over two and a half years now. And each day has been a revelation! I’ve started to look at food differently now, perhaps almost lovingly observe as all the little things weave together to become on single dish. The sheer number of spices that go into certain recipes, the rich and light ingredients alike, the varied flavours they bring out and oh, the variety in colours; Indian food I think is no less than an artist’s delight!

I stand with my ‘masala box‘ that is the palette of my base colours, in front of the canvas that is my heated wok (or kadhai as we know it!). I always have some additional richer spices in various forms – some ground, some as a paste, some simply hand-cut into pieces. An excitement seeps in looking at my stock! I begin with tempering the oil, slowly add layers with finely chopped pink onions, diced red tomatoes, green peppers & white button mushrooms. The rich spices bring texture to the dish, and I notice the hues changing, from light pink to creamy orange to sienna. As the aroma fills up my senses, the final strokes are that of garnishing with freshly cut greens or a dollop of home made butter. Doesn’t that feel like being in a painter’s workshop, after all? Only here you can actually taste the painting!

As I mentioned earlier, the sheer joy I have felt while cooking is when these spices, so characteristically different from the one another, come together as one; it seemed random at first to a beginner like me but I realised there is a Method to this Madness! There is science backing certain combinations of ingredients & spices, which when cooked together enhance each other’s qualities, bring out their flavours better and sometimes go on to make the dish healthier too! Read this article recently published on Washington Post and there are many on the World Wide Web if you google.

This is not specific to Indian cuisine, but cooking, in general, is an activity that brings the family together, and closer. “Peel these potatoes while I grind garlic and onions”, or “roast coriander seeds with dry red chillies and some cumin”, or “knead the dough as I clean the greens” are some common assignments in the kitchen when our families visit us! And, when it is just the two of us here, we ensure we cook dinner together – every night.

Truth be told, my affinity towards food has certainly increased manifold since I started cooking at home. I am more comfortable experimenting with food in my kitchen, even if it is within the realms of Indian cuisine. In fact, after a hard day’s work, cooking together is our favourite way to unwind!

I guess my point here is I couldn’t be more grateful for having picked up the ladle & spatula, despite my initial apprehensions and notions, to give cooking an honest try! Selfishly, I couldn’t be happier it is the Indian recipes that came my rescue. Oh, I am still not a foodie but I sure am learning to cater well to that category! And, that is far more rewarding sometimes.

On a closing note, enjoy a dollop of these wonderful quotes I collected about cooking, and eating!

“You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces – just good food from fresh ingredients.” ~ Julia Child

“Cooking food and shopping for food brings rhythm and meaning to our lives!” ~ Alice Waters

“I love that after a day when nothing is sure… you can come home and absolutely know that if you add eggs yolks to chocolate and sugar and milk, it will get thick. It’s such a comfort.” ~ Julie Powell

“Eating is a necessity, but Cooking is an art.” ~ Anonymous

Featured photo above: a street market selling Indian spices, just look at those bright colours!