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

My Five Little Things of 2014

It only seems like yesterday that we packed our bags and with them our lives to move to London, which by the way was exactly a year ago! Life changed after that 9-hour flight. Settling into a new city, our new home, new jobs, newer (better!) lifestyle, and the totally unpredictable weather was not only challenging but also most remarkable, in every sense of the word.

And as we settled in, I began to appreciate life’s little things a little more, and with them have chanced upon some of life’s important truths too. Perhaps it was the distance from home and loved ones that made me think a lot more and these realizations slowly made their way into me /us.

Here are my top 5 things:

1. Sunshine

Living in the UK definitely makes you appreciate sunshine a lot more than you might have ever done in the past, especially if you have lived closer to the equator before. Longing for some golden rays into your bedroom as you wake up or in your living room as you sip your evening coffee, or even while you step out for a walk in Hyde Park – sunshine makes everything that bit sweeter.

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2. Homemade food

There is absolutely nothing better than a home-cooked meal. But it took me almost 4-5 months to realize this! I used to venture out everyday during lunch – from Habibi’s katsu curry, Whitecross farmers market’s stalls, Pilpel’s falafels to even the light-n-healthy soup-places like Pret and Eat. They sounded fancy, and tasted fancy too but all of them were lost on me in a few months. And eating out adversely affected my health too. Thankfully, Amma’s simple recipes came to my rescue and I began to carry packed lunch from home. Not only do I feel better after eating homemade meals but also have started to enjoy cooking in my kitchen, along with exploring the healthier options from time to time.

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3. Importance of exercise / discipline

I am still quite surprised how almost everyone here has at least one hour dedicated to exercising, every day! It does not come naturally to me at all. But, call it peer pressure or just a sense of inspiration from seeing people all around, I have managed to introduce exercise into my routine, albeit very slowly. I go to practice yoga at the sessions held near my home by www.ourparks.org.uk/ – If you live in London and love group exercise sessions, then you must sign up for these – the best part is they are free!

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4. Ties to our roots

Without sounding too melodramatic about it, I admit that it feels great to celebrate all our festivals no matter where we are. It reminds us of our traditions, our simple joys, our ways to get-together with family and friends and create more memories. Thankfully, London has all the avenues to help you celebrate any Indian festival that you want to. From Mehendis at parlours to Durga Puja pandals to firecrackers and colours of Holi, you name it!

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5. There is no greater support system than Family

I don’t think I need to elaborate much here. We thoroughly enjoyed the numerous skype and facetime sessions, the groups on whatsapp only added more colour to daily conversations and occasional long ones helped me steer away from any self-doubting traps. I cannot emphasize enough how satisfying it is to be close and in constant touch with one’s family and how happy it can make one feel!

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And I’d be lying I didn’t admit and add, that 2014 has only been about London! I constantly looked for newer experiences – whether it was in trying a new cuisine or discovering unusual cafes in the small alleys or the chic champagne bars of the city. More on all of that in a later post. Despite the grave requests from our friends and our own brave attempts, we could not manage to speak the accent (yet!) but we are so chuffed about the progress we’ve made to make our language sound a bit more colloquial! 😀

And with that thought, here’s hoping to an even better 2015!