Category Archives: Wanderings, Cultures

Man — the wildest of animals :( !

I was terribly saddened today :(…and there were only tears, after watching this video and reading the related reports — first, tears of sadness, then of joy ! Who’s the animal here — the elephant, or the one who shot the poisoned arrow into his leg? The punishment for such deeds must be a lifetime behind bars, with no parole, no bail, no reduction of sentence for good behaviour — and for god sakes… governments must STOP this business of ivory trade within legal limits — this will not solve the problem of poaching at all…elephants aren’t trees that may be cut down — NO ivory must be allowed ANYWHERE… and ANY ivory found must be destroyed! Suck it up Hong Kong!!!

Please do check out this link, and post your views in comments. If the link doesn’t open, please copy and paste in your browser. Or you may google the relevant words. Thank you!

http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2014/09/26/poisoned-tusker-treated-in-daring-field-operation-the-eleventh-in-two-weeks/

 

Eating Indian food, fearlessly

Being of Indian origin, I’m very often questioned about Indian food and the restaurants  that serve it. While it is very interesting to note its popularity all over the world, there are also people who are almost afraid to eat it, as they find it too hot and spicy. As a gastronome, a lover of fine foods, before trying new dishes, I find out as much as I can about them, and also the eating practices related to them. I have found, however, most people don’t do this and end up having less than satisfactory experiences. This is true of Indian food. Many people find it too hot, chilly-wise, when in fact they don’t eat it the right way.

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For geographical and historical reasons, Indians use a huge range of spices in their food. It’s important to note that spices are not the same as chilies , which add heat to the food. Spices, on the other hand, lend it perfume. With this clarification, the next time you visit an Indian resto, do ask your waiter to tell the cook to modify the ‘heat ‘ by adjusting the chillies. I always do this, in Indian and Schezwanese restos, as I don’t have a high tolerance for hot food, even though I spent most of my life in India. The spice box on the left is a part of EVERY Indian kitchen!

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Back to the original reason for the post, which is to share some tips to help you enjoy your meal at an Indian resto:

  • Unlike most other cuisines, Indian dishes are not eaten one dish at a time, separately. spooned into the mouth. Instead, the sauce-based dishes, and the vegetables are added to the rice by spoonfuls, and eaten thus mixed together. This also cuts the ‘heat’ and it is thus easy to control the amount of the ‘hotness’ 🙂

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  • Always order a side dish of yogurt. Add to the rice separately or to the above mixture, to tone down the ‘heat’. Or simply eat some alone if the mouth feels on fire ;)! This is better than drinking gallons of water and filling your stomach up with it.
  • The Indian bread is broken into pieces, and these are wrapped around the vegetables or dipped in sauce and then eaten. Again, this too tones the ‘heat’ down.

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  • Feel free to eat the starters of ‘samosas’ and the pakoras/onion bhaji’ as served in most restos, but please do know that an authentic Indian meal doesn’t begin with starters or aperitifs. Samosas and pakoras are teatime snacks. The trangular pieces in the picture on the right are ‘samosas’ and the others are ‘pakoras’. also called ‘bhajis’.
  • Traditionally no alcoholic drinks are served with Indian food, but this custom has slowly changed. Beer is a popular drink in India, and many people drink it with Indian food, but through my experience as a wine-lover, I have discovered that light to medium-bodied wines pair well with Indian food. Therefore, I would recommend merlots and pinot noirs for perfect pairings!

Before an Indian meal, there’s no tradition of saying ‘ Bon appetit’ or raising a glass and saying ‘santé’ or ‘cheers’, but it is completely appropriate to say ‘Dhanyavad’* (Hindi), and/or ‘Shukriya’ (Urdu, Arabic) to your host/hostess after the meal to thank them for their hospitality!

Dhanyavad, for reading my post! 🙂

*Dhanyavad is pronounced dan-ya-vaad, and is the closest I can get to the correct pronunciation of the word since some sounds from Indian languages don’t exist in English!

Question: Are you a ‘locavore’? Answer: HUH?

I know, I know — of course you don’t know what’s a ‘locavore’! Well, let’s start at the beginning, shall we? A carnivore is a meat eating animal, a herbivore is a grass and plant eating animal, an omnivore is an animal that eats meat and plants — but what’s a locavore? I can hear you losing patience ;)…

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Well, I too didn’t know until half and hour ago… it’s a word so new even my computer is refusing to accept it :)… but while reading a food magazine I came upon this term. Apparently, it’s a new one, and has recently gotten invented in California — and it means ‘to eat fresh and local’ — yep… with more and more emphasis on eating local produce, at its peak of freshness, this new trend is catching on everywhere, although slowly. And a very good thing too, I say — foods that come to us from far off places just don’t have the crispness, the taste and the zest which a freshly picked vegetable or a freshly plucked fruit has.

Spring and summer abound in fresh and local, so a perfect time to really give our taste buds a treat and give them the experience of the ‘real’ taste of thing! I find it so satisfying to bite into a crisp and fresh vegetable, or a fruit, and feel its juices explode in my mouth! How about you?

So now, are you a locavore? Let’s hear a resounding, YES! 🙂

 

What do i.e., e.g., viz and other Latin terms mean?

There are all these terms and abbreviations we see everyday in various texts. As we see them, we often have just a vague understanding of what they mean, and make a mental note to one day find out what, but then we never do. So, today, I decided to educate myself better, and help you all too 😉

i.e. id est. “That is more precisely.” Literally, “it is.” Commonly used to refine a general statement or provide additional information. Usage: “Jerry’s girlfriend always managed to turn the conversation toward children, i.e., the possibility of having children together.”

e.g. exempli gratia. “For example.” Literally, “free as an example.” Usage: “We have numerous problems to deal with before reforming welfare policies, e.g., the trade deficit, Medicare, and social security.”

viz. videlicit. “More appropriately or accurately; namely.” The abbreviation is often used interchangeably with i.e. Literally, “As it befits or is pleasing to him.” Usage: “He was a minor Duke in the House of Lords, viz. the Duke of Rochester.”

sic. Literally, “yes” or “even thus” in Latin. It indicates a misspelling or error in a quoted source, in order to verify to the reader that the researcher did not create a typographical error, but instead exactly reproduces the way the word or statement appeared in the original material. Usage: There are, according to the writings of seven-year old Andrew, “Manee wayes of riting words” [sic].

cf. confere. A Latin imperative suggesting the reader should compare and contrast one statement or idea with another one. Literally, “compare.” Researchers often follow the abbreviation with a reference to an author or page number, suggesting the reader look for similarities and differences between what a previous citation has said with the subsequent source listed.

t.i.d. ter in die. “Three times a day.” Used by older pharmacies and doctors to indicate that a medication should be taken three times a day. Usage: “Aspirin, t.i.d.; call if headaches continue.”

s.p.s.sine prole supersite. “Without surviving issue.” The phrase is used in inheritance laws to indicate that an individual has no children or legal inheritors. Usage: “Since Mrs. Clayton died s.p.s., her six million dollar estate will revert to the City of Portland.”

P.S. post scriptum. The abbreviation indicates a last-minute addition to a letter or document. Literally, “After what has been written.” Usage: “That’s all for now. Take care. Love, John. P.S. Don’t forget to write me back!”

N.B.: Nota Bene. The Latin imperative means “Take notice of this very carefully,” that is, pay special attention to this part because it is unusually important, tricky, or confusing. Usage: All assignments are due at the beginning of class. N. B.: I lock the door to the classroom once lecture begins.

R.S.V.P. Repondez S’il Vous-Plait. “Please send a response confirming whether or not you will accept the invitation.” The abbreviation is French rather than Latin. Literally, “Respond please.” (S’il vous-plait are four French words that mean ‘please’). Note that it is redundant to write, “Please RSVP,” since the phrase itself implies “please.” Usage: “You are cordially invited to a wine-and-cheese reception at the Bradson’s House. RSVP by Thursday afternoon.”

Vos crostino :)! (See you tomorrow – in Latin, of course)

 

WABI-SABI — What the heck is that ?

Some readers may have seen this term before and others may be quite perplexed, wondering just what is this wabi-sabi?

2014-05-02 16_58_33Wabi-sabi is a Japanese expression, that represents a world view centered on our true everyday reality, which is closer to the real life form of objects and life in general, than the artificially perfected shape and form, which is far removed from its natural state.

Wabi-sabi thus acknowledges and accepts beauty that is imperfect, impermanent and incomplete. Characteristics of the wabi-sabi aesthetic include asymmetry, asperity (roughness or irregularity), simplicity, economy, austerity, modesty, intimacy and appreciation of the ingenuous (naïve, simple) integrity of natural objects and processes. Wabi-sabi is the most conspicuous and characteristic feature of traditional Japanese beauty and it occupies roughly the same position in the Japanese aesthetic values as do the Greek ideals of beauty and perfection in the West.

2014-05-02 16_59_21If an object or expression can bring about, within us, a sense of serene melancholy and a spiritual longing, then that object could be said to be wabi-sabi, nurturing all that is authentic by acknowledging three simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect.

It is said a picture is worth a thousand words, and so now I’m going to illustrate the wabi-sabi philosophy more concretely. What you see in the first image is a sculpture of the Indian goddess Saraswati, who represents knowledge, music, arts, wisdom, nature (the same as the Greek goddess Athena, and the Roman goddess Minerva). This statue has the pride of place in my home.

2014-05-02 16_59_38The second image is a close up of an imperfection in the wood the statue is carved out of, which subsequently cracked. The third image is a still closer look at the crack. So, is my statue defective? I vehemently have to say NO; it isn’t defective, it is in fact a perfect example of wabi-sabi art!

Look around you, in your home or office — can you spot any wabi-sabi objects? Next time you go out in nature, look around you — can you try and identify pleasing objects and parts of nature that could qualify as representations of the wabi-sabi philosophy? I’ll bet you’ll have a lot of fun :)!

Have a nice weekend everyone! ‘See’ you all soon!

 

Who likes movies?

This might be a very odd question for most people ;)… especially those who watch almost every movie that’s made, and I know several such people! I have never been an avid movie-goer, but there was a time I did watch all the very popular ones, or if a friend recommended one. However, being a writer, I’m a sucker for good lines, and know a lot of them, even if I didn’t watch a particular movie. Here are some of my favorite movie lines!

* “You complete me!” and “You had me at ‘hello’!” — The famous lines from the movie Jerry Maguire, that express love, and how long a person has had affection for somebody. Both lines are in a dialogue. At the end of the movie, when Jerry (Tom Cruise) expresses his love in a long speech to Dorothy (Renee Zelwegger), Dorothy’s reply was simply: “You had me at hello.”

Jerry Maguire: “I love you. You… complete me.”
Dorothy: “Shut up. Just shut up. You had me at ‘hello’.”

* “Here’s looking at you kid!” — The well known, but slightly confusing line from the movie Casablanca has been interpreted differently by different people, but the most common interpretation is that it was a one-time idiomatic phrase meaning simply, “Here’s to you”, or “Best of luck to you and your future endeavours.”

It’s a bit ambiguous and so you kind of have to conclude its meaning from the context, but as Rick, the character played by Humphrey Bogart, used it as his goodbye to Ilsa, played by Ingrid Bergman, believing he’ll never see her again, it can be assumed he was wishing her luck and a happy future!

* “Fear is the path to the dark side…fear leads to anger…anger leads to hate…hate leads to suffering!” — This is one of my favorite lines from Yoda, in the Star Wars movie, The Fantom Menace. The line is self-explanatory!

* “Do. Or do not. There is no try!” — another one of my favorite lines from Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back. This one is THE most popular of Yoda’s quotes!
* “Oh yes, the past can hurt. But you can either run from it, or learn from it!” — This line was spoken by Rafiki, in the movie Lion King.
* “There is a story in the Talmud about a king who had a son who went astray. The son was told, ‘Return to your father.’ The son replied that he could not. The king then sent a messenger to the son with the message…’Come back to me as far as you can, and I will meet you the rest of the way!’ ” Reuven, the character played by Barry Miller in the movie “The Chosen”
Enjoy :)… and you are most welcome to share your own favorite lines from the movies!

A very special cheese called DOUANIER

1622830_10152326162046327_8680752664535244644_nToday was turning out to be a normal Saturday after I adjusted to a change in my schedule. My afternoon flamenco class had got canceled at the last minute, and then I received the surprise of an unexpected gift of an assortment of cheeses. One of these was called Le Douanier (the Custom’s agent 🙂 )… apparently named so because the Fromagerie (the cheese farm) is located near the US/Canada border, in Quebec. Wanting to try them with good bread, something crusty and chewy, and some wine that would pair well, I decided to first go shopping. This is how everything looked!

To try the cheeses I opened the Douanier first, I enjoyed its beautiful nutty flavor, specifically pine nuts, so much that I decided not to open the others, not wanting to mix the different flavors. Having loved it so much I decided to google and get more information about the Douanier, and this is what I found:

untitled“Semi-soft cheese with a washed and brushed rind, refined by leaving in a drying room for more than nine weeks. It is separated in the middle by an edible vegetable ash, which is supposed to represent the ‘wall’, or the ‘Customs’ at the border, between Quebec and the U.S.

With aromas of the ‘terroir’ (the earth) and of vegetal growth, Douanier has hints of nuts and green apples on the palate.”

Other details:

Producer: Fromagerie Fritz Kaiser
Origin: Montérégie, Quebec
Rind: Washed
Milk: Cow pasteurized 
Texture: Semi-soft pressed
Fat: 24%
Humidity: 48%

I found it to be a truly lovely cheese, to be eaten on its own, if the subtle falvors are to be enjoyed! 🙂

Very innovative food ideas — SIAL* 2014

[SIAL* — Salon international l’alimentation — an annual Food Tradeshow recently held in Montreal, on April 2, 3 and 4. Please read the last four posts here (if you missed them) to learn more about my visit there.]

As may be expected, a tradeshow of this caliber has very innovative and creative food ideas on display! Some things that left me gasping were the following — either for appearance, or taste, or both taste and appearance :)!


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The first of these fantastic displays of ‘caviar’ made with sea-weed! No need to cut up sturgeons and salmon for their roe (fish eggs), in fact being made of seaweed makes this product healthier! The four tumblers have four different flavors… the dark-colored one in the foreground is the sturgeon flavored caviar, the dark one in the back is truffle-flavored, the green is wasabi flavored and the red, salmon-flavored…on a party-table, these would certainly be the ‘pièce de résistance’, the conversation piece!


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Next is an almost empty tray of sesame cookies from a company in Jordan. I have yet to eat a sesame product which is so delicious :)! As you can tell, people come from very far to attend this show! At this kiosk I was offered another product, a small ball-like shape — dates covered with pastry, very delicious too.
 
 


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And the last was something tasty with a very appetizing appearance. It’s a recipe you all may try. Take good quality olive oil, add chopped up sun-dried tomatoes preserved in oil, add small sized bread croutons and serve them in individual servings on spoons. Mamma mia 🙂 — delizioso**!!!
 
 

**Delicious in Italian 🙂

 

Chocolate — SIAL* 2014

[SIAL* — Salon international l’alimentation — an annual Food Tradeshow recently held in Montreal, on April 2, 3 and 4. Please read the last three posts here (if you missed them) to learn more about my visit there.]

As may be expected at a tradeshow for fine foods, there was lots of chocolate to be found at SIAL. I could hardly believe I was actually refusing offers to taste all sorts of fabulous creations, but after a while I couldn’t ingest any more sweet stuff.

2014-04-04 12_04_40However, one product that impressed me a great deal was ki’XOCOLATL — chocolate from Mexico! I couldn’t do better than to copy directly from their supplier’s website www.origenes.ca as to the secret behind their fabulous product.

“In the Mayan and the Nahuatl languages, the word Ki-xocolatl means: delectable chocolate. This name was chosen in honor of the two great pre-Hispanic cultures that dominated the cultivation of cocoa plants, and passed it on to modern man. The Olmecs as well as the Mayas were the first to cultivate cocoa, which was used to prepare a drink offered in their religious ceremonies. Cocoa beans were later used as a monetary medium of exchange in commercial dealings. The Aztecs mixed cocoa with spices to convert it into a drink for Gods and Kings.

Ki-xocolatl is the result of various years of collaboration between the Belgian Chocolatiers Mathieu Brees and Stephanie Verbrugge the cocoa producers of Chiapas and Tabasco in Mexico. It was a perfect blend of work and strong emotions that contributed to the cultivation of an exceptional cocoa from the forests where wild animals and plants co-exist in perfect harmony.

The carefully selected criollo beans are toasted and refined until a fine paste is obtained. Then based in the European tradition the paste is carefully blended for a minimum of twelve hours. Ki-xocolatl uses the best ingredients in preparing its products, such as sugar from local cane and organic vanilla from Veracruz.”

In the picture one can see the full range of their chocolates, with bowls of various kinds of chocolate for taste. My favorite was the one in the bright pink label, 72% dark chocolate with pink peppers — it was simply divine!