Sunday, January 25, 2015

Vicarious Travel to India


Shhhhh. Don't tell, but I haven't even had time to open my Christmas cards yet. I am glad most of my friends are on Facebook. Many of you know I have had a busy fall and winter teaching and feeding a family of four. I'd gotten a little rusty on managing a family, and it is evident when you look around my house. The rest of the family seemed to keep on their game managing household tasks, but I definitely fell behind.

Yesterday I started digging in and handling the "jobs" I'd fallen behind on. I made some progress. Kyle returned to his home in the UK a couple of weeks ago, and Mary departs Tuesday for her latest travel adventure, I guess we will call it "Back to England". I will have plenty of time to catch up on housework. It's been a fun time, an unexpected home "happening".

I will do some jobs today, but I have some plans that are just for me. First of all I started to read the novel Shantaram, that one of my inspirational students recommended to me against the wishes of her mother, who thought it was too racy to recommend to a teacher. I am very glad she kept reminding me to get the book, read it. She knew I would love it. So far, I am not to the racy bits, but it is India, layers and layers of vibrancy, color and individuality. I myself was in Leopold's in Mumbai twice, a restaurant featured in the book. Now I remember looking at the copy of Shantaram signed by the author there. Too bad it took me so long to remember this book, but I am enjoying it now, and it is going to keep me from accomplishing some things today.

I woke up this morning to my Facebook feed where I follow The Hindu, a news paper from India filled with many great photos of our President and First Lady touring and experiencing Indian culture. Okay, I have two meals to make for Mary before she leaves, so tonight it will be Indian cuisine, and I am going to try some new things.

Indian restaurant food is delicious, but just as in any culture, restaurant food is not like the food made in family homes. Slowly but surely with some tips from good friends in India and at home, I am getting the hang of some simple dishes. I hope to visit India several if not many times in my future, and I also hope that involves eating in more Indian home kitchens. Right now my friends and the woman, Madhur Jaffrey are my teachers. Jaffrey is a woman of India who has spent several decades living in the west and adapting favorite recipes for our kitchens and ingredients. It took me awhile to discover her, and I am starting to get the hang of some basics.

I started with Quick and Easy Indian cooking. The recipes are good, and quick and easy. This book recommends a pressure cooker. My grandmother was truly a Queen of pressure cooker meals. They were delicious. I guess though that I have a few too many childhood memories of near pressure cooker kitchen explosions. I just make the same dishes by letting them simmer for an extra thirty minutes or so. That is a good wind down after a teaching day anyway. 

Today I am going to try some new things. I'm also getting good with dal, but I've had dal in India, so I will say I have not mastered it. Indian families amaze me, because despite working long hard days, they still home cook two or three meals a day, that feature numerous dishes. I'm going to have leftovers from my meal, and serve them later in the week. I don't think that would ever happen in India, freshly prepared is the standard. 

Dal is made with lentils or split peas, which Indians refer to as pulses. Trader Joes has my favorite red yellow and green lentils. Tonight I will make green lentils with spinach and ginger and I will make Gujerati sem, green beans with amazing flavors going on from black mustard seed, garlic and dried red chile. We will have a meat dish too, Kashmiri meatballs made with ground lamb. In India lamb usually refers to the meat of a goat. It does taste similar. We Americans were very niave about Indian culture and we ooohed and ahhhhhed over the sight of goats on rope leads at Golconda Fort, as families gathered to eat and recreate on Sunday, family day. Clearly, these families thought we were crazy, because as we walked on we saw the goat meat deftly cut up and in the cooking pot. Very fresh, and very much appreciated in a culture where "veg" meals are the standard. 

Maybe we will have a potato dish if I am up the challenge and maybe I will try to make roti, a traditional bread in some regions of India. "Five minutes" my friend says for making the daily roti. could be a struggle. If you see it in the photo, you'll know I rose to the challenge. Another thing I will work on is my presentation. Indian families would not serve it all slopped on a plate. Look for the mango chutney too. Mine is not going to be homemade.

Here's one of the everyday dinners made by a nameless friend of mine. Many Indians are very private, and I've been lucky to enjoy a few very close and special friendships since my 2013 visit. The stainless steel tray is very typical in Indian homes. Maybe I will find some here one of these days.

I've got my Roti game on now. I studied. Once again, shhhhh, but I think Ted Vento's tortilla press is going to do the trick there. Very similar, to Masa, but with whole wheat flour. I am mostly out of that. So, I will give it my best with regular flour.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Tea time as a send off for Mary

Friends of Mary's opened a new tearoom in Olympia, so we attended The Pride and Prejudice event today in downtown Olympia. We had tea with Maryln, mother and grandma. It was lovely and we had a good visit before Mary heads to London on Tuesday to interview for a graduate school opportunity at the Royal College of Music. We hope it goes well! 

Try the Two Sister's tearoom for Elevenses.....scones with clotted cream, and a good pot of tea. Today we had the full trolley.