Sunday, March 17, 2013

Eleanor Rigby, I, you and me.

It was a clear night, otherwise.

Music, gaiety, wine, laughter. A typical Friday night of cities that don't sleep, just move fluidly from one moment to the next. Here is not found that pause between breath; the pause that gathers, remembers, ponders before letting go. This time is one of movement so constant and stacked that all and one sensory experience feel the same.

It was one more such night. I was stringing myself along the conveyor belt of a "fun time"..... wine, dancing, dinner, live music, stars, water... all and everything without the pause. Stumbled into an elegant wine bar full of people doing exactly the same. Absorbed in music that even the musicians couldn't hear, without missing a beat.

Among this crowd of revelers, one other walked in looking for her place. She attempted to sit down but the server told her the table was already allotted. She looked for a face but couldn't see one. Not because she is partially blind. There were not faces to see, just one large mass of movement without purpose. She didn't see anyone and nobody saw her. So she picked up her cane and walked out into the clear night of dimly lit souls.

Perhaps if the table wasn't allotted to me, I would not have seen her either. Or maybe it was because I was looking for myself, that I couldn't bear to let her go. It was no selfless act when I rushed out and slid my arm in hers, asked her if she would come back for a while for the music? No, she answered. She would come back, but not for the music; she had really come looking for conversation.

It wasn't her that I smuggled back into the cozy wine bar. I had reached out to my future, alone on a chilly evening and wanted to wrap it up with her warm smile.

For the next hour, her eyes twinkled with light as she regaled us through the operas of Salzburg, the streets of Paris, the summer of Malaga. It felt like spring in Sausalito. She led the path to her home, where she drew me into lines, black and white for that is her world now. And all around her, the walls were adorned with colors of a different decade, a different continent she had captured and removed from time. We will meet again today, to talk, to listen to Tango and share a cup of tea.

But what about the others? What about me? All the lonely people......where do they all belong.





Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Blood, Borscht and the year of the Brave - 2012

"Mommy, I'm OK, but all my friends are dead." - 6 year old survivor, Sandy Hook Elementary School, December 14th, 2012.

Courage.

It is not a display of strength, rather an acknowledgement of humility.
In Courage, we learn of fear; Courage we find when faced with hate, pain, sadness, anger.
In Courage, I acknowledge emotion, acknowledge weakness and know the truth that something outside of me, can hold me, move me but it can never conquer that immutable inimitable me that is here, now and eternal.


2012 has given me this gift of knowledge. I know now that I know nothing of Courage.


Before this dawn, I was increasingly pompous; believing I am the brave, walking alongside the brave. With every pain conquered, I congratulated myself on my ability to survive. After all, isn't it quite enough to be dealt with change, death, separation, illness, love, loss... and still not have forgotten to smile?

With such naive ramblings, convinced of my invincibility, I undertook the "Borscht" journey. The tasks appeared to be quite daunting ...not for the faint of the heart, I boasted! I delegated as much of the work as I could, putting of the final moments of opening the foil and touching the blood red beets, indelibly staining my hands. I trembled in fear gazing at the post-Borscht nightmarish counters and floors. But blood washes away; the counters restored to like new again, and I greedily grabbed credit for the Borscht, an unparalleled success.

And then it was time to serve the soup. I looked around and within, and wondered who would be worthy of a seat at His table, to partake of a true covenant of blood and courage? Not I, not I.

That teacher, who shielded her 6yr old children from death at the cost of her own life. Yes, her. Those children who huddled together in strength when faced with a fear they knew nothing of, yes them. Those parents who can still breathe, love and forgive, yes them. Nirbhaya, who didn't lose her light and her will to live, despite being touched by the hands of evil, yes her. Yes them, all of them and countless of them who know not just an "I", but who have found the oneness of us. And only oneness can be served to them, as truth, love and humanity.

If I could make such a Borscht every day and every night, from scratch, without help, without fear and serve it to all those whose light is a beacon of hope..... perhaps one day the color of my blood could be the same as theirs.

"I want to live" - Damini, the fearless 'Nirbhaya', New Delhi, December 2012 and for all time.



[For the authentic Borscht recipe used in my experiments with the beets, visit - http://russianmomcooks.com/2012/04/06/borsch/]

Monday, August 13, 2012

"What love we've given, we'll have forever. What love we fail to give, will be lost for all eternity." - Leo Buscaglia

Monday, August 6, 2012

Ripe heart Ratatouille.




What's for dinner tonight? Crocodile or Monkey heart?

I am in love, I tell you. Madly, truly, deeply, intensely, wholly, soul-ly, consciously, subconsciously, by all adjectives imaginable, for all verbs delivered, in all time conceived. I am in love with you.
But is this weally love, that only gives as much as it receives?

A crocodile once befriended a monkey, who lived on an apple tree. Monkey shared with the Crocodile and his wife, the sweetness of hitherto forbidden apples. The Crocodiles', overwhelmed by the juicy goodness of apples, craved a deeper fullness - to taste that monkey's heart, who dined on apples all day long. They invited Monkey to dinner, leaving aside the minor detail, that he was to be dinner. En route to his casa, wading through murky waters, Crocodile, who was carrying Monkey on his back, felt a momentary twinge of emotion and confessed to his friend of the evening's plan. Crocodile was sad, yet for all that - Monkey heart must be dined upon. Monkey laughed, and was very apologetic -had he known his heart was on the menu, he wouldn't have left it behind to air out on the apple tree branch. Crocodile, fearful of his wife's wrath, rushed Monkey back home to collect said heart.There is a nervous exhilaration in that moment when Monkey springs off the Crocodile's back, to his tree, safe from harm. But what if there was a heart served for dinner that night? Every night.

Can I give of myself to you until the lines get blurry and wipe away, and all that remains is the knowledge that we are nothing, but one.

My heart is what's for dinner, love. It is the ripest fruit of summer; ready and stewed to perfection.


Summer Ratatouille Recipe:-

Farmers market vegetables all -
Heirloom tomatoes - red, purple, yellow - go wild.
Yellow Squash
Zucchini
Green pepper
Mini sweet red peppers
Ripe plum
Cut dried fig
Oregano (fresh)                                                                                                                              
Basil (fresh)                                                                          
Thyme (fresh / dry)
Sweet golden onion
Purple Garlic
Carrots                                                                          
Olive Oil
Red wine
Marsala wine
Eggs for serving (optional)
Salt, pepper and love, to taste.

Cook onions and garlic in olive oil. Add carrots, zucchini, squash, and cook uncovered on medium until soft. Add remaining veggies and cook, till the juices flow. Add thyme, tomatoes, fruits and wine and cook some more. Garnish with chopped oregano and basil. Serve with Sourdough toast. Alternatively in an oven safe bowl, spoon ratatouille, crack two eggs on top and bake at 375 for about 5 minutes until the eggs are cooked and serve from the heart.


Monday, July 23, 2012

Born again Innocent.


It is perhaps a bit too late to be pondering this (on the demise of my 33rd birthday)....not to mention it is nearing 1am, but I wonder what does it mean to be innocent?

Are the innocent called as such because they have never erred or are those innocent who don't know of any other way to be?

An heirloom tomato is a tomato. It does not know of the tomato on the vine, or the Roma tomato, or its inferior GMO cousin.. it knows itself as a tomato and all it knows is itself.

Tomato, Gretel, Infant - the personification of innocence? A rabbit poops without responsibility, the infant eats, cries, smiles without thought, without morality - all follow instinct and instinct alone. If a baby had an urge to tug, or squeeze, it could potentially take a life, unknowingly. Yet, despite being blithely unaware of right v/s wrong, it remains blameless, uncondemned.

Is the essence of innocence then rooted in being as if there is no other way to be... That if there is even the minutest recognition of what one ought to be, in that lies an underlying admission of what one is not...Innocent.

Could it be that wise and the insane alike, have discovered this "being without knowing" and "knowing outside of being" to be the pinnacle?


Once again, I find myself making a wish upon imaginary candles, asking to be born again into this - Silence.


Spoken, it is already lost. 

Happy Birthday, until then, little girl.



Friday, March 23, 2012

Coming home.


There are many houses in this city. The brick house, the small house. The house with the pretty door, the one with the iron grille. The house with children out front and the house with the cat on the porch. There is just one you call home.

Yet with the restlessness of wind, we wander and wander in search of the perfect look, the perfect color, the perfect feng shui - and with all that wandering we are still seeking, still homeless despite many addresses, many experiences.

Home is not perfect. Sometimes rather quiet - despite the occasional yelling that bunny receives when she is being naughty; At times very cold, though it is the only place one can truly seek and find warmth - yes, despite the ridiculous utility bills! And comfort...yes yes, the air mattress adorned with torn sheets sure beats sleeping on a cold floor without a roof under a strange sky. And the familiarity of belonging - Bunny bunny bunny, oh how I wish we could talk sometimes. And safety...no, there haven't been any 4am 911 calls..none that were recorded!

But most of all, home is where I can cook warmth, safety, comfort, familiarity and eat it too and love it forever more!

So how do you gauge the beauty of a comfort stew....?

Mine makes me want to come home to it.. regardless of all the delicacies of the world that maybe calling out from their gourmet shelves.. this is the one I want - because it belongs to me unconditionally. It comes from roots I cherish. It makes me smile at memories as I create some more and put away for a rainy night.

For comfort food, warms not just your belly, but your heart. It reminds you of who you really are - not the body, not the mind, but a soul seeking soul food.

From the warmth and depth of its core it says to me- Come home to yourself, wanderer.


The fine print -

Less glamorously known as "Pav Bhaji" - a street food delicacy - forgive the oxymoron...and the moron :)

My version of the recipe -

Take all the vegetables in your fridge and boil them until they know each other intimately and lose their individual identities in that knowledge. I have used Cauliflower, whole baby potatoes, carrots, peas, green peppers, red peppers and serrano peppers. I wouldn't really recommend other veggies.. avoid celery, broccoli, bok-choy, zucchini, mushrooms... and green beans etc- I try to stick with some traditional Indian veggies for this one, the others will muddy the flavors or not mash well together..

So as you are boiling the veggies, add lots of ginger, a touch of garlic (don't overdo garlic, less is more!),  turmeric, salt (if that is not obvious - to taste), and some water to keep the veggies from burning but not too much water... mid way add "pav bhaji masala" - this is a must have ingredient for this stew - no substitutes but easily found in any Indian store / the intraweb...

Boil and boil and stir..Once the veggies are soft take a potato masher and mash the veggies together to make a thick consistent base; we want something between the consistency of mashed potatoes and thick soup when we are done. In a separate pan, heat oil. add red onion and green chillies and cook - then add chopped tomatoes (lots of them!), tomato paste (1 tbsp), red chilli powder pinch, turmeric (a pinch) and cook - add pav bhaji masala 1 tsp, and then add the boiled veggie mix, and cook to reduce the water content - add a pinch of dried fenugreek leaves, lime juice, and Asafoetida (hing) - very very little, barely half a teaspoon of hing.

Cook and cook and mash and cook and mash and cook... until the flavors and the aroma melt your heart!

Make sure when you serve, you heat the accompanying bread in butter and brown it well! Do add cold butter wedges, lime wedges (squeeze lime juice over), raw red onion slices and cilantro to serve the stew - 'tis the traditional way and it is not to be messed with. This recipe is not for the faint of the heart, butter notwithstanding. There are many methods to cook this, mine is the longer, slightly healthier route (arguable!) with more veggies....you can take that path or watch this video for a different / fast food variation and sing.. "O ye'll tak' the high road and I'll tak' the low road, An' I'll be in Scotland afore ye;"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pye6pnZpjfs






Sunday, September 18, 2011

Chocolate and other emptiness' of the sumptuous.

There are minarets rising above clouds, spooning a sun on its way to slumber. Perhaps these are beacons of an imaginary castle where never-lands abound, ascending like notes of hymns sung at Notre Dame on a silent day. Or, air traffic control towers, rising up to find their ground - adorned in a mist of tears, densely guarding a city by the bay.

As I shuttle between fantasy and reality, desire is an assiduous constant. It wants and wants alone - a self fulfilling prophecy indeed. I wake up with a longing for the dream castle, the solemn sound in prayer and a warm abode - all in the womb of reality.

And I wake up with a hunger for Chocolate.

Bittersweet chocolate chip pancakes are a perfect panacea for Sunday morning hunger pangs. Bob's Red Mill  whole grain pancake flour was gifted to me very kindly by a loving friend. Add to that, Euphoria Chocolaterie's unsweetened ground cacao, bittersweet <always fair trade> chocolate chips, pure vanilla and almond extract - et Voila!

Chocolate Creme Fraiche frosting is not for the faint of heart. There is a certain tangy romance between the melted butter-semi-sweet chocolate-creme fraiche trio. I add vanilla to soothe frayed nerves for the first introduction. Then we are all friends.

Bu today, I wake up with a deep burning desire to drink chocolate. Not to sip the insipid hot chocolate seeping in water. Or even the version that I have previously imbibed with smug pride, spicy cocoa with milk and cream, laced with vanilla ice cream and Kahlua.

No - I want to drink deep from the cistern of pure dark forbidden pleasure as all do here. They won't share the conspiracy behind the concoction. I won't ask. I will willingly be a prisoner every morning and every evening and in between if they would have me. I will give in to longing as an end in itself.

Good Bye San Francisco. Good Morning Madrid - Citadel of Desire.