Posts Tagged ‘food

03
Nov
08

cardamom & tea.

These are a few of my favorite photos- and favorite experiences- from our trip to Sikkim and Darjeeling.  Our driver from Pelling, Sikkim, was a local boy who stopped along the side of the road to show us fresh cardamom growing in a field.  The leaves of the plants extend above the earth, while the cardamom seeds are close to the ground.  The driver, Lobsang, dug in the dirt and pulled out this cluster in which cardamom pods are nestled.  He then rinsed the cluster in a nearby mountain stream, revealing the individual pods.  Lobsang opened a pod to show us the seeds inside.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We arrived in Darjeeling at dusk, creeping along narrow roads winding through a tea plantation.  The road was so narrow that we had to back up into a turnout whenever we encountered another vehicle.  Darjeeling district is famous for its tea, and tea gardens are visible along every mountainside.  Sam and I toured one nearby garden, where we plucked some tea leaves, flowers and berries.

 

 

 

 


Advertisements
18
Sep
08

mani’s hands.

Learning how to prepare cuisine from different regions is one of the pleasures of living in India.  Although my attempts do not taste very authentic I still enjoy experimenting and Sam enjoys eating.  I arrive early for family meals, hoping to improve my cooking skills through observation.

Last night we had dinner with Sam’s grandmother, Dadi, who was eager to teach me how to prepare a few items.  One of the staples of the Indian diet is rotis, or round flat breads, which are made from wheat flour.  Sam’s family often makes rotlas from rice or millet flour for me because I don’t eat wheat.  Dadi asked her cook, Mani, to prepare the rotlas in my presence last night.

Conceptually, rotlas are not difficult to make.  By slowly adding water to the millet flour you knead the mixture until the dough is soft and pliable.  Then you take a small handful of dough and shape it into a ball, again kneading it a little.  Finally, with your hands you flatten the ball into a pancake shape and cook it on a very hot pan.  When the bread is mostly cooked, remove it from the pan with tongs and hold it over the stovetop flame until it puffs.  Done.

In theory this is easy enough, but I just can’t manage to get it right.  I watch Mani with complete admiration as she expertly mixes and kneads the flour in the bowl.  Her hands move with the assurance only an experienced cook possesses.  Her body is relaxed, face smiling as she explains what she’s doing.  This is a sharp contrast to my own experience: temperature rising, mind filled with self-doubt, hands frantically trying to correct the proportion of water to flour.

Mani’s hands are strong and sure, and she commands the dough with authority.  Pushing down with her palm and bending it back with her fingers, the dough obeys her every command.  She shapes a ball and begins to flatten it on a round marble slab dusted with flour.  Tap, tap, tap, turn.  Tap, tap, tap, turn.  The rotla takes shape; it’s a perfect circle with even thickness and nice plump edges that stay firm.  (Mine often crumble).  

Mani’s hands craft one rotla after another, in an inviting rhythm that hints at years of shaping raw ingredients into simple feasts.  She wipes her hands on a cloth after placing the last rotla on a plate.  Then Mani picks up a knife and a cutting board.  She smiles and asks if I’m ready to make the vegetables.

08
Sep
08

the kebab guy.

No matter where he goes, Sam has a contact known as “the kebab guy”.  These places seem a little dirty at first glance, but the carts are always surrounded by hungry customers.  Hot food and high turnover are two of Sam’s guidelines for choosing food that won’t make us sick.  We also watch to see where locals go because they won’t tend to frequent stalls or carts that serve truly dirty food.  Usually.  

Sam and I went to his “kebab guy” in Ahmedabad the other night.    This guy has a cart in part of the old city, which we find by turning down off the main road onto a narrow lane. 

 

 

 

 

  Pass the clock tower.

 

 

 

 

 

Down an even smaller lane is “the kebab guy”.

 

 

 

 

 

*To see more photos, check out the “Ahmedabad” page above.

20
Aug
08

anniversary.

Yesterday Sam and I celebrated our second wedding anniversary at Shiro, a “trendy and upscale lounge bar” in Bombay. It is by far the best sushi place we’ve found, after much exploration.   The meal was a sensual delight with exquisite food, soft lighting, and spicy music.  

We indulged in some of our favorite dishes as we reminisced about our two years as husband and wife.  Our wedding ceremony, which we wrote ourselves, remains one of our most precious memories.  It was truly a reflection of the love we share, and our families and friends were fully present through personal reflections and group vows.  My dad and I shared a fun father-daughter moment as we danced a polka together.  Bollywood hits blared from the speakers as our friend Brijesh encouraged everyone to join in with the classic move “turning the light bulb”. 

Memories of our two-week honeymoon are engraved in our hearts.  Affectionately nicknamed our “Temples, Tombs, and Forts Tour” we traveled through much of Rajasthan and some northern cities. Standing on a snow-covered ridge in the Himalayas I was overcome with awe, and the Taj Mahal brought me to tears.  We enjoyed dinner at a palace in a hilltop fort overlooking the city of Jaipur.  The trip culminated in a stay at the Taj Lake Palace, a hotel that is the former summer palace of the regional king.  It was at dinner one night that I overheard a tour guide proclaim to his group, “India will never surrender the cashew nut!”  Sam assured me he probably said “the Kashmir” not “cashew nut”, which I admit makes more sense.

I have learned so much about love and friendship from Sam in the last two years. He is generous and kind, smart and thoughtful.  He loves me all the time, in spite of myself.  Sam and I share a life that is full of adventure and travel, and face life’s ups and downs together.  As we look back on the days since our wedding, we also look forward to the years to come.   

13
Aug
08

sitaphals, the epic fruit.

Named for Sita, heroine of the Hindu epic Ramayan, the sitaphal is a much-loved Indian fruit.  Its thick, spiky exterior belies the creamy, sugary sweetness nestled within.  A ripe sitaphal yields to gentle pressure as it opens to offer its fruit to the salivating aficionado.  Sitaphals are cousins of South American cherimoyas, which Mark Twain declared “deliciousness itself”.  

Please visit this site to view a photo of sitaphals.

12
Apr
08

fairest fruit of hindustan.

Dear Friends & Family,

I know you’re wondering where I’ve been. I apologize for my absence. The truth is that I’ve been up to my elbows in “the fairest fruit of Hindustan”. I am enchanted by the juicy nectar and firm flesh of the alfonso mango. Hypnotized as the juice flows past my wrist, I can think of nothing but the next indulgent bite. In fact, I had to wash my hands just to write this post. These mangoes are so yummy that George Bush lifted the import ban as part of the nuclear deal negotiations last year. I will write again soon, hopefully before the end of mango season next month. In the mean time, head to your nearest Indian market and pick up a box of alfonsos.
Love, Marybeth

p.s. The Whole Foods alfonsos are not Indian, so don’t bother.

18
Dec
07

mmm…

The taadgolawala cuts away the tough exterior to reveal these tender fruits. Each taadgola contains about three small fruits, which you can see next to the blade in this photo.