Sunday, February 19, 2012

Yesterday we began renovating our kitchen and bathroom. The last two weeks have been spent planning a smooth transition to renovation mode, setting up a make-shift kitchen with a two element electric stove, the fridge, coffee maker, utensils, basic groceries, and planning simple meals that might make their way into a recipe book entitled "simple vegetarian recipes for renovators". I feel joyful in my temporary kitchen which takes me back to my childhood days of playing house. In addition, the "hardship" from making do is romantic since it makes me feel quite righteous and triumphant against odds. You see this "kitchen" is not centrally heated and the access to it from the rest of the house is past the rubble of the areas being renovated. Given our below zero temperatures it feels like a Delhi kitchen in the winter or worse. I have to bundle myself up, shoes, coat and all before commencing work in it. Adding to the "hardship" element is the necessary trudge to the bathroom down the hall, past the rubble to wash dishes. I find myself more mindful, with greater awareness of all that I take for granted and greater empathy for people whose lives are makeshift due to abject poverty, war or both. In a very practical sense, this attentiveness helps me plan ahead given that cooking is a lot slower and often requires coordination with pressure cooker, rice-cooker/steamer, since I have a low capacity stove and no oven. I wake up super early, while it still seems like night outside, to cook breakfast and lunch before leaving the house. As I increase the space in my house, I am experiencing greater space and silences between my thoughts. Maybe from the mindfulness?!

Here's one to get you started

This dish reminds me of days spent eating spinach, picked from the shores of the river Cauvery, cooked in a stone pot on a firewood stove. Takes me back to my uncle's house in Mayavaram where i spent summers as a child!

In a little pressure cooker add a tablespoon of oil and once it is heated add half a teaspoon of mustard seeds, one teaspoon of black gram dhal (urad), 1/4 spoon fenugreek seeds, pinch of asafoetida, curry leaves, a couple of dried red chillies- add 1 bunch chopped spinach, quarter cup cooked red gram (tur) dhal. Add quarter cup water, let the steam come out, add the weight and turn off after one soundb. Lightly hand blend with salt. Great with hot rice and mango pickle.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

My mom's companion

Today as I watched "The Big Year", a wonderful movie about "birding", I thought about our intimate relationship with crows while growing up in India. The caw was probably the first sound I heard outside the nursing home window as I wheezed my first breath. The crow then
bore witness to all the important events in my life, curious and present and oddly comforting as the only constant through all the changes brought on by us changing cities, schools and just coming of age. Even now through all the radical transformation that economic growth has brought about in India you can count on the crow to trigger warm, fuzzy nostalgia. On a
recent trip home, I watched with delight this wonderful bond between my mom and a
crow that caws sitting on her window sill. It is funny how they communicate, with him
responding to her call, sitting for hours on her sill cawing while she shuffles around in her large and airy kitchen. He even expresses disapproval of some of the food she sets in his bowl by picking it up with his beak and placing it inside the sill! He is there beside her through her lows and highs, more than her children. I am convinced this crow that loves my mom's cooking is my Dad from the nether world, true to my Brahmanic belief that crows are the manifestation
of our ancestors. I had so many folks respond to my post on my mother and this crow with similar stories about their moms who lived alone, with these crows as companions and eating buddies through their lonely coffees or meals. The simplicity of this bond of mutual benefit made me feel warm all over.