ALWAYS A FOODIE, THRICE A COOK!

Food isn’t just nourishment. Food isn’t three times a daily necessity. Food isn’t just needed to live. Food is a culture. Food is a ritual. Food is a passion. Food is happiness for a sulking child. Food is a comfort for someone unwell. Food is family time for a man who worked hard all day. Food is Mother’s love for a son who brought tiffin from home. Food is hope for the poor. Food is a livelihood for the Farmer, for the Milkman, for the Sabjiwala. 

For me, food is the Kachori made by my Baba. The one he used to make when I was a little girl. I was hardly 11 when he passed away, but I still remember the taste. The whole ritual when he used to make them on weekends taking one whole morning and I used to hang around him, bobbing with anticipation and asking him every five minutes when he will be done and give me one to eat. Food is the Cheela my Amma used to make every Saturday for me and Papa and I used to take a bite from Papa’s plate calling it Food Tax. Food is the Aloo Parantha I had in Kasauli Hotel, where we made a secret kitchen in an Ante-Room. Food is the Maggie noodles I used to make with my brother and divided into two equal halves and then fought while deciding which plate holds more. Food is the Rabri from Birla Mandir that my uncle brought for me and I would wait for it eagerly every Tuesday. Food is the Coffee I had with my best friend while we worked on paintings, chatting our way through gossips.

I am a true Foodie in every sense. Not because I am experimental with my taste buds or try to taste all world cuisine, neither because good food makes my mouth water or I try to eat as many dishes as I can when I go to a Buffet. I am a foodie because I believe that food is good when memories are made along with it. I am a foodie in true spirit because I believe that breaking of bread with someone connects you to them on a whole different level. Every meal that is memorable and is delicious is less owing to the taste and more to the company.

I had thrice attempted to cook for my loved ones as a child. All attempts my first. First was the time when I made Chapati for my father. It was through kneading dough to rolling it out in a perfect circle and then making it go round on the stove. With a lot of anticipation, I served it on Papa’s plate. He tasted it and went ‘WOW’ not because it was yum, but because he knew it was my first Roti ever made. He kissed me and hugged me.

The second time was when I cooked Kheer for my Nanaji as Naniji had gone to a party and there were no women in the house. I opened my cookbook and attempted my hand at Kheer for him with an intention to surprise him. I measured everything as per the book and added to a vessel. But the rice kept getting dry and I kept adding milk and sugar. Finally, I made a gooey sticky lump I called Kheer and served him. He gave me Rs 500 as a reward for not giving up and told me it was delicious.

My third trial was for my mother when she was unwell. She hadn’t had anything all day and told she was hungry and couldn’t manage to get up as she had her leg in a cast. That day for the first time I made tea and sandwiches for her. I made it with utmost care and served it to her. She ate it with so much contentment and satisfaction that it brought tears to my eyes. She thanked me which made me realise the joy of doing something for someone.

So this is me the Foodie for you. Every food memory I got is not because the taste was great but because the memory was everlasting. Memories that are like the taste buds, Sweet, Sour, Spicy, Salty, Tangy and at time Bitter.

Bon Appetite!

CONFESSIONS OF AN ULTIMATE FOODIE

Have you seen people whose biggest weakness is Food? People who love to eat it all and cannot stop thinking about yummy food. People who eat when they are happy, stressed, upset or angry. People who find an excuse to eat something fancy every Monday because you know otherwise Monday’s are boring, every Wednesday because it is the mid of the week, every Friday because they want to celebrate and Saturday, Sunday because who eats at home on a weekend !!!

Well, if you don’t know any such person then you must meet ME. I am exactly that kind of person who loves to eat. Eats for every occasion and at every occasion. Food is well, meant for survival right? So, we are supposed to eat to stay alive. So, why not make most of it!

As for cooking – I don’t excel at that. Probably because I lose interest in eating when I am so busy cooking it. Be it burgers, pizzas, paneer tikka, subs, pastas – I love it all. Eating good food makes me happy and content. I really overdo at times which is a biggest challenge for me.

During my engineering, when I was staying in a hostel – I was known for liking the food of the mess as well which nobody else liked. Quite often when other girls used to make faces looking at the food, my reaction to the food used to be “Wow, aaj bhindi bani hai! (Wow, today is Ladies Finger)!” Other girls were always very surprised at my reaction. It is not that I used to find the food really yummy, it is just that I like the idea of eating. I have never been very particular about what taste I like or I don’t like. I like almost everything that is vegetarian and is edible.

A person like me has his/her own challenges. Weight gain is an obvious one and with that comes a lot of other complications. I am really bad at controlling my cravings. I have hired dieticians to help me with this and eventually I end up lying to her every now and then (because I want to eat junk and I know she would scold me for it), yet I am ready to pay her a hefty amount month after month as her fees. Sometimes, I really feel like a loser!

Every year I keep the fast of Karwachauth which is apparently the toughest fast in Hindu tradition. It is supposed to be for a long life of my husband. But frankly, I keep Karwachauth for myself (it really has nothing to do with my hubby). It becomes a test of my determination and self-control. To stay more than 15 hours without a drop of water or bite of food is not easy. And I do it year after year because I really want to prove it to myself that I CAN! But it is just a day in the whole year and this kind of fasting isn’t healthy.

I have struggled with dieting since ever. I do not understand how people resist that piece of chocolate or burger or fries. I have never been able to do it. For somebody like me, who struggles with resisting food – it always is a challenge to stay fit. For that I have made a few rules that I try (my best) to follow

  1. Never stop working out
  2. Drink lots of water because that reduces the cravings to a huge extent
  3. Limit junk food to a day in a week
  4. Always have nutrition bars or nuts in my bag for quick bites
  5. Avoid going to restaurants when I want to hang out with your friends
  6. When I have to go for an official outing which probably has a beautiful buffet laid out – I eat something heavy (and nutritious) before going.
  7. I try to plan my meals ahead of the day
  8. I eat really slowly so that I give enough time to my tummy to signal me when I am full.

In spite of doing all this, there are times (a lot of times) when I just give in to the temptation. Foodies like me have a great challenge ahead of them. It is not easy to reduce those tyres that form around your waist as a result of eating those yummy fries and burgers and pastas.

It is always a balancing act. One of my friends say, what is the point of working so hard when you cannot even eat what you fancy. I agree with him but at the same time I don’t want to be obese who spends a large part of her money and time in hospital getting treated for obesity related issues.

By the way, I am typing out this blog sitting in a Mcdonalds – trying out their new “Chatpata aloo naan” with Fries and Iced tea (sounds yummy, isn’t it)! Ha, I told you – food is my weakness!

Well, to all of you foodies out there – I hope you can relate to what I have written here. Don’t beat yourself up. Just make reasonable goals and take one step at a time. Being an ultimate foodie isn’t bad but it has its own consequences. So always try your best to balance and stay true to yourself.

THE DIY KINDA FOODIE

I have a weird relationship with food. Throughout childhood and college, I looked at food merely as a means of nutrition, nothing more. I had a handful of favourites that my mother used to cook very well, but by and large, I used to have a ‘meh’ kind of attitude to food, especially to ghar-ka-khana (homemade food).

My journey as a foodie began only when I met my husband, who’s the true foodie among the two of us.  I still remember how the poor thing tried to impress me by taking me to a Greek restaurant for a date, and I ended up eating nothing but boiled rice and stir-fried veges because I hated the food there! He still bears a grudge about it. But, he and my Mother-in-Law are the reason why I learnt how to appreciate good food over just food and cultivated the love for cooking in me.

I don’t consider myself a foodie even now because I have very simple requirements in food and I don’t like to dine out much, but there are times when I have a hankering for certain foods and I’ll go to any lengths to hoard the ingredients required to make that particular dish. For example, I’ve been craving Miso ramen for some time now but I cannot find Miso paste (obviously a very important part of the dish) in any food store in my vicinity. And you can’t make it at home (yes, I’ve googled up ‘DIY miso paste’ too). So I’ve had to place an order online for it, and now I wait for it to arrive. That’s the kind of foodie I am. Oddly enough, as someone who hated ghar-ka-khana, I’ve turned out exactly like my mother. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree after all!

Yes, I’m the ‘DIY’ type of foodie who would much rather cook/bake by hand rather than sample food at a restaurant or a food fest. For me cooking my favorite meals is like celebrating an event. First, there’s the preparation – going to the grocery store to gather the ingredients or hunting for them at speciality stores.

giphy-downsized.gif
Source: giphy.com

Then there’s the cleaning and cooking – washing, chopping, slicing, watching them all come together in a sweet melody in my mixing bowl or kadhai.

giphy-downsized cooking.gif
Source: giphy.com

And then there is the celebration itself – serving it to your family and having the satisfaction of knowing that they enjoy it.

giphy-downsized people.gif
Source: giphy.com

Don’t even get me started on the aroma that fills the house when the food is cooking/baking. I love it when these aromas hang around the house for hours even after the food has been sitting nicely in my tummy! I’m by no means a fabulous cook, but I  do love cooking my favorites.

Some of my friends joke that I should have been born in China or Japan or Thailand because I love anything brothy, soupy with a tonne of ginger and chicken floating in it, and – noodles! In short, I love foods that go ‘sluuuuurp’! Naturally, all noodle based foods are my absolute favourites – Miso ramen, Phad Thai, Yakisoba, Spaghetti with meatballs, simple Chicken Noodle Soup, Indo-Chinese Chow mein, or even Maggi! But the top of the list makes a relatively lesser known congee I first had courtesy of the chef on board my husband’s merchant ship – Arroz Caldo.

It’s a Filipino congee (rice porridge), roughly equivalent to chicken soup and is consumed as breakfast or when you’re feeling unwell. Its relatively simple to make IF you have chicken/vegetable stock at hand, or even stock cubes, and if you’re crazy about soups like me, you will ALWAYS keep chicken stock in your freezer to pop into any soup. Arroz Caldo consists of rice cooked in chicken/vegetable stock along with stir-fried chicken (or you could use pork, fish or shrimps), fried garlic, ginger, hard boiled eggs, topped with a garnish of spring onion, a dash of calamnsi/lemon and fish sauce. For the recipe, please head to Pilipinas Recipe. This recipe includes saffron, which in my opinion, is not necessary. I think it’s only included for the yellow color. Also, I like to make my soups healthy by adding stir-fried vegetables like carrot, mushrooms and bok choy. But you can leave them out if you like. Mind you, this congee is NOT for weight watchers.

Chicken-Arroz-Caldo.jpg
Image source: Pilipinas Recipe

This is the ultimate comfort food for me. This is what I crave when I’m unwell, or when I’ve had a bad day, or even when I just need to cook something good. This, along with the veges I throw in, is like a complete meal in a bowl and I can eat this for breakfast, lunch and dinner. In fact, I HAVE done that on some days aboard that merchant ship, when what the Filipino cook dished out was not to my liking (read squid). Gave me the creeps just thinking about it!

So, now you know what kind of foodie I am! I’m the kind of foodie who loves the process of cooking as much the eating part of it. I’m the kind of foodie who will serve you everything right from bread, cookies, pasta and dessert all made by hand, in my very own kitchen.  I’m the kind of foodie who’s idea of shopping is grocery shopping, and the kind of foodie who loves stuffing her refrigerator with things that she would like to cook.

So who’s coming over for dinner tonight? 😉

 

Featured Image: HomeMaker at Pixabay

“I AM NOT HUNGRY IF YOU ARE GOING TO COOK”

I am from that population of Indian middle class women/ girls, who were/are never allowed/forced/asked/ had to enter kitchen before their alliance was fixed.  Studies were of paramount importance in my life then.  So distanced I was from kitchen even in a single room house that I was capable of burning even water if I was asked to boil it (I request you to not to take it too literally 😁).

The crux is I was miserable when it was about cooking. From choosing the wrong ingredient to choosing wrong technique, from overcooking to undercooking, I have been there done that all. If a person can overload something as simple and basic as instant noodles with salt you can imagine her expertise in spoiling the food and taste. Yes, that was me.

One instance from my “cookbook” (since it’s mine I can serve only incidents which are luckily not accidents and not recipes)  that I would remember till my memory power is intact and would like to share with you all on this page.

That was in the year 2004, I went to my friend’s place and was very hungry. I told her the same.  Within no time she rolled out flat bread (roti) for me and served along with a curry (a combination of a lentil and bottle-guard, a kind of vegetable). It was very delicious and pacified my hunger.  I was in awe of her culinary skills. So inspired she left me that I have decided to wear an apron and enter the kitchen.  Requested recipe and with head full of imaginations that I would dish out something sumptuous and receive praises from my family I reached my house.

It was Sunday, I announced that a delicious meal is on its way, I am going to cook today. Mom gave her consent and I debuted in kitchen.  Got the spices right, chopping done and everything gone into the process.  And I started off with flat breads. Aroma of spices soon engulfed the house.  I was so happy that I am on right track.

Before I could submerge myself into that feeling my flat breads started turning out to be burnt (not every single piece, but only a majority of them😂). I said to myself “it happens in trials” and turned to my curry and opened the lid. Appearance seemed so-so, not very pleasing. “Okay let everyone taste it first, sometimes appearance may be misleading” this is how I assured myself that everything will be fine.

As everyone was hungry I had to hurry up serving them. And my eyes were fixed on their faces to catch their unadulterated reaction to what went through their tongues to stomach. 😥😫 These emojis might explain you their plight then. The lentil was undercooked and spices almost left them with upset stomachs. Horrible is the word to be precise.

My brother, typical he is started pulling my leg. In fact he was right when he said “In which part of the world is this called FOOD? Thanks for making us fast dear” and left my parents in splits and made me frown. My father was more encouraging and said “Keep on trying, it’s just the beginning”.

That surely lifted my spirit and I requested for one more chance and wanted to try a new dish in the evening. Everyone, especially my brother was taken aback and turned to my father and said “Please save us from going to bed in hunger, please cook something that has your signature (my father was a great cook)”.

When I insisted on being given a chance my brother declared “I am not hungry if you are going to cook”😔.

That day gave me a lesson for life “Don’t try to sprint before learning to walk or else be ready to fall flat on face”

I could have started with little help in kitchen rather than taking a huge leap of cooking an entire meal that day😀.

Do share your kitchen experiences/nightmares, whatever they are. I am all ears 😀.

A TALE OF A FOODIE

A kitchen always fascinated and attracted me. Nevertheless, My early days of being in the kitchen were to just eat and relish the taste of yummy food that my mom prepared for me. It was a routine for me to wake up to the aromatic realm of food prepared from the kitchen. I actually recollect the good old days when my mom woke me up with just the smell of a morning tea.

Being born in a traditional south Indian family – my home always smelled of South India delicacies like Sambar, Rasam etc. My holidays morning were awakened by the fresh smell of coriander leaves which my mom put in the Sambar which is bubbling on the stove. I always adored the way she cooked, imagined that one day I would be a fine cook like her.

I was mocked many times being a foodie. I ignored many and actually crushed many of the faces in my dreams when they tease me being a foodie. A good appetite is for the blessed ones – And I consider myself blessed for the same.

Even though I had small and fine encounters at cooking at home even before I got married. The real encounter scared the hell out of me like every other newlywed. Still, I just walked into the battle room like an unmatched warrior with the hope to accomplish my reign in the Kitchen.

It was a long struggle for perfection and imperfection for a while. Thanks to those who were patiently waiting for me to deliver perfect un-burned and well-balanced food on the table. Like all, I never enjoyed cooking then, as it was just a burden on my shoulder.

Things changed when I actually got to get good appreciation, a kind gesture that actually motivated me to cook better. My journey as a foodie propelled to become a more like a chef now. I enjoyed the aroma that actually filled in my kitchen while I cooked. Bringing the fresh memories of my mom’s kitchen.

I knew cooking was truly an art- I wanted to be an Artist then.

I took the baby steps in learning new methods and even started baking for my kids. Repetitive failure attempts and lots of wastage and finally I enjoyed the “true joy of cooking“.

Being a foodie, I luxuriate in relishing every taste my tongue could find. I loved experimenting all kind of cuisines. Fresh and new tastes always excited me. Even though I am scared of eating different varieties because of few uncanny incidents, I enjoyed watching all kind of cookery shows.

I recollect my days when actually I ended up cooking things I see on TV but yet landed up in totally unmatched dishes on a table which looked not even close to what it looks in magazines and online portals. I finally convinced myself that food colors are not my cup of tea- it is just Photography skills ;P.

Serving is my joy when it comes to food. I cannot see anyone starving or go empty stomach, hence cooking turned me completely into a mom. I actually transformed into someone who can actually eat half or even sleep empty stomach by letting others fill in well.

Being a foodie completely changed my life aspects.

TRAITS OF A RELIGIOUS FOODIE

Google defines a foodie as  “foodie is a person who has an ardent or refined interest in food and alcoholic beverages.” However in my dictionary, a foodie is a person who need not have a refined taste but is madly and blindly in love with food and can be even obsessed with its thoughts such as he may not only eat but would also work, talk and sleep with food! With this thought in my mind, let me compile here a hilarious fact file of all great foodies based on my personal observations and experiences. So here it goes:-

1. Foodies are more interested in satisfying their taste buds’ desires than their stomachs’ actual need.

2. Foodies have an awesome diet plan. Respecting the word ‘healthy diet’, they will choose nutritious foods, however the additional layers and flavors added to such healthy foods will be so fatty that the whole diet becomes a mock! Some of the foodies even wake up feeling motivated about how they would get their bodies in shape by controlling their tongues but you ask them by the end of the day when they end up on their usual diet, their reply would be:- “Oh, looks really don’t matter!’’ or they would say ,“There is only one life, so we need to live extravagantly!’’Believe me there is actually no guilt..lol.

3. Foodies might indulge in prudent budgeting while buying necessities but when it comes to delicious food that seems tempting, there would be no second thought irrespective of whatever be the price!

4. For all the youngsters like me, if we are ever given the option of choosing between gorging on our favorite dish or going on a date with our crushes ; guess what will we choose!?Of course food is more important, chuck off the date!

5. Foodies  are never fussy about food. They enjoy all kinds and varieties of cuisines and dishes. Also they love experimenting new tastes when it comes to food!

6. Yummy food makes foodies more happy than expensive gifts!

7. Foodies serve their guests well. If they like some particular dish, they would desperately want all their loved ones to taste it and eventually like it too!

8. If foodies are ever asked about their favorite dishes or cuisines, they would land in deep speculation  to pick one out of the hundreds.

9. To check if one is actually a foodie or not, just let the guests be out or don’t  give them the regular glances, one would observe that foodies would be the first one to attack the food and devour them!

10. No matter how full one is, the foodie will always have an extra space in the stomach to taste the unexplored!

11. This one is a warning in disguise that is never ask a foodie to just taste a dish, he may end up licking up the whole plate!

12. This is a comical truth that some of the foodies keep aside their brains while devouring their favorite dishes. Rather they ignore their inner voice giving themselves excuses. For example , they know street food may not always be hygienic or healthy yet they love to overeat justifying themselves that it is just once in a while !

Thus now you can probably guess that the way to a foodie’s heart goes via delicious food! So now my I leave it to my dear readers to decide the extent to which they agree with my funny facts mentioned above!

I Hope you all enjoyed reading the fact file.

BE FOOD WISE

A couple of months back, I stumbled upon an old dusty book – ‘Food is Your Best Medicine’ by Dr. Henry G. Bieler. Curious about its content, I got it issued from the library and started reading it. Each page spelled wisdom! Dr. Bieler was a physician who shot to fame in 1965 with this book. On discovering the wonders of a good diet, he stopped prescribing medicines to his patients and switched to diet therapy. His colleagues, at that time, thought that he had lost his mind. But, as he describes case after case which responded to his way of treatment with food, one finds much sense in it. Bieler’s thesis was simple: you are what you eat, and opting for whole natural foods – as opposed to fast and convenience foods and sugary desserts – is crucial to optimum health.

The wisdom imparted by Dr. Bieler in his book is unchallengeable! But as I reflected and introspected, I realised that it is definitely not easy to give up our daily food habits for a stricter dietary regimen though the benefits are manifold to reap. It would sure take a super strong determination to follow the healthy diet pattern.

As it is said – some eat to live while some live to eat! Both groups co-exist in harmony unless of course either group moves towards the extremes.

The world scenario has greatly changed. From agricultural food products to processed, packaged and genetically modified (GM) food products, is quite a transition. Street food tickles the tongue more than hygienic home-cooked food. A bag of wafers and a bowl of popcorns make the day for teens and adults alike. Gelatos, faludas, sundaes and the like – rule the day. We call it advancement. Yes, they indeed are aftereffects of the various food and innovation revolutions that constantly hit the world.

To suggest to let go of all fun foods would be an extreme prescription that would remain limited to the extent of this article. The key word however is ‘moderation’. Afterall health and happiness are close cousins! To help them remain closely bonded, moderation is of utmost requirement. Eat what suits your biology, enjoy eating, but keep a check on how much you are eating.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations observes World Food Day on 16th October every year. This year’s theme was – Change the future of Migration. Invest in food security and rural development. The world today is more volatile than it was ever before. Each year the newspapers are flooded with news about refugee crises and migration issues. The developed nations have begun to feel burdened by the influx of migrants. In such a scenario, emphasis on food security and rural development is a must.

In cities, people don’t generally feel the hunger pangs as the rural people do. Even after massive developments and food revolutions, people especially in Asian and African countries die of starvation and malnutrition. What then is our duty as aware citizens? Should the policy framing and implementation be left to the sole prerogative of the governments?

Tiny steps make way for mega changes. Even as we guard our own dietary patterns, let’s also focus on the those hungry and starved people around us. Not all of them can be seen begging for alms. So, the challenge is to identify them and cater to them.

Another crucial value that needs to be inculcated is to avoid wastage of food. Here we waste food and there someone dies without a morsel! Not that avoiding food wastage would instantly reduce hunger deaths. But, it would awaken our conscience and make us grateful for every bite we take.

So, eat healthy, eat in moderation, eat happily without grumbling and share what you eat to show your love and care for those who have not many to care for them.