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I am a professional and a cook,rather a cook by choice and passion.Cooking is something I fantasise about.When I first thought of starting a blog,a thousand ideas coursed through my mind,albeit,none stood the sands of time.Except for the thought of a food blog accompanied by subtle nuances from daily life and from the world around me!



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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Yesterday once more...of crispy French Toast and crispier memories

This is the first Food Fiction entry in my blog.And thanks to Bong Mom,Sra and Aquadaze,this is also my entry to Aquadaze's event 'Of chalks and chopsticks'.Thanks to the trio for coaxing out our writing juices from their shrivelled selves...Happy reading!:)

I fell in love the first time when I was 16.The first day he came over to our place,it was an official visit.He was supposed to give me lessons in maths.Not a regular teacher but to help me out with my studies.An erudite elder cousin,whom my mother had somehow yoked in to tutor me,was finding it hard to make time and so he had brought in a close friend to do it.I passed on my textbook for him to take a look and he motioned me to sit down.Sitting close to him I felt weird.He pored into the book while I stole glances.He was not handsome but there was a simple elegance about him. He had a stoic look in his eyes but the gaze was soft and went deep inside.This way or the other,I was not interested somehow to be taught by him and the initial reaction was disappointment.I was angry with my cousin!

The lessons went on and before long I forgot being angry.He had a nice way of teaching.He had a strange calming aura which he wore around him always.He would be in the moment always,not in the past not in the future.And the gaze.Behind his glasses,he had soft sensitive kind eyes.As the lessons went on,I gradually found myself waiting for his classes.

My Maa made lovely crispy French toast almost everyday that he would come over for my classes.She would break the eggs,mix in the chopped onions and green chillies and with an expert hand,strew over a pinch of salt.White loaves of bread would be cut into halves,dipped in the beaten eggs and soon the aroma of fried eggs and onions would waft through as he would delve deeper into explaining the equation of a hyperbolic curve.One evening,when the table had become too crammed with books,Maa asked me to pass on the plate to him.I was passing it over to him,when our hands touched.It was unintentional,but it took me a second to retrace my hand.He did'nt look up but the sensation took time to go.Something struck me somewhere and that night I lay awake thinking of nothing in particular.It was a hitherto unknown feeling.I thought And thought and everything seemed to be hazy.There was something going on in my head...but I knew not what.

The next morning I knew what it was.I was surprised and happy.I never realized that I had actually started liking the person so much.And French toast.It somehow reminded me of our classes and of him.I said a silent prayer.

I started waiting up for the days when he would visit.He was slowly getting into the intricacies of the real world.His studies were getting over and it was time to think about life ahead.I had a pretty blurred view of all this and thinking about that would seem like the last thing to do at that moment.It was now a long time that we had met and he was much warmer than before.His stolid and firm countenance now gave way to a subtle smile which would now appear quite often on his face.I would muster the courage to cough up convenient one-liners which he would appreciate and enjoy.If the smile on his face would be because of what I said, I would feel like the drudgery of the whole day has been washed away in a second.And I would glow inside.

I passed my tests with flying colors and the grades surprised even him.He was happy and I was the happiest.I had done something to make him smile his beautiful smile again.It felt like the best time of my life.But then the truth started setting in.He had just got a splendid opportunity to study overseas and it would build him a good future.To me it was heartbreaking to even think him go,but I kept my feeling of disappointment from him. I never understood if he ever realised how I felt about him and my naivete kept me from letting him know.But I knew that he enjoyed my company.Or so I thought.

He left after a final and proper goodbye at our home.That evening I felt rotten to the hilt.It felt as if the juices of a succulent life had withdrawn from my insides leaving it wiry and emaciated.I felt hollow.The smile of my face stood perfect and not for one second did I show him the remorse I had.I never wanted him to leave and I never wanted the evening to end.I kept on watching him go from our balcony.Something told me that maybe I had lost him forever.

But I was wrong.The first letter arrived and it was a total surprise.Ohh,so he remembers me,I thought with glee!I tried to smell him inside the folds of the letter.He had touched it with his hands,penned down the words.He was there all over it.I was overwhelmed and sure that he had finally understood my feeling.It was a battle half won,almost effortlessly.The letter told me that he had taken out time in between his numerous chores to write the letter.And he asked me the recipe for French toast-the way my Maa made it.lt brought me closer to him as I never had before.I was finally getting to be a part of his life...maybe.

The letters gradually cut down on the number of pages.It would initially be four or five pages,scribbled on both sides.The later ones would no longer need to be stapled.That would be obvious,I reasoned to myself;his courseload must be getting heavier and that would naturally leave him with less time to write me long letters.But it hurt somewhere.It was always as if I expected this every moment but could not accept it when it actually happened.Because inside me,I hated this to happen.The letters grew few and far between and finally stopped coming.I almost said to myself that I should no longer be expecting anything more.I had after all never made it clear to him.The usual knack for taking responsibility for everything that I was not even responsible for took over me.

But then he remembered me.Almost two years had passed by,when he visited us again.I was both happy and dismayed to see him.All this time I could never forget him.He was there with me every moment that I lived.When I failed to concentrate on my studies, his eyes would give me a gentle stare and I would be back to work.I lived and breathed him.Without him knowing even an ounce of it.I was amazed at myself.I wanted to tell him how badly I wanted his presence back but I only managed a curt smile.The small talk came to a pregnant silence when he reached into his duffel bag and brought out his wedding card.He was getting married.And the purpose of his visit was to invite us to his wedding,the most important event of his life.My insides suddenly grew cold;so cold that I could not feel the life inside it.My mind went blank.I let out a jolly smile and asked him how he fell in love.He happily narrated how he had fallen in love with this girl who had been a friend of one of his closest friends.It was not love at first sight but the subsequent meetings had gradually brought them closer.So close that one day they realised that it was time to walk down the aisle.My breath got stuck somewhere in the abyss of my dark black heart and I felt ill at ease.

It was time for him to leave again.I offered to walk him to the door.The happiness in his heart had made him such a changed man.He seemed happier,merrier and more cheerful than I ever had seen him be.I realised that he has found his ultimate happiness almost the same time that I lost mine.We engaged in unnecessary small talk.I wanted the door to be nearer than ever before.Bidding him a passive goodbye,I could feel him look at me.The soft sensitive guileless eyes as he walked down the stairs.I froze that moment in time.I knew there were things that would remind me of him...the aroma of Maa's French toast,my math textbooks,the memories of our brief time together...and I promised to live with all of it my life.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Soul curry and a New Year!Subho Noboborsho!

I celebrated the Bengali New Year at home in India this year!The year 1417(lest you get petrified,the Indian-Bengali calendar does have a different calculation and algorithm altogether,hence the year is not 2010 but 1417!) seeped into me very smoothly and joyfully over delectable Bengali recipes prepared very lovingly by my Maa,who was seeing her little one home after quite some time:).

 Life here is so different from the place 20 hours away...but it seems cakewalk now to gel smoothly into wherever I am at whichever time.Just 20 hours ago,I would be trotting the sidewalk,running to catch the Transit bus to work and a mere 20 hours later,I would be basking in the glory of having my family fussing over me,over my 'unecessarily' busy schedule at work in a foreign land,over my 'ruining' health and slimmed-down waistline,which to me seems chic and trendy though!;)Idiosyncracies of a race amuse me.Seems quite imposing and beleaguring at times when one is suddently faced with the proposition of having the reigns of one life affectionately seized from one's hands.I agree that my ways are at times uncouth,the lifestyle in shambles...but still there is a certain zing is all the disarray.But then probably the emotions and affections of people who care for you actually lies bundled up somewhere in their assumed ownership over your life.A difficult situation to comprehend but a heart-warming thought to cherish:)I'm sure you must have had a feel of this subtle affection some way and sometime in your life,have'nt you?

Be that as it may,I had a hearty time feasting on all the lip-smacking delicacies!I thought of posting the recipe for 'Chingri maach diye doi fulkopi' or Cauliflower curry in yogurt sauce with shrimp.This is a lovely hot and sweet preparation with the spiciness of a curry laced with the piquance of yogurt, infused althrough with the subtle sweetness of juicy,turgid raisins.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Thoughts of the past and musings for the future

A friend of mine just had her baby boy.There have been quite a few warm heart-melting moments in the past couple of weeks with news from baby boomers pitter-pattering in from all sides!First it was a friend from college who surprised us with photos of her cute baby girl,born just the day before.We never smelt a rat when she seemed to be lying low and undoubtedly,it was a blissfully joyful secret unearthed when we saw the little one puckering at us from her posted photos!Another couple overwhelmed us with the news that they are expecting their bundle of joy soon and gradually we realised that we were going to have a suprisingly huge number of baby showers almost at the same time!:)

All the way,the thought that nested in my mind was that I was witnessing the brewing of another generation - our next generation.So amusing to think that just a couple of decades earlier,the generation of our parents had been in the same shoes!Elvis,ABBA and Harry Belafonte may have dominated their musical obsessions,bell-bottoms might have been in vogue;the Beatles might have been taking the world by storm and George Harrison must have been learning Sitar from the maestro himself.But the thoughts,the emotions,the happiness and the nitty gritties of daily life must have the same,albeit in different times and different climes.

As I drummed away on the keyboard,putting in my musings,I thought,maybe another couple of decades from now,someone from the following generation will think the same thought;there might have been someone who had thought the same thoughts and laughed them away.I smiled to myself over my silly thoughts and realised,that every generation smirks at the old and embraces the new,only to realise that the new will soon turn into someone else's old someday.That,I guess,is how the world in made!

Heavy thoughts and hard introspections soon left me exhausted and the ticking of the clock reminded me that I would be having some friends coming in.I decided to try out a dessert which is a very popular Bengali dessert item - the 'Patishapta'. It is basically a rice flour crepe filled in with rich and sweetened coconut filling and is doled out on some special occasions in Bengali homes.Often,it also finds a place as a dessert item and a very coveted one at that!Traditionally,preparing 'Patishapta' is quite a time-taking process and needs the virtues of delicate handling and undeterred patience.But since I have always been generously credited with having neither,I can assuage you that preparing it is no such uphill task as commonly grapevined.I tried to innovate a bit and added a touch of vermicelli to my Patishapta(do excuse my recent obsession with vermicelli!),but traditionally rice flour-sugar-coconut constitute the basic trio of this popular dessert.
Linking up my post to April's place at 'The 21st Century Housewife's Kitchen©' and 'Tuesdays at the Table' at Cole's place. Enjoy!

Friday, April 9, 2010

The happy hangover

It feels like the hangover has not yet left me...and ohh,what a hangover it was!We had planned for a big trip this Easter weekend;a visit to a hitherto unexplored echelon of Ontario - the National Capital Region of Ottawa (pronounced somewhat like 'Auto-wa')

 When the car first cruised into the outskirts of Ottawa, the first strains of the heaviness of a capital city struck my mind.Headquarters of a couple of corporate biggies whizzed by and somehow,the charm of Toronto still seemed overwhelming to me.A tour agency had managed to book quite suave rooms in an upstate hotel in downtown Ottawa, breathing past the heavy long weekend rush,and, a breathtaking view of the Ottawa river from my Hotel room left me spellbound.I was slowly coming out of my stupor and it took time to realise that I was  in the capital city after all!

 We stayed on for three days.Our itinerary dictated a visit to splendid Parliament Hill,housing the Parliament of Canada,bordered by the Ottawa river on the north-west and the Rideau Canal on the east.

Wandering through downtown Ottawa,we were left speechless by the European ambience that hung unto each nook and cranny of this part of the dominion.Road signs bearing the word 'Rue' (French for 'Road') caught our eyes as we clambered on over cobbled streets.A sign saying 'Mamma Grazzi's Kitchen' hung from a wrought iron bar atop a wooden door in a cobbled courtyard along George Street.

People everywhere seemed to drink in the mirth of the mood,lazing about on roadside pubs,under the warm,tepid sun.
A perky young man with intent blue eyes sat kneeling,gauging the cobbled sidewalk with his trained sight - by night time, the angelic face of a young lady in serene pastel shades adorned the stretch on the sidewalk,covered by a sheer plastic sheet taped at the corners.The rustle of the sheet in the gnawing breeze warned people walking by not to step over mistakenly;the skilled strokes had almost meted the colors onto the cobbled canvas!

A visit to the early 19th century ByWard Market area brought us full circle - the mystical blend of the old and the new.Goverment offices housed in quaint castles contrasted the chic corporate buildings across the sidewalk.The feeling of witnessing the glorious old,still so resplendent in all fervor and standing tall,restored my faith in providence.

Coming back from our short but memorable tour,a surge of adrenaline accompanies my every effort to relate to all and sundry,the charm of it all!A visit to a capital city,a finely blended concoction of generations and culture etched in memory forever!

I had a recipe in mind today,but I decided to keep it off today's post just to let my readers revel in the goodness of all that I have just experienced.Sorry for coaxing a travelogue in between!Just a whimsical thought to share vignettes that I gathered along the way...so long,happy reading!:)