Grandmother Power

* This was meant to be posted leading up to Mother’s day as part of a campaign paying homage to Grandmothers. I could’t do it then but I thought I would post anyway, even though it’s late*

With a cup of sweet milky tea in one hand and a cigarette in the other; a husky voice and a deep, throaty laugh; a witty quip in one pocket and a soothing handkerchief in the other; she was a woman that everyone loved.

With thick grey hair that told stories of a life fully lived, and soft wrinkly skin that showed experiences fully had, she was both a gentle soul and a fierce lioness.

From the scrawny neighbourhood kid, to the friendly milk man, the doctor doing his rounds, and the drunkard down the road, she was known simply as Gran…

…the Light that safely brought to shore the broken, the wrecked and the wary. The most wretched of sailors would find a warm, comforting meal at her table just as the most gentlemanly would.

If you found yourself out in the cold or staggering in the dark, alone or misunderstood, the intoxicating smell of thyme would lead you back into her kitchen, her table and the embrace of her food.

With not a question asked or a cross word spoken, she would talk, laugh and tease you, all the while quietly weaving something magical from her heart through her hands and into the food, so that with every bite that you took, you would feel like you’ve come home.

And there is nothing quite like feeling you’ve come home. That she knew.

Of course she had her own little secrets in the kitchen. Like the special ingredients in her mac and cheese, the special way that she fried her steak and the special flavour in her tomato gravy.

She didn’t go to culinary school, take a course or read a book to learn how to cook. She just did it. With love. A smile. And a story.

Those were her most special ingredients. And that is why she made you feel so good. And that is why she is missed so terribly.

Now I can’t give away all her secrets but I can give you a few tips that I’ve learnt:

  • When you receive visitors into your home, move your ass into the kitchen
  • While you hit those pots, tell a story, crack a joke or just smile
  • Make more than you need, dish up more than you should
  • Always take a slice of bread and soak up all the goodness at the bottom of the pot/pan because that’s where all the flavour is
  • End with a cup of sweet, milky tea

I sometimes think the act of bringing food is one of the basic roots of all relationships. – Dalai Lama

I think Gran knew the Dalai Lama too.

Back in the day!

Back in the day!

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L&LtakeNYC: Curry snobs, chasing the flavor

Thank God for pistachio, cardamom and chillies. Thank God for the waiter getting the order wrong. And thank God for Halloween.

And I suppose I should say thank God for laughter too because this is all we could do. This is all a curry snob can do when they decide to listen to reviews.

The Place

We, the 2L’s, found ourselves in the heart of Curry Hill on Lexington Ave, in a restaurant called Dhaba. A pretty decent looking place, cosy in size and of course with tons of great reviews.

After a bit of indecisiveness we eventually ordered up the same. 2 vegetable samosas, 2 shrimp curries, 1 tadka dal, 1 rice portion and 1 garlic naan. And intuitively, 2 masala teas too.

Now if you were born and raised in Durban like we were, you’ll know that curry and rice is standard fare. Eating and cooking curry is a ritual that goes back at least 3 generations in our family.

So the general expectation is that if you are going to do Indian eat out/take out it better be good. Damn good. It’s pointless getting a curry that tastes worse than your own. Isn’t it?

The service

Now I suppose we should have known something was up when we asked for the wi-fi password and were firstly ignored and then later told no.

A few more questions and requests to the waiters and we realised we were facing a zombie infiltration. Blank stares and unintelligible sounds coming out of their mouths. Early Halloween perhaps?

The food

The samosas came and went, bleh.

When the rest of the food arrived we immediately realised that we were 1 shrimp curry short. Given the zombie situation we decided on silence. And a good thing at that.

L1 dipped straight into the garlic naan and shrimp curry. L2, attacked the rice and tadka dal. The look on L1’s face told L2 something was desperately wrong. Quick switch.

L2 summons the zombie. Now if L2, the quieter of the 2L’s, calls on the zombie then something must be seriously wrong.

Zombie 1 arrives with a resulting apocalyptic breakdown in communication. Cue to the arrival of zombie 2. The removal of the bowl of shrimp curry a vague indication that some form of understanding was reached.

To put it simply the shrimp curry was not really a curry. Not in our world anyways. It was bland, bland and blander. No spice, no flavour, no heat . Temperature wise or spice wise.

L2 sent it back because it was luke warm and asked for some chillies to be added.

Well, it came back, as watered down as ever with another small bowl of whole green chillies. A first for us. I mean, just imagine sitting at a restaurant table and chopping up your own green chillies to add to the curry.

The chillies helped make a shitty shrimp curry less shitty but still shitty, if you know what I mean. And where the shrimp curry was tasteless, the garlic naan was too tasty. As in the garlic overpowered everything else.

Perhaps sensing our displeasure the manager arrived with two complimentary desserts. Rasmalai which is cheese balls in reduced sweet milk and pistachios and the other, Tawle Ka Gulab Jamun, fried milk balls in cardamom flavoured sugar syrup.

The Rasmalai was really good but not good enough to save the entire meal. When you’re a curry snob and you’re chasing the flavor of a curry you can call damn good, the extras don’t count.

Now usually we would not do reviews .We would simply not return. But let’s just say for Halloween sake here is our first restaurant review:

Above par :

  • Masala tea
  • Tadka dal
  • Rasmalai

Below par:

  • Shrimp curry
  • Garlic naan
  • Samosa

Being the snobs that we are, we should have just taken the 50 dollars, bought all the ingredients PLUS a bottle of wine, gone home and cooked up a storm a la Floyd.

Curry snob tip: In Manhattan, go fine dining for Indian especially if you are familiar with Indian food.

For Phili She Pines

It’s this time of year when I start stripping. In the privacy of my own home I mean, and maybe for a few of my neighbors. No-one’s complained yet so I’m guessing its all good. We are well into averaging 30 degree Celsius weather now with a good dose of humidity, just in case the heat alone wasn’t enough. I mean sweating before 9am just isn’t pretty. In my previous post I spoke about how this weather makes me wish for a beer and gets me thinking about holidays. Well, here is another good place to enjoy a beer:

In the Philipines, a San Miguel in hand. If Mozambique is an African paradise then the Philipines is an Asian paradise. We spent 2 days in Manila, I would skip that (unless you enjoy a seedy kinda environment then by all means do your thing) and transfer directly to Puerto Princessa.

There are many things to do in Puerto Princessa, namely the Underground River which is now one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World or something along those lines. That was ok, but even more spectacular though was the food at Kinabuch’s restaurant. You can tell what my priorities are, can’t you? Please have the garlic prawns, pretty pretty please.

After a short stay in Puerto Princessa, and a horrific 6 hour mini bus ride on gravel road we arrived in a little piece of heaven and our REAL holiday began.

 

Due to the difficulty in getting to El Nido, not that many tourists venture there. Possibly also because there is no electricity between 6am and 2pm. We had no bookings, no accommodation and no plan. No problem. Head straight to the Art Cafe where all central intelligence is held.

We stayed at Rosanna’s Cottages. This is the view from our deck:

Here’s how you know you’ve had a good holiday:

finishing a book under a palm tree ( kafka on the shore by haruki murakami)

walking along old streets that haven’t had a modern make-over:

chilling on a private island

pinocaladas, fresh barbecued fish on the beach, chatting to old friends & meeting new ones

some adventure

 

finding secluded beaches

having too many cocktails which nobody ever needs to know about

and watching sunsets (which speak for themselves)

P A R A D I S E!

Detox, de-tach, de- clutter

I think we all face the reality of a detox at some point in our lives. Sometimes we do it and sometimes fear stops us from taking the “next step”. It could be a detox necessary for our health, body, mind, spirit and sometimes just a toxic relationship. If you do decide to detox you’ll find that one area automatically affects another. It’s like a domino effect. The body releases toxins and you start to feel healthier, then your thoughts become clearer, feelings and emotions rise to the surface which can then be dealt with etc etc. I think this is a great blog to read if you want to take that next step or if you just curious to know what this detox thing is about.

Leanne Tee

There is nothing heroic about doing a detox but the accomplishment can em-power you.

I’d like to say that the idea to detox came “out of the blue” but on reflection I think it’s more accurate to say it was a subliminal message (i.e. feeling) from my body to self that I happened to acknowledge. And then when I tuned into a testimonial TV ad about body cleansing and detoxing I took it as a sure sign from the universe. So I obliged.

After some research, I decided on a juice detox and went with the beginner cleanse option. Being new to the idea of juice for food I figured this would be best. The key concept here is to replace solid food for liquid food that contains combinations of greens and fruit. Yummy!

Pre-detox.

I wouldn’t want to overstate my position and say I was in a dire situation…

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A sobering moment

On Friday I was in a food coma. I was not hospitalised luckily, but I was confined to my bed like a beached whale. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t hear, I couldn’t talk and I couldn’t see properly. Everything around me was a blur; I couldn’t even bring myself to turn on the television. I just lay there asking myself why would I do this to ME, why? Why? Why?

Naturally this was self inflicted. Let me backtrack a little to give you some context. Last week I launched the #STOPJANANDA2012 campaign. This campaign’s goal is to essentially get me back to fitting into my jeans without looking like a muffin top, for my triumphant return HOME. And up and until Friday at exactly 5:30pm everything was going swimmingly well. I took my mother’s advice for breakfast, which is to eat only half the portion you would normally eat. So I had half the amount of cereal. And I took Commonsense’s advice for lunch and had chicken salad, an apple and yoghurt every day. Now I’m not gonna lie to you. Dinner time was a little wobbly on some days, I wouldn’t say I fell off the campaign trail but I came pretty close.

And then Friday happened.  On my walk home from school, I passed a pizza place. Firstly the smells wafting from the oven drew me in like a snake charmer’s whistle, and then, the warmth and safe shelter it offered from the cold rain outside found me inside the door, and then finally, I saw George Clooney’s face on the pizza saying, “You want me, take me, have me”. Now we all know I can’t resist George and those bedroom eyes and seductive smile so I wanted him, took him and had him. And boy, did I pay the price for my sluttony. Some people need to hit rock bottom to change their situation and I guess I am one of those ”some people”.  The “during” part of devouring George was sensational but the after effects were disastrous. Just ask the beached whale.

Like I said, luckily for me I wasn’t hospitalised so on Saturday morning I rolled out of bed and saw that my ex-almost-sister-in-law had sent me a healthy recipe to try. Determined to regain some dignity and self respect from the morning- after -guilty-conscience which we tend to feel after a night of sluttony, I scrambled to find some paper to write down the said recipe. Of course, none to be found but what I did find is a notebook from 2006 which I brought with me to Korea. I don’t know why but in that notebook in my own handwriting, amongst other things, I wrote, “At some point we all need to have a sobering moment”.  And at that point I knew the Universe was talking to me, so I sat down and had my sobering moment.

If your body is your temple, and I believe it is, and it happens to house things as precious as your heart and soul, why would you do anything to harm it? This was my sobering question.  Now I don’t want to bore you with stories about the army of deep scars that hide in dark holes in my soul, that come out just to taunt my insecurities, which ultimately leads to the sluttonous behaviour. But I do want to share with you how I came to the decision to put up the GOOD FIGHT for the #STOPJANANDA2012 campaign.

Over a year ago, I went on holiday to the Philippines and experienced one of the greatest lessons people get philosophical about all the time.  A friend and I decided to hire motorbikes and a do a day trip around one of the islands. Now we were warned that only a short stretch of the trip would be tar and the rest would be gravel but we thought, hey, how hard could this be.  Indeed.

I wore sandals, not a good idea. Stones tend to fly when you least expect it. I wore a little summer dress, not a good idea. The sun blazes and burns when you least expect it.  The vegetation scratches and hurts when you ride into it. I don’t know how to dance, not a good thing when your bike is doing the electric slide across the road. I can’t break evenly, not a good idea when you about to cartwheel  head first down a hill. I fell off, I got up, I got wedged between the bike and the side of a cliff, and I got on again. We got lost, we continued. Eventually, gravel turned to sand and road turned to a narrow “walking path”. The open road turned to thick green vegetation enveloping us. I didn’t know where we were or how we got there. I couldn’t see where we were going. But just as it seemed as if we were heading to a precarious place called, nowhere, we happened upon this.

An untouched, naturally beautiful, secluded beach, just for us.  I’ve never seen anything more picturesque. And that’s when my friend turned to me and said, “This is a good metaphor for life. Sometimes you have to go through hardship to reach a place of beauty”.  And we sure did have to travel through a long rough gravel road to find this little piece of heaven. And all through the trip we never complained, never worried, never gave up. Each little thing that had happened all formed part of the greater adventure.

Fast forward to today and I’m thinking about how you have to go through hardship to reach a place of beauty. If I’m going to lead the #STOPJANANDA2012 campaign then I need to put my big girl panties back on and continue on the campaign trail. I have to do the work, have the discipline, go through the tough times and get to my little piece of heaven. My campaign manifesto is to try any and all suggestions given to me.  Today it was the healthy recipe from my ex-almost-sister-in-law.

I have to admit to being like a manic banshee trying to make this and take pics. I am no photographer, not even close. So if the pictures don’t do this meal justice I urge you to try it here. Scroll down the comments for the ingredients.

The ingredients

The salad:

The chicken stir fry:

Put a bit of the chicken stir fry and salad in a lettuce leaf and wrap it up and eat it:

It was healthy & DELICIOUS. It tasted of summer – fresh, zesty and light. It made me feel the same way I felt at the end of that long rewarding day in the Philippines – serenely happy & content.

PS my sister suggested a detox. I have to do it now. Pray for my students.