Thursday, December 29, 2011

A yummy year end...

If you thought that my culinary experimentation had gone cold after the self lauding post here, you couldn't be more wrong. The dipping mercury, all the time in hand, and that unmistakable love for good food has ensured that I keep busy with cooking all the stuff that I would want to have. Being in the kitchen in the winter is a nice warm feeling and plus the layers of extra clothing ensures that the million calories go unnoticed. [I swear I have never dreaded spring/summer so much before. Come the new year, and whether there is rain or hail, I promise to hit the gym :(]. But aren't resolutions for new year; let's just enjoy the yummy year ends now :)...

So here's presenting to you my new feats...

Everyday Experiments
We had some friends over for dinner a couple of times giving me the opportunity to expand my guinea pig base :D. In addition to my forte (*wink* *wink*), I tried out the malai kofta for the first time ever. The koftas were not very shapely but I was reasonable satisfied by the end result. I followed Manjula's Kitchen for this one. This pic is straight from the wok...

I tried my hand at some maida crispies. The recipe is ridiculously simple, but the product is a hit especially at tea time...

Had to make some goodies to fill a friend's bakeware that she had brought along (with food ofcourse :)) for a dinner at our place. And the self-proclaimed baking expert that I have now become, dished out these simple yet awesome chocolate walnut muffins. These are much dryer than the cup cakes I did earlier, and make great accompaniments to your coffee. Recipe here; and picture below :D.

Thanksgiving Specials
Just the two of us, so moong daal kachoris with aloo sabzi was the main course. The recipes I followed are here and here. The kachoris came out so nice and crisp - good enough to warrant a snap...:D

For dessert, I made a German Apple Cake with Pecans. Here's the recipe; just add a cup full of chopped pecans to it for added flavor. Here's the picture. It looks a little bland and dry in the pic but that's because this was taken when it was just out of the oven. Infact the cake is quite moist and refrigerates well. No topping for this one as I wanted to store it for long. To serve each time, I warmed it a little and poured some maple syrup over it. Vish loved it with Vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup. 

Winter Specials
Winter is really the time for some good comfort food. And we did have a binging spree...
After my near disaster with rava laddoos earlier, this time, I placed my trust in Tarla Dalal's recipe for besan laddoos. And boy, I was so not disappointed. I had to put a little more besan than mentioned in the recipe because I felt there was too much ghee, and I didn't really want ghee dripping laddoos, so... The slight deviation did do me good. The laddoos came out extremely well and we finished the lot in no time at all.

Found an awesome chana daal kebab recipe that does not need too much oil - Tarla Dalal, obviously. Kebabs or tikkis, whatever you call them make a filling evening snack; we dined on it :).

If it is not already obvious, let me say it again, Vish and I have an enormous sweet tooth and well made halwas may well be our greatest undoing. Tried my hand at gajar/carrot halwa following the recipe here - it was okay, came out a little too creamier for our tastes - and that is obvious from the pic too.

I then tried making doodhi/lauki/bottlegourd halwa, following the recipe here. The picture doesn't look great but it was one of the best halwaas that I have had (and not made, please note :P), plus I did not use any food coloring.

Christmas Special!!!
Save the best for the last they say; and this one actually takes the cake - quite literally. Attempted the Christmas Special - Fruit Cake with Rum and Wine (recipe here) - and it is the richest and the best cake I have ever baked. Following the instructions, I had soaked the fruits in rum, wine and spices for a week and let the cake rest for a week after being baked. Come Christmas evening, and the cake tasted delicious - all thanks to the wonderful recipe - the spices and liquor gave it a wonderful kick and according to Vish, we must celebrate Christmas more often :).

( I have this one still in my refrigerator, stop by if you can ;))

Adios 2011. And see you guys next year.

Monday, December 26, 2011

A blogging award for a merrier Christmas...

IHM is a very popular Indian blogger who primarily writes against injustices, violence, biases and atrocities committed on women. She recently announced THE BLOGSCARS: Tejaswee Rao Blogging Awards (after her daughter) wherein bloggers were invited to submit relevant blog posts under various categories that focused on feminism, women's issues and so on. Here's the complete list

I did submit a few of my own blog posts that I felt were relevant to the topics, and am really delighted to have won in the category, "The way a woman dresses...". My winning blog post is titled, "Dressed to kill!" and you can read it here.
Here's the award badge that I get to proudly display on my side panel. If you have the time, I would suggest that you read the other winning posts to at the link above. They make for some really good reading - informative and eye opening.

This, added to the short weekend trip (which I do hope to write about :)), did make my Christmas merrier. How have you been?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Zombie Jamboree

So, I have had an overdose of zombies in the last couple of years, thanks to my husband, really. Watching alive corpses eating others is not my idea of a movie day out or a popcorn night in but alas! And if you have seen the Danny Boyle 28 series (28 Days Later, 28 Weeks Later), I am Legend etc. in the recent years or the American sitcom, The Walking Dead, which was on air till last month, you know precisely what I am talking about.

In the last few weeks, I have been wondering that this obsession of primarily the western world with the zombie apocalypse is kind of unnerving. Yes, mysteries of the world are not completely known to us nor ever will be - The environment conditions, health conditions, ecological balance - all are being skewed in proportions that can bring about a viral or any other outbreak - the consequences of which we can only imagine. But this maniac churning of one movie after the other, mostly in US and Europe, looks like symptomatic of some deep rooted fear and masochistic/sadistic leanings. (Am I being overly judgmental here - maybe, maybe not)

A quick wiki search told me that zombie movies have been made since 1919. And let's not forget that the legendary Frankenstein was also a living corpse - in that sense, a zombie. I also did some reading around and realized that zombies or zombie like creatures find significant mention in most western, especially European folklore. Interestingly, in India, though we have a huge tradition of folk tales, there do not seem to be any references to zombie-like creatures. Is this then some cultural difference too? Correct me please, if I am wrong.

However, inspite of the "history", the spurt in post-apocalyptic movies is, undeniably, fairly recent. And what disturbs me the most is the raging success such movies enjoy. What do they show in these movies basically - the primal being - adrenaline rush - all that you are capable of is killing for survival - no emotions - devoid of feelings...
If only a few such movies were around, I'd guess they'd have the novelty factor and draw audiences - but I see the same kind of story line and goriness in all these zombie movies - irrespective of the language or the country they are made in. What kind of rush would such visuals give you? 

I have tried asking Vish this too, but all that I get is "you never know what will happen to this world - this is just one kind of interpretation - you have to be open to possibilities", and then the pop corn is passed over. 
Aaarrggghh - is it just men?

I'd rather watch a cute romantic flick that pleases my senses than keep my eyes shut for three-fourths of a movie and battle with the dirty after taste of all the blood and gore.
(Had I been in one of my other moods, I am sure would have done a post on how all these zombie movies are creations of men to keep the women scared and tied to them in theaters and at home - you know nothing like having a bodyguard to tackle the living dead than doing it on your own, however independent you might be :D)

What's your take?

[Image Source: Google Images]

Friday, December 16, 2011

Migratory (Birds)

Let’s pack our bags and leave -
In warmer places we’ll better thrive.
It’s getting cold and dry and barren;
Time has come to find another haven.

If we make it through winter,
Spring will bring sunny cheer;
And before the sun gets harsh,
It’s a promise, we’ll come back.

What we abandon is not home,
What we come back to, will surely be.
This flight we take is not last out;
There is no point of no-return.

It is the gift of wings that keeps us,
Safe from harm and free of fetters.
We are blessed by the heavens,
Like no other being has been.

Those tiny people you see below -
Envy us in their thoughts and verses.
They leave home and hearth and family,
Chasing the ever elusive perfect happiness.

They build bridges to reduce distances,
And walk miles on them without a care;
But when they grow tired, yearning to return -
Their paths lie burnt, and nobody awaits.

Monday, December 12, 2011

"In My Sky At Twilight"

Leisure days have given me one more boon - the time and space to watch the setting sun. Arizona skies are at their charming and vibrant best around this time of the year, especially during sunsets. And the best part - I do not have to go far to soak in the beauty of the golden ball melting into the horizon - it comes to me, right at my patio.

A cup of hot chocolate, gentle soulful music (Louis Armstorng, Beatles, Golden Oldies of Bollywood) in the background, my camera on the side, and in my hands - an anthology of poems through the eras, especially the Romantics - Wordsworth, Yeats, Keats, Shelley, and perhaps the greatest 20th century poet - Neruda...And our brightest star descending behind the mountains - yes, sometimes, life is truly beautiful and pristine...

There are days, when even through the clouds and the haze, the light fuzzes through, and I echo Pablo Neruda...

"I have seen from my window
the fiesta of sunset in the distant mountain tops."

And then, there are days, when the sky is less dramatic, picturesque nevertheless, and Wordsworth does perfect justice to the scape...

"Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting: 
The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star, 
Hath had elsewhere its setting, 
And cometh from afar: 
Not in entire forgetfulness, 
And not in utter nakedness, 
But trailing clouds of glory do we come 
From God, who is our home: 
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!"

But even on days as above, the clouds introduce their own theatrics...

The inscrutable workmanship of nature that Wordsworth eulogized is so believable when you see the canvas spread out in hues you could only imagine...

"Dust as we are, the immortal spirit grows
Like harmony in music; there is a dark
Inscrutable workmanship that reconciles
Discordant elements, makes them cling together
In one society. How strange, that all
The terrors, pains, and early miseries,
Regrets, vexations, lassitudes interfused
Within my mind, should e'er have borne a part,
And that a needful part, in making up
The calm existence that is mine when I
Am worthy of myself! Praise to the end!"

And when the musings of the painter become denser, you really wonder if it is worthiness, destiny or sheer luck that you could witness these sights...

And the words of Pablo Neruda resound in your being when you see the progression of blues and yellows to turquoises and ambers to a burst of cyans, sapphires, crimsons, mahagonies, carmines, corals, auburns, scarlets, vermilions...colors that you cannot count and name...

"My soul is an empty carousel at sunset."

...All this, "in my sky at twilight".

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

WTF Series: Episode 05: "Regulating" Social Media

[My sincere gratitude to Kapil Sibal for helping me revive the WTF series - I seriously was running out of steam, given the constant racket happening in the governing of the country.]

So, Mr. Sibal wants to "pre-screen" content posted in any social media - Twitter, Facebook, the almost obliterated Orkut, Blogosphere, and, I am told even from Google Search Results. All because offensive content was found on THE madam in one of these sites - I did not see any protests from the 'citizens of India whose interests Kapil Sibal wants to protect by censoring web content. Did you?

Forget our right to freedom of expression, forget the technological issues in pre-screening millions and millions of status updates, posts, tweets by the second, and forget the legal meanings of sweeping terms like "defamatory", "hateful", and the likes - if the Minister of Communication wants to scrutinize the thoughts of the people even before they are formulated or expressed, he must be given the ways and the means to do it - install every browser with mind reading software - and till such a software can be developed, employ all the wall street protesters, and the so many educated yet unemployed people as scanners!

And what should be scanned - Everything - hate speech against any politician or his/her relative, dog, friend; and any cartoon that portrays any person living or dead. Why only politicians? School principals, teachers, professors, bosses - everybody should be protected. No person has the right to say my boss is an idiot because it may hurt the sentiments of all his near and dear ones. 
Also, what about the emotions of the poor filmmakers and the cast - don't people from the entertainment business deserve respect. If you do not like a movie - please say so politely in 140 characters - absolutely no need for four or five letter superlatives.

If any user wants to post any comment, status or blog update about any person, he/she should contact him/her personally, get a no objection certificate signed on a stamp paper, and then post the scanned image of this certificate along with the post. And should you want to make a general observation or comment, please contact Mr. Sibal for such a certificate. He knows best. By the way, your sovereign right to freedom of expression, will be duly upheld and honored.

And, while at it, please factor in concerns of the RSS and the likes - no woman should be allowed to post her picture with a guy, unless she has him listed as a brother or her relationship status is 'married'. Specifically, the guy in question - brother or husband - should be tagged. Pictures with fiances are allowed only if parents are also tagged in the same picture. An algorithm based on the appropriateness of the dress worn based on the citizenship of the girl should be developed, so that as the picture is being uploaded it can be marked as 'abuse'. Atleast her 500 friends will be saved of harassment they would feel at seeing her dressed like that.
It need not be spelt out that pictures showing people smoking or drinking are not to be allowed because these incite the friends into indulging in these bad habits themselves, hence sending down wrong signals to this impressionable generation. 

Every conversation between a girl and boy who are not related by blood or marriage, as per the information available in their accounts, should be scanned before it is published. Preferably, an alert could go to the parents and the families of the people involved.

After all, the government of India must partner with the service providers to do everything they can to preserve the moral fiber of our society. 

Seriously, WTF!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Kiss, Unhate and Wear UCB

Benetton, the Italian retail giant does it again. The group is known for their shock advertising over the years - remember the powerful United Colors of Benetton campaign that was so successful that it was incorporated as a brand name!
The posters showing children from different ethnic origins, three hearts of the same color but from differently colored people, or the white baby suckling on the breasts of a black woman – all of these had a novelty, a recall value and a “shock” factor that was admirable. 

However, this time with the Unhate campaign, I wonder has UCB overreached itself? I am not sure of the answer. The advertisements on huge billboards show world leaders smooching – for example,  we have the Pope kissing the Imam and Obama kissing Hu Jintao…

Apparently, in public interest, the company abstained from showing Manmohan Singh smooching Asif Ali Zardari – Now that would have been something! 

The advertisement campaign is sensational, provocative, and as many have termed it, scandalous and outrageous. Vatican found the campaign so insulting that Benetton had to pull the Pope's ad down. 

What do I think of the ads? Creative, very. You cannot not notice it.
I’d take the company’s plea that this is a genuine effort to spread love and “unhate” in this world, with a pinch of salt and good humor – oh c’mon – this is money, marketing and business sense – and they achieved all the attention that they chose to sought. So kudos, well done.  

Now, about many people having raised objection to the immorality of the campaign,  is also hog-wash as far as I am concerned – you see it, you like it, go shop at Benetton – you hate it, don’t shop at Benetton. 

However, the one small concern that I have with t his campaign is that the pictures used have been digitally morphed without the permission of the person concerned. Forget world leaders, would any ‘commoner’ – you and me - be happy or even okay with their photograph blown up in a seemingly unparliamentary light and posted across countries.  I am not sure if I would be comfortable with that. How do you then justify criminal action against Internet hackers and artists who use morphed images of actors and actresses to create pornographic content? The means are the same!

I’d leave it to the ad gurus and experts to talk about the legal aspects of such actions, but what do you think? UCB has gone overboard this time – or is it a no big deal?

[Image source: Google Images]

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Tudors

Period dramas have always held a great fascination for me. Through my growing up years, I remember enjoying the Ramayana and Mahabharata, Vikram and Betal, Chandrakanta, Sword of Tipu Sultan – however, all that was a long time ago. None of the new ones on TV have caught my fancy in the recent years, except of course for the English movies based on period dramas, that I have watched awe-struck!

So when Vish suggested watching The Tudors (on Netflix) – a historical fiction television series spanning the rule of King Henry VIII of England – I was all for it. We finished the entire series – spread across four seasons in a little less than 3 weeks. It was very engrossing, almost addictive. (An aside: King Henry VIII is played by the same guy who was the football coach in Bend it Like Beckham :))

I felt that the series was shot wonderfully – the English landscape complete with the castles and the old European architecture – the costumes, the opulence, the diction of the characters, the old world courtesy, charm and language, the politics of the empire – all tiny details had been intricately woven to give a picture of an honest and truthful depiction. I did some reading of the period too, on the side. And realized, as in any work of fiction, though much has been drawn from documented history, there are deviations – perhaps to make plots and characters less confusing and retell a story that spanned so many years in just a few episodes.

If you get the time, you must watch the series (a small word of caution though – the episodes get quite graphic when it comes to scenes of beheading, burning, torture and other forms of harassment) and also read about this fascinating lineage of the Tudors. It is very interesting to observe how the King – the sovereign leader – is just another insecure man – who needs to many a times, unnecessarily, assert his powers in order to prove his potency, and at the same time needs constant affirmation from others around him that he is indeed a just and fair king. 

King Henry VIII is apparently the most exciting of all the English kings – his never ending squabbles with the Roman Emperor, his love-hate relationship with France, his confused loyalties with Catholicism, his support for the Reformation, his insatiable appetite for women and wives, his paranoia of not being able to have a son and then not being able to protect him adequately, his orders of execution in fury and then heart wrenching regrets later, his megalomaniac belief that he is invincible and can command death out of the way, his deep rooted fear of not being able to live upto that larger than life size he expected of himself, and his final resignation to the acceptance of the reality of death.

For those interested in further historic reference of King Henry VIII, he is the father of the Queen Mary, also known as Bloody Mary for all the heretics she executed during her reign, and of the very notable Queen Elizabeth I, whose rule on England is often referred to as the golden age. Since she was a sworn virgin, with her ended the Tudor Dynasty.

[Image source: Google Images]

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Marriage Plot

Now, this novel by a one-time Pulitzer Prize winner American author, Jeffrey Eugenides, caught my attention in the public library in town for one simple reason – I had not heard about the author or the book at all; it fell in the attractive “new and un-recommended” (as against recommended or not recommended) category :P.

The verdict? The Marriage Plot makes a very interesting read - interesting not in the sense that it cannot be understood (:D) - but interesting in the sense that it challenges your own intellectual background and reading.

Set in the early 1980s, in the context of the global economic recession, the novel traces the lives, during the one year after school, of three undergraduates at the Brown University, the then emerging hot bed for post modernism. 
Interestingly, the female protagonist is an English major who finds it tough to make the leap from outdated Victorian sentimentalism to the ragingly fashionable semiotics РCaught in the times when Jane Austen had become pass̩, and Derrida had come to be in vogue.

As an English Lit grad myself, I found myself empathizing with Madeleine, every time she exasperated on discourses on deconstruction and post structuralism. I remember sitting in my literary theory classes trying to decipher Foucault and wondering where had gone all the texts that could be understood in one simple reading!

In this ‘semiotically’ charged backdrop, the two male protagonists – Leonard, a charming Darwinist, and Mitchell, a religious scholar, court careers, confusion, existential crisis, undergrad life, dope, mental and emotional extremes, and Madeleine. To call this a love triangle, would be not only overly simplistic but against the very grain of the novel.

The Marriage Plot is about the death of the 'marriage plot' as existed in the seemingly romantic and uncomplicated times of the nineteenth century. Through the novel, and the so many failed marriage plots inherent in it, the author seems to ask the retrospective question – faced with the realities of feminism, sexual freedom, prenuptials and divorces - are we in an age sans of any great majestic love stories? 

Through the three characters, Eugenides brings out the intellectual angst representative of the world we live in today. Madeleine is devastated as Barthes deconstructs the very notion of love and even more so when Leonard quotes from the very book to respond to her declaration of love. 
Leonard has a complex layer of grey matter that plays hide and seek with him and in a way writes the destiny of all three of them. 
Mitchell is confused about most things – his love and the lack of it, religious mysticism, Nietzsche, his true calling and the meaning of life. His anti-proposal is a crucial aspect to the marriage plot – concealing its fate completely. 

In its commentary of the coming of the new age – as confused and as angst ridden it may be – Eugenides does a fantastic job – And I feel there is also exactly where the book fails as a work of pure fiction. Maybe it was never intended to be so. 
The characters, seemingly real, fail to appeal to you as people in flesh and blood. I failed to emotionally connect with any of them, as usually would be the case in a typical novel. At least, the two male leads show some kind of progression or regression – but in the case of Madeleine, there does not seem to be a movement – no journey – and apparently no growth – in that sense, the characters are not well carved. 

The scholarly didacticism takes over the story telling – the focus is on literary commentary, and the lives of the protagonists a context to experiment with and prove the theories. 

I would recommend this book to people who keenly follow literary theories and emerging philosophies – for the pure genius of contextuality that the author weaves in a highly readable and fast paced novel. This one’s not for those looking for a tale with vivid characterization and a plot that binds and progresses.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

It's Official - The Break Up!

Yes, I am making this public knowledge now. We are over. The Cullens and I, that is. That we did not have a future together was evident from the beginning, but we would part ways so suddenly, is alas god's will.

After going ga-ga over the white faced, well mannered, animal-blood sucking angels in my blog posts here and here, and having sincerely read the Stephenie Meyer's books and diligently followed the movie series, Breaking Dawn - Part 1 comes like a hard-hitting slap on the face! 

First, it is incredibly slow-paced - both parts could have been made into a crisp 2-hour movie, and I bet my life, it would have done better. There's hardly any content in the movie - now c'mon, don't scoff at me that I went to a Twilight movie for content - but there has to be something happening, right? 

I would have consoled myself a little had they given Edward and Bella more screen space, but no! This one's dedicated to close shots of the growing pregnant belly, ultrasounds, scans, molecular movement, ingestion of RBCs, blood all over - in the body, in the veins, in the hands, in the cup, on the baby, on the floor - one bloody boring fest - quite literally!

And yes, none of the cast are great actors but it seemed they were dull and bored too - except for a few wise cracks here and there, primarily by Jacob's character, there is hardly any real conversation. 

So, while I yawned and aarghed my time through Breaking Dawn, I could already hear the "last laughs" of all those who hadn't fallen for the gentlemanly immortals in the first place, and had made their opinions aptly clear to me. Cheers to you - seems like I am one of those who learn only by mistakes :D.

[Image Source: Google Images]

Friday, November 18, 2011

Winter is here!

The sun’s in a hurry these days
There’s barely time for leisurely hellos
And warm, gentle good byes

The mittens are out, and so are
All the snuggly woolens forced to
Wake up from their long slumber.

Evening tea with warm brownies
And wine with roasted peanuts n cashews
Preferably, over cozy bonfires…

The leaves have begun to fall
And the birds are migrating
Summer clothes shall soon hibernate

Foggy breaths and the festive cheer
Early Christmas lights and decorations galore
Yep, looks like Winter is finally here!

Monday, November 14, 2011

NYC: Up, Close, and Personal

A red eye flight from Phoenix ensured we woke up in the morning to the city that never sleeps – Wading through the jam-packed gates of JFK, and trying to steal a keen look at the price list for boot polishing (10 USD for a deluxe one, just in case you are interested), we hopped onto the air train and reached the local subway station.
While we were buying our metro cards, I thought I was transported back to a local UP roadways bus adda (bust station) in India – a very old, cheesy bollywood number was playing in one of the trillion small shops owned by Indians in NYC (I even noted down the lyrics, click here for the song :P)

The ride in the local metro to our hotel in downtown Manhattan was as we had been forewarned – At 6:30 AM, people were out there already in commute - as we approached our destination we were crammed to a one-leg room space – so it was actually delightful to ascend the stinky and dirty subway pass and “arise” to the heart of the big apple. Yes, New York sub way stations, streets and roads are not only always crowded but very very filthy. Another thing, I must warn you – be it the airport or any tourist attraction – NYC is the city with the dirtiest toilets. Sorry, for the gory details, but you need to know this, don’t you?

And then commenced, what my husband quite endearingly (;)) refers to as tourist hell. Armed with a long laundry list of must-do’s, New York City Passes and a hop on – hop off bus tour package, I dragged Vish mercilessly for three days around the city from 7:30 AM to 11:00 PM, till, according to him, we ran out of all the hell holes). Aah, the satisfaction of having EVERYTHING on my list checked off! What all was on my list? Just search for Things to Do in NYC, and pretty much everything that pops up in the results was there – tadaah :D!!!

Here are the highlights of our NYC experience…

The Manhattan skyline is gorgeous from any view – you don’t have to go to Empire State and Rockefeller - we did both and did not find it worth the money, the long queues and the airport-like security). Instead, you HAVE to walk down the Brooklyn Bridge and get the most awesome views of the Manhattan Bridge and the skyline – this along with a night tour of Brooklyn via the Manhattan Bridge is a MUST.

The Statue of Liberty is a must-do. Many will tell you it’s overrated but you have to take the ferry around the island and see this French gift first-hand – and up-close.

The neon and the glamour of Times Square is quite a disappointment - apparently the most visited place in the world is just an overly crowded space with skyscrapers all around you – take a walk around – the Broadway theater district is so culturally rich – catch a musical there. The Bryant Park with its beer garden, small shops and a lot of food options is a much more enjoyable and cozy place to relax and soak the city in. 

The financial district, complete with the raging bull, NYSE and the Occupy Wall Street protests was an interesting experience too. 

All those top honchos in tuxedos walking out at lunch time and eating from the zillions of street food stalls gives you a fascinating insight into the life of a New Yorker – Being vegetarians we could not indulge wholeheartedly in the street food revelry all around us – however, we did binge on the so many kinds of pretzels, falafels – and American pizzas! 
The gourmet scene is the best ever – what with all the little worlds that have come together – little India, little Italy, little China, little Korea, little Africa – this is NYC for you – a potpourri of countries, cultures, peoples and even religions. 
Apparently, every religion in this world is practiced in New York City – you have hindu temples, gurudwaras, mosques, synagogues, churches, Buddhist temples among many others.

What you definitely need to do in the city is, leave the concrete, wax and the up-scale snobbish neighborhoods behind, and head straight to Central Park – a man-made park but a wonder in every right – This two and a half mile majestic garden in the heart of the city cannot disappoint you. We spent a few hours every single day that we were in New York strolling here. With the fall colors thrown in, this was the most enjoyable and breathtaking part of our trip.

I could go on and on, but would rather stop on this scenic note, BUT the next time you are planning a trip to NYC, you know who to contact :D.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Tom and Jerry: Just a cat and mouse game?

These two eternal iconic enemies need no introduction! Yes, I have enjoyed the Tom and Jerry cartoon series for as long as I can remember. Lately, these two have been my constant companions when I am on the treadmill in the gym (yeah yeah, didn’t I tell you I have been meaning to bounce off the calories that keep finding way to my kitchen – somehow the Cartoon Network schedule and my routine fits in perfectly well. 

You can call it lack of having anything better to do or an over imaginative mind -  however, in the last fortnight I seem to be noticing aspects – relationships, stereotypes, political impropriety – in the cartoon series that I have never consciously been aware of earlier. And since I have been spending a good number of waking hours doing so much thinking, I thought I might as well spoil the fun for you guys too…

Gender stereotyping and the lack of it…

Tom and Jerry are obviously two male names. Isn’t Tom the epitome of the confused male – brash, unthinking, more use of brawn than the brain?

Isn’t Jerry the witty guy who often wins against Tom inspite of his little size because he is more intelligent? What about the episodes where he cross dresses and flutters his eye lashes – he is effeminate but endearingly so – yet he is not convincingly homosexual because he is inevitably attracted to the female mice ! Metrosexual, perhaps :D?

So while a good many socially rendered gender stereotypes are evidently flouted in the character portrayals of Tom and Jerry, there is a considerable allegiance to “the norm” in the depiction of most other supporting cast.


There are not so subtle hints at racism too – the maid is shown as poor and “black”; and there are a lot of blackface gags that drip of racial slur. 
I guess the time period during which the cartoon series evolved, did not have this acute awareness of what is classified as being racist and what is not, that we have today.

Meaningless violence – Sadism

The more I re-watch Tom and Jerry, the more irked I am by this aspect. Comedic fights are funny only if you are thick skinned and insensitive
The fantasy violence is bone chilling – slicing and cutting, chopping off body parts, mangling, explosives – none of which would qualify as innocent slapstick humor – hardly deserving the TV-Y (All ages 0 and older) certificate it got from the censor board initially – The current TV-G (General Audience) rating is much more appropriate. Like so many other programs on Cartoon Network, this one too doesn’t seem very appropriate for kids.

The sadistic pleasure exhibited by Tom and Jerry towards each other, the meanness quotient, and the levels of aggression and goriness, even if only comical, is highly disturbing. 

Relationship dynamics

This is the most interesting aspect of the Tom and Jerry series – their love-hate relationship, to put it very simplistically.
Ofcourse you know, the “chase” is pointless. Tom never ever intends to eat up Jerry, even if he happens to catch him. Infact, if either of them crosses a certain line, they are seen nursing each other! Then why the hyper violent chase? The meaningless irony of so many frivolous ambitions in life?

And, have you noticed, only these two are allowed to hate each other. They unite against a common enemy or if the other is in mortal danger.  A third person – not even a love interest is allowed in between. There is jealousy and there is a strong need to keep this bond intact and exclusive. No, I don’t want to go back to the gay debate :P. 

Another worthy observation would be that the relationship is very physical. There is hardly any real conversation between Tom and Jerry – you could mute your TV and understand every single thing that’s going on.

So, what does this convoluted relationship stand for? It is definitely not purely feline-murine, not that of innocent friendship, not one of eternal love – so you really cannot categorize the relationship – Is it then a kind of theatrical comment on the angst ridden, insignificant and futile relationships that we share at some point or the other – or at how callous and reckless we can be in our own relationships?

What is this cat and mouse game?

[Image source (for all images used): Google Images]

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Tricking and Treating!

So, my culinary skills have not been much to boast about. However over the years, I swear I have been getting undeniably better (Here's an earlier post on how I have been faring :)). I have up my sleeve a few sure shot hits that can be unfolded without any mitigation strategies in place, and thank god for that!

With all the time in hand that I now seem to have, I have decided to further upgrade my competency - and therefore, the past fortnight has seen me battling it out in a not-so-familiar realm - la cuisine! I have tried to go beyond my comfort zone, experiment - and all this with quite a bit of success, and so here is the brag post :D.

I learnt two very important lessons that I will take to my deathbed (oops, that came out a little over dramatic but never mind) - One, for most recipes - especially Indian ones, you need to know basic tricks and tips - so google or ask expert friends if you are stuck. Second, for every meal that you experiment, have a quick roll back option or one safe net menu item available - always!

Here go the stories of my conquests and forfeits...

Everyday Experiments
Chhola Bhatura
I am quite a pro at making chholas (chick peas/garbanzo beans) - This time around, the advancement was the tea bags I used while boiling the chholas to give it a nice dark color; and for the gravy, I roasted the dry spices (cinnamon, cloves, cumin, red chilli, cardamom) and then used the powder - the result was expectedly delicious.

I had never attempted bhaturas (a kind of Indian bread) ever before. I used the instant bhatura recipe here, and voila it was a super success (call it beginner's luck, if you will)! I did not have baking soda on me, and on a friend's advice I used Eno instead. The trick is to use eno equal to one and a half times the amount of baking soda prescribed in the recipe. 

Dahi Rajma
This scrumptious recipe was a chance discovery as I googled the search phrase 'rajma (kidney beans) recipe without tomatoes' (you guessed it right, I had run out of tomatoes and had the beans already soaked over night. Followed the recipe to the T and loved the creamy texture the dahi (yogurt) gives to the gravy.

Diwali Delicacies
I had never tried making Indian sweets/deserts apart from kheers and payasams (which I must tell you I do a fine job with). This time, I kept a very safe main course menu - puris with matar paneer (cottage cheese and peas) and fried arbi (colocasia) and decided to attempt gulab jamuns and rava ladoos.

Gulab Jamuns
Ofcourse I used the popular Gits mix - it is quite an effort in itself and I consider that as cooking from scratch :D. I thought I did everything right - used milk to knead the flour instead of water, added saffron and cardamom to the sugar syrup - but when I soaked the fried jamuns in the sugar syrup - lo, behold they multiplied in size. Couldn;t they have given the diameter of which the flour balls should be :(. Vish exclaimed at the sight, "yeh gulab jamun hai yaa gulab jamun ka baap!" (loosely translated as - are these gulab jamuns or their dads - taking a dig at the humongous size). Anyways, though they were a little softer than ideal, I swear they tasted yummy. Here's the pic of the baaps...

Rava (Semolina/Suji) Ladoo
This was an almost-disaster. And I don't want to be the bad work woman who blames her tools - but I think the recipe I followed was flawed - here it is. It seemed so simplistic but the mixture was too wet to qualify for a ladoo - i tried my best to dry it out but with little success - so my ladoos were midway between halwa and a proper ladoo :(. I was shocked when Vish said he loves them and he proved it by finsihing most of the lot all by himself  :) :). (P.S. Tips and links to better recipes would be appreciated).

Halloween Specials
Considering the festival inspired the blog title, I owe some allegiance to it, don't I? To get into the spirit, we bought the little fella up there (the first pic in this post) and painted it a little :).
I made pumpkin rice (recipe) and pumpkin raita (recipe) - both were a super hit and super easy to make. Considering the nutrition factor, I plan to do these more often! (Except that I cut myself twice trying to slice the raw pumpkin - next time I around  I plan to bake it before cutting - to make it easier on my fingers :()

And then comes my favorite part - Halloween Style Cup Cakes. I enjoy baking for one simple reason that if you measure and follow the step-by-step procedure - you can never go wrong - atleast not in the simple recipes - unlike Indian cooking that requires a considerable amount of adept skill. 
I made chocolate cup cakes with butter cream frosting following the recipe here. (The only minor variation being the color of the frosting in-keeping with the occasion.

Here are my cupcakes fresh from the oven...

And here they are, complete with all the festive regalia...

Wow, this has been a very long post - and if you are with me till now, kudos :). And wait, before you chide me on all the calories, apart from the desserts, I try to keep the food low on oil and fat but nevertheless, I can already feel the need to hit it at the gym MORE regularly.

Happy Tricking and Treating!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Editor's Choice @

Got this mail in my inbox today:

"Dear  Yuvika,
We the Team BlogJunta are pleased to inform you that one of your posts has been selected as one of the picks for BlogJunta Editor's Choice. Congratulations! 
We enjoyed reading your posts and are sure everyone who reads it will love them too. Keep dishing out such wonderful posts and we'll keep picking your posts for Editor's choice..."

I clicked the link and noticed that a number of posts had made their way to the Editor's Choice - However, that does not diminish my delight - awards are awards, after all. Thank you and congratulations to all fellow bloggers!

The post that was picked was my latest one: Sleepless (:D) in Seattle.

So the badge that comes with the recognition is as follows, and shall now be proudly displayed on my side bar.

What an encouraging start to the day! Cheers!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Sleepless (:D) in Seattle

(P.S. Don't snicker at the done to death, highly 'filmy' title - humor me pls :))

Spent a weekend at the emerald city of Seattle. A very welcomed change from the tough, arid topography of Arizona. As the plane descended over Seattle, the sight of green pines and cedars across the low lying hills made a picturesque sight.

In keeping with its notorious reputation of being cold and wet, we were greeted by light rains at 9 degrees (C). All through the two days, the clouds bullied the sun into submission, every time it peeked in, daring to play hide and seek. It is no surprise then that the Twilight series is set in the state of Washington (Forks). Though Forks did not form a part of our short itinerary, I was constantly in the look out for speeding (good looking) vampires and the likes, much to my disappointment...

We did the standard touristy stuff - the famous Space Needle, Seattle Center, Downtown, Pike Market, Experience Music Project (Paul Allen's museum), the waterfront, and ofcourse the tourists-must-do duck ride - which takes you on land and on water, with the guide giving you a lot of information on the history and geography of the place. 

The Lake Union boasts of a number of boat houses and floating houses that could cost you anything above a million dollars, if you wished to buy. Any one leaving an inheritance behind, please remember me and this wish of mine. Would love to have a beautifully done up boathouse, with elegant furniture - wake up in the morning to the gentle lapping of the water - bliss! One of my dream holiday homes :P.

A non-caffeine person like me showed little delight at the first ever Starbucks. Infact, I find it embarrassing to enter a Starbucks - not a person to enjoy coffees or teas or lattes, I end up ordering a hot chocolate, which shows up on their kids' menu :(. But if you are a coffee person, Seattle would be heaven for you - there's a Starbucks, Seattle's Best Coffee and Tully's outlet almost everywhere!

What made our trip even more scenic and memorable was the changing color of leaves thanks to the onset of fall (my love for the fall eulogized here).

Here are some pics from the city...

Aerial view of Seattle downtown 

Seattle harbor 

At the Experience Music Project (the image is 90 degrees inverted) 

The Space Needle

The Pike Market

The lovely autumn hues

The boathouses you would want to buy me

Fremont bridge as viewed from the Seattle waterfront 


Related Posts with Thumbnails