Are you getting into the Holiday spirit? I am but just a little bit. When did I become so cynical? I suspect it was when I realised I didn’t need to drag on these feelings of cheer until one particular day. I could exhaust all of it the morning of, right before I saw my presents under a tree. It was fake, of course. The tree was. Right after my parents would break the news that we could only open them AFTER church. Try getting children to listen and respond to church things after that. “Are you putting on your shoes? I see just one shoe. Where is your sister? GET AWAY FROM THE PRESENTS.”…
On May 27, I was a no longer a cluster of cells in my mother’s uterus. I was a fully-functioning (for all new-born purposes) human. Today, that term means many different, sometimes unbelievable things. Unbelievable because sometimes I can’t fathom how much I’ve changed just by throwing myself into this unfamiliar world a few short years ago.
I am 28 years old. As time moves on, I have become a more passionate admirer of time. Yes, the pace still scares me but I need that slight fear. I need to know I’m doing all that I can to make the most of the fragility of being. A few months ago, I took a selfie – in front of a mirror. No big deal except for me, it was huge. I was looking right into my reflection and making peace with this body. This is the same body that lets me have endless energy to do the things I love. I saw it and I called it what it was – a miracle.
It was never always like this. I too had awkward teenage years. Mine involved being lanky, taller than the other kids, and incredibly ashamed at this person I would glance at as I walked by a mirror. I never looked into one for longer than a second. There was a reflection I had little to be proud of. My short hair stuck up no matter how much water I used to calm it, my clothes were always confusing to me (what do I do with these things?!), my legs looked like sticks and I just generally had no reason to look at myself. I channelled all that insecurity into a dislike for what is termed (negatively) as “being girly”. What does it even mean? I don’t like to comb my hair? Even the “girliest of women” don’t. I didn’t know that then. There are many photographs to remind me of that time and I wish I knew then that it wasn’t permanent.
I would eventually be able to grow my hair out, right ma? I don’t harbour any ill feelings toward my mother for only letting us have short hair as kids. It’s all I want to do with my hair now. Being able to have long hair didn’t change my world. Being me did. I remember vividly when “It will grow back,” became my go-to line for women who complained about haircuts they thought went wrong. Now it’s more like: “You’re an awesome person. It will grow back. Let’s get ice-cream!”
These are the things I’ve somehow taught myself. You might consider me the worst woman to give you advice on body image-type things, but know that we all have our demons. We all have things that eat at us, telling us we’re not worthy. I don’t like it when all you see is my shape and I’m sorry some stupid magazine has you conditioned to think I have it all figured out. I’m not even close.
What I am closer to is a better relationship with myself, a greater understanding of this thing called gender and the infallible ability to encourage (always) the women I encounter or exist with in my diverse circle. I can’t stress how important that last part is to me. I am so damn excited for every chance.
So I took a picture of myself. When I look at it, I won’t see 27 or 28. I’ll see contentment. I’ll see strength and a time of becoming, through me and the miracles around me. I’m doing so much better in my skin now.
Notes: Though it’s far from the traditional raita recipe (cucumbers, onions, tomatoes, cilantro), the flavours and textures are all present. You can eat this as a side with your other curry-based dishes or on its own, as a dip. It’s cooling and it’s something my family in Goa makes a lots once the temperature starts to rise. You can make it a day ahead but it tastes best when made fresh.
You can find chaat masala at your local Indian grocery store or online. I use the Shaan brand here in the American land. You can also make your own at home if you have the long list of spices it requires.
Red spinach is a name I’m giving this type of spinach because it has a stem and ribs that look very similar to what beet greens would have. It’s not the same as red amaranth (tambdi bhaji), in case you were wondering. I used red spinach in this recipe because I loved the pinkish colour it gave the yogurt. Feel free to use regular spinach or any other green you think would go well with this whole deal.
- 1 bunch red spinach or regular spinach
- 10 radishes, cut into 1/4 inch rounds and then diced
- 1/3 cup red onions, finely diced
- 1/2 cup fresh mint, coarsely chopped
- 2 cups full-fat Greek or regular yogurt
- 1 tsp chaat masala powder
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/4 tsp chilli powder
- Salt and pepper to taste
Place a colander over the sink. Fill a medium-sized saucepan with water, salt it and bring to a boil over high heat. Once the water boils, add the spinach to the saucepan and let it wilt. This should take close to a minute. Once it’s ready, drain the spinach into the colander and run cold water over it until it stops steaming. Drain the wilted spinach well and place it on a chopping board. Coarsley chop the spinach into bite-sized bits and add to a large bowl.
In the same bowl, add the cut radishes, red onion and mint.
In another bowl, mix together the yogurt, chaat masala, chilli powder and garlic powder. Pour this yogurt mixture over the cut vegetables. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately or chill before serving. It keeps well in the fridge for a day.
I told him about our new house two weeks ago and I finally heard back from him. It sounded celebratory and slightly more congratulatory that I was hoping for. Immediately, I ducked. I said (like I’ve been saying a lot) that it’s not a big deal and I’d like very much for it not to be made one. I wasn’t preaching or forcing ways for people to feel. I still feel a lull. It’s always been this way come major life changes. I’ve heard of people taking photos of their new house keys, smiling so big that they did it! They made this wild decision and they saw it through. They ought to have a photo to remember it. Our keys were placed in the box that lets us open the garage door from the outside. It was that exciting.
I don’t know if I’ve ever told you about the time I got married. I planned every single part of it. In 5 months. Two of which were spent thinking about how much I really don’t like planning a wedding. When we finally did get married, it happened so fast and it was so great but I still wish we just had a house party where I wore normal clothes. 2012 Matt agrees.
To further romanticise this notion of home-ownership, our water heater just stopped working – in the middle of the “where are my pants/flannel-over-flannel/underwear 6 am dance. The water heater won and I’m not allowed to tell you how long ago that was because it’s hella cold out here in the A.M!! I smell great and the Whirpool people better make this first (non) issue disappear by showing up tomorrow. And then I’ll fold all the clothes on top of the washing machine.
And make myself a cozy dinner.
And I lie. I lie.
Having a house – like being married – is great. But it’s hard. You wish for solutions to magically show up, while you say reassuring things like “we’ve got each other” in your head (sometimes out loud). You feel a cat will solve all your worries but it won’t, it really won’t. I did say it was great though and I stand by that. I get to go on this brilliant adventure, totally-run-of-the-mill, with this perfect guy I married. He tried to fix the water heater all evening yesterday, refusing to listen to me telling him not to, and cursing this BRAND NEW heater all the way. He’s also trying to fix a part of the house on outside so that rodents don’t get in. That’s love people.
That’s something you can congratulate.
Butternut squash and pear soup
What I love about this recipe is nothing goes to waste. Every single part of the main ingredients were used to elevate the taste of this soup a million times over. I’m a fan. There’s a part in the recipe that calls for the roasting pan to be deglazed with water and I thought to myself: “What if I did that with brandy instead? Or cognac! Or bourbon?” I didn’t do any of the three but next time…next time.
Adapted from Vegetable Soups from Deborah Madison’s Kitchen
- 1.1 kg/2.5 lb butternut squash
- 3 Asian pears (total weight 730 gms/1.6 lbs), cut in quarters with seeds removed
- 12 gms + 5 gms fresh ginger, cut in thin slivers (the 5 gms will be used in the latter part of the recipe)
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt + more to flavour the stock
- A crack of fresh pepper
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 tbsp butter
- 5 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 1/2 cups yellow onion, finely diced
- Fresh cream, thyme leaves and pepper
Heat the oven to 400 degrees F and line a large roasting pan with parchment paper.
Next up, you will need to roast the squash and pears together. Cutting the squash is always challenging for me so I take my time with it and use a sturdy knife. That’s half the battle. If you prefer, you can pierce a couple of holes in the squash and microwave it for a few seconds. I just trusted in the knife. Cut the squash in half length-wise and then into thirds. Remove the seeds and save them in a small jar. You will need them later to make stock for the soup. Cut the pears into quarters. Place the squash on the roasting pan, skin side down. Brush the vegetable oil over the flesh of the squash, sprinkle with salt and pepper and place the slivers of ginger evenly over the pieces. Flip the squash over once your done seasoning it and brush the skin with the remainder of the oil. Place the pears in the gaps between the squash. Put the roasting pan into the oven (preferably the middle rack) for an hour. Midway through the roasting process, flip the squash and pears over so they caramelise on all sides.
Once your squash and fruit is roasted, let it all cool down. You’re going to need to separate the flesh of the butternut squash from the skin. Using a spoon, scoop out that squash goodness and save the skins for the stock (Remember those seeds you saved? The skin is going right along with them in that stock.). Once all the ingredients are off the roasting pan, pour a cup of water in and let it catch all the leftover juices. Pour the water back into a cup.
To start off the stock, place a pot on the stove with 6 cups of water plus the cup of water you just used to de-glaze the roasting pan. Bring the water to a quick boil along with the butternut squash seeds, skin, the bay leaf, and cinnamon stick. Once the stock starts to boil, turn down a heat and simmer for about 20 minutes. Strain the stock into a bowl and set aside.
Put the same pot back on the stove on medium-high heat with 2 tbsp of butter and the thyme sprigs. Once the butter melts, add the onions to the pot. Cook them slowly, until they turn light brown and translucent. Add the rest of the ginger, the squash and pears. Pour the stock into the pot and bring it all back to a boil. As soon as the pot starts to boil, lower the heat to a simmer and cover, for 20-25 minutes. Taste for salt and add accordingly.
Let the pre-soup cool just a bit to be on the safe side and then puree in batches (depending on how much your food processor holds). While the original recipe asks that the soup be passed through a sieve post-food processing, I kind of like my soup slightly chunky. If you want a smoother texture, strain the puree before you eat. Serve it up with a swirl of fresh cream, thyme and pepper. The end.
“I’ve propped myself so I’ll be able to see when dawn starts to arrive. For now there are still planets and stars. Above the black branches of a maple is the dog star, Sirius, my personal favorite. The dusty rings of Saturn. Io, Jupiter’s moon.
When I think I can’t bear it for one more minute I reach down and nudge her gently with my dog-arm. She rises slowly, faltering, and stands over me in the darkness. My peer, my colleague. In a few hours the world will resume itself, but for now we’re in a pocket of silence. We’re in the plasmapause, a place of equilibrium, where the forces of the earth meet the forces of the sun. I imagine it as a place of silence, where the particles of dust stop spinning and hang motionless in deep space.”
The Boys of my Youth, Jo Ann Beard
I walked five minutes away from my regular route a few weeks ago. I am a walker. I like looking at people’s houses and imagining just how different their lives are, even if all I see is a cat on their doorstep or a gigantic TV screen from their front window. Everyone is interesting in my head. I try to take the dogs with me sometimes. One of them is stronger than me and the other thinks it’s best to always go in the opposite direction. With no footpaths, going right already seemed more appealing than going left. I went left anyway. A few meters in, I got pulled by dog 1 towards a boxer in a chain-link fenced house, just as a car was driving on the same side of the road and I thought to myself – well this was a stupid idea. Nobody died but I wasn’t in the best mood. “Why can’t we have impeccably-trained animals? Why can’t these dogs be like Gypsy? She’s adorable. She doesn’t pull and all she wants to do is ride in a car.” I crossed to the other side of the road and didn’t look up. I almost fell into a ditch thanks to dog enthusiasm.
When I got over myself I passed by a little slightly-bigger-than-a-birdhouse house. Oh! It’s the little free library. Except my mind was shouting those words. I’ve never seen one before but I heard about it. Sarah from work kept talking about a book she got from one and since then I’ve been wishing to make my own discovery. For me, true liberation is finding a book I didn’t have to hear about from somebody. There are so, so many books in this world that we never cross paths with. So few of them are allowed to find themselves into our hearts. Right from finding a book to bringing it home – I enjoy every second of the journey.
I’m not here to dismiss online book-shopping or e-books. They have their pluses (is that a word? Don’t see a red underline so I’m going to assume it is). I just don’t see them very clearly owing to my own bias towards holding a physical copy of love labour. Pages somehow manage to make the world more real. For me, having no space for clothes because books take it all up is a joy – not a hindrance. It’s a pleasure I will never tire of. When I moved to the US, one bag was mostly books. Second bag was everything else. I know my priorities
Finding The Boys of my Youth came at a time when I needed that exact blend of melancholy and nostalgia. I always do but this time was different/I needed it more. It was everything my heart needed to cling to.
Plus, who doesn’t love boys?
Herbed grape leaf rice salad
I am having the hardest time naming this recipe. If you see a title on the top, it was written after I wrote everything else out. I finally got it. YES! You can add another layer of flavour by cooking the rice in chicken or vegetable stock.
For the rice
- 2 cups cooked basmati rice (1/2 cups uncooked. Here are how-to instructions)
- 1 cup parsley, roughly chopped
- 1/4 cup fresh dill, roughly chopped
- 1/2 cup green onions, chopped into rounds
- 5 grape leaves (enough to fill about 1/2 cup when chopped)
- 1 tomato, finely diced
- 1/4 – 1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
- 1/3 cup raisins
- 2 tbsp garlic, chopped fine
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
For the dressing
- 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
- A pinch of salt
Cook the rice, cover and set it aside. It should still be steamy once you’re ready to mix in the other ingredients.
Chop the parsley, dill, green onions and tomato. Set the ingredients aside in a bowl. The grape leaves will need to be blanched before they can be used. First, prepare an ice bath. Boil a pot of water and add the grape leaves to it. Bring the water back up to a boil and let the leaves sit for about 5 minutes. Take the leaves out of the water (careful!) and place in the ice water bath. Drain the leaves and pat dry. Cut out the middle vein on the leaf. This part is usually tougher to chew. Julienne the rest of the grape leaves until you get 1/2 a cup. Keep with the other herbs.
To toast the pine nuts, you can either do it over the stove or in the oven. I toasted mine in the oven. Heat the oven to 375 degrees F and prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the pine nuts on the sheet and into the oven for about 7-10 minutes. At the 5-minute mark, stir the pine nuts around so they toast on all sides. Pull them out of the oven once they turn golden-brown and let them cool.
Heat the vegetable oil in a frying pan and add the garlic to it. If it looks like it’s cooking too fast, reduce the heat. Keep stirring until the garlic turns crispy and a light golden-brown colour. Take the pan off the stove and drain the excess oil on a paper towel.
Whisk all the ingredients for the dressing together in a small jar.
Spoon the rice into a serving bowl and add all the chopped ingredients to it. Mix it into the rice. Spoon in the dressing. Add as much or as little as you like. Sprinkle the raisins, pine nuts and garlic chips on the top and mix in lightly. Serve as a side with a chunky hunk of whatever it is you like to eat.
Please login again, Edlyn. Your last session expired. You’ve been frolicking outside for too long and your burn mark(s) now has a tan line and does not look like a burn mark(s). You’ve also left this “Add New Post” (as if anybody writes that way) page open for two days and hence the expiration. Nothing lasts forever, especially posts that start with a complaint about not wanting to do dishes for two (point five) hours.
Mostly, too much frolicking.
And too much junk food.
And a bad mood.
They must be related somehow but I can’t stop/won’t stop.
How did I get here? Ever since I decided for myself like the fully-functional adult I am going to get a job and only write once I week, I feel weird. Firstly, I am no fully functional adult. Secondly, I have a job. I actually wanted a job. I take two buses, twice a day and drink “spicy chai” across the road because I’m always early. Spicy chai? WTF. Early? Yeah, that would be me. With all the things that make me feel weird about my current sort-of life changes, there is one thing that puts me at ease: I get to read.
I sit in a bus for about four times a week, check out the people talking to themselves, wonder why reading glasses and futons make for such interesting conversation and then I pick out my book. In the past year I’ve told you how most of my day went. Me pretending to be the busiest person in the world and you nodding your head at my super humanity. No? That’s okay. I won’t take it personally. My imaginary to-do list made maybe 3 seconds to read. I was running around in circles, trying to feel accomplished. Once evening came, I looked to my left and then to my right and it was time for bed. Everybody knows you don’t read before you sleep. Amateur mistake. You hardly ever remember what you read and whatever magnificent plans you have about finishing 85 books by the end of 2013 turns into a lie.
“Santa Claus is your parents”.
That’s a stupid excuse. Books never end and bus rides are too short. The same trees, the same stops, almost the same people. That boy with the curly hair who also reads but falls asleep mid-way through his book, that grumpy bus driver for whom 7.30 is too early, that lady who seems to follow me home, the evergreens, the same stops, all with a new chapter, a new page, a slightly (okay, a very muchly) distracting sky, and I’m good.
I GET TO READ MORE. Thanks bus.
This works as a great side for any meal. If you want to eat it as one whole meal, I think that would be cool too. You can also mix it with couscous or brown rice and make it a meal. Ignore the goat cheese I sprinkled on the top. It was very impulsive of me and slightly crazy.
- 200 gms cauliflower, broken down into smaller flowers
- 1 tbsp olive oil, plus a little more for cooking the other ingredients
- 1/2 cup chopped green beans
- 1/2 cup yellow peppers, diced
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/4 cup shallots, finely chopped
- 1/2 tbsp rice vinegar
- 1 tsp crushed coriander seeds
- 1 tsp cumin
- Salt to taste
- Lime juice to squeeze over
Oh my gosh! Cauliflower rice?! Crazy right? Well. I’m not the first person to make this for the masses meaning me and me but I do like to think I am.
Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees F. Then, start by cutting off the cauliflower stem and them breaking it into smaller parts. Put it all in a bowl and pour over the olive oil and just a very light sprinkle of salt. Mix well. Place the cauliflower on a baking sheet lined with foil and roast them for 10 minutes on one side. Ten minutes later, pull out the baking sheet, flip over the cauliflower and continue roasting it for 10 more minutes before you let it exit the oven forever. No more.
Let the roasted cauliflower cool for a bit and then put it in a food processor and chop it to tiny shreds, almost rice-line, but not to a puree. You can do it. I have faith. Put the riced cauliflower back in a bowl and leave it alone.
Now on to the +1s. Heat about a tbsp of cooking olive oil in a frying pan. Once it’s hot enough, add the crushed coriander seeds and cumin to it. Let them roast until they get fragrant, while you stir occasionally. Once you can smell the spices, add the garlic and the shallots and toss them around for about a minute and a half. Just like with the spices, you’ll know they’re ready when they smell like the bomb. Sorry “da” bomb. Next add the yellow peppers and green beans to the mix and give it one big toss with a spoon. Then let them cook until they are tender, but still crispy. Give it 15-20 minutes and it’s ready for you. Put in the riced cauliflower and let it get warmed up for a minute more before you take the pan off the heat and pour in the rice vinegar. Add salt to taste and squeeze a generous amount of lime juice on the top.
Don’t do the sprinkle of goat cheese. Please. It’s so strange. I’m born this way.