Lockdown diaries – Finding happiness

I thought hard and came up with a list of things that bring me happiness these days. Necessity is the mother of all invention. Lockdown is the motherf**ker (oh sorry, forgot that this is not a rap song) of all of mankind’s joys - going out, playing a game, being friends, trusting each other, eating pizza. Actually an Eminem style uncensored in-your-face frustration-busting rap feels more natural at this time. Since we need to do the right thing even if it’s harder and also since I cannot rap (not even ‘gully boy’ level, whatever it was) I’ll do what I do best. I’ll write a post. I am trying to keep the faith just like all of you. I believe everything will get better. Hope this helps you reflect on the little joys in your life.
Beet khoa froyo

Lockdown questions – Is icecream essential?

This entire pandemic is god-bestowed, say the positive souls, the Cov-evangelists. It’s a total world-reset. The Cov-evangelists are gushing over the geese coming out to the canals, the crows cawing in the balcony and the pigeons shitting the outdoor A/C unit. The earth belongs to other creatures too, not just humans. Stay at home, share the world, be humble. Lungi makers and chilli powder companies are advising us on TV. Governments around the world are busy threatening smaller countries out of their medicines, stealing masks, fudging counts and keeping people from going into full-blown panic. News channels are doing little better than the perimmas, uncles in the family in conveying totally up to the minute information but mostly useless information. They are relaying anything but hope. It is up to the individual, you and me to think of the big things, the big little things in our everyday life – like is ice cream essential or not? Somebody’s got to ask the difficult questions. What’s essential? Really someone tell me. Is ice cream essential or not? What about Kara boondi, murukku, chips, chocolate, kara sev, samosa, egg puff, pizza, milagai bajji and onion pakoda? Who is to say these are extravagant? Imagine a little girl who has to have her daily cadbury’s chocolate bar, a thatha who needs onion pakoda and chips with his rasam rice, a young man who has to have a samosa with his chai, a sweet blogger who needs murukku or kara boondhi with her lemon and honey drink. As serious as alcohol addiction is and as callous as we are about it, there’s no real hope for snack fiends like you and me. I can hear the caring, self-righteous pricks wail “How insensitive and entitled of you, you Netflix watching wretch. People are dying without food. You want ice cream?! Shame on you.” This is a classic case of the “guilty of eating your food” phenomenon. At any point there is some hungry person somewhere. Will you not eat the biryani in front of you because of that? Now that you have biryani, you’ll expect raita too. Once you’re done with the biryani, an ice cream doesn’t seem too much of a stretch. All you shameless, entitled, Netflix watching bums, I don’t know about you, but my opinion is that ice cream and kara boondi are pretty much essential.   Ugly birthday cakes and ear-infections...

Lockdown life

You suddenly realize that you don’t have much time and nothing really matters. You might as well order Tiramisu, say “I miss you”, have a drink, do the crazy stuff, wear the special dress and give away your coveted old books. I don’t have Covid-19. Don’t worry. This kind of stuff just puts things in perspective not to mention all the time your mind’s got to worry and make sense of stuff. I hope you’re all doing well at home. I am sure this is one of the strangest times we’ve inhabited in our lives. What was my normal everyday life yesterday is dangerous, irresponsible and almost illegal today. Going to the movies, playing a game of badminton, shopping, ordering a pizza, sharing a drink, going to office, meeting my friends, going out for sushi, going to the gym, going for a walk, going to the mall, going out. I knew the moment they announced that they’re closing the theatres that shit was real. To each his own. Once all the lockdown is over and the virus is gone and all is well, what’s the first thing you’d do? I’ll head to the theatre. My sister would run to the parlour to get her eyebrows done. Our mum would relax that we’re finally out of the house. It’s easy to imagine COVID-19 as one of your ultra-conservative, regressive whatsapp friends. I am sure everyone has one of these types among their family or friends. This is the type of person who sends you forwards urging you to buy from the old ladies in your neighbourhood instead of the chain stores. COVID-19 is that person. He doesn’t like all this excessive shopping and spending, malls, eating out, watching movies at the theatres. “Stay home with family and cook for yourselves.” – he seems to say. Working out at the gym is unnecessary when you can get all your exercise at home. Sweep, wipe, mop, wash and scrub. Do it yourself. I don’t think I’ll get along with this guy.   These are testing times in more ways than one. Among other things, it’s a test of if you can cook for yourself without poisoning yourself. This is it. No swiggy, no Zomato nothing. I know its bad manners to say “I told you so” especially at a time like this but I can’t resist. Cooking is the most fundamental life skill...

2020 Outlook

It’s been more than 6 months since I wrote a post. I took a break to go away and write my book. I have to report back to you even though none of you asked. I haven’t written my book yet. I realized that I am not the writer with the discipline to sit down at my writing desk (I don’t have a designated writing desk and I blame that for everything) everyday and write away. I also realized that I missed writing my blog posts. I wanted to write a post before the end of the year because I have this tendency to clear up, reset things at the end of the year as if that makes up for the laziness of the entire year and to feel good stepping into the new year. I am not going to call these resolutions for 2020 because I am now older and I shouldn’t sound too hopeful and I need to use something more broad and vague and easy to wriggle out of. I am calling this my outlook for 2020 which sounds something like the government’s plan to link rivers – important and well-meaning and broad but not necessarily immediate or feasible. Work ‘your thing’ into your daily routine Now more than ever I feel a daily routine is of utmost importance as I see days slip by when I’ve not read or written and I feel a pain that’s part anguish, part guilt that quickly turns into self-reproach and despair. I am going to try and set aside a few hours every day to read and write. The bigger, more difficult task is convincing the family that I am doing something critical and absolutely essential and it’s not dispensable. Mommy has to read her story book. Mommy has to write her little silly stories and blog posts. She may not be disturbed when she is doing her thing. It could be listening to music, going for a walk, taking a class or watching a movie or talking to a friend. I believe all the wives and mommies and grandmothers need to set aside time everyday to do their thing when they’re not available to others. It’s ok to not be available for some time. It’s not selfish. It’s soul-sustenance.   Weight-loss goals – fun and consistency I am definitely trying to lose weight this year too. I am an optimist....

Wrap up of 100 days healthy eating challenge!

I am happy to announce that I am finally done with the 100 days of healthy eating challenge. I’ve posted all 100 recipes on the blog as well as the facebook page so you can check and be assured that I am not cheating. If ever you’re stuck and want some ideas or inspiration for a healthy recipe, hop on over to the blog or the facebook album. You will find that my list of healthy recipes includes biryani and curd rice and noodles and everything in between. Honestly I do not believe healthy food needs to be un-interesting or skinny. In my world healthy food needs to make you happy all over. That means biryani has to figure in the list. One of the best things to come out of this challenge is that I naturally gravitate towards healthier alternatives these days. I feel hungry less often. I feel more in control of what I am eating. Combined with intermittent fasting, I’ve been able to lose about 3 kilos during this period. I exercised very irregularly during this period. So I wouldn’t really attribute any of my weight-loss to that. A more disciplined person would have probably lost more weight. My definition of healthy is very expansive. Except desserts and deep-fried foods, everything is fair game. So my healthy food list includes thali meals, biryani, schezwan noodles. tawa fried fish and chipotle rice bowls. The one constraint I placed for myself was to make sure every meal was homemade. So you’ll find smoothies, grilled chicken recipes, easy tiffen recipes, curries, roast vegetable recipes, rice varieties, traditional breakfasts… just about every kind of dish. To access the day wise recipes, head over to the 100 days of healthy eating challenge page. Here’s the list of things that you’ll need to keep in mind when you want to eat healthy. When you’re trying to eat healthy or go on a diet, the entire world will conspire to sabotage your attempts. Unknown relatives will get married during that time and will have their reception during your fasting period and your so-far-indifferent family and in-laws will on that particular day goad you to eat. Your friends will shamelessly stuff themselves with samosa and fries. You’ll get invited to birthday parties, booze parties and outings all involving lots of eating. Everyone will urge you to eat. “It’s just one day, one meal”, “This cutlet...
Chicken lollipop

Chicken lollipop

You know how all the crazy stuff you admired in your boyfriend, come back as worries about your son? That’s called payback. Your boyfriend lied expertly at home to hang out with you, made you laugh, rode super- fast, sweet-talked you into stuff and smoked stylishly. Yuvan was about 4 when he defiantly withstood an entire evening’s gentle prodding and questioning, claiming he had not scribbled on his sister’s drawing. All of us knew he had. He has his grandmothers and aunts thinking they’re his favourite girl. They have no clue he has said the same line to all the women in the family. They each secretly buy him ice cream thinking they’re the closest confidante. He compliments me when I wear a saree. He says I look cute. Last weekend he burped loudly. I :  “Ippadiya asingama yeppam viduvaange?” (How can you burp so nastily)?” Yuvi: “Seri, cute’a vidatuma?.. koo” (Ok, Shall I burp the cute way?.. koo) I laughed so hard. Jagan is mostly amused to see a smaller, possibly niftier version of him practicing his antics. He is prepared. He says I shouldn’t expect anything else. I worry. I am not prepared for this. Yuvan’s single most favourite order at restaurants is Chicken lollipop. He’ll not shy away from trying to order it in Saravana Bhavan also. That and biryani together make his favourite meal. When he was much younger and shorter, he stood up on his chair at the fancy schmancy burger place to get close to the waiter’s ear and told him “Biryani’ um pachadi’ um eduthitu vaange” (Bring biryani and raita). The waiter smiled in understanding. I make chicken lollipop every few weeks at home because he loves them so much. When I ask him how the chicken lollipop tastes, he doesn’t just say “It tastes very good.” He says “Did you make it amma? Really? It tastes so good, so much better than the restaurant lollipops”. He does finish his plate. So Yuvan’s flattery and charm notwithstanding, these chicken lollipops are really lip-smacking and are as good as the restaurant fare. These chicken lollipops are incredibly quick and surprisingly easy to make. You really can’t go wrong with these. Let me know if you make these. I’d love to hear your story. Print Recipe Chicken lollipop Lip-smacking chicken lollipops you can make at home in 30 minutes. Course Appetizer Cuisine Indo-Chinese Prep Time...
Paneer kothu chappathi

Paneer kothu chapathi

I am a big believer of signs. Last week, one morning I woke up singing “Oru poongavanam”. I set up the Bose Soundlink on the kitchen counter and played the song on repeat while I cooked. I let the onions blacken busy singing and mimicking the swimming action in the song. I had to drop off the kids at their grandma’s house before work. I switched on the radio and what song does it play? “Oru poongavanam pudhu manam…” We looked at each other open mouthed. It was a sign. It definitely was a sign. A sign of what I didn’t know but it was a sign. I sang to it in the car delighted. Only the previous day I felt like nothing was going my way, that I wasn’t doing things right. Then god plays my mind-song on radio to tell me I am doing fine. The traffic light turning to green as soon as you reach the junction, waking up early when you have to, you think you’re looking pretty and someone compliments you on how pretty you’re looking, a selfie that turns out to your liking, somebody brings you food, somebody buys you ice cream, somebody has a tablet when you have a headache.. are all good signs. Hasini has a great knack of finding out when I’ve upcycled something and I do a lot of that because I hate seeing food go waste. I don’t usually tell them because I don’t trust them to be open minded about it. Hasini makes sure to find out and announce it to everyone. This Paneer kothu chapathi however went down well with everyone. It’s super quick to put together if you have leftover chapathis or rotis in your or parathas in your fridge. You can use even the hardest, stiffest of your old rotis in this recipe. The liquid in the recipe helps soften your rotis just enough and the oil adds the delicious fried taste to it. You can add in scrambled eggs, cooked shredded chicken, peas, chopped carrots or anything else you fancy. I happened to have paneer so I made paneer kothu chapathi.  Make it your own. Don’t let another old chapathi go waste. Print Recipe Paneer kothu chapathi Delicious kothu chapathi to make the best use of your leftover rotis/chapathis! Course main Cuisine Indian Prep Time 10 minutes Cook Time 10 minutes Servings 3 people...
Mexican style chicken

Mexican style Chicken

It takes just a handful of common place ingredients, a nice rub, a good sear in a well-greased pan, shred and toss together for a just saucy enough, juicy, flavour-packed chicken that can be scooped into tortillas, tacos, layered between bread or served alongside rice.
Pasta in creamy garlicky sauce

Pasta in creamy, garlicky sauce

Last week, my friends and I put to test one of our beloved childhood love-tests – FLAMES. If you’ve never heard about this ingenious little game then I am sorry to say you’ve really missed it. For you poor fellows, let me explain this path-breaking logic. You write down your name and your favourite person’s name and strike out all the common letters. Then you count up the remaining number of letters, say n. You then write the word “FLAMES” and strike out the nth letter. You keep going with the remaining letters until you have just the one letter remaining and that one letter is your relationship with that person – F – friends, L – Love, A – Affection, M – Marriage, E – Enemy and S – sister. Now that we’re married, if the test really works, the test should give an “M” for a married couple. As you rightly guessed, none of the real-life couples got an “M”. One theory that seemed to support this result was that none of the couples had any business being married to each other. All of us agreed to this at some level. The other theory is that there is no one absolute right path. There are multiple paths and we happen to have married ­­one of the possible candidates. The third theory is that FLAMES is bullshit which we were not ready to accept just yet. We continued to check our compatibility with some of our other favourite people. With Thalapathi Vijay, I get an F – friend and I am happy with that. Come to think of it, I need not have been as worried in college when my name didn’t go with the cute guy’s in the other class. It didn’t have to, for me to go talk to him. We’re always trying to find reasons for not doing the things we’re scared of doing. We’re afraid of failing, of being embarrassed, of being rebuffed. We should try anyways. We’ll laugh later about what stopped us today. It may be a formal degree, someone’s approval, public opinion, past mistakes, caution… I hope I managed to say something profound from all of that. You need some breathtaking pasta while you try FLAMES with all your favourite people. I made this creamy, garlicky, parmesan kissed pasta last week. I kid you not when I say that all seven people...