Aglio e olio

Aglio e Olio

I was watching the Bigg Boss show over the weekend. One of them (doesn’t matter which one) said that he wanted to call the other his dad. Then his dad would be his periappa, his periappa his thaatha, his thaatha a mama? I know Vijay TV shows are primed for drama. Judges on shows often become the dad, mom, brother, sister, grandfather or grandmother. No, not yet wifes or husbands. However this phenomenon is not restricted to TV shows. I see this everywhere around me. The auto and cab men are “Anna” (brother). The flower selling lady and the maid are “akka” (sister). I’ve seen people call their in-laws “Amma” (mom) and “Appa” (dad). How does that work? How do you manage that kind of love? Or conversely how do you manage that kind of insincerity? I am willing to believe it is love. I am just not comfortable with having to call them that. On one side is the insensitive undermining of important relationships. The woman who will make a new tiffen for me at 10 pm because I threw a tantrum about dinner, the woman who will hunt down all the lizards in the house for my sake, the woman who never made me feel guilty about waking up late (and left me totally unprepared for the rest of the world) can only be my amma (mother). No mother -in-law, aunt, teacher or anyone else can be my amma. I can call no one else “Amma”, not even Jayalalitha. The other side of the argument is the basic sincerity that I feel I owe to the auto guy, the courier person or my mother-in-law. I wouldn’t want to say something I didn’t mean, not even to the HDFC woman who calls me every day at 11 in the morning asking me if I want a personal loan. This atrocious metaphorical substitution for when you want to make someone feel extra special, when you are lazy to look for the precise descriptor, when you err on the side of dishonesty is a special kind of low that is unique to this age we live in. This is not even just about people referring to other people. Look at the food world. Cauliflower rice is not rice. It is cauliflower mince. Oothappam or dosa or flatbread topped with cheese and veggies do not make a pizza. They are vegetable cheese...

Eggplant Parmigiana

The whatsapp had been going off non-stop with first the news about Jayalalitha’s death and then about controversy theories about her death and then the cyclone. Amidst this mayhem there were these messages – “Yes Ma’am” “Yes Ma’am” “Sure Ma’am” “You are looking so beautiful Ma’am” “You are so sweet, Ma’am ” “Your handwriting is too good” “Please be safe Ma’am.” No, these were not students. These were mommies falling over each other in being sugary sweet to their kindergarten kid’s teacher. I cringed. But then I laughed. I remembered that Jagan by a strange twist of events was part of that mommy-teacher watsapp group and was witness to these exchanges. I imagined how these converstions would look juxtaposed with car mileage/gearbox debates, porn pictures and topic –less but expletive filled ribbing. As expected, he was traumatized by these mommy exchanges and asked me if women talk this way all the time. Poor guy. I suggested he take a combiflam and exit the group.   Mommies, really? Really? Do you really have to? I wanted to tell Yuvi that he was out on his tiny ass. Don’t expect sweet nothing texts from me – “Yes Ma’am, okay Ma’am, I love you Ma’am, I miss you Ma’am” because your number work is untidy, because I would like you to speak in the assembly. I know I am not setting it up for you to be the teacher’s favourite in school, the sweet mommy’s boy who teachers will remember from the top of their mind when it comes to choosing the house prefect, choosing the one to give the school address. I am not giving you a step up. I am not giving you privilege. I am sorry. I can’t bring myself to. I know how much I hated those teacher’s favourites in school. Plus I am simply un-equipped for being that sweet. I did not tell Yuvi as much. I suspect he may share it with his sweet, beautiful teacher with good handwriting. We were eating eggplant parmigiana for lunch, Yuvi and I. He slurped the pasta noodle in.  Do you like it? He made a sign with his hand to say it was. Spaghetti pasta in marinara sauce wasn’t one of his favourites. Really? “Yes, it is. Very nice, but little bit not nice.” I smiled. I realized he wasn’t going to be any better than me in lying. But...

Basil Pesto Pasta with mushrooms and lemony chicken

In other updates, I’ve been wildly successful this year in getting things done. I got myself a new scooter. I’ve started composting at home. And I got a scooter.    I bought myself a pretty little notebook-cum-planner that I am constantly jotting down things in. I am so excited to cross things off that sometimes I haven’t listed a task at all but I’ve completed it. I go back and write it in and strike it off because I’ve rocked and I need to register it somewhere. Call up hasini’s friend’s mom – done order idli rice – done make idli – done pack idli – done eat idli – done transfer money for gift – done Trim eyebrows – not done I like to believe I’ve been productive.  I strongly urge all of you to get yourself a planner. Marking off things gives a great sense of accomplishment. Apart from making uncomfortable calls, I managed to wade through my stash of card pins and change my card pin, collect my old books and drop them off and even score off a couple of small DIY projects I’ve been postponing forever – I made a thennai olai broom (coming soon on the blog) and made a batch of homemade orange peel face pack. Would you believe that? All this buoyancy could also be the effect of having completed the tax formalities for the year. It always gives me a high. I managed to score off this basil pesto pasta which has been on my to-try list for as long as I’ve known pasta and pesto. If you don’t have basil on hand, you can use coriander but it won’t be the same. The aroma of the pesto is breathtaking. It’s fresh, herby flavours marry well with the sharp lemony chicken and I love the way fried mushrooms round out everything. I would put fried mushrooms on anything, just as I’d put a fried egg on anything. I did just that with the leftover pasta. I reheated the pasta stove top, added bonus was the golden fried cheese, plonked a fried egg on top and devoured it.  Just skip the chicken if you want to make it vegetarian. You could easily substitute cauliflower (parboiled and marinated) or paneer for the chicken. Making the pesto is the easiest part. Just combine everything together and grind to a smooth paste. For day-in-day-out professional chutney makers...

My Lasagna search ends in my kitchen

Is it possible to be possessive about cheese? To covet cheese? What about knives? Tell me it is normal. I guard my best cheeses for the very best recipes, the foolproof ones, the ones I know would work. I then made this Lasagna. Cheese well spent. A short while back, but for quite a long time I was going crazy. Reading that sentence makes me think I really am. I really was going nuts. You know that famous saying “Order Lasagna and you’ll know what the restaurant’s worth!” You didn’t? It is not a saying. But it could be. It should be. Just saying.Well, I ordered Lasagna everywhere I went but I didn’t get any. I got hybrid, indigenous versions that tasted like baked korma pasta which made me even more determined to have my lasagna. At “That Mad#$%  place” the lady told me that that was how they made Lasagna at their restaurant, it was their signature Lasagna and that was how they’ve been making it since they opened (opened when? 1930?). Tell me something – When you order oothappam at a restaurant wouldn’t you expect to eat that slightly thick pancake like thing made with slightly sour dosa batter topped with onions, green chillies maybe, maybe a sprinkling of milagai podi, the oothappam we’ve always known? Would you take a toasted idli topped with onions if it is their signature oothappam, if that is what they call oothappam, if that is how they’ve been making it since they’ve opened? Would you take idlis dunked in kara kuzhambu as somebody’s signature sambar idli? Imagine my horror, my disappointment, my misery. Time to take things into my own hands. The best way to make lasagna I’ve learnt is to ready the components the previous day. First the Bolognese sauce – It is a cinch to make if you give it the time, if you can wait, if you can resist slurping it all up. It needs to cook slow and long and scents your kitchen. It is quite heady, divine really. With the Bolognese in the fridge, I slept a little more confident that the Lasagna would turn out well. I made the béchamel sauce, grated up the cheese and cooked the pasta sheets. I cleared the entire dining table to lay out my Lasagana cast – Bolognese sauce, very slightly warmed with a ladle, cooked pasta sheets carefully spaced out...
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