Nov 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Somehow, 2012 has been the year of thanksgiving and remembering things with gratitude. The first inkling of what would be came when I got a diary for this year totally based on the looks (how shallow of me) and my favorite format inside (have to have month-at-a-glance). When I brought it home, I saw this:

and sure enough, each month had gratitude messages and exercises on the facing pages.  And then near the half-way mark of the year, this came into my life:

The month I spent doing the exercises in this book has had lasting effects. Now each day begins and ends with gratitude meditations - and as someone who has tried several meditation techniques in the past and left them along the wayside I can definitely say - this one is easy, extremely doable and very uplifting. 

So following the US tradition of remembering and sharing the blessings in our lives on this day, let me enumerate some things I am grateful for just off the top of my head...

 I am thankful for:

... just being here, now, in this wonderful age of computers, internet and a level of interconnection with peers that defies the imagination.

... having been young when A.R. Rahman burst upon the scene and having heard the best and freshest of his melodies. Can't think of college days without ARR's Kaathal Rojave, Netriyillatha Maatram, En Veettu Thottathil etc. as a running soundtrack.

... hearing "Ek Ladki Ko Dekha" from 1942: A Love Story last night on the radio while doing the dishes and still remembering all the lyrics.

... being able to sing along aloud with those lyrics without being strangled forthwith!

... having lots of FM channels to entertain me while doing the dishes or cooking!

... having a little kiddo sneakily undo my apron strings so that I will chase him all around the house and tickle him till he begs for mercy.

... having discovered a great artist and human being called Susan Branch and having access to her site for daily inspiration. 

... having found an easy way to access Susan's blog archives and being able to read all her old posts  - 4 or 5 a day - to my heart's content.

... being able to go up to DH who is frantically getting ready for office and inquiring very concernedly whether he has lost something. And when he asks, showing him a screw and escaping braying and honking alternately without any bodily harm befalling me.

... sharing watercolor beginner lessons with our elder son and crowing "my painting looks better" at each other.

I could go on ad nauseam, but will confine myself to ten for the time being. I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving with or without roast turkey. Have oodles of fun and good times!

Nov 7, 2012

A Reluctant Recipe

I don't enjoy cooking very much. There, I've confessed to the worst sin a stay-at-home-mother can commit. I won't go into the whys and wherefores now as that would be sufficient stuff for another post. When I started blogging, a few of my friends suggested that I should post recipes - I cringed at the thought of the extremely basic fare that I plate up each day and kept mum. Last month, a childhood friend (popularly known as a chuddi buddy these days?) came to visit after a loooong gap of several years and I prepared dinner for him. I still aver that it was not deliberate, but when I was thinking about a chicken dish, I automatically chose a childhood favorite. Not until I saw him picking out chicken pieces to eat with relish even after his rice was long over did I realize that he must have eaten the same dish several times as it was a staple of my mom's at parties. If people ask me for just one dish that is an absolute favorite of mine, it is this, it is this, it is this!

So here is my mother's fried chicken (or as we Malayalis call it, chicken fry) in my style.

Chicken, skinned and cut into medium-sized pieces: 1 kg
Onions, thinly sliced: 1 cup
Grated coconut: 1 cup
Green chillies: 6  - 8 for medium, 12 if you want it really spicy (Me like REALLY spicy!)
Any good chicken masala: 2 tbsp
Curd (plain yogurt): 1 tbsp
Garlic and ginger diced finely/ paste: 1 tsp each
Curry leaves: 2 sprigs
Coconut oil: enough for frying
Salt: q.s
(tee hee, I've always wanted to write that q.s., pretending to be a master chef writing out my recipe!!!)

1. Mix curd, chicken masala and the salt together, rub the mixture on the chicken pieces and let sit in the fridge for half an hour (can be made even without this step, but I find it adds to the flavor).  Meanwhile, grate the coconut, slice the onions and do the rest of the prep work. Here's a pic of the ingredients after all the prep work is done.

2. Cook/steam the chicken for around half an hour till it's half cooked - this again helps it to absorb more flavor. Strain out the chicken pieces after they are done. You can use some of the cooled chicken broth for grinding in the fourth step.

3. Heat a heavy-bottomed pan with a tsp-ful of coconut oil and add the onions, grated coconut and green chillies. Fry them over high heat stirring continuously. Don't you dare stop for even five seconds if you don't want charred and smoky masala. This is what it looks like at the beginning of the step.

Half-way through it will look like this. Keep a glass of water ready at the side:

No, don't add the water to the mix, that is for YOU to drink as you will be thoroughly sweating and parched by now. You can add the garlic and ginger at this stage. If you are intrepid, you can add half a dozen pepper corns if you want - okay, okay, just saying... The next picture shows you how it will look when done.

There is a tiny window of time between when the coconut is evenly browned and when it is charred, so as soon as the coconut reaches the above color, take the pan off the fire and keep stirring for a minute or two till the heat dissipates.

4. As soon as the masala mixture cools down, grind it in a blender with just enough water or broth from step 2 to get it ground evenly into a fine paste. Transfer it into a bowl and keep aside.

5. Put the pan back on the fire and pour enough oil to cover the bottom to a good quarter of an inch high. When it heats up, put in just enough chicken pieces in so that turning will be easy. Fry each side of the chicken for two minutes each, then add the masala paste (keeping aside enough for the second batch of chicken if need be, of course). Add a few curry leaves too and turn the pieces occasionally so that the masala will coat the chicken (don't worry if the paste doesn't stick to the chicken, some of it will fall off.) When the masala turns dark brown and becomes less mushy, it's done. To make sure,  take out a tiny bit of the masala, blow hard on it and check if it has a "fried" taste.

6. Take out the chicken pieces, then scoop as much masala out of the pan as you can after squeezing it on the side of the pan to drain out as much oil as possible.  Arrange the chicken pieces in your serving dish and smear the pieces with the masala. Add more fried curry leaves as garnish. Enjoyed best with white rice and curd  with a green salad on the side. 

My mom's way of making this is to grind the masala and cook it with chicken and water and once the chicken is done, she allows the water to boil off gradually stirring it occasionally and then adds oil to the mix and fries it. This process entails a lot of time and stirring in front of the stove in addition to the masala-frying time, so I do it this way. My method also saves some time because you can let the chicken cook while you are frying the ingredients for the masala. But you can try it  mom's way too, just make sure you have a lot of water to drink!

Nov 2, 2012

A little fun for the weekend

We are all plagued by the difference between how English is written and spoken. Once our professor told us about how fish could be spelled "ghoti" and attributed the anecdote to George Bernard Shaw. What? It can't be spelled that way? Try pronouncing the italicized letters in the following words and see for yourself: enough, women, nation.

Here is a poem called The Chaos written in 1920 by a Dutchman called Gerard Nolst Trenite who was thoroughly fed up by the vagaries of English pronunciation. You can turn on this video and read along with it.There are several versions of this poem on the net, no doubt it has been added to by other frustrated English language students! :-) This is the nearest version to the video that I could find on the net. You can also use this site if you want to find the correct pronunciation of the words all by yourself - Howjsay

The Chaos

Dearest creature in Creation,
Studying English pronunciation,
I will teach you in my verse
Sounds like corpse, corps, horse and worse.

It will keep you, Susy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy;
Tear in eye your dress you'll tear,
So shall I! Oh, hear my prayer,

Pray, console your loving poet,
Make my coat look new, dear, sew it!
Just compare heart, beard and heard,
Dies and diet, Lord and word,
Sword and sward, retain and Britain,
(Mind the latter, how it's written);
Say - said, pay - paid, laid, but plaid.

Made has not the sound of bade;
Now I surely will not plague you
With such words as vague and ague,
But be careful how you speak,
Say break, steak, but bleak and streak,
Previous, precious, fuschia, via;
Pipe, snipe, recipe and choir,
Cloven, oven; how and low;
Script, receipt; shoe, poem, toe.

Hear me say, devoid of trickery:
Daughter, laughter and Terpsichore,
Typhoid, measles, topsails, aisles;
Exiles, similes, reviles;
Wholly, holly; signal, signing;
Thames, examining, combining;
Scholar, vicar and cigar,
Solar, mica, war and far.

From "desire" desirable - admirable from "admire";
Lumber, plumber; bier, but brier;
Chatham, brougham; renown, but known,
Knowledge, done, but gone and tone,
One, anernone; Balmoral;
Kitchen, lichen; laundry,. laurel,
Gertrude, German; wind and mind;
Scene, Melpomene; mankind;
Tortoise, turquoise, chamois-leather,
Reading, Reading, heathen, heather.
This phonetic labyrinth
Gives moss, gross, brook, brooch, ninth, plinth.

Billet does not sound like ballet;
Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet.
Blood and flood are not like food,
Nor is mould like should or would.

Banquet is not nearly parquet,
Which is said to rhyme with "khaki".
Viscous, viscount; load and broad;
Froward, to forward, to reward.

And your pronunciation's O.K.,
When you say correctly:: croquet;
Rounded, wounded; grieve and sieve;
Friend and fiend; alive and live;
Liberty, library; heave and heaven;
Rachel, ache, moustache, eleven.
We say hallowed, but allowed;
People, leopard; towed, but vowed.

Mark the difference, moreover,
Between mover, plover, Dover,
Leeches, breeches; wise, precise;
Chalice, but police and lice.'
Camel, constable, unstable;
Principle, disciple; label;
Portal, penal and canal;
Wait, surmise, plait, promise, pal.
Suit, suite, ruin; circuit, conduit
Rime with "shirk it" and "beyond it".
But it is not hard to tell,
Why it's pall, mall, but Pall Mall.

Muscle, muscular; gaol; iron;
Timber, climber, bullion, lion;
Worm and storm; chaise, chaos, chair;
Senator, spectator, mayor.
Ivy, privy; famous. Clamour
And enamour rime with "hammer".

Pussy, hussy and possess,
Desert, but dessert, address.
Golf, wolf; countenance; lieutenants
Hoist, in lieu of flags, left pennants.

River, rival; tomb, bomb, comb;
Doll and roll and some and home,
Stranger does not rime with anger,
Neither does devour with clangour.

Soul, but foul and gaunt, but aunt;
Font, front, wont, want, grand, and, grant.
Shoes, goes, does. Now first say finger,
And then say: singer, ginger, linger.

Roal, zoal, mauve, gauze and gauge,
Marriage, foliage, mirage, age.
Query does not rime with "very",
Nor does fury sound like' bury'
Dost, lost, post and doth, cloth, loth,
Job, job, blossom, bosom, oath.
Though the difference seems little,
We say actual, but victual,
Seat, sweat, chaste, caste, Leigh, eight, height;
Put, nut, granite and unite.
Reefer does not rime with "deafer",
Feoffer does, and zephyr, heifer.

Dull, bull; Geoffrey, George; ate, late;
Hint, pint; senate, but sedate;
Scenic, Arabic, pacific;
Science, conscience, scientific.

Tour, but our and succour, four;
Gas, alas, and Arkansas!
Sea, idea, guinea, area,
Psalm, Maria, but malaria;
Couth, south, southern; cleanse and clean;
Doctrine, turpentine, marine.
Compare alien with Italian,
Dandelion with battalion.

Sally with ally; yea,,ye,
Eye,I, ay, aye, whey, key, quay!
Say aver, but ever, fever,
Neither, leisure, skein, receiver.

Never guess - it is not safe:
We say calves, valves, half, but Ralf!
Heron, granary, canary,
Crevice and device, and eyrie.

Face, but preface, but efface,
Phlegm, phlegmatic, ass, glass, bass;
Large, but target, gin, give, verging;
Ought, out joust and scour, but scourging.
Far, but earn; and wear and bear
Do not rime with "here", but "ore".

Seven is right, but so is even;
Hyphen, roughen, nephew, Stephen;
Monkey, donkey; clerk and jerk;
Asp, grasp, wasp; and cork and work.

Pronunciation-think of Psyche!-
Is a paling, stout and spiky.
   Won't it make you lose your wits
   Writing groats and saying "grits"?

It's a dark abyss or tunnel
Strewn with stones like rowlock, gunwale,
   Islington, and Isle of Wight,
   Housewife, verdict and indict.

Don't you think so, reader, rather,
Saying lather, bather, father?
   Finally, which rhymes with enough,
   Though, through, bough, cough, hough, sough, tough??

Hiccough has the sound of sup...
My advice is: GIVE IT UP!

Nov 1, 2012

Happy birthday to Two!

ലോകമെമ്പാടുമുള്ള  മലയാളികള്‍ക്ക്  എന്‍റെ ഹൃദയംഗമമായ കേരളപ്പിറവി ആശംസകള്‍!!!

Last week, on the 24th which was Vijayadasami day was an anxiously awaited one at Karthi. For a week I had been looking forward to the evening to see a beloved artiste who we had gjven up as retired for good make a second debut in the presence of the mischievous and ever benevolent Lord of Guruvayoor. Yes, I am talking about none other than the birthday girl Manju Warrier! I had been an ardent fan of her dance since she was a regular participant in the state youth festivals. As I watched her mesmerize the audience once again with her performance on stage at the Melpathoor auditorium last Wednesday, I couldn't but applaud, I was so happy!!!

(Pic Courtesy Gruhalakshmi Nov 2012 issue)

I was not a fan of Manju in her heyday mainly because I was not a regular moviegoer at the time. My father hated taking his precious daughters into the pushing and shoving melee that surrounded the movie theatres at the time and often recommended that we go to movies after our marriage - thankfully that has happened now!!! The only movie of Manju that I have seen on the big screen is Kannezhuthi Pottum Thottu - a movie that was too dark for my taste. So it was not until the age of movie reruns on plentiful Malayalam channels that I could watch Manju's movies and appreciate the consummate talent and hard work she brought into each of her roles.

What is the mystery of Manju's fan following that has survived all 14 years of inactivity? Her prodigious talent apart, I think it is the authenticity and life she imparted to the ordinary characters in her movies - the fun-loving, slightly naughty, capable of intense jealousy but good at heart girl that boys would love to love and girls would hunger to be. Her typical Malayali looks and hair didn't hurt although her facial features are far from perfect. In fact, I think the imperfections are what really make her accessible and loved by all.

So it was with a lot of trepidation and anxious anticipation that I sat down in front of the TV to watch Manju's second debut. My fears were happily proven groundless. The goddess of dance has returned to the stage. I don't know if she will venture into movies and if she does, what will await her there. But I am certainly happy that she has returned to the stage on her own terms and have proved that her talents are untarnished by the passage of time. After sixteen years of hectic schooling, dance programs and 20 movies crammed into 4 years, she certainly deserved to lead a leisurely life being just a wife and a mom. We can't even guess the life she must have led with constant dance practice starting from kindergarten years, programs and rehearsals that segued into a hectic movie career without even the gap to enjoy a college life etc.

Dear Manju, happy birthday and welcome back! You are a huge inspiration to all moms  who have shelved their artistic aspirations for the sake of family. It doesn't matter if you choose to concentrate on classical dance. But if you do choose to act in movies, I will be one of the thousands in queue for a ticket of the very first show of every movie that you do!!!!

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