Category Archives: Food

Coffee camaraderie

I see your gaze
slither
to my face,
whenever I stir
from the book
in my hands.

I see you look away
from your screen
ever so slightly
towards where I sit.

I catch you
sneak a peak
repeatedly.

And…
just as I think
you’ll never make a move
you do.

Dear stranger
at the coffee shop –
I enjoyed meeting you
and
I didn’t regret
the invasion of privacy.

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March 21, 2014 · 1:19 pm

Hesitation

Myra was unaware of my gaze. She did not know that while she stood their contemplating her actions, I was watching her every move. I knew that my little daughter still thought that I was in the grocery store. As I stood by the car, I could see the longing in her eyes. I could hear the hiss of her breath as clearly as if it were my own. I knew exactly what she was thinking. This was an opportunity too good to be missed. And yet, her actions seemed hesitant. She still held back.

I waited in anticipation of her next move. One tiny move would determine my fate as a mother.

She took one last look at it, sighed and walked away.

That was the most fulfilling moment of my life. All my efforts of the last few years had finally borne fruit. I felt blessed!

My daughter had learnt discipline. Even when she thought of me to be faraway, she respected my wishes. The chocolate cake seemed to look back at me desolately.

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Filed under Food, klash, Prose

A hot cup of tea

There is something very comforting about a hot cup enclosed within almost freezing hands. I love my cup of tea. Or coffee. All I have to do is hold it in the palm of my hands and the world just seems so much more comforting and inviting. If I’m sad and feeling very forlorn, the cup in my hands warms me. It reminds me that irrespective of how cold and grey I feel within, there is always a way for the warmth to seep in.

Few people understand my almost religious experience with tea. Not many can understand how a cup of infused water can transport me to a different place. But it does. The fragrance pulls me out of my clamoring thoughts and ferries me to a world of clear crisp mountain air and the scent of the soil intermingling. It takes me to a place where life doesn’t whirr past, it walks along sedately. It makes me feel like even if I rest for just a tiny while, I’ll still be able to catch up.

The flavor of the leaves bursts onto my tongue and with each sip, I taste a new component. My favorite part is when the tea tastes a little bit like the soil it grew in and you can almost taste the various spices that enrich the soil. They say that tea is affected by the soil it grows in. It’s as capricious as wine….I think I have to agree.

I am from a city that thrives on drinking tea. Every alley in my city has a famous tea shop with its regular customers. You’ll see all strata of society intermingling at a corner store where a man in a ratty vest and a blue (or red) checkered lungi is preparing tea. They’ll sip tea in earthenware mugs and dip their naan-khatais and khajas into it. Every tea-stall will have a chhotu and your best shot of getting immediate service is to befriend the boy. He’ll change shops in a few months…so it makes sense if you have 2-3 chhotus that you’re on good terms with. Sunday morning would start with friends gathering at tea-stalls. Bunking classes occurred at the tea stall near the college, never the canteen. Writing or contemplating occurred in tea cafés within bookstores. Life revolved around tea and everybody loved it.

I never was much of a tea person. I couldn’t figure out why someone would want a steaming cup of tea as a pick-me-up. I was always a coffee person. And I could never stomach the concoction of tea leaves, milk, spices and sugar. It was just so overwhelming. And then, one day, when I was incredibly sad, my dad made me a cup of tea. I’m not quite sure which one. He made me a cup of amber liquid with no sugar, no milk, no spices. It was just a cup of steaming amber liquid. The flavors of the earth burst onto my tongue. There was a faint tannin-like taste right at the end and I remember that the tea tasted a little bit like berries and a multitude of other faint flavors that my palate couldn’t identify. I didn’t exactly fall in love, but I found it comforting. Bit by bit, I learnt to love it. Coffee became a means of cheering me up. The strong taste of chicory became a means of banishing thoughts I did not want. It became a means of running away and tea became a means of voicing my emotions. I’d have a cup of tea under the evening sky, on the side-porch with a view of my garden. I’d sigh and mull things over. And then…I’d sit down to write. I’d put words onto paper and I’d get it out of me.

When I’d read about writers writing in cafés with a cup of tea or coffee to get them going, the idea was incomprehensible. How could a beverage be a source of inspiration? And then, after sitting at tea places for hours at a stretch, I realized that something binds us together. In a bustling café, food is the only common thread. People are different and their actions can send you spiraling into a train of thoughts and that will ultimately get you to feel something. And that something is what you translate onto paper. It’s the segmented actions of people in a unified area which makes one come up with ideas.

And so, I’m now one of those clichés. When I’m stranded for ideas, I go to a tea place and I people-watch. I see little kids running around a bustling area and asking for maggi. I see old couples sharing a cup of tea and lamenting on the sights they see. I see young couples holding hands and weaving dreams…I just see. And I think.

And then, when my cup of tea grows cold, I put it aside and put a pen to paper and write.

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Filed under Food, Introspective, The world around me

Melody

The whistle of a kettle,
clinking cups and saucers
and a hot pot of tea.
The music is cloaked-
indiscernibly soft;
amongst numerous tones
and a child’s laughing shriek.

A group of seven
huddles on a table for four.
He looks on lovingly
as she talks to his mother-
hesitatingly faltering;
stealing glances, smiling…
they’re conversing silently.

Over-filled tables
heaving and groaning
under the constant assault.
The loud, rambunctious crowd
falls silent temporarily-
there’s a tinkle at the door
as more people join in.

The rains dance sedately
on a  makeshift tin roof.
Twirling along to a tune unknown,
a few tiny droplets trip along;
trickling into the tea.
Swirled around with a spoon
they taste the tea with me.

On a sandy dusty road
old newspapers flutter about;
and in the veranda nearby-
Chitter chatter and chinwag
suddenly stills for a moment…
as a distant cloud rumbles by
and electricity streaks the sky.

While the evening fades into the night; this melody warms my insides…

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Filed under Food, klash, Poetry, The world around me

Julie And Julia

There are some movies which touch me on a level so deep that the entire process of watching the movie becomes a journey in self-exploration. Food has always been a way for me to disconnect from my worries and to return to a place within me which is safe and untarnished by everything. Cooking is essentially my release.

Sometimes, when I’m really confused and feeling stifled, I cook. Its therapeutic to see basic ingredients turn into something soul-satisfying and beautiful. I guess cooking taught me that sometimes, even if the dish isn’t working out the way you’d like it to, if you just listen to it, and follow its directions, it’ll turn out very nice.

Here was a movie tailored for my current state of being. Right down to the nipping in of the waist or the exact length of the sleeve.

I could relate to Julie’s sense of utter aimlessness. I knew what she felt. Many a times, when I’m stuck in a distasteful situation and I can’t really express myself verbally, I shut myself in the kitchen and spend hours cooking and baking. Toiling over every tiny detail and measuring out every teaspoon of baking powder is how I regain some control over life. Its not exactly the best way to go about it, but, it works…and so, I could also understand her need to create something to have a measure of control over her life.

I was amazed at her sheer tenacity. I don’t think I could keep to a schedule like hers. And that makes me realize that for all my ambitions, I suck at management. I don’t get everything done when I need to. I spend the entire day working and yet, by the end of it, I still have atleast 5-6 things I didn’t get done. I see women working, running homes, being mothers, and it amazes me that I can’t even get half of those things done. Here was a movie, which made me realize that I needed to buck up.

And then, there were these techniques she’d never tried. Ingredients she couldn’t source, and fears she had to overcome. I loved how the women in the movie let food overwhelm them enough to make them spend hours chopping onions or fret about de-boning a duck. I’ve been there. When I couldn’t learn to whip cream, I spent 5 hours and whipped countless tubs of cream till I was satisfied (thank the dear Lord, for electric whippers!)

Another thing the movie made me realize was that with the onslaught of so many articles about how certain foods are bad for you, I’d started tweaking my food to become healthier. Sure, it tasted nice. And sometimes, I didn’t notice the missing fat. Occasionally, less fat would even taste nicer. But then, when she sauteed vegetables in butter and made a butter thyme sauce, I realized just how much of a health freak I’d become. I hadn’t done that in months. I hadn’t fried potato wedges or made a buttercream frosting in almost 2 years. I’d substitute butter on toast with natural preserves. Hell, the movie made me crave butter.

And so, I made myself some fresh veggies in a peppery butter sauce (yep, sauce; oozing, dripping, lusciously vibrant butter!) One bite of that flavorsome snack made me nod understandingly when Julie stated; “If there were a meteor crashing towards earth and we all had just 30 days to live, I would spend all of it eating butter.”

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Filed under Food, Introspective, The world around me

Sunday rituals…

Sundays are ritualistic for me.

It started when I was really small and my aunts would take me to “Hot Breads” for a brunch which consisted solely of breads and cakes. They’d drown theirs in coffee and I’d drown mine in juice…

I remember that the bistro was a new opening in my city and people were yet to be acclimatized to the concept of brunch. Infact, if it weren’t for the fact that all of us were very late risers, we’d never make it for brunch either. We’d gorge on donuts, croissants, the gooeiest cheese pizzas and the classic sandwiches. Also, I remember how Rinky buu had to force all of us to try it out and we’d just call her crazy. Coz for us, it was either Flurys occasionally or nothing at all. I guess, I have her to thank for my gastronomic curiosity.

When I was in college, dad would drop by from Jaipur on the early morning flight and we’d rush straight from the airport to Flurys for their incredible Flurys Mocha and he’d binge on omlettes and toast while I’d work through potato wedges, a croissant sandwich (the perfectly chilled crisp lettuce, tomato and cheese within a moist, flaky croissant is another post onto itself) and a slice of one of their delicious cakes which has the best sugar icing.

For the past year or so, Sunday breakfasts have lost their charm. Its only an occasional brunch in Mumbai or a “leaving on the flight in an hour breakfast with Techie Guy” that have lived up to the traditions of the olden days. And so, when I woke up today, after having spent an hour dreaming and reminiscing of my perfect brunch last Sunday, hankering for fresh bakes…I realized that this was going to be one very sad day. As you already know, my hunger pangs are incredible. If I want a Belgian mocha with the exact amount of whipped cream, then that is exactly what I want. Nothing else really hits home. And so, with such depressing thoughts, I walked into my kitchen fully determined to make myself some doughnuts and muffins. I guess, today wasn’t supposed to be a cooking Sunday. Just as I finished preparing the butter frosting which I’d fill into my doughnuts, and I let the batter rest…dad calls. He’s got me pastries and a Zucotto from Kookie Jar and Cinnabuns from Delhi are on their way home. Would I be willing to delay the Sunday brunch till teatime?

I was very pleasantly surprised. However, I’d made preparations for baking and wasting the batter wasn’t going happen. And so, I ended up spending a delightful afternoon baking cupcakes with a lemon icing and cookies with a coffee cream filling.

And I spent my entire evening gorging on the most decadent nougat slices, cinnabons, mocha biscuits and Moroccan tea. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll make this a ritual too…

 

P.S. Tall Guy, you’re an idiot of the first order to not know a Kookie Jar Zucotto. You do not deserve to live in my city. 😛

Techie Guy, I owe you all my special breakfasts. 🙂

Everyone else: The reason this post has no picture is because it’s near impossible to find suitable pictures of Flurys’ food online. That in itself is a mute testimony to the fact that people are too busy indulging their palates to really click pics.

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Filed under Food, Prose, Reminiscing, The world around me