Vegetables – Villains or Vilified?

In Enid Blyton’s universe, the children buy food from farms owned by kind people whenever they’re off on their adventures. They eat tomatoes, they drink fresh, creamy milk, all the while enjoying some jolly fat ices. Reading Famous Five always sent me scampering to the refrigerator. Munch went the tomatoes. Crunch went the carrots. Many were the tomatoes that “went” with Rabindranath Tagore, Sarojini Naidu, and Huckleberry Finn.

Imagine my surprise when I read in some parenting book or email or blog that I should hide the vegetables in seemingly unhealthy concoctions so that my child will lap it up. This is not even an isolated statement. I read it everywhere, it seems to me. What? But why? They taste so good! As I remember it, my siblings and I always tried to ascertain that we got at least as much of a vegetable as the other, and if it looked like we got at least one piece more than the other, even better.

 

Why this difference? It got me wondering. And the answers came to me, all wrapped up in my Eastern heritage. It is the way we package them. They aren’t just cut up, steamed and seasoned with salt and pepper, if that. We cut them up and transform them into dishes with a variety of spices, styles of cooking, even different oils used for cooking.

 

What about raw vegetables, you ask?

 

My mother bought the vegetables from a small vendor who bought the vegetables the same morning from farmers around the city. Local, always in season, and fresh. Mangoes came only in the summers. Lemons were plentiful in the winter. Not having been told to eat his spinach by pop-eye, my husband doesn’t like it very much. Yet, when July rolls around, he’ll be buying 2 bags a week from the market. Of his own accord. Local, fresh, at its peak flavour. We’ll eat each vegetable for its own distinctive taste.

 

And the Case of the Disappearing Tomatoes and Carrots should be proof enough.

I like doing dishes

Like all graduate students, I lived with a sink-full of dishes. Somewhere down the line of my cooking evolution, I came to the conclusion.

“Cooking ain’t done until the dishes are” – Moi.

I remember wanting to finish up dishes before dinner with my friends trying to persuade me to come and join them, that we’ll all finish up later. With my insisting that everyone get started and their insisting that I should join them…this continued into my marriage, and again, I reverted to sink-full of dishes. Only, with more extensive cooking, it also extended to counters-full of dirty dishes. Urgh!

 

I never did like doing dishes, which was why I wanted to get it out of the way before I sat down to enjoy the fruits of my labor.

 

The transformation came suddenly. Was it when my husband told me about zen, the art of living in the moment. To enjoy the journey as much as the destination? Was it when I realized that I love clean sinks better than I hate doing dishes? Or when I found out that if I HAVE to do something anyway, I might as well enjoy doing it? Regardless, I slowly fell in love with it.

 

Now, I think I enjoy the moments I have absolutely to myself. I even enjoy the feel of clean clothes. Putting away laundry. What’s a PhD doing enjoying household work, you ask? Why go through life hating what needs to be done! I can hate it. I can enjoy it. The choice is clear.

 

I do hate decluttering and making the bed, however. It gives me anxiety attacks. I have a task force for those tasks. I call him my husband.

 

PS: If you ever find yourself wanting to quote me, please do cite me and leave a comment saying that you did. I am not looking for any compensation whatsoever, but it is nice to know that I helped convert anyone’s journey through formerly detestable tasks down happier paths.

Chickpea Salad

After the longest time, I hosted a party today. A brunch. This is practically the first time I’ve done so after we found out that we’re having M. I thought long and hard about what to make the center piece. A chickpea salad walked into my mind. I was told that it was really good, but o…

 

Another interrupted post, this was because of M’s nightmare.

 

The brunch was last Sunday. I was surprised at how much I liked the salad!

 

Without further ado-

 

Ingredients:

 

Chick peas, dry                      5 cups, soaked overnight and boiled
White vinegar                         0.5-1 tbsp
Lime juice                              from 2 limes or to taste
Green pepper, chopped finely  1
Red pepper, chopped finely     1
Avocado, chopped finely         0.75 (I can be used, but I had only that much left)
Salt                                       to taste

 

On the side, to be used or not, depending on taste

 

Chana chaat masala
Yogurt with mint
Chopped cilantro
Extra lime wedges

 

Mix the first set of ingredients and refrigerate overnight, so that the flavours blend well. Remove an hour before serving, with second list of ingredients on the side.

 

Note: I suspect that serving it on a bed of favorite salad greens or adding some al dente cooked bow tie pasta before marinating in the refrigerator overnight will be great too!

 

Hummus, banana-pecan cake, bagels and cream cheese, bread, toddler biscuits, madeleines, various juices, completed the food list. Thank you, FM, CS, LB, and VH! And all others who came. I absolutely enjoyed myself, and I hope you all did too. Thank you, SF, for the beautiful flowering shrub.

 

PS: I was gently reminded that my friend SS made it first a year ago with a few differences…wow, has it been only a year? It seems a lifetime ago that I was a giant almost 8 months puffy..I mean, pregnant lady plopped on the middle of S & R’s floor (funny, they’re S and R too!).

Lazy Parenting

I was asked today by my husband’s friend, why I’ve never tried giving M formula. Do I think it isn’t good or am I against it in principle? Interesting question, but I was stumped for an answer. I stumbled and I fumbled and I answered her question with one of my own – Why should I have tried it? You know, D, you’ve got me thinking. The simple answer is, because I could get away without it until now. I’ve had the privilege of maternity leave for a year, and few physiological issues prompting formula feeding. I just didn’t need to try an alternative to nursing.

 

When asked by someone else why I didn’t use jarred food, likewise – that I am able to get away without. 

When moms get together, one topic is inevitably sleep. How and where and how long. M co-sleeps with us. Always has. As a matter of fact, on M’s and my first full night together at the hospital, the only way I could get some shut-eye was if I let her sleep on that narrow bed next to me. Was I terrified that she’d fall through the railing? You bet. The alternative was to let her cry. I have done many things rather than let her cry. Cos…

 

Oops, I began this post a month ago, and I think I was interrupted by cries. Now, where was I? Oh yeah, sleep!

 

It is just easier for me to wake up when the fussing begins and before the shrieking, when I am right next to her. It is easier to nurse her in a half-awake state than to get out of bed and fill up bottles/warm up bottles. It is easier to lose the pregnancy weight to nursing than to exercising. Easier to cook some vegetables to softness than to buy jars. Did I say easier? Lazier? Yes, it suits my lazy ways.

Good enough parenting, not hyperparenting

Lately, M has been quite interested in playing with unconventional toys – imagine the base of an unused cordless phone – in conventional ways. She picks it up, turns it around, sticks her fingers into crevices, blows on it, babbles into any hollow for the funny echo although I am not sure if that’s what she’s aiming for. I sometimes see her sitting still and staring at pictures or her stickers. Sometimes, she just sits. It makes me kind of uneasy, wondering if a good mother would let her child do nothing or would she engage her in an activity? Should I be teaching her the names of more objects? Or of people? Of countries? Their GDPs? Oh help!

 

Every instinct crying out that if she wants attention, she’ll ask for it. That I should let her be.

 

And yet, doubting my instincts. Doubting myself. I was about to figure out if I should ask my mommy friends if I am stunting her growth by not exposing her to more. By not filling up her babyhood with learning experiences. When I came across this:

 

 

I am yet to order this book (I am trying to find a deal), but the excerpt on amazon was what I was looking for. Here’s a non-fiction that I want to read cover to cover. For a vindication of my instincts. For helping me down my laid-back mothering path. For telling me that it is alright that my daughter likes to sit and relax at times. For, who doesn’t need some rest and relaxation after being a walking-talking, oh excuse me, crawling-babbling hurricane!

Mother’s shortcuts – making tamarind extract

South Indian cooking is very tamarind intensive. In my early cooking days, I used the tamarind extract that comes in a jar. As my cooking skills advanced, this convenience no longer tasted good to my refining taste buds. Now, I am all about fast cooking and if it has no taste, so be it, as I mentioned before, but if I make a dish that is supposed to have certain ingredients and taste a certain way, I can no longer make do with pre-processed foods. As I used to call myself before, I am an idli (a lentil-rice cake eaten dunked in stew made with – you guessed it – tamarind) snob. Fresh ingredients and the works.

 

I have always said to R that what stops me from making South Indian stews most of the time is the tamarind juice extraction. It really doesn’t take that much time when all is said and done, but it is just one extra step of planning that I hate doing. So, up went the phone, dial went the numbers, to my aunt. She’s an expert in these shortcuts (if you’re reading this S-P, here’s giving you credit). What to do on Sunday night so that the week’s cooking goes faster. There it is! She told me that the juice can be extracted and frozen in ice cube trays.

 

Ingredients

 

Tamarind
Water
Turmeric – 1 tsp
Salt – 1 tsp
Sugar – 1 tsp

 

Note that I don’t say how much tamarind. I used the entire packet that I bought.

 

1. Submerge tamarind in excess water and forget about it for a few hours.

 

2. Messy step coming up – squeeze all the juice you can out of the tamarind. Pour into a thick bottomed stainless steel vessel (not aluminum or non-stick), even if it means adding a lot more water. Because you’re going to boil it down anyway.

 

3. Add salt and turmeric, place on a low flame and kind of forget about it. Not quite because it should be stirred occasionally. It should boil down to a thick syrupy consistency. Remove from heat.

 

4. Once cool, transfer to a jar with a tight-fitting lid and refrigerate. I didn’t freeze it. It was good for about a month (I used it up by then, so I am not sure how much longer it would have been good).

 

The turmeric, salt, and sugar are all antibacterials.

 

Happy cooking!