Thursday, October 15, 2015

My Big Day

My Big Day.
While growing up
I never knew what birth day celebration was.
We Manipuri Meiteis of India, only had
A customary religious ceremony known as “Laiming Lauba”
During  puberty or older,
 sanctifying the young ones(like baptism). Thereafter
A string of beads known as Urik had to be worn
Around one’s neck for good. Then,
Eating eggs banned permanently,
Only  fish being allowed we became fish vegetarians.

When I turned 19,  I had become a part of Delhi life
And birthday wishes came by surprise from friends
But never from my Manipuri family;
Soon marrying an outsider brought more life style changes.

When I was soon to turn 80 my daughter
Shobha confirmed I had no objections to revealing
My age, so she planned a celebration. The day before,
I was in my room watching TV shows,
When two figures barged into the room.
Was it real or just imaginary? My oldest
 Daughter Lata and my son Jibesh had flown
From Toronto for my Big Day, Saturday
March 21, 2015 at Clay Oven.  I cherish every moment of it.
The Chicken tandoori and fish curry, mixed vegetables,
Raita (yogurt with thinly sliced tomato, green chilli, salt), Paneer curry,
Kheer/rice pudding, accompanied by basmati rice, Nan/roti

Wine and beer in abundance along with fruit juices
In cans and bottles for all the guests,
My Indian and American friends along
With my loving family members. I love them all
And I love fish preparations in any form
And chicken dishes, too. I cannot ask for more.

Written by Jamuna Advani 10/15/15

Monday, October 5, 2015

Looking inside fridge

The cool air rushes out of the fridge as I open the fridgd and the aroma of the left over fish curry hit my nose. I inhaled and think of my lunch at noon with rice and fish curry forgetting my intention of noting down the contents inside the fridge for a moment.  My eyes fall on the two cartoons of milk one Almond silk milk for my daughter and the other regular one  meant to be consumed by rests of the family. My daughter is allergic to regular one. Today she has just got the food stuffs necessary for the week and already  all  loaded in the fridge. I see vegetables, salad leaves, tomatoes, cucumber, cheese, butter, ketchup, hot chilli sauce and so on. In the frozen section the drawers are difficult to close with all the frozen packs of meat and other food items. So I decide to skip looking at all the contents. Otherwise I might have to spend whole day doing that.  I decide to write about one thing which is missing from her today’s purchases. That is cottage cheese known as Paneer which is one of the popular luxury  food items in North India.  Paneer motar curry ( cottage cheese and peas)  curry used to be one of the items cooked for the vegetarian guests when I was a young mother. As reminiscence of my life’s cooking experiences I plan to write something about Paneer today.
Method of making Paneer at home:
Paneer was not available in regular stores those days . There used to be only at particular locations where paneer was sold in different localities of Delhi. Hence we rather made it at home boiling the milk and adding lemon juice to curdle. Once the solid is formed and clear liquid, it was strained through a thin muslin cloth and hang for few minutes to drain off remaining liquid. Then it was placed in between two steel plates to make it flat with weight on top, making it quarter inch thickness, After about one hour or so it was ready to be cut into cubes,(the size of one’s preference, usually cubes 1 ½ “by ½”.)

There are quite a few ways to prepare for the day’s entrees with paneer.
1.      Paneer motar curry( cottage cheese and peas)
2.      Paneer sag (spinach)
3.      Sahal paneer (with lots of onion)
4.      Paneer wrap (wrapped in tortilla)
5.      Paneer pakaura ( this is usually a starter or a side item) It is dipped in flour batter. And then it is deep fried in hot oil until crispy and brown.

Today here is the recipe of the “Paneer motar curry” which I used make at home when I was a young mother and even now sometimes.
Paneer  ½ lb, Peas ¼ lb,
olive oil 1 table spoon.       
ground ½ onion {big sizes}
Ginger ground 1 tsb
2 Big tomatoes thinly sliced.
Green chilli 3 cut into small pieces, cilantro already cut into small pieces.
Jeera/cumin seeds ½ tsp, turmeric powder ½ tsp, coriander powder 1 tsp. Salt to taste.
Heat the oil in a wok or fry pan. Add jeera/cumin seeds, stir till it turns brown. Add ground onion, stir till it is light brown, add all the ingredients except cilantro, salt and stir till the tomato become paste . add fresh peas and ½ cup hot water and simmer When the peas are cooked add more hot water enough to make gravy. Add paneer and salt. Keep for 5 minutes to simmer and lastly sprinkle the cut cilantro into the curry
It can be served with rice or tortilla.
Thus I venture today into my cooking and the recipe and hope everyone enjoys this recipe for an Indian meal. Wishing you all good luck and enjoy.  

As a young mother and wife I had all the enthusiasm and excitement of doing something  new always. Those days when we were settled in Shillong, a hill town of  Meghalaya state in North East India our girls were studying in Loreto Convent and our son was in St Edmund’s school. Those were the perfect days of our live. Every year when the children had three months winter break  we drovel to New Delhi by car spent  winter with my inlaws at 7/18 South Patel Nagar . My husband had to be at the site where his work was going on and hence we travelled mostly without him. But we had our driver who dropped us and returned to  the site where my husband worked. The kids enjoyed their time in Delhi along with their cousins.
My sister-in-laws and their husbands along with their kids visited mmm my mother-in-law’s house  most of the weekends.  My mother-in-law Neni was very welcoming and always ready to give special non vegetarian   meal for her son-in-laws. Even though she herself was vegetarian she cooked excellent non vegetarian chicken kabab, mutton curry,  we two daughter-in-laws, I and my brother-in-law’s wife cooked different vegetarian dishes.

During this time I also joined classes like doll making with costumes of different countries, dress making, machine embroidery, and some special cooking classes. My youngest sister in law who was still studying in college joined  me in most of  these classes. I was always up to something and learned an new one every time I came to the city of Delhi. Those precious days are my unforgettable ones.  

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Amazing Yellow Stone Park

Trip to Yellow Stone.
“Anticipation is one of the greater pleasures of love, travel, painting. Knowing that something exciting is going to happen and more or less how, gives vitality. So you set yourself for it.” Robert Genn (artist).
Today after two months of waiting for this day I arrive at Seattle on July 10th 2015, to join the trip which my niece Shilpa and her husband Praveen have been planning. Her mom Manisha has just come from India and I will have a good company.
My host’s family had just returned from a camping trip during July 4th weekend. Now again they are ready for the next trip to Yellow Stone National Park.


Starting around 11 am from Redmond city, Seattle and a short stop for lunch we could reach Missoula by 9 pm. During the long drive the kids Aarav, 10 and Trishaa,6 we see them becoming restless even though they are kept occupied with movies, stories of their choice. This is but natural for the young ones and they are much better than most of the kids in general. Their father announces a witty suggestion , “ look out for wild animals and whoever can spot one, will be given one dollar.” That works well for some time. At the end of the day no one could spot any wild animal but only few cows and horses while passing the rural areas.

 Praveen  is a bit weary hence after driving whole day, Shilpa takes over the wheel. Long drive no doubt takes toll of energy of everyone inside the vehicle.  At Missoula we drive around the town looking for a restaurant to have dinnr before we check in the hotel. It looks as if the town is asleep as all the stores and restaurants already closed. Finally after driving inside out, we can spot IHOP and luckily it is still open. Another trying moment, waiting for the meals ordered to come on our table we almost lose our patience. But when the meals are on our table, surprisingly we forget the wait as the meal we get, all are superv. We are now happy travelers.
Figure 4Manisha in front of LaQuinta Inn
We check in at the La Quinta Inn where we have two rooms with a connecting door in between. Manisha, my sister-in-law is my room mate while the kids and their parents occupy the other room. The  kids are having fun calling us from their room and finally we have to disengage the phone placing the phone down from its hook.  As my head touches the pillow I feel as if I am in heaven dozing at a Mughol rose garden bench lost in a twilight dream.
July 13
            As soon as I change into night gown, brush and paste in my hand once in the bathroom, I splash cold water on my face. It is so invigorating and refreshing. I complete my evening prayer. Later Manisha joins me doing the prayer

Having had a good night’s sleep I make our morning tea for both of us. Tea is like a healing  balm to my soul and mind. Then morning shower and prayer we go to the lobby for breakfast.  So many different types of cereals, and also scrambled egg and bacon, inside the hot pot and slices of bread

and butter, jam lots of fruits are all there waiting for us. Plenty to choose we are quite happy to be there.   Enough time in our hand while others are getting ready we decide to take some pictures in front of the hotel before we leave.  Here is the photo of Manisha  in front of the LaQuinta Inn.

  We do a quick tour of the front yard for some time when we return Praveen and Aarav are having breakfast at the lobby. Trisha and Shilpa are still inside their room getting ready.  Once everyone is ready we are again on our journey toward our destination.   Arriving around 4pm we check in “Yellow Stone Lodge where we have our booking.

Then we immediately venture out toward   Grizzly & Wolf  Discovery Center just in time to see the live show of the bears’ food hunting. They would be out soon to let them look for the food hidden by the kids in the allotted areas under the heavy weights of rocks and logs of wood. Not to waste any more time Praveen gets our tickets for the entry which were valid for two days (next day included).  As we enter inside, visitors are already lining up with cameras in hand  Standing on the upper deck, we  could see a group of kids already busy hiding  foods. After they finish their tasks the kids are directed to march out of the area.  Five energetic bears come out running and each trying to get their share of food as much as they can.  The way they pick up the heavy logs and rocks and throwing aside to get the hidden food amazes the spectators. They leave no stone unturned till they finish all the rations. Once their search is over they loiter and play around until they are directed to go toward their comfort zone provided as natural surroundings.  Visitors happily proceed toward the museum where one could read information and writings about the local habitat and also see display of stuffed animals.

Once we are inside the museum, six year old Trishaa, goes straight to the receptionist and asks, “Can my brother and I  sign up for the next day’s program?”
 “Yes, sure” Receptionist gives assurance to the bubbling girl. Their names are entered and enrolled for the next day’s activities.