food

San Francisco To Plant Pure Nation

I spent last month in traveling, both for official work and for leisure. A trip to San Francisco is always inviting and I grabbed it with both hands when my mind finally decided to utilize the memorial day weekend at last minute and I booked a hotel and flight to the golden state. I didn’t have any agenda per say, I decided to roam around the familiar neighborhoods of Mission, Richmond, Tenderloin, Japantown, Russian hill, Nob hill, South of market and so on. After savoring the wonderful view I had  from the balcony of my room, I decided to go out and roam around.

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My first stop was Bartlett Hall to check on a friend who wasn’t there that evening and then starting roaming around the streets. After few hours I was wondering what I am going to do in the city formerly knows as Yerba Buena for three days and the first thing that struck my mind apart from my holy visits to fisherman’s wharf int he morning was the vintage book stores. There are some wonderful book stores in the downtown area but the one that I adore are Kayo books on Post st. ( one has to take appointment), Green apple on Clement street between 6th and 7th avenue ( massive used books store, a must visit for bibliophiles ) – I would compare Green apple with the Book Cellar on 79th st. & York av. in Manhattan, my former home, although Book Cellar is much smaller; and the Books Inc. on Van Ness and Turk. I had ample amount of time and I decided to leaf through every possible book I could and enjoy my coffee, isn’t it a dream?

I already am a vegetarian, to be specific lacto vegetarian but then too I observed some gain in fat in past few months thanks to the whole milk and yogurt and my travel to the parts of USA where the word vegetarian invokes curious glances along with derisive mumbles. I don’t venture into the self help and cooking sections in general, not that I have akin to George Carlin’s aversion to self help but I have a different take. Let’s not digress here; So, I took a stroll into the cooking section this time and leafed through many vegan and vegetarian cooking books. They ranged from basic such as putting together an edible salad to much advanced one such as eggplant tagine with roasted freekah, what caught my eye was the various combinations that were put together and the emphasis on calorie count, reduction of sugar, salt, and oil in food. I enjoyed them thoroughly and enthused, eventually ended up buying two of them.

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Plant pure nation is more aggressive on no usage of oil along with veganism while vegan one is just true to its name. I brought them home and being motivated made a trip to grocery store where I purchased different types of grains such as freekah, mixed quinoa, bulgar wheat, oats along with other vegetables. My fridge hasn’t been so well equipped before but the results? They have been abysmal. When I cook, I am meticulous of the recipe, the heat, ingredients, the steps I have to take, and I don’t think twice to improvise. I started putting these recipes together such as mushroom pâté, or over baked potato chips but they didn’t turn out fine at all. It feels like I don’t know how to cook at all; even today I burnt my 4th batch of potato chips ( baked in oven without oil, not fried ). I used to think I can’t do wrong with chutneys but after today’s results I am wondering were previous ones all fluke or what? Pâté’s quantity is so massive that I need to invite people over few times to finish it over and in those invitations I would have to shove it down their throats.

I need a success soon sans which these books will start biting the dust like so many other books I have bought in the past are biting and stamping the concept of tsundoku in my life.

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The Easy life

Given the right ingredients, spaghetti pasta would be my go to food. I don’t like precooked or canned food because of the preservatives and cooking your own food gives me a sense of satisfaction and self sufficiency(there is a psychological aspect of this but let’s not get into tit right now). Its nice to see the final product(if everything comes out to be fine) created from the mere ingredients. Many of my friends eat and cook pasta as its easy to cook but they use grocery store tomato purees which I don’t like. Creating your own gravy/sauce is easy and so is creating your own homemade pasta.

  1.  I use the usual rice noodles that I get from whole foods or any other grocery store.IMG_20160118_141834.jpg
  2.  Boil them in water, I add some oil and salt to make the boiling process smooth. Boil them enough so they are not raw and not that much so it turns out to be a mesh.IMG_20160118_141842.jpg
  3. Chop onions , garlic and some ginger. I use a manual cutter for the same which is very handy.IMG_20160118_141903.jpgIMG_20160118_141916.jpg
  4. Same is done for tomatoes. I use 2-3 tomatoes for the same and I have used the same cutter as above for getting this paste.IMG_20160118_141849.jpg
  5. Heat some oil in skillet.IMG_20160118_142153.jpg
  6. Fry the ginger once the oil is hot.IMG_20160118_142240.jpg
  7. Add onions and garlic and fry them until they are golden brown and have less moisture.IMG_20160118_142410.jpg
  8. Add spices you want to add. I have added red pepper, chilli flakes, dry basil leaves, black pepper and oregano.IMG_20160118_142656.jpg
  9. Let the spices cook for a while (approx 2-3 min, don’t let them burn)
  10. Add the spaghetti.IMG_20160118_142850.jpg
  11. Mix everything carefully. Mixing is important and should be done carefully as the spaghetti would be soft and can turn into gooey mesh. Turn things over from the bottom of skillet slowly and steadily.IMG_20160118_143112.jpg

 

And your lunch is ready in less than 20 minute. No preservatives at all except the one in the noodle that I got from whole foods.

 

After Ma(ra)th – on

After the Sunday’s marathon, I worked from home on Monday and Tuesday and went out for a walk on Tuesday evening. I didn’t want to cook so I got a tartine( a Belgian open sandwich) and soup from le pain quotidien located at 1st Av. and 83rd st. The sandwich had a lot of oil(harissa) in it and after 2 slices I decided not to have it more and have the soup as my throat had started paining. Next morning I decided to resume running. Geared up, I went out and started the routine. Something didn’t feel right but I didn’t give much heed. After around 0.9 mile I started heaving and was on verge of collapse. I sat down on the sidewalk to gather myself. My head was spinning and I was gasping for breaths.Throat was paining a lot. Something was terribly wrong. I reached home and sat on the floor and dozed off. I woke up with a choking feeling, threw the phlegm and heated water in a dizzy state for gargling. I put on some warm clothes and scoured the apartment for any paracetamol and cetrizine(antihistamine). I couldn’t find any and had no strength at all to go to CVS which is literally stone’s throw distance from me. In my medicine box there were tablets of Moxikind and deriphylline. These were the medicines I took when I had a brief but intense interaction with bronchitis 10 years ago. It clicked me at once. The oil from that sandwich switched on the bronchitis attack by irritating my throat. I popped up a pill of each and went to bed. Next morning I did feel a little better but my wonderful body has a tendency to develop fever every time I get sore throat. And the fever followed. I laid in my bed for 2 straight days watching arbitrary YouTube videos and sleeping. The most difficult thing was arranging food. I needed soups, breads and light sandwiches. Eat24, Seamless and Grubhub offer great services but I couldn’t rely on the external food material and the oil. I stood in front of kitchen for some time thinking what to cook and I realized that I have to cook for myself and no one else. I am not doing favor to anyone by cooking for myself. Yes, I didn’t have the strength to stand up for long but it made me think of all the mothers who cook for their families. Every day without fail. In sickness and in health, they manage to put at least some kind of edible food material on the table. And here I am trying to chicken out. I gathered my strength and prepared few sandwiches, lentil soup for myself. I am not fully recovered yet. I slept till 8 am today, cleaned the apartment a little bit, took a shower. I still have weakness in my legs,my breath is still warmer than normal, temperature is high but throat pain has subsided.

Till now, I had seen the plus sides of living alone but this week showed me being ill and alone in NY is tough but one has to move on.

Bob Dylan ??

Today I spent my evening in Greenwich Village, an area in downtown Manhattan that used to be haven for the musicians in the yesteryears. I go to Bleecker street often but today I was scouring for few signs- the signs of presence of the activism of 1960s. Greenwich village was famous for its musicians and political activism,its cafes, live music performances. Unfortunately, gaslight cafe couldn’t stand the test of the time. Cafe wha is not the same as it used to be but its still there.I have this (bad) habit of reading about things and places on internet and such unnecessary researches hog my time.

I knew that cafe wha is associated with many famous names but that list on internet was overshadowed by Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix. Hendrix wasn’t mentioned a lot for he passed away young but Dylan like a Victoria Secret’s advertisement was overwhelmingly everywhere.

60s wasn’t the era only of free love but also of the social and political activism. The term generation gap was coined in those years for there was a lot of difference between the thought process of the youths and their parent’s who had seen the perils of the world war. It didn’t mean that the youths had myopic visions or were in complete disillusionment. Greenwich village in NY was the incubation center of the revolutionary ideas that governed the political and economic facade during those years and those ideas found their ways resonating in the songs that those multi talented artists wrote. Each of the artist was presenting his/her thoughts in the form a song be it on civil rights, Vietnam war, crony capitalism, nepotism or sycophancy.The idealist generation of 60s purported to reject the materialism and bolstered movements that forced Nixon to step down.Not only music but food also was affected as many people turned towards non violence and vegan-ism.

The weavers were quite popular in the era for they brought the folklore and music not only to the big apple but also on the int’l podium. Thanks to McCarthyism that weavers were blacklisted under HUAC (House Un-American Activities) ,Pete Seeger asked correctly “what the hell is an American activity, what is the definition” when he was also booked under HUAC and his name appeared in the red channel magazine floated by oppressive forces. That was the era of the change Seeger, Woody Guthrie,Harry Chapin, Dylan, Tom Paxton etc were few names.Everyone was famous for his own type of work.

I have nothing against Bob Dylan; When I listened to “A hard rain’s A-gonna fall” for the first time after more than 50 years it surfaced, I was en-rapt and enthralled. He definitely is talented but somehow I feel that he not only knew how to write resonating songs but also how to sell them. He was able to create an image and kept it afloat. He did join the artists of protest music but with the banishment of many under HUAC, he definitely got an advantage.None of his songs are for Vietnam war but I am not sure why and how people have linked the two. He didn’t go to the famous Selma march in which everyone was chanting the Dylan’s hymn “The times are A- changing”. He did say in one of the award ceremony which he attended in an inebriated state that he no longer wants to write songs on people and doesn’t wishes to be spokesperson. He choose his next genre of rock and roll and remain stuck to it.He started “playing it safe”. And I personally have started believing that when the competition is tough then one has to play safe to soar and be relevant. I won’t say that he was an opportunist who grabbed the hot selling cake of folk music to open his own shop but he wasn’t exactly the same revolutionary that media propagates him to be. He was from the main land Minnesota and came to NY to test his destiny and he succeeded splendidly. The American dream – from rags to riches came true and many benefited from the same directly or indirectly.

Food characters = Our character ?

Continuing on yesterday’s thought of Who we are , I would add the characters of food that I have learned from my upbringing and the knowledge that I acquired from here and there.

According to the Ayurvedic studies the food can be classified into three branches:

1. Satvik

2. Tamsik

3. Rajsik

Based on what you eat , your tendencies and thought process follow.

Satvik food is anything that grows above the ground e.g. plants, fruits, leaves,cereals, grains, dairy products etc . The consumption of satvik diet induces alertness and calmness

Tamsik food is the one that grows below the ground e.g onion,garlic .This food takes time to digest but it has certain properties that can be beneficial if taken in very small amounts e.g. we know about the antioxidant properties of garlic. But ingestion can drive your concentration bipolar as one can be concerned about the bad breath and all.

Rajsik food is largely based on preparation.Rajsik in hindi means something related to prosperity, king like. When you have a lot of money then of course you can throw a lot of spices in your kettles and pots 🙂 It has pungent odor, induces passion, sensuality .They have hot ,spicy, salty taste. Generally the power, prestige, prosperity are the key points that fill the minds of those who eat rajsik food.

This comes from the ancient Indian wisdom but it is very difficult to remain on the satvik diet. I am a vegetarian and I maintain satvik diet but I do take onion,garlic in moderate amount.

Fat, sick and nearly dead

So, all those weight watchers out there. It’s for you. I see that a lot of people keep on complaining about that they don’t want to gain weight, or how last summer they added a few extra pounds. I talk to my friends about foods and they say  “No,No, I will gain weight!” or “I don’t want to eat this or that” or simply “I am just fat”

If you have so much problem then why don’t you do something about it ? I know easier said than done but if you want to lose weight then you will have to work for it.  I will digress here a little bit and all those women who have given birth, its ok that you got few extra pounds. You have given birth to a new life. Anyone who is expecting you to be some size zero figurine should be bashed severely.

So, coming back to what I was talking about. I saw this film many months ago and I really liked it. The Australian guy,Joe Cross, goes on a juice fast for 60 days and travels from one end of US to other and convinces other people, tells his story that how he was fat, sick and nearly dead. And how he repainted his whole life . It is very inspirational and can be done. I did the 5 day water fast myself and 6 day juice fast. It feels amazing ! Trust me

Here is the link to the movie.

Fat Sick and Nearly Dead

Please share it among your friends. 🙂

You can check out his website as well at

http://www.fatsickandnearlydead.com/

Tofu express

Hmm..I am writing after a long time. I was just busy in office and had few trips here and there.

I am a fan of plant based diet and practice vegetarianism. One very cliched question all veg people are asked is “from where do you get your protein” .Trust me its annoying .All those people who ask such questions please get few concepts cleared. There are hundreds of protein sources in the world. One is Tofu !

I fell in love with it the moment I tasted it. A lot depends on the kind of sauce you use but I have seen appetizers such as pan fried tofu,tofu salad, stuffed breads and tofu etc in many restaurants. I like experimenting with food.It gives me a sense of pleasure as if I am creating something new.Although you can find roots and routes both in cook books.I like the taste of pan fried tofu,its not deep fried.Its texture and royal golden color is very appetizing . I have failed in umpteenth attempts to get my pan fried tofu by myself. But today morning I decided that no matter what,I will get this one right.It might sound infinitely trivial to so many wonderful cooks out there but there is always a first time. I read one or two pages online on how to cook it and I got the trick. Heat the oil and place the tofu cuboids in it and LEAVE THEM THERE. I was going wrong here in my previous attempts.The stir fries have made me so restless that my hands itch to flip everything. So, I was doing this consistent flipping in my previous attempts. But today, I kept my patience and let the tofu cubes sit in the hot oil and I was so happy to see the royal golden brown colors on my tofu 🙂 yay !! Turning them over was a little issue as I don’t have enough equipment to do so. I used a spatula and it damaged a little bit the shapes but never mind.They turned out to be fine for at least the first time.

I live in a old apartment, so there is no chimney and I was startled when this fire alarm went off. Ughh..I was in my boxers and searched for my pants to run open the door. Hilarious and terrifying moment it was :/

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But eventually I am happy with the result 🙂

Lazy vegetarian and Minimalism

I am lazy, procrastination and apathy are not only big words for me but they are way of my life also.

After sitting in office for 9 straight hours, I don’t like to sit there any longer for my general reading and other activities. So, I go to starbucks or argos tea cafe to sit and read. Why don’t I go straight to my room  ? 1. I am a minimalist , I don’t posses a lot of furniture and sit on floor , sometimes sitting on floor is a little challenging.   2. I don’t have an AC , but I live on 9th floor and the cool breeze can fill the room up but it accompanies  mosquitoes who are willing to give love bites to me , so I can’t open the windows and because the apartment is very near to lake Michigan the humidity is always an issue. 

I reach home mostly at around 10 or so and get really tired by then and thus my dinner turns out to be minimalist in nature too. 🙂

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Minimalist plates 😀 🙂

I just hope no one from my family reads this post .

 

BTW I have found one very good formula for yogurts. I don’t actually like flavored yogurts for the simple reason that they contain preservatives and colors. I buy plain yogurt and in a small bowl I mix some yogurt , black pepper and roasted peanuts and this combination is absolutely amazing and works in harmony with my time saving techniques 🙂

Try it once.

What Non Veg friends of mine say to me on tables ?

Thousands of times people ask me from where do you get your protein when I tell them I don’t eat meat .

Today a women who lives in my building and is very irksome asked the same question and after getting the answer from me extolled herself how she can eat tub of KFC , and how she cannot live without meat.

WOW! YOU WILL BE RECEIVING A CALL FROM PRESIDENT SOON FOR THIS ACCOMPLISHMENT. YOU WILL BE AWARDED NOBEL PRIZE AND MEDAL OF HONOR.

She provoked me to pen down my thoughts here.

Th italicized are my expressions and voices in my head to such questions.

 

1. What ? You don’t eat non vegetarian food? 

Am I committing a crime, did I just ask you for your kidney? Why this expression?

2. But then from where do you get your protein ?

Go and read few 7 and 8 grade science books and you will know about nutrients .

3. You are in wrong company, hang out with us and you will be a non veg soon.

Wow ! So Tempting ! 

4. Don’t eat the meat, just taste the curry.

WTF !

5.Does anyone in your family eats meat or not?

How does it matter?

6.You are so religious.

Yes, I haven’t been to any temple in a couple of years.I haven’t prayed at any gathering. But it’s fun to know I am religious. You have laser eyes, just saw me through.

7. Hindus don’t eat cows , rest is fine. Why don’t you try chicken, lamb etc

“Stupefied”

8. What will you do when you will go out of your country?

I am not only out of my country for a long time now, but I have maintained my diet in places like China and Japan as well.

9. All vegetables taste the same.

Are you sure that you are eating different vegetables and your vegetable vendor is not selling you same vegetable since eternity.

10. Your taste buds are not developed.

Your brain is not developed