Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Did Sita cook meat in her rasoi?

Today we do the Spinach Thing.  

No, maybe another day.  

Should Sita really be cooking meat in her rasoi?  Can she (or he) be sending entries to the Bakr Eid blog events?  Did she speak with deer she fed leaves to on still sultry exile afternoons?  Did Rama ever have Ibrahim's tears in his eyes?

 In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto

Michael Pollan clearly endorses plants as a preferred source of true food.  The benefits of vegetarianism clearly outweigh those of other food choices, though Okinawa, sea food, Atkins, South Beach, and other healthy animal protein approaches have received favorable press and widespread adoption among heavy meat consumers.

But what about the ethical concerns of killing living animals?  

Buddhism does not prescribe vegetarianism.   Buddhist monks are permitted to eat meat in many traditions, (e.g., fish in Thailand, yak meat in Tibet) and there are others who discourage it.
For the more rigid, there are instructions that if a piece of meat has been offered to them as alms, they are obliged to eat it, as long as the “meat” has not been killed on their behalf.

Has meat sold in stores not been killed specifically on our behalf?  One can argue for lifetimes.

For a truly scholarly study on vegetarianism in ancient India and what Buddhist scriptures say about meat eating versus vegetarianism, see this post by Shravasti Dhammika.

In Hindu tradition, there is wide divergence of opinion on killing living beings, such as cows when climate and land conspired to deplete livestock across central Asia, and certain species became more equal than others, and meat eating is practised across cultures and beliefs.  On Sunday afternoons, did Sita choose deer or fowl?  If one goes by the word, there was a lot of meat getting cooked in the perfect kitchen.

Ayodhya kanda:
suraaghaTasahasreNa maamsabhuutodanena cha |
yakshye tvaam prayataa devi puriim punarupaagataa || 2-52-89

tau tatra hatvaa caturaH mahaa mR^igaan |
varaaham R^ishyam pR^iSatam mahaa rurum |
aadaaya medhyam tvaritam bubhukSitau|
vaasaaya kaale yayatur vanaH patim || 2-52-102

samaashvasa muhuurtam tu shakyam vastum iha tvayaa || 3-47-22
aagamiSyati me bhartaa vanyam aadaaya puSkalam |
ruruun godhaan varaahaan ca hatvaa aadaaya amiSaan bahu || 3-47-23

Of course, it is obvious that everything from medium rare to well done was well done.  Ramashraya Sharma’s classic work Socio-Political Study of the Valmiki Ramayana also has an exhaustive section on the perfect kitchen, including the varieties of sarava, karaka, and galvarka to help the meat along.

Here is The Spinach Recipe.  Music it yourself.  Jai Sri Ram!
The Ramayana: A Shortened Modern Prose Version of the Indian Epic (Penguin Classics) 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Fridgeless Kitchen

A friend, fed up of room temp water through our summers, gifted us a fridge. But this post is about the basic kitchen, one without a refrigerator.  The basic kitchen teaches us to focus more on how we cook, our understanding of the processes involved, and to turn mealtimes into more than just eating, but a celebration, during, before, and after.
Revolution Foods Organic Mashups Squeezable Fruit, Berry, 3.17-Ounce Pouches (Pack of 24)Newman's Own Organics Organic California Raisins, 15-Ounce Cans (Pack of 6)Pacific Natural Foods Organic Almond Non-Dairy Beverage, Low Fat Chocolate, 8-Ounce Pouches (Pack of 24)
One decision can be to not invest in a fridge, though one should get one at the first opportunity, but hell, some might not want to add to clutter, or be short of space, and that first opportunity can take a while for some people!

One of the things that seems like a big challenge is getting by with a reasonably nutritious diet without a refrigerator. we grieve that we miss out not only stuff like chilled drinks and icecreams, but also not have access to storing vegetables and meat/poultry and dairy products. Further, leftovers are a liability and likely will go waste. However, as time passes, one discovers ways of getting around this, and now, several months down, we have a diet where we are not impacted in any way by not using a refrigerator.

Our challenges were butter, milk, cheese, eggs, stocking up on vegetables for a week or more, green leafy vegetables, stuff like mayo and other dressings, toppings, and other processed pastes, and of course, leftovers.

That makes it a long post. Read more here.

Do leave your tips, discoveries, and comments in the comments!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Set up a budget kitchen

A few years back I was challenged in every way and was led towards minimalist living.  Many of the lessons learned in the process have been life changing for me.

One such challenge was how to set up a basic kitchen within a limited budget and space.  The prices are in INR and places referred to are in Hyderabad.  Of course, they are a few years old too, but not likely to have changed drastically, unless you are reading this many years later.  This post is about how our initial kitchen was built and with what. Read the full Minimalist Kitchen on a Budget post.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

mutton dalcha

Just like the last ten nights of Ramadaan are the best ten nights out of the whole year, the first ten days of Dhul-Hijjah are the best days of the year and the most beloved to Allah (s.w.t.) as they combine acts of worship in a way unlike any other times.

The second Muslim festival, Eid-ul-Adha is just a day away. Eid-ul-Adha falls on the 10th of Dhu’l-Hiijjah, the Youm-e-Nahr (day of sacrifice) (this year on the 17th Nov 2010). On this day, as a commemoration of Ibrāhīm’s (a.s.) willingness to sacrifice his son Ismā’īl (a.s.) for Allah (s.w.t.), an animal sacrifice is offered by Muslims all over.

That is from the blog event Hyderabadi Bakr Eid Food Festival.

We recently observed
40th death anniversary of Jimi Hendrix.  Many of the people I meet and work with these days have grown up on music that is Metallica onwards, and know little about Hendrix beyond the fact that he was a legendary guitarist, much like I know about Wes Montgomery or Blind Willie Mctell (I am lying, but only to lend perspective,and also, the Metallica link is for those who know about Hendrix, Morisson, Joplin and Lennon, but have not heard the brilliance of metal).  I am not alone in my belief that he was the first heavy metal guitarist, many of his songs bordering on thrash and shred. Hendrix died at the age of 27 from a drug and alcohol overdose that caused him to choke on his own vomit.  His last years were bereft of happiness, personal success, or creative satisfaction.  This was what drugs and alcohol did to one of the most (if not the most) influential figures of modern music.

You can read my post on The Operative Notes blog on this occasion by clicking here.  Though a legend of all times and a tall person, he ended his life without feeling any of the largeness that we attribute to him.  He died a small man.

This year saw a slew of new releases from the posthumous Hendrix vaults, some compilations and re-engineers, but some with new unreleased material, like the Valleys of Neptune (you can read my review here), and the anthology of unreleased versions, covers and alternate takes of his best from across his career, West Coast Seattle Boy: The Jimi Hendrix Anthology.

We have a party on the weekend, and Sabitha is going to do the chicken.  After inspecting our stores, she declared our spices to be unfit, since "they have neither the color nor the heat," and will use her own.  My humble offer of a tested dalcha recipe flew out the window like a softly muttered cuss word, and into the room the women came and went, looking up so that they didn't need to look down.  Faced with this humiliating indifference, I decided to reproduce the dalcha recipe on this blog.  (no photos this time either, promise to get them the next time around, unless someone sends them to me earlier than that.)  Thank god for the internet, for copyright free stock images and for being the last refuge from feminism, especially for small men!!

You will need

Chana Dal 300 g (the original recipe that we worked from called for 500 g)
Diced lamb 250 g
Ginger 1 inch piece chopped fine
Garlic 6 cloves chopped fine
Green chili 2 chopped
Cinnamon 1 inch stick powdered
Green cardamom 2 powdered
Onion 2 medium size, sliced fine, fried crisp
Onion 1 medium chopped fine
Juice of 1 lime
Coriander powder 1 tsp
Red Chili powder 1 tsp
Turmeric powder 1/2 tsp
Oil (groundnut or olive oil) 3 tbsp
Salt to taste

1. Wash the dal in several changes of water. Soak it for at least 30 minutes. Add a pinch of turmeric, a pinch of sugar (skip if not to taste), and pressure cook for three whistles. Mash once cool and keep aside.

2. Clean the lamb. Do not wash in water, use a damp towel to wipe clean. Pat dry
3. Heat oil in a pressure cooker, add the chopped onion, fry till brown, add the ginger, followed by garlic, followed by green chili, followed by mutton. Stir frequently till mutton browns and oil separates. Add remaining turmeric powder, chili powder and coriander powder. Stir for another 2 minutes.
4. Add 1 cup of water or enough to just cover the mutton, and pressure cook for 3 whistles.
5. Once cooled, add the dal, the fried sliced onions, cinnamon and cardamom powder, lime juice and salt. Cook on low heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
6. Serve hot.

Click here for the complete Mutton Dalcha post.  Some additional tips might lie lurking.

Feminism is not about putting men in aprons and making them cook dalcha by themselves.  It is about achieving gender equality in a world where the status quo is masculinity or patriarchy (I like the word virism, since it smacks of the male obsession with virility as a value, and also rings of the sanskrit veera and virya).  Having been a close spectator to the misuse of gender specific empowerment, I have had occasion to reflect on this matter and have come to recognize it, like Manzoor was mentioning recently, as a major factor in strife and inequity in our society.  How profound.

A large part of the feminist movement is focused about what is perceived to be different needs of women compared to men, a line of thinking that is itself entrenched in gender specific roles and functions, one that presupposes and establishes their weaker and smaller physical stature, and the inherent vulnerability of women.

To cut it short, I would like to proclaim that I am a feminist too, albeit a small one, and am all in favor of equal rights for men and women, provided the women don't mind. 
While on the subject of refuge from feminism, for those who can read Bengali, here is an interesting editorial from the Kolkata daily, Sakalbela, on the same subject.

Trust the festive season coming on is going to be filled with light and joy.

Monday, October 4, 2010

good woman feeling bad

The kitchen can be the most healing spot in a home.  One where the blues can waft away with the fragrance of a cake baking, or meat browning, or tea brewing.  A true blues buster of a place it can be.

There are times though, like when I think about my baby who is not with me, when I want my blues, and I want them real "blue" blue.

Defining the blues is a difficult task. Janis Joplin, who died on October 4, 1970, called it a good woman feeling bad.

Read more about Janis Joplin.


Read more about blogging.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

hyderabad cuisine

The Wiki says, In 1950, Gopal Singh Visharad filed a title suit with the Allahabad High Court seeking injunction to offer 'puja' (worship) at the disputed site. A similar suit was filed shortly after but later withdrawn by Paramhans Das of Ayodhya.[27] In 1959, the Nirmohi Akhara, a Hindu religious institution,[28] filed a third title suit seeking direction to hand over the charge of the disputed site, claiming to be its custodian. A fourth suit was filed by the Muslim Central Board of Wakf for declaration and possession of the site. The Allahabad high court bench began hearing the case in 2002, which was completed in 2010. However, the bench withheld its verdict till September 24. After the Supreme Court dismissed a plea to defer the high court verdict, the high court set September 30, 2010 as the final date for pronouncing the judgement.

On September 30, 2010, the High Court of Allahabad, the three-member bench comprising justices SU Khan, Sudhir Agarwal and DV Sharma, ruled that the disputed land be split into three parts. The site of the Ramlala idol would go to the party representing Ram Lalla Virajman (the Ram deity), Nirmohi Akhara to get Sita Rasoi and Ram Chabutara, and the Sunni Wakf Board to get the rest. The court also ruled that status quo was to be maintained for three months.[30][31]

 This post is written shorty after September 30, 2010.  To read more about this point in eternity, click here.

All religious festivals carry great wisdom and learning for all of us, regardless of our religion or lack of religion.Precisely because we, as a race and not as religions, are looking at a future overrun by our excesses of greed and ignorance is it essential that we resolve to leave intolerance and anger aside and imbibe the wisdom that life offers to us. All the strife that we have been witness to in the name of religions and gods and righteousness should only make our determination to build a peaceful future stronger. Read More.

At another blog, a friend wrote, my Ramadan this year in Hyderabad along with my parents and loved ones was indeed delightful alhamdulillah. I witnessed the typical Hyderabadi Ramadan fervor. By afternoon almost all restaurants would gear up to prepare the day’s Haleem. The pounding of this delectable dal and wheat mixture starts and by Iftaar time, the streets would be full of stalls set up selling all kinds of fresh fruits, to a range of freshly deep fried snacks and what not. By the night, all mosques would be filled with Allah ke banday coming from far and near to pray and beg Allah for mercy and blessings.

The perceptions of time, lifetime and the endurance of the faithful and faithless alike were altered, hopefully for the better, by the verdict.  

Time tells.

My weekend?  Joplin, Lennon, the Ayodhya verdict, the peace ensuing, Hyderabad shutting down for the week a little earlier than usual. Read more.

Bengali books, Dad's, on the net
Bharatiya Musalamanadera Samkata
Biddha karo
Bhasako Da Gamara pansa bachara
I cannot get over why translation must so butcher names.