Tag Archives: food

More Home Truths About Food


In fact, it wasn’t just rice and lentils and vegetables and yogurt on the table growing up.  My mom is an excellent cook.  In the early days of immigration, there were lots of parties, and lots of food.  My mom made snacks and sweets, and specialties from all over South Asia.  Home cooks, my mother and her friends knew how to cook for the family and cook to impress, and traded ingenious ways to coax delicacies using Pillsbury products and Bisquix, in addition to what could be found from a trip to the Indian grocery store, hours away.  This supplemented the foods my grandmother had prepared and paxcked in her suitcase, and later sent through friends.  Savories like dried salted mango, homemade mango pickles, ready to fry pappadum.  

My mom would use a hand held brass press to shape chickpea batter into hot oil where the complicated shapes would bubble up and solidify into preztels.  There were pounds of carrots grated into halvah: that was my job, to grate the carrots.  I helped shape  the dough to transform into sugar soaked badushas and rasagullas, though my shapes were never as good as my mom’s.   Her hands steady, the same fingers that made perfect rounds to fry into sweets also made dresses for me, and my dolls, not to mention the slipcovers and  curtains. She had a BSc in Chemistry and Biology from india,and though her life centered around the house and us, she gave us dreams to leave and circle back.

She is in her eighties now, and doesn’t cook as much as she used to, and why should she, but she did make badushas for my niece to celebrate going to college.  And I made a hot-milk vanilla cake,decorated it with rose petals and lavender, and put it on instagram.  Unlike the beauty of the photo, the cake was less than great.  I had over beaten the batter, and a rubbery streak ran through it when I finally cut into it.

Now I have eggplants sizzling in ot oil, stuffed with amixture of coconut and spice.  Sounds good, right, if you like those ingredients.  The result won’t be instagram perfect. but I’ll let you know how it turned out.  I used Madhur Jaffrey’s recipe from her beautifully illustrated World of East Vegetarian Cooking. 

And this video in Telegu uses a different recipe but fun to watch:


My brinjal came out okay. Like anything, these things take practice. And fall is always energizing.


Quinoa Oatmeal

Sunbird Quinoa Porridge

Sunbird Quinoa Porridge

Everyone eats oatmeal differently.  I used to make mine wirh nuts and raisins, and protein powder. Then I was content just to read Galway Kinnell’s “Oatmeal” on occasion.  I am back to eating oatmeal,  but it is at a cafe where they make quinoa porridge.  It is made with coconut milk, topped with chopped dates, cashews, flecks of sea salt, lemon zest, and  pickled strawberry slices.  In the summer, the chef sometimes sprinkles lavender buds on it, or sprigs of dill.  Today, my porridge was topped by sunny flowers of what I was dill.  Small things of fortitude in these uncertain times, when anxieties settle aimlessly in the stomach.

That was written a day ago.This “today,” I am not eating porridge, but peering at the dawn through panels of curtain I will soon part.  Part means both to divide and to leave. Earlier, woken by frisky cat, I looked at the drops of stars in the night sky.  There, another day.

Whole paych–Foods

Indira Ganesan, Can't Touch That, 2014

Indira Ganesan, Can’t Touch That, 2014

(The breads above are from a local boulangerie.)

Whole Foods finally opened on the Cape, and I spent a nostalgia-filled evening there after a play in Boston. I immediately spied the familiar pineapple chunks in a tub I haven’t seen in three years, the watercress that is not yet available elsewhere nearby, the pink lady apples. Though I am partial to my local health food store, a megalith has some different stock. Gulab Jamun in a can, check. Wild yam soba, check. Cold brew coffee in a bottle, check, please. There are still details to work out, like stocking Uncle Eddie’s Vegan Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies( I mean, this is Whole Foods, right?) and getting the black sesame slaw right.

I found my happiness ratio sharply increasing aisle by aisle. Is something sprayed in the air? Is it that luxury food shopping makes one feel better than shopping for clothes? Is it akin to buying shoes? It is easier, certainly. I needn’t decide between this color or that, but toss an item in my basket and moved on. Cardamom-coconut water? Lime-jalepeno chips? Organic socks?

I spent my paycheck, and came back the next day for more.

Thanksgiving with Kofta


Still Life with Apples  c. 1890 (110 Kb); Oil on canvas, 35.2 x 46.2 cm (13 3/4 x 18 1/8 in); The Hermitage, St. Petersburg  No. ZKP 558. Formerly collection Otto Krebs, Holzdorf http://www.ibiblio.org/wm/paint/auth/cezanne/sl/cezanne.sl-apples.jpg

Still Life with Apples
c. 1890 (110 Kb); Oil on canvas, 35.2 x 46.2 cm (13 3/4 x 18 1/8 in); The Hermitage, St. Petersburg
No. ZKP 558. Formerly collection Otto Krebs, Holzdorf http://www.ibiblio.org/wm/paint/auth/cezanne/sl/cezanne.sl-apples.jpg

A man is mowing his lawn with a power mower and noise-eliminating headphones outside. It is the day after Thanksgiving, and my sister-in-law has arrayed a counter of leftovers for lunch. She and my brother and her cousin have been cooking and baking for two days, making pie-crust, filling them with a range of nuts and fruits, stirring dals, and making parathas from sweet potatoes. Kofta was our turkey, simmering in sauce, shaped with zucchini and potato, and fragrant with fenugreek and cumin. I did the minimal, stirred coconut and cilantro into string beans cut by my father, cooked by my mother.

We feasted with extended family for hours. Our ages ranged from two to eighty-one. We were not very different from similar celebrations all over the country. There have been years when I think I  will just make a winter squash but get invited at the last minute( hosts love it if you bring champagne, I discovered one year when I was a friend of a friend.) there has been a year or two with a grilled cheese, and once with pizza with a dear friend. It is about thankful, this holiday, but it is also about the food. The abundance, the sharing.

Let me see if I can make a point of some kind. After my accident with the deer, it was good to get away almost immediately and be surrounded by family. I gave a reading, my first in Princeton, where I have visited and once lived, and a nice crowd came, despite the rain. There were cookies and there were lots of questions, both good. Because of the rain and traffic, at least two groups arrived after I answered questions. Later, my family, who attended, went out for pizza.



I was gifted with two enormous zucchini from a local gardener. When I heard I was getting two, I thought, how nice, how restrained, just a sample.  I went to pick them up, and I think they must be three pounds each, maybe four. A few days ago, I made, with now what I must now call petite zucchini, linguine from Heidi Swanson’s book, Supernatural Everyday, a cookbook I received after reading at Brookline Bookstore. It calls for wringing or squeezing water out of shredded squash, which is much easier than, say, to do with a stone. The result was delicious. Now I tempted to make her spicy zucchini bread but I must wait until midnight, when it has cooled off enough to turn on the oven.

Whenever I think about cooking at midnight, I am reminded of a poet, Pasquale Verdicchio, who taught several of us how to make Midnight Pasta, a dish so simple, and so heavenly that it needs a magic hour for its own. I had thrown a party, in San Diego, and we were all mildly stunned with drink, so that we needed the fortification of restorative pasta. To learn how to make it, you need a party, spaghetti, garlic, olive oil, red pepper flakes. It sounds like another pasta dish, but it isn’t.

The other day, when I couldn’t sleep, I remembered an ayurvedic recipe from John Douillard’s website, which I made, since the only party I was at was on Facebook.  It might be better mixed in a blender, so you you don’t need to spoon up the dates and almonds, but it did the trick.

I have two fans going on now. It is nearly 5:00 PM. Seven hours to go.