Thursday, May 12, 2005

Hot Heini

This is my favorite drink this season. It is a refreshing, tasty and above all worthy drink. Great for the summer.

The recipe was provided by some person with the username 'Heineken' on another message board. I was very impressed when I tried it. But the guy gave no name for it! I searched online to see if this drink already had a name, but I could not find one. So, I named it myself: Hot Heini.

A shot of vodka in a tall glass.

Squeeze the juice from a slice of lemon into it.

Pour in chilled Heineken.

Drop in a fresh slice of lemon.


PS: In some parts of India, "hot" is used in lieu of "hard", as in the phrase, "hard liquor". Since we use the hot liquor vodka, I call this Hot Heini! :-D

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Ladies (in) Toilet

Have any of you guys visited the ladies' toilet? I have!

I read recently that boys over 5 years old are not allowed in ladies' toilets. The last time I visited one, I was 25 years old or so, and it was at my office. My client-manager from my last work place stood outside, being my look-out. When I came out, I found that she had abandoned her post to send some email! I am not sure if the cleaning woman saw me coming out of the ladies toilet. If she did, she never reported me. Yes, fact can be stranger than fiction.

When we went to the Grand Canyon last summer, there was a very long queue at one of the ladies' restrooms on the South Rim. In contrast, guys were breezing in and out of the men's restrooms. A couple of women could not wait. They just coolly walked into the men's toilet, muttering apologies and used the facilities. The expressions on the faces of some of the men there was funny. Imagine if a guy had entered the ladies' restroom like that. There would have been a huge hue and cry!

I don't know what those ladies felt about their visit to the smelly men's public toilet, but my visit to the very clean and sanitized ladies restroom in the office was interesting. I was impressed by the fact that not only was the ladies' room functionally different from the men's restroom (no stand-up urinals, for example), there were also aesthetic differences. There seemed to be better lighting, especially at the mirror. The mirror itself was kind of tilted. The upper edge of the mirror was a few inches away from the wall, as if the mirror was leaning away from the wall or falling off it. Why was the mirror set like that? So that the women could look at themselves as taller men might see them? So that women could have a better look at their cleavage? I have no idea. There were tubes and vials of creams and lotions on the counter.

As I said, when I came out, I found my look-out person had abandoned her post. Thankfully, nobody walked in when I was inside. Imagine a female co-worker coming in and finding me there! How would I have explained it? The explanation is quite simple, although I am not sure how convincing it is. I was in urgent need of using the facilities, but found that the men's toilet was being cleaned. My client-manager, who had offered to drive me home, was in a hurry to leave. She did not want to wait for the cleaners and then me to finish our jobs. Since it was late in the day and almost nobody was working on the floor, she suggested that I use the ladies restroom, while she waited outside to make sure some female co-worker did not enter while I was still in there. That's what happened.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Two-Minute Cooking School: Prospectus

The idea of the Two-Minute Cooking School is to present a recipe which can be learnt in just two minutes!

Almost all the recipes are for Indian dishes. The recipes may not be 100% authentic, the way it is made in your state, village or home. However, they are 100% yummy. The first time I've tried most of these dishes and tasted them, I've gone, "Whoa! Did I really cook this myself? I wish I could show this off to my mom!" Many of these dishes, as cooked by me, have been tasted and appreciated by friends. So, you can be sure that the recipes are tried and tested to work.

Every recipe is accompanied by a picture taken in my kitchen, soon after the dish is prepared and ready.

Past recipes: Vaangibath, Lemon Rice, Aaloo-paalak, 7-Layer Dessert, Baingan Bharta.

The main target students for this school are young Indians like myself, who are neither total dummies in cooking nor accomplished experts and who like to try new recipes. I don't go into every basic step, nor describe every tiny detail, nor give the exact weight and proportions of the ingredients. I just describe the recipe so that it can be learnt in two minutes. I assume that the target students, who are not novices in cooking, can figure out the tiny details and proportions for themselves.

I have learnt most of these recipes from casual conversations with family and friends, from experimentation and intuition born out of eating my mother's South Indian dishes for almost a quarter century, from the Internet and even from packaging boxes of masalas and spices. Almost none of these recipes have actually been learnt in a kitchen, watching an Indian cook them in the authentic way. So, I make no claims for the recipes to be 100% authentic. I welcome feedback and suggestions from readers, but please don't crucify me when I am not being authentic or following tradition to the T.

I know several Indian languages, but I am not an expert in any of them. I know the names of cooking items and ingredients in some, all or none of these languages. I just use the names in any language that feels most convenient to me at the time. I will try to name the language I use in a recipe and I will try to provide the English or any other commonly known translation, but there will be inconsistencies. Please excuse.

If you try these recipes, please post a comment and let me know. I will be very thrilled if this Two-Minute Cooking School helps even just one poor (forced*) bachelor/ette, far from home, to get a taste for some yummy self-cooked Indian food!

Finally, here are some quick tips from personal experience, on learning to cook.

*Forced Bacherlor/ette: S/he is a married person who is currently forced to live the single life, due to circumstances. The circumstances are usually a work assignment in a different state or country.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Two-Minute Cooking School 3: Aaloo-paalak

Aaloo-paalak and Paranthas (Click for bigger pic)

Come on over for dinner! :-)

Recipe for Aaloo-paalak:
Aaloo-paalak is a North Indian dish. Aaloo is potato and paalak is spinach in most Indian languages. This is a yummy curry of potato and spinach. As with most other recipes in the Two Minute Cooking School, this may not be 100% authentic. But I can vouch for the fact that it is 100% yummy. And I am supported by my friends who have tasted this creation.

Ingredients: Potatoes and spinach in proportion. Little bit of chopped onions. A tiny amount of chopped tomatoes. Tomatoes are optional, but I like to use them. If not tomatoes, you will need lemon juice. Dried red chillies, as per your preferred spice level. You could use green chillies instead, but dried red chilli in green leaf curries is a South Indian tradition. I like the flavor of the red chilli in this dish. A tiny amount (and I do mean tiny) of your preferred curry masala powder. This masala is optional too. Tiny amount of ginger garlic-paste. Salt to taste.

Most of the ingredients mentioned above are required only in "tiny" quantities because spinach and potatoes together are quite flavorful in themselves. The taste of other ingredients must be really small and subtle, and not overwhelm the taste of spinach and potatoes.

Wash the spinach thoroughly. Put the wet and dripping spinach leaves into a cooking vessel, cover and keep on the stove-top. Set the flame between low and medium. You don't need to add any extra water to cook spinach, the wetness of the dripping leaves is enough. You will know the spinach is cooked when you open the vessel after a few minutes and see that the fluffy leaves have settled down into a soggy dark mass. Cook potatoes separately by boiling in water or using a pressure cooker. Peel and chop them into medium-sized pieces. Spinach and potatoes take different durations to cook. So, we cook them separately and not together in the curry.

Heat a little bit of oil in a pan. Just enough oil to fry the onions in. Add dried red chillies broken into pieces. When the red chillies turn a slight brown, add the chopped onions and fry them. When the onions are fried, add a tiny amount of ginger-garlic paste and little bit of chopped tomatoes. Fry some more, until the tomatoes become almost pulpy. Add the spinach and potatoes. Add salt to taste. If you did not use tomatoes, add lemon juice now. Add really tiny amount of the curry masala powder. Mix well. If the mix is too thick, you can add some water. Cover the pan and cook on a low flame for 4-5 minutes.

Aaloo-paalak is ready! You may serve it in a large cup garnished with a fresh slice of tomato and half a teaspoon of butter on top. This is great to eat with all kinds of Indian breads (roti, naan, chapaathi, paranthas, etc.), and also with rice.

Paranthas in picture above:
Featured above are Kawan brand frozen plain paranthas and they are really good. Just get them out of the freezer and heat on flat pan until they are golden brown on both sides. Transfer from pan to plate and gently pat on the sides, turning them round and round. Fluffy, layered, yummy paranthas are ready in two minutes!

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Pimple on the P-Spot!

Warning: If yuck makes you puke, read no further. You have been warned.

Of all the places on the body, the ass or its vicinity is the worst place to get a pimple on. I know a pimple on the face can be an inconvenience before a hot date or interview or meeting or presentation, but a pimple on the ass can be a real pain in the... well, the ass! Depending on location and size, it can make normal everyday life hell for you. You can't sit comfortably and work, you can't sit comfortably and watch a movie or have dinner, you can't sit or squat for the Big Job in the toilet and you might not even be able to sleep in a comfortable, accustomed position on your back or side.

Believe me. I know. I have had a very bothersome pimple off and on for the past... oh my god, 5 years! Really? So long? Wow! My oldest memory of it is from my first visit to the US (in 2000), when a girl friend (not girlfriend) tried to burst it during a massage. But I digress...

Yes, I have had this one off and on for the past 5 years. And it is not even exactly on my ass. It is right in the center of my back, on the end of my spine, just where my back ends and ass begins, exactly on the border. It is the spot I have christened the P-Spot*!

I don't know how I got the pimple there first. I always blame one of my many unhealthy seating postures. Although you try to get up and walk around visiting co-workers, going to meetings, eating out, etc. on the average work day, spending considerable amount of time with your ass parked on a chair, in front of the computer, does lead to many unhealthy seating postures. One or more of these postures must cause the center of my back, the end of my spine, the exact border between my back and my butt, my P-Spot, to rub against the chair, and this might have caused some under the skin or over the skin trauma, which led to the first pimple. Long story short, once every 3 months or 6 months or 9 months, I get a pimple on that spot with which you are very familiar by now, the P-Spot.

The size of the swelling might be as small as a mustard seed or as big as a quarter (American 25-cent coin). When it is small, I may not even be consciously aware of it. It might only announce its presence with an unexpected spike of pain up my back, when I am in the shower, and I accidentally rub it when scrubbing my back. But when it is as big as a quarter, it is a bitch, a real bitch, I tell you! This happened once a few months ago and it happened again during the past 2-3 days. Although it is less painful right now and probably a little smaller than the last quarter-size appearance, the pain has been pretty bad both times. So bad in fact that, I have had a low fever because of the pain. No kidding!

It appears as big as a quarter, only when I look at it in the mirror. Otherwise, it feels like it is bigger - somewhere between the size of a golf ball and a tennis ball! And seems to weigh as much as the latter. Imagine such a ball embedded under your skin, right on the spot with which you are very familiar by now! It feels as if my waist-size has increased by 2-3 inches. It is not really that much, but it feels like it. The result is that the waist-band of my pants and my belt press right down on the pimple, making it whine all day like a bitch, sending vibes of pain radiating in expanding circles out from the P-Spot. And if I do anything like go from standing position to sitting position, or bend, or turn my body, just anything to stretch the skin over the swelling even a little bit, the whine turns into a howl and the pain radiates out from the P-Spot to all parts of my body like a tsunami wave!

Have I not showed it to a doctor yet? I have. In 2001 or 2002, when I was back in India. I visited a general physician who had one look at it and said it might need surgery and I should go see a specialist. I did not believe him. Surgery? For a mere pimple on the ass... I mean, the P-Spot? No way! The pimple disappeared after that and I came back to the US. Since then the pimple has been visiting me sometimes after a 3-month break, sometimes after 6- to 9-month hiatus. After each brief visit it disappears and I think it will not return again, but it does. It certainly does. And it is so easy to put-off visits to the doctor out of sheer laziness and also out of hesitation that this might really need surgery. I live alone, in this strange country, with no family at all here. What if this needs surgery and someone needs to take care of me? Friends? No way! I don't want to bother friends for the matter of a pimple! Fortunately, I will be going to India soon. This time I am determined to have it cured once and for all!

Meanwhile, whenever the pimple makes its full 25-cent-size appearance, I walk around as if I am pregnant. It's true. I have seen full-pregnant women walk around, adjusting their posture and walking style and stride to the additional size and weight, taking deep or short breaths, easing themselves onto a chair or bed slowly and carefully. That is how I am with this pimple on my P-Spot. Pregnant with a pimple!

*P-Spot: You probably thought that spot on the center of the back, at the end of the spine, right on the border between the back and the ass, has been christened as the P-Spot by yours truly because of the pimple. Actually, no. The name, to that unfortunate spot, has a more aesthetic background. Years ago, I had a friend for whom that spot was an extremely erogenous zone. She really enjoyed being pleasured there. And her name starts with a P. That, dear readers, is the sentiment which led me to call it the P-Spot!