Eat, Pray, Love!

“In a world of disorder and disaster and fraud, sometimes only beauty can be trusted.…And sometimes the meal is the only currency that is real.”—Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love.

Eat, Pray, Love….. I can watch it forever. It is light, enjoyable, I can relate to it and it always leaves an impact on me that lingers on for days. The reason is an incredible journey of a woman, who has had enough in life and she needs to shake up her soul. She needs an appetite for life to add the much-needed essence of fancy for food, a feeling to love and to be loved and making that eternal bond with the almighty. I think we all need it sometime or the other in our lives.

In the bestselling memoir Eat, Pray, Love, author Elizabeth Gilbert travels the world to rediscover herself. She decides to embark on a journey of self-realization starting from Rome, then to India and finally ends it at Bali. Liz, as everyone calls Julia Roberts in the movie, is reeling from a messy divorce and unbearable depression. She finds nirvana in three simple words: eat, pray, love.

Liz finds immense pleasure through Italy’s cultural delights where she experiences the ‘no carbs left behind’ food and simply loves it. The once calorie-conscious Liz indulges in a gelato any time of the day without feeling guilty. In Italy, Liz has an epic dinner that starts with Spaghetti alla Carbonara with a side of sautéed spinach and garlic. She tastes fried zucchini blossoms filled with cheese and feasts on Tiramisu for dessert. There is warm bread dipped in olive oil, veal and red wine too, ah… sounds epic.

Her spiritual journey in Varanasi, India, takes her to an all-new level. Here she tastes the slow-cooked vegetable curry, which we make all the time in our homes. She learns the nuances of meditation and finds solace doing so. Her last stop is Bali, an Indonesian island, known for its splendid beauty and oriental appeal. She finally finds her love for food growing and quite satisfying indeed while in Rome, she quenches the thirst of her wandering soul as she gets closer to the almighty in India and she finds a reason to love and to be loved in Bali.

Every time I watch the flick, I think of food and out of all the food shown in the movie, two recipes that I have made often and added my own twist to, are my all-time favorites. I am sharing them with you. They are simple, appetizing and can be termed as ‘comfort food’.

Spaghetti all’amatriciana (You cannot go wrong with this one)

  • 2 red onions
  • 7 large tomatoes
  • handful of cherry tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons chili flakes
  • 1 red bell pepper (chopped)
  • 1 Tbsp bottled jalapeno
  • 1 Tsp crushed garlic
  • 20 leaves of basil
  • 1 Tsp oregano
  • 200 – 250g spaghetti
  • Olive oil

Preparation

Peel the tomatoes and chop them up in small pieces. Take little oil in a pan and add the chopped tomatoes. Cover it and let it cook for 10 mins on low flame. Chop up the cherry tomatoes as well and finely chop the onions and the basil. Start boiling some water and boil the spaghetti according to instructions.

Once the tomatoes are cooked and tender, grind them in a grinder and keep aside. Take another pan, add oil, add garlic and sauté for 10 seconds. Add oregano, pepper flakes and chopped onions. Sauté till the onion starts to turn light brown, add chopped bell pepper and jalapenos. Cover and cook until the bell pepper gets moist and soft. Add cooked tomatoes paste, cherry tomatoes and basil, mix well and cook for about three to four minutes. Add salt to taste.

Place spaghetti pasta on a plate and add sauce on top and serve.

 

Tiramisu

1 package cream cheese, softened (250 grams)

½ cup powdered sugar

2 tablespoons light rum or whiskey will also do

1 cup whipping (heavy) cream

Plain sponge cake (you can either make it or buy it from a local bakery)

½ cup black coffee (keep it strong)

2 teaspoons cocoa powder

Beat cream cheese and powdered sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Beat whipping cream in chilled small bowl on high speed until stiff peaks form. Fold it into the cream cheese mixture.

Cut the sponge cake horizontally in strips. Arrange half of the cake strips on bottom of an ungreased square pan or round pan. Add rum to the black coffee and drizzle some of it over these strips. Spread half of the cream cheese mixture over this.

Arrange remaining strips on cream cheese mixture. Drizzle with the remaining coffee and rum mixture. Spread the remaining cream cheese mixture. Sift or sprinkle cocoa over top. Cover and refrigerate for about 4 hours or until filling is firm. Store covered in refrigerator.

 

 

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Periods shaming in India: Time to fight the taboo

Periods shaming is largely prevalent in India and has gone unchecked because the roots of it lie in our culture. This happens and we all know it but why isn’t someone doing something about it. Today as I was sipping my coffee in the morning, I came through a post sent to me by my friend Roopali from Noida about a shocking incident that came to fore in Muzaffarnagar in the state of Uttar Pardesh. I hope the Chief Minister, Mr Yogi Adityanath, will take note of the incident.

About 70 girls were ‘stripped’ naked by a school warden of a residential school in Muzzafarnagar, who reportedly saw menstural blood on the floor of the hostel’s bathroom. The girls were allegedly made to sit in the classroom in that state.

The school, Kasturba Gandhi Residential School, has initiated an investigation against the warden. According to an NDTV report, one of the students said, “There was no teacher around. We were called downstairs (from the hostel). Madam made us to take off our clothes saying she will beat us if we did not. We are kids, what could we do? She would have beaten us had we not obeyed her.”

At least 35 students have left the facility. Many of them have come forward with similar allegations.

The warden has been removed and an inquiry has been initiated. But, does it end here? The problem is not what the warden did, the problem is what made the warden think that menstruating is criminal and deserves to be shamed.

I had a friend in Ferozepore as a child. She lived in a joint family and had several aunts. Her aunts and her mother would restrain from entering the family kitchen on certain days and would cook for themselves at a small kitchen made away from the family kitchen. The kitchen had separate utensils too. When I asked her that why was this happening, she said that they are impure for certain days and aren’t allowed to enter the kitchen and eat what is cooked for the family. So, they have to cook for themselves and not interact with the male members of the family during those days. I came back and told my mother about it, to which she said that my grandmother also didn’t allow my mother to enter the kitchen during those days until my grandmother fell ill and my mother had to do the home chores.

This left a deep scar on my outlook towards a boy and a girl. It told me that I am a girl and I am different. There is something different about being a girl. Thankfully, I did not get the disturbing feeling of being impure etc. due to the exposure I had in life.

During the olden times, the wise must have thought that women need to rest during menstruation and thus came the cultural diktat but the decree was abused, altered to such an extent that women were considered impure and what not. A minister was quoted as saying that women must not enter religious places during those days. This is preposterous to me. That man should be told that when he was inside his mother’s body, he was surrounded by the same blood that he and his god-forsaken society considers impure.

Some facts (TOI report)

  • Only 12% of India’s 355 million menstruating women use sanitary napkins, rest use old rags, unsanitised cloth, ashes and husk sand. In comparison, 100% women in Singapore and Japan, 88% in Indonesia and 64% in China use napkins.
  • Incidents of Reproductive Tract Infection (RTI) is 70% more common among these women.
  • Inadequate menstrual protection makes adolescent girls (age group 12-18 years) miss five days of school in a month (50 days a year). Around 23% of these girls actually drop out of school after they start menstruating.
  • Around 70 per cent of women cannot afford sanitary napkins. (If you have a maid working in your house, ask her if she needs assistance for herself and her daughters and ensure that a packet or two is given to her every month. If you won’t, nothing will change and the taboo with periods will continue in our society).

Today, through this post, I urge parents to change the mindset among their children about periods. Daughters should not be told that something different has happened to them when they reach the age and sons should be taught to be more accepting of this natural cycle. A woman is already going through discomfort during those days and the least she needs is a lecture on what she should do and not do.

It is 2017, we still tell women and girls how to dress up, we tell them to drink but not like men because they can’t hold their drinks, we tell them not to put their under garments out in the sun, we tell them not to venture out at night because some demented man will consider them to be ‘available’. Every single day, we are telling them to do things that make men important and everything women do should be done considering men. Really? And why?

We are not modern yet. Modernity comes from your thoughts. You might be clad in a saree and not know English, yet be modern. We need to forego the belief that people who do not converse in English or do not wear short dresses aren’t modern. Uplifting the lives of people around you is being modern, considering someone else’s discomfort is being modern, considering male, female and other sex as equal is being modern, ensuring your personal and financial independence is being modern, taking care of your parents being women is being modern.

Last but not the least, we are examples to our children, they will learn and accept what we believe and teach them. So, ladies the next time you pass a statement like, “I don’t know how to drive or I have to ask papa if he allows this or don’t go outside to play as you are having your periods”, remember, your daughter is getting OK with the fact that women do not have to drive because men do and it is OK for men to decide everything that takes place in the lives of women associated with them and that periods are something that will make her give up many things in life. Trust me, your effort to educate a girl is going in vein if this is how you think and do.

Change! And change for the better.