Tuesday, October 28, 2008

bitter is better

i disliked bitter gourd from a very young age. actually, i detested it. my mom tried her level best to persuade me to eat bitter gourd. but i just did not budge. till many many years later. ironically, i started liking it after she passed away. bittergourd sambhar(paavakkai sambhar) is de rigueur for a sraddha(annual death ceremony) meal in the south among tambrahms. may be it was the cook who made it so well that i started craving for it and would actually look forward to this sambhar whenever such an opportunity arose.having no sympathisers at home for my newfound love for this bitter vegetable in sambhar form, i decided to take it raw and sometimes as a juice and even as a vegetable fried with slices of onion. all these experiments helped me to satiate my craving for this marvellous vegetable.for me it was an acquired taste.i normally never miss having shuktho when i am in kolkata.nirmal is a phenomenal cook.his shukto,a bengali preparation(mixed vegetable consisting of bitter gourd and also bitter leaves of neem or patol), is so good that i go over the top when he prepares this bitter dish.taken with rice as a starter during lunch by the bengalis it has a cooling effect on the stomach.of course shuktho has other vegetables added to give more taste and flavour alongwith panchphoran and neem leaves as well to add further to the bitterness!

i was not aware till many years later that this vegetable also referred to as bitter melon has multiple health benefits. rich in iron,it has twice the calcium of spinach,twice the potassium of banana and twice the betacarotene of brocolli. and for some of us who get hangovers due to one too many, the bittergourd juice is the perfect antidote. it is a terrific detoxicant and cleanses the liver. low in saturated fat and cholesterol,it provides vitamin A,iron,magnesium and phospherous and also vitamin c, vitamin K and zinc,magnesium and potassium. and it is low in sodium. therefore salting them for removing the bitter taste dose not actually harm you. credited with blood purifying properties,it can even cure skin related problems. people suffering from respiratory problems have immensely benefitted by consuming karela juice regularly. it also acts as a missile against diabetes. juice of the leaves of the plant has excellent medicinal values.

take a cup of bitter juice with a tablespoon of honey. asthma,gout,rheumatism,jaundice and other disorders of spleen and liver will not come near you. drink and eat bitter and feel and be better.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

celebrating vegetarianism

during my last visit to kolkata in end september along with my colleagues we decided to have lunch at the kenilworth hotel at shakespeare sarani. we were quite surprised when on arrival, the steward told us that the hotel was celebrating three days of vegetarianism. nonogenarian sadhu vaswani,spiritual head of the sadhu vaswani mission based in pune, the wellknown guru and referred to as the "shaper of souls" was camping in the hotel and in deference to his wishes, the hotel run by raju bharath, decided to observe and offer only vegetarian food during his stay. i asked him whether that did not put off the non-vegetarian guests. he replied that on the contrary,there were more people visiting the restaurant than normal.

dada j p vaswani maintains that peace and harmony will not be there until we "stop all killing".november 25 which is his birthday is celebrated as "meatless day" and animal rights day."if today i don't hesitate in killing an animal,i won't hesitate in killing a man tomorrow. life is god's gift;only he can take it away," says dada vaswani.

for many years now one can see a virtual vegetarian uprising. and india is recognised as the main originator of vegetarianism.hinduism and its offshoots-buddhism and jainism were born in india. all these religions have preached ahimsa (non-injury) from ancient times.even in a country like usa there are about 15 million full-time and part-time vegetarians.you have jewish vegetarianism and sufi vegtarianism groups too.more and more people are being influenced by the animal rights movement and by environmental and health concerns.veg food is no longer "rabbit food".

veg falafal and chinese special veg food has become the flavour of the day.veg cookbooks are sprouting a dime to a dozen.there is even a lowfat jewish veg cookbook written by debra wassermann. according to rev dada j p vaswani,the true vegetarian is one who is filled through and through with reverence for life.life is a gift of god which no man should destroy.as is the food,so is the mind. as is the mind,so are the thoughts. as are the thoughts,so is the conduct. as is the conduct,so is the health.

the buffet lunch was thoroughly enjoyable. it was absolutely delicious. a combination of east and west. an interesting fusion and subtle mélange. starting with spicy avocado soup,we had pasta avaieletta, baked vegetables, german potato salad, vegetable quessidillas with broccolli, pod thai noodle and baby potatoes with garlic. the dessert counter had besides Indian sweets, mangocheese cake and chocolate parefit. it was an unforgettable lunch and something that all eight of us ate to our heart's content.

the icing on the cake was swarup chatterjee, the amiable chef. the avocado soup was heavenly.when i requested that I wanted to meet him,he promptly came over to our table and met me. i congratulated him on the excellent spread that he had painstakingly prepared and in particular the mouthwatering soup. i asked him whether he could give me the recipe. within 15 minutes he came back with the recipe artistically written in his own hand. something i will treasure. i liked the youngster. his spontaniety, his culinary skills and his desire to satisfy nay delight a customer.

"nourish life with vegetable food.and shun the sacrilegious taste of blood".

it's mind boggling

normally,i do not get intimidated by numbers. i am quite numeric but not a number cruncher though. so I have my love-hate relationship with numbers. i have found that in life success depends besides other things on a good memory, commonsense and a capacity for mental sums. exercises to the brain at an early age does wonders. that’s the time when the brain is receptive. it is not cluttered. absorptivity and retentivity are both high.when i was young,i was taught to memorise mutiplication tables upto ten and in some schools some were taught to committ to memory upto twenty. in rajasthan they go up to 100. no wonder that marwaris are so good at numbers which they use effectively for their business activities. there is a place in rajasthan called shekawat from where these number geniuses appear.

when we talk of inflation- an index worked out to indicate the cost of living ,if it is in single digit, we presume things are under control. when it goes to two digits, red lights start flashing and government tries emergency steps to control the rising monster. when it goes still higher we refer to those countries as banana republics where inflation runs in three figures.

but then what would you call a nation which has inflation running in nine digits? a recent press report said that zimbabwe had hit 231,000,000% per year. a record 231 million percent in july compared to 11.2 million percent in june. a loaf of bread which was costing 500 zimbabwean dollars in august now costs about 7000 zdollars.unable to carry on under these circumstances,many zimbabweans have resorted to barter and also rely on their friends and relatives in south africa for supplies of essentials.

this must be a record and fit for entry into the guiness books.and president mugabe will no doubt top the honours in the rogues' gallery.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

an irresistable offer

when my daughter and son-in-law invited me to join them for the weekend at kashid beach,it was a welcome break that i was loooking for.both of them love the beaches at alibag and particularly kashid which is one hour's drive from the mandwa jetty,the disembarkation point for alibag. last december,i had visited kashid to attend a wedding and i liked the place so much that i vowed to myself to return soon. but then till this offer came,i had really found no time to go away for a break.

living near gateway of india,as we do,the drive to the ferry embarkation point took me just five minutes.i took a vantage seat in the airconditioned cabin of the ferry liner and enjoyed the comfortable 45 minutes ferry ride to alibag. at mandwa jetty, a car from prakruti hotel resorts was awaiting me. the drive to the hotel was really bad due to the very poor condition of the road. what a pity! and this is our problem. we have good tourist destinations but the roads are so bad that it makes reaching those places a pain more than a pleasure. wish the state government does something to provide funds to the local municipality to improve the road condition. alternatively, considering the fact that the superrich have their lovely villas in alibagh and kashid, it shouldn't be difficult to mop up the funds for some better roads and other amenities.

the four-star prakruti hotel promoted by one mangoleran shetty has excellent rooms,facilities like swimming pool and a bar with restaurant. the food served is excellent. being a vegetarian i missed out on the seafood that this place is famous for.my daughter had sent me a sms asking me to head to the swimming pool on my arrival. when i arrived,i made a beeline to the pool and joined my granddaughter and her parents and their friends.we had a great time for about an hour playing in the water and discussing with my son-in-law's friends about the wall street crash!(they all work for the ws biggies in india).

later we drove around kashid and enjoyed looking at the lovely beach-pure white sand and the blue sea. the paddy fields on the other side with green mountains and rivulets all added to the beauty all around. the casuarina groves providing a thick forest cover was an eyesoothing experience. kashid reminds me of the bogmolo beach at dabolim,goa where i lived for a little more than three years.

kashid is an ideal place to have a second home.a perfect weekend getaway.its beaches are the best in maharashtra and perhaps one of the best in the konkan region. the surroundings are peaceful and the local population very quiet and friendly.the casuarina groves and the pristine beach so closeby are irresistable attractions. while driving down to kashid from mandwa jetty,i checked on the property prices with the enterprising driver. "6 lakhs a gunta only,sir", he said.he also offered to help me buy a plot of land through his brother who is a real estate broker. a gunta is 1000 sq feet.no doubt pricey.but then land prices have shot up in the last six months to a year and a correction is due.the global financial meltdown and the stockmarket crash in india would help in the fall of these high prices.that may be an opportunity to buy a small piece of land and build a second home as a weekend retreat to this lovely beach town.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

sattoo-the quintessential bihari food

having lived in kolkata for many years,i developed a few bihari(state of bihar is bengal's neighbour) friends.during my frequent visits to kolkata,i meet them for a chat or to be precise for a little bit of 'adda',time permiting. and then they sing hosanas on their favourite sattoo.i decided to find out more about this powder that excites them so much.

the bihari's soft corner for sattoo is well known. i dare say,you can not separate a bihari from his sattoo. he would swear by it and would be prepared to live on sattoo alone for days and months. in fact, when there are severe floods like the recent one where the river kosi changed course, sattoo helped many stranded citizens to survive till food packets were air-dropped. i had heard of this chick pea powder in my young days and perhaps had it several times.after having heard praises galore,i decided to explore it further and examine its true value.

sattu is roasted bengal gram made to fine powder and added with black salt and a bit of jeera powder in a tall glass of water.it is a drink to die for.some though prefer to have it with jaggery or sugar.what does it contain? it has loads of folic acid,manganese,molybdenum and fibre.it has proteins and minerals like copper,zinc,magnesium and iron.it is a good food for diabetics. it helps lower bad cholesterol and improves blood sugar levels.

many biharis take it for breakfast in the form of small sattu balls which are fried in oil.some take it in the form of paranthas. green chillies,chopped onions and ajwain are also added to make a proper sattu dough for the paranthas.and garlic too if you like it.and garam masala, jeera and dhania powder. you can have burfi made out of sattu too! what more can you ask for from a humble chick pea? and some have it as a drink.

i decided to try out the sattoo drink.i had bought a 500gm packet of 'satyendra sattoo' in kolkata.it claimed that the drink would be wholesome,energetic and soothing.i took four teaspoonful of sattoo powder, diluted them in water to which i added a pinch of salt and a slice of lemon. for the last two days this drink has been my breakfast.it has kept me going till lunchtime without any hungerpangs in between.a 500gm packet costs rs 35 which is about 80 cents.and is supposed to be very helpful for gastric problems,constipation and acidity.it improves sleep and appetite.and keeps the stomach clean and cool.
it is cool.paisa vasool as the saying goes. "taste the wholesome,energetic and soothing drink in a natural 'n' healthy way".

have fun.have sattu.