Gone Hiking

August 13, 2007

blog.jpgShall be writing at length as soon as I get back.

Meanwhile, have to say sampling chicken tikka masala in an antique pub in the Lake District a skip away from Wordsworth’s grave was thought provoking.

Very tasty and authentic Indian meal, not too spicy, rather subtle with a creamy-gingery backdrop, perfect with the local brew. Which brings me to the amazement I always feel when confronted with the mystery of ginger; how different its personality and contribution  when shredded, when ground to a paste, when added in long very very thin strips, when dried and ground into a powder (always use very little, increase amount cautiously, for this form can be quite ferocious), when crushed and squeezed for an infusion, when cooked with cream, with vegetables, when added to tea. No wonder the saying, bandar kya jaaney adrak ka swad? (What does a monkey know about the subtleties of ginger?)

Which brings me to the delightful experience of being able to order or buy clotted cream so easily here. We of India, who have grown up with cauldrons of boiling-hot milk set aside to cool and create thick layers of cream have given up a lot in a universe of pasteurised homogenised milk, i.e., the developed world. We have lost the ability to top off salty salmon pink colored sheer chai with a dollop of crusty thick cream; or slather that just made dosa with clotted cream butter (a combination that is too delicious to explain); or churn layers of cream with fruit in ice filled buckets to make ice cream that can only be decribed as real.

We have to do without. Unless we find a farm where the farmer is willing to part with just milked milk without fear of legal repercussions.

Along with some flora of the rain forest, the rarity and near disappearance of clotted cream in the western hemisphere must be regarded as a great environmental loss.

But enough of that. It is too splendidly beautiful here. These are the stomping grounds of the Romantics: Wordsworth, Coleridge, Southey and the women in their lives and the plethora of children they were blessed with. And the muse and world of still adored truly “popular girl” Beatrix Potter, who through buying and selling did not lay waste her powers; instead she must be reckoned as the single greatest preserver of the serene breathtaking landscape here. The Lake District also boasts as its native son the lesser known John Ruskin, whom Gandhi revered. The good news is that little has changed in the vista since all that happened.

Shall be writing again soon.

Meanwhile, enjoy the scenery.

I started this journey many moons ago on the Philadelphia Main Line as a new bride accompanying her husband, who was a practical stranger then. I started my home and hearth in a new country, in a new culture, armed only with sheer optimism and a handful of recipes. Since then, much water has flown under the seven bridges of antiquity that still span the River Jhelum in my sublime valley of Kashmir. And countless meals cooked in my kitchens have taken me from a cuisine ingenue to authoring a cookbook which then took me to writing as a vocation all of which have brought me to this blog.

My thing with the eponymous cookbook was that, if I, a professional civil servant, who had no prior cooking experience, could cook delicious Indian meals, anyone could. It was still dreamtime for Indian cuisine back then. The Princeton area had one Indian restaurant that got away with serving anything under the guise of Indian food. We travelled miles for a decent Indian grocery and the sight of fresh coriander in an “American” supermarket brought tears to our Indian eyes. Things have changed completely and I believe irretrievably, thank Goodness, for all of us with links to The Great Subcontinent. There is an Indian restaurant at every corner now in Princeton, or so it seems. And Americans are into Indian cuisine like there is no tomorrow.

And I am here for all such aficionados, an online cuisine consultant, ready and eager to help demystify my cuisine, my culture, and my country in any way I can.

In addition to cooking and writing I try my hand at anything that strikes my fancy, and things strike my fancy all the time. Travel, painting, pottery, designing jewelry, are some of my predominant preoccupations.

In conclusion I must tell you that cooking for me is like painting, the muse has to visit, and it has to be an experience. Those who know me know when I have cooked because I wanted to cook, and when I have cooked because I was the cook.

Wishing all of you many curries and no worries!

 Curries Without Worries