Under Pressure

So guess what? I’ve been COOKING. It feels so great to be in the kitchen again! Feels like home. Just with some new friends.

I have to admit, I was avoiding the “cooking in India” bit immensely because of some silly mental roadblocks. Excuses really.

Like the fact that your veggies don’t come conveniently triple washed from Trader Joes. Instead, veggies come chalked with dirt directly from the good earth and you have to wash the chunks of dirt away five times more carefully, with filter water.20130825-173851.jpg

Then, there was the overwhelming foreign spice drawer. I love LOOKING at the colors and smelling the different seeds, but I never really wanted to get involved with those guys. I prefer my good old brown sugar and butter friends. Who are these zeera, haldi, duniya, mirchi, rye, guys anyway? New smells and no measurements.  How do I know what tastes good together? How do I know how much to use? Spices are like CRAYONS. If you mix them all together at once, you just get an ugly brownish green. Yikes.

The gas stove jumps at you every time when you light it with the hand lighter. Pressure cookers make me shudder, those moody, hot, angry beasts yelling at you at unpredictable moments. You even have to lock them!

And I confess, the biggest excuse was that I had just gotten luxuriously lazy. Oh Sangeeta, (our maid) can do it for me.

My good friend and amazing Iyengar yoga teacher, Kimberly, shook me out of this nonsense. One morning in the hall, we couldn’t decide what to practice. “Well, my very first teacher told me, ‘First do what you need, then do what you need to understand, then do the poses you have been avoiding for awhile.'” Gosh. She is so wise. That day, we did lengthy sirsasana variations. Tough but eye-opening. I didn’t even know I could do these poses! You can read more from her here on her blog.20130825-174020.jpg

This got me thinking about the things I’ve been avoiding for awhile. Why of a sudden, do they become things I start to dread, or worse fear, and eventually earn the label of “hard”? How does this happen? Why does this happen?

In the absence of my attention, they are misunderstood. In my avoidance, these small, possible, and even enjoyable! things are blown into huge foreign monsters that make me squirm and feel uncomfortable. Hmm. Sounds, looks, smells like a big ball of wasted energy.

Things are different at the case de sonia in Pune.

I discovered how incredibly therapeutic it was to turn on my music and clean fresh methi fenugreek leaves. Ridge gourds are so beautiful and bitter gourds are so…bitter! I learned a trick from Sonali, my landlady – salt them and squeeze the bitterness out before cooking.

I sniffed, examined, organized my spice drawer, putting each one into a cute little container with a mini spoon. Slowly, with experimentation, I am learning how to sequence the spice colors together to create bright magentas and turquoises. Rye mustard seeds smell amazing when they start crackling in hot ghee…like the savory notes of fresh maple syrup! I promise some tips and recipes once I start becoming consistently successful.20130825-173913.jpg

Me and the beast are now great friends. I am pressure cookering so much that Sangeeta has start to make fun of me about it. Hah. I did cringe and hide and shut my eyes when he blew off some steam the first few times, but after awhile, his temper tantrums seemed less dangerous. Now I lug the big guy to and fro with new confidence. We sing together. One whistle, two whistles, three whistles, whistle while we work :). Tonight’s menu is fresh kudo pumpkin subzi vegetable with homemade paneer. Compliments of the beast.

So I haven’t been starving. I’ve been learning and loving sweet monsters. Try it sometime. Even Eleanor says so. 20130825-180000.jpg

Much love,

More later,




P.S. This is Bake With Sonia’s 100th post! This calls for a celebration!! Pop open the champagne and pull out the chocolate!

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