Category Archives: Food

Magical Light up Night

On a lethargic morning last week I was browsing through Facebook, when a notification popped up. It said about a light up night in Pittsburgh downtown on 17th November’2017. On further inquiry I found it was a tradition. So me and three of my colleagues decided to visit downtown on that day. First we had planned to come home after work and then start but one of us suggested, that would result into further delays due to co-ordination. So we started from office right after work at 6:00 pm. The first route we took had a traffic jam so we took a detour. Once we reached downtown, we felt like we are on a festival night. The streets were decorated with lights and people were happily roaming around. The next challenge was to find a parking space. Luckily we found one after searching for a small time.

We walked till Market Square, there we were greeted by a European market. There were shops for Christmas decoration articles, gifts and food. It was freezing cold but the market had a warm atmosphere. People had come with their families. Soon the Christmas Carols started. It reminded me of the fairs during festivals in my hometown. My colleague suggested having strudel which was unknown to all of us. I had a delicious apple strudel. Surprisingly we felt warm after having it. The cold winds reminded us of hot chocolates. We spotted a Starbucks but one of us came up with an idea of exploring something local so we went to Nicholas Coffee.

The Coffee shop

We were amazed at the variety of coffee seeds there. The aroma of brewing Coffee welcomed us. We had hot chocolates with whipped cream.We came out just when the Christmas tree was about to be lighted and witnessed the amazing lighting. We even met another colleague.

The lighted Christmas Tree

After the lights we went to the Duquesne Boulevard to see the fireworks. A rock concert was going on. Luckily we got a parking from where the fireworks would be visible. It was 0 degrees celcius but the wait was worth it as the sky was lit with colorful crackers. The sky appeared like a palette of glittering colors. We watched the entire show and then returned. I thank Pittsburgh for this magical evening and my colleague for taking us to this event. So the next time you are in Pittsburgh around Thanksgiving, make sure you see the Light up Night.

The Fireworks

The Colorful sky

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A unique festival

Have you ever received a notification which made you so curious that the first thing you do on the weekend is to rush downtown in spite of rains. I did, when an article on Picklesburgh was shared. This is a festival to celebrate all things pickled. My interest was increased when I read it would be conducted on the Roberto Clemente bridge in Pittsburgh. This was the most unique festival I had ever attended. The day began with rains which generally dampen my spirits for travelling. But my curiosity got the better of me and by afternoon I was on my way. As soon as I reached near the downtown, I saw huge crowd dressed in bright summer colors. The best way to find an event is to follow the crowd.

Roberto Clemente bridge with Picklesburgh

The bridge entrance

The bridge seemed to have come to life because of the festival. The excitement of the event was clearly visible on the happy faces of the kids. There were stalls of all kinds of pickles, jams, jellies, cakes and chocolates in addition to fries, sandwiches. There were pickles of cucumber, corns, beans, etc. Most of the food items had a little bit of dill be it sandwich or roll. The air on the bridge had the lovely fragrance of dill. Everyone seemed to have come with their families. Even the weather seemed to have given up to the enthusiasm and so the clouds had cleared to a bright sunny day.

On the bridge

live music

To add to this there was live music. This was a complete family event which reminded me of the fairs in my hometown in my school days. Everyone Even simple things when done differently can make wonders, this was one such wonder. These kind of events give us the much needed opportunity to enjoy quality time with our family. The crowded bridge and the still river, presented an amazing contrast to the viewer. I returned home with amazing memories. This festival will be pickled in my heart forever.

Pujo in USA

Goddess Durga

Goddess Durga

The biggest festival that a bengali looks forward to, for the entire year, the Durga Puja 2016 is going on. It is a celebration of the victory of good over evil. This is the time when the air smells of festivity. This year I had the opportunity of visiting the Durga Puja at Pittsburgh, USA in Hindu Jain Temple. Once inside the hall, I felt as if I was in India. The rituals, the decorations, the people and of course the food, all made it a lively place to be. Durga Puja is the time when people get together and discuss on all topics ranging from sports to food. Here also it was so, the hot topic of discussion was Pittsburgh Steelers. Simply proves no matter where they are, bengalis just love sports.

The Hindu Jain Temple

The Hindu Jain Temple

It was raining yesterday night and so the weather was cold from the morning. Thankfully it didn’t rain after morning. Once I reached the temple, the serenity of the atmosphere filled me with happiness. I offered my prayers with flowers. The most admirable thing was, the priest translated the meaning of the prayers to the people in English, thus explaining the prayers to everyone. After the puja we had the delicious meal(Puja Bhog) which comprised of Khichadi, fries, veggies and sweets. Also there was a small exhibition of clothes, accessories and jewelry. Cultural programs were held afterwards. The children were playing around dressed in traditional attire. It reminded me of my school days. I thank the Bengali Association of Pittsburgh(http://bengali-pitt.org/bap/) for keeping the culture alive so far from home. Happy Durga Puja to Everyone. May Goddess Durga bless everyone with happiness and fulfill all their wishes.

Vasant Panchami

Goddess Saraswati

Goddess Saraswati

Today was Vasant Panchami. It means the fifth day of spring. In eastern side of India, it is celebrated as Saraswati Puja and falls generally in the month of February. The academic session in India begins from June and ends in April. The tension of exams starts clouding from February. Goddess Saraswati is the Goddess of learning. Hence Saraswati Puja is very important for every person learning something be it studies, music, art, etc. It is a very special day for 3 year olds. They are dressed in traditional attire of dhoti or saree. The priest makes them write a few alphabets on a slate with chalk. This is called ‘Hathe Khodi’. It marks the beginning of education in a person’s life. During our school days we used to dress up in new clothes mostly yellow and go to the venue with our school books. We offered our prayers with flowers to Goddess Saraswati. Then we used to have competitions for drawing, poetry recitation, etc. The flowers used for the ceremony were often taken by the students to be kept in books. I used to make sure those flowers are placed in all my textbooks, particularly those of mathematics. I still remember once a classmate in college started teasing me when a rose was found in one of my books. But the entire joke came to an end when I said its the flower from the Saraswati puja ceremony.

Detailed view of decorations

Detailed view of decorations

This year I wanted to attend this ceremony. It was going to be organized by the Bengali association of Pittsburgh. I was glad when my friend Sahana said she too was also going there and I can join them. It was -12 degrees Celsius as we drove. All the way there was snow on both sides of the road. I was reminded of my school days as soon as we entered the hall. The goddess was decorated with bright flowers. People were dressed in their traditional best. The kids looked elegant in their cute dresses. Everything was just as I had always celebrated, the prayers, the flowers and ofcourse the food. It was the super tasty khichadi with mixed veg curry, chutney, sweet, papad and fruits. We immediately felt at home inspite of being strangers. Below is my platter:

The delicious prasad

The delicious prasad

I am very thankful to my friend Sahana for taking me there. Kudos to the Bengali association of Pittsburgh for organizing this event so far. I just hope Goddess Saraswati blesses us all with knowledge. Happy Vasant Panchami and Happy Saraswati Puja.

A new Beginning

Today is First of January. The day everyone around the world wishes “Happy New Year”. Both 31st december and 1st January have always been unique even though they are not a festival. During my school days, when we only had Doordarshan, this was the only day when there were programs to watch till 1:00 am. In fact, entire family used to watch togather. I used to start asking for cakes right from 27th of december. My mother always found time to make one on 31st december. Generally the cake used to be ready by 10:30 pm and we used to have them at 12:00am. I miss those cold nights sitting togather with the entire family and having fresh cakes. With the advent of cable, different channels had different programs, so another activity of channel surfing got added to this day. Now as the day starts approaching we start getting invites for different events like fireworks show, DJ night, etc.

Another topic of discussion is RESOLUTIONS. This is the first thing that one asks after wishing new year. The biggest joke is they are made to be broken. On a serious note, we humans are never satisfied with whatever we have or are. We always want to improve. The concept of resolutions symbolizes this behaviour. We often set very high goals which require continuous dedication and sacrifice. Again most of us are too lazy to stick to it and so the resolutions are often broken within the first few days. This year I thought of welcoming the new year with lots of colors. It was too cold to go out and buy flowers. So I thought of creating my own flower. I always admired my mother’s ability to make beautiful things using crochet. So I tried my hand at crochet. After 4 hours of struggle, I was able to make the flower below.

My first colorful flower of Crochet

My first colorful flower of Crochet

I just wish all of our lives are as colorful as the petals of this flower. I was so happy that I also decided to make cake. This was another challenge as I had never made one before. Since its the new year, let it be a new beginning of my culinary skills (which need a lot of polishing). Below is the outcome of my effort.

My first cake

My first cake

The blurred face on cake symbolizes the unknown things that future holds for me in the year 2016 and that I will try to welcome them with a cake. Both these experiments just made my day. I hadn’t done any of these before all on my own. The best thing was I was doing it for myself. A learning from this is anything you do will be successful if you do it only for yourself.

HAPPY NEW YEAR

Celebrate the Change

Yesterday evening, it started snowing. It was the first snow of this winter in Pennsylvania. My room had become so cold that I lied down underneath the blankets. After a few minutes I called up my aunt and mom to tell them about the snow. Both suggested making Khichadi. Its a dish made of rice and lentils. The very name of Khichadi brought pleasant memories. During my school days, my mom used to make khichadi regularly in winters. As I was not fond of vegetables, she used to add them in the khichadi. I still remember the hot smoke from freshly made khichadi along with fried fish and tomato chutney.

Finally I got out of the blanket and started cooking khichadi. As a tribute to my school days, I also added some veggies. The aroma and the warmth of kitchen removed the laziness of cold. I made up my mind to enjoy this change of weather. I was so energized that I fried prawns and eggs too. Here is the platter after cooking.

Celebration of first snow with hot Khichadi

Celebration of first snow with hot Khichadi

The aroma seemed to warm up the entire room as I sat eating. I went near the window and saw a beautiful sight where the snow covered cars seemed to shine in moonlight.

Had I continued to stay inside blankets, I would have missed such a great sight. On a philosophical note, like season changes, we also face sudden changes in our lives be it work, friends or family. It all depends on us whether to hide inside blankets and resist it or celebrate it with hot khichadi. So how did you welcome the climate change at your place.

A green weekend

Last monday, my roommates asked me to keep my saturday free, the reason was to attend a potluck. It created an image of lots of food and loud talks with friends. Our contribution included Paneer tikka and Parathas. So today as I got up, one of my roommates was already done with cutting vegetables and the other was preparing the dough. As we were preparing the spicy mix for tikka, I was told that we would be using a barbeque. I was energized immidiately as I had never seen a live barbeque. We completed preparing the Parathas and dipped the veggies and paneer in the mix. The scheduled time to start was 10:00am but by the time we started it was 11:30am.

On the way

On the way

It was a beautiful drive with dense forests on both sides of the road. When we reached the park, it seemed as if time stood still. The small office at the gate seemed like a hut.

Entry at Patapsco valley park

Entry at Patapsco valley park

One of our friends had booked a shade. We were the first to reach but none of us knew which shade was booked and who had booked. One of us was just going to call up to find out who had booked when Saritha, my room mate, noticed a small board with the list of bookings for the day. That list was handwritten with coloured pens. There it was mentioned Ravi Sampara, who happened to be one of our friends. As we bought our entry tickets, we were given a map of the park. It was an amazing park with Spring at its best.

Our Booking

Our Booking

We reached our wooden shade. There I saw a barbeque for the first time. Soon Ravi joined us. The shade somehow reminded me of Treasure Island where the travellars would have food and talk loudly.

Barbeque

Barbeque

Our shed

Our shed

But my reverie was broken when Ravi plugged a radio and Saritha started playing modern day songs.

Connecting the radio

Connecting the radio

Then began the daunting task of setting up a barbeque. We created the fire using the lighter but it kept going off as soon as we put the coal. Then one of us suggested breaking the coals and finally we were able to get the coals heated. Thus we got an opportunity to apply the lessons learnt in school.

Breaking the coal

Breaking the coal

Setting up the barbeque

Setting up the barbeque

The rest of the group joined us in next hour. Sagar brought his grill and we transferred the hot coal in it. Then we prepared the paneer. Everyone had brought food from their homes. As a result we had a royal lunch in forest. We began with a small brunch.

Dahi wada and wada pav

Dahi wada and wada pav

Egg curry, parathas, salad and chicken

Egg curry, parathas, salad and chicken

We walked a bit and played a small game with stones and balls. It simply reminded me of school days. We returned in 2 hours huffing and puffing. Again we had some refreshments. Then one of us suggested going to the waterfall. Hence all of us packed and cleaned the shed. We drove a bit and then again walked for half a mile to reach the fall. It was exhausting but the sight was worth the effort.

The river

The river

We returned after after spending an hour near the river. It was a day well spent, away from all the comforts of home, in the lap of nature with friends. We spend so many weekends lazing around. If all of us spend atleast one weekend per month with nature and family, life would be so beautiful. It is so simple to be happy. It will give us an opportunity to bind with our family and at the same time save electricity. I thank all my friends Saritha, Miti, Ravi, Harshil, Karim, Pushpalata, Sagar, Amrth,Mehul, Deepak, Neha for such a great day.