Category Archives: Food

Saved by Chocolate

Today is World Chocolate Day. Like most of us, there are many memories linked with the word chocolate but today I would like to take up the most recent one where chocolate saved the day. I had eaten the chocolate crêpe in the photo above while roaming around the city. The presence of chocolate syrup simply enhanced the taste.

I was used to baking with ready to cook cake mixes. When the lockdowns started in 2020, I started trying new things in the kitchen. One day I decided to bake from scratch, so I checked out a number of Youtube videos, made notes, discussed with mother and prepared a list. I got all the things, then prepared the mix and baked. The cake was baked properly and smelled so good. It even came out from the baking dish easily. I was so happy that I clicked pictures and sent to my mother. Then I had first bite and realized, it was not as sweet as expected. Maybe the quantiy of sugar was not right. I was disappointed and was wondering how I would eat this cake since its not so tasty. All my expectations went in drain. Just then I opened the fridge and there it was, the chocolate syrup. I remembered how the crêpe tasted so delicious and immidiately poured some syrup on the cake. Then the cake was just what I wanted, tasty. This way chocolate syrup saved my day. I hope this blog brings a smile to you as it made my cake sweet. Happy World Chocolate Day.

Here comes the King

Last week the vegetable vendor brought raw mangoes. Mango is called the king of fruits. It is a seasonal fruit and is available during summer only. If there is anything which makes us look forward to summers it is mangoes. This tasty yummy fruit just makes everything pleasant.

Mango is consumed in a number of ways. As soon as raw mangoes appear in the market, the terrace of the houses are full of jars. Raw mangoes are cut and marinated with spices and oil. They are then dried in the sun in jars to make pickles. This way mango is consumed the whole year. Raw mango is sour in taste. I would cut raw mangoes, tomatoes and cucumber into small pieces, sprinkle rock salt and squeeze a lemon. This salad just makes my day. We even add it in pulses/lentils to make mango dal. This seasonal fruit reminds us, nothing is permanent in life, be it good times or bad times. Today we all are going through a challenging phase. Tomorrow is Holi the festival of colors. Normally we would go to everyone’s house with colors and wish them but this year due to rising Covid cases, community functions are not happening. So no socializing during Holi. I believe this bad phase will also pass and we will be able to come together again one day. We should make the most of the situation. Stay at home, spend time with your family and have lots of mangoes as long as they are available fresh.

Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations 2020

Today is Ganesh Chaturthi. Lord Ganesh is the lord of new beginnings and remover of obstacles. We celebrate his arrival from Kailash. People bring idols of Lord Ganesh in their homes. The entire house is decorated. The days are celebrated with Aarti (ceremonies) and prasad (sweets) are distributed. My home towns of Vadodara and Pune used to come alive with beautiful decorations of community ceremonies. Here the idols will be large and a pandal(temporary stage) would be set up. These festivals gave us an opportunity to meet our neighbors. Many people prepared the sweets for Aarti at home. We also have dance and music performances within the community.

The community festivals are for 11 days. There are many memories associated with this festival. My father would take my sister and me for a visit to all the Pandals in our area. My mother’s colleague used to send her home made sweets for us. If I came up with any resolution after June, I would wait till Ganesh Chaturthi and begin from this day. Praying to Lord Ganesh before starting anything is a part of life. I share my love for modak(sweets) with Lord Ganesh. The sweet shops would make different kinds of modak and put up for display. I used to visit all the sweet shops near temple and get the most unique modak. This year the community festivals are being conducted at a smaller scale because of the pandemic. This has not stopped the devotees but has increased their creativity. People have come up with different ideas of creating their own idols. Many of us have learnt to perform the ceremony ourselves and prepare modak as well. Let us come together and pray a vaccine is found soon, the sick are cured and we are all able to overcome this difficult phase. Happy Ganesh Chaturthi.

An evening with Musical Fountain

Summer is the time to be outdoors. An evening with a cool breeze is the best time to spend with family and friends. Most of us go out for dinner but the dinner becomes memorable when we have it outdoors. On a nice summer day, after cruising on the three rivers of Pittsburgh, me and my friends decided to have dinner at the station square.

The rhythm of the station square fountain with the music has always impressed me. Whenever I went there, it was always soft music. That night the fountain was dancing on rock music. I had never seen it before. The water came out in different colors. It was majestic. The place was full of kids. Each time the water came out, they would clap. We looked for a restaurant with a view of the fountain. Although we were hungry, we waited till a table on the patio was available. Once seated we ordered our food. The best part of eating outdoors is no one bothers about being loud. Dinner with a fountain dancing on rock music along with the cheerful laughter of kids, is simply mesmerizing.

When we look back, the time spent with family and friends brings that warm smile on our faces. We often wonder about special locations to be with our dear ones but its the company which makes the place special. The best place would be a location where one can speak and laugh as loudly as one wants. A simple meal with the loved ones on a moonlit sky or a garden with cool breeze is all one needs to create those special moments which become treasures of memories.

First Bicycle Ride

It is May, the month of summer vacations in India. I am still moved by the Bicycle Museum. I was remembering my 9th birthday when my father gifted me a bicycle. I was expecting a kid’s cycle with training wheels but I got a regular bicycle for grown-ups. I was not even tall enough to ride that bicycle. For the first two days, it was a big challenge to be able to pedal. My father tried to help me for one week. He would never let go the cycle. I was unable to learn. After that he had to leave the city for work.

The day after he left, I tried and tried but was barely able to pedal. Everytime I mounted the seat, the cycle would tilt on one side and I had to get down. Those were summer vacations, we would cycle till late night until our mother would call out for dinner. A few days later, on a late evening, I thought about staying on the seat and trying to balance the cycle instead of stepping down. I put my feet on the pedals, positioned myself on the seat and tried to put my weight on the other side when the cycle began to tilt. The cycle was steady for 2 seconds and then it happened. I fell down and immidiately felt the ache in my knees and elbows. But I didnt have the time to pay attention to it because I had discovered the trick to balance myself on the seat and that after balancing one must continue pedalling to keep the cycle steady. I was so anxious to confirm this discovery that I forgot the pain, again mounted the seat and balanced my weight. I started pedalling as soon as the cycle was steady. My mother was just about to call out for dinner when she heard me shouting “Mom!! Look I can ride a bicycle!!”. She saw an excited me cycle towards the house with bleeding knees, scratched elbows, torn frock and a triumphant smile. She congratulated me and then started tending my wounds.

That day I learnt the first ever lesson of life. Our parents, siblings and near ones would always be there for us. They would support us but to achieve our dreams and aspirations, it is we who have to put in the effort. In the process, even if we fall, they would tend our wounds but to learn if need be we have to fall. One has to leave the fear of fall to achieve their goals.

Bijoya Sammilani

The festival of Dussehra holds huge significance in our lives. It is the celebration of the victory of good over evil. For Bengalis it is the time to meet and greet everyone. We wish everyone Shubho Bijoya (Auspicious Victory). This was the time we used to visit everyone’s house. I still remember my mother making all the planning for a Bijoya dinner. Then it was just food and fun for us but today I feel it was a wonderful way to familiarize us with our culture. It was because of this effort of our parents during Durga Puja, Bijoya Dashami, etc, we were able to imbibe the cultures of both our native place and our residential place. This has played an important part in helping us adapt to any place within or outside our country.

The tasty Luchis

Chicken Curry

This year a few of my Bengali colleagues decided to hold a Bijoya Sammilani (Bijoya meet), which took me back to my school days. But they did it with a twist. All the guys decided to release the females from cooking for the weekend. They had elaborate menu for lunch and dinner for both days. They even had snacks. The fun part was to see them cooking. All the resources were duly calculated and brought. During cooking there was an elaborate discussion on everything. It was surprising as well as entertaining to see software professionals arguing on ways of cutting onions and tomatoes instead of computers. I must say they all did an extraordinary job, even I got to learn a few things about cooking from them. Since the guys took the responsibility of cooking we took the responsibility of entertaining. This meant song performances, poetry recitations, dance and drama. We came to know about the artistic side of everyone. It was like meeting everyone again. At the end of it I felt, this is the essence of festival. We come togather, forget our day-to-day issues and create something to make a time memorable. As long as people with this spirit are there, the culture would stay alive no matter where we are. I thank my colleagues for this memorable time and wish everyone ‘Shubho Bijoya’.

Frozen Treats with a Twist

Everyone waits for the arrival of Summers especially the children. The lovely carefree Summer Vacations for which we used to plan from February. In my hometown Baroda, the Summer was flagged by the presence of yummy bright yellow and orange mangoes. All the terraces used to be full of jars containing spicy pickles. All the roads were full of ice cream shops. I still remember tugging my Father’s hand the moment we passed the ice cream shop. These memorable events of life create an evergreen combination of ice cream and summer. Even today the very mention of Summer brings forth a sight of mango and ice cream. This has also encouraged creativity.

The first breakfast introduced to me after coming to the USA was Waffles and I immediately liked it. I have always had it with strawberry syrup but this year I was surprised. While wandering around the library I came across a nice shop called Waffallonia when I went to the library in downtown. There was a genuine smile on all the faces around that shop. They serve Waffles with Ice cream. I had the outstanding combination of Waffles, peanut butter and cinnamon ice cream.

Waffle with Peanut butter and Cinnamon Ice Cream

Summer is also the time for juicy fruits like watermelon, grapes, etc. My mother always made sure, we have lots of fruits. One of her favorite ways to make us eat fruits was through fruit custard. She was really fast at that. Anytime we made a request and it would be present as a dessert. Last week, I went to the local library. It was really hot so I searched for frozen treats around library and came across The Meadows. There I came across different varieties of Frozen custard. This time it was frozen custard with crunchies.

Custard with Crunchies

Waffles, cream, crunchies are mostly available but it never occurs to us they could create such amazing desserts. This shows creativity has no limits, one can do so even with day to day things. Both Ice cream, waffles and custard are part of my list of favorite dishes but this year I had them with a twist. The trip to library definitely helped me discover these in addition to books. Next time you go for Ice Cream, do ensure you look around for something new in your regular favorite.

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

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.