Tag Archives: food

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.

Diwali Beginnings

Goddess Kali

The festival of Diwali has a special place in my life. There are tons of memories associated with it. The holiday, cleaning of house, preparation of sweets, new clothes, decoration and every activity makes the festival even more enjoyable. The bengalis conduct big celebration of Kali Pujo. Goddess Kali is the destroyer of evil. We pray to her to destroy the evil within us and guide us towards enlightenment. It is the time to clean our hearts and minds, to forget the pains of the past and to brighten our lives with goodness and positiviy. Diwali also marks the New Year in western zone of India.

Fall colors in park

It is a good time to make resolutions. This year I made a resolution to not give in to cold and explore my city. One way to do it is to find parks and wander around. Parks in cities are generally around monuments and have their own history. I started off with Monroeville Community Park. Fall was in full bloom with the tree leaves displaying an array of colors. To add to that an event for Halloween Trick or Treat was going on. There were kids dressed up in their Halloween costumes. Both the trees and the kids displayed a plethora of colors which would fill any heart with joy. I roamed around the park which completed my daily walking schedule. Trying to discover something through a healthy habit motivates us to continue it. The trip helped me discover the Halloween event. Lets see what the next park helps me discover.Till then Happy Diwali and Happy New Year to everyone.

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.

Happy Holi

The festival of Holi is an opportunity to bring out the mischievous side of a person. It occurs towards the end of winter in the month of march. This is the last festival of the academic session before the exams. Its the best time to say sorry. The dry colors are ready a day before. Traditional sweets are prepared in every house. We visit each house, put color on each other’s faces and have sweets. Its the only festival where one does not need to dress up.

My colleague mentioned his daughter has given him the list of colors to bring. This reminded me of the Holi when I was in Sixth grade. A new liquid color was in market. We (me and my sister) had requested our father to bring us that color as well along with the dry colors. My strict grandmother declared no liquid colors. My mother tried to pacify us by saying those colors don’t get removed easily. On the day of Holi, we had played with dry colors and visited everyone’s houses. Still the feeling of enjoying the festival was not there. My sister was almost in tears for the liquid colors. My grandmother had a long list of activities which included cleaning the prayer area, taking a shower, plucking flowers and then performing the ceremonies. The moment she started these activities, my father, who was quietly watching us, handed us the packets of liquid color. He always had a solution for all problems. After that me and my sister had the time of our lives, coloring each other and all our friends. My mom was right, the color didn’t go easily. Even after multiple washing and scrubbing the next day I went to school with one ear red and one ear green. My sister had a red cheek and blue chin.

Holi, the festival of colors, is the time to forget the wrongs of the past and make new beginnings. Even if people dont speak the same language, you can simply put color on each other and hug. As if to start life like a blank canvas and fill it with colors of joy, happiness and love. I hope this Holi fills everyone’s lives with colors.

P.S. Just incase you are wondering what happened in school, the teacher had a hard time controlling her laughter standing in front of a class of students with Rainbow colored faces.

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’.

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.

A Fair to remember

The colorful entrance to the fair

The colorful entrance to the fair

This Friday a friend of mine messaged me about a fair going on in my city. I googled about it and found its the North American Martyrs Summer Festival in Monroeville, PA. We left around 7:00 pm. This was the first time I was going to attend a fair abroad. Once we reached there the biggest challenge was to find a parking place. After parking we thought we will have to walk a lot but there was a shuttle to the fair.

Amazing rides

Amazing rides

As soon as we reached there, I was reminded of my school days. There used to be a ‘Summer Mela’ in my hometown Baroda. Visiting that fair used to be in the wish list of every child. It used to be a colorful fair with rides and delicious food stalls. This fair had all these elements. All the stalls were decorated with colorful balloons. There were rides, games and food. The aroma of fresh fries and cold ice-cream just aroused our taste buds. Everywhere kids were running, playing and shouting. To make this entire fair musical a live band played songs from 50s, 60s and 70s. I loved the rock and roll songs.

Live band in fair

Live band in fair

In this age of high tech entertainment, nothing equals the satisfaction of attending a fair. They seem to have fun for people of all age groups. The presence of family brings in security. It also allows us to spend quality time with our family. These are the opportunities when all the generations of the family come together and have a great time. By the time we returned it was late night, but we were so rejuvenated that we walked till the parking lot. Next time you visit a new place, make sure you attend the local fairs.

Food stalls

Food stalls

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.

Taste that reminds of home

The challenge is one thing that I cannot cook without. I would say its salt. I cannot imagine any dish (other than sweets), which can be cooked without salt. There are 4 other things that I cannot cook without. They are:

– Turmeric
– Ginger
– garlic
– Coriander powder

These things provide the much needed flavour to any dish. Infact about salt it is said that life should have some amount of salt in it.

I cannot have excess of anything. Although I have a sweet tooth, I need my share of spice as well. The presence of salt enhances the effect all the vegetables and brings the much needed flavour. Turmeric gives the color to the dishes. These things are always used by my mother while cooking. Therefore their presence gives a homely touch to the food. The combination of the above ingredients gives an aroma that makes one really feel hungry at the end of the day. Therefore I can’t cook without the above things.