Friday, October 25, 2013

Notes from an Immigrant's Kitchen

My home is in my new country,
The culture, people and language still unknown,
Missing the familiarity of the Old,
Yet there is a growing sense of belonging,
As I build a brand new set of memories
It was hard to land in a foreign land with two bags containing all your belonging  (a sum total of your existence for  two dozen odd years)...I carried two baggy business suits (stitched by my Bapa's tailor) and a number of new clothes, stuff I wasn't comfortable wearing but deemed appropriate for the new lands. Tucked into my suitcase was a bottle of homemade mango pickle, a kilo of Moong Dal and a packet of home-made masala. I lived for the first 6 months in DC with two bachelors (my brother and his roommate - Kevin Babu). My first introduction to their kitchen was an empty fridge with just an expired milk carton, a Chinese takeout box (growing suspicious stuff) and a bottle of expired mustard. The cupboards had a half-finished carton of pringles and some generic brand of instant coffee. I spent my jet-lag in a haze of Jerry Springer, stale pringles and black coffee. 

From eating Dal, Subzi, Chawal on most days to maybe a grilled cheese sandwich (made the indian way) or on a really inventive day Desi Chinese to moving to an Amrikan city (Washington DC ) which lived and breathed diversity. I remember wearing a salwar kameez to George Washington University the first day I went in for an Orientation meeting and I don't remember feeling awkward, stared at or conscious. My first meal at school was a chicken hotdog at the  stand by the was a revelation of flavors - the spice of the mustard, the bite of the onion and the crunch of the Hot Dog...all enveloped by a warm bun. I explored Mexican, Lebanese, Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese, American, Italian, Ethiopian, Turkish and many other cuisines all in that period of twenty months in college and from each one of those cuisines I took a little something that I stored somewhere in the far recesses of my mind. 

The reality is this country embraced me with a fervor that I reciprocated...I have morphed into a sum total of my experiences...both Indian and Amrikan. My food reflects this wonderful past Indian heritage (albeit confused between South-Indian and Oriya and exposed to Maharashtrian), my healthy inclinations (chia seeds, Farro, Barley, Kale, Dark Chocolate...need I go on) and my present cultural dispositions (which is nothing short of least my son has simple tastes that run to Pizza, Pasta and Chicken Tikka Masala...I would probably need 200 pages just to jot down my food cravings and likes). I would be totally lying if I say I crave Dalma and Ghanto everyday yet there are days where I would want nothing better than to sit down to a hot bowl of moong dal and the familiarity of a Baingan the chill hits the air and I sit in my pink socks (did I tell you I hate hate socks with a passion, but gave in to wearing them to avoid chilled feet, now I wish someone made nose socks :( )...I made myself a bowl of Moong Dal with Lauki (get the recipe here) and Baingan Bharta with a healthy twist-  I put about a 1/2 pound of Edamame in my Baingan Bharta (Egg Plant Mash).

The reality is everyone (or almost everyone I know) loves talking about Food. Food evokes familiar memories...for me it takes me back to the uncomplicated times in India with Bapa...and for a moment I feel just a tad bit closer to him.

What are your weekend plans? I plan to do some Yoga at home with K2 tomorrow...and then look forward to Chai and a English Muffin smeared with almond butter and marmalade.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Seven things I won't regret doing as a mother

"What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly." ---Richard Bach 

For me to not blog almost a month feels weird. The last couple weeks have had their highs and lows and I won't say I have been so crazy busy that I couldn't blog. However when I was 20, a very wise person once gave me a book with a note in it (I still have the book A)...the note read - If it doesn't come naturally leave that's what I did I left it. 
Last week, I was reading an article on Huffington Post  "20 things I won't regret doing with my kids" and it inspired me to come up with my own list. I am not as verbose as Rachel and I love the number 7, so here goes -
  1. Saying "No" when it's easier to say "Yes" - K1 is a softie, K2 can wrangle just about anything from him - new pokeman cards, lego toys, more ipad time...K1 just hates playing hardball with K2 and is putty in his hands. The result is I always sound like the "NaySayer" hear me saying No! more than Yes! ( and K2 is persistent - he will ask me the same thing 20 times and still get a No)
  2. Teaching him to respect people and  and express gratitude - K2 will not learn how to say his "please" or "thank you" if I don't show him how. I try to teach him through example...a small thing we do is thank the school road crossing guard every time she helps us cross the road (we look Annie in the eye and say Thank You Annie!). He sees me stop the car in grocery stores and let people cross the road vs. act impatient...of course there are some times when he sees me irately cussing some senseless driver (but that is a rare occurrence and I never claimed I was a saint ;-) )...but more importantly he sees me showing people respect, courtesy and gratitude.
  3. Letting him cook with me - This one is hard. It started off when he was 2 and half years old, where he sat on my kitchen counter and watched me cook his food. I questioned my sanity  a number of times especially when he broke one of the eggs on my pristine floor and I spent the next 15 minutes on my hands and knees cleaning and sanitizing. However, I do believe that in the next  2-3 years I will teach him to make himself a snack, maybe even breakfast...I am teaching him a life skill, one that will hold him good in years to come.
  4. Singing him the same bedtime song for the past 6 years - sleep krishu sleep, mama loves you sleep, daddy loves you sleep, bapa loves you sleep, aai loves you sleep, baba loves you sleep, jinx loves you sleep....its not rocket science, the need in us to be loved is over-riding and to know that we are loved brings forth an onslaught of serotonin...which lulls us to sleep and builds our sense of self-worth, self-esteem, confidence.
  5. Teaching him Yoga and Bollywood Dancing - the subliminal message I am giving him is moving is fun, moving is good for you. So we belt out Shakira or Chamak Chalo (what you have issues with my to the hand!) and do uncoordinated dancing or drop down to a dog or simply try to chill in butterfly. He sees me go to the gym consistently for Yoga and Zumba and the lesson he is learning is - Exercise and Movement is good for you.
  6. Saying I am sorry - I am a little short on my patience and somedays I am more of a "bitch" there I said it than other days. I know somedays I just lose it when I should have held it together and K2 is thoroughly confused with my outburst...and for those days I am not embarrassed to just hold him close and say - I am really sorry K2. I had a really hard day and I am sorry that I took it out on you. He doesn't let ego come in the way and most days just gives me a hug and says its OK.  And he is learning an important lesson - sometimes you make a mistake, acknowledge it and move on. 
  7. Letting him become a big boy - he has an opinion on everything nowadays - color of his clothes, the type of shoes he wants to wear, the types of foods he wants to eat, the games he wants to play, ....and sometimes that rush of fear as I watch him evolve and grow is overwhelming...the important thing for me to remember is he is his own person and there are decisions I need to let him make (hard lesson for me especially because till the ripe age of 20 I was told what to wear, eat and do with my life...but you live and learn and sometimes you learn to do something that is radically different from how your parents raised you). 

A lot of these learnings have been bittersweet and it is a journey for me as much as it is a journey for him. At the end of the day I do believe that our kids don't remember what we taught them but they remember what we were...
How is your weekend treating you? K1 is off to an Inner Engineering course while K2 and I will go  out catch a movie  and grab a bite to eat.