Posted in Dystopia, My Bibliothèque

{ Book Review } – The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood !

The Handmaid's TaleThe Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This has been a difficult book for me to finish, took me quite a long time to finish. I suspected as much, and therefore, instead of reading it on my own, I read it with a Book Club / Facebook Group. The thing is, I rarely pick up a book which is outside my comfort zone, by which, I mean that I mostly pick up books which comfort me, make me feel happy. If I pick it up, there is no guarantee that I will finish it. And I knew that this wasn’t the feel-good kind of book I choose most of the time. I might have put it down out of the sadness that this book brings, but reading with a group brings a wafer thin layer of accountability, and so I persisted.
The book is odd. Not in the sense that it’s overly complex or uses obnoxious or pretentious language, but rather in the sense that it is scary and emotionally taxing from a woman’s perspective. It is set in a Dystopian state of Gilead. There are too many adjectives that one can throw here – Dystopian, futuristic, dark and worryingly prophetic.

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Posted in Gujarati Literature, My Bibliothèque

{ Book Review } – Krishnayan by Kajal Oza Vaidya !

KrishnayanKrishnayan by Kaajal Oza-Vaidya

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I don’t know why but I felt like reading a book in my mother tongue, Gujarati, and so after minimal scouting, I picked this up thanks to rave reviews from friends. Krishnayan is in a way, a retelling of a lifetime that Lord Vishnu spends walking this earth as a mortal. It mainly focuses on his relationships with the three important women in this life, Radha, Rukmini and Draupadi. And yet, most surprisingly, the relationship between a middle-aged Radha and her teenage daughter in law is my favourite, despite being only briefly described. The good thing about the book is that it doesn’t attempt to paint pictures of what happened in Mahabharata for the reader. It rather deals with a wide range of human emotions of love, desire, jealousy, dissatisfaction and finally settles on talking about a sense of detachment that Krishna aims to develop. If you are looking for what happened, how it happened and why it happened, you might be in for some disappointment.

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Posted in Fiction, My Bibliothèque, Mythology, Women's Fiction

{ Book Review } – The Rise of Sivagami by Anand Neelakantan !

The Rise of Sivagami (Baahubali: Before the Beginning, Book 1)The Rise of Sivagami by Anand Neelakantan

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Have you come across books which are pure temptation? I mean, I knew that the book I was then reading, A Man called Ove, was a much better book in all respect, but somehow, was rendered helpless against the lure of this one. 😬 I am a Bahubali fan, not a supremely crazy one, but a fan nonetheless. So, I bought this after a brief wait. The miser than I am, I usual don’t buy new releases, but then it was Bahubali. I started the book with the misconception that it would start at the birth of Sivagami, and merge with the story at the beginning of the movie. A little later I learnt that is a part of trilogy that maps the kingdom of Mahishmathi, as a extension of the Bahubali universe. The story begins with a young Sivagami and you suddenly notice all the streaks of the character in the movie. ( Although I admit, I just kept seeing an image of Ramya, younger, I don’t think I can separate that from the character, just yet ). From a childhood where she witnesses her father being awarded a death sentence for treason, to a teenaged orphan, the transition is subtle and natural. However, she is not the fundamental character of the book.

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Posted in Breakfast, Recipes

Whole Moong and Brown Rice Idlis

Of late, I haven’t been able to make freshly cooked Indian breakfasts like I used to do until a couple of months ago. When I did this 100HappyBreakfasts Project on Instagram, I was reasonably regularly if not fully. But I have fallen off the wagon recently.  So in a desperate attempt to get back to the routine, I have started with these Whole Moong and Brown Rice Idlis.

Moong Idlis have been on my mind for a while now, but most recipes available on the internet use Eno / fruit salt to make them light and fluffy. While I don’t mind using eno/soda occasionally in my Rava Idlis and Rava Dhoklas, I most definitely wanted to avoid it here, we prefer the fermented idlis and dosas any day over the instant ones. Feel free to add more rice than what I have used here, I was experimenting a bit, trying to see if I can make do with less rice. Idli Rice and regular polished rice will work just as well. My next attempt would be to try and see if it ferments just as well without Urad Daal next time. 😊  More on how I prepare my regular Idli/Dosa Batter is described in detail here.

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Posted in Dips, Raitas and Sides, Recipes, Traditional Gujarati Recipes

Gujarati Keri Kanda ni Chutney!

Mangoes and summers go pretty much hand in hand, right? Summers mean vacations, trips to grandparents’, pickles, aamras and pretty much everything that makes one happy. And that has to include food to make it complete. We all know from the bottom of our hearts that our moms and grandmoms create magic in their kitchens, but I am equally amazed at the sheer variety of curries and condiments they serve on a platter. I believe that while curries and mains make up a meal, the condiments, pickles and the sides make it satisfying. They also make meal times exciting, I have always had a particular pickle/preserve/chutney that I would look forward to on my plate depending on the season. Now, that we have started to chat about condiments and summer, mangoes cannot be far away.

I am sure there must be a variant of the quintessential mango chutney in every state with a tweak of an ingredient here and there. We Gujaratis make it because consuming it protects one against the harsh warm winds that are common in the sweltering heat of a Gujarati summer. Or so my Baa ( my paternal grandma) says. She makes it every couple of days, more like, as soon as the previous batch is consumed, and take my word for it, it’s not more than a couple of days. I also like this version for its simplicity. A couple of commonplace ingredients and no cooking involved. My mom makes it with the first Totapuri mangoes of the season, which are vibrant parrot green in colour ( I think, the mix of tartness and sweetness of this variety of mangoes suits this chutney the most, but feel free to use any variety you might find locally ). Mangoes, onions and a few day-to-day ingredients, a little bit of grating, sprinkling and mixing, and viola! The chutney is here.

One of the Gujarati summer staples – Keri Kanda ni Chutney ( Raw Mango and Onion Chutney or Relish or Salsa whatever ) ! Now, since summers and mangoes have a close association, I am sure there must be a variant of this condiment in every state with a tweak of an ingredient here and there. We Gujaratis make it because consuming it protects one against the harsh warm winds that are common in the sweltering heat of a Gujarati summer. Or so my Baa ( my paternal grandma) says. She makes it every couple of days, more like, as soon as the previous batch is consumed, and take my word for it, it's not more than a couple of days. I haven't got my bearings back, I have a mountain of laundry to do, and I am still a zombie but I had to make this amazing yet easy peasy chutney this morning, because the visit home and a taste of the harsh summer made me crave this chutney so so much! 😍 I also like this for it's simplicity. A couple of common place ingredients and no cooking involved. My mom makes it with the first Totapuri mangoes of the season, which are vibrant parrot green in colour ( I think, the mix of tartness and sweetness of this variety of mangoes suits this chutney the most ), and peels and grates them. For one Totapuri Mango, she grates a large onion, and mixed them. Then, in goes jaggery ( sugar doesn't bring the same flavour but will work okay if you are in a hurry ), 1/2 tsp of black salt aka સંચળ in Gujarati, 1/2 tsp of cumin powder and 1/2 tsp chilli powder ( I prefer Kashmiri, because I look for colour and not the heat ). Add enough jaggery to balance the tartness of mangoes. Mix well and let it stand for a few minutes allowing the juices to secrete and the flavours to combine. Use as desired. But I would highly recommend not making it in big batches ( I stick to 1 Mango + 1 onion quantity) because one it has a short shelf life and two, if it gets too runny sitting for a long time, it doesn't taste the same. #kerikandanichutney #rawmangochutney #indianchutneys #indiansummer #picklenation #rawmango

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Posted in Recipes, Soups

Makhlouta – Lebanese Mixed Bean Soup !

Makhlouta/Makhluta translated to mixed in Lebanese Arabic, so in its simplest meaning, Makhlouta is a soup or a bean casserole of sorts, of mixed beans and grains. Traditionally made in the mountains in the winter, it is easy to make, versatile and in most ways fuss free. It is also cooked and consumed in Lent when devouts abstain from meat.Another tiny trivia that gleamed when I dug up a little bit on this soup was that, it is also prepared at the end of the winters, to use up the tiny portions of beans leftover to prevent them from spoiling as the weather get warmer and before the new harvest comes in.  In any way, when I stumbled upon the recipe, it sounded so hearty and satisfying, I knew I was going to make it for my soup nights. It is typically a mix of 5-7 beans and grains and everyone uses whatever is available in the pantry.

Makhlouta / Makhluta – Lebanese Mixed Bean Soup – soup 22 of #100happysoups ! I will confess, the soup turned out to be much less fancy than it's name, when I first stumbled upon it on a blog. In all ways, it is probably a cousin of our humble misal but even more simply spiced and seasoned than misal to tell you the truth. Makhlouta / Makhluta literally translates to "mixed" in Lebanese Arabic and this soup is essentially a mix of 5-7 beans and a grain or two of choice that are soaked for 8-10 hours before being simmered into a soup with seasoning. One blog says that this soup was made in olden days to use up the leftover beans at the end of winter and before the spring harvest so that the old stock doesn't go waste. Another blog calls it a dish consumed in Lent when the devout fast and abstain for meat. In any way, I liked the idea and promptly decided to make it. I have used barley as the grain but whole wheat grains, broken wheat or even brown rice works. The beans I used were Chickpeas / Garbanzo, Kidney Beans, Whole Red Lentils ( Masoor ), Red Double Beans, and Whole Black Lentils ( Urad ). They cooked until soft and simmered with sautéed onions, salt, pepper and cumin. A squeeze of lemon and a handful of parsley ( I used coriander ) and it is done. It is hearty, it is tasty ( no I am not saying this for the sake of it, it was yum!! ) and it is easy to make. I should probably remember that we Indians don't own a copyright to simple things like mixed beans. The recipe is up on the blog to wake it up from hibernation! 😁 #makhlouta #makhluta #mixedbeansoup #lebanese #srujans100happysoups #vegetarian #beansoup #indianfoodiye #nammabengaluru #nammabengalurufoodie #bangaloreigers #igersbangalore #myblr #sobangalore #trellfood #trelltalebangalore #foodtalkbangalore #foodtalkindia #goodfoodindia #indiancuisine #buzzfeedindia

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Posted in Fiction, My Bibliothèque, Women's Fiction

{ Book Review ) – Ladies Coupé by Anita Nair !

I find rating books in stars a little difficult these days. Probably because I don’t have a clearly etched benchmark of what a 5-star rated book should be like. It happened that way with this book. This is my second book by Anita Nair, the first being Alphabet Soup for Lovers. Parts of this book were brilliant, especially the initial 150 pages or so. It begins with Akhilandeswari, a 45-year-old, single woman who works as an income tax clerk, buys a one-way ticket to Kanyakumari. When she steps into the Coupé ( this Coupé thing itself sounds so romantic and beautifully fictional because I have never travelled by a Coupe ), she meets and talks to six women, all from different walks of life, and listens to their life stories as narrated by them. In parallel, her thoughts take us through how she has become what she has become.

(10/36 of 2017 ) FR – Ladies Coupé by Anita Nair. I find rating books in stars a little difficult these days. Probably because I don't have a clearly etched benchmark of what a 5-star rated book should be like. It happened that way with this book. Parts of this book were brilliant, especially the initial 150 pages or so. It begins with Akhilandeswari, a 45 year old, single woman who works as an income tax clerk, buys a one way ticket to Kanyakumari. When she steps into the Coupé ( this Coupé thing itself sounds so romantic and beautifully fictional because I have never travelled by a Coupe ), she meets and talks to six women, all from different walks of life, and listens to their life stories as narrated by them. In parallel, her thoughts take us through how she has become what she has become. Her childhood and the part which describes a weekend from when her Appa was alive is the part of the book I didn't want to move on from. I silently judged her mother, just like Akhila did, from dissolving her existence in the pool that was nothing but her husband. I am not particularly impressed with the characters of Akhila's family, but they are quite realistic. But some parts of the book are magical. It is probably the hapless romantic in me but it was like I stood on the other side of the curtain of steam that rose from a mound of white, glistening grains of rice her mother served her father on a plantain leaf, every Sunday. Here I quote the author: "Piping Hot, fragrant with the alchemy of steam, spices and Amma's devotion to the man who, for her sake and the children's', lunched on curd rice and a slice of lime pickle, six days a week and never complained." A few paragraphs later, I am smiling in approval as Amma makes fried, succulent, half moon Kathirikai Bajjis for Tiffin but doesn't mix filter coffee decoction until she has the Kesari ready to serve. [ Continued in the comment below ]

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