July 2011


A real challenge for me.

Tried looking for photos of broken objects in my albums. Couldn’t find any. So yesterday, while I was riding a rickshaw, I tried to look for broken things, then I started thinking–What is broken? Can it be something that’s under construction? What if something is broken but still works? That would be half of Bombay.

I snapped a photo of my broken door chain. So mundane. So ordinary. Couldn’t figure out how to make it extraordinary. So I walked down the stairs and snapped these–

Guess what this is?

Continued walking. Walking outside my building. Snapping. Liked this shot.

Then it started rain. Monsoon season. Saw a broken wall. But didn’t want to ruin my camera. Walked home.

Perhaps will continue my broken hunt tomorrow.

Today is a wonderful day and it’s not over yet! It’s the Saturday before school starts and we just had our parent orientation. I entered the school and each floor was adorned with a rangoli!

On the seventh floor

on the second floor

in the lobby

Rangolis are a traditional Indian art form. They’re usually created out of colored sand, rice or flowers. In the past, they were used to welcome Hindu deities. But in our school they’re used to welcome guests and mark auspicious occasions like today.

The school I work in is not just your run-of-the-mill international school. It’s a wonderful community bustling with inquiring minds and parents who are eager to partner in their children’s education. I felt warm inside as I saw familiar smiles and exchanged summer vacation stories.

I’m really excited for Monday, the first day of school. I’m excited to see students again and the sparkle in their eyes. And as I said, my day isn’t over yet. I had a celebratory lunch with Kinneri and a wonderful dinner with BR and family. But more on that in my next entries.

For now, I just want to the time to stop and thank G. Thank you for giving the school a wonderful leader who inspires me. I’m sure he will also inspire other teachers and students. Thank you, G for plugging me in a warm, open and positive community. I am looking forward to the school year ahead, and I’m glad that you’re marking this occasion with rangolis!

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How to start this story?

B said he liked mahi-mahi, so I found a baked citrus mahi-mahi recipe. I made a list of the ingredients we needed to buy in Walmart and once we got there I started picking up the pineapple and the orange then off we were to the frozen food section. Bah. No mahi mahi. But I did see flounder! And you know me. I like trying new things. So we pulled the pack out of the freezer and the next day, without doing research, and without ever trying flounder, I replaced the mahi mahi in the mahi mahi recipe with flounder!

I snapped photos every step of the way and I loved them because of the colors and contrasts. The baked veggies and fruits were oozing with sweet juices that bathed my tongue. But the flounder. It touched my tounge and, Aaaargh. Mushy, flaky, wet. It disintegrated every time I tried to hold it up on my fork. I tried it again. I felt like vomiting but down it went my esophagus. And down went my fork.

We had three more flounder fillets in the freezer and I was determined to try again. I will not give up! I will conquer this flounder!

B consulted his friend Joe, and Joe yelped, You’re not supposed to bake flounder! You’re supposed to wrap it in foil and broil it! He also passed on a recipe that involved olive oil, onions and mushrooms.

So the next day, I followed the ritual of defrosting. Marinating. I even splashed a cap of NY white wine just to add some kind of joie de vivre to this whole second process bit, but…guess what? B and I thought we had foil and, of course, we didn’t have foil. He was willing to go to Walmart and grab a pack but I suggested that we just try broiling without the foil. I did this very carefully and slowly so as not to overcook the flounder. But as soon as I pulled it out of the oven, there it was. Mushy. Flaky. I wasn’t sure if it was cooked or raw.

I let a warm piece sit on my tongue only to be polite to myself. Then I let another piece sit on my tongue and imagined a fish corpse. Then I passed on the rest to B who had it for lunch the next day.

I floundered with flounder. Please take that butcher knife and cut me into pieces!

So why am I telling this story?

Perhaps, sometimes, even if it’s hard for me to admit, I’m always striving for excellence. Excellence at work. Excellence in the kitchen. Excellence in my writing.

I have high standards with the tasks I think that I can excel in so I shoot for stars, which I know I’ll never reach. But it’s the journey isn’t it?, self talk as I frown upon my reflection on the kitchen window.

B, I’m not going to cook flounder again!

But time oh time, how time heals wounds. It has been three weeks since my flounder faux pas. I’ve forgiven myself. It’s time to move on. Time to raise my head high and strap on that apron. And try a flounder recipe next time I happen to spy upon a packet, which won’t be awhile because as far as I know, it’s not available in Mumbai.

In the meantime, here are some quotes I will meditate on to help me through my emotional flounder annihilation–

The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one. ~Elbert Hubbard

While one person hesitates because he feels inferior, the other is busy making mistakes and becoming superior. ~Henry C. Link

The man who makes no mistakes does not usually make anything. ~Edward Phelps

If a mistake is not a stepping stone, it is a mistake. ~Eli Siegel

Making a different mistake every day is not only acceptable, it is the definition of progress. ~Robert Brault

Grilled Tilapia from the Philippines

Tilapia is a popular fish in the Philippines. In high school, after our day ended, I would hang out in my best friend Claire’s home. We devoured deep fried tilapia, which we ate with our hands, dipped into a Silver Swan and Datu Puti mixture as we chased away the saltiness with spoonfuls of hot steaming white rice. We never thought of tilapia as health food. It was the food of the common Filipino. It was the fish we grilled on the beach and ate in sidewalk carinderias, which littered the traffic-filled streets of our metropolis.

Imagine my surprise when years later, as I flipped on my TV to watch Oprah, I saw Dr. Oz, Oprah’s sidekick doctor and expert on health and food, tout tilapia as a miracle fish. According to Livestrong.Com, tilapia is rich high quality protein, low in fat and a good source of vitamins.

Louie, a regular contributor to Healthy Eats, would like to share his Lemon Pepper Tilapia recipe! I really wish WordPress had a virtual taste button so I could try these. Perhaps next time I visit, Louie will grill some of these for me and B, and bake us cheesecake :-D.

From Louie's facebook status update on July 14: Todays menu via the garden and friends. Tomato soup (Thanks Sacha) with Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme (Thanks Simon and Garfunkel). Maple Glazed Lemon Squash (Thanks Sacha), Cucumber/Scallion/carrot Salad, grilled Green Squash / Eggplant Sandwich on fresh Sun dried tomato/Parmigiana cheese bread (Thanks Laurie for my French bread pan, I really like it), and lemon pepper grilled talipia (Thanks fish farmers)

This recipe serves 6-8 people.

Ingredients:
8 tilapia fillets
2 lemons
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
fresh dill weed
fresh ground pepper
salt

For the marinade:
Zest and juice 2 lemons. Add the juice to 1 cup of water and the EVOO. Whisk the mixture. Lay the tilapia fillets in a flat pan and add the marinade. Do not cover the pan. Lightly salt and sprinkle dill weed and lemon zest on top of fillets. Grind fresh pepper over fillets. Cover with saran wrap and refrigerate for a couple of hours.

Grilling:
I use disposable grill covers but fish baskets can be used too.

Lightly oil grill basket and lay fillets on it.

Grill for about six minutes, flip basket, and grill for six more.

Serve and devour! Yum!

I stumbled upon The World’s Healthiest Foods (TWHF) website, while doing research for my entries. It became a useful resource for me because the author, George Mateljan, and his team have done extensive scientific research on different types of food and are able to articulate why these are good for our health.

The website has a list of 130 foods and some recipes that go with these. Here is a summary of their criteria for choosing the 130:

1. Their nutrient dense, which means that the level of nutrients is high in relationship to the number of calories the food contains.

2. Their whole foods. They are not over-processed and they don’t contain synthetic and artificial ingredients.

3. You’ll be able to find these foods in most grocery stores in the US. I’ll need to modify my list of the world’s healthiest foods for my local setting, which is India. I prefer local ingredients that don’t go through long journeys to get to my grocery shelf.

4. These foods are affordable.

5. They taste good, otherwise it would be challenging to eat them!

I adopted the following recipe from their website and it was deee-li-cious! This recipe serves two!

Ingredients:

1 cup chickpeas or garbanzo beans
1 cup shredded lettuce
2 medium cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 medium tomato, diced
1/2 medium red onion, chopped
2 TBS parsley, chopped
4-5 squeezes of fresh lemon juice
1 TBS extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Optional:
1/4 cup feta cheese
6 sliced olives
1 tsp rosemary

To cook the chickpeas:

Soak them overnight and boil for 30 minutes until soft.

For the salad:
Plate the lettuce. Put the chickpeas, garlic, tomato and onions on top. Sprinkle the olive oil and drizzle with fresh lemon. Add salt and pepper as you wish. Sprinkle the feta cheese, olives and rosemary on top. Bon appetit!

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