Sunday, September 18, 2011

From the Archives: A Confession

I found this as I was going through my drafts today. I should have posted this a year ago. But the elusive right time never came, and eventually, I forgot. No worries, though. The word is out, and everybody knows what I did last summer. So here is a much-postponed letter to my dad.

Play along, try not to google the clues. Just pay attention and hopefully you'll figure it out. Have fun!

Dear Pa,

I feel you deserve to know a secret. I went exploring in a foreign land this summer, without you knowing. But you'll have to guess where. The day I ventured out here, I was in transit. In three places (in different corners of the world) but not wholly in any one of them.

Well before I ever came here, I dreamt about being here. In a long, long tram ride. In real life, this tiny city has 73 kilometres of tram tracks, and more than 110 trams! No wonder that's all I could dream about.

This incredibly cool city was one of nine European cities of culture in 2000, hosted the 2007 Eurovision contest, and held the 1952 Olympics. Blah blah blah.

It snows for more than one third of the year , and has an average of 51 days without sun in the winter. Imagine that! So when Carl Ludvig Engel designed this city, he very fittingly wanted it to be The Great White City of the North. His neo-classical architecture was so convincingly Russian that the Gorky Park film crew decided to shoot here instead of Moscow, where the park originally consecrated to Maxim Gorky is. Here, have a picture example of all the Rusky business.

Like me, people who live here love all kinds of fish, except, perhaps Tomato Baltic Herring, which isn't quite so much a fish preparation but a method of punishment in schools in this country.

Where there is fish, there must be water. And my, is there water. This city is built on over 300 islands. Three hundred! But it also has rocks. Big ones. The world's largest continuous rock tunnel is here.

You've probably guessed by now which city I'm talking about. Please, please tell me you peered at the picture above with a magnifying glass, at least?

I had such an awesome time there. It was the perfect last bit of holiday adventure before I went back to being in Delhi's belly again. More fun because it was on the sly, of course. And because while I was there, a giant rainstorm struck the city, and everything got soaked, and my plane washed away. That last part is not true. Unfortunately.

But almost! Because, when I got back to the airport (almost rain-soaked, but well in time!), they told me my flight was delayed. And so I had fun window-shopping in duty free and taking up kind strangers' offers for coffee and conversation for the rest of my time there. I can be such a happy, hippie hobo.

Please don't be mad, Dad.

All my love,


Saturday, September 10, 2011


If you have ever talked to me about food, you must have discovered how much I love eggs. What 42 is to some people, eggs are to me. Ask me for breakfast, and I will offer to make you eggs, any way you like. Ask me for lunch, and I will offer to make you eggs. Ask me for dinner, and I will offer to make you...well, you guessed it.

Truth be told, it's because they're just that versatile. You can use them in coatings, fillings, and main courses. You can cook them with vegetables, in fried rice (or noodles), or just by themselves. You can fry them, poach them, scramble them, boil them (eugh), foam them, age them, devil them, bake them, shir them, soup them, spiderweave them, and probably even dance with them.

The only thing you can't do if you want to successfully enjoy an egg, in fact, is to break it on the way home.

So it's only natural that I want to share with you some of the fun ways I've used eggs recently. And boy, I've used a lot of eggs. Perhaps a personal best? Thirteen in one day. And that's just to bake with.

Let's start simply with fried eggs. Here, have a look at my lunch and dinner from [some day] last week. For lunch, spaghetti with chunky tomato sauce and a fried egg on top. Yolk, just runny. Yummy. And another fried egg as part of dinner. This time with a yolk that wonderfully, sunshinily spread itself out in the pan. Topped with Italian pizza seasoning herbs (!), and eaten with toast. I can't even begin to tell you how good this was.


I'll just leave you to drool for a bit.

And then, I took the day off from classes to bake! It was my daddy's birthday on the ninth, you see. So I set about, with all the zest in the world (and tons of the lemon kind in my fridge), to bake. The trouble was, I didn't know what to make. AND, my sister had eaten all the eggs.

Okay, she'd eaten two of them. But two out of the six eggs I had carefully planned my undecided recipe around? Man.

But like every time things go wrong, things went super right afterwards! I went and bought a zillion eggs, and I didn't break them on the way home. I separated the whites from the yolks for seven whole eggs without mixing them up, or leaving bits of the shell in the mix. I measured and sifted the flours (which I usually don't have the patience for), and didn't even yield to the temptation of adding any whole wheat flour into it. I beat the whites till they were softly peaking, added some sugar, and beat till they were beautifully meringue-like shiny. I followed a recipe, for heaven's sake, for probably one of the few times in my life. And then, I poured the whole mix into baking trays without letting it collapse!

I felt like a superstar.


I won't bore you with the details of how much I enjoyed making the strawberry topping, which I smeared all over everything. Instead just look at how it turned out. Sponge cake with strawberry filling. All professional. All natural.


I made lots more cakes that day. One large-family-sized cake, and twenty-four gooey chocolate cupcakes. They smelt so good, I was afraid I'd finish them before everyone else could taste any. I didn't.


I had cake batter instead.

A note: I have a simple, delicious, new go-to recipe for chocolate cake. Ask me for details! (Or cake.)