Street food


Papdi chat

If you have read Jhumpa Lahiri’s Namesake, recall how the story starts. Ashima reaches for the tin of Planter’s peanuts to mix with her puffed rice. She is attempting to recreate the popular street food available at every corner, every lane in the streets of Kolkata – jhaal muri. She adds the peanuts, some mustard oil, green chili to her puffed rice but it is not the same as what she remembers. Something is missing. The book stole my heart just by that vignette at the beginning – Ashima trying to recreate a comfort food in a land where she is new, everything is unknown. That is every immigrant at some point in their lives, isn’t it?

Papdi chat, as pictured above, is my absolute favorite street food that I make often at home. Either I have forgotten what the real thing tastes like or I have managed to create perfection or my palate has been compromised to think what I create is the epitome of papdi chat. No matter what the reason, I don’t feel like anything is missing from my concoction of papdi chat. Often I don’t have all the ingredients so I improvise. Today’s version included the following:

Papdis (wheat crisps, available in the snack aisle of Indian stores) – this forms the base. Top these with…

Half a cup of canned chick peas (garbanzo beans)

Half a boiled potato chopped into little cubes

2 tbsp of finely chopped raw onion (optional)

1 green chili finely diced – optional. If you like spicy, make it 2

2 tbsp of chopped cilantro leaves

1 cup of beaten yogurt poured over the mixture

2 tbsp of Chunky Chat masala

Half a cup or more, if you prefer, of tamarind date chutney

All this is topped with Haldiram’s Alu Bhujia (again available in Indian grocery stores)

I sometimes make it fancy by sprinkling pomegranate seeds on top.

Talk about burst of flavors in the mouth – crunchy, tangy, savory, sweet – perfection!

I say perfection and I am the only one who eats chat in our house. The non Indian and the part Indians do not care for it. I even go as far as to proclaim it as healthy – garbanzo beans, fat free yogurt, potatoes……healthy! At least that is my story and I am sticking to it.

One year ago


It is strange what the mind remembers on one of the worst days of one’s life. January 31st, 2020 was one of the worst days of my life. It was a beautiful, sunny Friday. It was the day when Sage was going to bid us adieu in the evening at 7:00 pm due to the aggressive cancer that, unbeknownst to us, had taken over his body. He was shivering slightly one day, not even too much. Still, I was perplexed and concerned so took him to the emergency vet. The vet sounded the death knoll – hemangiosarcoma. We loved him too much to let him go through very invasive surgery only to buy him 4 to 6 months, if that.

So after making sure he was not in any pain, we decided to have 7 more days with him to love him with all the love our hearts could give. Friday dawned. I woke with a sick feeling. I decided to spend the day with Sage doing what he loved doing best. After a steak breakfast, I helped his frail body get in the car and drove him to his favorite park. This is where my mind goes back to again and again. Just us, a sick but seemingly content pup with his devoted human – together for the last time in their favorite setting. We got out of the car and sat by the lake on a bench quietly. He sat next to me looking around, perhaps saying goodbye? Joggers, walkers, parents with young children walked by us, some nodding at the old dog, some not. Two women in athletic clothes came by. They were power walking. One of them bent down to pet Sage.

“What a beautiful dog! May I pet him?” she asked.

I said sure. And I don’t know why but I also added that this was his last day. I, perhaps, put her in an uncomfortable situation but till this day, a year after Sage’s death, I remember her kindness so vividly. I was crying at that point. Not violently but tears were streaming down my face. This particular woman, who I will most likely never see again and who will not know how much her kindness meant to me at that time, touched my hand to say how sorry she was. She said she had lost 2 of her dogs so she knows what I was going through.

I thanked her. She patted me again, quietly. Then she bent down and gave a lot of cuddles to Sage, telling him he was good and he was beautiful. With a last touch on my shoulder, she nodded and went on her way. Through a haze of pain that consumed me in the days, weeks and months to come, her quiet kindness seemed like a healing salve.

Many of you knew Sage, loved him even. He changed abode from this earth to our hearts and memories exactly one year ago. He was excellent at recall. We really worked hard at it and he always came when called. Except on this day, one year ago, we called but he never came back. He went gently into the night. Literally.

As some of my friends predicted, the intensity of hurt has diminished. I can now smile at his memory. The ten years we had with him showed us what unconditional love looks like, what total devotion truly means, what it means to be the center of someone’s universe, how valuable quiet companionship can be, how peaceful too. I sometimes think back and wonder if we gave him the best life that we could have. We could have done more, taken him for more hikes, played more with him, spent more time. And I stop myself! Sure, we could have done more but I am convinced he knew the absolute truth through every kiss on his long snout, every belly rub, every touch on his furry forehead. He was loved! Oh so loved. And he will always be our beautiful boy.

With Dad.

Ryan’s perfect chocolate chip cheese cake.


I am not going to give you the recipe for Ryan’s perfect chocolate chip cheese cake because he simply looked up a recipe on the internet and followed it word by word. This blog is about Ryan in the kitchen and what all I heard – his monologues, exclamations and yes, a few expletives coming from there as he created his ‘perfect’ chocolate chip cheesecake. I was working from home that day so I tried to ignore his monologues, exclamations, hisses et all, I only yelled when I heard expletives. Ryan responded each time with, “oh sorry!”. Since I was otherwise occupied, I requested Sahana to write down his exclamations, proclamations and questions as he tried to find his way in the kitchen.

He started assembling his work of art by spreading Pam onto the cake pan with a fork! When Sahana laughingly came to me saying, “MOM!!! HAHAHA! RYAN IS SPREADING PAM ON THE CAKE PAN WITH A FORK INSTEAD OF SPRAYING!” He grumbled, “Oh, ok then! Sorry for being sanitary, guess next time I’ll just use dirt.”

Then we heard him yelling at the graham crackers to “just get IN there” as he tried to create his perfect graham cracker crust for his perfect cheesecake.

At one point, after asking for directions on how to work the food processor, he turned it on. I heard an unfamiliar noise coming from my beloved food processor in conjunction with Ryan’s yell, “NOTHING IS HAPPENING”. I jumped up from my chair and ran to rescue my machine from inexperienced and evil clutches of Ryan. He had turned on the food processor with no blade in it. 🤦🏽‍♀️

We educated him on how to insert a blade for the food processor to work. He inserted the necessary blade required to do the job, he turned on the machine and he….. JUMPED! “Man, that’s loud!” At this point, Sahana and I were laughing uncontrollably. I left him to his devices but Sahana reported that he FLINCHED every time he turned on the food processor.

After a few minutes of quiet humming, we heard, “WHERE’S THE HEAVY WHIPPING CREAM?”

“In the fridge.” Sahana, the fridge organizer replied..

He yelled back, “IT’S NOT WHERE IT ALWAYS IS!!

Sahana responded “It’s on the top shelf, you dummy!”


“oh.”

A few seconds later we heard:

“Jeez, who tightened this thing!!!” Followed by grunts and ah-oh’s.

All good things come to an end and so did our entertainment. The cheesecake went into the oven. It cooked beautifully and came out looking handsome.

The next step was to let it cool, wrap it with cling wrap and then refrigerate it. Ryan, however, had to leave for swim practice. So he gave clear instructions to his dad on the next steps and the last instruction was to “keep mom away from his perfect cheesecake.”

I had a bad baking day. My cookies came out looking ugly, I was dropping things, making a mess so I told the family I had bad energy that day. Ryan wanted none of that bad energy near his ‘perfect cheesecake.’

At the end of the day, delirious with happiness, Ryan clapped me on the shoulder which is his way of showing affection and said in his fog horn voice, “Mom, thank you!”

I thought he was thanking me for helping him in the kitchen, so I said, “You are welcome but what for?”

“For not spoiling my perfect cheesecake! For not going near it!”

Since yesterday, he has been strutting around cockily saying from time to time, “I really think I should take control of this kitchen from now on. Did you all see my perfect chocolate chip cheesecake?”

And here, friends, is perfection (according to our Ryan, of course). All I will say as I end the blog is this: the cheesecake tasted really good. 😃

“A tree fell on my childhood…literally!”


There is a beautiful, majestic tree in my backyard. I love the tree so much that I have even written a sentimental blog about it.

You can read the blog here.

As a very irresponsible parent, I allowed my 10 year old daughter and 5 year old son to build a ‘tree house’ along with 5 other similarly aged neighborhood children on the branches of that tree. Why is that irresponsible you ask? Because there was no adult supervision there. None! I shudder to think all the accidents that could have happened in the process. But it didn’t and they are alive to tell the story. So there’s that.

The tree house was simply some planks that were lying around in my neighbor’s yard. The children dragged those planks to our back yard, gathered huge nails and hammers. They hammered those heavy planks on to the branches of the tree and created a platform kind of a structure. As I write about it, I envision broken thumbs, pierced skin, flattened skulls – but none of those happened. As they hammered way above the ground, I calmly washed dishes, cooked dinner not worried about their safety at all. My neighbor finished her chores in her house unafraid as well. What were we thinking? Looking back, I think it was summer, the children were little and we wanted them out of the house. And it makes me embarrassed to think I was so calm while they were embarking upon such dangerous activities.

The ‘tree house’ was finished. The unabashed pride on those little faces at their accomplishment was priceless. They announced to the world that they had built their tree house all by themselves without any help from grown ups. Many afternoons were spent up on that tree house. Many picnics were had, many games were played, many imaginary friends were invited. Sahana was obsessed with spy games where she was the main spy with an assistant. The little brother, at that age, was honored to be an assistant and took his role very seriously. I have this precious photo of them as they played on their tree house.

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And yes, pictured above is their tree house. To them it was the best tree house that ever existed in the universe and who are we to dispute that?

As they got older, like many things in their childhood, the tree house was slowly forgotten. Sean looked up at the decaying planks and often talked about taking them down but never got to it. Recently, after a major storm, one of the limbs of our beautiful tree cracked and after hanging on an unused wire for a while it finally hit the ground one afternoon along with some rotted planks of the tree house (or tree platform). Sahana and I were having tea on the back deck when it happened.

“Mom, our tree house is falling down.” She exclaimed. “Did you see that? A tree fell on my childhood……literally!”

Since I am the archivist of her childhood, I will put this memory too in the treasure box. She can open it and peruse at her leisure. No tree shall fall on her childhood under my watch! 🙂

Morocco, argan oil and bad memories.


A big debate ensued within the family. Should we visit Sahana in Madrid over Christmas break in 2019 and tour Spain as a family or go someplace else so Sahana, along with us, can see a new country? My vote was for Spain, Sean wanted to go to a new country since Sahana would be touring Spain anyway as she was spending her junior year of college there. I held my ground till Sean floated the idea of Morocco. Why would I NOT want to go to Morocco? Spain could wait.

Sean, Ryan and I left for Morocco a few days before Christmas and flew into Casablanca. We had already rented a car and a very nice man was waiting for us with our vehicle at the airport. Sahana flew in from Madrid and met us at Casablanca airport as well. Finally reunited with our darling daughter after 4 months, we drove 210 miles from Casablanca to Chafchouen, a gorgeous, blue city at the foothills of Rif Mountains in North West Morocco. We parked our car in the dark and went in search of the riad that we had booked for a few nights. A riad is a traditional Moroccan home that are very popular with tourists to get the full experience of staying in Morocco. We lost our bearing completely while navigating the serpentine, narrow and sometimes steep alleys of the ‘blue city’ and after asking several locals, we finally arrived at Riad Nersjaonsar. The owner was sitting on a bench just outside and welcomed us with a big smile. We went into our room, cleaned up in the common bathroom, went to sleep and woke up at 11:00 am the next morning. Although breakfast was only served till 10 am, the very hospitable owner had his son cook Moroccan bread, eggs and Moroccan coffee for us along with fresh orange juice, rich honey. We ate breakfast on the terrace under the shadow of the Rif Mountains. It was magical. Our tour of Chafchouen will always be the brightest spot of our Moroccan trip and I will let some photos do the story telling.

Navigating the alleyways of the blue city, Chafchouen
The walls of the ‘blue city’ were painted in this hue to keep mosquitoes away.
One of the many beautiful gateways.
Artist selling his painted mosaic tile in Medina in Chefchouen

Our next destination was Fez. However we stoped in Volubilis on our way to Fez to explore the ruins of the Roman city. After spending a beautiful day walking among the Roman ruins and marveling at the ingenuity of Roman engineers and builders, we got in our car to drive on to Fez. Again, we wanted the experience of staying in a riad in the old part of Fez. We arrived at beautifully decorated Riad Sunrise.

View of the inner courtyard from our room in Riad Sunrise
Typical Moroccan breakfast.
In Fez Medina

The medina (market) of Fez was magical and it seemed like we had stepped into history however my memory of the city is tainted by the youth who offered to take us out of the labyrinth of the Medina and then asked for an exorbitant amount of money. We did not pay but I was concerned that he might hurt us.

Fast forward to Marrakesh, a gorgeous city of wide avenues, beautiful gardens, historic Medina, famous Koutobia mosque and fashionable people. We all were looking forward to desert visits and camel rides. The plan was to spend the night of December 31st in the middle of Sahara desert. Sean and I did not book anything in advance and we thanked our lucky stars for that later. We were staying in Marrakesh for 6 days, so we thought we had ample time to book a desert tour. After an early pizza dinner on the day we arrived, we retired to bed, hoping to explore the city and book our desert trip with a local tour company the next day. I woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of Sahana retching in the bathroom. That was the beginning of our nightmare. She had one of the worst cases of stomach infection that went on for days. While she rested in the hotel room, glassy eyed and dehydrated, Sean, Ryan and I went out for short walks to buy some dinner and to bring back crackers and electrolytes for Sahana. Each day we thought maybe Sahana will recover and we can still book a desert trip. On the third night, I was gently awoken by Ryan saying, “Mom, I just threw up. But don’t worry, I feel fine now.” Well, he did not feel fine for long. From that point on both of them threw up every hour as Sean and I tried to keep them hydrated. When they were not throwing up, they were taking hot showers or resting in their beds. Sean and I went for long walks to get fresh air when the kids rested and toured Marrakesh as much as we could. I fell in love with the city, despite the nightmare that was unfolding in our hotel suite. Here I must mention the kindness of our housekeeper, Nadia, who without saying a word of English, commiserated with the kids, with us, cleaned up their mess and asked me if the children had eaten at the Medina. They had not. She always made sure to bring us extra towels and sheets. I was touched by her kindness in that foreign land and when we checked out, we made sure we left a generous tip for her.

I picked up a small vial of argan oil from a supermarket (of all places) in Marrakesh. I had no idea what argan oil was or what purpose it served before going to Morocco. I simply wanted a memento of the country that I could bring back in my carry on luggage and I saw argan oil being sold EVERYWHERE in every Medina we visited. Argan oil came home with me along with regrets, some anxious moments, bad memories and some amazing experiences.

I started using argan oil on my face as a moisturizer and also on my wild hair. The change in my skin and hair within a couple of weeks was remarkable. This oil not only moisturizes but also protects from sun damage, reduces wrinkles, prevents skin from getting too oily. I am a convert. And for my hair? Well it controlled my uncontrollable frizz! Enough said. After my small vial from Morocco was gone, I bought more of the oil, and now that is a part (only part) of my beauty regime. As I was massaging argan oil in my hair last night, the memories of Morocco came flooding back to me. I could not bring myself to write about that trip right after our return because it seemed like a vacation of nightmares. However, enough time has passed and the bad memories are slowly being replaced by memories of magical Chafchouen and the wonderful welcome we received there from the locals, memories of walking miles and miles in beautiful Marrakesh with Sean taking in the glitz of the big city juxtaposed with the narrow alleys of colorful Medina steeped in history.

Sahara eluded us this time and most likely we will not go back to Morocco for a vacation. I am still not sure what my children ate to cause such violent sickness and why us, the parents, were spared but if I could I would go back in a heartbeat, because, I for one, absolutely loved what I saw in this beautiful country. And the country gave my my magic potion along with some stress related highlights (gray hair) – argan oil!

Arranged marriage and daal bora (red lentil fritters).


I was about 8 or 9 years old when I was allowed to tag along with some neighborhood girls. They were teenagers then, and very interested in boys and marriage. This was late 70’s India, where girls stole glances at young men and vice versa but very few openly had a relationship. Arranged marriages were prevalent, love marriages were rare. One of the girls in that group was from a big family. She was the youngest of 10 siblings. Her older sisters were regularly sitting in front of families of prospective grooms to be ‘shown’ for marriage. She had a lot of ‘insiders’ information on how the process went and we were her adoring audience. She told us one of prospective groom’s father asked a sister in one such ‘viewing’ that if the family had only rice and masoor dal (red lentil) in the house what food can the girl make out of those ingredients. She was being judged for her resourcefulness in a mid to low income level Bengali family. The girl responded she would make rice, daal, dal bora (lentil fritters), daal bora r jhol (fritters in a curry), daal borar chutney……. and I forget what else.

Although I have eaten daal er bora occasionally in Indian restaurant near me, I have never ventured to make any from scratch. Just a few days ago, in a conversation with my college buddies on wsapp the topic of daal er bora came up. I eagerly asked for the recipe and when my friend gave it to me, I thought “This is easy. Even I can do it.” And I did.

The fritters are simple, delicious and yes, a tad unhealthy. I thought of frying them in my airfryer but instead I went old school and fried them in oil.

  1. You need to soak 1 cup of red lentils overnight or at least for couple of hours. This is what masoor dal or red lentil looks like:

2. Drain the water in a sieve and put the wet lentils in a food processor to pulse it to a paste with a few tsps of water.

3. Add 1 tsp of kalounji seeds (nigella seeds) with the paste – optional

4. Add 2 tbsp of finely chopped onion – optional

3. Add 2 tbsp of chopped coriander leaves. I love coriander leaves but if you don’t like them, you can leave them out.

4. Add 1 tsp of turmeric powder and if you like spicy, 1/2 tsp of red chilli powder

5. Add 2 tbsp of corn starch to make the fritters crispy

6. I like to dice one of two green chilies in the mix. If you like them, throw them in. Who is going to stop ya?

7. Add salt to taste and yes, a tiny bit of sugar. We Bengalis like a little sugar in our food.

8. Mix all the ingredients together. Heat oil in a pan or wok, put tbsp full of the lentil mixture in the hot oil and fry till they turn golden brown.

These crispy fritters taste delicious as a snack with your evening tea or as an accompaniment to rice and daal.

So I ate them for dinner with my rice and dal. Sean ate a few with his sandwich. Ryan bit into one and gave the rest to me. Sahana ate a few dipped in her daal.

Since I made many in my excitement, we still had quite a few leftover. I remembered the resourcefulness of the ‘would be’ bride of my childhood and made red lentil fritters curry the next day when the crispiness of the fritters was gone.

For the curry:

  1. Cut a potato into small cubes.
  2. Make a tsp of fresh ginger paste or finely grated.
  3. Heat a little oil in a wok.
  4. When the oil is hot, add a tsp of cumin seed. It splutters, be careful.
  5. When cumin splutters, add the grated/paste of ginger and let is cook for 20 seconds till the raw smell of ginger is gone.
  6. Now add a small can of tomato paste. Lower the heat and let the tomato mixture cook till the oil separates. Add 1 tsp of turmeric and 1/2 tsp of red chili powder. Add a little water from time to time so masala does not burn.
  7. When the tomato mixture thickens, looks rich red and oil separates, add a tbsp of tomato ketchup. Mix together. Add a cup of water to the mixture and add the potato cubes.
  8. Let the potatoes cook in the gravy. Add more water if needed.
  9. When the potatoes become tender, add the fritters. Add more water since the fritters soak in water and the gravy dries.
  10. Add salt and let the gravy simmer for 10 minutes or so.
  11. Before turning the stove off, add a tsp of garam masala and 1 tsp of ghee (clarified butter). The ghee is completely optional.

The widows in Bengal were expected to live a life of austerity after their husband died. The measure of austerity involved giving up not only meat, fish and eggs but also onions and garlic. The ladies became creative and derived delicious meals with the ingredients that they were allowed to consume. Daal er bora is supposedly one such dish that the widows of Bengal invented. Tasty and versatile that can enrich your taste buds even without the use of garlic and onions.

Resourcefulness has been the means of survival for women for centuries in every aspect of life including food.

Catching a sunrise.


I wanted to catch a sunrise from the balcony of our ocean front hotel room. I did not set any alarms to wake up at the time of sunrise, thinking my body will wake up in anticipation. It did, except it woke up just 10 minutes late. I saw Sahana sitting on the balcony, soft light of the morning sun gently illuminating her beautiful face. She turned her bright, happy smile towards me “I watched the sun rise!” This is what I got to see.

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Reflected

The sun had risen just above the horizon and the golden ball was reflected over the water. I missed sunrise by just 10 minutes. I consoled myself thinking it was the first morning of our last-minute beach vacation. We still had 5 more mornings to catch a sunrise.

The pandemic played havoc with our plans of going to India in May and Sahana’s move to college for her senior year. As each plan fell through, we shed a few tears and then hoped that that this year will pass, life will resume, perhaps in a reimagined way. We will see our loved ones in different parts of the world. Our children will go back to in person learning in a safe, virus free environment. Since Sean and I had both taken leave for a week to move Sahana in to her apartment in college (that plan fell through), we decided to take the time to replenish our reserves of patience, hope, resilience. We splurged and booked an ocean front room with a kitchenette. If I felt too anxious to go among people, I could simply sit on the balcony and count waves. Our previous beach vacation at the beginning of July was anxiety provoking for me. I wrote about it in “Kissing in the time of Corona”.

The day I missed my sunrise, we walked by the bay to catch the sun set. We were not disappointed. Nature, perhaps, knew that our soul needed some resuscitation and it suffused us with its glory.

The second day I missed the sunrise by 15 minutes. Why did I not set an alarm you ask? That is a good question. I guess I trusted my innate clock yet again.

My eyes opened on the third day when it was pitch dark in the room. I glanced at the clock to see the time. It was 6:05 am. The sun was supposed to rise at 6:10 am. I sat right up and rushed to the balcony. I open the door with care so as not to wake the rest of the family. Dense fog over the ocean dashed my hopes of seeing a radiant sunrise. Crestfallen, I went back to bed and slept till 8 am. I woke up to a sun kissed day and glistening sand. Fog robbed me of my sunrise but then the sun burnt away the fog to gift the ocean worshipers a gorgeous beach day.

Finally I viewed the glory on our penultimate day at the beach. Again, my biological clock woke me up. I looked at the time, whispered to Sahana if she wanted to view sunrise. She grunted something inaudible. The boys had no desire to chase sunrise, so I did not bother calling them. I tiptoed out to the balcony with my phone and witnessed the ball of fire making its journey to my part of the world. I found my religion in its splendor.

Sun rise

My phone camera, of course, does not do any justice to the ephemeral beauty of sun rising over the ocean but the memory of that resplendent dawn is captured in my heart. This is simply a fragment of what I saw.

Life was at bay while I looked at the expanse of the ocean for 6 days, while my family kayaked in the still waters of the bay and I pulled my chair in the water soaking in the stillness and serenity in my soul. Life was at bay when we delighted in the sightings of wild ponies and walked the marshy lands to see unknown (to me) birds and snowy egrets, while we stopped at unexplored ice cream shops to taste homemade ice creams, while we ordered crab imperial and legs of snow crabs. The question “Do you have your mask on?” every time we left our hotel and seeing masked people on the road reminded us we were living through a pandemic. Those 6 days, from the safety of my balcony and sometimes from empty stretches of the beach, I simply sat and stared at the ocean. The hypnotizing crashing of waves, the endlessness of the ocean, the sand between my toes, the laughter of children playing on the beach, the comfort of a book in my hand and the closeness of my husband and children made me completely happy. The feeling of happiness was a conscious realization really. I said to Sean, somewhat bewildered, “I feel happy.” In these 5 or 6 months, I had forgotten how it felt to be completely happy.

We were masked for most part of our vacation. We cooked our meals and got take outs for some dinners. We never played miniature golf, which is our constant (apart from sun and sand) when we go to the beach. Yet, we found peace. Most importantly, perhaps, we filled up our reserves of hope that this phase of our lives too shall pass. We will reunite with humankind instead of going the other way, fearing contamination from my fellow human.

One day…..

In the meantime, I will look back to this memory for sustenance on a dark and gloomy day.

First time griller.


We inherited a small grill from a relative. Since we are not big meat eaters and hence, non grillers, the grill collected dust and spider web underneath our back deck. Ryan, one day, excitedly declared he wants to make spicy chicken wings on the grill. I did not pay much attention to him thinking this was a fleeting fancy and if I pay no attention, it will be forgotten. Well, I was wrong. He persevered and requested to be taken to the grocery store to pick up organic wings and accompanying sauces. He had seen this recipe in Tik Tok and could not wait to try.

“Heaven help us! Tik Tok recipe?” I thought, yet I wanted to encourage culinary aspirations thinking I may benefit if aspirations such as these continue like his sister’s has.

“Ask your sister to drive you to the supermarket.”

Sahana, came back from work and like an obliging big sister, turned around and drove him to the market to buy ‘organic’ chicken wings. That night, I heard a lot of noise in the kitchen and smelled some spicy smells as I read my book. Before going to bed, I went to inspect the kitchen and found everything cleaned up. Without investigating further, I went to bed.

After a busy day at work, I came home to delicious smell of grilling. I went to the back deck to see a smiling boy looking up at me with a tong in his hand, grilling chicken wings for the first time. The father, however, was looking down from the deck, with an indulgent yet exasperated expression.

I heard the story from the father of the grilling man. Since Ryan had never grilled before, he needed some advice from his dad. Sean told him to clean up the grill and then he said he would come down to help him fire it up. As Sean worked on the deck, he heard Ryan doing something underneath. He heard the hose going. Then he got the call, “Dad I am ready.”

He went down to see the grill completely hosed down along with the coal that was in the grill.

“Why did you hose down the grill?” he asked Ryan, exasperated.

“Why not? There were spiderwebs all over it. I was not going to touch spiderwebs!” Ryan replied indignantly. He is deathly scared of spiders.

“How do you intend to light a grill with soaking wet coal? Did it occur to you to empty the charcoal before cleaning the grill?” Sean asked.

“Oh!” was the response.

They had to throw away the wet charcoal, fill the grill with new charcoal and light the grill. When I came home the grill was going strong and the chicken wings were cooking beautifully. When I laughed and asked if he was sure he was ready for sophomore year, he said, “Absolutely. The first lesson a student is taught is to learn from their mistakes. Hey, I learned from my mistake.”
Can not argue with that. Today, he is making burgers and sausages on the grill. Hopefully, the charcoal will be dry if the lesson from mistake was learnt right. I will let you know.

Here she is, world!


I read somewhere that we, parents, are building cathedrals as we raise our children. No one remembers the cathedral builders when the building is complete, yet our imprint stays on for lifetime. That thought is lovely and overwhelming in equal measure.

When my tiny daughter was placed in my arms 21 years ago, I was overwhelmed by the responsibility of raising this small human. I needed to ensure that she stayed alive, she stayed healthy, she grew up kind, responsible, happy. Was I up to the task? I don’t know whether I was up to the task, all I knew was that an inexplicable love surged through my heart when I first saw her. Buoyed by this overwhelming love and tenderness, I resolved to give this child of mine all I had. The new born turned into a toddler, a delightful child and willful as well. A child who constantly pushed the envelop. A child who made sure I was one step ahead of the game because she questioned her boundaries – always. A child who fell in love with written words, like her mama, at a very early age. A child who always loved school and loves till this day. Then she became tween: a very creative, bossy tween. Oh, so bossy! And quirky. I remember volume knob on the radio in our car had to be turned to a multiple of 5. Any other number bothered her. Then came the teen years. Like any other teen, she had fits of rage from time to time and felt completely misunderstood. Her father and I watched in despair, unsure. However, the periods of emotional turmoil were often juxtaposed with sweet moments of affection, intelligent conversation, nuggets of random facts that she liked to subject her family to. And poetry! She wrote deep, thoughtful, beautiful poetry during those years which left me wondering about the depth of her perception and thought. The tumultuous teen years, which I lovingly refer to as ‘the lost years’ were mercifully brief. From those raging years emerged a young woman with a certain maturity and sense of responsibility with an analytical and thoughtful mind.

I held this little girl’s hand and waited for her school bus to take her to preschool, I read to her and then with her, I helped her with homework, packed her lunch, kissed her wounds, both physical and emotional, laughed with her, played with her, listened to her thoughts and one day, all of a sudden I realized that her thoughts were spreading wings. She was ushering in new ideas into my horizon instead of it being the other way around. She was reading more complex books on diverse topics and she was slowly opening my eyes to new ideas and possibilities. That is when I realized she has overgrown her mama. She has truly grown up. 21 is just a number.

At first I thought I would write this blog about parents building cathedrals as they raise their children and when they come of age, the building is done. But no, the building, if I use that analogy, is far from being done. My husband and I have built the structure perhaps, but the real building will be completed by the newly minted 21 year old herself. As a parent, my hope is, we have given our child the right materials – in the form of love, support, encouragement, opportunities, values, beliefs and morals to complete her cathedral the way she seems fit.

Here she is, world. Here she comes. Give her a chance so she can shine her light. Spread her empathy. Shower her love.

Happy 21st birthday, Sahana.

An ode to the queen.


This story begins when Sahana was about 12 years old. She had taken up the challenge of making chocolate chip cookies for the first time, that too for a friend’s birthday. Her pesky little 7 year old brother was flitting around the kitchen, attempting to help. The recipe was carefully followed, the cookies looked perfect when I walked into the kitchen. Little brother was already chomping on one as a taster.

“How is it?” the baker asked, hopeful.

“Mmmmm….it is soooo good Sahana! I love it.” the taster commented, smacking his lips.

“Mom, do you want to taste one?” I was offered.

How could I not try a chocolate chip cookie, baked for the first time by my daughter? I picked up one from the cooling rack and bit into it.

It was SALTY!

I looked at the expectant face, expecting positive reinforcement and I hesitantly commented, “Ummm….. the cookies seem a little salty to me. Try one and see for yourself.”

She did. And her face changed. She had done what many of us have done at some point or another in our cooking career. She used salt instead of sugar.

“SAHANA!!! YOU POISONED ME!!!!!!” screamed 7 year old Ryan, all of a sudden, after finishing one and a half SALTY cookies without batting an eyelid and pronouncing them to be ‘so good’ when asked how they were.

“But why did you say the cookies were good when you tasted salt instead of sugar and why did you eat one and a half cookies? You must have realized the cookies are salty when you took the first bite?” I asked him while Sahana tried not to shed tears.

After a moment’s pause, Ryan replied, “I was trying not to hurt her feelings.”

I think he tasted chocolate and that is all he cared about.

From making salty cookies in her first attempt at baking, Ms. Sahana has grown to be a self taught gourmet chef. I use the word ‘gourmet’ in jest, of course, but the girl has really taken a flair to cooking and we, her family, have benefited from it.

Cooking relaxes her so she does not think twice about making cheese filled tortellini at home from scratch, or finicky chocolate croissants which take hours of folding and rising before going in the oven, or she whips up a spaghetti carbonara: the spaghetti, of course, made from scratch. Store bought spaghetti?? We now frown upon those. (Not really, but she does!) As an Indian mother, I felt she had arrived when she carefully filled a perfect samosa, fried it and made it stand. You need to understand the importance of a samosa standing. That, my friends, is ultimate success. If the dough is not kneaded to the right texture, they fall. They do not stay up. Also, I have never made samosas from scratch. I have only watched and wondered when others did it. Now my daughter does it.

Since Covid brought her back home from Spain, cutting her junior year abroad short, Sahana has calmed her anxiety by kneading dough, grating cheese, stirring sauce or rolling sushi.

Below are some photos of food made by her during the time of Corona. While Corona virus brought a lot of unhappiness and anxiety in our lives, our daughter transformed our mood by providing us with gastronomical delights.

Chocolate croissants
Spicy salmon rolls, sashimi AND homemade dumplings
Focaccia bread with olives
Baked gnocchi (Homemade gnocchi, of course)
Homemade samosas

And finally, from salty chocolate chip cookies she has transitioned to delectable chocolate chip, walnut cookie cake that she makes every year for my birthday. All these years, after the first time, she has used sugar instead of salt 🙂 !

The reigning kitchen queen is stepping down, folks. A new queen is picking up the crown and spatula….err, I meant scepter. Bow to her, heap praise upon her. Who knows? You may receive an invitation to her kitchen. Live in hope.