Friday, April 27, 2007
As things at work and on the personal front keep me busy, I find that blogging might have to take a backseat especially the next couple of weeks, so this may seem like a hiatus. I am not sure how often I can post during this time which includes a trip to Europe (yay!). I hope to be able to find the time during these days to stop by and read your thoughts though. See ya’ll later and take care.
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
I think this might be the last in the food series for a bit, I gotta spare you folks this eh?
So what made me go for the three citrus curd? Well for one am trying a different recipe every week and two descriptions from the accompanying article by Melissa Clark to the recipe just seduced me (excerpt below).
FOR cooks of a lemon-loving persuasion, a puckery citrus curd is the culinary analogue of a chocolate fanatic's fudgy ganache. A cousin of lemon custard but without the milk or cream, lemon curd is a go-to topping, filling, sauce and eat-off-the-spoon treat. It's a mainstay of the pastry cook's repertory, yet subject to countless variations.
It was a classic eureka moment. The lime and blood orange atoned for each other's sins, and the lemon rounded out the rough edges and brought everything together. It was deeply tart but not enough to make one squint, fresh and buoyant on the palate, and just sweet enough. To my mind, my three-citrus curd tasted better than any of those flavors alone, and it also came out an appealing salmon color.
Taken from the New York Times dining section article here.
Modifications if any were few. This turned out amazingly well and as per *A* was better than any of the homemade ice creams from last year. If you try this, keep stirring that is the key as is low heat. At one point curds did start to form and I had to pull th pan off the heat and stir vigorously. There was absolutelyno way to tell this was mostly eggs the tanginess/tart flavors from the citrus seemed just right and it was not too sweet. Blissful was the term that came to mind as I had this last night. If you want it to be less thick use less heat. This serves as a great sauce on icecreams, pies(?), cheesecake(?) or even on a bowl of fruit. I also managed to get the color just right.
2 blood oranges
3 egg yolks
2 whole eggs
1/2 cup sugar (added a bit more here)
Pinch of salt
4 tablespoons butter, at room temperature, cut into cubes.
1. Grate zest from one orange, the lemon and the lime. Set aside. Squeeze juice from all citrus into a sieve set over a bowl. Press on solids to extract all juice.
2. In a bowl, whisk together the yolks and whole eggs with sugar and salt. Whisk in strained juice.
3. Transfer mixture to a heavy saucepan and set over very low heat. Add butter. Using a wooden spoon, stir curd constantly, making sure to reach edges around side of pan. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture has thickened enough to mound when dropped from spoon, 10 to 15 minutes. If mixture starts to curdle, immediately take pot off heat and stir vigorously. If mixture does not thicken, raise heat very slightly and stir vigilantly.
4. Strain curd through a fine sieve into a bowl. (I did not sieve this and it turned out just ok). Stir in zest. Cover top of curd directly with plastic wrap so a skin will not form. Chill until quite cold and thick, at least 4 hours.
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
No, this is not turning in to a food blog, I would rather leave it to the ones that do it way better and are more passionate and talented at it.
But the onset of spring has a way of getting me more in to cooking and this is true for both me and *A*
This eggplant chutney/dip was a joint effort between me and *A*. We purchased this rather large eggplant over the weekend. *A* used half of it (cut lengthwise) for eggplant made her way, and we contemplated the fate of the other half. The brilliant one of the two that she is, she came up with an idea to make a eggplant chutney. She had a recipe in her head, but we decided to go back to one of our other Marathi cookbooks which in addition to the cuisine of Maharashtra in India, also has recipes from other parts of India. To truly get an idea of the diversity of cuisine in India, you should check out Asha’s blog especially this great post where they are focusing on regional cuisine. Fascinating stuff!
So we found the recipe and *A* as she often does decided we would modify it. For the longest time, I just hated eating eggplant, maybe I had memories of it not made right and eating it as a kid was not fun. And that stayed with me until one day she slipped an eggplant dish in to my lunch and I had no idea and I loved it! But this dish just turned out so good and I was reminded of how much I have missed as a kid and during my younger days when I used to be a picky eater.
While this is technically a chutney it can also be used as many veggie dish or even as a dip for chips and on other hors devours.
Enough of my ramble..
Take a medium sized eggplant, slice it down the middle (we used half of one that was about 6 -7 inches long) brush either side with some cooking oil and stick it in an oven at 375 deg for about 30 minutes. When you pull the eggplant out at the end of this it and it should be soft and cooked. Use a spoon to scoop it all out away from the skin in a bowl. I used a spoon to make sure it was mixed well as an even mass or you could mash it too.
Add about half a cup of ground peanuts and table spoon of jaggery (unrefined sugar). You should be able to find this at any Indian grocery store. Being unrefined sugar means it still has mineral salts and has a distinct flavor. If you wanted you could substitute sugar instead of jaggery.
Squeeze juice from about half a lime in to the mashed up eggplant.
Add a finely chopped tomato along with some chopped cilantro.
Heat up some oil (you don’t need a lot, maybe a 2-3 tablespoons) in small pan. Add half a tablespoon of mustard seeds. As they start popping add 3-4 chopped green chilies to the oil and then a couple of pinches of hing (Asafoetida). This is optional if you don’t have it but it imparts a subtle flavor to the dish. Toss this oil with all the ingredients in to the eggplant. Add salt to taste
Mix it all well garnish with some chopped cilantro and you are done.
I don’t think I can truly describe how much I loved this dish. The flavors of the eggplant which was slightly smoky due to the burnt skin from the oven (might even taste better if you grilled the eggplant on a charcoal grill), the taste of the ground peanuts, the heat from the chilies, the sweet flavor of the jaggery and tanginess of the lime and the tomato all came together in a very impressive manner.
Monday, April 23, 2007
Thinking Blogger Award
I have to say I was, and am still surprised when I got a "Thinking Blogger Award" from none other than the lovely Carrie. I have always thought of this blog being just a place for my rants, cooking experiment results, movie reviews and not much happens here that really makes you think. But Carrie feels otherwise and maybe some of you agree.
Anyway as per Carrie here are the rules for how this award works..
1)you are supposed to link to the original post
2) choose five other blogs that make you think and pass along the love and adoration and the special award.
3) and that are award virgins.
Carrie who nominated me very graciously let me off the hook for numbers 2 and 3. The reason for this is that I think every blog that I read brings something different to the table, and I just would not be able to pick 5 that make me think and leave the others out. So thank you Carrie for the nomination, it is much appreciated.
Green Fish Curry
If you are like me and want to try a new recipe, like a lot of folks my first instinct is to go on the web and look for recipes. I have often been susceptible to that, so it was different that day as looked through the collection of cookbooks we have. I bypassed the ones in English that dealt with both Indian and non Indian cuisine to pick up a book that we have had for many years now. It is in Marathi, the language from the state that I grew up in back in India. It is an old cookbook and does not have any of photographs and nice outlays that you see in newer cookbooks. What it has though are numerous (300 +) recipes for cooking meat and fish. The descriptions are all simple and rather threadbare, but enough for someone like me who gets struck with occasional “cookus doofusitis” (characterized by occasional episodes of ineptness in the kitchen) to follow and cook. I found more than 75 ways to make fish that covered varied cuisine styles from India and some from other parts of the world.
It was here that I found the recipe for a green fish curry, it was fairly easy to make a turned out really well. I usually don’t eat rice but I have to say this curry just went very well with rice.
1.5 lbs of Flounder/Tilapia (I used flounder here, the original recipe called for pomfret), cut in to small pieces about 3 inches each cutting across the length of the filet.
1 cup rice flour (besan or gram flour could also be used as a substitute)
5 - 6 green chilies
2-3 cups of cilantro (you don’t have to chop this if you are thinking of using a food processor).
½ a cup of mint leaves. (The will vary based on the mint leaves, the ones here are a lot stronger than what I have seen in India and will also depend on your tolerance and liking for mint and how it balances with the other flavors)
½ inch piece of ginger, you will probably want to grate this
7-8 cloves of garlic
Juice from 2 lemons/limes or a tablespoon of tamarind paste
1 tablespoon cumin powder
1 tablespoon sugar
Salt to taste
Turmeric (probably a teaspoon)
Sprinkle some salt and turmeric on the fish and mix it all up and set aside for 5-10 minutes. This step is entirely optional in the sense that turmeric (has known anti-bacterial properties) and salt (well you know all about that too). These steps I guess were used in days past (before refrigeration) to ensure some sort of cleansing of the fish.
Take the pieces of fish and dip them in rice flour and fry/sauté them in a shallow pan. I used very little oil for this and the fish cooks real quick, so you may be able to avoid deep frying it. Set aside.
In a food processor add the chilies, cilantro, mint, grated ginger, garlic, sugar and the lime juice/tamarind paste. Add water based on the consistency of the desired curry and blend it all together.
In a pan add some oil and empty the blended curry ingredients, add cumin and allow it to cook over medium heat (5 -10 minutes) or till you start getting the distinct aroma of mint.
Add ½ - 1 cup of coconut milk or one half of a freshly grated coconut (You can also try to substitute cream for coconut milk).
Allow the entire mix to cook for a few more minutes, add salt to taste.
Add the fish pieces just before serving.
The pictures were taken in a rush, so are not of a great quality.
It turned out really well as per *A* who loved eating it with rice. The taste and aroma of mint was not at all overwhelming and it blended well with the slight sweetness of the coconut and the tangy flavors of the lime and tamarind. The heat from the chilies was also well moderated thanks to the coconut milk. I did add some red chili powder when I was done since I thought it needed more heat.
I thought this was a rather different kind of a fish curry as opposed to what I have been used to eating most of the times.
Friday, April 20, 2007
Mona designates "SLIDE" as the word of the day. But before we get to that.
It's Friday.. yay! And here is an office game, a rather neat ad for a janitorial services company. Click on image for a bigger view or the link here (The link is work safe but some things at the web site are not).
Campaign for Perfect Clean janitorial services. Play all the messy games you can think of. The office will be clean like new in the morning.
There are a few ways to do this. I guess I could have talked about the world around us sliding in to madness, or Iraq or our planet and our president as he slides away from reality or our media which keeps seeing slides in it's ratings. All of this is too depressing. So how about some love...
Arms touching.. your back against me
Our legs spread out before us
My arms around you in a tender embrace
Eyes make love to each others bodies
Candles flicker with their soft glow
Our eyes meet in the mirror
They flash with something more than love
Something with a hint of carnal
You smile that amazing smile of yours
Your hands take mine to cup them
They feel their warmth and that of the scented oil
I lift my cupped hands to your neck and let them slowly part
I can feel it slip thru my fingers on to your silken skin
It covers you slowly in an intimate caress that I can only dream of
Forming a sensual path as it flows between the soft swell of your full breasts
And down to your navel and below… I watch as if in a trance
Strong fingers knead your shoulders and back
Soft sighs escape your lips, finger nails rake thighs
Your back arches back as my hands move to other parts of you
Slipping and sliding, gliding down, then up and around you
Relearning contours from a time past
Bodies undulate, change positions, slip and slide over and against each other
Tongues glide, lips crushed against lips and more..
Fragrant oils, sweat and the honey of love
Wanton words and moans escape lips
Cries uttered at the peak of passion
As we coalesce in to one, in a cloud borne along by winds of sheer bliss.
Thursday, April 19, 2007
By no means is NPR perfect in terms of being a decent news/current affairs, culture, arts etc type of a programming organization. Their deference to our maladministration like the rest of our media has been galling. That said the All Things Considered program from the 17th of April was one of those days which made me feel good about public radio. I usually listen intently to what they have to say, but even I felt rather swamped by the news about the Virginia Tech tragedy.
I found myself switching off the radio and back on again when stories of the tragedy were done just to take my mind off things. I was almost in my robotic driving mode when this interview by Michelle Norris just perked me up. She was interviewing Jonathan Gold of the free alternative publication LA weekly, who won the 2007 Pulitzer for distinguished criticism.
Like the clichéd line that Renee Zellweger’s character from “Jerry Maguire” says to Tom Cruise “You had me at hello”. This story had me at 30 seconds in to the interview when Michele Norris quoted Jonathan Gold who uses “Food as a window to explore the diversity and daily rhythms of Los Angeles, both the expensive eateries and the exotic spots where immigrants search for a taste of home” .
Heh! Doesn’t take much to seduce me! (Speaking strictly from a foodie perspective ;-) ), and I was completely enthralled as the interview went on.
Here is an audio link, it is about 7 minutes long. As I heard Jonathan talk I could see why he is so good at what he does. His love of food and the delight he derives from his culinary experiences became very obvious. Am paraphrasing here..
He talks about how he is usually the first person to try a new place and usually finds them by driving around and recounts the innumerable bad meals he has had in this entire process.
He then talks about the number of times he might go back till he understands the aesthetic behind what might seem to be a repulsive sounding/smelling dish, that the cook does well but he (the reviewer) hates it.
He mentions going to this Taiwanese restaurant repeatedly where he encounters all kinds of smoky, funky odors including a dish that has the odor of “old gym shoes”
How many times did he go back? 17 times !!! Truly a person I can appreciate.
Jonathan Gold then went on to talk about a dish called Okonomiyaki, which he calls amongst the most homeliest food in creation and then goes on to say “When it arrives you are not sure whether to kill it or eat it.”
What does Okonomiyaki look like? “It looks like an ugly blob of pancake batter topped with shaved benito flakes on food that does not stay still.. wafts and curls and moves in the eddies of the hot food like seen in the ocean.. creepy to encounter.. alarming to behold and astonishing to eat.”
Well, I had no clue what benito flakes are either or what Okonomiyaki is, so I looked those up on the web and here is what I found on spicehouse.com’s forum here.
“Bonito is a type of Japanese dried fish. On some dishes in Japan, they will sprinkle shaved bonito flakes on top. The steam from the dish will make the flakes wiggle. It's weird to see the first time.” LOL!
Okonomiyaki is a pan-fried Japanese dish cooked with various ingredients. Okonomi means "what you like" or "what you want", and yaki means "grilled" or "cooked" (cf. yakitori and yakisoba); thus, the name of this dish means "cook what you like, the way you like". In Japan, okonomiyaki is usually associated with the Kansai or Hiroshima areas. (from Wikipedia)
There is a picture too.
I think I would love to try this sometime!
Since I loved this story so much it was only natural for me to try and read his food review column. Here is a link and I can see why he won the Pulitzer (first paragraph of the review below)
Have you ever tasted the pozole at La Casita Mexicana? It’s wild stuff, that
pozole, a dark broth deeply scented with meat and chiles and unpronounceable
herbs, juicy shreds of pork, and fluffy kernels of blue hominy whose ragged
edges are colored the purple of an unpeeled octopus leg. If you have remembered to sprinkle shredded cabbage, a little dried oregano and a drop or two of lime juice into the broth, the flavor pops out in three dimensions, like those hidden images did in those books that were popular a few years ago, taking palpable weight, almost grabbing your spoon hand and propelling it into the broth again and again. If you splash in a spoonful of hot, smoky salsa, you’re in a whole other dimension.
Sigh! Amazing description and I so wanna go to L.A. to try this!
Too bad he is writing about restaurants in L.A. I wish he gets a gig out east here preferably Philly or NYC, then I could actually go try out the places and the amazing cuisine. Both towns have some great food.
I am not sure any of you will be caught up by this story as I was, and especially on a day where I was tired of hearing about death and destruction, this one made a difference and why we must take it easy and truly enjoy our meals and appreciate and explore the amazing cuisines that this nation has to offer from the rich tapestry of its various immigrant cultures.
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Tragic as the events at Virginia Tech are, when I heard about the identity and race of the shooter (South Korean) I had a few other thoughts. I have occasionally been mystified at the stereotyping of Asians that takes place while ignoring that reality is somewhat different. Some of the common stereotypes might be like thinking of East and South Asians as being studious, workaholic, not assertive enough, being submissive and feminine, having superior academic abilities.
The media has done it's bit here in the sense with very rare exceptions one does not see a lot of Asian people on TV on shows esp men (don't watch much TV) that also contributes to some of the assumptions that I spoke about before. Not to say that everyone does this.
I wondered if that stereotype of Asians took a bit of a hit after this tragedy or if a new one got added. People come in all shades that is all there is to it.
No larger point here, just rambling.
Did not follow this too closely. But was thrilled to hear that the book "The Looming Tower" that I loved reading, and was written by Lawrence Wright (staff writer for the New Yorker .. which I love too) won the prize in the general non-fiction category. If you get a chance and this sort of thing interests you, I recommend you read this book, engrossing stuff!
Lawrence Wright, staff writer for The New Yorker, yesterday won a Pulitzer Prize in the general-nonfiction category for The Looming Tower: Al-Qaida and the Road to 9/11. The book is based on more than 500 interviews, some with friends and relatives of Osama bin Laden; it examines the circumstances that led to the formation of al-Qaida.Audio link to his interview on fresh air here.
Strands unravel on their own volition
A life coming apart, seams dissolving
Questions fester just below the skin
Hemorrhaging from within
Am all afire as they threaten to char my being to black
I rush to the edge teetering... as I feel the wind whip me
As a cold grey rain sharp as icicles falls
I wish it penetrates every pore of me
Stifle that fire in me, snuff it out!
Fire and ice will both annihilate me
How does it matter now how I am destroyed?
Within or without or falling over the edge
No better place but a yawning chasm for my soul..
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
You gotta be friggin kidding me! They are rioting for this? A hug and a peck on the cheek? Is this all that it takes for the "protectors of Indian culture" to take to the streets?
Update : Video of hug/kiss from Youtube below. I still don't see what the big deal is. Also like Sachin pointed out in the comments and if any of you look at a Bollywood music video on youtube, you may find what Gere did to be pretty tame. But then again my opinion is just that an opinion of some guy with a blog.
From the Yahoo News link..
Angry crowds in several Indian cities burned effigies of Richard Gere on
Monday after he swept a popular Bollywood actress into his arms and kissed her
several times during an AIDS-awareness event.
Photographs of the 57-year-old actor embracing Shilpa Shetty and
kissing her on the cheek at an HIV/AIDS awareness event in New Delhi were
splashed across Monday's front pages in India — a country where sex and public
displays of affection are largely taboo.
In Mumbai, members of the
right-wing Hindu nationalist group Shiv Sena beat burning effigies of Gere with
sticks and set fire to glamorous shots of Shetty.
Similar protests broke
out in other cities, including Varanasi, Hinduism's holiest city, and in the
northern town of Meerut, where crowds chanted "Down with Shilpa Shetty!"
The two appeared at a press conference in New Delhi on Sunday to
highlight the HIV/AIDS epidemic among India's truck drivers. In front of a
cheering crowd, Gere kissed the giggling Shetty on the hand, then kissed her on
both cheeks before bending her in a full embrace to kiss her cheek again.
The spokesman for Hindu nationalist party Bharatiya Janata Party
condemned the kiss.
"Such a public display is not part of Indian tradition,"
said Prakash Javadekar, according to PTI.
Shetty, already well-known in
India, became an international star after her appearance on the British reality
show "Celebrity Big Brother" — another controversial public appearance. A fellow
contestant, Jade Goody, sparked international headlines by making allegedly
racist comments to Shetty. Mobs took to the streets of India to denounce Goody,
and Shetty went on to win the competition.
Somebody tell that Hindu nationalist party spokesman to go look at the erotic temple carvings at the sun temple in Konark. That is a part of the Indian culture too, what next? Covering them up? I love how these roaches crawl out of the dark at times like this.
Have I said how much I dislike religious nutjobs no matter what their flavor is? The Shiv Sena are just a bunch of neo fascists .. of the Hindu brand.
Do these people even consider that maybe talking about sex and sex education might help dealing with the crisis that India has with the highest number of HIV cases (5.2 million)? Or how about doing something about the declining number of women to men as seen by the adult sex ratio? Or the myriad social and economic issues that India faces?
No! But these folks wanna get their knickers in a twist over an embrace and a kiss on the cheek?
This has been your first public version of my daily rant. Ignore this fool!
Saturday, April 14, 2007
Not A Review Avenue Montaigne (Fauteuils d'orchestre)
Picture above is from the French original which is already out on DVD there.
1 hr 46 mins
I tend to also love a lot of things French so when this movie started to show at the Bryn Mawr Film Institute, there was no hesitation on our part. We saw it last weekend, but I did not get a chance to write about it till last night.
The movie has been described variously as a “breezy romp” or a “cute and bubbly French comedy”, that is true but it is also has subtle underpinnings that let us draw a few larger life lessons should we choose to look at it this way. Either ways it’s a pleasant, sunny kind of a movie.
More about the movie –
The name of the movie for us non-French speaking plebes is “Avenue Montaigne”, the original French name is Fauteuils d'orchestre (which translates to Orchestra seats). The name Avenue Montaigne, is that of a famous street in the 8th arrondisement of
This movie has many characters and also a number of narratives for all of them. The director Danielle Thompson (co-screenwriter) manages to connect all these different threads very well while still imparting life to all her characters at the same time. It is something she seems to have done effortlessly.
A place where all these different folks from various walks of life gather is a bistro called Brasserie des theaters. It is here that Jessica works as a temporary waitress hired to tide over the shortage of hands in the bistro around the big cultural evening at this mecca of high fashion and the arts. She has also recently arrived in
A number of interesting and engaging characters fill out this lovely little movie. There is an art collector Jacques Grumberg (Claude Brasseur) whose current trappings conceal the humble beginnings of his life. He has brought all his art to auction off on that big night. His beloved wife of many years is no more and he is now confronting his own mortality as well as his estrangement with his son Frederic (played by Christopher Thompson who also happens to be the director Danielle’s son).
There is also concert pianist (Albert Dupontel) who is close to a meltdown with his busy concert life spent in hotels and performance hall around the world managed by his wife (Laura Morante). There is Catherine Versen (Valérie Lemercier) an overworked soap opera actress who is desperately trying to impress director Brian Sobinski (Sydney Pollack) in an effort to get to play more serious roles especially in his next film. Then there is the close to retirement theatre concierge Claudie (Dani) who is famous in her own right.
Jessica and the lives of all these characters will come in to contact with each other as she runs errands and serves some of these characters in the bistro. It is here that we see the rich and famous to be as human as the rest of us. If this is supposed to feel all saccharine sweet and even artificial it actually is not. The director does a wonderful job of fleshing out the humanity of these characters and their hopes and aspirations. Perhaps Jessica is meant to be envious of them and their lifestyles and yet learn that they are as vulnerable as the rest of us.
The varied cast does a fabulous job of keeping us entertained and engaged. There are some great lines in the movie including one where Jacques is reminiscing about life and talks about how he and his wife were like two beavers. They collected art as a way to stave of boredom from their lives and he uses beavers damming a river as a metaphor.
There are some more good lines in the movie that I unfortunately cannot recall. The other thing I loved about this movie was the great music. I should qualify this statement by mentioning that I am no connoisseur of classical music but the piano pieces were a delight to listen to. Claudie is often seen in the movie listening to French music on her headphones and I could not identify what that was but it just sounded marvelous, I am going to have to figure out a way of getting hold of the music from this movie. The other pleasant surprise was the charming Cecille De France who we have seen in two other lovely movies Russian Dolls and Auberge espagnole.
The movie is funny, charming, intelligent and poignant and makes for a most wonderful viewing and how can a movie that talks about art, culture, food, life and love not be fun?
Friday, April 13, 2007
There really is no Friday word today with Mona being a bit under the weather (get well soon!!). While reading the NYTimes this morning, I came across this lovely previously unpublished poem on the opinion page. The poem touched me in many ways and I absolutely love it. So here it is.
Accompanying photograph and text are also from the Times.
I don't know about you,
but I practice a disorganized religion.
I belong to an unholy disorder.
We call ourselves,
"Our Lady of Perpetual Astonishment."
You may have seen us praying
on sidewalks outside the better
in all kinds of weather.
Blow us a kiss
upon arriving or departing,
and we will climax
It can be quite a scene,
especially if it is raining
cats and dogs
Kurt Vonnegut on the beach in East Hampton, N.Y., with his Lhasa apso, Pumpkin, on July 19, 1976. Photograph by his wife, Jill Krementz.
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
I am currently discharging one of my civic responsibilities as an American citizen which explains the spotty blogging and visits to your blogs.
Waiting To Be Served?
Well Hello There..
I think that is kind of neat. It is a real product. The positions of the hands and feet and bottoms are all color and number coordinated to correspond to positions described in the kamasutra. They have a web site and a "how to".
Ad For A "Burn" Energy Drink
Images are from here and here (Warning may not be work safe)
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
I finally did manage to watch this movie on the weekend and it was a great experience. Although you must have gotten a sense about what the movie is about, here is the plot in brief below.
Jesse is a young American recently broken up with his girlfriend who he was visiting in
Jesse and Celine have something that some of us have experienced. It is that almost instant chemistry and a sense of connectedness that you at first only sense and that grows as you interact with and spend more time with that person. I think to capture this on screen is a very hard task to do, not just for the director but also for the screenwriter and the principal actors. How does one convey this growing admiration and attraction for each other? Richard Linklater, the director and screenwriter succeeds at this in two ways, one is the amazing, inspired witty dialogue that just completely draws you in to the movie and does not let go till the movie ends.
The other is with the body language that we see between Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy as they so convincingly portray the characters they are playing and you completely forget they are mere actors.
You truly have to see this movie to understand how well this works. I am going to try and capture this for you through a few scenes that stayed with me long after the movie ended.
There is this scene in a record store. Jesse and Celine are listening to Kath Bloom's "Come Here". It is one of those listening booths I have never seen, almost like a telephone booth. It is this enclosed space and if you already have this chemistry that you sense is developing with the other person, what would an enclosed space with great music do to you? So it is amazing as you watch them making quick eye contact and then looking away. We can feel the mutual attraction they have as well as their excitement and the slight awkwardness of these moments.
There are other more subtle scenes, the way they play with the salt/pepper shakers on their table in the dining car as they talk to each other, and they are both very good actors, especially in this movie.
They kiss atop a giant Ferris wheel overlooking a dusky
There is an understated, relaxed, unhurried and beautiful pace to this movie including some great lines. Not to spoil it for those of you who may actually want to watch this movie. But I liked these lines because of the deeper (call it philosophical if you will) underpinnings behind the words.
Jesse talks about never having been anywhere, where he hasn’t been before. Like how he has never felt a kiss that he has not been a part of. I think he is referring to doing things with his all poured in to it, sort of like wearing your heart on your sleeve or something. He also talks about perhaps people hating themselves because they are always around.
Celine talks about dying and how the few seconds of consciousness when you know you are going to die are the ones that scare her the most. This conversation comes out of her fear of flying.
The line in the movie that I completely loved, happens when Celine talks about the manifestation of god. She thinks it happens in the spaces between people.
Jesse talking about dealing with the fact that his father did not want him to be born. He says it feels like he is at a party where he is not supposed to be at but he is crashing anyway and making the most of it.
As Jesse and Celine are walking around
There is also a lovely rendition of a part of the W.H. Auden poem by Jesse towards the end of the movie as they know they are about to go their own ways.
There are many more great moments in the movie but this one was also touching. They have this game at a café where Jesse and Celine both pretend like they are making phone calls to imaginary friends at home and telling them about the other. As they go through this we can see how they admit the depth of their feelings about each other.
From wikipedia what I also found out was that he plot of the movie was conceived by the director Richard Linklater, who shared a similar experience with a woman named Amy when they spent a whole night talking as they roamed the streets of Philadelphia.
Ok I have rambled long enough, this movie is highly recommended but that is just the opinion of some guy with a blog so make what you will of that. It is a funny, romantic, touching and a poignant movie. It reminds me of why we fall in love and that the process never really ends.
Sunday, April 08, 2007
That was the Friday word as per Mona. I am late with that one. So here goes.. rather dark, but life is not a bed of roses eh?
Update: I am sorry I have not been at a lot of your blogs and I am away, with no access to the web most of the day tomorrow and possibly for some more time. But I will visit your blogs as soon as I can.
Slow creeping unstoppable
Quicksand sucking down his soul
A body that could no longer fight
Old, grizzled and beaten down
Lonely and misunderstood he thought
He loved in his own way
Is it love, if the words are delivered with the sharpness of a rapier?
A love that rarely speaks its name
Tenderness does not become him
Neither does humility
Hubris his middle name
His own blood shirks from him
Wishing he would go…just go
One life destroyed is enough
You will not touch another one
So take another sip from the chalice of your misery
May death spring upon you soon
His own blood whispered.
I read this NYTimes piece last week and I was sort of struck by it, but did not dwell upon it too much. It dealt with the lives of well off, rich young girls as they balanced advanced courses, extracurricular activities and how despite it all they were not sure they could get in to their "A-list" colleges.
These were girls who took multiple Advanced Placement classes while playing multiple sports and musical instruments, winning top prizes, starring in plays, helping the homeless and achieving fluency in one or two foreign languages. More amazing still: despite all this incredible accomplishment, they weren’t guaranteed access to their first-choice colleges.My heart should break for them no? As much as I admired what they were doing I was uncomfortable and could not quite place it. And then I looked at the blog Eschaton which some of us refer to as our "Political Crack Den" and Atrios picked on something too. But like he says it was best crystallized by the person "Hannah". Perspective indeed, for there are a lot of people like Hannah around. If you read her post copied below you know what it means.
Saturday, April 07, 2007
Some quick thoughts..
I have been following events in the subcontinent especially Pakistan and Afghanistan a bit closely these past few days. And I am not sure if we should be concerned about Pakistan. I read these different stories and I am not sure how the threads tie up or this is all gonna unravel. Only time will tell.
I saw this news story in the NYTimes today and saw it on the BBC news last night too. Scary?
Radical Pakistani Cleric Threatens Suicide Attacks in Capital
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, April 6 — A hard-line cleric said Friday that he was setting up a religious court here in the country’s capital, and threatened suicide attacks if the government did not enact Islamic law and close down brothels and video stores within a month.
The announcement was made during Friday Prayer by Maulana Mohammad Abdul Aziz, the head cleric of the Lal Mosque who is known for his extremist and anti-American views. Mr. Aziz and his allies have stirred a national debate with their drive to impose Taliban-style rule in the capital, prompting protests by human rights advocates and political parties.
Mr. Aziz’s remarks were the latest in a series of challenges by hard-line clerics to the authority of the president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who is considered an ally of the United States and who has vowed to put Pakistan on the path to what he has called “enlightened moderation.”
“Rulers, listen! Our last option will be suicide attacks,” Mr. Aziz said.
Some critics of the government say it has buckled under pressure from the clerics, emboldening them. Others charge that the government has allowed the clerics a free hand in order to divert attention from the constitutional crisis that has roiled Pakistan since last month, when General Musharraf removed the country’s chief justice, Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, who had taken on cases threatening the president’s authority.
Last week, female students from Jamia Hafsa kidnapped an alleged brothel owner from a neighborhood in Islamabad. The woman was released only after she gave a public confession.
Veiled students have also visited several video stores, urging their owners to close.
On Friday evening, dozens of students gathered in front of the mosque around a smoldering heap of Pakistani, Indian and English CDs and DVDs. “These are all dirty movies,” one said, claiming that they had been handed over to the students voluntarily by a local video store owner.
Dirty movies? heh.. they ain't seen nothing yet.. ;)
But seriously, what's happening in Pakistan has been a concern for me for a while now. I heard a different opinion from the journalist and author Ahmed Rashid on fresh air (link here). Terry Gross (how I love her show!) asked him about the threat of an takeover by the fanatical Islamic elements. He thought the threat had been exaggerated by the media and elements within Pakistan and the US for their own purposes. He noted that the fanatics had only managed a 10% of the share in the last elections.
I sure hope he is right. But to touch upon something else here too. The news does get through us via the media and the picture above is a good example of how a story might stay with you. I found the picture above a bit disturbing, given my opinion, I tend to be against women having to wear a veil, but that is just me if they do it voluntarily who am I to object?(but that discussion is for another day). How would this image and story stay with you? Pakistan although an Islamic country is by no means homogenous in how their people are with regard to the culture, language and dialects as well as in the practice of their religion.
But Ahmed Rashid did bring up another very relevant point. He did say Musharraf is in a bind. The protests from the people (the non fanatics) are mostly the well educated and moderate folks, "intelligentsia" if you will call them that. He said these are the people who are often at the end of a movement, in the sense that they stand back as movements like these go, usually tending to join in later. But he said they trend is different here and that says a lot about the general unhappiness at the state of affairs in their country.
Now couple it with the fact that President Karzai of Afghanistan has held talks for reconciliation with some Taliban leaders. Someone ask our "with us or against us, good v/s evil" simple minded dear leader, what he thinks about this.
Stay tuned people, this part of the world is getting more interesting..
Thursday, April 05, 2007
Recipe from the New York Times ..link
Adapted from “Dulce lo Vivas,” by Ana Bensadón (Ediciones Martínez Roca)
Time: 1 hour 30 minutes, plus 2 hours’ chilling
3 cups granulated sugar
8 large egg yolks
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
3/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
3/4 cup whole blanched almonds, finely ground, or 1 cup finely ground almonds.
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium saucepan, combine 1 cup sugar with 1/4 cup water. Stir until completely dissolved. Place pan over medium heat, stirring constantly, until syrup begins to bubble. Stop stirring and allow pan to sit until syrup begins to turn golden at edges, brushing down any sugar crystals with a brush dipped in cold water. Occasionally rotate pan to mix syrup without stirring it, then replace over heat. Continue doing this until syrup is evenly golden brown. Pour caramel into an 8-inch round flan mold or cake pan, or 10 to 12 3-inch fluted molds, tilting to spread caramel evenly along bottom. Set aside.
2. In a medium saucepan, mix together remaining 2 cups sugar with 1 cup water. Bring to a boil over medium heat, and boil for 4 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool until lukewarm.
3. Whisk together yolks and whole eggs until blended, then pour through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl. Add orange zest, orange juice and ground almonds. Whisk in sugar syrup. Pour into caramel-lined mold or molds, filling to just below rim. Cover mold or molds tightly with foil.
4. Place mold or molds into a larger pan. Pour enough hot water into large pan to reach halfway up side of flan mold. Bake until a knife inserted halfway into flan comes out clean, 30 minutes to 1 hour, depending on type of pan and oven used.
5. Allow flan to cool, then refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, at least 2 hours. Just before serving, warm base of pan by dipping it briefly in a pan of hot water. Invert onto a plate, and serve immediately.
Yield: 8 servings with large mold; 10 to 12 with smaller molds.
I pretty much followed the recipe, since this was the first flan I have ever made. Using freshly squeezed orange juice does make a difference, I thought the fresh citrus flavor came through really well combined with the orange zest. I did not use blanched almonds, just used the ones with skin that were then grated and they did not seem to make a difference.
By the way, I made two of them. There is no way that we can eat both, anyone want to stop by and pick one up?
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
As a proud and a happy owner of the Toyota Prius, I had one of those moments yesterday. We bought this car about 2 years ago when they were hard to find. I got ours when they were hard to find and we drove down to Delaware from Connecticut to pick it up. I guess it is our little way of saying this is a technology that needs to be embraced so as it matures and evolves and as more and more people will go for it, there will be an incentive to make it better. Not to mention that the great gas mileage and reduced carbon emissions are and added bonus to help save our troubled planet.
Coming back to my moment, while leaving from work on the highway yesterday, I was in the middle lane and to my left and right were both Toyota Priuses. I had to smile, I am glad more and more people are buying these. I thought mine was a anecdotal observation and not scientific at all, but I see a lot of Priuses these days on the roads. On our little block we have two neighbors who drive them and our neighborhood has about 4 more. But the latest sales figures from Toyota bear that out too. As per this NYTimes article..
The Toyota Prius, a hybrid car once viewed as a niche product, was one of the
top-selling models over all last month as its sales more than doubled.
I have read about better hybrids being in development including a plug in hybrid and with better technology this mpg number will only improve. I have been approached by several strangers at parking lots and gas stations asking me about the car and it’s mileage. Currently am getting about 50 miles to a gallon, with more warm weather this will probably go up. So there is interest out there for this technology and I am glad to see it do well.
This is more important because our CAFE standards have not changed in ages (Current CAFE standards require new cars in model year 2005 to average 27.5 miles per gallon and light trucks to average 21 mpg -- targets that have hardly changed in the last two decades, though they are supposed to go up but not enough), and with oil men in this administration in charge this ain’t gonna change for a while.
As individuals I guess we can all make smart choices like consuming more responsibly. But the power that the government has and the responsibility that it has cannot be understated. The much more sensible Europeans have a standard of about 45 mpg and we are stuck in the 20s (link). The amount of reductions in oil imports and greenhouse gases that could have been achieved if we had changed CAFE standards post 9/11, with government help and support would have a done a lot more to generate goodwill around the world rather than the stupid war in Iraq that is based on lies and is costing is much in dollars and more importantly in lives.
No bigger point to this post I guess, just a sort of a rant with that moment of Zen. Don't see many of those together do you?
Tuesday, April 03, 2007
Scallops With Seaweed Butter
Recipe: Scallops With Seaweed Butter
Adapted from L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon
Time: 20 minutes
4tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
8 large fresh sea scallops
8tablespoons ( 1/2 cup) rock salt, for serving
1/4 sheet nori (edible sea weed), finely chopped (or snipped with scissors) to make 8 pinches, or 8 pinches thyme leaves
1/2 a lime
Fleur de sel (Fleur de sel "Flower of salt" in French) is a hand-harvested sea salt collected by workers who scrape only the top layer of salt before it sinks to the bottom of large salt pans. Traditional French fleur de sel is collected off the coast of Brittany, and is slightly grey due to the sandy minerals collected in the process of harvesting the salt from the pans.)
Piment d’Espelette (Piment d'Espelette is a long, red pepper cultivated in the Basque region of France. It is the star in the region's signature dishes, giving a not-too-hot, fruity finish to many recipes. During the fall months the façades of the houses, especially in the village of Espelette, are hung with garlands of these bright red peppers drying in the sun. A festival celebrating the pepper is held the last weekend of October. )
freshly ground black pepper.
1. Arrange 8 clean scallop shells or individual gratin dishes on baking sheet. Using pastry brush and about 2 tablespoons of butter, brush each scallop all over with butter. Set 1 scallop in each shell, and refrigerate until the butter is firm, 10 to 15 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat broiler to high.
2. Neatly mound 2 tablespoons rock salt, spacing them well apart, on each of four large plates; set aside. Remove scallops from refrigerator and sprinkle each with a pinch of nori. Dot with remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Broil until scallops are barely cooked through, about 3 minutes (I found that even 2 minutes may be enough).
3. Transfer scallop shells to plates, nestling each into a mound of salt. Sprinkle with lime juice as desired, and season with fleur de sel and piment d’Espelette to taste. Serve immediately.
(I did not have fleur de sel, so I just used some kosher sea salt which has a distinct flavor to it as well. In the absence of piment d’Espelette, I used some paprika, though I am sure something like ground chipotle peppers would work too, as would the amazing varieties of ground peppers that one can find in the grocery store or online. I am probably going to try this again and am thinking of adding a dab of wasabi and some freshly made soy ginger sauce on the scallops.)
Yield: 4 servings.
While I have had scallops before, this is the first time I cooked them at home. What seduced me was the elegance and simplicity of this dish and it's almost minimalistic nature. The short cooking time was an added bonus too.
The sea salt, the delicate taste of the nori, a hint of paprika seasoning and the zest of fresh lime and ground pepper came together rather well along with the succulence of the scallops. The next round with wasabi and soy ginger sauce should take this dish to a different place. I am sure there are more variations to this that one can come up with.
Monday, April 02, 2007
Little Children is a 2006 Academy Award and Golden Globe Award-nominated drama film directed by Todd Field, based on the novel by Tom Perrotta.
This movie is based on a novel (of the same name) by Tom Perrotta. I have to admit I have not read the book, nor did I know anything about it. A recap of what the movie is about is below..
Little Children takes place in fictional East Wyndham a well to do neighborhood in suburban Connecticut. It is in this neighborhood that the lives of several characters intersect in a rather interesting manner. Sarah Pierce (Kate Winslet) and her affair with Brad Adamson (Patrick Wilson). Sarah is a stay at home mom with a 3 year old daughter, Lucy. She has a master’s in Anthropology and has not quite gotten around to completing her Ph.D. Brad is a former college football player who is married to Kathy Adamson (Jennifer Connelly), who is a documentary film maker. He is a stay at home dad to his young son, while he tries to pass the bar exam (failing twice). We get the sense that Brad is enfeebled not wearing the pants in the house, this is conveyed via scenes where he is denied requests for a cell phone and his subscriptions to magazines called in to question. There is also a sense that Kathy puts pressure on him to go study at the local library, instead he spends his time watching some local youths skate boarding.
There are a host of interesting characters in this movie. There are the 3 other moms who come to the park where Sarah brings her daughter. In the movie they are a blonde, a redhead and a brunette. There is this scene where they sit on a bench and get all a twitter as Brad shows up with his son. The scene is funny and sad, because you see them all Stepfordian almost, their daily, routine lives suddenly enlivened for that brief moment when Brad "the prom king as they call him" shows up.
There is Sarah’s husband who works for another nameless corporation and is addicted to internet porn.I thought Kathy’s character in the movie was not as well sketched out either but maybe I am wrong.
There is also Ronald James McGorvey (Jackie Earle Haley), who out of prison for exposing him self to minors has moved back into the neighborhood to live with his mother. Larry Hudges (Noah Emmerich), a former police officer, leads a campaign against McGorvey, harassing both the man and his mother. Larry has his own secret from his past. He does convince Brad to sign up for a touch football league and Brad seems to enjoy the camaraderie and almost feels like a man again as he relives his days from college football.
During a game Brad is delighted to find Sarah up in the bleachers cheering him on. Brad asks Sarah to run away with him, explaining how the two of them will be good together and how their children are already comfortable with each other. Sarah and Brad agree to meet at the park the next night. The events up to this point have already been building up and come to a head.
This is a movie that talks about some very important issues that revolve around love, marriage, life in suburbia (especially in the Western world) and the often draining sense of loneliness and dysfunction that lie just beneath the surface.
Scenes from the movie I liked..
Movie opened with a cacophony of alarms from the various clocks going off in the house inhabited by McGorvey’s mother. I did not quite understand where that was going till I got to the point in the movie where Ronald breaks down after his mother dies. Perhaps it was an allegory for the demons in his head. In my book people who prey on children are the worst. Society often prefers these people be put away for life and not worry about the difficult issues that arise after their release. Psychosexual disorders have to, and require long term treatment and these offenders have a high degree recidivism. I am not sure how the audience is supposed to react to Ronald other than with the feeling of revulsion. However there are times one wishes for him to be able to live free of his demons, like a normal person. But can people with psychosexual disorders particularly of the pathological variety be truly rehabilitated? This is probably a question for experts.
Kate Winslet was absolutely amazing in her role as Sarah, having seen both her and Helen Mirren I find myself now wishing the oscar had gone to Kate Winslet. Like someone said Hollywood may also be swayed by the body of work to date and not just that particular role, which may explain Helen Mirren winning.
The scene where Brad and Sarah first talk to each other while pushing their kids on the swings in the park. The moment is beautifully captured for its sheer banality. There is nothing between the two except for the mechanical manner in which they push the swings, and the rhythmic creaking as they indulge in their ordinary chatter says a lot.
The scene on one hot day when Ronald goes to the community pool to take a dip. It takes a while for people to realize who it is, and once they do its amazing how the pool empties and the laughter and squeals of the children is replaced by a deafening quiet as Ronald is the only guy left in the pool. As the cops come and haul off Ronald the kids are back in the pool and the babble of kids is back. It’s like everything goes back to normal as “normal” as suburbia can be. I am not sure how this is in the book but the director Todd Field’s has done an amazing job with this movie.
I often wondered about the nature of suburbia, the perfect houses and the lawns, everyone looking “happy” with their cars and all the trappings of a “fulfilling” life. I am now a part of that to some extent. I loved the critical eye cast on this aspect of life. The normalcy and completeness that one is supposed to feel after being married and settled down, but is it truly normal or complete?
The loneliness that a suburban existence can bring about is really well documented. Pretty much every character in the movie was affected by this, and everyone seemed to have found their way of dealing with it. Notice I said dealing with it, not overcoming it. It is sort of like trying to fill a space with something but it never seems enough to quite fill it up.
I did get a sense of a sort of distance between Sarah and her daughter Lucy. I could not quite fathom the exact nature of this part of being a mother and a child. I could sense Lucy craving more of her, while Sarah seemed to be almost focusing on herself and the life of those around her. I probably should read the book to get a better sense of things.
I also liked the scene where the Sarah and Brad’s families get together for dinner and Kathy at once senses the sexual tension between the two of them and her dropping the fork under the table as a pretense to see if they were playing footsie. Some masks are just worn much closer and firmly I guess.
The explicit (relatively speaking of course, there is a lot of cinema which is not squeamish about nudity and sex at all) scenes especially between Sarah and Brad were for me refreshing to watch. Personally I always feel Hollywood and folks give a free pass to graphic violence but sex and love scenes often get critiqued unnecessarily. These scenes were very integral to understanding and portraying the hurried nature of, and the desperation of their passion. Was it born out of their desire to escape for a few moments the confines of their comfortable yet suffocating almost loveless lives? Their attempt at appearing almost casual when they met in public while being passionate in private was also well portrayed.
The movie presents a lot of flawed people but who are still humane, and we could see that in one of the final acts that Larry does, possibly his last stab at redemption?
The movie also ended on a rather ambiguous note, where we knew Sarah goes back to her life as does Brad (his goodbye letter to Kathy as he leaves is never left behind for her, and stays with him).I am not sure where the book ends but I sort of liked the open ended nature of it. To use a commonplace expression, life often does not end up being all nice with loose ends tied up, and why should it? I absolutely loved this movie, it made me think and had me ask questions of myself that were not always comfortable nor were the answers. In that the movie succeeded.