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Entries in food (19)

Saturday
Jul062019

Great grandma visits and binge eating..

On our 5 day India trip, we managed to visit all great grandparents, thanks to some efficient auto rickshaws..

my maternal grandma is 90+ and her mind is very active. She is unable ot walk and she no longer asks me "when will my time come". she has been asking me that since my grandpa passed away almost 10 years ago. She has come to realize that no one knows.. and is now reading books to pass her time. She blessed us with all her heart!

San's grandparents are also pushing 90 and they are doing okay given their age. Walkers, hearing aids, etc. A slow methodical life and an approach of taking it one day at a time. Some lessons for San and me there.. Grandpa told me that till a few years ago he was doing yoga regularly including Nauli but now he is not able to. He is still active given his age and is a role model for all of us.

The best part was that they were the couple honored during my fathers sadhabhishgam as part of the "dhambati pooja" and given I was doing the pooja in proxy for my dad who could not bend down, it was a great honor! Will write a separate post on the function and what we did as part of it.. 

Then there was the eating in three places..

We went to watch Toy Story movie at the mall in 3D.. it has been some time since I saw anything in 3D given the massive headaches I get for days after watching any 3D movie.. but the kids wanted to go together somewhere and an Air conditioned theater was a good idea! After the movie the kids decided based on reviews that the best place that would accomodate everyones menu requests was Haven Sampoorna right near Phoenix mall in Velachery. It was an interesting place. I got my butter naan and side dishes and the kids who wanted pasta, got their pasta.. food was good. service was good. ambience was funny.. 

 Here is PIchchai Sundar with Sundar PIchchai... (kid you not, this was the photo right behind my chair)

you have no idea how many jokes I have to put up with ever since this guy became Google CEO. We are both the same age, went to similar schools and the same IIT coaching class in Chennai, think he also studied metallurgy, went to work for semi conductor companies ... I stayed in Semi and am traveling back and forth to Asia.. he moved to software and management..and probably has a lot of things going for him that I simply don't have or want.. but the jokes, they keep on coming.. So it was only fitting that I ended up below that photo! 

The sceond place we ate was Amethyst.. again nice ambience, relatively quiet and excellent food.. we went for evening coffee/ tea with San's cousin and brother's family who also happened to be visiting and ended up eating a lot of stuff..

The last place we went to was in Matsya in Adayar.. on a previous trip we had gone to another Matsya branch.. this was closer to where we stayed. It was also a nice place (we didnt take pictures). It was raining in Chennai that evening and we were all not our best when we got there. The funny thing with Ola/ Auto etc. is that they drop you off at the location but on the opposite side of the street and there is no way to cross over for a good kilometer either way! So we walked around a flyover for 25 minutes to get to the place. The dinner was great though. They had an amazing variety of dosas and cricket matches playing on 4 different TV's.. so I got to watch cricket and eat dosas.. 

That was pretty much all the activities we did outside of the function. 

Still waiting for photos from the function itself...

Missing San's maternal grandma who passed away recently as I write this post. We would always make a visit to see her as well. She passed away three months ago. 

Great grandparents are precious.. the way things are going, not a lot of kids get to see their great grandparents! 

Monday
Dec032018

The Rava Dosa of Asanas..

This blog always tries to cover multiple interests at one go.. today it will be food and Yoga.. I know those two don't mix well, as it is best to do Yoga on an empty stomach and thinking of food is the last thing you should do while attempting Yoga. 

That said.. please bear with me.

When this blog writing started a long long time ago, we used to go to every Indian restaurant and a week later, would write a review of the place with my own rating scheme. Half those restaurants are now gone. But the memories remain. On second thought, should start writing those reviews again.. Those were pre "Yelp" days. Once Yelp came out, the idea of putting out an elaborate review for like minded readers disappeared.. Once Trip Advisor showed up, the thought of trying to make the Travelog useful for others disappeared.. it started becoming a "writing for memory sake" journal.  

One way to rate restaurants, was to order multiple dishes but have a common denominator item to do a fair comparison. For North Indian restaurants it was Malai Kofta and butter naan and for South Indian places, it was Rava Dosa. One restaurant owner even named me Mr. Rava Dosa! 

If you are not familiar with a Rava Dosa, it is made with batter that is freshly mixed. It takes at least 20 minutes to make from the time you order it, and it is a real test for a south Indian chef. You can guage a lot of things about a south Indian restaurant by the Rava Dosa. If you go order it and don't hear "Sir, it will take some time compared to the other items? is that okay?" .. then you should seriously doubt the dosa quality. The crispiness of the Dosa is another thing.. too short on the stove, it sticks to the plate. Too long and it has a slight burnt taste.. you have a very narrow process window to make this one right!

Where am I going with this?

On Friday and Saturday PST, there was the World Yogasana Championship, held this year in Beijing. If I had a business trip, would have gone a day earlier to catch it on Sunday local time, but there were other plans for me that the higher powers had divined so stayed put at home.  Did manage to watch parts of it, thanks to a live feed on Facebook from the China Yoga Federation (which is real, and I hope they open more Yoga studios in Shanghai and Beijing).

The way the competition works (yes, yes.. yoga competition ? that is an oxymoron.. have heard that before.. have explained it also before.. ) there is 3 minutes per person. You get to do 4 mandatory poses in the final round and two optional poses. 

The Four mandatory poses are not the same asansa but rather picked from a certain category. The first is a forward bend compression, the second is a back bend compression, the third is a forward stretch, the fourth is a twist, then two optional poses. Within each category, you have different difficulty levels for different poses. If you do a Rabbit pose, which is a forward compression sitting down, it has a lower difficulty level than a standing head to knee pose which is a forward compression done standing on one locked knee..

I am not the expert here and you need to fact check the above, but think I got most of that right. If you fall off a pose, you can start again, but you lose points. Everything is marked by 3 judges and they give you points on a 1-10 scale. The poses have to be held for at least 5 seconds at the height of the pose (maximum). There are certain basic elements in each pose like a locked knee, or forehead touching knee or locked elbow etc. etc. which define the pose. So if any of those basic definitions are missed, you lose points. 

Basically, you start with 10 points and before you know it, you have lost it all!!! At least that was  my experience the one time I went to a yoga competition a few years ago. Just kidding. It is a lot more fun..

Now what has Rava Dosa got to do with Asanas? 

Well, there is this one pose that I have written the most about in this Yoga Journey, over the last almost 8 years. It is the Standing Head to Knee pose. Experienced Yogis (especially desis) who can do all kinds of complex poses like:

put their leg over their shoulder and stand up on the other leg,

get into lotus pose standing upside down on their heads in Shirasasana,

do a wheel pose effortlessly,

still falter when it comes to the head to knee. 

Why?

This pose is not about strength or flexibility or a tradeoff between the two. There is a third ingredient to it that takes time to develop. . . balance! Incredible physical and mental balance.!! You have to be able to tighten a select set of muscles while simultaneouly relax another set of muscles and breathe right or you cannot pull this off. The intense focus required, takes a lot of practice specific to this pose. 

There is also 4 parts to it (or so I thought, till Joseph Encina showed me there are 5 parts to it) and so far I have never gone past step 2 to successfully finish step 3 in the last 6 years.  Recently though,  I am consistently getting to step 3 which is a good sign. 

To me the six poses and all the rules in a competition are great, but mostly filler. They are like the other half dozen items we order to get an idea of the restaurant. If you have to judge all contestants with the least amount of effort, just look at how they do standing head to knee pose and you can pretty much get to the final ranking. 

It is the Rava Dosa of poses for me.. 

Really enjoyed watching the competition, although only for three or four 30 minute stretches. The best part of this competition was that my teacher and mentor Michelle Vennard won the Adult womens group.  My Yoga guru is a world champion! She smiled through the entire three minutes and was grace personified. I also got to see my friend Lee compete live and he did an amazing job. Have seen him on the mat next to me, have stared into his eyes during Yoga demonstrations, but to see him try his best the way he did gave me goosebumps. When you see folks you know transcend their usual, it is truly inspiring!

Have been very fortunate to be around champs in my life. My ballroom dance teacher was an International champion and I still hear her voice while doing Yoga, especially when the teacher says "breathe" with an accent. There are two things I still remember from my dancing days that she taught me. 

1. Sundar, you don't have to have your partner hang from the Chandeliers to win this one. You need impeccable timing and have a smile on your face the entire time.. even when you screw up

2. the trick to dancing effortlessly for round after round is to breathe right. If you know when to take a breath, you can dance for hours without any huffing and puffing

Same rules apply in Yoga! 

After watching the competition, it was time to do real Yoga..

There was a lot happening in the house over the weeekend and I was glad that there was no Asia trip. Our water main broke (service line) and San Jose Water came and shut our water down till we got a plumber to find and fix the leak. It was an interesting 36 hours. Brought back so many memories of  growing up in India when the Metro Water lorry would not show up.

Having to make some amends to schedules, using the handpump to get water from a borewell and rationing water for everyone in the house etc.. All those experiences came in handy. The inspector from the water company gave me a compliment "Sir, I am really going to do my best to help you because you are calm and not irate like most customers in this situation. Will try to jumper water from your neighbors garden hose back to your house".. He tried, but it didn't work. So we just adjusted till we got water flowing again.

It was a good experience for the kids as well, and a reminder of things we take for granted, especially when we are in a routine. 

All that said, seriously thinking about giving the competition another shot next year. For that to happen, one has to understand Rava Dosa.. I mean.. Standing head to knee..

On a side note, my beard experiment has crossed the one month mark. I am getting used to it, as are people who see me every day. The patches are gone, the gray looks dignified and as an unintended side effect, I am conscious of my breath .. every freaking breath, if I chose to be conscious of it.. because my moustache picks up the breathing. 

Even if I am not making loud noises or breathing loudly by previous standards, the breath going through the moustache literally whispers loudly. Trying to minimize that movement or sound has added a new complexity to breath control during asanas. You can't see it, but the faintest movement of those hair, makes me stop or slow down.

Even while lying down in Shavasana, the whiskers tell you the truth about how you are breathing. It is like an external meter that can give you a feed back loop.  It is interesting the way I am using it as a regulating mechanism. Maybe if I had whiskers around my knees that would do something everytime they came unlocked??? Was thinking along those lines today.

Think it is obvious that I am too eager to do that one pose which keeps evading me, but having waited all this time and seeing that  sometimes progress comes at the least expected times, will keep at it and see what happens.  My goal every year is to do yoga at least 200 times. The spreadsheet says I have done 212 this year and 1648 classes to date.. that is almost 6600 attempts at Standing head to knee (we do two sets on each leg)!

You can say "something is wrong with you", if I attempted something 6600 times and still failed at reaching the end result. While that is one way to think of it, the other way to think of it, is that this pose is not for everyone. That is why it is a mandatory pose in a Yoga Championship final.  

The yoga journey continues to be interesting..

ps. My house photographers are all on strike. So Yoga photos over the weekend..

Saturday
Feb242018

A dinner to remember

The little one and her friend had done a "cook for family" thing during lunch last year and I missed it. They repeated the "cook for family" and this time it was dinner.

The two seventh graders had planned this over a week. They cooked for four plus hours yesterday and we were treated to an amazing dinner. 

The macaroons were just amazing and they made the tomato soup just for me because the butternut squash soup had some ingredients that were on my allergy list.

Every dish was made with so much care and served with precision and love! 

We thoroughly enjoyed the food and the effort put into this by the kids. I had happy tears, when I saw the tomato soup and their reason for it..

Tuesday
Oct032017

Routines'R'us

On my recent Asia trip, I had to participate in a business dinner at a Japanese restaurant. In case you don't know my food habits, here is a short summary of what I don't or can't eat:

1. I am Vegetarian (so no meat)

2. Allergic to Peanuts and Sesame seeds (so that rules out certain places like Thai restaurants, select Chinese restaurants that use Sesame oil, etc.)

3. Allergic to shellfish (not that I eat fish, but if they cook using the same utensils or some of that gets transferred, I still get a reaction

4. Allergic to eggplants (that rules out a few dishes in middle eastern , Italian restaurants)

5. Allergic to select fruits/vegetables (simple check is, if it has fine hair on the skin, I can get rashes just by touching them, if I eat them there will be othe side effects)

Usually when I eat things on the allergy list the symptoms are skin eruption, wheezing followed by a throbbing pain in the base of my head behind my left ear followed by extreme light and sound sensitivity which is immediately followed by violent throwing up till my stomach is empty. Then I sleep out of sheer exhaustion and after two or three hours wake up like the world is a rosy place and feel on top of the world. 

This happens periodically. With a lot of food restrictions, I have managed to make these "food poisoning" episodes (as my parents and wife call it) less frequent. The problem though is that when they hit me these days, the magnitude of the episodes is increasing on a Logarithmic scale. It is like I exchanged frequent mild tremors for a Banda Aceh type quake! 

Now given all this, I do NOT carry Epi pens with me because my allergies are not the deadly kind. On the Immunologist scale, most of them are a level 4 or 3 reaction. Severe enough to end up immobilized for the short term. Then again, I have not tempted fate by deliberately exposing myself to high levels of these "toxins".

Recently I am hearing that the reasons for this are :

- that kids who are not exposed to lot of different foods as babies are more prone to getting food allergies (eating street food as kids can help was one idea that was talked about)

- some of these are genetically transmitted triggers (my had had excema as a child)

- some of these are environmentally acquired (dust allergies etc.)

I am also told by friends who read the "news" that :

- reintroduction of these allergens in small quantities helps overcome this as long as it is done at a young age

- one can naturally outgrow allergies to certain foods and develop allergies to new ones, if one is prone to such allergies and that one has to periodically "test" for such changes (a colleague of mine has developed an allergy to almonds close to the age of 50! )

- allergy to peanuts could be allergy only to dry roasted american peanuts vs. boiled Indian peanuts (this I can actually vouch for.. I can eat a few Indian peanuts without getting a severe reaction but the large US peanut gives me rashes within a few hours)

- There are "eastern treatments" that can work for this ranging from :

   - oil pulling (gargling sesame oil in your mouth for 10 minutes and spitting it out for 30 days)

   - going to some place in Andhra where they take a small live fish and push it down your throat 

   - going to kerala where they put a flour dough boundary on your stomach and fill the surface of the stomach with some herbal liquid which absorbs the poison from your insides 

etc. etc. It may not be fair for me to clump all of them under same bucket as some come with more evidence, recommendations, different thumbs up/down ratio on Youtube comments, and other metrics which are equally helpful in evaluating cures. In spite of having a lot of respect of eastern medicine (our elders were wise) but being a product of western HEROS thinking (Hypothesis, Experiment, Result, Original Schedule, Status .. for those who are wondering), have not tried any of the pulling, fish shoving or toxin absorbing stomach swimming pool treatments. 

Instead I have always :

- Watched what I eat

- Mostly eat only home cooked food (take my lunch with me to work every day)

- eat the same thing on trips (after doing trial and error in different restaurants, different dishes, and taking my own food with me for the most part of the trip)

I am also not fun at business dinners because of my abstinence from alcohol, sodas and coffee. So it is either sipping water without ice, orange / apple juice or apple cider or tea!

On this recent dinner, the chef was challenged to know of my Vegetarian status and allergy status. So he got "creative".  I get the "poor guy" looks from people which baffles me. Even if I am allergic to a subset of food, there is still plenty I can eat! 

The restaurant came up with mountain yam cooked and extruded to look like pasta, a funnel of asparagus, cucumbers, and other greens in a yogurt sauce, something called dragons beard leaf, some other stuff that folks had difficulty translating into English.. 

Ate or tasted stuff that was translateable and found it to be tasty after mentally preparing myself for the worst. Then they gave a sauce which had some green wasabi stuff, white stuff and a powder that had to be mixed in the sauce.. (could clearly smell sesame seeds on that powder and avoided it) for the yam to be dipped in and it had a sambar flavor! 

There were some dishes that were simply shutting down my nose with the smell and those I passed on to my fellow diners. The tea was great as was the conversation and I loved the fact that everyone in the table at least respected my "sensitivities" in a literal sense. Everyone else in that table had a penchant for fine wine, high proof alcohol, exotic dishes of every kind from everywhere in the world. In short, I was feeling like Buddha dining with the Anthony Bourdain family! 

After that dinner, I did not go through the usual throw up routine. There was mild rashes and a stomach upset for 48 hours, but the rashes are gone now and the stomach is well set after a day of dieting only on bananas, oranges, grapes, almonds and coconut water. 

This weekend, I plan to start eating one sesame seed and one peanut on saturday, increase it to two each two days later, four four days later and see how far it goes. I have to see what the breaking point is. Worse case I will drink salt water and throw up.  Was inspired by one person at the table who drank like a fish who could not handle alcohol at all as a young man but he told me he conditioned himself to it over time as his job involved a lot of wining and dining! 

Will post the results HEROS table style and let you know if shocking the system on a non linear scale helps condition it better. Somehow my initial "gut feel" is that a linear increase my condition it less. While my experiement is still not as agressive when it comes to the max, it is still a lot less than eating a full ellu urundai! 

Routines may be good for me, but I think those periodic throw up sessions after "food poisoning" were actually doing me some good in a self regulating way. 

Yoga has definitely helped with getting back to normal post such attacks, but even doing yoga 200 times a year for more than six years has not eliminated the food related triggers. There are other triggers like dust, old library books, certain incense sticks, perfumes etc. that I have improved with respect to tolerance levels.

(these topics have all been broached before in various forms.. here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here..   but going for the experiment this time).

Will come back with data!

Sunday
Jun112017

Ghee fried noodles

Jr. is in India. The first thing she requests from me after reaching there? Daddy, can you tell me how you make ghee fry ? 

She meant noodles and she knew I understood her request without mentioning noodles!

Was going to ask her Chitti to make it for her. They say kids will go crave for foods when they go to college. 

Mine is in India and gets to eat home cooked food from my sister in law and mom and still craves ghee fried noodles. I have done something right! (or wrong if you ask all the women in either side of the phone conversation)

So here is a videoblog.

We use Maggi noodles in the house, lead or otherwise. If lead poisoning from Maggi is happening to anyone, yours truly should be hit, having eaten Maggi at least twice a week for a good 20 years. Many patents, papers, presentations later, not to mention a moderately successful stint as hubby and daddy over the same time frame,  one can conclude that the brain is still functioning after all that Maggi! However, I dont use the masala packet that comes with Maggi and I always put Peas, carrots and Potato in the noodles. Potato is a questionable "Veggie" in our household, but it is one by my definition (for that matter, Maggi is questionable "food" in our household).

Hope the kids watch this years from now and realize that the best ingredient in the noodles was not the ghee but daddy's love.. okay.. that is asking for too much.

It is Ghee! You can make anything taste better with some Ghee!