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As a rule, I prefer eating to cooking. Anyday. But some stuff in the fridge could not be ignored any longer, and my atta (flour) needs to be finished quickly before it goes bad. So some pumpkin parathas are to be attempted this evening. The dough needs to be *really* soft and pliable. As I kneaded it, I realised that making parathas might not be such a bad idea when stuck on a research paper you’re trying to write quickly for a deadline. All day I’ve tried to write to articulate an argument that is not blindingly obvious and lame; kneading some dough really allows you to work out your irritation without physical damage to self, computer or family members. I think I might even have thought of some decent sentences.
But this kneading also reminded me of the last time such a dough was made, and a dish that is simply out of this world, was prepared in my kitchen: Puran Polis. These are polis (Marathi for layered roti/bread, for non-Ghatis reading this) stuffed with puran (lit. stuffing, but in this case made of cooked chana dal/Bengal gram, jaggery, cardamom and nutmeg) and rolled out, roasted and then eaten with ghee and, if you like it, milk. The idea is to mash it all up and slurp and lick it off your fingers. If some dough is leftover, you can always stuff it with mashed potatoes and have aloo parathas the next day. My mum was here then and made them for Ganesh Chaturthi; I remembered to take some pictures for my foodie friends at Another Subcontinent:
The dough, followed by the puran stuffing (pressure cooked and mixed with the melted jaggery)
Then the delicate task of stuffing the elastic dough with the puran and rolling it out:
The final product folded in half, before ghee is poured over and massive
gorging causes it to instantly disappear.
For those who know about him, this is reportedly Sachin Tendulkar’s favourite dish. Not that this means anything, of course, but still.
Anyway, back to more pedestrian pumpkin parathas and papers….
I’ve been really busy with work, with hardly any time to put up more pictures, or knit and take more pictures! I have several deadlines in the coming weeks and they are really keeping me busy. But I thought I’d just put up a small update of things in progress.
First off, the Balaclava Cap finally has its edging, and it has been successfully taken on trial runs on the West side and along the Hudson, especially when walking back home late at night from the Path station. It is *incredibly* warm and totally keeps out the wind. And we’ve had some really windy days here. I look like a slightly dressy bank robber – and feel like King Arthur’s knight from time to time – but I really don’t care, because it’s an incredibly warm and comfortable garment. And I despise the winter enough to look weird to feel warm.
Next up, the cashmere vest is coming along nicely. I have done about 2/3 of the back, and it should be done sometime this week. This is perfect commute knitting. I have the TV versions of a lot of P.D. James’ mystery novels in my Netflix queue, but hardly any time to watch them. If I did, this stockinette vest would get done a lot faster. Oh well, I’m travelling to California in a few weeks for a conference, so maybe then. The yarn, Filatura Lanarota 100% cashmere, is soft, but splits more than any other I’ve worked with and the stitch definition isn’t great. So it’s going to be a plain stockinette vest, but I think it will look good when done.
What else? Here’s what I would like to finish next: It’s a pair of gloves I started making last year, but abandoned for some reason. One is done, and I only need to finish two fingers and a thumb on the second. They’re Brooks Farm Mohair-Wool blend and they’re wonderfully soft and good to work with.
At Shyama’s request, here are some more photos (with some thoughts) of Madrid:
It’s not a city that immediately strikes you with big monuments or massive plazas or tall buildings. The downtown, whose churches and domes make it look like a series of upturned cups amidst a lot of flat buildings from my friend’s top-floor apartment in the southern Vallecas part of town, is unimpressive visually at first, but you slowly start to notice the winding streets (below, left), or the fascinating shops as you walk through 16th and 17th century streets and plazas (see the Museum of Ham, below centre) and shudder as you think of the Inquisition and all its brutality in what is actually a fairly innocuous-looking Plaza Mayor. The city’s architecture and physical feel sort of creeps up on you, rather than hammering your senses with size. The royal palaces do try to do that, of course, but still.
But the city also has some fascinating architecture from different periods cheek by jowl: the new Diputados building, one of the Parliament buildings has a modern extension that amazingly, seamlessly, blends into the old Greek-style columns building (far left), and its right near the Puerta del Sol, just near where there are some lovely (and some really garish) 19th century ornate office buildings. The one right above looked better lit up at night than during the day.
The amazing thing about Madrid is its bars (the sheer number of them), the number of people who drink beer before noon on a regular basis, and the tapas. I put some food photos for some friends here but I mostly drank and ate rather than take pictures. Otherwise all the photos would have been like the one on the left! That’s four sherries we tried in a bar that serves 64 different types of only sherry, nothing else.
What else? We had a great evening with Maggie and Cristina, with whom we had a walking around and eating and arguing about postcolonial theory and the politics of the global academy, among other things, in Lavapies, the neighbourhood right behind the Reina Sofia museum that has a lot of new immigrants and lots of new desi restaurants cropping up. Madrid has a new Bangla magazine, too! I’m not going to go on about the Prado, the Reina Sofia and the Thyssen-Bournemisza museums, all of which took my breath away. Mercedes, my friend who works at the Prado, told me some amazing stories about the things tourists sometimes do in museums, especially in rooms with nude statues, when they think the attendants aren’t looking. Ewww. I saw Bosch’s Garden of Delights at the Prado, which was absolutely the best part about going there.
And now, in keeping with the dominant theme of this blog, here’s what I found in Madrid, right in the heart of the Plaza Mayor:
A huge yarn shop that sold yarn by the kilo. They had a lot of blends, but also some pure wool, mohair and alpaca, and tons of colours. Also doing brisk business. Nobody spoke English and my rudimentary Spanish ran out while asking them for permission to take a picture for my blog. They were very suspicious and said only one, but I took another from the outside. They have two rooms like the one pictured above, and a lot of the pure worsted wool was for around 60-65 euros per kilo. I was good, and did not buy any. <<halo shines bright>>
Okay, more later…
I’ve neglected to post for so long! Happy New Year, everyone, and hope my readers haven’t given up on me for good. Am back from a fortnight in Spain, mainly in Madrid and Andalusia, having the time of my life with some friends. Now I’m both dreading the new semester and ready for work again, although there’s too much of it to complete in too short a time.
I managed to get a good amount of the back of the cashmere vest done, but it’s boring stockinette, so no pictures. Instead, here are some of the places I visited in Spain. The best part was hanging out with my friends and arguing about matters historical and political, Spanish, Indian and others, but I also visited a huge number of cathedrals, palaces and a couple of mosques.
Seeing the results of both the medieval efforts to physically efface the traces of Visigothic, Moorish and Jewish life in Andalusian cities, as well as the contemporary efforts to "restore" them "as they had been" left me with lots of unanswered questions and ambivalent feelings about material traces, historical memory and the past in the present. To say nothing of how monuments and communities are intertwined in the minds of people and states, and destruction of monuments seems a tireless attempt in history not only to strike at communities, but also somehow to undo and cleanse the past. We’ve seen that happen only too recently in India, in 1992 with the destruction of the Babri mosque. There was a desultory gathering at the Royal Chapel at Granada to commemorate the Reconquista with some military and fascist slogans and symbols, and I unwittingly landed up there on the very day it had happened many centuries ago: 2 Jan 1492. This desultory demonstration in the heart of what is now a tourist shopping district in downtown Granada with recent Arab immigrants selling "ethnic stuff" from Persia to Malaysia, including Hare Rama T-shirts, Radha-Krishna kitsch and stuff we see in Tibetan markets in India. It was all very heady, ironic and weird.
Nevertheless, the cities and monuments seem to defy this attempt (she says, romantically) and incorporate into themselves multiple traces of community, interaction, conflict and cooperation. History, as usual, is messy and mixed: gives historians stuff to pontificate about and politicians a headache. Anyway, nuff said, now look at the photos.