Jan 25, 2011

A Homemade Life and a banana bread

I realize I have been absent from my favorite book club for a long time. It does not, however, mean that I haven’t been reading the books that are voted in as the club’s book of the month. I read Caliph’s house and even managed to write a few lines about it on my iPhone while sipping coffee at a McDonald’s and keeping an eye on Jr running around in the play area. This is what I wrote, if anyone doubts it:

If you pick up this book, expecting it to be along the lines of Under the Tuscan Sun, you will be sorely disappointed. While the Tuscan Sun was a loving albeit a laborious exercise in restoring a Tuscan villa, Caliph’s house is anything but. Fraught with jinns, superstitious guardians, unpredictable secretaries and a mobster for a neighbor, the project to restore a Caliph’s house, at the edge of a Casablanca slum, is destined for disaster…

I could have written more but I quickly lost interest in writing the review. Since the book never got better, how much can one write in the negative?

In contrast to TCH, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Molly Wizenberg’s A Homemade Life. Author of the blog Orangette, Molly writes with an old fashioned, homemade charm about food, family and friends. The book reads like a collection of her blog posts with one to two recipes at the end of each post. There are recipes for soups, stews, salads, cakes and pies, some perfected by her cousins, her dad, her husband and herself.

If you have ever wondered how to word a recipe, from ingredients to method, I highly recommend A Homemade Life. Molly has mastered the art of writing down the most complex of recipes into a simplified, you-can-do-it-style. Reading her recipes, related to the “food stories” that accompany it make you want to step in your kitchen and start making a big pot of soup or bake one of her decadent cakes.

For me, the most poignant of the posts were the ones about her father, his love of all things French that he passed on to her, and her deep connection with him. But there are moments of joy and serendipity and fortuitous connections made over food that will remind you that the common thread that binds us all is also the one that sustains us. That is the reason why so many bloggers blog about food and why there is an entire TV channel dedicated to food.

You may wonder why I have not chosen to cook anything from her book, after praising it so much. For one, after reading through the whole book all I wanted to make more than anything else was Molly’s chocolate cake that she made for her own wedding. This cake uses equal amounts of butter and chocolate, some sugar and just a tablespoon of flour. The recipe is one of those that lures you to make it right away and then consume the finished goods till there is none left.

However, when one day, towards the end of the year, you measure your waist and weight and almost swoon, it is no time to indulge in cakes made almost exclusively of butter, chocolate and sugar. Instead, you start driving towards a very hot Bikram yoga studio and sweat and stretch for 90 minutes until your body feels it has been through the wash, tumble and rinse cycle of the washing machine. After that you indulge yourself in the semi-sweet embrace of a 64% Cocoa Scharffenberger and call it a day.

Jan 20, 2011

The purpose of my blog…

This post has been languishing, half-written, in my drafts for a while and seemed like the perfect piece to explain my absence from the blogosphere. I would like to say I was musing, all these months, on the purpose of my blog. The truth is I was busy with the business of being a mom, a part time student, an anime junkie and a BBC comedy snob. Blogging seemed like a chore to be done at the end of the day; a chore which wasn’t as enjoyable as watching an episode of Coupling or Full Metal Alchemist while the kiddo slept soundly in the other room. However, I am back now, rejuvenated by the extended break and hopefully will blog more regularly, for a couple of months at least. Till my next post, here are some reasons why Desisoccermom exists.

Apart from those who comment, do you know who else reads your blog? I know for a fact that my family, back in India, with the exception of my brother does not read it. For them it is just a hobby I indulge in, especially since I didn’t cook much for the first 27 years of my life.

It doesn’t matter that this blog has been a launching pad for a long due apology to my mom for my bratty behavior when I was in my troublesome teens. It has been a platform to pen an ode to my grandma and the battered heirlooms she passed on to me. Have they read any of it? No. For them, if I am not working in an “office” and bringing home a paycheck, it is a hobby. (In their defense, my grandma does not own a computer and my mom is not computer savvy or refuses to be one.)

Then there are friends of mine from college days who sometimes drop by to catch up and once in a while leave a comment. But these are few and far in between. Recently, one of these friends, let’s call him Y (because his name starts with it), told me that he could not figure out the purpose of my blog. When a good friend of 20 years can’t figure out the purpose of a blog which is titled Desi Soccer Mom, the writer of the said blog has to pause and do some soul searching.

The blog was started, like most things in my life, with an impulse and no clue. If I had done some research, I would have gone with Wordpress just because they have so much cooler templates than blogger (no offense blogspot). As it happens, I went with blogger.

It is true I did not have a purpose in mind when I opened my template and started writing. In the beginning it was an attempt to chronicle the goings-on in my life, which, now that I think of, are not that interesting. The kiddo had just started preschool, I had a few hours to myself and this seemed like a good way to brush up on my writing skills. To be honest, the skills needed more than just brushing. They needed to be sanded, scrubbed, brushed and polished. (The polishing is still going on and hopefully will never end.)

Like most desis I know I too cook almost every day, to the great surprise of my American neighbors. It was natural that writing about food or about my life somewhat overlapped. Once the food was put to pen, I couldn’t stop, not because I am a great cook or everything I cook is finger licking good. Heck, I am not even a versatile cook like some bloggers I know.

I am however, what I like to call, an evolving cook. In my dictionary, an involving cook is one who does not follow a recipe to a T or stresses over just the right ingredients the recipe calls for. Ok, that may be because I am incapable of following a recipe to a T and I never plan in advance for a recipe, so I am forced to innovate substitute garam masala with sabzi masala and sometimes omit the dhana-jeera because I have run out of it. I have been known to use red chili powder instead of green chilies because I was too lazy to chop them.

So, why do I blog mostly about food, but sometimes also about the books I read? It is certainly not intended as collection of recipes for Jr. who is as picky an eater as I was till I started college. I also do not have scores of followers waiting with bated teeth for me to post a recipe. Maybe it is because I like the fact that I created something edible and possibly delicious that my friends and family liked. I think that warrants it getting recorded, possibly for posterity on the world web.

I do love reading books and our book club directs me to books I may never have chosen or found out about on my own. So instead of reading the labels on the back of processed foods, I pick up a book every month, read it, review it and sometimes cook from it. Reading well constructed sentences and clever use of words gives me pleasure no amount of dark chocolate can. Never mind that I savor the dark cocoa confection while I devourer the book.

My last post, some months ago, was a piece of fiction I wrote for one of the finest bloggers to grace the blogging world. I have to admit, I have enjoyed the attention garnered by my fiction pieces. In fact, my fiction posts seem to be more popular than my food posts. Does that give me another purpose to keep blogging? Possibly yes. Because as much as I blog for me and me alone, I also like the little bit of attention I sometimes get.

Which brings me to the second part of the story, It takes two to err..., that all of you have been waiting for me to post and that I haven’t finished writing yet. But I am working on it and hopefully, will post it sooner than later.

As to the purpose of my blog, well, I have to say, I still am not sure what it is. Maybe it is the pleasure of knowing that my words are read and appreciated. Maybe the thrill of knowing that my recipes, stories and anecdotes, no matter how lame or corny, have been recorded on the invisible tracks of the internet for posterity.

I know for certain that I enjoy the comments that start to trickle in a couple of hours after I post something. I certainly feel lucky to have made some wonderful friends through this blog, friends who have indulged me in my rants and patiently answered my questions about their photography skills.

I guess, above all, it is the unbridled pleasure of knowing that Desisoccermom is MY space to write whatever it is I want, when I want or not. There are no pesky editors, no demanding boss or nagging overseer. It is my domain, to do as I please or take a three month break if it pleases me.

If you haven’t drifted off to another blog by now, let me ask you this: what is the purpose of your blog?

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