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Friday, May 18, 2018

Memories and how food plays a really important part in relationships

Think about it for a moment and you will understand exactly what I mean. Food plays such an important role in every aspect of our life. For instance, if there's a celebration we try to come up with the best or as might be the case, the most appropriate menu for the occasion. Alternately, if someone dies anywhere in the world, the close family and friends organize a 'wake' where good food and drink is served while people gather around in memory of the departed soul. Food is also something that can really taste best when eaten in company. For me, the term 'breaking bread' with someone beautifully depicts a scenario where good food tends to taste even better with good company In fact, I'd go so far as to say that even a pastry and coffee or a croissant and a coffee had with a friend is something that becomes really pleasurable and many a time, truly memorable. Top of my head, I can recall at least ten instances when I've enjoyed the meal/coffee so much more because of the company on a particular day. Shared with family and friends. Then there are some food memories which are very dear to one's heart by virtue of the fact that they centre around the food that either someone cooked for you in a way that was really special or then it could be about a savoury or sweet dish that you cooked for or shared with someone and he/she loved it best just the way you made it.
Which then leads me to a chain of bitter sweet thoughts. For instance, I can never eat sweet rice, or better known in Punjabi as 'Meethe Chawal' without remembering my grand mother in law, 'Beeji'. For Beeji made the best Meethe Chawal in the world as far as I was concerned. And always, always made it for me whenever I asked for it. Never mind that I was a grown up married lady and she was already in her seventies when we first met.. I can also never eat 'Kadhi Pakore and Chawal' ( a yogurt and gram flour based Punjabi dish) without remembering Jairam, my parents' cook for over thirty years who makes the most delicious Kadhi on earth.As also my friend Amrita in Muscat who makes sure she personally delivers a box of her special home made Kadhi to our home whenever she makes it. I can never eat a peppermint without drinking water right after it to check if my mouth really feels cool because that is exactly what my 'long lost and never found again; friend Christine Bose from my school in Calcutta used to do. I can never drink 'Elaichi' ( cardamom ) tea without thinking about my beautiful mother Satinder who I lost recently, because she always drank hers that way.Or dip a Marie biscuit in that same tea without remembering how she only wanted me and not her nurses to help her drink that cup of tea when she was critically ill in the ICU...
I could go on and on but I find that I actually have a pain in my heart remembering some people close to me who are now deceased, so I think I will stop here. But not before I say that what really brought on this chain of thought in the first instance was when I was making Rajma Chawal (a North Indian delicacy made with red kidney beans cooked in thick tomato based gravy) this morning specially for my daughter Neha, when I remembered a friend of mine, Akhila, who passed away in the prime of her life some time bck. For whenever I made 'Rajma' or 'Maa Ki Daal', I would always send her a big bowl, or better still, drop it off to her place personally because she said that it was the best she'd ever eaten.....

Monday, April 9, 2018

Food For Thought -On Mummy and how she shaped my life

Its been a very long time since I wrote a piece for this blog Food For Thought and when I look at the last entry, its dated 11th September 2017. For all those who have enquired or wondered, the answer is a straightforward and sad one. I lost my beautiful mother Satinder Serna on the 17th of October 2017 and life changed forever. I know it may be hard for some people to understand the logic behind these words but it really is so very simple. I was a different person when my mother was alive and I feel like a completely different person after she has left us.
There is a hole in my heart which hasn't been filled almost six months later. While I've been involved in a wide range of other things, all I could do was think about how it would have been if I could see, touch and hear my lovely mother Satinder. Most days, there are two parallel streams of thought running through my head at all times of the day- one, the real world where I have to participate in day to day activities and in many cases, initiate them. The other, thoughts of my mother and everything she meant to me. In a word, 'indescribable'. Every day, I realise, more and more, how much she shaped so many different aspects of my life and along with that so many, many others, including my father and brother's. Small things pop up in my head- just regular everyday things that my mother did for us. Coming home from school was always a pleasure - simply because we knew that Mummy's smiling face would greet my brother Navtej and myself . This was followed by a glass of fresh orange juice and after we had washed and changed, Mummy always had lunch with us. Never mind if it was almost 3 pm, she always sat and ate with us. This was accompanied by peals of laughter, hers more than ours as we shared the days stories and planned for the evening ahead.Sports and extra curricular activities were encouraged almost as much , sometimes even more than academics by Mummy and the old adage, 'All work and no play. makes Jill/Jack a dull boy/girl .." was frequently used by her in order to keep us active and motivated.
A student of Loreto Convent Tara Hall Shimla , Mummy was both Head Girl and Games Captain in er final year and a top notch scholar to boot. Little wonder that she was the best example for us to emulate and boy, dd we try! After school Mummy went to Lady Irwin College, New Delhi for her BSC in Home Science and learnt the best and most current ways to run a home as well as a professional kitchen or hotel as she may have chosen to apply it. As it happened , she met and married my father, HS Serna at a very young age of 19 and from then on this was a firm and happy partnership which lasted for 58 Golden years.
I could go on and on and I do plan to- but that is for another place and time. I have started work on Mummy's biography and even if I can do the slightest bit of justice to her towering personality, I would feel a real sense of satisfaction. Stories like hers, deserve to be told and I hope I can do it with inputs from my father, brother and many, many people whose lives she touched and influenced in countless ways. And here are some personal resolutions -I am now going to live my life more and more the way that my mother would have wanted me to. On a day to day basis, as well as on a longer term too. I am going to be thankful for the fact that she was a part of my life till October 2017 and encouraged and enthused me to become the person that I am today. Just 21 years older to me, my mother, Satinder, was a pillar of strength for all of us at different stages of our life. Most importantly, her strength and fortitude in dealing with her own ailments, particularly through 2017, will serve to remind us forever that true courage has many forms, but for for us, it was in the form of Mummy. And so, I am striving to go through 2018 with my mother as my guiding star and my angel who watches above us from somewhere up above. And if I fail, I will try, then try again and finally, try some more. For that is exactly what Mummy would have wanted me to.

Monday, September 11, 2017

End of an era as Darcy's Kitchen ( MSQ branch) shuts down in Muscat

I follow select social media pages and one of them is our all time favourite cafe Darcy's Kitchen. About 10 years ago, the cafe culture of Oman received a real shot in the arm as a charming cafe called Darcy's Kitchen came up in Madinat Sultan Qaboos. While they already had a branch in Shatti Al Qurum, this cafe in Madinat Sultan Qaboos soon became the number one spot for an anytime break from the hustle and bustle of daily life. Be it a coffee, breakfast, brunch or tea- we could pop in anytime be assured of great food, ambience ad top quality service with a very personal touch.Home away from home- the thought that popped into my head every time I was there... Given all the above, imagine my dismay when, I saw this post from Darcy's Kitchen come up on my newsfeed late last night "Dear D’Arcy’s customers! Sadly, after 10 successful years, our MSQ branch has closed due to the landlord’s redevelopment of the entire area. We would like to thank each & every one of you for your loyalty & friendship. We are aggressively working on our new location and will inform you as soon as we have an opening date.' The flood gates of memory opened up as I sat remembering all those times hat we had spent there. Looking through my blog I found this post and decided to share it here again. We all have a place that we love to head towards time and again. A place where we can just sit and have a chat with friends over a cup of tea, coffee or enjoy a quick meal. Or if you will, sit out in the sun, basking in the warmth of the venue, but even more, the sheer pleasure of being in a place where each member of the staff is keenly attuned to your individual preferences and greets you like a long lost friend. Darcys MQ, Quaint, beautifully decorated and serving the best coffee.
I've got exactly one such place and its probably where I spend the most amount of time, outside my own home. This charming little cafe is called 'Darcys Kitchen' and its located at Madinat Qaboos (MQ) in Muscat.
'My Take' with a Cappuccino While I'm fairly engrossed in my book, magazine or newspaper if I'm alone here, or chatting animatedly with friends or family in other situations, I do take a look around and nod at a familiar face every now and then. Most of the customers are regulars just like me and over a period one gets to know them somewhat too.
But then there are the other faces that seem somewhat out of place and that is exactly the reason why they stay in the mind. Every other time that I'm there, I see a 35' ish local man, who has a slight limp- and if one looks at him closely, doesn't seem to be entirely normal. Now I don't know why that is so, but one generally avoids making eye contact with him, for fear of...? I really don't have the answer here, but am just sharing my thoughts. And believe me, I'm not the only one there who does this, its probably the majority of others present too.As for the staff, I've noticed that they sat him in a quiet corner where he's served a cup of tea and a small bite and after a short respite, he's off and on his way.. But last weekend saw a departure from the norm. My husband and myself were sitting outside and having our scones and tea and this man walked out.It was evident that he'd finished and was leaving. But here's the real surprise. Just as he reached the small gate which serves as the exit and entry point, he stopped, looked directly at us and waved goodbye. I too waved back instinctively. I really don't know what it was about that simple gesture, but it touched me a great deal. For all the times, I'd thought of him as 'not exactly normal" he'd been seeing and focusing on me as a person who he'd learnt to recognize. Then one day, he actually reacted and how! I find myself thinking of him every now and then. And have made up my mind that I will have a real conversation with him when I see him next.
Just one more reason to head back to Darcy's!! And while I have many photographs of the exterior, Im choosing to use the pic that Darcy's Kitchen used to make this announcement of shutting down
Goodbye Darcy's Kitchen MQ- we will always cherish those beautiful and incomparable memories....