There are times you’ll meet a stranger with whom you’ll click, and in the shortest time period, divulge all your inner thoughts and beliefs to that person. It’s a feeling of a delirious high when we get our feelings across to a sympathetic ear, regardless of whether the chance encounter between you two will ever come to pass again or not.

I look back at all the times I’ve put my faith into somebody and revealed my secrets and innermost feeling and insecurities to them. Whether a stranger, an acquaintance, a lover, or a friend, that bond has only been forged when I believe that there will be a nonjudgmental (or maybe just noncritical) ear to listen, and I presume the other person’s faith and knowledge that I will deliver pure, unadulterated words of truth that need not be unmasked. What trust such a momentous conversation and dialogue can have… I am grateful for these incredible experiences.

I’ve learned other the years that these chance occasions are always unexpected and shocking. Bonds forged once are not automatically renewed, nor are somewhat distant relationships automatically excluded from a plausible connection in the future. It’s the combined forces of time, place, moment, and present emotional and mental state that determine if the ‘click’ between two familiars or two strangers is there or not.

I’ve come to take these chance encounters, and moments of ‘truth speak,’ as priceless gem-like milestones in my life. Not quite epiphanies, as I tend to relegate those to only my academic endeavors, but more a meeting of serendipity. These are the bonds of faith.

For those individuals who forge that bond with me, I am eternally grateful for your compassionate ears.

Yay!! Finally it’s over! 30 days, 30 posts, 30 stressful days, and much happy and thoughtful blogging. I think it was a success and I want to reflect on the whole experience a bit more in the coming days, so look out for my reflections post I’ll be putting up after a few days!

Now, off for a well deserved rest!

~M

** O.S.T. stands for Original Sound Track**

Auditory Hallucinations is by far my favorite O.S.T. of the year and I find myself humming the tune fondly at the most random times even though I don’t hear it very often.  The song is sung by artist Jang Jae In (feat NaShow) for the 2015 Korean Drama Kill Me, Heal Me. This drama has a fantastic star cast headed by Ji Sung and Hwang Jung-eum, and as any KDrama addict can attest to, this lead couple is infamous for their onscreen chemistry in the 2013 drama Secret Love.

I watched only the first half of Kill Me, Heal Me but felt satisfied with just those few episodes. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Rather, the acting was, for me, miles above the story so I didn’t feel the usual frustrations to skip ahead to find out how it all wraps up because the superb acting was I got hooked on. Thus, I heard the Drama O.S.T. a handful of times and enjoyed it then. But, as with most sound tracks go, after watching the show I often forget about the theme songs that are associated with them. Not true for Auditory Hallucinations.

The O.S.T is composed, arranged, and written by ZigZagNote. NaShow’s rapping that starts off the song, followed by the strong yet soft vocals of Jang Jae In, are just striking. The whole piece is rather haunting and dreamlike, as opposed to foreboding or dangerous. Rather, it matches the plot of the K-Drama it covers, Kill Me, Heal Me, very well, with the storyline of Ji Sung’s character suffering from Dissociative Identity Disorder and has seven different personalities – although harmful to his public image if exposed – his personalities are portrayed more organically as if he is just passing through dreamlike stages of his persona.  Thus, the O.S.T marks the limbo that resonates with a man being on the brink of madness and sanity.

Jang Jae In’s voice gives the lyrics and musical score the sorrowful sensitivity that takes this O.S.T. to the next level. The song without the rap is just as jaw-droppingly gorgeous. Her ‘twang’ (only way I can describe it) is remarkably well-suited for this song. I’m left feeling incomplete when the song ends and rather deflated because I just want it to go on and on! J We all know there are songs out there that we just want to hear on auto-repeat all night because it’s so mesmerizing and tantalizing… Auditory Hallucinations is one of those songs. It is addictive and I find a strong form of auditory withdrawal symptoms kick in for a while when it’s done.

Thanks to this one song, I became rather fanatically interested in singer and songwriter Jang Jae In, especially since she was a Korean singing talent competition participant and NON-winner. She was fantastic at the age of 20 in her SuperStar K2 audition and her body language in front of the celebrity judges (from the get go) just puts her a few notches above the rest (with extra brownie points for her vocal abilities of course). Although my healthy obsession with her is not as deep as my INFINITE obsession (let’s leave this for another blog post), you realize how small the world of Korean actors and entertainers is when I saw one of Jang Jae In’s music videos features actor Lee Won Geun as her love interest. This actor stole my heart and respect with his stellar performances in the Korean Dramas Cheer Up!/Sassy Go Go and Wild Chives and Soy Bean Soup: 12 Years Reunion this past year.

So check out Kill Me, Heal Me if you are interested in KDramas, but definitely check out the Drama O.S.T. ‘Auditory Hallucinations’ and let me know how you like it! It’s no problem if you don’t understand what Jang Jae In is singing about because neither do I, and I fell head over heels in love with this, regardless!

**This may not be the best argument for why someone should be a vegetarian, but I struggled a lot in my teenage years to try to persuade others to follow this exact argument… fond memories… This is my attempt at writing persuasively**

Are any of you vegetarian?  There are many different kinds of vegetarians but in general it is the practice of being an herbivore and not eating meat, poultry, and fish.  Why would you become one?  Well, there are many reasons.  It may be a requirement of your religion, or you may just hate the taste of meat.  Also, you might be against the horrifying injustices and cruelties animals suffer in slaughterhouses, or just want to lead a healthier lifestyle.  The three main types of vegetarians are lacto-ovo-vegetarians, who eat eggs and dairy products, lacto-vegetarians, who use dairy products but not eggs, and vegans, who consume neither.

Milk and other dairy products are not used by vegans because they believe that it is only meant for calves.  We are the first species to drink milk after our weaning years and the first to drink the milk of other animals as well.  Also, eggs are not alway considered vegetarian because they are the hen’s offspring and the product of their sexual organ.  Also, the size of the egg grows as time passes.  Therefore, they are impure and not completely lifeless.

I am a lacto-vegetarian.  Since the time I was born, I was brought up to follow this diet because of my religion, Jainism.  As ahimsa, non-violence is one of the most important Jain principles and way of life, being a vegetarian is a way of minimizing the amount of violence and pain I give to other living creatures.  Other Jains who are very pious, are much stricter than myself and don’t eat tuber-roots, which are vegetables grown underground.  The reason is that vegetables, such as carrots and potatoes, are the home of many tiny organisms.  So, by digging up these vegetables, the lives of many creatures can be in danger.

Being an herbivore doesn’t mean I don’t harm anyone.  Science has proven that vegetables and fruits are one-sensed organisms.  They have the sense of touch.  However, there is less violence involved in plucking a fruit rather than killing a chicken.  Trees are living beings as well.  Scientists have been able to hook up cardiographs to them, which show their heartbeat.  They are very sensitive and their graph goes wild when someone comes to cut them or their friends down!

Did you know that many famous people are either vegans or vegetarians?   This includes Drew Barrymore, Michael J. Fox, Brooke Shields, Brad Pitt, Ricki Lake, Leonardo da Vinci, Louisa May Alcott, and Mark Twain among many others.  All of theses individuals probably realized that by eating meat they would become murderers.  In other words, by being a non-vegetarian, it would be like you were killing and eating your own ancestors, which is the not too different from cannibalism.

There are many advantages of practicing vegetarianism.  People have less pesticides, fats, and cholesterol, and at the same time, are less likely to have a heart attack, cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, gallbladder disease, hypertension or any other illness.  Their bodies retain fewer antibiotics, fossil fuels, and toxic chemical residues, and they have a very small chance of receiving a bacterial infection such as E. coli.

Vegetarians get their calcium, protein, iron, and vitamins from different vegetables, leafy greens, beans, cereal, nuts, fruits, juices, bread, and about fifteen minutes in the sun each day.  The proper food promotes their physical and psychological health.  Meat has more proteins than the daily need but an excess amount of meat protein creates unnecessary uric acid, which is a breeder of several diseases.

Becoming a vegetarian is the first step in lowering the violence done onto animals.  A total number of about seven billion animals are slaughtered each year in the United States alone. SEVEN BILLION ANIMALS ARE SLAUGHTERED EACH YEAR!  That’s about 500,000 animals killed each hour!  Animals raised primarily for the production of food are not capable of having natural sexual, social, hygienic, and parental behavior.  They are in excruciating pain from they time that they are born and taken away from their mother to the time they are taken to the slaughter house.  R. M. Dolgin once said, “Anything that can feel pain should not be put to pain.”

Individuals who consume meat, dairy, and egg can cause many sicknesses including: strokes, heart attacks, kidney stones, breast cancer, colon cancer, ovarian cancer, cervical cancer, prostate cancer, and stomach cancer among others.  Vegans have a four percent risk of death from a heart attack compared to fifty percent risk for meat eaters.  Also, the intake of cow’s milk is linked to dysfunctions of the thyroid gland, osteoporosis, headaches, and even Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, Lou Gehrig’s disease, and Multiple Sclerosis.

It is imperative that everyone become a vegetarian in the near future for the sake of the environment, for animal rights, and for health purposes.  Being a vegan or vegetarian will significantly increase the lifespan of human beings and help them have a more tension free life.  They will be able to save the lives of about 100 million people who would have starved to death as a result of malnutrition and at the same time decrease the amount of pollution in rivers and streams.  Vegetarianism will help make the world a better, happier place where all beings will be treated as equals and animals will have their own rights.  As Leonardo da Vinci said, “The time will come when men will look on the murder of animals as they now look on the murder of men.”

Stirfry Spring Rolls

Fresh Vegetable Stir Fry Spring Rolls

**Most of the time, I like to cook quick meals that I know are healthy and require little preparation. One staple go-to meal for me when I’m feeling peckish but not famished is a simple fresh spring roll with stir-fried vegetables. By fresh, I mean not deep-fried. Since I bought my first packet of rice paper in Chicago, I’ve never looked back. It is now one of the main ingredients I will buy in bulk to bring back to India whenever I’m travelling.**

Stirfry Spring RollIngredients:

1 tsp Oil
1 Onion
1 Carrot
1/2 Bell Pepper
1/4 Cabbage
1-2 Tbsp your choice of Sauce
[Option: tasty with a handful of bean sprouts and/or rice noodles]

Recommended Sauces:
Soy Sauce
Barbecue Sauce
Peri Peri Sauce

Directions:

  1. Heat oil in a frying pan and add onions. After 2 minutes, add carrots and green peppers. In the end, mix in cabbage and noodles/sprouts (optional) then put in a few drops of your favorite sauce to the mixture. Make sure it tastes a tiny bit stronger than you’d like, because it will get wrapped in rice paper.
  2. Take a rice paper round and dip in water for 10-20 seconds. place wet rice paper sheet on a mat or cutting board, load stir-fried mixture, and wrap into a parcel to make spring roll. Repeat until your rice sheets and stir-fried vegetables are over.

Note: Through trial and error, I’ve learnt that this form of spring roll tastes better when the sauce flavoring is put inside the roll, as opposed to a dipping sauce accompaniment. Also, even if the filling for the spring roll is runny, the rice paper tends to hold liquid well. Alternatively, adding just a few strands of rice noodles will have the effect of soaking up any extra liquid. Just have fun and experiment!

Cooking Time: 15 mins
Yields: 4-6 rolls 

Good Thanksgiving Memories

November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I’d like to give thanks today for how this year has progressed and the wonderful people in my life who make living it quite so fantastic.

Thanksgiving is a quintessentially American/Canadian holiday that I’ve been aware of but never really celebrated or participated in until I left the United States to study in Wales, followed by two separate and equally memorable occasions with friends in Chicago.

I vaguely remember attending two Thanksgiving meals prepared by the American members of the International Students Association (of which I served as Vice Chair). It was a potluck but I didn’t contribute a dish, I remember, as I was still under the impression that the holiday food was centered around Turkey and meat. My memory of those two days are filled with everyone sitting along a looong table, the room filled with the echoes of chatter and laughter, and everyone seemingly stuffing food down their own throats until food coma commenced. If I wasn’t so very close to everyone who worked so hard to prepare the food and organize the holiday meal, I would probably have given it a miss altogether. I particularly remember my Greek-German-American friend’s ‘secret family recipe’ cheeseball which was the size of a fist and that I finished almost singlehandedly. No doubt, Thanksgiving became synonymous with a good excuse to enjoy a fun-filled thematic party, mid-day with friends – particularly featuring out-of-this-world cheese and crackers!

My next invite to join in Thanksgiving festivities came from a dear friend over 4 year later in Chicago. Hyde Park resembled a ghost town during those few days, when nearly all my friends and classmates returned to their respective homes to spend Thanksgiving with their families. My dearest friend decided to stay in Chicago and invite her mother to drive up from Nashville and a childhood family friend (also living in state) to celebrate the day with her instead.  When she heard I would be around (and alone!) on Thanksgiving, she insisted I join her and her two guests for the day. Accepting her invite wasn’t difficult, not because I didn’t want to spend the day alone, but because I knew the day wouldn’t be hyped and low maintenance. I knew I wouldn’t have to anything  to lose. In fact, if nothing else, I knew I had a new culinary experience to enjoy because she was a fellow vegetarian and her whole Thanksgiving meal would be meat-free and featuring the ‘tofurkey’. Now isn’t that enough intrigue to accept her invitation graciously?!  This time around too, I didn’t contribute my own vegetarian Thanksgiving dish – partly because she told me there would be loads of food already…and also because I’m not a fabulous cook like her! Hahaha.

Chicago Thanksgiving 1

My First Tofurkey!

We were four ladies and a kitty that day, and I must say, the food and company was enviably fantastic! I thoroughly enjoyed being able to dig into the side and main dishes and I can’t honestly remember how many helpings I had of everything until I no longer had any space. In addition to my Wales experience, Thanksgiving now also became synonymous with sharing a lavish meal with your nearest and dearest, showered with much love and affection, and no less than three extra helpings of carved Tofurkey!

My most recent Thanksgiving memories are from two years ago, only a year after my Tofurkey experience. Again, I found myself in Chicago and with no company for the traditional Thanksgiving meal. This time, it was my lovely married friends who invited me to join in their celebrations. She was my classmate in Chicago and got married the first winter after we met. It didn’t take long for the three of us to get together and realize we had a lot in common. Like me, they both spent considerable time outside and inside the US and were well aware of the pros and cons of both scenarios. One grew up in Peru while the other spent some formidable years in Papua New Guinea as a child. We quickly got into a lovely routine of meeting up with this power couple every week or two for a meal and lovely chatter.

So when Thanksgiving plans were discussed, I happily accepted an invite to give my friend company while she prepared Thanksgiving dinner for her meat-loving husband and brother-in-law. I arrived early to assist with the preparation (barely!) and setting the table for the meal and we sat and watched the annual dog show that gets televised in the US while food cooked. I fondly remember that my friend’s husband tried to carve the turkey when we sat down, but quickly handed the carving knife to his wife who he knew would do a better job! The meal was unsurprisingly fabulous thanks to the culinary skills of my lovely friend. From the sides to the specifically vegetarian tofu alternative to the wine, it was a wonderful meal. I’m not sure if football featured or not that day…probably not if I stuck around. (I’m not a big sports fan.) But it was long past dark when I left their warm aromatic apartment to head home with a bunch of leftovers to tide me over the next day. This experienced added to my already beautiful memories I already had of Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving additionally became synonymous with an intimate and sacred family gathering that is multi-cultural, all-encompassing, and full of sharing.

IMG-20131128-00794

Setting the table for a Thanksgiving feast

In the past decade, I’ve partaken in no less than three Thanksgiving celebrations with people I love and care deeply for. Each experience has been cemented as beautiful memories that only increase the appreciation I have for this American holiday. I can’t wait for my next Thanksgiving memory!

Matar Ke Chilke Ke Pakode

Matar Ke Chilke Ke Pakode

Ingredients:

10-15 matar ke chilke (prepared peapod shells)
1 tbsp besan/chickpea flour
1 tbsp chawal ka atta/rice flour
1/4 tsp red chilli powder
a pinch of turmeric powder
oil for frying
salt to taste

Procedure:

  1. Wash and pat dry matar ke chilke.
  2. Cut them in 1 1/2″ pieces.
  3. Take besan and chawal ka atta in a bowl. Add salt, turmeric powder and red chilli powder. Mix well.
  4. Add water, little by little to get a dropping consistency of the batter. It should not be too thick or thin.
  5. Heat oil in a deep pan/kadai.
  6. Drop the batter laden chilke in the hot oil.
  7. Cook till they get a light brown colour and drain on an absorbent paper.
  8. Serve these crispy yummies with imli/tamarind chutney.

Cooking Time: 30 minutes
Makes: 2 servings


Matar Ka Chilka Ka Chaat

Add crispy matar ka chilka pakodas to the chaat along with chopped onions, chopped coriander, imli/tamarind chutney, dollops of curd and bhujia sprinkled on top. It tastes truly amazing.

Matar Ke Chilke Ke Chaat