Some of you might wonder why curd-rice should merit a post of its own, but to understand that, to misquote Atticus Finch, you'd have to wear a South Indian's shoes and walk around in them.
Curd, or yogurt, and more specifically curd-rice, is mighty important stuff to a South Indian. When my in-laws visit, they are happy enough to drink their coffee with soymilk and they love the vegan sweets I make, including dairy-free Indian sweets. But when it comes to curd-rice, they just have to have the real thing -- at every meal. I remember a Tamil friend's father who, no matter which part of the country he was traveling in and how hungry he was, would refuse to eat at a restaurant unless he could order curd-rice.
Not surprisingly then curd-rice is often the last barrier that stands between a South Indian vegetarian and a vegan life -- just like cheese is what keeps many people here in the United States from taking the plunge. One of the most frequent queries in my mailbox, perhaps THE most frequent, is for a vegan substitute for curd-rice.
When the reader is in the United States, it's usually an easy answer: soy yogurt, which is quite easily found in grocery stores here and which I use when I want to make curd-rice. But soy yogurt is not available in India and, honestly, not everyone has it on hand at all times.
I'd been wanting to test a curd-rice recipe with tofu -- which is more readily found almost anywhere in the world now-- but I was only really motivated last week when I got a query from a mom who said her daughter can't eat yogurt because of food allergies. "Recently she has started noticing that mommy and daddy eat rice with curd, so why cant I? It's hard to explain to a 2 yr old!" she wrote.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
The Ghost of the Banyan Tree
The story was that the Ghost lived in the 100-year-old banyan tree that stood just behind Building No. 13 in J. P. Nagar. At night he or she (for no one had actually seen the Ghost) would come out and hang around the domed water tank that sat like a giant cement idli smack-dab between the parallel roads leading into the housing society. Now and then the Ghost would scare some unsuspecting passer-by by placing an unseen hand on his or her shoulder and then exploding into a hollow, cackling laugh that echoed around the neighborhood, especially on windy monsoon nights.
The victim was almost always someone new to the area because no one who had actually lived in J. P. Nagar for any length of time dared to go alone near the water tank after nightfall. And none of the children, who had once loved to run barefoot up its slippery sides and then slide down from the top, hands up in the air, did that anymore because their mothers worried the Ghost would push them off.
None that is except Ashish who was the scamp of the neighborhood.
Ashish remembered exactly when the Ghost had moved into J.P.Nagar three years ago: it had been the day after his fifth birthday. Pichukutti, who lived upstairs from Ashish’s family in Building No. 13, had returned home from work late that night. His eyes were big and round and terrified for a full week afterwards and he kept his arms hugged around his body as though he was unbearably cold under the 100-degree
The story spread fast and soon there were more reports of alleged touchings and feelings and even some sightings, although those could never be confirmed. When Mrs. Raval’s daughter, Chhaya, had a meningitis fit one night, tearing at her hair, Mrs. Raval blamed the Ghost for “sitting on her head”. Another time, when Mr. Bhonsle parked his scooter off the street behind the building, he swore he heard someone calling his name from the unseen depths of the Banyan tree.
Ashish eavesdropped curiously on those stories when neighbors brought them home to his father. Baba listened without looking like he was. He always had the newspaper open before him, his bifocal glasses halfway down his nose, and his face would not flicker even slightly at the most gut-twisting, blood-draining account. If the story-carriers found him rude or uninterested, it didn’t deter them.
After they had left Baba would pull Ashish out from behind the door and look him in the eye, a deep ridge plowing through his tall forehead. “There’s no such thing as a ghost,” he’d tell the boy in a stern voice. “A water tank is just a water tank, and a banyan tree is just a tree. No one lives on them, certainly not ghosts.”
Friday, August 06, 2010
Cannoli is the self-anointed king of our neighborhood.
He spends his days chasing all sorts of delicious adventures in the front and back yards of each of the seven homes that line our street. On hot days he presses his long, lithe body against the cold concrete bench in our front yard, stre-e-etch-es under the shade of the evergreen, and falls asleep without a care in the world. At other times he lurks under the neighbor's maple tree, lying in wait -- back domed, ears perky, eyes sharp-- for some poor old mouse scurrying unsuspectingly by.
Cannoli burst into our world one hot summer afternoon last year with an excited rat-a-tat-a-tat on the door. It was a neighbor, surrounded by about half a dozen kids from her family. "We found him in the bush near our house!" screamed Diana, the pretty, round-faced one, before I had even opened the door.
Her aunt held up a tiny, slightly afraid, black fur ball who looked just a few days old. "We don't know what to do," she said. "We've called the shelter and they said they can't take him in before he's six weeks' old."