The Rich Vegetarian

An Examined Life

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Tag: home cooking (page 1 of 2)

Homestyle Bliss

Fennel Soup“We eat better at home than most people do in restaurants.”

I wish I could take credit for this one line, that I truly regard as a statement of truth. But it comes from Dr. Morris Wizenberg, father of Molly, the warm and friendly and spirited voice behind one of my favorite blogs, Orangette.

I have been reading Orangette for a long time now, and I also own copies of Molly’s books, Delancey and A Homemade Life, both of which are worthy of repeat readings. I must confess, I have not cooked much (or anything, probably) from Molly’s blog but her beautiful writing keeps bringing me back to it.

About eating better at home…. I couldn’t agree more. P and I have often felt the same. Digging into a steaming bowl of bajra-moong khichdi, nourishing and hearty and delicious in all the right ways, is a blissful experience. At work, lunch is often a mound of brown basmati rice with a generous serving of bright yellow kale moong dal, spiced with turmeric, lime juice, cumin and mustard seeds. The simple, clean flavors bowl me over every time. Or maybe it is the highly slurpable rice noodle soup with vegetables, seasoned with Bragg’s liquid aminos, fresh ginger and toasted sesame oil, that hits the spot on a blustery, windy Atlanta day. Sometimes, it is also P’s excellent Punjabi chhole that he makes sans onion and garlic, at my behest. Quite often, it is a simple slice of toasted multi-grain spelt bread with a generous slathering of Earth Balance buttery spread, layered with avocado slices, black salt and freshly ground pepper.

This happens a lot. And I am no accomplished cook. I just like to eat at home, mostly.

I stick to a simple routine. I use basic recipes. I don’t have an exhaustive spice “wardrobe.” (I just made up that term right now.)

It is probably a combination of the fact that I don’t snack much + I cook with fresh, organic produce (as much as I can) + the food is freshly cooked… that the most delicious, satisfying meals I have ever eaten have emerged out of the four gas burners in my kitchen.

Culturing Food Impressions

Curried Butternut Squash Soup with Thyme

Curried Butternut Squash Soup with Thyme

Growing up in India so many years ago, we didn’t go out to eat much. Mostly, we ate at home.

My Mom is a wonderful cook. She doesn’t take herself (or cooking) so seriously and I mean that in a good, no, great, way. To put it better, she takes herself (and cooking and life) lightly, so she lands easy. Anyway, the point I am making is that Mom is an effortless cook. She throws together seemingly opposite ingredients, adds a dash or two of various spices, moves the ladle around, turns the heat off… and voila, you have a delicious dish ready.

As kids, we hardly ever got an opportunity to complain about food. Mom made the most heavenly petal-soft idlis, served with piping hot sambar and steaming hot coffee. Her rotis were light and delicious, the curries fresh and flavorful. She asked friends for recipes, experimented with old favorites, and came up with new concoctions with fearless abandon. And Daddy, G and I were the happy beneficiaries.

Today, I understand that her food was laced with love and caring, and that is what elevated her cooking to divine heights. Maybe she wasn’t an accomplished cook at all but there was no missing the sweet tenderness that pervaded the dishes. Now take the case of Dad who cooked for us when Mom visited my grandmother. He didn’t make anything fancy but everything he cooked was delicious. Simple flavors, lightly spiced, fresh and nourishing… Oh yum.

The result of those happy food years is that today I have an amazing set of taste buds. Rather, I learned fairly early to discriminate between bad food and the best kind. Meditation has only added to the sense of refinement.

It is like priming. When your senses are trained to consume the very best that is on offer, then what develops is discrimination. You learn to recognize what is good for you and what isn’t. You actively begin making changes about what you consume and what you avoid.

Once you have tasted nectar, how can you settle for carbonated water?