Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Cooking Made Easier With Everyday Products

On my trip to India during the summer, I decided to make quesadillas for A's parents and my parents. His parents had them before, but my parents had not. The night before I wanted to make them, a very simple thought came to my mind. Cooking in the United States is way more easier than it is in India.
My mom soaked red kidney beans overnight, so I could use them for my dish the next step. This was the first step that would be avoided if I were here. Get a can of Bush's canned kidney beans, open the can and your beans are ready to use. The next day, I made salsa from scratch to put in the quesadilla. I make that here also, but again, a step that can be very easily avoided if time is a restraining factor. There is no dearth of getting salsas - whichever ones suit your palette - hot, medium or mild, chunky or not. You do get ready made salsas in India, but cost was a factor and a more important factor was how much were my parents going to use after I left!
Next was shredding cheese. Because of the size of packets of cheese you get there, we just decided to get a block of cheese and shred it. This was not bad at all as it hardly took any time.
In the evening came one of the most tedious tasks. I am sure several people would not make quesadillas if it were not for the ready made corn or flour tortillas. Since those were not available there, mom and I made them, just the way we get it here in the store. We made the dough, she rolled the tortilla and I semi-cooked them and wrapped them in a piece of cloth.
I made a kidney bean and veggie filling for the quesadilla.
After all these steps, I was ready to do the simple task of making the dish, that is not at all time consuming. The efforts were paid off as A's and my parents thoroughly enjoyed the quesadilla. When I was patting the quesadilla on the pan, my mother quietly quipped, "No wonder everyone makes this so often there. Everything is ready-made, and so naturally it is easy for you to make this frequently!" She sure was right on that one.
The biggest benefit was that I got to cook with my mom, spend time with her, and relive memories of the past when we'd just sit in the kitchen as she would cook and we'd talk!

If you give a moment's thought, it is not just quesadilla that makes cooking easier over here. Most dishes are not just fairly easy to cook, but not time consuming also. Students, stay-at-home moms, working mothers, dads and others do not have time to spend in the kitchen and cook for a couple of hours. So many things are at our disposal, at a reasonable price also. Things like canned beans, chopped lettuce and other greens for salads, pasta sauces - alfredo, marinara, chopped vegetables ready to throw in the pan and saute, and so many other ingredients can be incorporated in everyday dishes to make cooking quicker, healthier and easier. We tend to take things for granted, but like other situations, when you do not have something, you then realize the value of it.

Despite the ease of cooking here, people tend to eat out a lot. In the recent past, A and I have met friends and other acquaintances who said that when they consciously make an effort to eat home-cooked food, not only does it make them feel better health-wise, but also makes their pockets better too!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Public Mode of Commuting In Two Countries - Similar, Yet So Different

There is something about public mode of commuting that I really like. When living in Mumbai, India, my daily commute involved traveling by bus and train or only a bus ride to go to work and return home. A lot of people would complain about traveling in peak hours in the morning and in the rush-hour traffic in the evening, but I liked it.
I distinctly remember hoping to get a window seat if I took a bus and just getting lost in my thoughts for the hour-long ride. If I took a local train back home, then I would generally stand by the door and enjoy the cool breeze waft through my hair. Mom and I took a train ride on my recent trip to India and like old times, I stood by the door. It felt the same.
Have been a regular city bus commuter here also for almost a year now. In the morning bus, either I study or just enjoy the rising sun and still get lost in thoughts! In several ways, commuting is the same in India and here in the United States. There is the same rush-hour traffic, same way of people trying to balance themselves, as well as their hand bags, bags or purses and also hold on to the steel rods for support. Another similar aspect is how people become bus-buddies or commuting buddies as you travel at the same time in the same bus.
What is different is that if you are in India, people generally sit next to a person already sitting. Over here, you'll sit on a different seat than on a seat where someone already is sitting.
I noticed this thing during last winter's snow storm. Buses were running late by almost 45 minutes because of the snow storm. When the bus finally arrived, it naturally was over crowded and people were relieved to get on the bus. I remember having a bag pack and a hand bag with me that day. With those two, I balanced myself to stand as there was no room to sit. I stood that way for more than an hour till my bus stop came and I went home.
Had it been India, there would be 'aunties' or even young women or men who already had a seat, and they would offer to hold your bag, so you could stand comfortably, especially knowing that you'd already stood long to get on to this bus.

Another interesting aspect of taking the public mode of transportation in India is getting an opportunity to hear about people's stories, how their day was, and other similar things. It happens here also, but is lesser. People here would talk in more hushed tones than in voices that would be audible to several others.

I traveled by train almost everyday when in Mumbai. There was so much to see and learn from the vendors who would hop on the train with their ware to sell. The difficulties they faced, their trials and yet have a smile on their face. Young girls would come to sell hair clips, fancy rubber-bands to put in the hair, safety pins, earrings and much more. They would put their ware in saree boxes and move from one compartment to the other.
Others would get food items to eat, or sell plastic covers for books, plastic covers to put ID cards, fruits of the season and much more. Not only was it enterprising they sold products that are important for daily life, but it was a learning experience of sorts to see them work hard. This kind of an experience is difficult to get here. I didn't see much of this even when I traveled in NYC's local trains.

One of the biggest lessons I learnt taking the public mode of transport was street smartness and being alert. They are key things to traveling safe and enjoy it (if you are like me!) as you go to work or come back home!

A Boy or A Girl?

I have not read a lot about this or even heard about it in discussions. To start off, there are ten expecting moms I know who are going to deliver between October and December of this year. Three have already delivered beautiful babies. Two are girls, one's a boy. You may wonder the reason I started delving in to statistics. There is a reason for this.
It's not recent, but for several years, I have heard and am sure several others too have, that when a lady is expecting, the family always tells the to-be-mom that they want a boy or that they want a girl. Have noticed this across various nationalities and cultures. Jumping a little from statistics to biology, a woman has two X chromosomes and a man has an X and a Y chromosome. X is responsible for a girl and Y for a boy.
So when the crucial deciding factor is in the hands, rather chromosomes of the dad-to-be, I wonder why most of the times he is always kept out of the picture when it comes to people's preferences for the gender of an unborn baby? It may sound feministic, but I am just trying to put a fair, valid point. I have written blogs raving about talents that men have. Even otherwise, am not trying to put up a feministic viewpoint, but an observation I've had for several years.

This really makes me wonder why a woman, who is going to be a mother, who already is experiencing several unique challenges, have to face one more, where things are not even in her control. And like me, many of you would have also seen how young as well as senior people still have the want of a boy in the family. Or some who've had all boys really desire a girl. And once the baby is born, if it is a girl, even in this day and age, there are people who are not as joyous than if it were a boy.
They say times are changing and things change with time. Sure they do. And some remain the same also. Hopefully, more people will vocalize their desires for a boy or a girl in the right direction and tell the right person.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Social Groups: A Result of Different Age Groups

It has happened to me often during social get-togethers that I feel I do not fit in the right group. While discussing with a friend from Connecticut once, she too felt the same. We are married women, but do not have kids yet. So M and I both felt that we feel ill-fitted in the group of married women, but they have little children. Their talks revolve around what the baby is eating, his or her sleeping habits, new things it has learnt or for that matter new things parents learnt from the child! I do not have kids yet, and can relate to the talk only to a certain extent.
And then is the group of people who are in their early 20s, but not yet married. I relate more to this group, as they talk of their activities over the weekend, shopping, or guys they liked. During one of my conversations with M, she once said, 'I can definitely say that oh this boy is good looking and all, but beyond that I don't think I'll be interested more'. Which is so true. These girls are talking about going out on dates, other girls that the boy may like or more. Although we can only contribute to some extent, we enjoy listening to these talks.
And the third group is of aunties - who are our mothers' age. I enjoy talking to them, can relate to what they talk, but again, I am not their age yet!
What A and I felt some weeks back is that there are groups of people who are in the same boat as we are. And when we are with that group, it is so much easier to connect with them. They are at the same phase of life, getting their priorities straight, know what they want to achieve, but also know the road ahead is long and not so easy. We are glad we have that group and know we can look to them when we just need someone to talk to!
I am sure a lot of other people have also noticed the different groups that just seem to form in a party or a social gathering. They mingle with others also, some with a little effort, some do that effortlessly, but at the end of the day we all have our own groups, where we find that comfort level.