Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 5, Issue 38, Tuesday, September 28, 2010




Stay fresh with flowers

Flowers have been associated with symbolism since ancient times. For the Chinese, fresh flowers are an important part of the Lunar New year decorations, as they believe that without flowers, there will be no fruits. Pretty blooms are said to represent the reawakening of nature and are linked with a wish for happiness during the New Year.

In a tropical climate like ours, we can choose from a wide array of options. The Hindu rituals of 'Puja' or their thalis for puja are always decorated with flowers. Generally every Hindu household has a puja thali. This is a golden brass plate. They usually put banana leaves or sandalwood paste, rice water, a diya, an incense stick stand, flowers and sweetmeats on the thali.

People in the West have long been using vases for their flower arrangements. But the Japanese style of flower arrangements is a little different from their Western counterparts. Their arrangements are called 'Ikebana', which means 'Flowers kept alive'. Ikebana uses symbols to portray how nature and art relate to daily living.

More than simply putting flowers in a container, Ikebana is a disciplined art from in which nature and humanity are brought together. Ikebana often emphasises other areas of the plant, such as its stems and leaves, and draws emphasis toward shape, line and from.

Today, flowers have been customised in many types of presentation. Now various types of flower decorations are available in the market and the more popular flowers will be available during the winter season from October to March. Flowers have been used to decorate our homes for a very long time. But most of the times when we think about the locations where we can place these flower arrangements, the only place that comes to mind is the dining table. But there are many other places in our homes where we can use fresh flowers for the purpose of decor.

In terms of flower arrangements, the vase or container plays a very crucial aesthetic role. The container's shape, size and texture are also important. Overall, the container needs to complement both the arrangement and the surroundings in which it will be placed. Crystal vases are the most popular containers, but indigenous products are fast gaining popularity as well. We can use traditional pots such as brass containers and silver vases can also look very elegant for flower displays. Since our handicrafts are very rich, we can also use terracotta pots, baskets, watering canes and clay pitchers. For contemporary styles, opt for some clean glass containers in a square or rectangular shapes.

It is also important to bear in mind the length of the flowers and the depth of the vase. The general rule of thumb when placing flowers in a vase is to let the vase take up 1/3 of the total height of the arrangement.

For flower arrangements, harmony and contrast are also very important. Harmony is achieved when elements of the surroundings exist within the arrangement such as similar flowers and leaves. Contrast is created when the arrangement uses elements that are different enough from the surroundings, like beautiful roses placed in a small aluminium bucket.

The décor of a room and colour scheme is also important. Make sure that flowers' style and colour can blend in with the room's colour palette. If the room is decorated in a Victorian style, you wouldn't want bright flowers in a sleek, modern vase.

Nazneen Haque Mimi
Interior Consultant
E-mail: journeyman.interiors@gmail.com
Photo cedit: Tamim Sujat and Journeyman Archive

For The Love Of Food

Eat your spinach

By Kaniska Chakraborty

I‘M no Popeye, the sailor man, but I still like my spinach. Be it in a salad, be it stir-fried with a little garlic, be it steamed with some soy sauce or be it in a melange of veggies with Nigella seeds for tempering.

Why suddenly spinach, you ask? Let me elaborate.

The other day a dear friend and I decided to meet up for lunch. His workplace is an institution and a landmark in Central Calcutta. I had some business there as well. So we decided, after a brief period of dithering, that we would go to a reputed, time tested, famous-for-kebab place nearby.

The place has an old world charm even today. You climb up precisely three flights of black marble stairs to come face to face with an elevator with a grille gate. In an effort to modernise, a door has been attached to the grille. But the liftman and the ancient pulley system of the lift remain.

You go up exactly one floor to reach the dining hall. The door has a “Pull” sticker but there is an attendant who will open the door for you and usher you into a softly lit room.

The large room has comfortable sofas around the wall. Tables of four punctuate the space between the sofas and the chairs. There is a split-level raise, which has formal dining chairs.

There are captains, their equivalent of Maitre'd, who quickly descend upon you armed with a drinks menu and a food menu. After all, what is a leisurely lunch without the liquid comfort?

The preferred language for communication is English, spoken with all the grandeur of the Raj era, although the restaurant started well after the British left the shores.

I had my favourite. I quickly settled on a Keema Matar with Tandoori Roti.

My friend floated about for a while around the menu card and settled for something called Mutton Reshmi Kabab. And Buttered Naan to go with that.

A good order, you'd agree. But no! Our collective conscience pricked at us. “Veggies” it whispered. We said, “Go away. This is not a place for veggies.” But the little guy refused to disappear till we started pouring over the menu once again.

Having explored various possibilities, like Chana Masala, Matar Paneer, Alu Gobi and God's gift to Indian vegetarian cuisine- Navratan Korma- the two of us looked at an item that possibly defines Indian cuisine best after Tandoori chicken. Palak Paneer.

Now, it must be kept in mind that I, being an average Indian, have had several versions of it. Paneer is not something I am fond of and I certainly do not like my spinach done to death or a puree.

From the dhaba at Ludhiana where the spinach was of a sticky toffee-like consistency from fried in oil to the stringy, chewy kind in Kanpur (spinach past its sell-by date) to the silky, lurid green one in Delhi (obvious use of food colouring) to the genuinely leafy tasting, creamy ones in California.

I have had them all. Some by choice, some by default. Some had nice chunks of paneer. Some had deep fried paneer cubes to ensure a good workout of the old jaws. Some were innovative by grating paneer and creating a homogeneous mess.

I have learned to be weary of Palak Paneer.

So why did we choose it? Because at that time, it felt like the right thing to do.

The Keema never disappoints. Beautiful morsels paired with peas, simmered in a rich spicy broth. Redolent of onion and garlic. Lapped up with Tandoori Roti.

The Mutton Reshmi Kabab also lived up to the billing. Succulent chunks of mutton, nicely grilled, finished with a cream reduction. Soft, yielding, yet toothsome. With some lime-spiked rings of onion.

And then the Palak Paneer. Smooth as silk. Paneer that retained the milky texture. Not too spicy, not too bland. I could actually taste the spinach. It was not of the bright green hue, which is done with artificial colouring.

For two avowed carnivores, we certainly fought for the last spoonful of this wonderful advertisement of Indian cuisine.

So, eat your spinach, I say. But eat it only when it is as good as the Palak Paneer that I had.



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