Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home   | Volume 6, Issue 44, Tuesday, November 15, 2011




Masala Tea Latte
3 cups water
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and grated
6 cardamom pods, crushed in mortar and pestle
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon powder
2 pinches fresh grated nutmeg
6 pieces star anise
8 black peppercorns
1 1/2 cup milk
6 teaspoons of loose tea or 6 tea bags
Sugar, as desired

Place water, ginger, cardamom, cinnamon powder, nutmeg, star anise, and black peppercorns in a medium sauce pan over medium high heat.

When the liquid comes to a boil, add milk. Let everything return to a boil. Then add tea and simmer for 1 minute. Pour your tea through a strainer into a clean bowl or a metal pitcher. Then pour the tea back into a clean pot/bowl. If you continue to pour the tea back and forth like this a few times, you will froth the milk a bit - thus the "latte."

The Magic of Chocolate
6 Tbls cocoa powder
6 Tbls sugar a pinch of salt 2.5 Cups whole milk 2.5 Cups light cream
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
Whipped cream for topping
Grated, or cut curls, of chocolate or chocolate sprinkles
Orange zest

In a cooking pot, combine the cocoa, salt, and sugar.

Next, add in the milk, and heat over moderate heat to dissolve do not boil.

Next, add in the light cream, cinnamon, and vanilla or almond extract and stir well.

Continue to heat until the edges of the liquid just begin to show tiny bubbles.

Remove from heat immediately.

Mix the hot chocolate completely and pour into mugs. Pre-heat the mugs in the microwave for a minute if you like.

Top the hot chocolate with whipped cream, chocolate, and orange zest.

Pasta has always been my go-to cereal product. Simply tossed with olive oil, garlic and red chilli, it makes a fine easy dinner.

Dress it up with fresh tomatoes and basil, and pasta pomodoro rewards you with bold taste and big flavours.

Prawns, tomatoes, basil together make the humble bowl of pasta hum with songs of winter. Warm, wholesome, comforting.

And then there is pasta with pesto.

Nutty, herby, oily, lovely.

I can really go on and on.

Such has been my world of pasta.

The spaghetti, the linguini, the penne, the macaroni, the rigatoni, the farfalle.

They all have special places in my culinary world. Till lately.

Till my world of pasta was shaken to its very root. I guess I owe a bit of an explanation.

Lately, I have been working hard, which is quite a rarity. And working hard means going to the market with my client's sales team to help launch a much-cherished product, an adventure that took me to diverse places around Calcutta for three days.

On the last day of this stint, I was at Metiabruz.

The birth place of Calcutta biriyani. The place where the impoverished Wajid Ali Shah introduced ho-hum potatoes to stretch the biriyani pot to feed all of his people. He really could not afford that much meat. And a legend was born. Today, in Calcutta and in many other places, we not only expect, but demand our piece of potato with our plate of biriyani.

But that bit of history has nothing to do with my experience.

Deep inside the market of Metiabruz, completely serendipitously, I saw a grocer selling unpacked pasta. I have seen this done at many other markets but never paid too much attention to it.

But that day, I was curious. And asked the shopkeeper how pasta is eaten by those who buy it. I asked because I really did not see a place for pasta pomodoro or pasta aglio olio. The shopkeeper's response left me stunned.

He said, “Why? Boiled with sweetened milk.”

No olive oil, no basil, no garlic, no tomatoes, no tuna, no sausages, heck, not even chicken…

He went on to add, “Some people eat it like Chow Mein.” But by that time, my mind was racing with the impact of sweet pasta!

Then, slowly, it dawned upon me. Almost all cereal we eat, we eat either savoury or sweet.

There is the firni and the biriyani.

There is upma and soojihalwa.

There is wheat dalia and gehunkahalwa.

Even with the everyday bread, there is salty butter and the sweet jam.

So, why should there be only savoury pasta?
Sweet pasta, so be it.
Anyone game?

Photo: Kaniska Chakraborty

I have been dragged, torn, stretched across the Atlantic Ocean too many times now. The nights and the days have married each other and gotten divorces tens of times and the sky looked grim and jolly at these unions and non. There were mountains outside my flying windows at times and at times only bright clouds, too bright-white to stare directly at.

The ocean somehow had crawled up thousands of feet and entered my heart making it spill all over my body. It's a task to control the wishes of an unruly ocean, its flow around your mind; it is not actually in your hand ever. I have tried, tried many times to compose myself to hold it tight but every time I have failed, confused and teary again over the Atlantic Ocean.

The continents that lay on each sides of this ocean hold memories of far away and recent times. But it is only over the ocean when I realise which memory meant more to me before it became a memory. I ask myself why I didn't live in that moment longer, why didn't I prolong it, because I could. I can always prolong the present, we all can. I wonder why the depth of the present always gets underestimated.

I brought rain to the orange and red leaves. The leftover rain in my left-behind land that is supposed to bring winter is running out of tears. The roads are getting dusty and dry on one side. On the other side the roads are overflowing with fallen leaves, and cold breeze. There are black squirrels standing like statues, and pumpkins carved with mouths and eyes.

I play songs starting at sunset here. I realise there are songs which define me and I relate to people through those songs even if I haven't shared the songs with them. I realise each song is sung a thousand times at least in different tunes, different words, but with the same meaning, to say maybe just one thing. And we gather them in our neat little devices and allow them to fondle our hearts. I listen and re-listen.

The state of being trapped in time differences, separation of spaces, uprooted and planted, take up more energy than allocated for. I say things I do not know the meaning of, I sound foreign and wear mismatched clothes. Far-away gives clarifications to feelings too close to the heart, it also gives the need to chop off a few inches of hair and wanting to grow them long again, just to grown into the old self, one more time.

And all this to have a bite of cold pizza and a few sips of a tall glass of cold water. Wrapping a blanket around the body and laying down on a couch to feel the good springs, and wait for winter in all lands, all continents attached to the heart, all at the same time.


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