Day 59: Keto fun

The exams have had a strange effect on me. The pointlessness of it all breaks me every few hours. Are we still expecting students to prove their knowledge by cramming lessons a day prior and puking it out for 2 hours. When the question instructions say ‘answer not more than 3 pages’, you know the testing priorities are screwed up.

I landed up starting my preparations the morning of the exam. By 11am, I had studied enough to ace the noon paper. That gave me a lot of time after the exam. So I made the best of the evening. I keto’ed.

I experimented with these amazing Keto crepes. They tasted heavenly in their intended form, oozing with the buttery filling. Since I’m not a huge Cinnamon person (anymore), I replaced that with nutmeg and it worked out just fine.

I had sufficient to have this another day. I got more fancy this time and substituted this for my dosas craving. So, I skipped the butter filling, brought along some peanut-Chilli Powder as sides, and it rocked.

If I weren’t on the Egg Fast, I’d try adding some coconut flour in to match the dosas consistency. Right now, it was a little eggy and was a taste to be acquired for sure.

Acquired taste? You give me a drab oatmeal with veggies for lunch and you make such fun things for yourself? Let me acquire some of this new taste. 

Dogs can eat eggs and butter. So, share some, will you?” Scotch 

Day 29: Of government offices and bread! 

Government offices

Remember my earlier crib about the horrible state of the service industry in India? I wrote about it here. If I had two cents to complain about the bad service the packers provided, the government office I visited today would take away all my money. I went to a Bangalore One, the state government’s solution for combining all services provided to the consumer in one place. It’s the one place to pay your electricity and water bills, hand in your property tax and get government IDs done. It’s the one place where nothing works at all.

In today’s digital age, with the Prime Minister egging us all towards Digital India, here’s a classic case of retrogression. You can get your ID card made only by taking a special token, which is handed out only once a month, between 8 am and 9 am on that special day. Even if you managed to get a token, which would give you a date and time for the appointment, services on that day are done on a first come first served basis. At your allotted appointment hour, there will be a herd of applicants who did not waste their time picking up a token, but just showed up to get stuff done. The ‘manager’ of the center chats up with these non-scheduled applicants every few minutes, and squeezes them into the line. If you smiled nicely at the lady doing your biometrics, she’ll probably bump you up the list too.

Sniff! The fools that wait in queue for their turn shall wait until their hair turns grey.

Bread

Keto bread, crunchy and yum! 

There’s only one way to get rid of all the anxiety and the ill will that builds up after such a visit – bake! I managed to beat up a nice bread battery without a proper blender in hand. The temporary arrangements worked and we have bread. Thanks to Keto connect for their wonderful recipe. It’s definitely a must try for all those on the keto diet and missing bread.

That bread does smell amazing. Can you be careless now and let it slip? I’d love to taste it for you” Scotch 

Day 18: Of experiences

Numero Uno

The trip to the Special school was short today and yet eventful, if you asked me. There’s always something to learn and the principal is so inspiring to just talk to.

We were all genuinely shocked by how rude the teachers and the aayas were to most children in the school. It seemed like these kids needed a quiet, soothing voice to handle their disabilities while all they got was constant chiding and yelling.

And then I began to wonder how I’d react if I meeting these kids day in and out, and teaching them the same things over and over again. Some of these teachers have to repeat the same instruction a thousand times before the child might even recognize this. Any progress that they have with the child is reset when he goes back home. When the children come back from their summer break, the two months have taken away almost 6 months worth of training.

What surprised me most was the resilience the kids showed to any anger coming their way. They’d almost immediately forget that they had just been yelled at by a teacher. They’d hunt the very same teacher down to show her the art work they just made. A regular child, come what age, would have some amount of residual angst and with repeated chiding from the teacher, would begin to stray away. Not the special ones.

Aussies

Had an interesting session towards the end of the day, interacting with the exchange students from Australia. Their professor completely ruined and hour and a half, taking about some really disconnected, random things. Sometimes I think it’s the curse of us Indians. But once he left, I was able to review some of the major differences between their education system and ours. A few points that stood out are:

  • The school boards are entirely managed by the government. While states can design and run their own schools, the government oversees it all.
  • There are no prescribed textbooks. The board sets the curriculum and the curricular objectives and the entire planning process stays with the teacher. Powerful!
  • Most students take trade or skills courses after grade 12. Very few actually opt for engineering, medicine or pure sciences.

Fun Cooking Experience

Had fun cooking some unique dishes for the keto diet today. Made a keto coconut barfi since I’ve been craving some dessert since I got on this diet and Priya at Keto for India made it seem very easy. Turned out well although I think something needs to be tuned in the recipe if you’re using coconut directly.

The second trial was a broccoli cheese soup. Replaced cheddar with parmesan and it smelt like pizza all through the cooking process. So, next attempt is going to be the keto pizza that H was talking about.

Oh yeah! I smelt all the ghee in the coconut dish and it made me go crazy. Where’s my portion, lady?” Scotch 

Where’s my coconut barfi?

Day 7: Of diets and food we love

It has been extremely difficult keeping up with the new diet plan. Over the summer, the excuse was the summer. When the folks visited, the excuse was to finish off the stuff they left behind. When that was done, the excuse was that it was mid-week, and who starts a diet in the middle of the week, right?

Wrong! So I’ve ordered most of the groceries and veggies that should get me started, again. I’ve read up a little more than before. So I’m not going to be blindsided by the carbs vs fiber numbers.

I’ve also eaten a month’s worth of ice cream, so much so that I couldn’t even finish the last cup. So, that’s out of my system now and I’m not going to miss that food for a while.

But there are a few things I’m already dreading.

  • The taste of the ACV mixture on empty stomach. I threw up a little in my mouth just talking about it.
  • The gnawing headache, that doesn’t hurt much but is persistent. It acts as a constant reminder that you’re on a diet.
  • The number of times I have to walk over to pee. And in a shared bathroom, with a very small pee break between classes, the struggle is real.
  • Cheese, cheese and cheese. Throughout my growing years, I’ve never been a major cheese eater. I don’t fancy the pizzas and the sandwiches oozing with layers of melted cheese. So, all the cheese I have to eat is a huge mindstate change.
  • The weird poop. Period!

Anyway, I’m starting again from tomorrow, ready to brave the weird poop and all. God bless!

Suck it in and do it, S. I hear there’s no easy way out. 

For now, can I have some of the prawns you’re cooking? No marination required for me, please.” Scotch 

Scotch is using The Force to make me drop some her way

veGOn!

Enough has been said about the greedy and selfish human race that has put the entire planet on the express lane to failure. To add my two pennies’ worth in the source of this matter, I’d say that each one of the 7 billion is to blame. We disapprove of man’s greed over a chilled 6-pack that strangles the creatures of the sea and make protesting banners out of laminated plastic that clog up our drains. We’re too quick to diss the garbage pile collecting at the street corner but don’t worry too much about where our organized garbage collection disintegrates. We walk around with a holier-than-thou attitude, while Earth slides further down the destruction conveyor belt.

Fuelled by this new-found realization of my own hypocrisy, and this nerve-chilling video‘s take on the meat industry with a harsh twist, the idea of going vegan was taunting me for a few months. Quit meat for a while and gave-up sugar for a month and I knew exactly what I had to do to set myself down the path to seeing it through.

2016, the year of changes

2016 has been a year of major life changes; quit the job of 10 years, shifted careers, started school to get a masters degree, got that must-have pixie. So, what better time to go vegan than now?

Stumbling blocks

The number of people around you that will let you slide back to old practices are unimaginably large. The casual smirk the minute you mention the decision and the shove of the chocolate cake when you pick a fruit salad are abundant. There’s the well-wisher that thinks it’s okay to cheat for that one day when you’re dining with them. Then there are the numerous souls that believe that the world is either black or white. They point out that cattle is still used extensively in fields where your veggies are grown and wouldn’t THAT count as animal cruelty! Sure, it does. But how about we start somewhere?

goudreau-quote.jpg

When you’re done dealing with the negative company and have convinced the third pet of the fourth cousin removed and his divorcee grandmother about your plan to go vegan, you have to deal with dairy that sneaks up on you from that blind side. Giving up milk and coffee is pretty straight forward. But what about the veggies tossed in ghee, or the salads floating in homemade mayo dressing, and the healthy dal afloat with enough butter to cook a dessert? A dollop of ghee HAS to complete that steamy hot rasam or roti, more for the great hearts serving you than you that’s eating it.

7001636

A completely different monster is the total lack of information on packaged food products, because the Indian Food Safety and Standards agency does not demand a comprehensive food label. Everything from the bread from your local baker to the packaged crisp bites will have milk and you wouldn’t even know about it. When there are labels, watch out for the milk powder, milk substitutes and dried milk proteins that can all throw you off your path. What that effectively means is that you spend hours at the shopping aisles, reading labels, hunting for all convoluted versions of dairy, when you could be out chasing butterflies, or better still, sleeping.

download

The biggest problem in going vegan is the complete lack of empathy in the country. Despite ordering for a “vegan, no-meat, no-eggs, no-cheese” burger, when you flip open the bun to find a dollop of mayo on your patty, you know that neither the chef, nor the server, nor the manager of the establishment knows a thing about veganism (or the contents of mayo, for that matter). Forget squashing another person’s principles through your complete lack of knowledge. But what would you do if the person had a real allergy and all those requests were critical to save their life? Would you still put a dollop of mayo on their patty? Will you take it on you to drive the person to the nearest hospital? Would you dare serve a non-halal meat to a Muslim? Probably not.

images

Religion much?

An interesting observation that came out of my vegan exploits is how quickly people relate your personal choices to the religion that is thrust upon you. For two long decades, when I enjoyed eating chicken and other meat forms, the question that immediately followed my food choices was “Aren’t you an Iyer Brahmin?”. Now, when I turn away a plate of chicken wings or the generous drizzle of Ranch dressing on my salad, I’m immediately met with “Oh! You’re an Iyer Brahmin, no?”. Well, NO! I’ve striven towards breaking stereotypes for a fair part of my adult life and I shall not let veganism pull me back on that front. I’ve not let religion decide what I should eat or not and that hasn’t changed one tune bit from when I went vegan.

Newer challenges pop up every other day on this path I’ve taken. The most confounding question that oft gets thrown my way is “Vegan for how long?”. In a country that’s used to turning vegetarian on Tuesdays, Fridays and days when the moon turns red, such a change seems more a temporary atonement for sins and not a lifestyle change. I do not know the right answer to that question yet. Only time will tell.

For now, I wake up every day and say veGOn!

 

Reliving Diwalis of the past.

*aakhon mein teri…ajab si ajab si adaye hain…* tune plays on…

on for another thirty seconds…Bad mistake. You should hang up now…

there: err…helloo…?

here: God..? Hii… Did I wake you up..? So sorry…

there: No. That’s..ahmm..OK…what’s up..?

here: Iniya deepawali nalvaazthukkal..(Happy Diwali!)

there: Oh..OK OK…Thank you…arr…what time is it.?

here: Ahmm..Around 4 30 AM? Am soo sorry, I had to wake you up. I thought you guys would be up and running.

there: Nah!! It’s not even 5 30 yet. Wait. Let me wake Goddess up.

here: Oh no no… I will call you guys back when it’s time.

there: OK. Take care. Good night.

here: Bye.

*hang up*

I downed another cup of  white chocolate to nullify the 4C around me.

The preparations usually began weeks before the actual date of Diwali, multi fold in the true sense. The ladies in the house spent the week churning out the best sweets and savories, that could be made at home. The last little clause is to rule out the intriguing rossogolla, you see? Ingredients are consolidated from the markets specializing in each, jaggery from that dingy hidden joint, milk and sugar in kilos, vegetables and fruits from the mandi, as an arrangement for the big feast on the pooja day.

Meanwhile, the men handled the logistics behind all these activities; driving the ladies to the market and coordinating the house cleaning. The most crucial part, which they took ample help from the youngsters in the house for, was purchasing the firecrackers. They visited the temporary shacks put up in open grounds turned to shopping malls, shouted and yelled over the crowd to be heard and bought home the best in class, state of the art fireworks. 10,000 wala crackers, the multi-colored ‘1000 gems in the sky’, fancy rockets and ‘butterflies’ were bought in time, before the rest of the town lay their hands on them. The assortment of bombs and sparklers were the common ones across every Diwali. They were what kept the kids engaged through the day, when the elders had their post lunch conversations.

Schools realized that Diwali was the biggest festival of the year, the perfect time for some family bonding. Holidays were ample and all cousins flew in from different parts of the country, to set up fort in the ancestral home. We had spent most of our toddler and growing up years in that house; so nooks and knacks for mischief abounded. Most of the noise and the ruckus was accepted and ignored during the festive season. It was once in a year after all.

There was a preparation for this visit as well, something that began weeks before the actual departure; there by months before the actual date of the festival. A list of every known cousin, uncle and aunt was consolidated and gifts were bought for each. There were strict and yet hidden guidelines around the act of buying. You always had to make sure that everybody got something, everybody got something equivalent and no gift to one could offend another by virtue of quality, quantity or value. How the mothers managed it is still a surprise to me, but there were very few squabbles at the end of it.

Added to these gifts were the new crackers local to the place of origin, something that put fireworks set x different from the set y that was already present at the destination. Again, the logic of repetition here beats me, but there was no reason for us kids to complain. More the merrier.

New clothes were a must, a good omen of sorts. If you wore a new dress on this auspicious day, you were supposed to be blessed with new ones through the rest of the year, I guess. Then again, who’s complaining? There were usually more than one sets bought, one to be worn early in the morning, immediately after the bath. It was usually something intricate, heavy and closely treading on the gaudy territory. Then there was the play dress, ones convenient for all the running around you had to do with the fireworks. A little less complicated, these were worn more often in the rest of the year than the first one, and are the ones that could be compromised in case of a cracker-accident. There was usually an evening wear too, you couldn’t visit all the aunts and uncles in the same dress you wore for lunch, could you? If I remember right, all this complicated buying was only for the girls and ladies in the family. The boys chose to buy different kinds of t-shirts, while the men simply changed from veshtis (the dhoti) to trousers.

The main pooja room was cleaned and every moorthi sparkled from the fresh bath and dressing. The day before Diwali, the men in the family would visit the dedicated flower market, to pick up the best flowers in town. Multi colored garlands and loose flowers were bought back, to be put up on every available picture of any available God in the house. Some were saved carefully in the fridge, to be reluctantly clipped into the hair of the girls, only to eventually end up with their mothers.

All the new dresses bought were stacked in front of the Gods, to be blessed by the pooja before being worn. Each pair of cloth had to be religiously adorned with a pinch of sandal, highlighted by an equal sized pinch of vermillion. I still remember those dresses from where the mark would not wash off, even months after Diwali. Dresses bought for the occasion had to stand out, dint they? The stack of dresses would then be flanked by vessels and containers with all the sweets prepared. I love Diwali for being the only festival where you could eat the prasadam before the actual pooja. Waiting for the neyvedyam in the end was always a test of the power of devotion over sheer hunger.

Once everything was in place for the Diwali day, we all went to bed (pretty late in itself), with a mental note to wake up as early as 4 in the morning. The aim was to be the first family in the neighborhood to burst the crackers. The loudest and longest running fireworks would be saved for this early morning ritual. The sound of the lone cracker in the wee hours of the morning still rings in my head. Technically, this early morning affair of fireworks was supposed to signify the victory of light over all the dark around the world. I understand it now, who really cared about trivial technicalities then!

We would wake up groggy eyed and run to the pooja room, where a quick set of matras would be chanted, arati sung and a handful of oil emptied on our heads. Seeta kalyanammm..vaibogame…Castor oil (equally viscous as its automotive counterpart), heated with some black pepper, was specially prepared for this early morning ritual and we had our hair oiled in order of our seniority. The production line process consisted of us getting our hair oiled by Super Goddess, waiting for ten minutes to let any good of it soak in and then running to have our bath, where a bucket of hot water and freshly ground shampoo powder (of sorts) waited.

Once done, we went back to the pooja room, collected our new dress, gathered any little bit of blessing and good will. Once ready, we would be made to eat a spoonful of ‘the medicine‘; a home made remedy to counter any ill effects that the over eating of sweets, over a very short span (a day, literally), would cause. It had multiple herbs and spices in it, went down with a burn in your throat and you knew you had grown up when you began to savor its taste. It was a huge parameter of comparison between different households and aunts discussed the secrets of the extra zing in theirs over others’.

Under strict adult supervision, the comparatively older kids would step out and light the dawn breaker cracker, while the smaller ones would stand around, ears and eyes shut hard. With the incense stick still in hand and hand covering both ears tightly, the first round of fireworks would signal dawn, a new diwali dawn. Sounds from fireworks from nearby streets would slowly get louder and the day would be on full swing.

Lunch was an intricate affair, a typical feast served on banana leaves and comprising of multiple courses over rice. The ladies usually served in the first round, while the men and the children ate. It would then be the turn for the older girls in the family to serve the women and clean up, a tough act after the sumptuous meal that one had just consumed. Post lunch, the kids would go back to fight their battle against the world, armed with crackers appropriately named atom bombs and hydrogen bombs. The bijilis were the little temptresses, urging us to tread on the forbidden path. Meanwhile, the elders would settle on the house floors, reminiscing weddings and past love affairs. It was their chance to be young again, to relive the days where electricity and an uninterrupted supply of water was a luxury.

Evenings were usually spent visiting families of friends and exchanging sweets. There would be subsequent rounds of fireworks when there. The fireworks in the night were the more elite and elegant ones. The whole family would gather in the terrace, children excited about the new choices of crackers. The women, still light from their conversations, would slowly trickle in, in time for the stage to be set. That’s when the rockets and fancy air-launching fireworks would be set off, one by one, giving each enough time to bask in the colors up above us.

This is also when youngsters, bored with all the crackers, would prod their mothers to the sparklers and ‘snakes’, too static and dull for the young minds. There would be memories caught on tape and film, framed for years to come. There would be singing and games to liven the evening, only to be followed by a comprehensive dinner. Based on the number of people and the space available, it would span across different rounds, but not once lacking in options of dishes.

Late in the night, gifts would be opened and their details revealed, goodbyes and pleasantries exchanged and we’d head back home. I don’t really remember any part of post-Diwali. I guess we would have woken up the next day, with a hangover from the saccharine overdose. A day or two later, gone back to our individual towns and flaunted the diwali exploits in school. I don’t know.

A Happy Deepavali to all of you and your near and dear ones.