Showing posts from 2007

Criminal Waste or Criminal stupidity

Oct 1st was a virtual bandh in TamilNadu.

Virtual? Yes,virtual. The supreme court had declared government sponsored bandh illegal. So,the ruling DMK part and its octogenarian leader pretended to observe a peaceful day of fasting while calling off most essential services. The net result? People stranded at railway stations.
Poor Patients coming into chennai, hapless.
Loss of a day's wage for those who eke their livelihood from day to day
A day of rest for the well-heeled and the over-payed with promises to compensate for the lost man hours on a weekend
Free publicity for the DMK and the chance to fire a few volleys at the Enemy a.k.a anyone who objects to the poorly thought out Sethusamudram project.

Now for the reason behind the bandh. The Tamil Nadu government, both present DMK and past AIADMK is keen on building a bridge in the Palk Strait, between India and Sri Lanka. The claim an economic bonanza
This would destroy the Adam's Bridge, a natural formation in the ocean, destroying …

Learning through Inquiry and Discovery

Skimming through todays NYT email edition, I came across a rather refreshing article on Engineering education at Olin College of Engineering. This gave the Tag Line for one of my long set desires.

I want to change the direction of my blog. I want to focus on learning. I want the e.m.f (education motivating force* ;) to be inquiry and discovery.

To be perefectly honest, my blog has been sorts of l. through i. and d. so far.
But it has been my learning to the frequent detriment and occasional nirvana of my husband's and mother's palette!

I have learnt what works for my son's lunch box, what combinations work together, how to make authentic Kollu rasam etc... I have made some super disgusting Pumpkin curry, Sprouted Horsegram adai etc... Now I am hoping to write about basic science and math education. Exploring the world anew along with a super-smart 5 year old.

Coming down the stairs of my 5th floor office in IITM, we encountered something that looked like a sleeping insec…

End of first term of school..

Gautham finishes his first term in Ist standard. He has the whole week off to rest and recoup; Or drive his mother and grandmother up the wall ;)
After nearly 66 more or less unsuccesful packed lunches I have made a few discoveries about Gautham's food habits:
Remember Lucy in an episode of "I Love Lucy" where She has to delay Ricky's visit to a play because she lost thetickets or something?
She orders a salad and chews each bite an excruciatingly slow 40 times!
Yeah, that was hilarious.
But Gau doing that in his 30 minutes power lunch half-hour? NOT so much. He once bought his lunch box home having just finished 4 carrot sticks. Wish I could eat as little as that and function as well. Sniff!
The lunch box has to have easily swallowable yet really pretty meals.
Gerber-like purees out, but the selfsame mush stuffed into a sandwich say a Dabeli Sandwich a la Food For Thought is in.
French fries and other roasted vegetables in their ilk are out, but a totterin…

Rousing applause for Nupur of OneHotStove!

She helped me achieve the impossible: A (nearly) empty lunchbox which had contained an adaptation of her open face sandwich!
My son doesnt like openfaced sandwiches, so I skipped the skillet cooking, just covered the op[en side with another slice of bread and grilled the whole assembly in my sandwich maker.

And you know what the best part? In anticiptaion of eating sandwich for lunch, the little man agreed to eat a Tamil Nadu Style Power Breakfast - Paruppu saatham and keerai masiyal!

Thanks Nupur!

As time goes on...

There is nothing funnier or more touching than the saga of Gau's friendship with my neighbour's son.

Sid is 7 years old, very tall for his age and a total brat (in the nicest sense). Gau is 5 year old pretending to be on par with sid in height, weight, physical capabilities and (Ahem!) wisdom . Together they are like a lot of old married couples - can't stay apart from each other, but will fight every other minute they are together! They get into some fantastic scrapes and manage to cover the gamut of human drama better than any 10 year long soap opera!

Recently sid had the flu. Both were given strict instructions to avoid each other for 2 days atleast. Gau sobbed his heart out. I didnt get to see S. reaction, but that night he slipped a letter under our door.

The handwritten letter without any help from any one said:
"I am sick. I cant play with you until Tuesday or thursday. You must stay For (he must have meant far ;) from me but not too Far"

Gau was asle…

Typical Tamilian

Labelling helps. Even us humans. Despite being an American and having been exposed to a variety of foods since he was a baby, he remains the product of 2 Tamilians. Idli and Thayir saatham invariably figures in his top favourite foods ;)

Figuring that out has enabled me to do rather well in the lunch box department!

Tuesday was Idli with Dukkah powder and Sindhi Kadi made with Okra, Cluster Beans, Drumsticks (the tree kind, not the bird kind) and lots of tomatoes.

Today is a Cookie Doc's Panzanella inspired Idli Panzanella!

3 steamed ildis dipped in dukkah and cubed
2 tomatoes (Roma aka the Bangalore Kind, Not the Naatu kind!) chopped
1/4 bunch coriander chopped
1/2 cup cooked beans of different varieties
spring onions chopped
pearl onions chopped
lemon juice

Mix everything and pack

Verdict: Gau ate most of the tomatoes and beans, some of the idli. Wonder if the quantity was too much?

Gau kept losing the lunch box surprise or someone or the other inadvertently spilled food …

At the edge of success

Todays lunch box was almost a complete hit!

He nearly emptied it and complained very lil!

What did I pack? Idli dipped in a Dukkah Podi with Tomato Gojju!

Idli is just fermented rice cakes. My extra soft, extra protein version has
4 cups rice and 1 tsp methi seeds soaked for 6 - 8 hours
1 cup urad daal and 1 cup moong daal soaked for 45 minutes.

The rice is ground to a fine paste
The daals are ground adding lil water at a time, until they are fluffy and higher in volume than the rice paste,.
Salt to taste, ferment overnight.

Steam in idli moulds until cooked through.
My favourite breakfast is idli smeared with milagai podi, flavouring the idli and keeping it moist. I needed a mild alternative for my son. I decided to make it with nuts and then discovered such a thing already exists for dipping pita/bread!

The principle of dukkah and milagai podi is the same, though the methodology for getting the podi on the food is different - milagai podi is mixed with oil and water to form a r…

Vegetarian Food Pyramid

I came across this supercool vegetarian food pyramid at the vegetarian diet section of the Mayo Clinic Website . The cool factors are many, including the vegetarian diet, the triangle within triangle fractal concept of the image. This is also going to be a gentle introduction to the concept of triangles and areas. We are going to draw this out on one of those papers which have lots of tiny squares on them. That should enable us to estimate the area of each section of the pyramid. I'll update after we do the pyramid for a week.

The lunch box challenge a.k.a. please gautham's palette

I now have a challenge to the food blogging community at large.

Help me come up with a set of easy to prepare menu items to tempt my son's taste buds.

These are my constraints:
1. Vegetarian
2. Commonly available ingredients only - I live in Chennai, TN
3. Should be good to eat after sitting for 4-5 hours in an unrefrigerated lunch box
4. Should not take more than 45 minutes to prepare.
5. Should be easy to eat for a 5 year old - no messy burritos type foods.
6. Should be nutritious (I know, that goes without saying)
7. No frying
8. Shd preferably have passed a kid's test for acceptability ;)

Please post your recipes or links to the aforementiond recipes by the end of July i.e 27th July

Thanks a lot!

Todays lunch was almost successful - the lil darling's only complaint when he got off his school van was, he didnt have enough time to eat.

Pasta Salad
1 cup of pasta
1 cup of dried chickpeas, soaked over night and pressure cooked until soft
1/2 head cauliflower cut i…

Expanding horizons

I read a science article in NYT in the near past - about how the universe is expanding and you will someday see a sky with very few stars; would humanity remember or realise the bigbang started all this? After all, scientific theories are a direct consequence of observation! If the universe looks different, will they know how it looked when it all started?
That question, 100 billion years away, is moot since we are not sure if we will survive even another 100 years!

Bringing this question down to my prosaic life. I was like a million stars in my son's life even a year ago - now the only time he really just chats with me is when we lie down to sleep every night. As his universe expands - school friends, lunch hour friends, evening playmates, hobbies - I will figure less and less in it until he only thinks of me on his birthday, mine and important festivals. I am not very vain; It is enough if my son shares my values, he needn't have to devote his time and his precious though…

A tale of two truths

Wednesdays lunch box
For Gautham - Splitpea Paratha, 1 boiled egg and a few carrot sticks as demanded by him.
FOr DH, Splitpea paratha, Mola Keerai kadi, Curd rice.

The lil master got off the bus screaming " I have finished my lunch fully except for a few pieces of carrots. You must get me a treat now P." We walked to nilgiris jauntily - me thrilled with my son's improved eating habits, he thrilled at the prospect of ice cream after school.
We reached home with three Popsicle's, 2 for our neighbours and Gau readily acceded to my demand that he finish his carrots first. Then he slowly tells me he gave the egg to Rishab.
Me horrified "The whole thing?"
Gau reacting to my tone "I think I ate half"
Me, highly irritated "Don't think! Just tell me!"
Gau in a pacifying tone "I don't remember. It was just an egg!"
Taking a deep breath and calming down I asked him to tell me where was Rishab sitting.
To my right.
What did you do …

Terrible Tuesday

The brat jumped off the van and I realised with a shock the lunch bag his Akka was handing off was as heavy as it had been in the morning! The brat had had 2 bites of roti and 1 sip of water thats it! He said he was too busy chatting with J WOng and Samyukth.
My motherly instinct drove all thoughts of discipline from my mind and I rushed him to his favourite eatery, Pizza Hut and got him his favourite Pizza and Garlic bread.
When I got home, both my mom and my neighbour were aghast I hadn't punished his misbehaviour. I left it at giving him a lecture about eating first and talking less.
The goodwill lasted until dinner time. He started throwing a tantrum about finishing his milk - I give him just 1 cup a day and he eats very little yogurt ! I tried to be reasonable and explained he needed the calcium to grow big and strong. He continued to argue and I lost it. I poured the whole glass of milk out and declared I wasnt going to bother any more and he could do whatever he want…

Baby back home

I couldnt resist. I dropped in at the end of lunch hour to see Gau doggedly working at his lunch - I swear the image that flashed through my mind was the sea and the rock of gibraltar, the food being the rock of course. I finally told him he could top if he wants and he was in tears because he couldnt figure out how to close his lunch box. I walked him to his class and he complained I hadnt coloured his Shin Chan peach. He didn't ask me to stay though he didnt like the idea of returning by van. I convinced him it was too hot to wear a helmet and drive home on my scooter.
I went back to work happy with his maturity ye wanting my baby back.

I picked him up at the bus stop in the evening and he was his usual happy, vexing self. He wasnt tired, he was actually some what hyper! For once he told me everything about his school day rather then deceiding what games we would play etc...

We dropped by his pre-school and he played with his old classmate who continues to go there for their…

Check and Mate

Gau and my neighbours kids have taken to chess lately.

One thing we really find useful is a computer chess game. You can either paly against the computer or against another player, so the game becomes interactive without the tears that follow when the chess pieces go flying by accident.

DH and Gau were playing against each other on the laptop.
DH would kill Gau's Queen and at his turn, gau would press Ctrl-Z, restoring his Queen

This went on a couple of times. And then gau opines: "This game will never end"

First full day at school!

Today is my baby's first full day at school.

He didnt seem too excited to see the new lunchbag I got him.

He thought the 2 parathas and beans and fruits salad I packed too much to eat. He was happy with the cube of cheddar cheese I added but asked me to unwrap it and add it to his tiffin box.

He wondered why I put his stainless steel water bottle in the fridge when our previous bottle cracked - He learnt to distinguish between freezer and refrigerator i.e ice-formation and hence cracked bottles and NO ice formation but chilled water.

I put a note in his lunch bag - a drawing of shin chan and a note. I am on tenterhooks awaiting his approval, acceptance and joy.

Todays lunch was Aloo Paratha -

dough prepared with

0.5 cup cooked lentils, left over from yesterday,
1 cup boiled mashed sweetpotato,
1.5 cups whole wheat flour,
1 cup ragi malt
1 - 2 tbspoons each of mint, coriander leaves and finely grated ginger,
salt and
lil bit of chili powder (My son cannot handle even mild green chillies)
1 tb s…

Inspiration from a fellow blogger

I was idly siderfing (getting side tracked when I was surfing for information I needed), when I came across the blog of a Tam Bram (Tamil Bramhin just like me) resident in Mumbai - Nandita of Saffron Trail! I loved her quote from the puranas.

One who plants one peepal, one neem, one ber, 10 flowering plants or creepers, two pomegranates, two oranges and five mangoes, achieves the greatest good.

Varaha Purana

The zeitgeist is we have too many options and not enough direction.

I could achieve good at the least by just being a good mother (then again how do you define what is a "Good Mother"?!), leaving the onus of actual action to my hopefully vastly more capable son;

I could achieve the most good (probably, after all the way to hell is paved by good intentions) by a drastic change in lifestyle: Leave home and hearth and join Green Peace or Narmada Bachao Aandolan or any other flavour of choice.

Just thinking about the many choices available induces a lassitude and I do …

Superwoman in the making ;)

Its been a year nearly since my last post and both my little world and the larger world out there has changed tremendously.

Gau is now in 1st standard! Today was his first day at school. Predictably, he left sobbing and came back happy but tired.

DH has now taken up a much more time intensive and stressful job with somewhat less remuneration; It better be a lot more stimulating, satisfying and fulfilling!

My mother has been diagnosed with Breast Cancer and finally she has deigned to move to Chennai for treatment at the Cancer Institute in Adyar.

Mothers health problems has given an impetuts to the little voice inside the three of us sisters to be more fit and eat more healthy. Finally I have broken out of the grad school habit of waking up well after the sun is high in the sky; I wake up at 4:50 (or actually out of bed by 5:30) and go for a speed walk or cycling along the Bessie beach. My knees did protest but now they applaud. Next goal? marathon running. There is hope and company for ru…