30 July 2009

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Fuck you very much, Paypal. If I'm able to log into my fucking account, it's me. Stop trying to protect me FROM MY OWN MEDDLING.

28 July 2009


Appa (the Tamil word for Father) and I have had a rocky relationship. We didn't always see eye to eye on many things, and there were times when I said things that looking back, were really douchey. It didn't help, of course, that for some time, I was questioning who I am, and had trouble reconciling with him on who he wanted me to be (a preist, a religious man, a "manly" man, etc.). I thought for a very long time that he wouldn't accept me and love me for who I am, but would forever be disappointed.

As parents are wont to do, he still did carry on loving me and being proud of all my accomplishments. When he talks about any of his children, his face lights up, and he can carry on for hours, because he's so proud of all of us, and what we've managed to achieve.

More than that, he was always present in my life. I can never recall a time when he or my mother told me that they wouldn't be there for me when the going gets rough. Amma (Tamil word for mother, as you may recall) reminded me yesterday that Appa's birthday is today, and that it would be nice if I could write a quick note to wish him. All these feelings and memories were coming to my mind as I wrote him my birthday note, so it took a little longer than I expected, but I feel that I showed him that yes, I do still love and care about him and his well-being.

We all have parents or other family members with whom we've had disagreements, but still care for deeply. I guess I'll let my letter do the talking, so that you can see where I was coming from.


Our relationship has changed over the years. In the beginning, I was the helpless little baby that you held in your arms. Then I became the precocious child, who was the light of everyone's eye. Eventually, I grew to understand your influence over my life.

Regardless of the situation, you were always present. I could always count on Appa to be there. To take care of things. When all my friends had divorced parents, I was one of the few who could always count on his father.

There is one particular incident I recall that cemented in my mind what it means to be a man. Amma had dropped a pickle jar on the floor. Everything splattered all over the place. She was very upset, and you came in, and cleaned it up. I asked you, "If Amma was the one to make the mess, why are you cleaning it?" You said, "Because we're family, and we take care of each other."

When I stop and think of the men that I look up to, you come to mind, because regardless of the adversity that came our way, you stuck by us. Through all the years of my bratty rebellion, you still loved and cared for me. I want you to know how much I appreciate that.

And then, when I brought Steve into our lives, you accepted him too, because you know that he makes me happy. I have heard so many stories of men who have been estranged from their fathers because of who they love. You never did that to me.

Because we're family. And we take care of each other.

Those words will guide me throughout my life, and be a comfort.

Thank you for being a wonderful father. A wonderful man. A wonderful person.


Happy birthday, Appa!

15 July 2009

Contest It

A police officer wrote me a bullshit ticket for a bullshit reason back in April. It's pointless to get into the details, but he said I was obstructing the flow of traffic during rush hour in the subway.

At 1 am.

In Queens.

Yeah. Like I said. Bullshit ticket, bullshit reason, bullshit cop.

I didn't even say anything to him, because that would have delayed me further. I got back down to the subway platform, and took photographs of the stairs, the platform, and the stop name, so that I could show how empty it was. The next month, we go to the hearing place, where the lady informs me that since the cop wasn't there, they were going to adjourn it. Fine. I go home, and it turns out that they adjourned it to 15 July (today).

Fine. In I go. Wait for an hour after arriving. Wait. Wait. Lady calls me in. "The burden of proof is on MTA. The officer never arrived to present his side of the evidence. The case is dismissed." Then she lets me know that I'll have to wait for the write-up. I sent Steve home to straighten up (more good news coming). I sat there for another half hour. Signed the papers and walked out. And didn't have to pay that ridiculous fine of $50 they had levied on me.

If I'm riding the fucking subway, how in the hell am I supposed to shell out $50 on a fucking bullshit fine? It's utter crap, and putting undue pressure on the poor. OK, rant over.

The other piece of good news is that someone is interested in the apartment. Please send good vibes our way. I want for our apartment to be taken over, our deposit to be returned, and for us to move to a smaller place in Manhattan proper (preferably below 34th, but a girl can dream, can't she?) that's going to cost less than half what we're paying now. Hopefully with utilities included into the rent.

Hopefully, the rest of the day is just as good.

10 July 2009

I've said it once, twice, a million times.

A friend on one of my forums asked a question.

Hey guys, I'm going to be in rural Oklahoma with a large party of omnis for a few weeks next month, and I'd like to make stuff for every meal to share with them (a main course, so I've got what to eat too, I'd make some desserts also, anything really). They're potentially wary of "weird" things (though I'll still make some things with tofu, just strategically hidden). I'm not asking you to do my homework (okay, I kind of am), just give me more ideas.

I'm pathetically a cooking rookie, but I'll tackle anything. Ideally, some simple, fairly quick (or slow but totally worth it) recipes that you think would have success with omnis. Also being in rural Oklahoma means I have limited access to exotic ingredients (...exotic here includes miso paste, tahini, and hummus...and vegan yogurt, and anything else really, you're stuck eating sprayed carrots and corn from a can -- I digress!). If you've got a killer recipe that calls for something less Wal-Mart-standard, there's a Whole Foods an hour's drive away -- I would sacrifice myself for cuisine!

OK here goes. I'm not going to tell you to get fake meats (big surprise) or weird spices (that actually is a big surprise). Use what's in the pantry, and what you can find at any grocery store, and that tastes good and people can easily make, so that when you leave, they may very well be tempted to try their own hand at it. I've discussed this technique so many times, but it's still not getting out there, so I'll keep at it till it does.

Start with vegetables of any kind. Get them into equally sized pieces. As long as they're the same size (roughly) you should be fine. Get a dish, and pour in some spices that you have. Paprika is good, dried herbs like basil and sage are both really good, and if they have curry powder, seasoned salt, chile powder, mrs. dash, or any other herb or spice blend, be lazy and use that instead. Add a bit of salt (to taste), a bit of black pepper, and oil. Mix the oil and spices together. Then, toss your vegetables in the spices and oil, and bake at 350 for 20 minutes, or until tender. Check them at 20 minutes, and if they're not tender yet, let it go for another 10. Then check every ten minutes or so till it's done to your liking. Quick cooking veg, like courgette or squash or dark leafy greens without stems (you heard right--this works for leaves too) can take as little as 15 minutes. Long cookers, like whole potatoes, yams, butternut squash, or sweet potatoes, can take as long as 1 hour. Most vegetables, like broccoli, cauliflower, dark leafy greens with stems, carrots, rutabaga, daikon, and other such high-water vegetables will take about 25 - 30 minutes.

I do not kid you when I say that the smells are fantastic. If you are going this route for dark leafy greens, go ahead and put some foil over the baking sheet, so as to allow the greens to steam themselves, and prevent drying out. While you're at it, don't make just one variety. If you have a bunch of different things, and you make the same (or different) spice and oil combos for each one, and bake them in their own little dishes, and then serve a side of rice and beans, you've got a very filling meal going down, with very little effort.

With just this basic technique, you're hitting gluten free, soy free, nut free, and pretty damn near every other allergen free, barring the freaky ones that people make up to be unique and special. And it's easy. And it's low in fat and calories. And it smells and looks fantastic. AND it works for frozen or fresh vegetables. You heard me right. Frozen works fine too. Just avoid tinned veg.

To round it out (with the beans and rice as mentioned), sautee some onion (a medium one, diced is great) in a bit of oil. When the onion turns brown, throw in some of those herbs and spices you used for the vegetables. If you have access to curry powder or turmeric, throw in a bit of that as well to make lovely yellow rice. Then, throw in the rice (about 2 cups), and toss it through with the onions, oil, and spices, until the rice gets toasty, and smells slightly nutty. At that point, dump in a tin of beans of your choice (with the liquid) and wash out the tin with water, and pour that in as well. Then add one more tin's worth of water, and let the water all come to a rolling boil. Turn down the heat to a simmer, slam on the lid, and let it cook slowly for 20 minutes or so. Turn off the heat after 20 minutes, and let it sit there with the lid shut for 10 minutes, while you do other stuff. This is 10,000 times easier in a rice cooker, as you just have to dump everything in, and hit the start button. If it's not cooked enough, let it cook longer over low heat, with some extra added water. If you're using brown rice, increase the cooking time to 40 minutes.

He said that it seems quite doable, and accessible. Anyone else agree?

Things just work anyhow.

We made some overhauls to the way that we're presenting information in the menu. However, I had /just/ sent the print shop one about a week or so ago, and didn't fancy getting on the phone again to have them update it AGAIN. So I called over to the print shop and asked them to do another run of 250 take-away menus. He said sure, and that he'd have them ready shortly.

Only to call me back about 5 minutes later, apologising, and saying that they'd just gotten a new computer, and all the old files are bonked. "Can you please re-send the menu to us via email?" I said, "Certainly! No problem at all."

09 July 2009

Mid Week Feast

Kale with coconut milk, curry powder, and scallions. I put the beets in there to cook, because the greens were done too fast. Baked at 350 for 45 minutes.

Broccoli with coconut oil and sesame seeds. Tossed in a bit of cumin powder and turmeric powder. Baked at 350 for 20 minutes.

Beet greens, stewed in a bit of water and their own juices. Seasoned with ginger and garam masala. Baked for 25 minutes.

Snow peas with ginger and mint. Tossed in a bit of oil, and baked for 20 minutes.

Rasam. It's in the book.

All said and done, the prep time took the longest, because washing and chopping all those masses of vegetables in a tiny kitchen can take some time, but after it was all put together, it took five seconds to dump everything into the oven. That was well worth it. If you were making this for two people eating one meal, it would only take like 10 minutes of prep, and then dump everything in the oven. The broccoli and snow peas may be done in the microwave, if you wish. The beet greens as well. The kale really needs the oven to develop proper flavour. I didn't get to see the kale finish cooking, because I had to leave for work, so I asked Steve to turn off the oven when it beeped. He said it was fantastic.

07 July 2009

Caught something.

I seem to have caught a bug from somewhere. Ugh. I hate this. I threw on some ginger and water to boil on the stove, and then added a bit of salt and miso to it when it had boiled for about two minutes or so. Then in went a bit more salt (yes, I like salt), and chugged that stuff down until my throat didn't feel like it was trying to choke me from the inside. It worked for a while, but for some reason, I forgot to add any lemon to that stuff, to boost up the vitamin C. Next time, I think I'll do that.

Ye gods, please let this pass through quickly. I don't really do too well when I'm sick. I get whiny and hermit-y.

05 July 2009

Food from Saturday feast.

I like to have people come over on Saturdays for lunch, which often stretches throughout the day, and I figured I'd share what we made. Click the small pictures to make them bigger, and get a closer look. Everything came out fantastic.

01 July 2009

Mid week feast.

I don't know if this will become a regular feature, but I guess I'll give you guys a peek at this week's mid-week feast. It's a special cooking I do during the middle of the week, to lift up my spirits (because I love to cook), and Steve (because it gives him something of a change, and makes the house smell nice). This week's mid-week feat was simple, but tasty.

I had a few yuccas lying about, along with a few heads of cabbage, some onions, a lot of garlic, some tomato, and sweet potato. I peeled and chopped up the sweet potato (1 large one) into large (about 3 cm cubed) pieces, and set it in a pot of cold water. I set it onto the stove to boil. While that water came up to heat, I peeled the yucca, and set that in a pot of cold water. Set that on the stove to boil as well. Then, I chopped up 1 1/2 heads of cabbage, and the onions I had left. Then I minced up a head of garlic. I then got to cooking. By the time the onions, garlic, and cabbage were prepped, the sweet potatoes were just tender.

That's when the magic started to happen. On went some oil into a screaming hot skillet. In went some mustard seeds, cumin seeds, and sesame seeds. In went a bit of coconut oil, to fortify the smell and taste of the Canola. The house started to fill up with the heady aroma of the coconut oil, and the lovely spices. In went the sweet potatoes, a hefty hit of salt, and a bit of turmeric, black pepper, and cinnamon. I rounded it out with a good scraping of nutmeg.

I then continued to cook the sweet potatoes until they developed a rich, decadent crust on them. They browned every so nicely. I had to drop down the heat to medium low, and let them sit for a few minutes to move them around, but so what? The crust was developing. Then, I finished it off with some garlic, onion, and flaked coconut. That only boosted the smell even more.

By that point, the yucca was done. So I drained that, and chopped it up. In that same wok, I threw in some more oil, mustard seeds, and cumin seeds. When they popped, I dumped in the cabbage, along with some salt, and black pepper, and some red chili flakes. I sauteed that around for about ten minutes. That went off the heat into its serving bowl.

Finally, I had the chopped yucca, some tinned beans, the rest of my onions and garlic, and a hankering for a hearty stew. In went the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, and coriander seeds (crushed) with the screaming hot fat. In went the onions and garlic. When they browned, I threw in one tin of drained and rinsed black eyed peas, and a tin of pink beans (with the liquid it came in). I sauteed the beans around in the hot oil and spices, and slated it generously. Then in went the yucca, the yucca's cooking liquid, and some red chili flakes. The smells got even more heady, as the yucca cooked up, and the spices got more aromatic.

While this whole thing was going down, I had a pot of rice going in my rice cooker. All said and done, it took about 40 minutes from start to finish. Hope this inspires some of you to try your own mid week feasts.