A comprehensive guide to eating chaat in Lucknow

Log bohot chatore hote hain,” (people really love to eat chaat) overheard outside chaat shop. Aur Lucknow ke log to kuch zyada hi chatore hote hain (and people in Lucknow even more so). The chaat of this city turns you into one. I think the word chatore must have been coined in Lucknow seeing the love people have here for chaat. It comes from the word chaatna or licking cause you will definitely want to lick clean your plate of chaat, and it’s a socially acceptable practice. The evening plans in Lucknow are made around eating chaat. Shopping is fun here cause you can take a quick chaat break. As a kid my only reason to accompany my mother for shopping was a post shopping treat of pani ke batashe and hot aloo tikkis. For the uninitiated, chaat is sold mostly in the evenings so don’t come to Lucknow expecting to eat chaat in the middle of the day.

Dahi chutney ke batashe at Jain Chaat

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Mushroom and Cheese Tortellini – Calvin & Hobbes: The Literary Kitchen #16

“Creating a life that reflects your values and satisfies your soul is a rare achievement. In a culture that relentlessly promotes avarice and excess as the good life, a person happy doing his own work is usually considered an eccentric, if not a subversive. Ambition is only understood if it’s to rise to the top of some imaginary ladder of success. Someone who takes an undemanding job because it affords him the time to pursue other interests and activities is considered a flake. A person who abandons a career in order to stay home and raise children is considered not to be living up to his potential — as if a job title and salary are the sole measure of human worth.

You’ll be told in a hundred ways, some subtle and some not, to keep climbing, and never be satisfied with where you are, who you are, and what you’re doing. There are a million ways to sell yourself out, and I guarantee you’ll hear about them.

To invent your own life’s meaning is not easy, but it’s still allowed, and I think you’ll be happier for the trouble.”

– Bill Watterson

There are two kinds of people, one who’re Calvin & Hobbes fans and the other who haven’t read the comic at all. About a decade ago, a friend bought a volume of Calvin & Hobbes comics which I read cover to cover; I have been a fan since then. For the uninitiated, the comic is about a 6 year old boy Calvin and his stuffed tiger Hobbes created by Bill Watterson; as far as Calvin is concerned the tiger is real. The comic is a satire taking pot shot at politics, the consumer culture of America, rat race and life in general. Much of it is creators own thought process and in that quote above he has pretty much summed up his idea of life and success.

So what’s this post about? What’s the connection between Calvin & Hobbes and food? Calvin hates food. Not just hates it, he is disgusted by pretty much everything his mom cooks. Most of the times the nonchalant mother doesn’t pay attention to his over the top attempts to avoid food and sometimes she pretends that the food is actually goop from outer space or stewed monkey brains to make him eat (yeah, for some strange reason Calvin digs the idea).

So, the recipe here is Tortellini stuffed with mushroom and cheese and tossed in lemon, butter, and sage sauce.

Mushroom Tortellini, Calvin & Hobbes, The Literary Kitchen

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Phaltan – A weekend getaway in Maharashtra

Around 250 kms away from Mumbai (110 kms from Pune), there’s a small town where the sky is clear blue and vast green hiils till as far as you can see. Located 50 kms from Satara, Phaltan was once a Maratha Princely state of British India ruled by the Nimbalkars, descendants of Naik Nimbaji Nimbalkar. The first wife of Shivaji, Sai Bai belonged to Phaltan.

The drive to Phaltan, although a bit bumpy, is made pleasant with pristine lakes and acres and acres of sugarcane farms, the main crop of the region. On my recent weekend trip (hosted by Jakson Inns), I drove around the length and breadth of Phaltan and the surrounding region only to be enamoured by the sheer beauty of Maharashtra.

Things to do in and around Phaltan

Windmill Farm in Pusegaon

Around 45 minutes drive away from Phaltan, exists one of the most dream-like places in Maharashtra. The windmill farms of Pusegaon can be one of the most romantic destinations in India. There’re huge windmills till as far as eyes can see on top of the hills, clear sky, light breeze and the most spectacular sunset. You can pack some food and drinks and have a little picnic here. If you’re staying with Jakson Inns they’ll arrange a cute picnic basket for you.

There were more than 200 windmills in the region producing enough electricity to supply to the whole Phaltan area.

Pusegaon Windmill Farm, Maharashtra

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Books that have inspired me to travel

“Books are a uniquely portable magic.” Stephen King

And the magic has been transporting me to the most beautiful of lands since I was a kid. I have been shipwrecked on an island somewhere in Europe, fallen off the rabbit hole to find a wonderland, been through many adventures at a school of witchcraft and wizardry, have eaten the most exquisite Wazwan at a Kashmiri Pandit’s house, bought a house in Tuscany on an impulse, and have been young and poor in Paris. And then there are a few books that have actively nudged me to travel to a certain country, city or have a certain kind of experience. In no particular order, listing down a few favourites.

The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss

During summer holidays in my maternal grandparents’ house in Karanpur (in Uttaranchal now), I’ve spent many hot afternoons pouring over every detail of the island where the shipwrecked Swiss family creates a world that’s beyond anyone’s imagination and then spends almost entire life on the island. I would daydream of the tree-house, lying in a hammock, reading a book and eating food that the family started growing in their farm. That kid in me, drinking shikanji and laying on the deewan (bed) with a stack of books, still dreams of being shipwrecked.

Under The Tuscan Sun (Film and Book) by Frances Mayes

I watched the film first and while it’s absolutely unrealistic and completely different from the book, it made me fall in love with Tuscany. A 35 year old recently divorced author finds herself dealing with a writer’s block. She travels to Tuscany and buys an old villa on an impulse and ends up creating a family there. The book is a more realistic account of the author’s life who moves to Tuscany with her partner. Her decision of buying a house is less more impulsive. What’s common in both are the beautiful fruit orchards, bustling local markets, the food that Frances cooks and the enchanting scenery.

 

Strange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami

While a lot of people I know are in love with Japan thanks to Haruki Murakami’s books, my idea of traveling to this lovely country shaped up after reading Strange Weather in Tokyo. While reading the book all I wanted to do was sit at an Izakaya or tiny subway bars chugging sake and eating pickles, dried mushroom, grilled prawns and lobsters with wasabi. A year later I was doing just that at tiny bars of Golden Gai.

Sanjo Kiyamachi at her Gyoza joint Chao Chao in Kyoto

Also read: Going beyond sushi – Eating my way through Japan

The Dalai Lama’s Cat by David Michie

Learning about McLeodganj through a cat’s perspective has probably been my best travel inspiration. I knew I wanted to be at this tiny Tibetan town in the mountains as soon as I started reading the book. When HHC (His Holiness’s Cat – the central character of the book) wobbled her way through the lovely hills, I imagined myself trailing on her paw-steps. I wondered about the pretty book cafes where she would perch herself on top of book shelves. I wanted to sit at those cafes, a book in hand, looking at the Dhauladhar and drinking hot chocolate.

Also Read: Where to eat in McLeodganj

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer

This beautiful collection of letters between Juliet Ashton and the residents of Guernsey Island is the only reason I’d wish to visit this tiny British island which was occupied by the Germans during World War II. The people of the island, cut off from the rest of the country, formed a book club as an escape from the life of scarcity. Like Ashton who eventually traveled to Guernsey and fell in love with the people there, I too dream of being on that island someday.

The high point was when a food blogger from Guernsey dropped by my blog and left a comment on the post I had written for my The Literary Kitchen series.

Also read – The lIterary Kitchen – Potato Crust Pie from The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Shalimar The Clown by Salman Rushdie

While the book is a comment on the partition and Kashmir issue, its the description of the Wazwan meal that made me fall in love with the cuisine and gave me this burning desire of traveling to Kashmir and eating at a local’s house.