Radio silence. Berlin. And the problem that sparked the idea.

Do you hear that?

The radio silence that makes it seem like the blog’s gone dead?

Well, it hasn’t.

I’m coming to you from somewhere high above the Atlantic, as I fly back home. The airplane cabin is dark and quiet. The baby in 24C was crying a while back. He’s fallen asleep. I’ve just a finished a spectacularly bad meal of pack-n-seal biryani. But buckle up, this is going to be a long one.

It would be OK for you to assume that I haven’t been doing much of cooking or baking, and you wouldn’t be wrong. Barring junk-that-will-make-you-slobber-uncontrollably hot dogs and a chicken and mushroom quiche, which I will share with you shortly, I haven’t really spent much time in the kitchen this year. So far.

Remember how we discussed Altertrips over lemon cake? I did promise to share more with you and now is just as good a time as any.

Two summers ago, in 2015, we took an impromptu flight to Berlin. Just because. Fauri, my BFF from Uni (and fellow kebab-lover), was finishing up with her post-grads in Dessau and I was looking for a short break. Germany seemed like an attractive option. Unfazed by the popular consensus about the starkness of bratwurst, my family wanted to come along. And so they did.

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I don’t have to tell you how family vacations are completely different from vacations with friends. It’s the priorities that get you. Hostel vs Hotel. Sightseeing vs Eating. Eating Indian vs Eating local. Walking around all day vs Going back to the hotel for an afternoon siesta.

Luckily, my family’s made up of champs and travel-hungry people.

We booked an AirBnB, a charming two-room apartment in Barbarossastraße, with the tiniest of kitchens and a bathroom that was so narrow, you wouldn’t be able to stretch out both your arms sideways at the same time. The apartment was stacked with its neighboring units and overlooked a cozy courtyard. The coziness and the green of the courtyard was welcoming. However, it meant that neighbors could easily hear you talking if you raised your voice a couple of notches. Toddlers looked up from their playtime and quietly watched us drag our luggage to the first floor.

BERLIN1.jpg
On top of the Furnsehturm. Tickets Here.

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22 hours, 25 minutes

a wet day in new haven

A week before Thanksgiving last year, I packed my winter coat and a few pairs of skinny jeans, cleaned out my bank account and took a very very long flight to New York.

I would like to go on a rant at this point saying how the plans were all last-minute, how the tickets were bought overnight and how I craved adventure so much, that I spontaneously packed my bags and flew off halfway across the world in 22 hours and 25 minutes. Oh, how I wish that were true.

I did exactly that when I booked for Paris overnight during my Spring Break in 2010. But this time was different. All planned. Lists made. Proper clothing packed. Maps studied. Timings synchronized. All signs that I’m finally growing up.

Central Park

Central Park

You’ll have to forgive me though, before you go scroll through the photos and then come back and yell at me, “Where on earth are all the food photos, woman?!”

Well, I don’t have any. Or, I have two. If you count a blurry photo of a humongous piece of chocolate mousse cheesecake from Junior’s and one random photo of my first time having Swiss Miss Hot Chocolate Mix. So, yes. If you count those two, then I have two ‘food’ photos. Go ahead, you can curse.

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sun, interrupted meals, fashion, green juice, bananas

Hello you. Look, the sun came out!

the sun came out

And here are a few things that are good right now:

Laura’s The First Mess. I’m sure you’ve been there, but her caponata panzanella makes me want to take a nose-dive into her food, face first and spread-eagle.

You love food? How about fashion? Yes? Now how about this?

Here’s a bit of genius. A ludicrously green juice out of kale, cucumber, eggplants (for God’s sake!), apples and pineapples.

Floral meringue sandwiches. Is it weird that I want lip-glosses in those colours?

I could trade in my Moleskins for these with their hologram-style covers. Could you?

Davide Luciano and Claudia Ficca’s series on Meals Interrupted. A way to look at food, when a meal’s been unexpectedly cut-off in the middle. Every photo somehow makes you think of what the diners did or did not before and after their meal was interrupted. Were they enjoying it? Were they enjoying each other’s companies? Did they make plans to meet up again? Did they see it coming?

And y’all! Look at what I have in the freezer. Over ripe bananas can only mean one thing.

frozen bananas for banana bread!

lately

I like lists. They make me feel like I’m all grown-up. Even when I never seem to able to follow them to a tee or most of my wishes just stay wishes. Here’s what I’ve been loving lately.

– Breakfasting with my brother. Try the eggplant and tomato hash or the tuna and potato salad.

– Homemade ginger wine for sweltering summer days. For those who are equipped.

– Someday I want to own a community kitchen and host community dinners. Someday. So far I have this for inspiration.

– Bengalis have a particular soft corner for bone marrows. On my to-try list.

– Milk bottle measuring cups from Anthropologie. How cute are they?!

– This bag from Saskia Diez. Repeat after me. Synthetic.Paper.Bag.

– My current crush – Lillie from Butter Me Up Brooklyn.

Have a happy day people!

truffled hot chocolate

I’m sitting on the futon in my persian print socks sipping on a cup of cocoa mocha, still lazed out by a full on English breakfast. Winter’s finally in Calcutta. Have I mentioned that I’ve been in India for the last month…only part of my Christmas break.

But Christmas, although celebrated with a roast chicken, plum cake and plenty of wine here in India….which is invariably followed by a workout at some discotheque with friends on the Eve…..it still does not have a festive quietness to it, that a London-ish Christmas might. The air doesn’t have a chilly bite. The shops are lightly dressed instead of heaving under tinsel. No shiny Xmas trees around…and most importantly, no hot chocolate.

Of course, that does not mean that Indians don’t enjoy hot chocolate…we just prefer nursing a cup of steaming Darjeeling  tea or some very milky coffee. But here goes. I like my hot chocolate, dark, luscious and sprinkled with chilly powder.

Truffled Hot Chocolate

1/2 cup dark chocolate, chopped or dark chocolate chips

1 cup whole milk

1/4 cup sour cream

1tbsp of sugar

Pinch of cayenne pepper or dried red chili powder

Heat the milk and sour cream and sugar together till its starts to bubble up, but take care that the mixture doesn’t boil over. Pour the hot mixture into the serving mug and add the chocolate chips. Stand the mixture for a minute and then stir to combine well. Sprinkle the top with the pepper/chili powder and serve.

on growing up at 27

I’m trying to get away from turning 27.

Yes, it was my birthday on the 6th, Tuesday. And like last year, it was a quiet one.

Now, in my circle, birthdays usually come with a butter-loaded cake, waves of tequila and lots of arse-to-arse dancing. But after my quarter-life crisis drama a couple of years back, I’ve tuned it down, choosing to hang out with my family for the whole day (much preferable, I might add). The craziness is reserved for the next day, when my friends take me out.

Note: the quarter-life crisis drama included freaking out on meeting this 22-yr old co-ed dating a 29-yr old doctor for whom I had the proverbial “hots”.

Yesterday started off with a breakfast-almost-brunch with family and family friends, at Flury’s — an eternal favourite and a classic symbol for Calcutta. A must-visit for anybody who steps foot in the city.

That led to a shopping spree with my folks. Now has always the perfect time to glam up for Christmas.

And against my better judgement, I went for flat shoes. Flat, sequined, ankle tie-backs from Metro. And that was a shocker for my mother, considering the fact that she has never seen me without high heeled shoes in the last 4-5 years. I may not wear the shortest skirts, my face may not be made up 24/7, I may not have the shoulders to carry off a sleek halter-neck, but I would literally sleep & run for errands, in my heels. And I have.

But, I saw these flats on the window and fell in love…more so with the half-suede half-satin ribbon ties than the sequined panels. I guess, I’m going to consider this as my ‘something different’ for this year. The other ‘something different’ would be my departure from red and wine coloured nail varnishes, that I have been faithful to all these years. I got myself some gold luxe.

This is suddenly starting to seem like the more older I grow, the more bling-iness I crave. Yeow.

Anyways, I think I can work these two as my Christmas pieces. For now, just have some sinfully dark brownies I made to start the day.

Under normal circumstances I would go for a rich Fondant Au Chocolat…but these brownies have been a keeper ever since the first gorgeous batch I made during a Slovenia vs England FIFA match last year. Their dense, overpowered with cocoa, with a shot of coffee, addictive and almost a comfort to an ageing 27-yr old.

Sinful Chocolate Brownies

160gm 70% cocoa powder
120gm all-purpose flour
240gm caster sugar
120gm unsalted butter, softened
2 eggs
2 tsp instant coffee powder
A big fat pinch of salt

Pre-heat the oven to 180 deg C. Prepare a 9″ x 9″ tin by greasing the bottom and sides with some butter. Sift the dry ingredients in a bowl. Beat in the butter and eggs, till the lumps disappear and the mixture is thick and spreadable. Pour batter in the prepared tin and level the surface. Bake for 18-20 minutes or till the center is slightly greasy. Cool and cut into pieces.

a hair story

“These are you natural curls?”

“Yes!” I replied, while a total stranger, an Indian girl of about 20-21 years, poked at one of my curls with a finger. Her friend kept staring at my hair with wide eyes.

This is not the first time people have felt the need to tug or fluff my curls for no apparent reason. But this was the first time a stranger had done it. My mother & I were window-shopping in Westfield when I noticed them staring at me from a distance whispering urgently at each other, before they cautiously stepped in front of me and offered nervous smiles. And after paying a complement they somehow felt that it was perfectly appropriate to poke through my hair. It wasn’t that surprising considering how most of my friends had gotten their hair straightened right out of college, and had wasted no time in telling me how it was the best thing they had ever done to their hair.

“What do you use? Any special shampoo or…?”

“Oh no…just stuff from L’Oreal,” I replied. They looked at me with complete disbelief — obviously not believing a word and were pretty sure I was hiding my top-secret hair-care regime.

At their reaction, my mother smirked in amusement. And I knew why.

One constant source of despair during my otherwise highly content childhood, was my hair. I wasn’t allowed to keep long hair, since it required maintenance and serious looking-after. And my mother was absolutely sure I would not be able to commit, in spite of all my promises that I would do everything necessary to keep my hair looking beautiful.

“When you’re in college you can do whatever you want with your hair…colour it blue if you like, I don’t care…but as long as you’re in my house, you’ll keep it the way I want.” And that was her standard line for everything I objected to.

Every couple of months or so, she would literally drag me to the salon and hover over the hairdresser as she/he lopped off whatever little hair that had grown beyond the approved length. All I did, was sit and cry my eyes out. And this continued till I was 17.

When I was leaving for college, her ‘standard line’ seemed like the sweetest advice she’d ever given me. And I took it to heart. Five months into architecture school, I came home for autumn break, fitted with a pair of oversized jodhpuri pants, a T-shirt cut into half horizontally, eyes pasted over with dark make-up and a purple crop of overgrown hair.

It took my mom a whole day to get over everything, especially the fact that her well-dressed little girl had gone all sorts of crazy. It took her even more time to digest how I had cut all my silk shirts (that she had picked out for me lovingly) in half as well.

At the time, going through vodka, college seniors, drawings, building models and fried chicken seemed like the most important things in the world. And maintaining coloured hair seemed like a stupid thing to do. And anyway, I had absolutely no idea how to take care of long hair. For years all I had done was slap on coconut oil, wash it off with shampoo and run a comb through my boy-crop. And suddenly I had long locks which required my attention for more than two minutes. Who had that kind of time?

30 days of vacation, endless lectures from Mom, a high-protein diet, bottles after bottles of mayonnaise and ice-sold water worked their miracles. And I’ve stuck with all that since. Which is probably what I should have told them.