Monday, November 23, 2009

Sag Paneer

My fascination with India goes back some 10 years. Joni and I were in the same marketing group at Oracle. We befriended Sharmila - a beautiful ex-model from Bombay, then a Direct Marketing expert living in Fremont (the SF Bay Area's little India) with her arranged marriage hubbie. One of the memorable events of that period was Sharmila's baby shower. Joni and I were the only non-Indian women invited. The twenty or so others came donned in Oscar night caliber saris - rich hues of eggplant, fuscia, turquoise and canary yellow - golden embroidery lining every hem. Sharmila wore a sexy belly-baring hot pink sari with tiny rubies (yes, real ones) pasted across her forehead. Her lips painted red and a thousand bangle bracelets lined her delicate arm. Her friends wore their finest but she was clearly the star. We ate homemade Indian fare - more than 10 varieties of curry, naan bread and other things that tasted amazing but I'd never tried at any Indian restaurant in San Francisco. I felt like a complete toad in my Gap khakis and Ann Taylor blouse. As they encircled Sharmila and talked about their home country I imagined visiting one day with Joni.

In December I'll complete the first year of a three year teacher training program in Iyengar yoga. Part of the course has been a detailed study of yoga philosophy, hinduism, and Indian mythology. Before I became pregnant, I imagined visiting India at one of the many ashrams and of course making a stop in Bombay to visit Sharmila, who has since moved back, had another child and is making a successful career for herself in acting and commercials. I know the right time will come but it will not be this year or next.

For now, I'll continue my exploration of all things India until I get a taste of the real thing. My latest exploration has been of the culinary variety. In October I attended a four week intensive cooking course of Northern Indian food. It was a birthday gift from Hugh which turned out to be more of a gift for him. A long time expat named Juhi led the course from her own small kitchen. There were three of us foodies. Each week we learned how to prepare four dishes. After class we'd gorge ourselves on the leftovers and during the week I'd practice at home at least two of the four new recipes I learned.

In the first photo, I'm in class about to flip over a mung lentil and basmati rice pancake. The second shot is of my first at home effort - a meal of Vegetable Biryani, Spicy Eggplant with homemade yogurt and Carrot Raisin salad with mustard seeds and ginger. The last photo is of my daughter eating and enjoying extremely flavorful and in some cases quite spicy Indian food. My Uncle-in-Law Lee aka Ram Alexander who lives in Assisi Italy and spends three months a year in India says she must have been Indian in a past life. There you have it.

Sunday, November 1, 2009


Today marks the kick off of National Novel Writing Month - (ck out and my real return to writing. My writer's group Thursdays@3 decided to participate this year - meaning each of us will write a novel during the month of November with the support of each other and the org/website that hosts the event every year.

Junot Diaz would be proud of me. It's what he urged me to do - take on an unspeakably bold goal. For someone with no time or energy, writing a novel in a month is a preposterous idea and for that I'm smitten. I have nothing to lose except feeling in my hands when I reach the 50,000 typed word goal in a month.

Today I logged just over 1,800 words (they say about 1600 per day to reach the goal of 175 pages) most written during Valentina's first nap. The rest after I put her down for the night, poured a glass of Merlot and opened a Toblerone. There is no time for perfectionism, editing, overthinking the plot, idea or whether I'm capable. There's just writing every single day for a month on a single project and sticking with it.

Whatever comes out, it'll be worth the effort because I never thought I could.