Monthly Archives: November 2014

Playing with food

I love books that influence the state of my mind and the state of my being. When I’m reading such a book, I can slowly feel it pitching a temporary tent inside my brain – stretching the canvas, hammering the stakes with a mallet, inflating the air mattresses, checking the flashlights, lighting the firewood and so on. Together we make happy campers, spiritually and emotionally invested, till the last word on the last page has been consumed, and then we pack up and go our separate ways.

It so happens that I’m ‘camping’ with M.F.K Fisher’s, “The Art of Eating’ these days and quite predictably, all I am mulling over is food and how meditative cooking, feeding and consuming can be, especially if it is one of your favourite pursuits. From the precise moment when the potent stomach growls of your guests give way to their appreciative ‘ahhs’ as your luscious creations land the table to the prolonged hush with shoulders hunched over plates, ending with loud placid sighs, you know everything’s gone right. It is a process that’s unnerving for the cook to watch, yet immensely fulfilling at the same time.

Chicken Tikka

Illustrated Recipe of Chicken Tikka

However, what you always end up with, after such unnerving yet fulfilling sessions, is at least one curious soul enquiring about the recipe, which I have trouble giving out, not because it’s some closely guarded secret handed down through generations (though this sounds much more dramatic) but because I don’t follow recipes to the T. This explains why I am a sloppy baker. Anyway the thing is, when I try something new, I have the taste of that dish registered in my mind and I gear my ingredients towards that taste while cooking. Yes I look at the recipe for structure and method, but I am not a slave to it. I use imagination, I tinker around and make it my own.

When I say this to the recipe-enquirer who was expecting a list of carefully measured cups, teaspoons and tablespoons, I can see disappointment creeping across her face like dark approaching clouds. To avoid reciting an insipid list of measurements and yet pacify my guest by conveying the message in a tangible and useful manner, I tried illustrating one of my favourite Indian recipes – Chicken Tikka. Well, I had fun! Playing with food has its merits. Hope it goes down well with others.

 

 

 

 

 

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New kid on the block

Shopping, eating, drinking and sometimes gawking at the mind bending architecture of shopping malls is what we relate Orchard Road with in Singapore.

Sitting with a book in a quiet meditative corner isn’t what you particularly come to Orchard for. Well, you can be adamant and try sitting in a cafe perhaps, burying your head in a pile of text, but what you can’t do is obstruct the relentless stream of people gushing in and out through its doors with shopping bags, the drone of their collective orders of latte and green tea jabbing your focus, their hot fervent gossips about the latest bag, gadget or underwear tingling your ears, and their restless animated bodies scuffling to find that elusive ‘perfect’ seat’ making you want to stand up and offer yours.

Library at Orchard Gateway

Library at Orchard Gateway – a section of the wooden theatre-style seating gets sketched here

Well, the good news is, as incongruous as it may sound, Orchard Road – the queen of glitz and glamour, has gained a public library in its armoury. And as soon as we got a whiff of the news, my friends and I rushed to check it out, sketchbooks in tow. Clearly the space wasn’t designed in a hurry – the new kid on the blocks, spanning across two floors, has lot of style and panache! One of the floors have wooden wiggly, wave shaped book racks flanked by a theatre style seating affixed with plug points and lights.

Upstairs has even more interestingly designed seating areas – some with a glimpse of the streetscape, some reminding you of an airport lounge and some cozy and secluded, just the way you want it. Though primarily stocked with design and applied arts books, the fiction and cookbook section is pretty verdant. The book drop off and borrowing points are niftier and there’s a huge section of magazine drawers aligned in straight rows with lush glossy covers staring out at you, giving the impression of a heavily postered wall!

While the Central Library at Bugis, still remains my mecca, this one’s a new favourite. Finally, Orchard Road isn’t all about spending anymore.