Just-So Indeed!

“What you doing?” I said walking into the squeaky clean kitchen. It wasn’t for nothing that I had knocked myself out for over 2 hours the previous day bringing the house to what I call a livable state again. There is a strain of philosophy in the house that a good home has a certain level of chaos and mess. I sometimes find the homeliness factor gets taken a bit too far for my liking though. That is when, you find me transforming from a mild gurgling stream into a force of nature: I become a steaming river coursing through the hallways cleansing, dousing, stuffing shoes and jackets away from sight, and puffing like St Helens in May of 1980 (about to blow my top in short).

I don’t know what adult-lings and cub-lings in other houses do; but those in my house, exchange discreet stares and with an awkward laugh or two, practice social distancing with an arduous tenacity. Squirrels don’t charge into their holes when the cats are about, with the speed that these cub-lings display. The next morning though, everyone is happy see a contented lioness prowl with a satisfied purring reveling in her clean abode.

“Just making some fresh coffee. ” said the Lion King looking at his lioness with mixed emotions. Should he compliment the cleaning effort and hinge his chances on the good night’s sleep having done its share of the restoring of nerves, or skirt the topic altogether and go in afresh with the fresh-coffee-for-loving-wife angle?

“No…no need to make coffee, I made some filter coffee last night. Should still be fresh! I can use the water for breakfast. ” I said in my briskest taking control of the kitchen voice, and liberally sprinkled some salt into the pot of water set on the stove.

Simba relaxed. Nala seemed fine even after the marathon cleaning session last night. “Well…I’ll make the coffee. Move aside.”

“No…no…it is fresh coffee.”

I suppose if I’d been in the Masai Mara, I’d know how lions handle this sort of domestic spat in the pride-hold. In our household, the Lion King, bravely took a deep breath and said as nonchalantly as possible, as though it were a minor detail, not a big deal at all, you know?
“Oh! I threw out that coffee. ”

I drew myself up. Ready to spring – rally all you will you coffee lovers, but this is ridiculous. What is wrong with coffee that is just a few hours old?!

“Oh my goodness! Must you be this picky and in these times of watchful groceries too!” I said shrewdly playing the Covid card. I was flustered, justifiably in my opinion, unnecessarily so, in the husband’s op.

“Coffee, my dear, needs to be fresh and just-so in order for it to have an effect on the system. Besides, it is my only indulgence.” said he playing the Buddha-card.

“Be Brave Appa! Don’t give up – you like fresh coffee – stand up for yourself. Go Appa Go Appa!” said the cubs watching the unfolding drama with interest.

“Dei! You guys are landing me in trouble now. ” said the husband nimbly moving away from the danger zone with the suavity of gazelles when the lionesses aren’t in a good mood. The man has always had his wits about him.

 

coffee_gazelle

“I’ll make a fresh batch of coffee. Just so indeed.” I said and donned my best sacrificial-women-who-does-everything-in-this-house expression.

The coffee filter gargled and scrabbled its way through the hot water, and the coffee dripped satisfyingly into the container below. I watched it and smiled the smile of expectation. Regardless of the recency of the spat, I must agree that fresh coffee smells good! Could just the aroma have the desired effect to transform the disgruntled into the gruntled?

Moments later, I handed a frothing cup of filter coffee freshly made just-so to him, and went off to make another cup for myself. He was cackling at some joke on his myriad WhatsApp groups when I came back – not surprisingly, it was a wife-joke.

I laughed too, but said, “Really! The number of wife jokes on social media! Why can’t women spend time coming up with husband jokes the same way, huh?! Because we are far too busy making fresh filter coffee for our husbands, that’s why!”

He looked at me, and pulled a Prince Charming smile from his armor, held his coffee cup up for a toast with a grin “That is good coffee! Thank you! ”

I phhooo-shooeyed graciously and made a big show of my sip of c. The first sip felt awkward, but not bad, but the second sip nailed it. This coffee was salty!

“Hey! Anything wrong with this coffee?”

“Nope! It was lovely.” said the husband.

“But it is salty! Did I put salt in the water, and then use that water to make the coffee? Gosh!” I said feeling like a prized ass. After all that show-and-tell about sacrificial goddesses, and stuff, I mean.

“I like my coffee fresh and just-so indeed! How did you drink this muck?!” I said.

“Well, I thought it had a sea-salt flavor!”

“Yes Appa. You tell her! Be brave!” said the cubs again, and I burst out laughing.

“Can I help you with any husband jokes now?” the husband said, looking at my face, and the pair of us laughed so hard that the salt distilled itself out.

The Good-Food Calorie Link-inator

If you stop for coffee in the mornings, there are souls standing there looking like they know they should be there. They obviously did something right to get there, but what to do after that is displayed like a puzzling Exclamation mark preceded by a Question mark on their face. Take a beaker full of coffee and send the brew through a funnel and they will stir and show some spirit. It takes a few minutes, but they eventually get buzzed up as I like to call it and crack open their day.

coffee
coffee

Curious that I should have written this without knowing that is was National Coffee Day.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Coffee_Day

One morning I decided to take the high road on nutrition and scorned coffee & tea with the air of a medieval lord. Yogurt, I decided, is the thing, and headed out towards a solid breakfast. Live cultures,  probiotics with a spot of fresh fruit. I felt like just the thought of it was chasing all those terrible toxins away. I shivered at the thought of caffeinated beverages. It was as I was surveying some grape yogurt that my nose twitched in an alarming manner.

I turned my neck to aid the nose and saw that there was an egg-making section in the place. The husband is a great show-wizard in the art of egg making. He beams at his audience, he instructs, he builds suspense as to how he is going to toss the omelets and catch them. The audience watches bewitched as the omelets fly in the air and then they push the heart down, for it pops up to the mouth with all the suspense.  In a fitting finale, the omelet spatters but mostly lands in the pan. He good-humoredly says,  “Well, almost!”. The admiring audience then cleans away the soggy remains on the floor, the egg-shells are swept from view, and the chef presents his masterpiece.

Why I say all this is because, I don’t know whether you have stood around watching eggs being made. It is fascinating. Also crowded. The populace likes seeing the egg-toss. But that day, the egg making station was empty. So, I made for it and ordered a sunny side up just because I could, with out waiting in line.

The lady misheard me and made me two eggs sunny side up, left them a bit longer than she would have liked and I found myself staring at two fried eggs instead.

You know how we tell our children not to waste the food on their plate because poor children are starving in other parts of the World? In fact, the thing has been drummed into my psyche for so long for so many years that I leave a very clean plate. Maybe it is time for all good men and women to analyze this statement. I did not want any eggs, but landed up having two beaming up at me simply because the line was empty. Now, I could well not waste it because of those starving children.

Never one to raise hands for a breakfast, I felt a bit squeezy. A friend I know told me that mint tea always soothes the squeezy stomach, and so there I was with the kettle and teabag at the end of it all. So much for turning my nose up at caffeine.

Now, since I did not waste any of the food, all that is required is find a way to transport these calories to the starving poor.

“Do you hereby consent to transfer your breakfast to this starving, poor, poor child ?”

“Yes I solemnly do.”

Good Food Link-inator
Good Food Link-inator

Off the calories go zipping through the Good-Food-Calorie-Linkinator to nourish the child. The recipient has a holographic effect of eating the eggs, that trigger good memories depending on how  well the patron enjoyed his calories,  thus physically and psychologically satisfying the receiver. If one has truly enjoyed it, so will the receiver of the calories, and if one has just forked them down like a robotic arm lifting garbage, the receiver does not enjoy it all, and his giver-rating goes down. That way, one can indulge occasionally, and feel good all around.

Sigh! I never see folks skip over to the treadmill because it is empty and exercise. Why do we not exhibit the same iron control with food?

Is it hot yet?

Given that I live in the Bay area, I have grown used to the fact that waiters at restaurants ask you whether you want ‘Water With No Ice’ a term that is so jarring in its construct, that the first few times I laughed every time I heard it. You ask for ‘water without ice’ or you ask for ‘water-@-room-temp’. How do you make water with no ice. Is ‘no-ice’ a thing that you plop into the water? But ‘no-ice’ is nice and like so many other lovable quirks in the USA, I have embraced this one over the years.

Water-with-no-ice however brings me to a question that I am sure has occupied the mind of every attentive waiter in the Bay area at least once. Why are folks who hail from a hot country like India not going in for a cold drink? I’ve wondered this quite often myself. Why are we this obsessed with hot food, hot tea and hot milk, not to mention the piping hot coffee? 

Given how much we enjoy the hot food, imagine my chagrin then when the microwave danced out on us.

On a side note, I wonder whether you notice a trend here. The dryer showed us what it is capable of, the oven hasn’t been on talking terms with us the past year and now, the microwave. (I don’t wish to offend the dishwasher by not dedicating a few blogs to it. It has been begging me to do so with its recent behavior and I have been holding firm thus far, but I may just have to write it up too) All very wearying and worrying and all that. Sigh! Where was I? Yes. The Microwave.

So, one hot evening I walked into the kitchen to make myself a hot cup of tea. The microwave started humming, rotating slowly and the dull lights inside showed me it was working on it. A full minute later, I picked up the cup gingerly expecting it to exude warmth, but it was stone cold. I mean porcelain-cold. It hadn’t done its duty. I gaped at it, and tried again. (Did you expect different behavior when you try the same thing? I see your censorious question and say, “Yes. “ Maybe the heating coil was taking a breather and the gentle nudge that I gave on the bottom of the microwave may have spurred it to act again) However, gentle nudge or ferocious roar, the microwave had retired. As unobtrusively as it seeped into our lives, it retired.

I have lived without a microwave in a very cold place for two decades and I can assure you it is possible. Yet, it is only when it isn’t there that you realize how kindly and painlessly this device helps you lead your life. You put in a cup of milk and a minute later, there you have it: a cup of hot milk for whatever use you have for it.  Every morning now, there was definite hungama over the coffee:

The milk took its time to boil.

The water took its time to boil

The coffee took it time to drip.

Then the coffee and milk together, was not hot enough.

Ask any proud South Indian coffee drinker and he will tell you that directly heating the coffee dilutes its flavor. (For the record, I see no difference.)

microwave

More than any of that, the microwave knew to stop heating the milk in 30 seconds. The stovetop didn’t. The entire three minutes that I  stood watching the milk, nothing happened and the moment I turned to pick a spoon, a loud sizzle told me that the milk had boiled over. Morning coffees were a milk-bath.  They were becoming long-drawn affairs in molly-cuddling the milk, comforting the coffee and  soothing the drinkers. One morning, the mother-in-law, a sturdy lady who has taken life by its horns, could be seen sitting with her hands on her head with the morning coffee routine. Needless to say, the milk boiled over at that very instant and all hands great and small gathered around to help clean the mess.

That was how the husband and I went shopping for a microwave without a penny on us, and still managed to bring a gleaming microwave into the house. (We both forgot our purses at home – coffee-less people do that apparently)

Frothing Filter Coffee

Ask any South Indian Brahmin who loves his coffee about Filter Coffee and you will catch him at his explanatory best. The rambling man starts his coffee train with enthusiasm and stops at no stations – no Sir! Not till he has exhausted his considerable coffee knowledge can he stop. Then, there are those who love the coffee but not really the talking type: the Grunters – these men have produced nothing but grunts as responses all their life, but the filter kaapi makes them blossom. They love it and will show you what grunt love is. I don’t suppose anyone has spent any time studying Grunt quotients (they should), but if they did, they’d notice some grunts have a certain amiability to it, while others are clearly signalling you to shup up. I digress to the topic of Grunters when in fact I want to talk about Filter Kaapi.

Point being that I am married to a coffee lover. While he does not insist on his cuppa in the morning, I can see the joy he gets when he spots a steel tumbler full of the frothing filter coffee.

I don’t blame the process. It is designed to titillate the nostrils and get even the non-coffee lovers to get just a little interested. That is why I put up with it. The coffee filter I mean. I will say this though – That blasted bit of twisted metal is designed to test the limits of patience on Gautama Buddha.

Before I get him the coffee frothing at the top like this:

I am frothing at the mouth like a bear whose honey comb just bit him:

By the time the coffee made its way to his mouth, I have only sustained the following injuries:
1) Slopped burning water over at least one finger
2) Spoilt my dress with a teeny bit of the mucky mixture that is coffee powder and chicory and boiling water.
3) Burnt my fingers while trying to dislodge the top portion of the coffee filter with the bottom portion
4) Bruised my ego with the fact that I can’t make coffee without making the kitchen counter look like a war zone when I can pull off whole meals with half the mess.

Here is the process: (For those interested : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_filter_coffee)
1) Wiggle nose at coffee powder
2) Take a bit of coffee powder and put it in the top portion of the filter.
3) To be truly successful, one must never be complacent and so it is with the coffee filter. If it sits smugly on the bottom, it won’t drip. So, it has to ‘sit on one butt’
4) Then take scalding water and slop it down over the top and half close the filter. Fully close, and the top part may get comfortable. Make sure that the lid will get some of the mucky mixture to spill over (onto your finger holding the filter preferably).
6) Gently tap a number of times with a spoon till you hear the steady drip-drip from within. If you don’t hear the drip-drip sound, holler at anyone talking in the near vicinity to keep quiet and try again.
7) The flaming coffee decoction is now ready. You can now use the liquid in the bottom to make coffee. But before that, you have to surmount the task of holding the insanely hot filter with a deathly grip and twisting the top and bottom portions.
8) If you are sufficiently undamaged after this, just pour this and some milk to prepare coffee.
9) Wipe that grimace from the face and give coffee.

I like Tea.

Help! Hindu God of Olympics!

I know why India does not win the Olympics. Hinduism, for all its openness and boasting of having over 3000 gods does not have a Major God for Sports. A random page says The God of Sports is Lord Subrahmanya.

http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Who_is_Hindu_god_of_sports
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murugan

A Mythology refresher: Subrahmanya is the one who was challenged to a race around the world thrice against his brother.(http://hinduism.about.com/od/lordganesha/a/Ganesha-Tales.htm)

Subrahmanya had a peacock and flew off, while his pot-bellied elephant brother had a mouse to run around the world. Long story short, Subrahmanya and his peacock lost the race to the elephant brother and skulked off to brood at a hilltop in Tamil Nadu. (I don’t know why Wiki answers proclaims him to be the God of Sports) Anyway, I thought the Lord Subrahmanya was only famous in Tamil Nadu, which is famous for idlis, filter coffee and curd rice (none of which are exactly high up on an Olympic sportsman’s diet you will agree).

In other news, Karnataka is in drought and Rs. 17 crores have been set aside for drought relief. When it comes to drought relief, what are the measures you can take to alleviate the water problem? Illogical solutions to this question will not be tolerated easily.

Think.

Right answer: 17 crore rupees is being set aside for performing pujas at temples across the state to entice the rain god to perform in the State. Nobody is gullible enough to spend all that money on one temple: 34000 temples across the state will perform the same puja on the same day and rain will come.

http://www.ndtv.com/article/south/karnataka-temples-to-hold-prayers-for-rain-today-bill-will-be-17-crores-248142

Now you see why we need a famous God of Sports having at least 34000 temples? If we had set aside an Olympic Coaching Fund and organised a prayer to appease the Sports God at the same time, while feeding our athletes curd rice and idlis, we might have won the Olympics. Alas! Hinduism in 5000 years did nothing towards this end and we are forced to pray to Gods who have to cut themselves free of their main task and take on Sports overtime.

Olympian Diet
Olympian Diet

What’s an Indian Olympic Athlete to do against these enormous odds?