Celebrating my past

0001

Hello everyone,

Here’s an article I recently wrote for an online women’s writing website.

Sometimes looking back, helps you move forward!

Thanks for reading and be well.

An Intangible Legacy By Meera Ekkanath Klein

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Aunts and other relatives, Blue Mountains, Book clubs, Book Launch, Celebrations, Ekkanath family, family, grandmother's wisdom, Kerala, Matriarchy, matrilineal, mother's kitchen, multi-cultural, my mother's kitche, My Mother's Kitchen: A Novel With Recipes, new traditions, Nilgiris, our past, reading, remembering our ancestors, South India, South Indian, Uncategorized, women writers, writing

Interview Time

Hope everyone is staying well and sane!

And I hope all of you have bought a copy of my latest novel. If you haven’t made up your mind, here are a couple of good reasons to do so!

First, my publisher Homebound Publications is having a sale on both books. So check it out

https://homeboundpublications.square.site/

And reason #2 is my fun interview with best-selling author Stephanie Storey

She made me look good and sound coherent! Please share this with your family and friends. Thanks for spreading the word.

Happy Reading, everyone. If you’ve enjoyed the books, be sure to post a review on Amazon and Goodreads. Thanks to those of you who have already done this! You are so appreciated.

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under author interview, Book Birthday, Book Club recommendations, Book clubs, Book Launch, Stephanie Storey, Uncategorized, YouTube

Today is my book’s birthday!

9781947003675-2-2

This book baby’s birthday is May 5, 2020

Help celebrate by my book’s release by buying one (or more) copies to give to family and friends. This book is the perfect gift for Mother’s Day or any day! It is also the perfect summer reading–tasty and satisfying like a good ice cream cone.

Seeing Ceremony, a feel-good, stand-alone sequel to the award-winning My Mother’s Kitchen: A Novel with Recipes, is all about family, love, good food and finding one’s way back home.

Author Louise Miller (author of The Late Bloomers’ Club and The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living), says this about the book, Seeing Ceremony is a rich coming of age novel, full of myth and legend, romance, and the heady tastes and   scents of India. It is a love letter to both place and family—the ingredients that make home home. Meera Klein is a natural born story teller—I felt as if I were sitting at the kitchen table as she told me this story—and Seeing Ceremony is truly a feast for ALL of the senses. A true delight.”

The book is now available on Amazon, B&N and Homeboundpublications.com. I hope you’ll pick up a copy of my book and let me know what you think. If you enjoyed this book, please write a review on Amazon and Goodreads. These reviews help both the author and other readers. Links provided below.

Amazon

B&N

Indiebound

If you are part of a book club, please consider Seeing Ceremony as your next read.

Best wishes to you and your family. Stay safe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under amazon review, Book Birthday, Book Club recommendations, Book clubs, Book Launch, book review, Careers, Celebrations, cooking, family, Indian Fusion, Kerala, media, multi-cultural, my mother's kitche, Nilgiris, Personal experience, published, reading, recipes, Seeing Ceremony, South India, South Indian, spring, renewal, Summer, Uncategorized, vegetarian cooking, writing

Contemplation at the Kitchen Sink  

May 2020

“For fast-acting relief, try slowing down.” Lily Tomlin

When does a chore become a relaxation tool?

I was a little surprised when this happened to me. A couple of weeks ago, our dishwasher died and so I started doing dishes by hand.

For the first few days, I rushed through this task wanting to finish as soon as possible.

But slowly, a funny thing happened at the kitchen sink. I found myself slowing down and taking my time. The more I paid attention to the endeavor at hand, the more I found myself relaxing.

A close and wise relative of mine was always reminding me to slow down and take my time and so I thought I knew how to do this.

But now I discovered something new: Slowing down made an unpleasant chore, enjoyable and satisfying.

I found harmony in the kitchen sink and soon a pile of dirty dishes was no longer daunting.

Just don’t tell my husband because eventually I’d like a new dishwasher!

OTHER EXCITING NEWS:

May has always been a special month in our family. Twenty-eight years ago in May I became a mother and celebrated my first Mother’s Day. That first one was extra special because my mother was with me. She took care of my newborn so I could go out and get a pedicure, neck and shoulder massage and a haircut. It was one of the most unforgettable days of my life as a new mother.

On May 5, there will be another baby in our house. Before you jump to conclusions, this one is a book. Yes, my next book will come out into the world soon. I’m excited and happy to share this latest novel with all of you.  The book launch video will be posted on my website and I hope you all watch it and support me by buying a book or two. This book will be the perfect Mother’s Day or any day gift for a loved one.

Leave a comment

Filed under amazon review, Book Birthday, Book Club recommendations, Book clubs, Book Launch, book review, family, harmony, meditation, mindfulness, multi-cultural, my mother's kitche, Personal experience, pots and pans, reading, Seeing Ceremony, Uncategorized, writing, yoga, stretching

Celebrate with me!

This photo was taken a couple of years before his death. Here Duke is enjoying the New Year display. He’s gazing into his wise brown eyes and hoping the wrapped toy is his on the far side of the table!

April 2020

Has the mid-April blahs and stress got you down? Then I have a suggestion for you!

Join the millions of people from Kerala (and me) and celebrate the start of a New Year on April 14th. It is a simple ritual that will ground you and bring balance to your life. A note: While the celebration is linked to Hinduism, you don’t have to be a Hindu or even believe in God to share in this timeless ceremony.

So this is how you can get started:

On April 13th evening do the following:

  • Set a small hand mirror or a larger one on a small table. Use a dresser with a built-in mirror, if you have one.
  • Use a nice table cloth if you want. Totally optional.
  • Add a blossom, even a sprig or branch will suffice. Yellow is auspicious for this festival.
  • Next, raid your pantry for beans, lentils or rice. Place some of each in a measuring cup or fancier cups, if you have some. One cup (or less) of rice and one cup (or less) of bean/lentil is all you need.
  • Look at what fresh vegetables and fruits you have available. An orange, an apple, a banana, a bunch of kale, a butternut squash? You just need one of each, something to represent a fruit and a vegetable.
  • Do you have some change? A few dollars, some quarters? Add them to the table
  • How about a piece of jewelry? A pair of earrings or a ring? Arrange them on the display table.
  • Are you missing someone, a family member, a friend? Place a photo of them on the table. My table will have photos of my mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and a special uncle.
  • You will need a candle and some matches.

You have now created Vishu Kanni or New Year display.

On the morning of the 14th, get up and before your morning coffee (yes!), wash your face. Light the candle and sit in front of your display, if possible.  Look closely at the flower or sprig, the fruits and vegetables, the grains and legumes, the nice table cloth and the coins and jewelry. Look at the photographs of your loved ones.

As you gaze at the kanni, you are welcoming everything that is good into your life and future. Finally, look at your reflection in the mirror. All that is marvelous and wonderful is reflected in your eyes. Look deep into your eyes until you see the glimmer of hope and light that is in you. Invite all that is positive, prosperous and amazing into your life and into the lives of your loved ones.

You have now observed and welcomed in a new year, Kerala style. Happy Vishu 2020!

4 Comments

Filed under Celebrations, dog's life, Happy Vishu, Kerala New Year!, Indian celebrations, Kerala, multi-cultural, my mother's kitche, new traditions, Nilgiris, Personal experience, remembering our ancestors, South India, South Indian, spring, renewal, Uncategorized

Christmas Memories

December 2019

Our memory of childhood traditions is what makes holidays so special. A unique ornament or the heady aroma of baking spices or the sound of laughter can evoke joy and poignant reminders of our past.

Growing up in India we celebrated a variety of holidays: Kerala New Year (Vishu), Harvest Festival (Onam) and Festival of Lights (Deepavali), but Christmas was not one of them.  However, thanks to our neighbors my family experienced the warmth of this special day.

It was the late 1970s and we were living in the hilltop town of Coonoor in the beautiful Nilgiris or Blue Mountains of south India. Our neighbors were Christian and invited us to attend a Christmas Eve mass at the local church. At first we were a little reluctant to celebrate a holiday in a church, a place we normally just passed on our way to school. As Hindus would this be an appropriate thing to do?

After a bit of thought, my mother had the answer. She held up her right hand and spread out her fingers.

“Pretend each finger represents a religion,” she said “The thumb is Hinduism; the pointing finger is Christianity and so on.  Each finger is part of the whole, the hand. Just like the fingers are united by the hand and merge into the wrist, I believe in the end all religions come together to become part of the supreme source.”

She added, “That’s why fighting about religion never made sense to me.”

So we accepted our neighbors’ invitation to the Christmas Eve celebration. The warm glow of candles, the scent of burning incense and the sound of Christmas carols (sung in the local language) became a part of an unforgettable experience for us. Later, our neighbors shared a plate of holiday cookies. Christmas that day tasted of nutmeg-spiked crackers, fruit cake cookies with candied lemon peel and the unique Kerala rose cookies or achappams. My sister and I savored the different and exotic flavors as the church bells rang.

My taste buds and heart still sing when I think of those long ago memories. Some things you never forget.

Wishing you all a holiday season filled with unforgettable memories! See you all in 2020 with exciting publishing news.

6 Comments

Filed under Achappams, Blue Mountains, Celebrations, Christmas, Christmas Cookies, Christmas Eve, church bells, family, howiholiday, Indian celebrations, Kerala cuisine, meditation, multi-cultural, Nilgiris, Personal experience, South India, South Indian, Uncategorized

A Cook’s Best Friend

November 2019

For those of us cookbook lovers, a recipe book is an old and faithful friend with a million memories trapped between the stained pages.

Long before the internet, we “old” cooks depended on cookbooks for ideas, measurements and recipes.

Sometimes a (cook) book is a life-changer. The Laurel’s Kitchen cookbook was a pioneer in promoting vegetarian cooking. Even though it was first published over 40 years ago, the message and recipes never fail to inspire. In fact, I recently made homemade hummus and used the seasoning technique for “Soy Spread” from the book. The result was a totally addictive and tasty spread. Some things just never age!

Whenever friends or family see me in the kitchen, they always want to know whether I received professional training. The truth is I learned by watching some very talented cooks. Laurel, Gale, Sultana, Sarah, Sandra, Diane, Carol and many others taught me that cooking was more than just putting together ingredients.

Together we cooked with grace. We washed, chopped, diced, sautéed and boiled with one-pointed attention and mindfulness. I learned that healthy food prepared with love was a selfless act.

A person dear to all of us would gently remind us to “think globally, but act locally.” We followed his philosophy in the kitchen, making sure the vegetables, fruits and grains we used came from local farms and farmers’ markets.

So now whenever I see the familiar deep red-brown cover of Laurel’s Kitchen on my book shelf, it is a reminder that cooking is an act of love, a gift to share with friends and family. This is a timeless and important message to keep in mind during the holiday season.

The Joy IN Cooking:

My aunt (yes, that same one you have read about) gave me my first cookbook in 1986 when I was a young bride. The Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker became an indispensable part of my life. Those early days in Sacramento were lonely with my mother too far away for everyday advice. Phone calls to India were expensive and besides she had no access to a phone. My mother-in-law, Betty, was just a “long distance” phone call away, but at that time I was too shy to turn to her for advice. But Irma and Marion were right there in my kitchen, offering silent advice that I could follow as needed. Their advice came with no strings attached.

The Joy of Cooking was more than just recipes. I learned how to set a table and plan a menu.  Everything a new cook needed could be found in the 800-plus pages from boiling an egg to making puff paste (pate feuilletee) to creating the flakiest pie crusts.

Need a bittersweet chocolate frosting? Look no further than page 679. Recipes for cakes, icebox cookies and even cocktails could be found in this book.

The book is a little worn around the edges (like me) and the spine is held together with tape but that doesn’t really matter because the pale blue cookbook is as dear as an old friend. We have weathered a lot together.

Imagine my delight when I discovered that there was a new and updated edition of this beloved cookbook at a recent visit to the Rombauer Winery (The Joy of Wine). It was our thirty-third wedding anniversary and my husband wanted to buy the book for me and the saleswoman offered the book at a deep discount to as an anniversary gift. How could we refuse? An old companion has a new appearance and I look forward to getting to know this edition. I’m sure we’ll become best of friends soon.

A happy and nourishing Thanksgiving to all. I’m grateful to all my readers.

 

 

1 Comment

Filed under Joy of Cooking, Laurel's Kitchen Cookbook, Rombauer Vineyards, Uncategorized, vegetarian cooking

A fairy tale (of sorts)

11201611_1688945878015830_6287190869846080714_nScan_20190914 (2)Scan_20190914September 2019

Once upon a time there was a young girl who dreamed of adventures. She would look up at the bright blue sky imagining she was flying away in one of those rare airplanes she glimpsed from her hilltop home in the Nilgiris, the Blue Mountains of south India.

It took nearly 20 years but one day she found herself on a plane flying off to faraway California, leaving behind her mother and sister. Under the loving and watchful eyes of her uncle and aunt she thrived. She loved campus life and learning. But one day she met a boy and her life changed all over again.

He looked like he belonged on a beach with blond hair, tanned skin and bright blue eyes but he was actually from New Jersey.

With her uncle and aunt’s blessing, the young girl returned to south India and soon the young man joined her. They asked her mother if they could get married.

The mother was taken aback but quickly adjusted to the idea and soon set a date for the wedding. It was decided the ceremony would be held on September 14, the same day as Onam or the harvest festival. It was a simple ceremony in a humble home decorated with Nilgiri roses and fresh jasmine garlands.

In a real fairy tale the story would end with “happily ever after.” But this is real life and so the young couple’s life was full of ups and downs, laughter and tears, joy and sorrow but 33 years later they are still together. To paraphrase Robert Browning “Grow old with me. The best is yet to be….”

Indian Fusion

We were married 33 years ago because we wanted to but it turned out we were trend setters of a sort. Our house has been a multi-cultural, blended home for decades. Our sons are beige-brown with Indian names. We celebrate Christmas along with Vishu and Onam. So it is natural that our dinner plates reflect our diverse background. We have channa dal on pizza with mozzarella and masala dosa with kale and cheddar cheese.

This pasta dish celebrates my husband’s Italian heritage and love of pasta and my south Indian roots. Sometimes a melting pot truly is a delicious meal.

20190913_151605

Pesto-fused Indian Uppma

This is a very forgiving recipe. You can increase or decrease the amount of pasta and veggies. Add a cup of cooked chickpeas for extra protein. Add thyme, oregano or other fresh herbs for flavor. Use a spoonful of nutritional yeast to make it savory.

1 pound pasta, any type, use chickpea pasta for GF version

4 tablespoons ghee (or vegetable oil), divided

1 tsp. brown/black mustard seeds

2 cups diced onions, white or yellow

1 cup diced pepper, any color

1 jalapeño, diced (optional but the heat is tasty!)

1 heaping tablespoon grated fresh ginger

¾ tsp salt, more as needed

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons prepared pesto (or ½ cup chopped basil, if you don’t have pesto)

1 tomato, chopped

4 cups veggies, any type. I used broccoli, carrots and potato. Turnips, peas, corn, zucchini, asparagus and eggplants are some choices. In winter use squash, sweet potato and root veggies

Optional toppings: fresh basil, dry roasted cashews

Method:

Cook pasta according to directions, drain, reserving ½ cup water and toss with 2 tablespoons ghee.

Meanwhile, heat remaining ghee in a skillet with a top. Add mustard seeds and allow them to pop and turn grey. Immediately add chopped onions, peppers, ginger and jalapeno. Sauté for about five minutes. Add chopped veggies, tomato and salt. Cook, covered, for about 5 to 8 minutes, depending on type of vegetables, just don’t overcook the vegetables.

Remove skillet from heat, add lemon juice and pesto or basil leaves, stir to combine. Use your fingers to separate pasta (if it is sticking together) and add in small batches to the vegetable mixture, mixing thoroughly each time. Taste for salt.

For a fantastic taste sensation, serve with banana raita. Or serve with spicy tomato chutney. Or just eat it plain!

 

 

 

4 Comments

Filed under bride and groom, California cuisine, Celebrations, family, Indian food, Indian Fusion, Italian-Indian fusion, multi-cultural, my mother's kitche, My Mother's Kitchen: A Novel With Recipes, Nilgiris, Northern California, pasta, Personal experience, recipes, South India, Uncategorized, vegetables

Garden meditation

August 2019

“Everything that slows us down and forces patience; everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace.” ~May Sarton.

Our tiny backyard garden is a year-round source of peace and produce.

Gardening is a form of meditation for my husband. He finds solace and joy in pulling weeds, preparing the soil, carefully planting the seeds, watering and nurturing the plants and then harvesting the fruits of his labor.

Harvesting cherry tomatoes or handfuls of fragrant herbs gives him immense pleasure. The fact his harvest ends up on his dinner plate makes the whole process even more satisfying.

I love fresh produce but I admit gardening is not my thing.  That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy our backyard oasis. In the middle of the day, when the lawnmowers and leaf blowers are finally turned off, a warm stillness settles in the garden. The neighborhood children are in school and there is a profound silence all around me.

The warm sun, chirping birds, buzzing bees and an occasional butterfly are my only companions. Some days the peace is broken when a territorial fight breaks out between the mocking birds and the aggressive Scrub Jays. These tiny guardians are fiercely protective of their space.

The bees and butterflies pay no attention to the screeching birds. Gathering nectar from golden sunflowers and purple zinnias is much more important.

As the day warms and the sun’s heat wilts the green basil and the valiant tomato vines, I settle in the shade to enjoy the peace. For me the real harvest is not the produce but the serenity of growing things.

Surrounded by verdant and lush bushes and plants, my breathing slows down. I can feel my muscles loosen and my aches and pains fading.

Northern California’s fierce heat melts away my cares and worries. As my body relaxes my mind calms down. Those annoying thoughts zapping around my brain slowly wind down.

I don’t usually call this meditation but sitting in my little green garden on a quiet weekday afternoon does feel like a moment of deep reflection. Now I understand what my husband finds so tranquil in the garden.

Recently we visited our son in his first apartment. His tiny patio is a little green oasis. I hope he discovers the restfulness of being surrounded by growing things, even if it is just one cherry tomato vine, a single pepper plant and a few herbs.

Making a place for quiet contemplation, a moment of mindfulness and meditation is essential in this busy world. I hope all of you find a minute or two to slow down and breathe deeply.

 

 

10 Comments

Filed under garden, gardening, grandmother's wisdom, harmony, harvest, meditation, Mindful cooking, mindfulness, my mother's kitche, My Mother's Kitchen: A Novel With Recipes, Northern California, Personal experience, Summer, Uncategorized, vegetables

A Condiment Worthy of a Celebration

20190503_170251

May 2019

Recently instead of a birthday cake, my son requested a jar of his favorite condiment—injeepully.

For those who don’t know, injeepully is a tart and tangy combination of ginger and tamarind, and is a must-have accompaniment to holiday meals for the people of Kerala.

This condiment, a true Kerala invention, is said to bring taste buds to life. In fact, there is a saying in Malayalam (roughly translated) that even the simplest meal becomes a feast when injeepully is served.

Now this sauce is not without controversy! The name injee (ginger) and pully (tamarind) is what my mother’s family called the condiment but on my father’s side it was called pullyinjee. After all, what is in a name, especially if the ingredients are the same? Apparently a lot, if you believe my relatives.

But whatever you call it, injeepully is totally delicious and addictive. I remember my first taste of the spicy sauce which set my three-year-old tongue on fire. My father gave me a spoonful of creamy sweet cardamom pudding to dampen the heat in my mouth. So a new favorite flavor combination was born.

My son, now 27, has always had a bold palate. His favorite snack as a toddler was slices of fresh Asian pears smeared with a bit of ripe bleu cheese and topped off with a piece of raw walnut. No pretzels or Gold Fish for this kid.

Along with his favorite injeepully, I also made him fresh mango pickle. We used to call this dish “hurry-up pickle” in our family because my sister and I were always asking my mother to hurry up and finish tempering the mango so we could mix it with rice and yogurt and gobble it down.

Mango pickle is simple to prepare. Peel and dice a green (unripe) mango. Toss the mango with some red cayenne pepper and salt. Temper the pickle by heating a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil and adding a teaspoon of black/brown mustard seeds. When the seeds pop and turn grey, add a sprig of fresh curry leaves and toss the mango/chili mixture in the warm oil. Hurry-up pickle is ready!

The injeepully recipe can be found in My Mother’s Kitchen: A Novel with Recipes. Or you can see my super simple easy version below.

Exciting News: Turns out the doors to My Mother’s Kitchen will once again be open. Look for news about the upcoming sequel in the coming weeks. Find out what happens to Meena and her family.

Simple Injeepully recipe: This is my version of the spicy condiment.

Use tamarind that comes in a block (available in Indian/Middle Eastern stores). Soak a generous knob, the size of a medium lemon, of tamarind in about 2 cups of hot water while you prep the ginger. Once the tamarind is soft, use your fingers to dissolve the pulp and strain the tamarind. You should have about 1½ cups or so of tamarind water. Meanwhile, peel and finely dice some ginger (about ¼ cup). Chop a green chili or two. Set aside. Heat oil in a pan, add brown/black mustard seeds and when they pop and turn grey, immediately add the diced ginger, chilies, a sprig of curry leaves and a generous spoonful of fenugreek seeds. Sauté for a minute or two and then add the tamarind water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. Season with ½ to 1 tsp salt and 4-8 tablespoons of brown sugar. Other additions: Fresh or dried turmeric, a pinch of hing or asafetida.

 

7 Comments

Filed under Celebrations, cooking, family, Indian condiment, Indian food, Kerala, my mother's kitche, My Mother's Kitchen: A Novel With Recipes, recipes, Shopping, South Indian, Uncategorized, writing