Shopping is a personal experience at your local farmers market!

NOTE: An edited version of this article appeared (August 14, 2016)in  The Sacramento Bee’s Forum Section.

Sorry to be sending this out again, but the numbering was messed up in the previous post.

You don’t need 10 reasons to shop at a Farmers Market

Want to know the tale behind your kale? Or what is the back story on that white nectarine? Well, then you need to visit your local Farmers Market because here every bit of produce has an earthy beginning or a seasonal anecdote.

Our area market is celebrating its 40th anniversary this month and it is a perfect time to visit your local market and make that important connection between food and farmer.

Shopping in south India was an intensively personal experience. We knew the farmer who grew the spinach we used in flavorful dal (lentil) dishes. Everyone knew the Egg Man (with an odd egg-shaped head) provided not only the freshest eggs, but also legal advice on the side.

While I miss shopping in my hometown market in the beautiful Nilgiris or Blue Mountains of south India, I find solace at the Davis Market. Here the personal touch is not lost, it is celebrated. Along with nutrition the melons, onions, leeks and cherries provide a dash of nostalgia.

Top Ten Reasons to shop at a local Farmers Market:

10.Taste before buying. Cheese, bread, apples, peaches and berries are there for you to taste.

9. Variety. Everything from fresh peas to tortillas is for sale. Buy an artisan loaf of crusty bread, a container of eggplant pesto or even a lemon tart. It’s all there at your local Farmers Market.

8. You get to meet the farmer. Shopping at the Farmers Market is a chatty experience.

7. Even kale tastes better if it comes from the Farmers Market. Everything is so fresh that you’ll never eat supermarket produce again.

6.  You can buy a lot or just a single tomato. Choose exactly what you need.

5. Eat seasonally. This can mean a lot of broccoli in winter and lots of corn and tomatoes in the summer.

4. Yearning for days of old? The leisurely pace of shopping at a Farmers Market will satisfy the Norman Rockwell part of your soul.

3. You will never know who you will meet at the Market. A long-lost friend? An acquaintance from Little League days.

2. You will be missed if you skip a Market. If you are a regular customer, farmers take notice and will actually want to know why you didn’t come last week.

1. Forget about politics for a few hours. You may find that choosing a bunch of turnips is more important than talking about Trump or sampling some chili-lime pistachios is better than re-hashing Hillary’s emails.

So no more excuses. Visit a Farmers Market and enjoy the last of summer’s bounty.

THE END

 

 

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Filed under Celebrations, Davis Farmers Market, Fresh fruit, Fresh produce, garden, harvest, my mother's kitche, Personal experience, Shopping, South India, spring, renewal, Uncategorized

Birthday Pudding

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July 2016

Birthday cakes were not part of my childhood celebrations.

But don’t feel too sorry for me. For birthdays, and on other special occasions, my mother prepared a creamy cardamom-spiked pudding. This addictive dessert was the perfect ending to a spicy meal.

There are many variations of the pudding but the main ingredients are rice or vermicelli, milk, sugar, ghee, cashews, raisins and cardamom. A richer version of the pudding uses expensive saffron threads, pale green pistachio nuts and tiny currants.

My mother liked the simplest version and so that is my preference too.

She used Indian vermicelli that was super thin. The vermicelli was broken up into bite size pieces and then toasted in a little bit of ghee. The scent of toasting vermicelli always brings back memories of many birthday celebrations.

Indian cooking (and other types too!) is a multi-sensory experience. My late mother-in-law never used the timer when baking her famous apple pie. She knew by the aroma when it was done and she was never wrong! When you have an instinct for cooking this is easy but for those of us who tend to forget what’s on the stove or in the oven, a timer is essential.

Birthdays meant the scent of cashews frying in golden ghee. Celebrations were never complete without the pungent and heady scent of green cardamom pods being crushed.

My mother only added the smallest amount of raisins (perhaps they were expensive) but it didn’t matter; the finished pudding was always delicious.

We enjoyed our pudding at room temperature or even warm. But if you prefer your pudding cold, feel free to chill the mixture.

You can’t place candles in this pudding, but getting older will be a little easier when you taste a bite of this creamy soothing dessert.

RECIPE

4 1/2  cups whole milk

1 cup vermicelli (Indian is best, but Italian will work too), broken into bite size pieces

1 can condensed milk

4 tablespoons ghee

1 tablespoon raisins (you can add more if you want)

4 tablespoons whole or halved raw cashew pieces

4-6 cardamom pods, peeled and then crushed in a mortar and pestle

PREP:

Bring milk to boil (TIP: Coat the pan with water before adding milk to keep from sticking). Let the milk simmer for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of ghee in a large saucepan and roast the vermicelli until golden brown.

Add the vermicelli to the thickened milk and cook for 6-8 minutes (depending on the kind of vermicelli).

Once the vermicelli is tender, add the condensed milk. Keep stirring and cooking for an additional 2 or 3 minutes. Remove from heat. The pudding will thicken in the fridge and as it cools. If it is too thick add a few tablespoons of warm milk before serving.

In a small sauce pan heat the remaining ghee. Add the cashew pieces and sauté until a light brown, add raisins and keep stirring until everything is golden brown. In a few minutes the raisins should get nice and plump. The kitchen will be filled with a golden nutty aroma.

Remove sauce pan from heat, add crushed cardamom and stir. Add this mixture to the cooling pudding and stir thoroughly.

Enjoy warm or cold.

Warning: Birthday candles will sink! Serves 2-4 or sometimes just one!

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An evening of slow food

It was a party at Samantha’s house on Thursday evening when members of Slow Food Yolo gathered to listen to stories from My Mother’s Kitchen and watch a cooking demonstration.

They watched me prepare feathery light rice dumplings called idlis and Ishtu stew made of ginger, coconut milk and potatoes. There was also spicy tomato chutney and sweet milk pudding with vermicelli and cardamom. What a tasty and fun evening!

http://www.slowfoodyolo.com/

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Summer Reading

My Mother’s Kitchen is one of books listed on the Book Club Cookbook website!

Check it out: http://bookclubcookbook.com/2016-2/#MyMothersKitchen

 

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A Pearl of Wisdom

June 2016

My maternal grandmother had the coolest name: Pearl.

Granny Pearl died in her mid-40s from an untreated benign tumor and her older sister whom we called “Muthi or granny” kept her memory alive with vivid stories about her. Pearl was an accomplished pastry chef and her skill at twirling chickpea pastry dough into perfect circles was in high demand. Her nimble fingers were able to twirl the chickpea dough into a huge circle, in some cases 101 times around, without a single breakage.

The pastry circle was made of chickpea flour flavored with cumin seeds, red chili pepper powder and sea salt. The completed pastry or muruku was air dried and then deep fried for a melt-in-your mouth treat.

As a youngster, Muthi was always reminding me to be more like Granny Pearl. According to Muthi, Granny Pearl was so gentle, compassionate and kind-hearted that even her footprints didn’t leave a mark on the earth.

Apparently fiction writing and story-telling is an inherited family trait!

When I was a child I had no idea what Muthi meant. But now, decades later, I can see the hidden truth in her words.  Granny Pearl left no negative footprints. She was so full of warmth, love and kindness that being in her presence was soothing to the spirit.

I’m thinking a lot about Granny Pearl these days. The world needs more of her empathy and tenderness. Whenever I am dismayed about the state of the world, I try to conjure up Granny Pearl’s humanity. More than a century after her death, she is still remembered for her tolerance.

So when violence and hatred swirls around you, try to be more like my Granny Pearl. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be remembered, decades from now, as a loving and kind person, just like Granny Pearl?

Granny Pearl was wise and aptly named.

An additional note:  My book is so close to having 50 reviews on Amazon and apparently after 50 reviews Amazon will throw a big party and you are all invited! Seriously, that number 50 is the Holy Grail for many authors. Can you please help me in my quest? A huge thank you to everyone who has already written a review!

 

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Life’s harvest

May 2016

The coriander plants have gone to seed, their snowy heads bowing to the hot sun. The spinach and lettuce are putting up a valiant battle against this unexpected warm weather in May. The okra loves the heat and the plants are already dotted with red-tipped blooms.

In a garden there is no pretense. You can see what is growing (or not). The seeds and plants don’t fight the natural rhythm of the seasons. Change is the only truth, the only constancy.  Here the cycle of life plays out in perfect balance. In a garden the only things that matter are what help plants thrive and so sun, rain, and soil play their part. A garden is a place of constant renewal.

How wonderful it would be if our lives contained that sort of balance, grace and simplicity. In my backyard garden the flowers age gracefully and each season brings its own beauty and color. Decay is part of life. There is so much poetry in the orange poppies and delicate dill weeds. Mere words can’t describe the scents and sounds of a healthy garden. How can hope, elegancy or humility be put into words?

Soon I’ll celebrate another birthday and as I enter the comfort of middle age, I hope my life has some of the grace and beauty of a well-tended garden.  I like to think my life’s garden is bursting with brilliant flowers, bright red tomatoes, purple and white striped eggplants, juicy melons and cool lemon cucumbers. When it is time to harvest, I hope my basket is filled to the brim with healthy produce and fragrant blossoms.

In life’s harvest we truly reap what we sow.

THE END

 

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Book Club Review

Book blogger Kristen Galles of Bookclubclassics says  “book clubs that appreciates beautiful prose, rich culture and tempting treats will love My Mother’s Kitchen!”

Check it out: http://bookclubclassics.com/Blog/2016/04/25/mothers-kitchen-review/

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Radio Interview

Hello All,

I was interviewed by Radio 12 host Anita Ahuja on Thursday, April 21. Here’s a link to the in-depth interview.

http://12radio.com/archive.cfm?archive=3CD0C2F8-26B9-4187-866E6AB5E0E0E084

 

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An anniversary, a poem and Happy New Year!

Hello everyone:

It has been two years since this blog started.  Thank you for reading, commenting and liking! My writing is branching out these days! I tried my hand at poetry and the result was published by Poetry Now on Monday, April 11. Please let me know what you think. The link is below.

Mid-April may be tax season for Americans but for the people of Kerala it is Malayalee New Year. Our family will celebrate this ancient holiday on Thursday April 14 and it is a very special one for me. Our oldest boy has not celebrated this holiday with us for the past five years, but this year he lives close enough to drop by for the morning ceremony.

So Vishu blessings to all my readers. I’m looking forward to another year filled with words, love and blessings, small and large. Happy Vishu!

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Latest article about My Mother’s Kitchen

Hello Blog followers:

Here’s a link to a nice article about My Mother’s Kitchen in Wednesday’s Davis Enterprise newspaper by local columnist and cookbook author, Ann Evans.

Enjoy!

http://www.davisenterprise.com/features/food-and-drink/at-my-table-lessons-from-her-mothers-kitchen/

 

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