Category Archives: South Indian

Celebrating my past

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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

 

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Today is my book’s birthday!

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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!

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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.

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A Condiment Worthy of a Celebration

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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.

 

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A bowl of many memories (and uses)

November 2016

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It will never be a collector’s item or be coveted by antique dealers. Yet, this simple bowl holds a special place in my heart (and kitchen).

Receiving and giving stainless steel pots and pans as wedding gifts is a time-honored tradition in India. Thirty years ago, on my wedding day I received a number of pots and pans but this one with its unique design and lid stood out. It was a gift from my aunt Malathi and Uncle Bhanunny. I knew this because their names were etched on the side of the bowl.

When I decided to return to California, my mother insisted that I take this particular bowl back with me. It will be useful, she stressed. Back then I had just discovered the convenience of Pyrex and plastic and thought a stainless steel bowl was old-fashioned and frankly useless. So it was with great reluctance that I lugged it back with me. I packed it away; surely I would never find use for such a thing!

But one day, when my boys were just toddlers, I unpacked a cardboard box and found the bowl. I ran my fingers over the inscription and the names brought back a flood of memories. Mrs. Malathi and Mr. E.B. Unny. I remembered my aunt, uncle and their three beautiful daughters with affection. Perhaps I could find a use for this in my kitchen after all.

So for the past 20 odd years that bowl has become an integral part of my kitchen. I can’t imagine ever being without it.  It was the perfect size for tossing a green salad. I used it to knead homemade pizza dough. It has been used for making cakes and delectable frostings. The bowl was just the right size for whipping cream and even mashing potatoes. One year when my son wanted a soccer ball-shaped birthday cake, the bowl became a cake pan. It truly was a bowl of many uses!

So for our Thanksgiving Day feast, the bowl may be filled with roasted root vegetables but what it will really serve will be a huge helping of precious memories. My mother was right, as usual!

THE END

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Shopping is Personal at the Farmers Market

NOTE: Re-sending this because the numbering was messed up in previous column.

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

By Meera Ekkanath Klein

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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