I HAVE BEEN cooking for over a year now and am on the verge of quitting it completely because it is highly stressful for me and also a fucking waste of my time. I am to be served and fed, not to lose my jet-black hair over how much salt to add. “Add salt to taste” tells me nothing, so I’ve almost always added either too little (that was easily fixed) or too much.
What I’m sharing is a recipe of the most comforting food I’ve eaten: tameta nu shaak. My mother and grandmothers used to make this at least once a week and I’d always shown my appreciation by wolfing it down with several chapatis (rotlis in Gujarati, 13 is my record) slathered with ghee, followed by a bowl of rice with dollops of ghee on it. I would then drink several glasses of cold salted buttermilk.
Ghee is not vegan; I can’t even stand the smell of it anymore and it comes from tortured, enslaved, exploited cows and buffaloes, so don’t eat it. Ghee is also extremely unhealthy as is dairy in general, and just look around at all the “pure vegetarians” sick, fat and crippled by disease caused by their own eating habits. Buttermilk is not vegan either and is a byproduct of animal exploitation, but I still love buttermilk, so I make dairy-free buttermilk (I’ll post the recipe someday) when I’m really in the mood for it.
So here’s how to make this tangy tomato curry:
Heat two tablespoons of oil in a kadhai, add ½ teaspoon of cumin seeds and ½ teaspoon of mustard seeds and let them crackle. Then add ¼ teaspoon hing (asafoetida) and stir for 30 seconds because you have nothing better to do, and then throw in ½ kg of diced tomatoes, add ½ teaspoon turmeric powder, 1 teaspoon coriander powder and ½ teaspoon cumin powder. Now add a few small chunks of jaggery, exactly 1 teaspoon of salt (not “to taste”, motherfucker – exactly one teaspoon) and let this whole business simmer for a while. When the tomatoes are soft and the aroma is in the air, you’ll know this shit is ready, but stir it about for a bit if you want to feel important.
There’s no need to top it with sev because there’s no need to make things crunchy and you’re no Tarla Dalal, so shut the fuck up and keep stirring.
Now serve it hot with chapatis or rice to four people or give them the finger and eat it all yourself. Fuck them. You’re vegan and you deserve a tall glass of cold salted vegan masala chhaas with this vegan/vegetarian/Jain/halal/kosher soul food.
Is Metallica back? We won’t know until we hear the full album because the title-track of Hardwired… To Self-Destruct is the band doing everything that made them great, but like Death Magnetic it does sound like they’re trying too hard to invoke the fire that was doused long ago.
Of course the ‘Tallica can write amazing songs; they have a whole bunch of them even in Load and Reload but surely we don’t expect a group of men who have already achieved everything they wanted and a lot more to have anything other than personal pain to make songs about. Hey, what kind of angst about what’s wrong with the world would you write about if you had a fucking big house with vintage cars and spent a lot of time in your swimming pool with fancy cigars and the finest alcohol and everything else money can buy?
I don’t grudge Metallica their success; I fucking love them more than anybody else I know, but I also recognize soulless music when I hear it. It’s not hard to tell when a band is pretending to be affected by or even concerned about problems that’ll never touch them. I catch Indian metal bands bullshitting all the time, and hell, even Slayer has written some laughable lyrics. Kerry King concerned about oil wars, really? Even Megadeth gets tiring with Dave Mustaine singing way too much about politics than he should, and he’s another dude who really needs to go vegan.
So what does Hardwired have? The riffing from Kill ‘Em All with the sound Metallica is now known for. They’ve pumped themselves up and Kirk Hammett has been made to play a solo that makes me wonder if it was Megadeth’s latest album that made these four want to see if their old fans would come back if they did this. The lyrics are terrible, as if they were written by James Hetfield’s clone in Mumbai who doesn’t deserve more of a mention than this. Read the lyrics and you’ll see them pissing on Fight Fire with Fire, perhaps trying to extinguish that as well.
I’ll take Low Man’s Lyric over Hardwired (and Lords of Summer – ha!) any day, but I look forward to the new album anyway; if nothing else it’ll make for a few more conversations about the Big 3 (Anthrax has no place in a discussion about great bands) over several glasses of whatever you drink.
NEVER HAVING EATEN BENGALI FOOD anywhere except The Calcutta Club, one has nothing to compare this quaint little restaurant in Oshiwara with, but what one can tell you is that Bengali cuisine is now one of the few one can seek comfort in without having to think. There aren’t many restaurants in Andheri that offer a soothing dining (or lunching) experience, and you know when you walk into the small place that you immediately want to be seated; the framed black-and-white pictures of old Calcutta are there to make Bengalis homesick, but they also charm you, the non-Bengali person, and as you wonder what it must be like to have been there, lived there, known that world, your eyes fall on Satyajit Ray smoking a pipe while playing a piano and on a poster of one of his movies starring Uttam Kumar and on a still from an Utpal Dutt film and suddenly it is no longer just about the food.
BUT IT IS THE FOOD for which you go back to The Calcutta Club, either to try a spicy gravy with the laccha paratha because you decided last time that next time you’d steer clear of mustard-based curries, or to eat the shukto (the delightful mixed vegetable curry) with a luchi (puri in Hindi and Gujarati) or four, or to wash down the vegetarian starters with countless glasses of aam poro shorbot (aam panna in Hindi, baflo in Gujarati) or to avoid the overrated alu posto (cooked with poppy seeds, they say, but it’s puri bhaji and that’s all it is). Yeah, most of the vegetarian dishes are vegan, and the loochees (poorees) are fried in oil and Bengalis use a lot of mustard, so you can have a cruelty-free heart attack at the age of 40. Everything about The Calcutta Club feels authentic, and one is amazed to sense it without knowing anything about the food or the culture beyond that much space, and the restaurant is adored by Bengalis who are amused at how much you appreciate it and by other non-Bengalis who never seem to mind going back to “that nice Bengali place.”