Sunday, November 16, 2014

Lost in the warm embrace of .......... Butternut Squash soup!

This is a confession - of the ravenous times with my beloved Butternut Squash soup!

Squash is like that classy, somewhat snooty man who walks around with an air of mystery around him. A hard nut to crack and hard to get hold of, but is all yours once you have him. Likewise, a very delightful vegetable once you get to know it. It takes a while to understand how it blends with other flavors and spices, but once you get there, it can be very generous in wrapping you up in its warmth. Squash is of various types - my favorite being butternut. (Spaghetti squash comes a close second, but that's probably only because I get to eat all the "spaghetti" I want without ingesting refined flour.)

But for today, we shall stick to butternut boy! ;-) 
So, what is it that you have to do get that Butternut going on to you?! Follow the directions below!

- Butternut squash, 1 meduim sized
- Onion, 1 small sized (finely chopped)
- Salted butter, 2-3 tsp or more; be generous & do not substitute with regular oil.
You have not eaten butter until you've eaten this, by the way. The best butter in the world with the best advertising lines you would've ever seen.
Spice it up:
- Salt
- Pepper
- Italian seasoning (optional)
- 1/2 inch fresh ginger, finely chopped/grated (optional; gives a good kick & mellows the "stay in the mouth" feeling of the squash)
- If you like it Thai style/don't want the heat from the ginger/want to dilute the sweetness but keep the creaminess, you can also put 1-2 tsps of freshly grated unsweetened coconut (scrape it at home or buy frozen from an Indian store). 
Note that too much ginger/coconut may be overpowering and may cause the soup to lose its unique buttery creamy flavor, so add little at a time. Taste, test, and decide how much is too much for you.

- Cut the squash into halves and cover it with some oil. Preheat the oven to 400 F and let it bake for roughly 40 minutes. Will take longer to cook a bigger squash. It's better not to overcook it because after a point, the sugars in it will start to melt out of it, leaving you with a flavorless orange lump - and you don't want that happeing!
- Once done, scoop out the flesh & separate the seeds. Some people like to cut out the portion of the flesh containing the seeds while it is raw; I like the extra sweet flesh that covers the seeds so I prefer doing it this way.
- In a medium sized cooking pot, melt th butter and fry in the chopped onion till it easily disintegrates. Add all the seasoning (except coconut if using). let it cook for another minute or two.
- Finally, add the flesh. Mix everything up nicely while turning the heat to medium. The squash is already cooked, so it doesn't need to be cooked again & only the flavors have to blend in together at this point.
- Add the shredded coconut if desired & mix it in.
- Use an immersion blender to liquefy, pouring water little by little to get the desired consistency. Or simply use a regular blender if you don't have one - the only drawback of using a regular blender is that this is a naturally thick soup and hard to clean up around the blades later.
- For garnishing, sprinkle some pumpkin seeds. Or a few coconut shreds. Or maybe leave behind a few teenie tiny bits of squash into the pot and let them burn slightly, and mix them up into the blended soup.

Finally, pour into your favorite soup bowl, go sit on your favorite couch/bed, snuggle under the blankets, and let the soup embrace you with its buttery, sweet, warm, comforting love..... 

The Reality of that Mirage called Freedom!

I want to quit my job.

No, I don't want to quit my job because I hate my job, my boss, or because it gets too stressful or because I feel stranded between some nincompoops every day.

I love what I do, I love the people I work with (especially that extremely cute guy with the cute smile that I DARE not hit on because that would mean tresspassing on someone's property!), and I love even the need to turn into a quadruple Type A personality that comes along with my line of work. It pays well enough to have a decent life yet is less enough to want more, and gives the rush of adrenaline with the safety that a lot of other careers don't give.

But there are times...

When I just want to grab my basics and backpack across Machu Picchu or hike off to Chile. Or medidate in the wilderness of a Costa Rican rainforest. Maybe have a partner to get lost doing all this with, without the need for a distrust-filled legality called marriage.

Throw away my phone into the Atlantic so that I am never found again.

Buid a shack on top of a hill and grow a farm around it. 

Not have to thread my eyebrows or wax my arms all the time. Be able to carry my "just out of bed" hairdo everywhere and on every day of the week.

To be able to get up early mornings to savor every sip of my warm ginger chai. To be able to go through the day without a cellphone and Facebook and Internet. To go to bed every night with a bubble bath and warm fragrant oils to caress my body.

To sit on the porch looking far into the tall trees below reaching for the blue skies above. Or lie down in a meadow, picturing animal, bird, and person shapes out of white clouds hurrying across to nowhereland. 

To be able to watch the first golden rays of the sun glisten on bare skin after spending the night on the roof huddled under a cosy woollen blanket. Ponder over the meaning of life as the sun disappears into the red sky, off to brighten another world. 

Hike across the Amazon to Cape Horn and risk life sailing in a yacht. 

Or just let the mind and heart turn silent and wonder about the silence, patience, perseverance, and strength of the endless ocean. 

Dive to the unmapped floor of the southern Indian ocean.

Kiss a beautiful stranger under an Aurora Borealis in Norway.

So, basically, turn into a freeloading hippie? No.

There comes a point in life when we all start questioning the meaning of our life as we know it, and how we are so deeply attached to the small, false little world we create for ourselves. How our identity is linked to our workplace position, how our sense of pride comes from a preferment, how our social status is dictated by our paycheck, the color of our skin and the clothes we wear, how we box ourselves within the walls of our nationality or creed...

...How it starts to bother us when, all we have to tell the world is nothing beyond all of these and associate these things with our name. There comes a day when the I, me, mine start to feel meaningless and you wonder how and when and why you stopped exploring yourself beyond those four walls and stopped connecting with the real you through the world that is still unseen with our human eyes.

The day we start to wonder will be the day when we end the pursuit of happiness and being the quest for contentment. And this quest does not have to begin by cutting off ties with the ruthless world but by being a part of it and yet not identifying ourselves with it. This, is what is called as Karma.

Until then, wake up on a frosty Monday morning and rush to work to mint all the greens. Maybe just to book that ticket to Norway...

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Growing old.. neh, growing "wise."

Double neh, this is a confession about how it feels to turn 30, single/non-committed, and what it feels to look back from this age milestone. So, barring the moments when you get hit by a car and do something like this: 

Betty Rubble with Bambam's club

Or monkeying around like this:

..And acknowledging your demented self before the world, things apparently turn out just fine.

Before you get there, you wonder what 30 feels like. Friends and elders who've been there almost convince you that "age is just a number" while a few others use that opportunity to market their marriage bureau. Then for a while 30 seems to be just a number and you resolve to treat it like the new twenty (boy, who're we kidding!) 

Once you hit it, suddenly you start noticing the crow feet (which you can't figure if they were always there or came up recently - and if it's the sleepless nights of madness that caused them). Thanks to all the hooplah surrounding the "hitting 30s," a lot of your sentences start with "when I was younger," "many years ago," and so on. Something that happened a decade or even half a decade back seems like centuries ago, yet every ongoing year seems to run by a lot faster. Every vacation seems to become shorter. You look at the clock on a Sunday evening wondering how you're like that Garfield who hates Mondays. But come Monday and the workaholic in you takes over. Before you realise, it's happy hump day. Then comes S H I T (So Happy It's Thursday). Finally you hit Friday - which often ocassionally ends up transforming into a "Fry Day." You probably ponder over how your Fridays are turning into Fry Days because some sad person who has nothing to do in his sad life decided to suck innocent little you into his sea of sorrows. You unwittingly sign up for a truckload of urgent tasks on a Friday afternoon when half the office is on holiday and end up with 100 emails in your inbox, each having an action item for you. Finally, instead of clubbing with the girls (or that ocassional random guy), you sink into a bubble bath with effervescing salts enlightening you of new realms of pleasure.

Money matters a lot more, though in a much different way. Yet you don't think twice before performing a gregarious act of overspending on a fancy gadget when you get a "much needed" $20 pay raise. There is scant regard for ethics while sinking your teeth into that delumptious, sugary 2000 calories of the sin that is pumpkin cream brulee.

The laughter tends to become more genuine yet less frequent but effects more lasting. The flaws become a lot more easier to digest. There is an increased assertiveness (or as some judgemental people like calling it stubbornness) but also an increased ability to let go of trivialities. Barring the increasingly infrequent outburst, it is less of an effort to put up with nonsense and care less about what appears to be the stupidity of others. Patience comes a lot easily, and you wonder which zen master's soul walked into your body. You no longer wonder why common sense is called common sense and why it is not called rare sense (and chuckle over the pun). It feels a lot simpler to take off to an unknown place without giving it a second thought (of course after checking three times that the gas tank is full, the cellphone is on full charge, checking work email one last time, then stopping by the store to pick that coffee you'd need to not doze off behind the wheel past 10 pm). The "between the sheets" gets better too - although the voices in your head are still making (and comparing) notes!

The realization suddenly dawns that it has become increasingly tougher to find/make new friends. There is a desire to find more meaningful relationships minus the drama and mind games. There is a newly discovered difference between sacrifice and compromise. Self respect, trust, and transparency become top priorities and there's less of a desire to go out on a date or make a new friend at the cost of pride. Dating becomes akin to fishing in a barrel. Some start to find the true meaning of life through human relationships, by reaching out to stigmatized, or by making best friends with Mr. Sam Adams and Ms. Zinfandel.

Growing up is fun, crazy, intimidating even. It is in many ways similar yet completely different from turning 21. But the catch phrase stays the same: Life has and will forever remain a learning experience. No matter how much we think we have learned and we know, there will constantly be room to learn and know more. Embrace the grays and show off the crow feet. (Just cover those dang tires for now; the forties are yet to come!)