This blog invites you to a free session to unite us on many world issues via prayer, chant, and food. Women in Iran is one of them, as is the war in Ukraine. It is also a way for me to informally share some healthy, delicious cooking with you, particularly since the holidays are when we pay less attention to what we are eating and its effects on our well-being and consciousness.
To get you into the spirit of the process, I share some personal history, as back then, meaning when I first came West, little did I know that it would become one of my life's missions to create BBS (Brain-Body-Soul) recipes. These are the kinds of recipes we will gather together in our respective kitchens if you take me up on this free offer at the end, which is also when you will understand why this blog is titled "belonging."
As a child and into my mid-twenties, I was convinced that cooking was not for me. I stepped into my mother's kitchen only to dish out delicious mouthwatering food onto my plate or, on rare occasions, to fix a cuppa.
By the way, mum created breakfast, lunch, and dinner freshly every day! Everything was homemade from scratch.
Oh, and the tiffin (snacks) at 4:45 pm was extra:)
However, when I left India for N. America with the love of my life (hubby Russill) some 33 years ago, I was assigned cooking duties almost from day one in the monastery that hosted us. I was not asked if I could cook, but it was assumed since I was a woman from India, I was born to do it!!!
My jet-lagged self was whisked away in the cold to the supermarket and asked to load up the cart with all the ingredients needed for the first grand meal.
To the amazement of my companions, the shopping cart had nothing more than a bunch of limp cilantro leaves, a few containers of yogurt (I had never seen plastic tubs of curd, a.k.a. yogurt before), a bag of polished rice, and a chili or two.
"Are you sure this is it?" inquired my companion.
After a long pause, I looked up at the tall giant of a man with bewildered eyes and said, "Maybe I need curry leaves."
The friendly giant asked, "What are curry leaves?"
Since I did not know how to describe it, I blurted out, "It is the most important stuff for Indian cooking."
The giant's lady friend said, "Ok, let us ask the store manager, he/she is bound to know if it is a key ingredient."
The manager was just as perplexed and asked me to spell the word curry. Next, she asked some of her staff if they knew what I was looking for. Then, finally, a booming voice from one of the aisles said, "They should try the farmer's market; we don't carry such things here."
Off we went to the farmer's market but did not find any curry leaves there too.
The silence in the car on our way back from the market was so thick you could have sliced and served it up. I could not help but wonder if my companions thought I had made this whole curry leaf thing up.
You see, on the way to the store, we were a lively bunch, and I was quizzed about all things Indian.
I will forever remember one of the questions: did Indian women always walk a few steps behind men? I was so taken aback and mumbled something like maybe that happens only in remote villages.
Now picture this:
A skinny 21-year-old female from what was then considered a 3rd world country, clad in mismatched hand-me-downs (people were kind and trying to keep the poor thing warm), who, for the love of God who could not boil an egg, was trying to nervously figure out how to put together the ingredients that have just been procured for a meal of twenty or more people.
Remember, back then; there was no Google to look up a recipe. And she couldn't call mom back in India because it was the age of no cell phones, and international calls were reserved only for emergencies due to the cost.
As the car zipped through the freeway, I stared at the frigid leafless trees, trying not to cry. I missed home dearly and wanted to take the next flight back to my beloved India.
The monastery's kitchen was huge, with immaculate white tiles from floor to ceiling, large islands, and professional cooktops. A little brown girl like me banging pots and pans must have been quite a sight.
As lunchtime rolled up, there was a line of hungry people eager to taste the new girl's food who had come all the way from an exotic land renowned for its cuisine.
The look on people's faces when all they saw was a large pot of gooey mess with some flecks of green here and there was disheartening and bleak; the words that would aptly describe their reactions were disbelief and flabbergasted.
I was promptly demoted as the cook's assistant and ended up peeling potatoes & carrots for the next seven months until we bid goodbye to Canada!
Well, I have indeed come a long way. Glad to say that I can churn out tasty, healthy, and delicious meals to feed body and soul :)
Cooking has also become a means to soothe my nerves, and the day's stress seems to melt away.
Creating recipes and seeing people, including my beloved, relish them gives me great joy.
I feel blessed when the students I work with seem to love them too. It tickle's me when they ooh and aah as I suggest modifications to satisfy their taste :)
In view of Thanksgiving this month here in the US and, more importantly, to stand in solidarity with the girls and women of Iran, I invite you to gather with Russill and me from the comfort of your kitchen.
Let us cook together to usher in freedom of life for all, including the Ukrainians.
The reason for titling this blog "Belonging" is to remind us that regardless of gender, color, race, or creed, we deserve to walk this beautiful planet we call "our home" with dignity, equality, and liberty!
Community cooking, around the globe and for generations, has served more than physical nourishment. It is a way of building goodwill, bonding relationships, and healing our woundedness.
In this free cooking session, we will create simple yet tasty dishes you can share with your family and friends. You can also donate the food you cook to your local soup kitchen. So get ready to make some magic in your kitchen!
Apart from cooking together, we will also be chanting and praying for the world's well-being. Russill will contribute his mantra and music gifts to this live event.
If you cannot make the live event on Nov 20 but are interested in getting the replay, please be sure to register, and you can access it.
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