What I like best about MasterChef Australia

*Also served at Plain Salted.

Ideamarked Nov2011: Window Gardens, Bookstores, PS3 & Kolaveri Di

I’ve always loved November. Diwali festivities, vacations to look forward to…as I’ve gotten older, I find the end of the year packing up. The weather is crisper, even in hot & humid Mumbai. Everyone starts to let their hair down and spends more time thinking about parties, picnics & get-togethers than work. The world takes a break next month & November is all about the planning and anticipation of just that.

It’s been a packed and enjoyable November for me. I attended the NH7 festival in Pune, in its second year. A story on women bloggers featured me in a prominent way. For the few of you who remember my long-winded adventure with NovelRace, I finally managed to complete it! Whether this ever comes out or not, I can now die happy knowing that I did write a full novel. :-)

On that cheery note, here’s this month’s links. As you can see, there was a lot of link-love going around too!

  • DewarsIndia’s channel features music travelogues across India. (on Youtube, link courtesy Sangita Bhargavi)
  • Simi’s new show: India’s most botoxed, banal & brainless‘: Of course, I agree. (via FirstPost, link courtesy Lakshmi Shesadri)
  • MasterChef India: Guaranteed to cure you of any desire to cook‘: Sadly, I’m having to agree. MasterChef India has a long way to go before it can be in the same league as MasterChef Australia. (via FirstPost)
  • Window gardening for the urban-dweller longing for a touch of green – ‘Growing Organic Fruits & Vegetables at Home‘ (via Earthoholics, link courtesy Vishal Gadkari)
  • ‘Worklish’ is a way to cover up how much one doesn’t know. They why is it that we who don’t speak it, are left out in the cold?: ‘Buzzwords at office driving you crazy? 6 ways to cope‘ (via Huffington Post)
  • If your interest in astrology, tarot, dream interpretation & the predictive arts extends beyond mere curiosity, you should definitely visit Magick. The store  is currently looking for fulltime apprentices to initiate into the Wicca tradition. (via Swati Prakash)
  • If you ever wondered why the people you follow, don’t follow you back, here are some possible answers: ‘The Top 10 Reasons I Will Not Follow You On Twitter‘ (via Mashable)
  • Reviews, recipes and workshops, you have to stop by Tulleeho if you have a love of the drink.
  • India as the Indians see it – non PC humour (on Facebook, link courtesy Shweta Madan)
  • ‘5 Tips To Help You Decide How Much Of You Should Show Up On The Blog‘ (via SharingWithWriters)
  • Hail the motherland of idlis, software dreams & kitschy Kollywood songs! This month’s music craze – Kolaveri Di (via Youtube)
  • A 5-yr old post that’ll still interest Mumbai’s booklovers: ‘A Bibliophile’s Guide To Mumbai‘ (via The Idea-smithy)
  • A lovely gift from blogger to blogger – ‘It’s Not Just A Car‘ 55 word story by Manuscrypts!
  • Kitab Khana, a bookstore recommendation courtesy Anuradha Shankar.
  • A little thought on liking and love (via Slices of Time, link courtesy Rehab Chougle)
  • MICHEAL: PS3 Long Live Play‘: A fun advertisement for gamers (via Youtube, link courtesy Ashwini Mishra)

* Catch these links as they happen on The Idea-smithy Facebook Page. You can also post an interesting link of your own to the page and get featured on the Ideamarked post at the end of the month!

Food Musings

MasterChef_HotFlameRGB

Image by rtppt via Flickr

I finally managed to catch MasterChef India 2 yesterday night. Does it seem like the judges talk down to the contestants, a wee bit? In that sense, it feels closer to MasterChef USA (minus horrible Gordon Ramsay) and less like MasterChef Australia’s cheerful, encouraging Gary, George & Matt.

The boy commented that the contestants are primarily housewives. I guess that reflects India’s approach to food as compared to Australia and the US. Looks like there still is a very strong feeling that the kitchen is a woman’s place of pride. The few men that I do know who cook well, are part of the small, urban elite that’s really more Western than Indian. Food and its creation are associated with archetypal ‘family values’ and ‘maa ke haath ka khana‘. We don’t really see it as a creative field in itself, with all the experimentation, newness and edginess of other arts.

Food

Speaking of which, I have something to say about the so-called foodie. I never claimed to be one myself. I have very marked tastes as well as a few health concerns about certain foods (corn allergies, mutton disagreeing with me etc). But I’ve always been enthusiastic about trying out something that I haven’t tried before. Perhaps because of the size of my portions (small), I get branded as somebody who isn’t really a foodie. That’s really funny, considering I’ve had no qualms putting a cooked octopus arm into my mouth but a lot of my ‘foodie’ friends would shy away from that.

What’s more, my vegetarian preferences make me a bit of an unfashionable standout in the crowd that says it loves food (translate that to liberally masala’ed, hefty meat portions). But isn’t enjoying something about how much pleasure you derive from it, not how much of it you consume? And what’s with the meat snobbery? I think a real foodie finds a way to appreciate anything that’s tasty, whether it is a steamed idli or a baked tandoori chicken.

I guess I’ll revise my declaration from ‘I am not a foodie’ to ‘I am not a food-snob’.

Indiblogger-MasterChef India2 Blogger Meet – Hot & Appetising!

I’ve been following MasterChef Australia with great enthusiasm, both last year and this one. I also managed to catch MasterChef UK (though Gordon Ramsay failed to charm me the way George & Matt Preston do). So the Indiblogger-MasterChef India 2 meet on Saturday sounded really promising.

As it was, they earned a big plus by having an air-conditioned bus ferry us to and from the event. The venue was RK Studios (where MasterChef India 2 will be filmed). This has to be a landmark of sorts for this city, given that it was home to some of Bollywood’s most iconic films. I am no expert on television sets but even to the rookie eye, the MasterChef India 2 set stands out for its quiet elegance, neat lines & bright, airy feel. Every setting that MasterChef viewers would be familiar with – from the contestant tables to the dining room to the pantry, the cutlery/crockery stocks to the stage where the results of each round are announced to the ubiquitous ‘M’ – are comfortably contained within the space.

The main area was furnished with tables for the blogger meet, that day but will hold the contestant tables during the show. Beyond the stage, cordoned off behind glass bead curtains lies the main dining area. Lining the main area on either side are the pantries, the cutlery/crockery shelves and the cooking implements. Upstairs on either side, replicating the MasterChef format are the galleries from where safe contestants view the proceedings.

The blogger meet started around 2:30 p.m. This gave us enough time to walk around and get in some photographs, which turned out to be a good thing since it got really busy later. The event started off with the Indiblogger staple of blogger introductions. I love the fact that Indiblogger meets include a display screen with a live-tracker of who has just entered and tweets about the event. It lets bloggers/tweeters identify each other. It also makes conversing from across the room great fun!

Once the introductions were complete, the three judges Vikas Khanna, Ajay Chopra and Kunal Kapoor took the floor to talk about the show and address questions. The obvious question of why there was so much coverage of contestants’ personal lives (and the ensuing politics) instead of focusing on the cooking, came up. The replies were slick, if not scripted but this was deftly deflected by turning the discussion over to the bloggers. Who likes sharing stories better than a bunch of bloggers? Soon the group was swapping food memories, from the sweetly nostalgic to downright touching. Among other things, there was a minute’s silence to honour the recently deceased mother of one of the bloggers, after she talked about how much she loved the show.

Post high tea (very befitting of the most popular food show of our times), we got a sneak preview/taste of what it’s like to be a MasterChef contestant through a set of short competitions. The first was what the judges said had been their first cookery lesson – dicing apples. Chef Ajay Chopra demonstrated the right way to do it and then conducted a competition among some of the bloggers. Chopped apples and one cut finger followed.

This was followed by a ginger julienne mini-Masterclass by Chef Kunal Kapoor and a competition. I participated in this one but my ginger strips just weren’t good enough to make the cut (yes, that’s a pun!). The third class-cum-contest was on chopping potatoes to prep for french fries (or finger chips, as we like to call them). The final competition was a mystery box challenge (whoo, whoo, whoo, MasterChef fans!). Under the box, we found a bunch of ingredients that had to be correctly identified and then all used to put together a recipe.

The event concluded with another Indiblogger staple – the chart-as-comment-box. Every blogger was given a chart with a string to hang over their backs. Then we were let loose to share notes, leave Twitter handles or email addresses, ‘I love your blog!’ comments and other little nothings that bloggers like saying to each other. :-) This is another great idea to keep track of all the great people you meet at an event but are just not able to connect with later. The giveaways, yet another Indiblogger staple included Masterchef aprons and a special thermal mug that lights up when it is filled with hot liquid! Good, no?


What really worked for this event was that there was a very definite value provided for the bloggers who got out of home on a Saturday and made the journey. Visiting the MasterChef set was spectacular. Being able to interact with the judges was great too but the real clincher was simulating an actual MasterChef episode with the contests and class. Food is very cool right now, in pop culture and nothing can be more exciting for a foodie than being able to talk about it to other like-minded people and with acknowledged experts in the field. The afternoon was well worth it.

I was looking forward to catching MasterChef India 2 anyway, having missed the first season. Now, after having actually been on the set and talking to the judges, I’m going to be extra hooked to the show. I think this event acted as a real appetiser for the show to follow. Great idea, Star Plus and fab work, Indiblogger putting up a wonderful event!

See more pictures of the event on Facebook and Flickr (starting here). The tweets of the event were tagged #MasterChefIndia2.

* Cross posted to Plain Salted.

Related articles

TV Talk

I’m faced with a TV dilemma!!!

Modern Family on Star World. The Big Bang Theory on Zee Cafe. They’re both on at the same time. How is one to pick? Sexual/gender stereotype humour or geekboy humour?A crazy set of characters…or a crazy set of characters? Gloria’s gabbing or Sheldon’s shennanigans?

Let’s see, Modern Family is on season 2, which in my opinion is the good one for any humour sitcom. Season 1 is usually spent just explaining the characters & their relationships. Seasons 3 and onwards go into flagging dead jokes or getting into the lives of side-characters who were never that interesting in the first place. The gay couple, Cam & Mitchell are starting to annoy me in this season, especially Cam as the excessively-hysteric-perpetually-PMSing gay guy. On the upside, the May-December family of Gloria & Jay are really coming into their own. This season focuses differences other than age such as races, countries & personalities. Manny could have been precocious but somehow manages to be delightful. This is really my favorite family of this series.

On the other hand, The Big Bang Theory appears to be airing randomly mashed-up reruns since Penny’s ‘honeying’ Leonard one day, avoiding his new girlfriend at the laundromat awkwardly another day and just being friendly girl-next-door after that. I didn’t manage to catch this series on its first run in India but I’m not really complaining. This way, I see each episode in isolation and not as part of the larger story. The jokes seem a whole lot funnier that way and Sheldon Cooper is always brilliant! (pun intended). Of note, I’ve never yet seen a bad The Big Bang Theory episode. Definitely still in the running to be my favorite sitcom.

This whole TV business is the boy’s fault since he got me hooked onto Dexter. I whined and fretted all along, about the monstrosity of relating to a serial killer, but I watched the last two seasons, regardless. Good stories turn out to be the only thing that the boy and I share a common passion for, never mind that our idea of what constitutes a good story or even which channels we receive them from, are worlds apart.

That seeped into the time before and after and soon I found myself tuning in to The Simpsons. My brief stint with The Family Guy put me off what they promoted as ‘even funnier than the Simpsons’. Sorry, I disagree, jokes about child abuse & rape are never going to sound funny to me. Go shrivel up, Griffin, you’re not funny in my book.

If the post-11pm slots are comedy, the pre-11pm viewing seems devoted to crime, of various types.Las Vegas was slightly interesting until they decided to knock off one of the protagonists, literally….by having her blown off the terrace of a casino. Huh, what??! I bleched & swore off after that. Even the new cast hasn’t helped. Tom Selleck as the new head of the Monteceito Hotel tries, but can’t be Ed Deline (played by James Caan who I recognized as Sonny Corleone from Godfather).

Castle with a female cop & a consulting crime fiction writer (insert obvious romantic spark) was briefly interesting but again, the ending was so meh! I’m dipping into White Collar a couple of nights a week now, but only if there isn’t anything else to watch. An ex-con working with the FBI is promising in a book, but in a TV screenplay it’s safe fare – predictable excitement.

Star World mostly reins as my number 1 channel with Zee Studio sitting tight on my ‘Pre-Ch’ (control-tab for the remote control) option. By around midnight, I’m usually in that nice just-before-sleeptime zone after a movie has gotten over or a good episode of Modern Family/The Big Bang Theory has just zoomed its credits. TV watching is like staying awake in that, if you don’t stop it at just the right time, it’s hard to ever stop.

A channel called Love CBS looked like it would replace Star World in my affections for awhile. Besides Oprah, Next Top Model, Racheal Ray, King Of QueensTop Chef Masters were shows that gripped me. This channel has the plus of fewer & shorter ad breaks too and the promotime intro music doesn’t grate on your nerves the way Star World & Zee Cafe do (or perhaps that’s just because I watch them too much). But horror of horrors – the cablewallah menace struck! The channel disappeared (while the other less appealing CBS channels are still live & screaming), aborting what could have been a grand passion for cheesy reality TV. Worse still, it rendered this carefully created document quite useless since the channels all shifted one place (in some cases) or two after a certain channel number. GRMPH! My only hope is that Star World won’t disappear before MasterChef Australia (great, by the way, not at all like that horrible Gordon Ramsay-judged MasterChef America) finishes its run!

All of this spoilt-for-optionness is reserved for weekday evenings. Daytime & weekends are full of reruns of the same 3-4 shows. Weekends particularly get grating since they air the same show for hours on end and if you don’t particularly like one, you’re locked out of good viewing for a largish period. These are alternated by the cringeworthy Simi Garewal Presents India’s Most Desirable (and I don’t care to discuss this further, so don’t irritate me you Simi-fanboy-trolls!) The only good thing about weekend TV has to be Glee or now, Mad Men. Most times I miss these since I’m out in the 9pm-midnight period. Which is rather sad since both these shows seem to require continuity of viewership and don’t offer the viewer the same open relationship as sitcoms.

The boy points out that I can catch any of these shows online and without ad breaks. But…and how do I put this…I crib about the long ad breaks all the time…but *shuffles feet* the adrenalin rush of being able to catch a show at its time, without missing a single minute and even surviving repeat onslaught of fairness creams, automobiles & insurance advertisements…watching it online doesn’t quite do the same thing. :-p

I’m really watching too much television, aren’t I?

* Pictures from from Entertainment Wallpaper.

————————————————————————————————————————–

If you liked this post, you may also want to read:

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 5,326 other followers

%d bloggers like this: