I have an addiction.
It’s not a new one. Rather, I’ve lapsed, after many, many years.
* Also served at Plain Salted.
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.
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’.
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!
* Cross posted to Plain Salted.
August was a busy month so I didn’t manage much link-love. But September started off on a good note and I’m hoping it’ll only get better.
My Style section is picking up. For a few reader/friends who asked, I Style! features whacky, fun clothing & accessories; Ideart showcases my fabric painting and I Wear tracks everyday style. This month, I add to the repertoire by featuring other people whose sense of style caught my eye. But don’t worry, I’m not turning into a fashionasta. Dressing & looking good are an important part of our daily lives. But The Idea-smithy will still have fiction, pop culture, reviews, general quips & wisdom (?). And here’s September’s features:
one accessory that’s closest to your face? ‘Your Face Shape & Earrings‘ (via
One from my Bookmarks from the 90s, this site has provided daily wisdom in my mailbox for over a decade. Ranging from the writings of Osho to Zen pearls to quotes by famous people, Deeshan is now available on Twitter & Facebook too.
I used to know somebody who said,
“Vegetarian khana mere dharam ke khilaaf hain!”
But I think the boy really believes that any vegetable or fruit he puts into his mouth will devour the meat that it finds, before his stomach can get to it.
* Also served at Plain Salted.
Snooty restaurants that palm off watered-down rasam as ‘Mulligatawny‘ would describe it as a ‘Okhra’. Indians prefer the quaint name of ‘ladyfingers’. I’ve never been a fan. From my very early years, I learnt to detest the violent green hue, the snappy texture (external) and gooey feel (internal) of bhindi. Apparently I’d start howling the minute mum’s hand moved towards the stack on the bhajiwala‘s cart.
Once, when I was about seven and mum was away or unwell or generally unavailable, dad decided to make us breakfast. With much a tada! and a flourish, he presented his best efforts – sandwich toast stuffed with raw bhindi. I think the trauma of that has never entirely left me.
Undeterred, mum and dad continued to coax, wheedle and force this vegetable down my throat. Most notable of all was the claim that eating bhindi would make me good at maths! To this day, dinnertable conversations when this dish is served are variations of,
Me: Bhindi again! I have a degree in mathematics. You would think that’s about enough maths for anybody!
Dad: And it’s all on account of the bhindi we made you eat!
Oh well, there is no accounting for tastes, I guess (all that mathematics notwithstanding). Recently though, I decided to give my parents a little surprise. Mum was returning from a fortnightly trip and I had decided to put up a nicely cooked meal for her anyway. I figured adding her favorite vegetable might be a nice touch. Obviously I’d also have to make it appetizing enough for me to want to eat it myself. Oil, salt and spice came to my rescue.
I intended for the bhindi fry to only be a surprise for my mother and not the entire meal. I guess if I’d sliced it into longer strips (instead of halving them), it could well have been a nice appetizer. As it turned out, I also made some chutney aloo sabzi, sambhar, rice and some fresh kachumbar salad. Here’s what my plate looked like at dinner. Mum loved it!
* Also served at Plain Salted.
So I vanished for a week and I’m back with an armful of posts. I had a relaxing day, last Wednesday. Which may be why I was in a mood to spice up things in the evening. Dinner was a rather boring meal of chapattis (albeit the soft, thin variety mum specializes in) and aloo-chauli. It was too late to cook anything new but dinner had to be had and the stomach (and heart) yearned for something tastier. So I pulled out a memory from my childhood of strange snacking urges and quickfix experiments.
I give you *drumroll* The Chatpata Chappati Roll! This was my first experience with oil & frying, as a kid. Problem eater as I was, mum was hard-pressed to make appealing meals for me. But middle-class housewives do have to make do with leftovers every once in awhile. I came up with this solution to stave off my rebellious tongue and keep the tummy (and mummy) happy.
Here’s how I did this:
Three rolls turned out to be a sumptous dinner for each person that night. But we’re all light eaters so you could plan on an extra for more enthusiastic eaters.
Any sabzi works well in this dish. Dry sabzis are easier to stuff but on occasion, I’ve even used dal preparations. I’d like to see how a Southern preparation like sambhar or poriyal turns out in this.
Dad doesn’t like too much spice or sourness so I used a light hand with the pickle. Thokku is essentially a mango chutney with few, if at all chunks. But more solid pickles should work well too, giving a chunkier flavour. Also, nimboo achar will add a really tangy kick to this. You should pick the pickle based on the vegetable preparation used for stuffing. The blander the veggie, the spicier the pickle.
You can serve it up cut into quarters like spring rolls. Or you can wrap the lower half of the roll in a paper napkin, Mumbai Frankie style.
* Cross-posted to Plain Salted.