Thursday, March 27, 2008

The king of pickles

One of the best reasons to look forward to spring, is the advent of the mango season. And it is heralded by the appearance of those tiny baby mangoes. Which brings forth a load of nostalgia.

I have fond memories of my mom using the stone container to marinate the tiny mangoes. And of me finishing half of them before she got around to adding the spices. Older than that memory is the one where I sneaked into my paati's maavadu jaadi, grabbed a handful, washing them in the warm tap water and happily snacking away.

Ever since coming here, I had to satisfy myself with store bought bottles of maavadu, supposedly just like homemade. None of them really had that special taste. Then my uncle-in-law recommended the thangam brand from thaayaar dairy (for the uninitiated, it is near Mambalam station and I highly vouch for it). We were hooked. My luggage on return trips from India definitely included a couple of packs. They are packaged nicely for such trips.

So, when I saw these baby mangoes at the Indian Grocery, I was tempted. I was unsure, but was willing to give it a try. I called my mom for her recipe and tried my hand at pickling. Maavadus can easily spoil if not pickled properly and I was worried that it might not marinate well. So I was shaking the bottle every chance I got, to make sure that they were pickling nicely.

I was hesitant to try it, mainly because I made a very tiny batch and was afraid it would be gone quickly, just like the huge batch of mango pickle (molaga maanga) from last week. Anyway, I found the courage to inaugurate today and I have to say, it has turned out ok. May be not thangam maanga ok, but close. I am thinking I could have made a bigger batch. But then that would have invoked the most famous cooking law - the smaller the amount, the tastier it is - or rather, its corollary.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Spring break!

Had a wonderful vacation, though short!

Sometime back, I read this book, Daughter of the Stars by Phyllis Whitney. It is based in Harpers Ferry, WV. I was intrigued by the place and decided to add it to my vacation plans. It is not too far from where we are and one can spend half a day easily. Most of the interest is due to John Brown, when he raised a voice against slavery, a pre-cursor to the bigger movement. It is at the junction of three states - MD, VA and WV and 2 rivers meet - Shenandoah and Potomac. Shenandoah is an Indian name meaning Daughter of the Stars. Jefferson spent a lot of time here, and there is the Jefferson Rock, which is a great spot from which to view the 3 states. There is canoeing/rafting for those interested. The season starts in April, so it was not crowded. The picture shows the confluence of the two rivers.

From there we drove to Williamsburg, VA (thankfully avoided I495). Since we had already been to colonial Williamsburg a couple of years back, we decided to concentrate on the rest. While the old man spent time chasing holes on the green, the girls and I visited Yorktown and Jamestown. A good doze of history to be had. Then there was Busch Gardens. It was a lot of fun, dug a big hole in our pockets and one day was not enough. We missed some of the shows and it was cold for water rides and the sky ride. But the kids had a wonderful time and so did we.

A short drive brought us to the Chesapeake beach, but it was too windy and too cold to step on the sands. But we loved the underwater bridge tunnels.

There is also the Presidents Park close by, which is worth an hour or so. All the presidents' giant busts, a replica of the oval office and half of airforce one, can be toured in a quick trip. That is Coolidge in the picture, with Abe taking up a little of the background. The kids had fun reading about presidential nicknames (sounds like a Jeopardy category!).

Food was no problem as there are all types of cuisine to be had. The lone Indian restaurant was a pleasant surprise and had a decent fare as well as decor. And that is a lot to expect indeed! The thai place was good too, except the husband decided to order thai hot, which is worse (or better) than Indian hot. Each spoon of Panang curry needed a glass of water.

Like all other good things, it went by quickly and I am already thinking about my next vacation, another mini one, this time to the cradle of liberty!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Raghuvaran no more?

I saw somewhere that he passed away on March 19th due to his alcohol addiction. I haven't seen anything in the major sites. That is a sad tale.