Saturday, December 17, 2005

MEME: You are what you eat!

Rums tagged me for this latest meme on listing my ten favourite foods. I had a really hard time restricting my selections to just ten. It was also difficult to keep the list consistent in terms of produce, ingredients, dishes or types of cuisine. As a result, my list is a bit of a hodgepodge of all the above. Since this meme claims that you are what you eat, I thought I'd give you a glimpse of me in my kitchen, my favourite space in the world.

CHEESE. My love affair with cheese began with the Amul cheese that K (my parents' cook who has been with our family for over 30 years) used in my toasted cheese sandwiches, the perfect after school snack for a 10 year old. It continued through high school with Britannia cheese spread with jeera (cumin) that I was crazy about. Then it was Cheddar, Swiss, Monterrey and Pepper Jack at Davidson. And then my love for cheese was taken to an entirely new level when I lived in Paris and Tours my junior year in college. I must have tasted over a 100 types of French cheese and I loved every one of them, including some of the stinkiest varieties. My French host family served us a cheese plate after dinner every night and that's how my knowledge of cheese really improved. These days, I experiment with new cheeses from all over the world, including some fantastic artisinal ones frm the U.S. I hesitate to list just a few but my top faves are Brie, Manchego, Fontina, Jarlsberg, fresh Mozzarella, Tomme de Savoie, Reblochon, Chevre and Comte.

IYENGAR FOOD. I once read somewhere that Iyengar food is food for the brain. It combines all the elements in the right proportion. It is pure vegetarian and is based on a diet of rice, pulses, vegetables and yogurt. Garlic is strictly prohibited and onions are used sparingly in modern Iyengar households. This was my staple diet for the first eighteen years of my life. I probably didn't love it as much growing up as I do now. I prefer this cuisine to any other I've discovered since leaving home. This will make my dad and mom smile, I'm sure! I love vatral kuzhambu, aviyal, mysore rasam (spicier and tangier than tomato rasam), paruppu usili curry, manga pachadi, masala sundal, thenga thuvaiyal, puliodarai (tamarind rice), and the best of all, thair sadaam or yogurt rice.

CHAAT. I can never get enough of bhel puri, sevi puri, pani puri, dahi batata puri, samosa chaat, dahi vada, pavi bhaji, ragda patties, the list is endless. Indian street food as it is called these days is growing in popularity and I am thankful for that. I would go stir crazy without being able to satisfy by regular bhel cravings.

INDIAN CHINESE. Sweet Corn Vegetable Soup. Lemongrass Soup. Veg Manchurian. Chili Garlic Potato. Paneer Fry. Veg Chopsuey. You get the picture. I love the Indian version of Chinese food. Everything deep fried and drowned in lots of masalas with extra spicy sauces, vinegar and green chilies. Not sure my tummy loves Indian Chinese as much as I do!

INDIAN PICKLES. I am crazy about pickel given what a thair sadam gal I am. Eternal favourites are vadu manga, manga thokku, chunda, manga inji. H has gotten me into carrot pickle and garlic pickle, both of which are great with parathas at 3 am in the morning!

MEXICAN/SOUTHWESTERN. This is probably my favourite cuisine after South Indian and Chaat. My love for Mexican was nurtured in Northern California though I've heard that the food per se is better in Southern Cal and Texas. I'm crazy good quality pico de gallo and freshly baked tortilla chips. I also love tomatillo salsas and have been experimenting with different type of tomatillo and chili combos lately to create spectacular salsas. Vegetable burritos, cheese and bean burritos, mushroom quesadillass are regular selections of mine on any Mexican menu. I love corn, beans, cilantro, tomatoes, lime. So you know know why anything Mexican Southwestern is always enticing!

SPANISH TAPAS. An unusual choice for a vegetarian because authentic tapas at the bars and restaurants in Spain isn't exactly vegetarian (I learnt the hard way on our honeymoon in Andalusia!) but I love the flavours and have made this my number one party cuisine. Roasted red peppers. Patatas bravas. White bean salads. Marinated olives. Banderillos. Tostadas. Mushrooms in garlic and olive oil. Potato croquettes. Frittatas. All to be enjoyed with warm crusty bread, glugs of good quality extra virgin olive oil and lots of sangria.

BASIC ITALIAN. Fresh pasta, basil, tomato sauce and olive oil. My idea of a great Italian meal. Nothing too fancy, just the basics. I love Pizza Margherita for its simplicity. I've become a huge arugula fan thesedays so I enjoy simple Italian salads with arugula and freshly grated cheese. I also love homemade risotto, my favourite being a Wolf Gang Puck recipe for Wild Mushroom Risotto with Truffle Oil which you can find on the Food Network website. A terrifc dish for seduction - yes, it works every time!

FRUITS. I could live on fruits alone. And there's not a single fruit in the world I don't love. Banana, grape, mango and avocado are my favourites. I prefer enjoying fruits by themselves rather than in desserts, milkshakes, pies etc.

MY SWEET TOOTH. And finally a bit on which sweets I love the most. Jalebis. Mishti dhoi. Rasamalai. Turkish delights. Nutella. White chocolate fondue. Creme brulee. Sorbet.

What a long post! Hope you enjoyed it. Were you surprised at my selections? Do you love any of the same foods I do? Would love to hear your comments.

I'm tagging five new blog friends - Indira,VKN, Melissa, Sury and Meenakshi.


Anonymous priya,ar said...

Oh ! Lulu iam in love with your kitchen.Wish you could post some pics of the interior kitchen too..The wall color is great. Different from the usual dull and boring ones.

12:29 PM  
Blogger Sury said...

Lovely list there, Lulu! As I went through it, I chuckled to think how many of those will feature in my meme too. lol.The Doc (of "Gluttony is No Sin") had already tagged me and now that you did too, I think Cesar and I will do a joint meme. When it comes to food, the more the better, haan?

12:41 PM  
Blogger Sandhya said...

God, Lulu! This might sound freaky, but add chocolate and coffee to your list and it'll be mine too! Nice post.

9:51 PM  
Blogger chris san francisco said...

Hi Lulu,

Is that a picture of your new kitchen?? Love the color! Your favorite foods sound delicious. Can't wait to sample bhel puri again with you (and H, too).

Hope London is great. SF is cold and rainy this weekend. . .


11:44 PM  
Blogger Lulu said...

hi priya,
sadly, my kitchen is now in a total mess since i'm packing and moving but i will post lots of pictures of my new kitchen in london once i'm settled in. glad you like the colour. tangerine is my favorite colour in the world and my friends will tell you what a tangerine freak i am. they couldn't believe that i even convinced H to paint the wall tangerine!

look forward to your list of fave food, sury!

hi sandhya,
i love chocolate as well. just not as much as the other foods. i used to love coffee (my house in bombay has the best south Iindia coffee in the world!) but had to giv it up entirely 4 years ago because it was destorying my stomach lining. so now i'm a HUGE tea addict!

hi chris,
i'm still in nyc. leaving on tuesday. this is a picture from our apartment in chelsea. i feel so bad that we didn't manage to have you and K over for drinks on your visits here. you have to come visit us in london, for sure!
will send you an email to update you on the work front - all good :)

10:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hello priya
i am lulu's dad.she has a terrific kitchen.incredible.every little space is fully utilised.and i have some pictures too.i could send them to you,if i have my daughter's permission.

3:40 AM  
Blogger tilotamma said...

**once read somewhere that Iyengar food is food for the brain. **

I read that too and thought what utter crap!

7:23 AM  
Anonymous Ravi said...

Hi Lulu,

I love Iyengar food too...and just like you I do enjoy Mexican, Italian and Indo-Chinese fusion. I do eat cheeses but look for those that have only vegetarian rennet - I think I have a site listed in my bookmarks as to which cheeses don't have animal products.

I am a gourmet cook and prefer not to cook from books. However, just to read I found Viji Varadarajan and Mrs. NarasimhaWodiayars' south indian (especially Iyengar cooking) books interesting,


7:41 PM  
Anonymous protection said...

I prefer to take recipes from books and then change them to make them just how i like!

11:54 AM  
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Anonymous Reg said...

Oh how I used to love Nutella. I haven't eaten it in such a long time. Will definitely look out for it next time I go to the supermarket!

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