Category Archives: Food

Mary Jane in Praha

Bear meets dog at the Million Marijuana March in Prague

Bear meets dog at the Million Marijuana March in Prague

The Million Marijuana March. Praha.  The name immediately strikes me as an oxymoron – shouldn’t it be something like the Million Marijuana Lay Down? Stoners are generally not ones to engage in a march of any kind. I’m quickly wronged, as my sister and I get swept up in the enthusiasm of hundreds (thousands?) of weed-enthusiasts marching from downtown Prague to the green festival area miles away. There were people of all types marching along to the sound of blaring beats (reminding me of Thailand’s obsession with loudspeakers), wielding 3-meter-long blunts carefully constructed from cardboard and paint. It’s apparent that a lot of commitment, effort, and forethought has gone in to this moment.

Shisha in the sun.

Shisha in the sun.

The festival itself entails food, beer, blunts, shisha, cigarettes, sound. And families. Plenty of kids frolic in the field as their parents wander the grounds high, sober, doesn’t matter. Balloons adorn both dogs and people. Full-on making out between couples (strangers?) on the green grass. Czech bands throw sky-punk-metal cacophony into crowds. Fried foods are munched in abundance. The affair is yummy and delightful.

Hold my hand.

Hold my hand.

..And pretty Prague proves to be potentially potent.

Pow!

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Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2012: The Perennial Lates

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So. The Kochi-Muziris Biennale. Yeah. Um.

Hm.

That’s pretty much what the opening was. An unimpressive series of hesitations with the title of the event paraded on signs. Paraded is too active a word. Pictured. M.I.A performed. She is small and vibrant. I think she was a tad tired, though. I can imagine, I’m tired too! Don’t get me up on stage needing to placate a hundred fans who just sat through 4 (yes, four) hours of listening to the Indian heads of committees and chairs of this and that drone on and on.. and on.. and the drummers who were awesome for the first hour and then kept playing for another two and everyone’s ears turned to mush. I remember actually thinking, I’m so happy to not be on stage right now and not have the responsibility of needing to entertain people. I think her music is super-rad (if I may take the liberty that is rightly mine to sound like a teenaged relic from the eighties). It was indeed cool to see her live, for free at that. The sound system – does this go without saying since we’re in India? – was horrific. Atrocious. Her mic wasn’t turned up at all, while the rest of sound –live dj spinning, computer beats – was blaring. It was an experience, a tiring and colourful one. Got to take pictures from right up close too(!). Happy I saw the show. The officially biennale inauguration I could’ve done without.

So, yeah, they –the biennale- got a major act, good on them. But good on her too, since she gets to exhibit. Which of course I missed. Other people were on top of it but somehow I managed to slack off on this. I couldn’t find it! Maybe because there were no maps of the venus. Oh, right. Take your time, India and artists, take your time. No rush, no pressure. No one’s really here yet anyway, except, well, the people who made the effort to show up on time. (Otherwise known as: Us idiots. What were we thinking?!)

The opening was a cacophony of nothingness. Yes, the sound of nothing happening was that incredibly loud. To me, anyway. There were no waste-baskets (to be expected, but still, come on!) on the grounds. Typically Indian, the inauguration consisted of the Indian heads of committees all up on stage sitting in their chairs, going up to the podium one at a time to ramble on about whatever. (I say this as a person who is interested in art and the festival.) The chief minister was 30 minutes late, of course. Half the people sitting on the chairs on the stage were talking away on their cell phones, audibly, while audaciously/hilariously covering their mouths with their hands, as if this making their rudeness less conspicuous rather than more. Oh, but never mind: Half the Indian audience was babbling away on their phones too. Hysterical. Like an SNL routine: Live from Kochi! Dear Hanuman.

In the next few days following the opening night of auspicious 12-12-12: No buzz, no energy. There were a few talks happening, no exhibitions that I saw were actually set up. Now, I could’ve missed ones that were. I did not get around to everywhere. Muziris might’ve been banging. Fort Kochi, however, was very, very sleepy. My guess is that in a few weeks’ time, the place with jumping with energy, very cool shit will be happening. Momentum and press will be gained, things will roll and there will definitely be tons of stuff worth experiencing. I’m just disappointed that I came at the start, nap-time. I didn’t know. I mean, this could’ve been the one time the Perennial Lates of the world – India and artists – pulled their shit together and got it rocking on time, on schedule. But I guess that wouldn’t be very rocking, would it. Slow build, fashionably late.

Well, I’ll be in Hampi, or maybe another country by the time it gets cooking, by the time licks start flying off fingers, so I will settle with some resignation for a free concert, good dates and cinnamon-spiced coffee. (Vasco’s cafe. Yes please, you are so good.) Not too shabby I know, but for an art-lover, a tad on the disappointing side.

Concession: Around Saturday and Sunday, things started happening, things to see-experience. Slow, yes, an amble not a roll. But still. Review of the opening photography exhibition to come. (Hint: I liked it!!)

Wheat world

I was 14 years old when I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. In and out of hospitals. Pain. More pain. Diet: rice, fish, water. Cooked veggies if I was feeling really in top form. Baby food. (Seriously.) A lifetime later and I’m generally okay, though as anyone with a colon disease knows: it is never that far away. UC is always in my thoughts, in my actions. It’s my friend, my dear, dear friend who has seen me through a lot and taught me deep lessons about myself and life. The thing about this friend is that I never know when another lesson is coming. And, to some extent, I feel like if I can show UC that I’ve got things under control, that I don’t need to be taught anything from her, then she’ll continue to lay low, showing up in manageable forms.

Diet for me is (supposed to be) no wheat, light on dairy, no spicy, no corn, tomatoes, fibrous things, no apple peels, and others that I’ve forgotten. The no wheat plays the biggest role in whether I get sick.

Challenge: India. The land of wheatie goodness. Well, it is the land of many things actually – camels, saries, channa, sugar (take that, Thailand! No, who am I kidding: Thailand is the king of sugar), cows, rickshaws, rolling hills, the sea, religious fervor, drama, culture, widow burnings, caste systems, masala chai, and, yes, wheat products. I’m talking about chapatis, parotta, naan, cheesy naan, cheesy garlic naan. On their own or slurped up with curries, masalas and sauces. These bring me to my knees.

I normally have almost no issue with relegating wheat to the no-fly-zone of my dietary world. My first trip to India was a wheat-free success. But this trip. This trip. This trip is trouble. Chapatis call my name. Really, they do. Naan cries out eeeeeeeeat meeeeeeeee!!! Who am I to resist the feeble begging of gluten gluttony?

Oddly, it started with a crepe. Yes, a French crepe. With bananas. Did I mention the honey? Crave. Spotted on the menu Monday, it was mine all mine on Tuesday. Of course, crepes are not food for the gluten-intolerant. After that I was sunk. Wheat items came to me in dreams, hallucinations, deleriums. I tried to funk up my rice routine by mixing geera, coconut, vegetable into the playlist. All good, very good. But coconut rice doesn’t hold an incense to cheesy garlic naan; any respectable Indian would agree.

For two weeks, I’ve eaten my fill of breaded goodness down south here with the palms and the naans.  My colon is corrupting and I know I either go back to my wheat-free-wheeling ways or there’ll be trouble. I feel like a teenager getting caught sneaking in past curfew. To live in a wheat world is to live in a wild world where naan and chapati reign over kingdoms of parotta fields where the citizens frolick freely.

Goodbye, cruel wheat. May we meet again in another life.

***

Disclaimer:

After writing this, I have proceeded to eat parottas. I am powerless to the parotta.

Veg Uthappam

“Every morning at 11am, all I can think is ‘veg uthappam, veg uthappam’. Trust me, it’s amazing.” I don’t know whether I can trust my friend’s judgment on this particular matter. She is currently undergoing some sort of ayurvedic cleanse that seems to consist primarily of massages, eating special food twice daily, and donning a special outfit: a hilarious kelly green fifties-style bathrobe paired with an orange bathing cap-meets-yarmulka; a requisite tikka on her forehead and similar mud-dot on her neck. Of course, this description betrays my ignorance of ayurvedic treatments and there might very well be meaningful reasons behind the interesting get-up. Regardless, to me the whole ensemble leaves her looking like a slightly deranged soap star wandering the green guesthouse grounds waiting to be called to set. It’s a tribute to her natural beauty (and perhaps the cleanse?) that she manages to look totally radiant in spite of this. Still, I’m wary of her praise of the uthappam. It might very well be warranted or it may simply be the effects of whatever radiation is surely seeping out from that green robe.

Venturing down to the Lonely Planet restaurant – yes, that is the actual name – I choose one of the many available red and white checkered cloth tables positioned near the lili-padded pond. Through the low lime green fence between the me and the water I can see catfish swimming around catching the latest bits of food that the kitchen staff has tossed their way. I order the uthappam in the silent restaurant and dive into my book while I wait, happy to be here during low-season with the place to myself. Quiet.

Arriving on a thali-style silver dish, a rice pancake housing orange and green veggies inside lies flat in front of four recesses filled, respectively, with carrot chutney, sambar and korma. I immediately chuck aside the unnecessary cutlery and rip into the hot pancake with both hands. The light rice dough (green-light for the gluten intolerant, three cheers!) filled with small sauteed pieces of peppers, carrots and onions is subtle in taste, a sturdy vehicle for piling on the sauces. Mix and match yellow, orange and white as you please and get messy. Food finger-painting at its finest, making edible creations. Eat your work.

For sensitive tummies, this Kerala breakfast food is a light way to go authentically Indian first thing in the morning. From my solitary morning with the finger food, I conclude two things. One, I still want another pancake to paint with. Two, while it appears that my friend’s odd attire has had little affect on her culinary taste, it serves to encourage my suspicions of any health-care routine that requires such a look.