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Friday, September 16, 2011

The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht

A book review on this blog was long due as past few posts have been food related. It is not that I have not been reading books, it is just that I have not been able to sit and write about it now. I have to write about three of the books I have read oflate, The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht being the first one.
I had bought this novel intending it to read on my way to India. I could manage to read more than half of it then and had to put it aside in India. Finally today I have finished reading it and have put it down.

If I had to say about this book in a few lines, I would say that I have never read anything like this before. It is a fascinating story that threads reality and folklore in a way that is spellbinding and unforgettable. The story revolves around two main characters- a grand father and his grand daughter, and two stories with each having their own protagonists. Of course there are other characters that have their own importance and relevance in the novel. The story is set in a war torn Balkan country and the readers get to have an insight into how war affects a nation and its people, how if brings about changes in human behavior and anarchy in human social system.

The novel will capture your attention right from the first paragraph and I could not help quoting it here:

In my earliest memory my grandfather is as bald as stone and he takes me to see the tigers. He puts on his hat, his big-buttoned raincoat, and I wear my lacquered shoes and velvet dress. It is autumn, and I am four years old. The certainty of this process: my grandfather’s hand, the bright hiss of the trolley, the dampness of the morning, the crowded walk up the hill to the citadel park. Always in my grandfather’s breast pocket: The Jungle Book, with its gold leaf cover and old yellow pages. I am not allowed to hold it, but it will stay open on his knee all afternoon while he recites the passages to me. Even though my grandfather is not wearing his stethoscope or white coat, the lady at the ticket counter in the entrance shed calls him “Doctor.”

The grand father is actually a physician and a great lover of animals. The story starts with the granddaughter, Natalia Stefanovi, who like her grand father is also a doctor and is on her way to a medical mission to administer vaccines to children in an orphanage in a remote village. It is on her journey, her grandmother informs her of the grand father’s death. Her grandfather was nursing a disease which Natalia had known for a while. What made her curious was the fact that her grandfather had died in a clinic in a small obscure remote village named ‘Zdrevkov’.
Remembering childhood stories her grandfather once told her, Natalia becomes convinced that he spent his last days searching for "the deathless man," a vagabond who claimed to be immortal. As Natalia struggles to understand why her grandfather, a deeply rational man, would go on such a far-fetched journey, she stumbles across a clue that leads her to the extraordinary story of the tiger’s wife.

“Everything necessary to understand my grandfather lies between two stories: the story of the tiger’s wife, and the story of the deathless man. These stories run like secret rivers through all other stories of his life-of my grandfather’s days in the army; his great love for my grandmother; the years he spent as a surgeon and a tyrant of the university. ”

Natalia is the narrator of the story and as the story progresses we come to learn about her life in fragments. The story shifts between past and present, folklore and reality and the result is a compelling, eloquent and enchanting tale that will stay in your thoughts long after you have read it. There are some parts of the story that made tangent to my understanding and I think I will re read this book sometimes again in future.

The Tiger’s Wife is an ambitious novel for a debut. It is complex, multi layered and has fable and reality intricately woven. The writing style is mature, seasoned and polished. It allures you to delve deeper in the story and visualize the scenes in your mind. I liked the fact that the author has not made any judgment on the folklore and has left it to the reader’s imagination. Had there not been a picture and a short bio data of the author at the end of the book, I would not have believed that the author is just 25 years old! 
She is the youngest author on the New Yorker's Top'20 writer under 40' list.

I will definitely look forward to more of her work.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Coconut Burfi ~ For Blog Hop Wednesdays ~ From Sara's Kitchen

Until a few hours back, I had no idea what day is today. That is the euphoria of India visit. Naturally I forgot about this blog hop post.

And when I remembered the Internet connection was playing prank. I am just glad that I had tried the recipe for this post some times back and now just needed to compose the post.

This week I am assigned Sara's Blog and I chose this sweet dish. I chose is specially because it is microwave version. Now, I have a very basic microwave and I generally use it only for reheating. It was fun trying a new recipe. Only think I thought was the burfis were a little too sweet, so I reduced the sugar and next time I try it I would like to add 1/2 cup of Khoya for a richer texture and taste.


Ingredients:

2 Cup Coconut, I used dessicated. How ever, freshly dessicated will taste better.
1 cup sugar.
3/4 cup water
4 tbsp semolina.
2 tbsp ghee.
3 cardamom pods seeds powdered.
Process:

1. In a microwave safe bowl, add the water and sugar and microwave on a high for 4 minutes stirring every two minutes to make a one string consistency sugar syrup.

2. Now add rest of the ingredients and mix. Microwave it for another 6-8 minutes stirring it every 2 minutes, till the mixture looses moisture and becomes spreadable.

3. In a lined baking tray or thali spread this mixture and let it rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Cut it in desired shape.

4. When completely cooled take out individual burfis. Serve and enjoy.

Note: If you wish to add Khoya add it in the second step and adjust the sweetness. I will definitely try it next time.
Check out the other blog hoppers here. This event is the brain child of Radhika. Check out what other blog hoppers are up with.
Thank you for stopping by! Cheers!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Eggless Vanilla Cupcakes ~ Happy Birthday To Me!

The post title announces that it is a special day! Well, one's birthday is indeed special and I do not mind announcing it myself to the world.

I am on my India visit now and I am not really doing any blogging these days. To tell you the truth, I really do not feel like sitting in front of the computer when there is so many other things to do, friends and relatives to meet, shopping and 101 little things that time seems like flying. How ever, today is an exception. So, today I am sharing a very easy cupcake recipe. I have tried it a couple of times and I can tell you this much, this recipe is a keeper. With simple ingredients, it is so easy to make.

The best thing about cupcakes is that every body gets an individual cake and not just a piece of cake. Here I attempted to do the icing with double cream. However, it is as good without the icing. This is a basic recipe and you can add your own variations by adding choco chips, dried fruits, glace cherries etc.

Eggless Vanilla Cupcakes:

3/4 cup plain milk
11/2 tsp white vinegar
1 1/4 cups AP Flour
1 tsp baking powder.
1 tsp baking soda
 1/4 tsp salt.
3/4 cup powdered sugar.
1/4 cup oil.
11/2 tsp vanilla extract.

Yeilds 12.
Process:
1. Preheat the oven to 180 C. Line a 12 cup muffin tin with paper. Set aside.
2. In a small bowl, combine the milk and vinegar and set aside. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Mix to combine.
3. In a large bowl, combine the sugar, oil and vanilla. Stir in the milk mixture. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until smooth.
4. Pour the batter evenly into the prepared tin and bake for 20 minutes. The cupcakes are ready when a tooth pick inserted at the centre comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting.


For the frosting:

250 ml double cream.
1/4 cup icing sugar or more.
1 tsp vanilla extract
a few drops of food colour, optional.
Glace cherries, a few.

Process:

1. Add all the ingredients and whip it with a beater till it get stiff peaks.
2. Fill it in a icing bag and keep it in refrigerator for half an hour.
3. When the cupcakes have completely cooled, ice the cupcakes as you like. I used a star nozzle to make stars and swirls and with a few I made butterfly cupcakes.

These cupcakes were soft and moist. Try it once and I am sure you will make them again.
Thank you for stopping by. Cheers!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Micchami Dukkadam

“KHAAMEMI SAVVE JEEVA
SAVVE JEEVA KHAMANTU ME
METTI ME SAVVE BHUYESU
VAIRAM MAJHAM NA KENAI.”

“I grant forgiveness to all living beings,
All living beings grant me forgiveness.
My friendship is with all living beings,
My enmity is totally nonexistent.”

Today is the auspicious occasion of Jain Samvatsari. To tell you more about this holy Jain festival, I am quoting this information from Wikipedia.

Samvatsari is the last day of Paryushana —the eight or ten day festival of Jains. It is the holiest day of the Jain calendar. Most Jains observe a complete fast on this day. The whole day is spent in prayers and contemplation. A yearly, elaborate penitential retreat called Samvatsari pratikramana is performed on this day. After the pratikramana Jains seek forgiveness from all the creatures of the world whom they may have harmed knowingly or unknowingly by uttering the phrase— Micchami Dukkadam.

As a matter of ritual, we personally greet our friends and relatives Micchami Dukkadam.

On the auspicious occasion of Samvatsari, I ask for your forgiveness if I have hurt you knowingly or unknowingly by words or action, “Micchami Dukkadam”
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