Nostalgia packed fresh kadhi pakora, biryani made with leftovers and a sign from Twitter to keep blogging
|Punjabi kadhi Chawal and Bengali alu peyaj koli|
I must confess that there are times when I feel a bit circumspect about blogging. Is it worth it, I ask myself. Does anyone even read the blog anymore?
Then there are times when I come dancing (metaphorically) to my desk to write. When I wrote this post for example. In this case it was thanks to a message that I received on Twitter of all places. A place where, unlike when one first joined it, one hardly expects to get a kind message these days. I saw the direct messages just after my physio session ended yesterday and I stopped in my tracks when I did so.
It started off by saying, "Kalyan your blog has saved my life!"
I was stunned when I read it and went on to learn that the sender had unfortunately been unwell recently due to a non-covid (thankfully) infection and was unable to eat. The sender apparently came across one of my posts one night, read it and then continued reading more. "I have read more of your blog posts since then and regained my appetite (after having lost it earlier and being on a liquid diet)."
And then, "I shudder to think what would have happened if I did not open your newsletter. Maybe I'd have still been writhing around in agony."
The sender concluded the messages by saying, "Please do keep writing. You never know how your blog could be making a difference in the lives of so many people! For sure it is helping me a lot."
This was surreal. I felt horrid to hear about what the sender of the message had suffered, and yet felt so humbled to read the messages.
To explain why, let me take you a bit back in time. I had been feeling a bit disillusioned about blogging as I said at the start of this story. 'Disillusioned' is very big a word and perhaps it is too harsh, but yes, I did ask myself should I focus on other things.
I had blogged far more regularly after the lockdown compared to the time before. Chronicling stories from our daily life during the lockdown in what I called my 'Covid 19 Lockdown Diaries.'. The aim was to hopefully give a little bit of happiness and joy to people in these oppressive times through my writing.
The number of readers for this did not seem very high. Nothing like what it was in the past. There would be the occasional jump if I wrote about something topical like when I wrote about restaurants, freelancers and home chefs. but that was it.
K pointed out that I never looked at numbers when I started out when I told her about this. That I wrote then because I wanted to write and that I should continue to do so.
The thing is, that I do glance at the numbers now and there was nothing great happening there it seems.
The stories people seemed to share or forward on social media were those of recipes and if at all otherwise, then on food culture or history and largely written on publications. The fact that these publications pay a pittance usually or hold payments back (I am experiencing the latter now in one case for work done well before the lockdown) did not matter. There was even an article on 'bloggers' in the Economic Times where a journalist wrote about 'bloggers,' but featured people who did Instagram story videos. Which was rather strange, if not a bit sad.
Is this what the general junta thinks? Should I even bother blogging about slice of life stories, I asked myself. Is there a place for such stories? For long form journaling?
Do blogs have a reason to still exist? Or bloggers for that matter?
Should I just focus on Instagram instead?
|A minimal effort/ 'fakibaj' (Bengali), sausage and matured cheddar, sourdough open sandwich breakfast|
If you are reading this post then please tell me what do you feel about this.
Would you for example, like to know of the joy I felt when I woke up yesterday morning and realised that I had a minimal effort breakfast planned?
Slices of Zorabian spicy chicken sausage, the ones I had saved while making sausage pasta the night before. The recipe of which happens to be the only recipe of hers that I had got Kainaz to teach me after we got married. This was because she loved the dish and I wanted to make it for her. I made the recipe my own over time and love making it for her still.
|Baby Loaf listens to Mummy and Daddy Loaf's pasta story|
I placed slices of those sausages yesterday morning on slices of two day old sourdough bread from La Folie which we had ordered from Koinonia Coffee Roasters in Bandra. With some English mature cheddar from Wyke Farms crumbled in. Almost the last of my precious stock as I cannot find this anywhere after the lockdown. Then I drizzled in some extra virgin olive oil before I bunged in the sliced and crowned bread into the griller. Once done, I added a few drops of balsamic to the toast make for a brilliant and yet effort free breakfast.
Would you like to know of how I told myself, 'chef Sanjana Patel (of la Folie) would approve of what I made.'
|Mumbai PG memories on a plate of Grover kadhi chawal|
Would you like to know of the lunch that followed this?
Leftovers from the kadhi pakora chawal that our friends, the Grovers, had sent a few nights back. A meal which reminded me of kadhi chawal dinners at the house of the vegetarian Punjabi family that I stayed at as a PG when new to Mumbai. Where my PG aunty had adopted me as her own.
Would you like to know about how I smiled yesterday seeing my lives in Kolkata and Mumbai merge, when I paired the kadhi chawal with the turmeric smeared, nigella seeds bejewelled, stir fried potato and spring onion dish, which was a throwback to my childhood and my mother's kitchen in Kolkata?
|Spot the cat|
Would you like to know about the breakfast I had today?
|Kolkata memories stuffed in parathas given by Mumbai friends|
Of the Kolkata egg rolls that I made with the leftovers of the stack of parathas that the Grovers had sent? The 'Paratha Express' as I call these coveted gifts of food from them.
|A day with Baby Loaf|
Would you like to know about how I got up and went to his room to calm Baby Loaf down when it was pouring last night? About how it was pouring this morning when I woke up when I felt Baby Loaf moonwalk on my back, the way he does on fresh linen (much to K's chagrin that) and then saw him come over beside me and peer into my face?
"Is he ok? It is 9.30 am. OMG! He is still asleep. Call the police. Call the ambulance," said the look in his eyes till I got up, hugged him and fed him.
|Cookies by Gia Badami|
Hand model: Daddy Loaf
Would you like to know about how our neighbour Erica, and her daughter Gia, came to visit us last night with the magnificent chocolate cookies Gia had just baked? She is Baby Loaf's best friend.
Would you like to know about what Erica told me about ordering mutton and paya from Mohsin of Janta Mutton Shop (9820420136)? About how good she found the mutton to be? About how she had ordered from him after reading about him on my feed?
Our cook Banu comes in occasionally these days and washes hands for 20 seconds first, dons a mask and cleans and cooks and leaves, before it is back to K & me again for the rest of the week. Yesterday I took out the mutton that we had bought from Mohsin a week back, gave her the spices for the jhol and she made that and her white mutton pulao.
Would you like to know about how fabulous and spectacular that mutton was? Or how good her cooking was? Of how good it was have to her back. Even if occasionally.
|Mutton from Janta mutton starred in the mangshor jhol and mutton pulao that we had today|
Would you like know more about Mohsin? Well, he owns a mutton shop at Worli in Mumbai and reached out to our friend Shaswati, a former customer of his from her Worli days, about his willingness to deliver in Bandra as business was down after the lockdown. She gave us the lead and we both ordered from him. The stuff was very good and I wrote about it in my blog and many readers wrote to me saying that they followed my lead and were very happy with what he gave.
#supportsmallbusiness is the hashtag I believe for this. Something I have been doing for ages through my blog. #loveyourleftovers is the hashtag that I use for the meals I just spoke of. From the #finelychoppedkitchen. Enjoyed on #platesoffinelychopped
You might know of these hashtags from Instagram. I share these stories there. I possibly meet more of you there than that at the blog. More often for sure.
|#loveyourleftovers biryani with Misbah Mitha's Arabian pulao and roast chicken that I made|
Talking of #loveyourleftovers, would you like to know about how I had roasted chicken legs (after marinating them in dahi, mustard oil, ginger paste, garam masala, salt and red chilli powder) in the oven the other day and then put them back in the oven with the leftover Arabic pulao sent by home chef, Misbah Mitha, earlier in the week to make a 'biryani.' While I might have written about the Shadab, Shah Ghouse, Thalakapatty, Wahid, Idris, Aminia, Shiraz and Lucky biryani in the past, I was rather proud of my #loveyourleftovers biryani that day.
I cut the salad too and would you like to know about how my onion slicing skills have improved during the lockdown?
|The #spalifetakeover of the #finelychopped study|
Would you like to how about how earlier that (the biryani) day there was a #spalife takeover of the #finelychopped study with K doing media zoom interviews from there? The room that Baby Loaf and I call the 'boy's room.'
|The Finely Chopped desk|
Would you like to know about how I settled down to write this post at my desk after lunch today, welcomed by the song of the birds? About how I was interrupted by K just after I had typed a couple of lines? She was breathless after having climbed up the stairs from picking up a delivery downstairs.
"You have to go down and see. Mishti is there. (the cat who had delivered recently and whom some of us were feeding). With her kitten (whom I call Nimki, just as I had named the mom Mishti). It looks like a carbon copy of Loaf!!!"
|Meet Mishti Debi and little nimki|
Would you like to know about why I did not choose a gender while referring to Nimki after I had thought Baby Loaf to be a girl at first and called him Maharani till Dr Nicole told us he is a 'mulga,' a boy?
Would you like to know of the joy I felt when I saw the Mishti and Nimki eat today? Of how I suspect that Mishti could be our Baby Loaf's cat-mother?
|The writer and his muse as K titled this pic which she took|
I don't know if any of what I wrote about here interests you to be honest.
The next time I wonder about any of this though, or have self doubts, I will remind myself of the words, "your blog has saved my life," and remind myself of how lucky I am to have this blog to which I owe so much. Starting with a responsibility to bring happiness and joy to my readers. That is all that matters!
To the sender of the messages, all I have to say is thank you and take care. Stay safe, snug and happy and thank you for sharing this with me. It meant the world to me. More than you can imagine. Get well soon. Be healthier than you ever were before and may you turn poison into medicine.
Note: I have taken the sender's permission to share the DMs and have intentionally blurred the identity of the sender. I hope you did not find it indulgent of me to share this but this is one of the most special moments of blogging over the last 13 years.
Thank you for all your support and for reading.
What could be of interest
- The story of my PG aunty
- How I got rid of the writer's block that took over my life
- Things that gave me joy in the lockdown
- What will customers expect from restaurants during lockdown?
- Freelancers during the lockdown
- How home chefs came of age during the lockdown
- The story of Baby Loaf
- Discovering the joys of leftover cooking