Saturday 23 February 2008

Personality Classifications

It is my theory, with my years of wisdom to back my claim, that we can categorize a person’s personality basis his cooking style. I have categorized people into three types. The first type is a person who cooks by the book. These are the people I call ‘Straight liners’. They will open a recipe book and follow it point by point. 50grams means 50 grams, to be measured on a weighing scale. You say 1 tsp and they say leveled or heaped? In life also, these people tend to be the more meticulous sort. They will follow structure, will be great performers because of being highly efficient. They will also be more of the planners, will make to-do lists and follow them.

The second sort of people are the ‘Zig Zags’. I find myself in this category. Whenever the cooking bug bites me, I will look at 2-3 books for recipes to serve as a base. I will note the general rules for cooking a certain sauce or meat. With this research in hand, I will improvise on an existing recipe to make something unique. Thus I may not divert too much from the straight line but do not follow it either. The ‘Zig Zags’ in life are an interesting lot. They like structure in terms of processes to be there as guidelines. Within this structure, they like to have creative freedom to do things their way. They are the innovators, constantly coming up with a better way to use the current resources.

The last category of people are the ‘Path discoverers’. A self-confident lot, they do not follow any recipe. They will enter the kitchen, look at the ingredients and think up of a new recipe to churn out every other time. It might be completely off the mark, but once in a while, it’s a jackpot. In life, you may find them to be the creative lot, the free-thinkers. They work best as loners, left to their device. And they would hate to be categorized!

If you have reached this far in my theory and are still reading, you will have one burning thought in your mind. How can she without years and years of research, formal knowledge and analysis have the gall to come up with something as preposterous as this? Well you see, I figured that if Freud could be renowned for all he said basis his 20 year research on one person, I have been closely studying myself for as much time too!! What say you??

Thursday 7 February 2008

Blogging..

Having a blog is the new ‘cool’ thing. I have one and probability suggests that unless you are reading this because you are related to me, you have one too! So what is it that makes this concept so popular? What entices us to pour our thoughts out on a page that may be visible to the entire world?

It is something I like to call ‘Voluntary Interaction’. Expressing oneself is a need that all humans have. We like to speak our minds, some more often than others. But for the people who don’t speak their minds often, it’s not that they do not have an opinion to share. They do, they just are not sure whether it should be put forth and be allowed to be scrutinized.

On the axis I define which ranges from Involuntary interaction to Voluntary interaction, talking face to face is the most direct form. When we stand in front of a person and talk, we compel the other person to respond, all the time deciphering his body language, gestures, tone of voice etc. Talking on the phone is a step down the line. We can choose not to pick a phone, we can make a face while saying something diplomatic. Next comes the concept of emails and letters. It puts the ball in our court. We can choose when to reply, dwelling over how the tone of our reply needs to be. The sender is more free to express himself as he is not burdened with the immediate reaction of the recipient. SMS would also fall in the same category.

Blogs are the other end of the spectrum. They allow us to express our views without self-speculation on how the person reading will react to it. The reader is not bound to read a blog. It is a voluntary effort. Interaction by the way of commenting on a blog is an action the decision of which is completely in the hands of the reader. If he desires anonymity while doing so, there is a provision for the same too.

This new platform, I believe, lets us discuss our thoughts with an imaginary world. A world where people are interested in knowing our opinion…a world that does not scorn our intent….a world where there is a little place for all of us.

Friday 1 February 2008

Egypt Explored - 2 (The Food Trail)

In an era where it’s fashionable to claim “I like to explore the local cuisine of a place when I travel”, I run the risk of repeating a cliché, but I actually do like to try out the local cuisine. I confess, many times, I have had to resort back to tried and tested taste of pasta or steak when the local taste (like the peanut and fish taste in Bali) does not agree with my palate but more often than not, we try to pack in atleast one local meal in the day when we travel.

When you close your eyes and think of the food of a country with a vibrant heritage and Islamic culture like that of Egypt, you will probably dream of steaming hot gravies and lots of meats! I thought the same, but I couldn't have been more off the mark. Egyptian food is dry…very very dry. The reasoning is quite simple actually – the country’s main source of water is the River Nile around which their lives literally revolve. The rain gods rarely oblige them in this desert land.

Egyptians eat in small portions throughout the day. Only dinner is a proper sit down affair. Breakfast is usually beans and their local bread. This bread is omnipresent in all their meals. It’s a sort of dry grainy pita bread. Very dry for my liking but they seem to relish it. Lunch is usually a take away sandwich in the same bread with your choice of filling. Fillings range from crispy wafers to mixed vegetables, aubergines and even boiled egg. This is topped with just a dollop of hummus if you so wish. Surprisingly, no meats are offered as fillings. The very famous shwarma roll of the middle east is also available here but in their dry pita bread and with only a bit of hummus. Unfortunately, it did not measure up to the rolls you can find in street corners in Dubai.

In the evenings, we would usually walk around town and try to find the market where the locals roamed and not the tourists. Cairo is a bustling city with lots of options for foodies. We were staying in the uppity diplomatic area called Zamalek. We tried a few restaurants around town, Abou El Seid(Egyptian Cuisine), Cilantros (A coffee shop like our Barista), Five Bells (International food) among others but found the best to be right behind our hotel, a tiny café on the sidewalk that made heavenly food that you could have with your favourite hookah called ‘Goal’.

But undoubtedly, the better cousin was Luxor in terms of food. A British lady settled here and started a restaurant called The Lantern. She served generous portions of English food and made you feel at home as she walked around the tables and chatted with the guests. A little expensive compared to other restaurants, this was sure worth every penny. Luxor has the luxury of being a tiny town and if you so wish, you can literally walk the length of the town. We would set off early evening with the tonga walas trying to sell us a ride (but eventually over the days, even they stopped trying and waved as we passed) and walked where we would wish. Some days the road would lead us to the corniche (the Nile banks) which are lined with cafes and little shops. On other days, we would walk into the local market and try out their best sellers. But undoubtedly, the best meal we had in Egypt was in a restaurant called Tutankhamun. Across the Nile from the Luxor Temple, this little restaurant is the talk of the town. An unpretentious terrace café, the chef has worked in popular hotels like the Hyatt. We ordered the most recommended dish, the chicken curry. Coming from India, we thought we couldn’t be surprised by it, but we were so wrong! A delicious gravy with the tangy taste of mango and the chicken melting in our mouth, it was unbeatable. But that was the least of the surprises. The dish was accompanied by 2 vegetables, one gravy, one salad, some rice and some local bread. We couldn’t believe our eyes when the waiter just kept bringing the dishes in. A must have!!

So if you want my advise, go with an open mind, good research and the recommendations of locals – Egypt can not and will not let your taste buds down!