A tasty welcome back to Delhi

nomkababnomnom

Back in India for a lot of different purposes, including but not limited to my own wedding. But beyond family, friends and finishing schoolwork, there’s also food. And oh is there a lot of food.

Pet bhar gaya.

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There’s actually more tryptophan in this…

Pretend Thanksgiving dinner

My belated and fake all-vegetarian Thanksgiving dinner: A Tofurky “roast” with a paprika baste on a bed of homemade rosemary stuffing surrounded by roast potato slices.

Nearly two hours of baking later, I had something akin to a turkey dinner in a pot. The Tofurky — a ball of tofu with a wild rice stuffing of its own — was not bad though still a poor substitute for an actual turkey. And my homemade stuffing crushed the baked-in variety.

But, surprisingly, soy has a substantially higher concentration of tryptophan per gram. This may be why I am rather sleepy at the moment.

Nonetheless, like a real Thanksgiving turkey, there will be plenty of leftovers.

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Food sovereignty in her back “yard”

Urban development + food security

Today is World Food Day, a day noted by food sovereignty+security+justice organizations from the U.N. FAO down to the smallest community co-op. It’s one of these international “days” when we’re all supposed to pay attention to the plight of the millions upon millions of people across the world (and yes, in the U.S., too) whose lives are poorer for their lack of ready access to good, healthy food.

Of course, in the U.S., most of us, myself included, let such days pass without notice. And in reality, a “day” of recognition is a rather artificial way of tackling a problem.

But nonetheless, the grad school hippy in me finds the exercise worthwhile. So I’ve been pondering the above photo, of a mother from Kibera, a sprawling slum of Nairobi. I met her October 15, 2009, when I spent a few weeks in Kenya talking to people about water and environment and health (and also lions and zebras). That’s her youngest on her back, her family’s clothes on the line, and importantly, her primary source of fresh greens growing out of a gunny sack on the ground behind her.

The soil in Kibera is compacted and often toxic from waste/chemical leeching. And space is at a premium, so any kind of local ag has to adapt. Yet in back “yards” across the slum people have taken to growing basic roots and greens in makeshift gardens.

In the face of a globalizing world food system that delivers grocery stores full of processed foodstuffs to us in the Global North, here a marginalized peasantry (displaced to megacities) still manages to respond with their own alternatives. Contained within this picture is a powerful and yet humbling critique of industrialized food that we who have plenty need to hear.

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And we’re back…

I’ve only been back stateside less than a week. I spent my winter break in India and specifically Delhi, visiting friends (and one incredibly important person), laying the ground work for research, meeting scholars and activists, reading development material — Seeing Like a State, The Bottom Billion and Development Redefined — and eating.

This included visits to the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, the Energy and Resources Institute, Greenpeace India, JNU, WWF India, an organic farm and the Centre for Science and Environment.

It also meant many meals of gunpowder and paratha and curry and thugpa and paranthe and chana and bhel puri and, well, everything. I had the best Indian meals of my life in an out of the way faux village and probably consumed more Tibetan momos in the three weeks there than in my entire life previously. Sadly, almost none of this food was properly photographed. This seems like an incredible oversight now.

Unfortunately, the trip was too short. It always is. But I’ll be back in May.

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Vegan pizza: A failure of execution…

Lesson: looks ≠ taste

After almost four weeks of being vegan, I became ambitious and tried my hand at vegan pizza. Looks tasty, no?

I started with a bread recipe that came highly recommended, but turned out less than stellar in practice. I substituted wheat flour thinking of health and got heavy dense bread. It didn’t help that my crust was far, far, far too thick (lacking a rolling pin).

I also failed in the pizza sauce, not mixing in enough spices (oregano, garlic, salt, pepper).

Worst of all, I opted for the cheaper fake cheese veggie shreds. The higher quality, more expensive Daiya cheese-like veggie shreds work. These were an epic fail, despite promising to melt.

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Who needs turkey?

Stew

It’s Thanksgiving. What do you do when you don’t eat meat?

Use vegetable protein. Mmmm…

Green and leafy + fungus

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Feasting on fall

Caramelicious

Getting in touch with my farm town roots, I visited an orchard a couple weeks ago in the rolling Maryland countryside. The apples were nearly picked out — I found one good Pink Lady on a tree and enjoyed it thoroughly — but no matter. The highlight of the trip was very clearly the wonderful toffee apple above.

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Carbon steel wok vs. tofu

Dry fry

My first attempt at cooking with tofu was a disaster. Mushy, flavorless, goo.

This time, I tried the vegetarian equivalent of the sausage grillers’ “slow and low” mantra: the tofu dry fry.

After slicing up a big brick of extra-firm tofu, I browned the individual pieces over the course of an hour. Not exactly economical in terms of time, but absolutely worth the effort.

Mmmm...

The low heat essentially dries out the tofu with minimal burning. The result is a slightly crispy sponge of tofu that soaks up marinade. As soon as they had browned, the pieces of tofu went into a bowl of teriyaki, garlic, black and red pepper.

The whole mix was then stir fried up with onions, mushrooms, corn, kelp noodles and more garlic.

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Kale chips ahoy!

Super(snack)food

A week-and-a-half ago, I found a two pound bag of kale for $2.50 at my grocer. That made for good kale stir fry and soup. But as I’ve raved about kale, everyone keeps telling me to bake up kale chips.

So this afternoon, while trying to wade through grad school reading, I also tossed the remainder of my kale bag in oil, shook on some Old Bay and they’re baking away as I type.

Timer just beeped. Now for the tasting.

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Elemental dinner

Simple

I get immense satisfaction from cooking basic foodstuffs that are healthy and turn out incredibly tasty. I realize that many people know how to cook far better, but this is a new leaf for me.

Above, left to right: Red lentils, diced tomatoes mixed with diced green peppers, a to-be-diced white onion, chopped green onions. Mostly organic.

Boil the lentils until they’re about half-way to tender in a stainless steel pot, throw in everything else, spice with black pepper, cayenne pepper, garlic, lots of thyme and a tiny bit of sugar.

Salt to taste. Boil the rest of the way until the lentils are finished.

Finished product below.

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