August 29th, 2008


Ogden Nash on Birding

Shyamal sent me this gem, which I had not read before....

by Ogden Nash
(from You Can't Get There from Here 1957 pp.115-6)
Bird watchers top my honors list.
I aimed to be one, but I missed.
Since I'm both myopic and astigmatic,
My aim turned out to be erratic,
And I, bespectacled and binocular,
Exposed myself to comment jocular.
We don't need too much birdlore, do we,
To tell a flamingo from a towhee;
Yet I cannot, and never will,
Unless the silly birds stand still.
And there's no enlightenment in a tour
Of ornithological literature.
Is yon strange creature a common chickadee,
Or a migrant alouette from Picardy?
You can rush to consult your Nature guide
And inspect the gallery inside,
But a bird in the open never looks
Like its picture in the birdie books-
Or if it once did, it has changed its plumage,
And plunges you back into ignorant gloomage.
That is why I sit here growing old by inches,
Watching a clock instead of finches,
But I sometimes visualize in my gin
The Audubon that I audubin.

Here are MY thoughts:

No matter how bad I am at some activity
There's someone else who can say so in a manner more witty.
I may try to write humorous prose, or verse
About my being a bad birder, but by writing better, Nash proves he's worse!

How to present knowledge....

This is my opinion....if the solid dough of knowledge is leavened by touches of humour, it becomes the appetising bread of information that people are far more likely to understand and absorb.

For example, it would be better not to make preachy statements like the one above....

A Food Post (for you-know-who)

I was talking about dough being leavened in my last post, and I remembered that I had promised a friend a post on phulkas.

phulkAs are a very healthy, light option with food. I am not a Cordon Bleu cook...I cook because it has to be done every day....but I do make excellent phulkas.

"phoolnA" means, "to puff up" in Hindi, that's how this unleavened bread got its name. Practice makes perfect in rolling them out, and then, after toasting on the thAvA, they are put on a direct flame:

one phulka 290808

And then, they should puff up into round balls like this:

two phulka 290808

Without practice, the balls of dough take on a life of their own when you roll them out, and you will be, according to the standard "new-daughter-in-law" jokes, producing outline maps of various countries in the world instead of nice round shapes!

My recipe varies from the recipe in the link above. I don't add any oil or salt to the dough; often knead the dough only just before making the phulkas; and don't know how to make it on an electric hob, only on an open flame. I put the dough into a food-grade ziploc bag to prevent it drying out. And..I can't make fresh phulkas for more then one person at a time. My phulkas are very light, so guests can eat 5 or 6 making them when I call people for dinner takes a very long time. (Each phulka takes about a minute and a half to two minutes to make.)

And I have a nice old scratched-up thAvA (see photographs) which works perfectly well for making them.

Nowadays, I roll out the 4 phulkas I make for KM's lunch, and put them in between sheets of butter paper, THEN switch on the gas to heat up the griddle, and make the phulkas. This saves a lot of gas, I must say. When I have anyone to help me (VERY rare) one of us can roll out and one of us can toast them...

A very simple dish to go with phulkas is thuvar dhAl,the recipe for which would be:

Boil half a cup of thuvar dal in the pressure cooker, ensure that the lentils don't get mashed together. Eight minutes after full pressure works for me.

Heat ghee (or a mixture of oil and ghee...but there MUST be ghee to get that lovely aroma) and to it, add pounded jeera, a couple of red chillies, and asafoetida powder (if you use pieces it could suddenly get into one mouthful and spoil the taste completely), and pour over the dal, and add salt to taste. Such a simple recipe, which I learnt from my sister-in-law's mother; my daughter used to call it "dal-dal" to distinguish it from the regular moong dal recipe I used to make.

KM has just finished his standard vegetable, sambar, one other dish (today it was cucumber raita) and 4 phulkas. I think I heard him burp....

OK, make them and call me over!