Camping ready :)

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There was a phase in my life when attending camps and conferences was so often that my mother wondered if I was still legally working full time for the IT firm that had employed me! Everytime we had a talk I told her of where I’d travelled to and all the people and challenges I’d faced at the camp.

One of the real challenges was, believe it or not, the food that they served at these camps. Now, almost all these camps were self-sustaining, and economy and good sense was called to the fore, when planning for the location and services for the camp. More often than not, the spiritual feasting far outweighed the physical by a great degree. 🙂 However, I understood a teensy bit of what it meant to host someone, when my home was where all the womenfolk bunked down during a mini-training camp. AND, when their breakfast became my responsibility. Nothing like wearing someone else’s shoes to understand the planning, need and skill that went into something so seemingly simple and basic. It made me more accepting of humble fares (and being more far sighted in taking my own cookies and khakras along), and it also opened my eyes to be a better host!

It was 3John 1:6-8 that made me reconsider my blasĂ© attitude toward hospitality, with the command in verse 8 “We ought therefore to show hospitality to such men so that we may work together for the truth.” hitting home hard! There’s more in Romans 12:13 “Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” Hospitality is an inescapable part of building God’s Kingdom! So, whether it’s for another mini-camp at home, or just a snack to enjoy over a hot piping cup of chai with friends, I was ecstatic when Miriam chechi (MC) allowed me to choose Poha (a flattened rice dish eaten as a snack in Nothern India) as the breakfast that morning when all the guys went to the NY Auto show. Out came half a large onion sliced quite thin. This was followed by a medium sized potato, peeled,  and I was surprised to hear that it had to be sliced as thin as the onion. A large colander was 2/3rds filled with the poha (to feed roughly 6 people), that was washed till all the powdery substance went off. Salt and turmeric, I think were the only additions. Diced green chillies provided the can’t-do-without Indian flavour – spice. Mix well, please.

In the frying pan the onions went in when the splattering mustard seeds quietened down, and just as they lose their transparency, add in the potatos and the poha mixture, cover up and cook till the potatos are done. Garnish with lime juice, peanuts and coriander. It wasn’t a big hit with the guys generally used to idlis and dosas for a “traditional” breakfast, but it did raise cereal-breakfaster, Austen’s curiosity enough for him to ask MC “what is that?” Maybe some day, people might actually eat something I’ve made with something approaching relish. Till then, camps, get ready for some poha power!

Scale, clarity, range and the rest

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I am tone deaf. This fact generally manages to keep me out of musical experiments of any kind. Notice, I said “generally”. One such not-so-general occassion was this Sunday, when I was asked to be on the panel of judges for the Sunday School (music related) competitions! Not having the least clue on how to do a fair job with lisping 5year olds, I called up Augustine, to whom music is what fishing was to Apostle Peter. Armed with scale, clarity, range, breathing technique, memorisation, appearance, etc, etc, I sat down hoping my Maths wouldn’t betray me (that was a lot of categories to add up!)

I have heard most of these kids sing on Youth Sunday, but I was in for a surprise! Kids love to learn. The scale didn’t matter. It didn’t matter that some of us were covering our ears. It was drama and joy all the way through for the younger ones. It didn’t matter if they started off on a wrong note, putting on a show was what interested them. No fear of failure, no regret over mistakes, just the exhilarating joy of showing what they had learnt.

This was another beautiful thing I have come to love about our church. An environment of acceptance, nurturing, teaching, encouraging and guiding. Children are a treasure, and their upbringing requires prayerful responsibility. This church is not just for grown ups, it’s for the two year old Josiah too, who had his turn at the drums, and played us all a pretty good number too. Investment always brings returns.

I also took some time to speak with some of the older kids. One was nervous, one didn’t want to be called in as a last minute replacement like last year, the boys were eager for the scores, the juniors looked for the applause, and the kindergarteners refused to come out from the bright sunny yard outside. The excited eagerness as they waited for the scores was infectious…They made me realise there is SO MUCH yet to be discovered and enjoyed in life. So many possibilities as we obey God’s word. This Sunday was a privilege. But so is everyday, since I am a child of God! 🙂

Miriam’s Mango Mousse

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The long, sunny, spring weekend beckoned us to soak in the sunlight and spring about with the wood creatures. After a friendly bout of competitive pull ups and push ups, (which I must part take in the next time, if only to increase the entertainment value), we headed out to Hacklebarney State Park, where we enjoyed a mild trek of about a mile till we reached Trout Brook. Criss-crossing the streams (the water at it’s deepest was only calf high), stopping at every little waterfall and bridge, stepping over rocks and fallen tree trunks, and oohing over the different dogs who decided to visit as well (Anne really loved the majestic Dalmatian we saw on the way back). What a lovely day!

Which is why, we didn’t feel the least bit sorry for indulging in a bit of luxury at the end of the day when Miriam chechi(MC) decided that I should make the Mango Mousse for dessert. Into a boiling pan of water, went 2 sachets of Jello crystals. The orange fury was allowed to cool before the will-make-any-dessert-heavenly can of condensed milk was poured in. The rich mango puree followed and finally whipped cream was folded in, and the whole batter was whisked to make a smooth pour. Then, out came the pie crusts, and on went the mango misture, which was then lidded, and refridgerated for a few hours.

MC did a roll call to see what we wanted for dinner that night, and almost  without exception, the answer was “No dinner for me, please”. Not surprising, considering the huge barbeque lunch we had after making it back from Hacklebarney. MC isn’t used to sending people to bed without supper, and so, each one of us got a very genenrous portion of the Mango Mousse!

Baked Masala Potato

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Many have been the occassions and people who have encouraged me to cooking. But, in Miriam chechi(MC), I think I might have finally met someone who is gentle enough, and persuasive enough to see me through my diffidence and laziness to actually making simple and tasty dishes. Here’s the first of them. I hope to document them, considering the hereditary forgetfulness that runs in our family, not just for the rememberance of pleasant memories, but so I actually go out there and cook!! 🙂

After washing thoroughly, dice some pink skinned potatos. MC tells me that the brown skinned potatos would work just as well, but the pink skinned ones taste better. The skin is kept on, and add on some salt, pepper, red chilli flakes, maybe even a bit of oregano and any other condiment you’d like. Finish off with a sprinkling of olive oil before placing the tray in for baking.

Of course, now that I’m writing down the recipe, I realise I didn’t ask how long the potatos should be baked. I guess, as I go along, I’ll realise more and more the cracks in my cooking (which is a good thing I guess, as long as I strive to fill those gaps :). Bear with me and I’ll get the time from MC, when we catch up next.