Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Revelry Review: The World We Found

Ever since taking a post-colonial literature class in college, I have been obssessed with Indian literature (both literature about India and literature by Indian authors). My favorites include Salman Rushdie, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Jhumpa Lahiri, Rohinton Mistry and Thrity Umrigar. I've read most of Umrigar's novels and loved them all, so I didn't hesitate to pre-order her latest, The World We Found.

The synopsis from the Amazon page: "As university students in late 1970s Bombay, Armaiti, Laleh, Kavita, and Nishta were inseparable. Spirited and unconventional, they challenged authority and fought for a better world. But much has changed over the past thirty years. Following different paths, the quartet drifted apart, the day-to-day demands of work and family tempering the revolutionary fervor they once shared.

Then comes devastating news: Armaiti, who moved to America, is gravely ill and wants to see the old friends she left behind. For Laleh, reunion is a bittersweet reminder of unfulfilled dreams and unspoken guilt. For Kavita, it is an admission of forbidden passion. For Nishta, it is the promise of freedom from a bitter fundamentalist husband. And for Armaiti, it is an act of acceptance, of letting go on her own terms even if her ex-husband and daughter do not understand her choices.

In the course of their journey to reconnect, Armaiti, Laleh, Kavita, and Nishta must confront the truths of their lives—acknowledge long-held regrets, face painful secrets and hidden desires, and reconcile their idealistic past and their compromised present. And they will have to decide what matters most, a choice that may just help them reclaim the extraordinary world they once found."

This was not my favorite Umrigar novel, but it was a quick and interesting read that contained great characters that will remain in my mind for a long time. You will definitely root for these characters and weep with them. The book's weakness, however, might be that it tried to deal with so many themes--friendship, love, belonging, the past, religion, feminism, same sex relationships, illness, women's rights, family, classism, politics, regret, modern day India--that it didn't settle on any one for quite long enough to do it justice. By the end of the novel, I still felt like there were a few loose ends that weren't quite followed through to their end.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Vegan Seafood

In my pre-veg early twenties, I very suddenly developed a severe shellfish allergy. I was forced to cut them out of my diet cold turkey (cold shrimp?). Now I wouldn't eat them even if I could due to ethical reasons, but I would be lying if I said there weren't times over the years when I missed shellfish. A few weeks back when I saw Sophie's Kitchen vegan seafood appear in our local market, I decided to give it a try, if only because my Mom developed the same allergy and I know she misses it badly.

They come frozen, so you simply thaw them out long enough for them to separate and then add them to whatever you are cooking.

For us, that meant a stir-fry with an orange sauce. I added them in during the last few minutes of cooking time.

We served our stir-fry over some brown rice. Since I accidentally bought prawns instead of shrimp, they were enormous. As for the taste, they were chewy and slightly gummy, but I think it's been so long since I had shrimp that I am not sure I was a good judge. Jesse really liked them, but I felt like I could take them or leave them. If I get them again, I think I will try the shrimp, which will be smaller.

I also picked up some vegan breaded calamari, which I will review here once I get a chance to give them a try.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Dinners Lately

Lately, I've been cooking lots and lots of bowls for dinner, meaning a grain or base of some sort, steamed veggies, a protein and a sauce. They are a perfect dinner, usually provide leftovers for lunch and are a great way to use up what you have in the fridge. I've been trying to cook gluten-free (more on that in another post) as well, so these bowls are good for that purpose too. If you pile on the veggies, it looks and feels like a ton of food for not a ton of calories. For great ideas, check out the section on bowls in the back of Appetite for Reduction (love, love, LOVE this cookbook!).

Soba noodles, black beans, steamed broccoli and zucchini with green onion miso vinaigrette from AFR.

Brown rice, steamed broccoli, sesame tempeh and peanut lime dressing from AFR (BEST SAUCE EVER!!!! I want to put it on everything everyday.)

Quinoa, steamed broccoli and green beans, baked tofu with spicy orange sauce (from a bottle).

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Revelry Review: ShopHouse

This past weekend Jesse and I tried a new-ish fast food restaurant, ShopHouse, the latest creation of the founder of Chipotle. Touted as a "southeast Asian kitchen", you can either build a bowl or have a banh mi sandwich with a variety of possible fillings. I had been looking forward to checking it out for a few months now. If I had checked my expectations at the door, I might have liked this place better than I did. I had dreams of yummy warm green curry and firm chunks of tofu with a variety of delicious veggies.

However, as a vegetarian, there was no green curry for me. In fact, the only sauce that did not count fish sauce as an ingredient was the tamarind vinagrette. Okay, fine. I was disappointed but I figured I would just appreciate that they told me and move on. The tofu looked more like the tofu scramble I make at home than any tofu I have ever had at an Asian restaurant. It was very tumeric-y and SUPER spicy. I wish I had been warned.

When you are essentially eating a bowl of brown rice and tumeric-y tofu, it would be great if you were allowed to choose more than one vegetable. My sauteed long beans were delicious but I wasn't given that many of them. I would have loved to try the charred corn, eggplant and Chinese broccoli too. Chipotle lets me have whatever toppings I want and I wish this place did too. The saving grace was the green papaya salad, which provided some relief for my super spicy lunch.

Overall, I thought ShopHouse had large portion sizes and I appreciate having a new fast food vegetarian option, but I just wish it had been less spicy and contained more veggies. Hopefully they will refine their menu over time.

ShopHouse is located at 1516 Connecticut Ave, NW, Washington, DC.

Monday, January 9, 2012

2012 Intentions

I'm very late to the New Year's resolution party (it seems like I blinked and it went from October to January!), but I still thought it would be worthwhile to post my 2012 intentions here.

~Eat a healthy vegan diet, particularly adding in lots of greens.
~Journal regularly.
~Visit at least one new city.
~Savor turning 30 and all that lies ahead of me.

My word for 2012 is committed--to myself, my health, my growth, my relationship and my happiness.

{Image from Martha Stewart}

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

South African Scenes

A sign at the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg
Jesse next to an anti-poaching rhino in Mandela Square. Poachers get $100,000 per tusk. Heartbreaking and disgusting!
A mama monkey and her baby
Bourke's Luck Potholes (or as we call them, a giant canyon)
Jesse and I at Bourke's Luck Potholes
Two giant mangos and an entire bag of lychees for less than $3. I love traveling to countries that have summer when we have winter!
An elephant asleep on a tree at Kruger National Park
Lions at Kruger National Park
Baby warthogs at Kruger National Park
A field of giraffe at Hluhluwe Game Reserve
Cape buffalo at Hluhluwe Game Reserve
Zebras at Hluhluwe game reserve
A male giraffe at Hluhluwe game reserve
A hippo during our estuary cruise in St. Lucia
The view of Cape Town from the top of Table Mountain
A rock hyrax that lives on the top of Table Mountain
Jesse and I at the top of Table Mountain
Baboons hanging out on the side of the road (there had to be at least 100 of them!)
The District Six Museum in Cape Town. This is on the floor. It's a map of where people's homes used to be before the government tore them all down during apartheid to make room for white people's homes, though they never built anything. The District Six area remains empty to this day.
Langa, the largest township in Cape Town
The V&A Waterfront in Cape Town
The beach in Cape Town
African penguins at Boulder Beach in Simon's Town
Cape of Good Hope