My life has changed so much. A couple of years ago I never thought I'd be reviewing a cookbook. But I cook meals now for someone, and have grown to liMy life has changed so much. A couple of years ago I never thought I'd be reviewing a cookbook. But I cook meals now for someone, and have grown to like all kinds of new foods in the process. I especially love learning about and eating foods from around the world, and have discovered it is a great way to learn, celebrate, and interact with other cultures and people.
First thing's first -- I'm not a vegan, but I only cook vegetarian. Anything calling for vegan "butter" here will be ghee, and alternative yogurt is the regular sort. Also, I got this book for Christmas and was unfamiliar with Richa's blog. I couldn't tell you if much of this is on her blog or not. Onward.
I think it is impossible for a cookbook to be 100% tailored to you, unless you are the author. So when rating cookbooks, I want to keep this in mind. I give this book five stars, because it is colourful, so far very tasty, informative, and a good resource for Indian ingredients.
One thing that wasn't tailored to me is that some recipes were not just... sauces. So you will have "Tofu in _____ Sauce/Curry" or "Cauliflower in ____ Sauce/Curry" yet on many recipes it lists alternatives. But sometimes it doesn't, and when I did replace the vegetable or protein source in a recipe, it was hard for me to plug it in and still keep track of the sauce part of the recipe. So while some of the dishes are versatile in essence, it is hard to sort it out sometimes.
I have so far prepared six things from the book, and would definitely make four again. I will detail all of them here.
Mango Curry Tofu (right dish), pg. 148
I didn't use tofu here. I think I used just some vegetables on hand... eggplant, peas, maybe carrots? I had not yet been able to visit an Indian store so I experimentally put a large can of canned mangos from a Mexican store in a blender and hoped that was it. It seemed like it was.
It turned out extremely good, but in the end looked absolutely disgusting! The sauce ended up... very grey looking. I think it was because of the vegetables leaking colour, and perhaps the canned mangoes were not strong enough in colour.
I would definitely not serve this to guests until I figured out my colour problem... which might simply be that I didn't use tofu or regular mango pulp.
Masala Lentils pg. 98
The first thing this recipe says is: "If you want to impress someone with a dal, make it this one." And so it was my first dal. There isn't much to say about this one. It looked much better in person than in the terrible picture, and it was also very good. I liked the contrast of the spicy with the sweet mango and coconut curry.
Vegetables in Vindaloo Sauce pg. 178
My boyfriend almost always orders lamb vindaloo at Indian restaurants, so I was really excited to replicate a vindaloo at home, despite the daunting list of ingredients. Unfortunately, it was a bit of a flop. Maybe it was too tangy? It was edible, but I would not make it again as is.
Split Pea Soup with Potatoes pg. 100
This was the other one I wasn't crazy about. My Bengali five-spice blend was four-spice blend, as I had not yet found nigella seeds. That may be a factor. But I think the biggest factor was that I was not expecting this to be crunchy. At first I thought the split peas had not been done enough, and then I realized... it is the whole seeds! I am not used to eating whole spices in my food, and it was pretty unexpected. Once I realized what I was eating, I felt better about the dal.
This picture is of leftovers so it isn't very great and is one of the lesser samosas I made. Baked Potato Samosas pg. 35 (left pic)
I am really crazy. I have never in my life made a pastry, or even kneaded dough, but I jumped right into this because I had a lot of time on my hands and am again, crazy. The filling was easy to make and smelled good, although I wondered why it didn't contain any onion, which I thought would be good in it.
And the pastry. This took me absolutely forever. Once I got the dough into the small balls, I realized I don't even own a rolling pin. So I ended up using a hard apple cider bottle that was in the fridge. Oh, a note, I did not have whole wheat flour on hand so replaced it with unbleached flour, as the recipe stated I could.
I found the dough to stick without adding lots of flour on the wax paper. Maybe this is obvious when working with dough, but the recipe did not state this, and the pictures provided did not seem to have flour dusting. I found the whole process of cutting and filling very tedious, and frustrating.
In the end, these turned out to be pretty good. We dipped them into various chutneys. They were not as tasty as the fried kind at restaurants, but I felt much less guilty for eating them. I ended up only using about half the filling for the 12 samosas, which confused me. I plan to use it another way, but it makes me wonder what I did wrong.
South Indian Chickpea Eggplant Stew (right pic) pg. 122
This one took me by surprise. I had fresh curry leaves that I needed to use, and this took 12. My first time using fresh curry leaves... wow. The smell and taste not something you can really recreate without them. I also decided to make this one because I had tamarind paste and was excited to try it.
The first step is combining some things in a blender, and the result is some really weird bodily pink mixture that did not seem very appealing. But the stew itself turned out very appealing, and this is one of the quicker recipes I have tried, and perhaps my favourite.
One hiccup... the recipe calls for 1 to 2 tsps tamarind paste. I used a whole tablespoon. But I loved the result.
I hope my notes prove helpful or amusing to someone....more
This is a very empathetic commentary on how our prison system is harming people and communities. There are facts, but also a lot of anecdotes from theThis is a very empathetic commentary on how our prison system is harming people and communities. There are facts, but also a lot of anecdotes from the author -- she herself chronicles her sister in the system, as well as many prisoners she has come in contact with (mostly through penpalship).
People think we put bad apples in prison and everyone is better for it. But often they are not. Families lose sources of income and contact with their loved ones. And the system makes it so difficult to keep in touch with those in prison -- moving the person out-of-state, huge fees and limited time for phone calls, no human touch. These things not only harm and severe family ties, but the prisoner themself loses contact with society and those that cared about them inevitably move on.
It also becomes very apparent that the people this system harms the most are those that are poor and targeted by the police... people who can pay their fines, bails, better lawyers, etc. are less likely to get trapped in the system. As for police targeting, all one has to do is look at studies on Ferguson. One cannot deny that certain people are targeted and capitalized by the police any more (if they ever could).
The book provides some examples of things we could instead be doing instead of locking people up. A lot of it is healing and conflict resolution... and we cannot "restore" when things were not okay to begin with. One particular example that stood out to me was an Alaskan town changing the way they deal with minors. A teenage boy broke into someone's house... people got together and talked about the issue instead of prosecuting. The victim explained how unsafe and violated it made him and his wife feel, while the teenage boy was able to express his frustrations and problems -- as well as apologize and feel genuine remorse! This is something that isn't encouraged by our legal system -- nobody admits and apologizes unless they think it is in their client's best interest legally. In this case, the victim happened to be a sport's coach. He found out the teen had dropped out of school, but had an interest in sports. He decided what needed to happen was to get the boy enrolled in school again, and a part of his team.
One other thing that struck me is motherhood in prison. Being pregnant in the system is not rare. The women are typically induced for prison convenience, and then taken to a hospital where they are often shackled to the bed. The mother has a couple days with her baby, and then has to go back to prison without it. I cannot imagine how devastating and heart-breaking this must be.
Even if you find prison inevitable and unavoidable, I think this book will question a lot of your ideas about it. It is a very easy but emotional read. People need family and community, people need dignity and respect, and people need hope and healing....more
Oh dear lord. I couldn't think of a "better" guy to have to spend years in prison, under torture, for no justifiable reason. What an incredible man. TOh dear lord. I couldn't think of a "better" guy to have to spend years in prison, under torture, for no justifiable reason. What an incredible man. Through all of his ordeals, he is seeking the good in everyone, even in the masked men who beat him. He sees the humanity in people performing some of the most inhumane acts.
But as Mohamedou puts it, one pretty much has to. His interrogators and prison guards are some of the only people he is to see for lengthy periods of time -- until the entire repetitive process starts over again with the next trained interrogator.
The "war on terror" is a complete hypocritical failure. Torture is but more terror. Mohamedou comes to recognize a lot of the people in this whole process are themselves trying to justify their own actions -- and Mohamedou being imprisoned is yet another attempt to justify even worse actions.
This is a very upsetting look at injustice. It's also interesting to see how people react to torture (some simply go crazy, says Mohamedou) and even more interesting is the relationship between the prisoners and the people in charge of them. Some of the oddest dynamics and friendships rise.
I primarily got this book for a "living" example of censorship, which is one of the most immediately eye-catching things about the diary. The text is full of black bars, mostly obscuring names and other "sensitive" data. In reality, it is haphazard and sometimes even puzzling -- it is clear the word "tears" is once blackened. Feminine pronouns are nearly always blackened out, except sometimes they miss one, and names and dates are often blackened, except when they sometimes miss those, too. This was very hastily and embarrassingly censored.
After putting the book down, I feel an extreme amount of respect for Slahi. I address this to him specifically, as I hope one day he will be able to see this: You feel like a very close friend and brother, and I admire your unshakable faith and humanity. I feel ashamed to be a part of a country that would not admit its wrong-doings for so long. I hope the tea invitation extends to me....more
A nice book from a man (and his wife) who visit some of the known Norse settlements and sites in Greenland. There are tinges of this more personal jouA nice book from a man (and his wife) who visit some of the known Norse settlements and sites in Greenland. There are tinges of this more personal journey, but the bulk of the book is on the known history of the Norse Greenlanders based on digs, studies, recorded sources, oral tradition, sagas, and educated speculation. There are many pictures of found Norse objects, clothing, and buildings throughout.
It's a popular question and something that seems to itch the curiosity of many -- what happened to the Norse Greenlanders, and why did their settlement fail? To what extent did they travel North America?
As with many older nonfiction books, I would love to compare the work to a modern consensus, so I will try to find a more recent book on the topic or hunt the internet for newer studies....more