Kitchen Confidential

I haven’t told anyone this, until today. But thanks to Timehop reminding me of this day, I think it’s time I admitted to this faux-pas of mine.


‘Counting down to Turkey Day with chocolate cheesecake’, I posted on Facebook. I was publicly admitting that I’d said I’d bake something for Thanksgiving with my family that week, even though it had been years since I’d baked anything. I had also never baked a cheesecake at that time (though I had done many no-bake versions), so I didn’t even know what could happen if I made a mistake. I, however, staked a lot on the claim that while I can’t cook, I can bake. And I’d complicated matters by asking for choices, and had landed up in this chocolate-coffee cheesecake situation. The responses on FB were not really encouraging. My ‘friends’ made fun of my cooking skills and pointed out that I’d once invited my cousin home for lunch, and made enough lady finger curry to feed half a person (in my defense, I had no clue just how much lady fingers shrink when cooked). I was mighty encouraged by the support and told everyone I’d prove them wrong, with video evidence in return.


So there I was, the day before my Thanksgiving trip to Portland with 6 boxes of cream cheese and a shiny new cheesecake pan. I was very careful, as I measured out the ingredients and began blending everything. It seemed like everything was going fine, until I got to the fourth box of cream cheese. As I scraped it out, I saw that there were some green dots at the bottom. I wondered if it was moldy, and sniffed at it. But it seemed fine. I knew the first three boxes had no issue. I opened the fifth one, and again, this one had the green specks, too.

Now, I was a little worried. I was baking in the middle of the night, which meant I had no chance to go out and buy more cream cheese. I also didn’t know what would happen to my cake if I used lesser cream cheese than recommended. I couldn’t show up without a cheesecake because I knew my family would laugh me out of town. Also, they’d very nicely told me that they wouldn’t take me home if I didn’t show up with the cake. Sigh.

I tasted the green-speckled cheese and it seemed fine. But I didn’t want to take a chance. I also began wondering if all the cheese was past its expiry, and what I’d already used was just not showing any signs yet. So I pulled out all the packets from the trash (yes, yes, it’s gross, but I may have already ingested mouldy cheese, so whatever!) to check the expiry date. That’s when I saw it. I had bought 3 packets of regular cream cheese, and 2 of garlic-herb flavored cream cheese. That explained the green specks, but it didn’t solve my problem. How could I make the cheesecake I’d promised if I didn’t have enough cream cheese? I evaluated the pros and cons of showing up with nothing vs. showing up with a weird tasting cake, and decided I’d take a chance.

And that’s how I made a chocolate-coffee cheesecake that included some garlic-herbs mix as well. Thankfully, my over enthusiasm for extra dark chocolate meant that the onion-herbs flavor was largely drowned out, and the cake tasted pretty alright. No one who ate the cake realized what I’d done. Infact, someone even commented on the fact that it had a slight salty taste, like really well made brownies that aren’t super sugary. I claimed that I’d used the bakers secret of a tinge of salt, without admitting just where that tinge originated.

And that’s how I invented a recipe for chocolate-coffee cheesecake, with garlic and herbs. I also got away with it, until today, because I never told anyone what I’d done. But I couldn’t help but post this when I saw the prescient comment on the FB post, that said, as long as you don’t pull a Rachel, with a link to this video.

Sometimes, you can mix up recipes, and it won’t taste like feet.



The ‘Frozen’ expert predicts the sequel

I saw this comic (by Lauren Weisenstein) at the Nib, and sent it to S, my niece’s mom. She thought it would be fun to ask A what she thinks the Frozen sequel would be like. A did not see the other ideas because S didn’t want to influence her thinking. A also does not yet know that a sequel is in the works. Once I saw what she came up with, I couldn’t resist illustrating it.

Frozen Sequel

What do you think will happen in the sequel to Frozen?

I drew this on Paper, my favorite app However, they don’t let people upload drawings and mess with color, so in the absence of a stylus, I was stuck with fingerpainting this in entirety. I blame any smudges and inconsistencies on my fat fingers. I did the layout and captions on Photoshop. I would’ve loved to hand write them, but there’s no way my fat fingers would’ve stood up to THAT challenge (I tried!)

So, what do YOU think will happen in the sequel to Frozen?

Of finding my home…

A long time ago, a friend wrote about how she didn’t feel the need to buy a house because she already had found her home. Today, I was having a conversation with someone who was speaking about how the fact that I’ve moved a lot means I don’t feel like any place is ‘home’. It’s true, Doha was home, but not really because I somehow always knew a day would come when we would have to ‘go back home to India’. To me, Coimbatore wasn’t really home because the entire time that I was there I was trying to get out of there. I had two very close friends, but other than that I barely felt like I fit in because everything just felt so different. Chennai is just where my parents live, because they moved there after I moved out. Mumbai was just a place I lived in while I was at b-school, and while I loved it, it wasn’t my home. Gurgaon again was just a necessity because that’s where work was. I’ve been in Berkeley for over a year, and it’s nice but its not really home either. It’s interesting then, that I don’t really identify with home as a place. I have no roots that connect me to any place, my friends are scattered all over the world and my childhood memories are only in my head.

However, there was this time some years ago when I first really felt at peace somewhere. It wasn’t a place, but it was in a conversation – one that overlapped many subjects, and had a promise of many more stories to come. I’ve felt at home, and at peace multiple times since that conversation, through future conversations and silences. I’ve felt at home many times, in many different places, and the only constant has been the company I’ve had at the time. I think I knew this was it, the day that I realized this was all I need to feel at home. My home isn’t a place, it is a person and I am grateful for that.

He Says, She Says – 2

People who know us, will know that the Boy has the ability to say the darndest things. It probably explains how he manages to keep someone as distracted as me entertained.

This morning, I was chatting with the Boy (what else is new?), for want of anything better to do. I was telling him how my students weren’t showing up for their feedback sessions which made my grading super simple because all I had to do was put 0’s. Out of the blue, he comes up with this gem – “Today, I was reborn again by your split second vision”.

I had no clue what that meant (as happens with most things that he comes up with) so I asked him what on Earth he was talking about. Promptly comes this reply – “Indru Naan Meendum Meendum Pirandean Oru Thulli Paarvaiyilae”

It is telling, that for all this while I thought the lyrics were “Indru Naal…”. So the Boy (who is as Northie as one can get) knows the lyrics to a Tamil song better than I do! True, facepalm moment.

North, South and linguistics #1

“Appa, I have to tell you something…”

Raised eyebrows.

“Actually, I have to tell you both something..”

The mother looks like she’d rather be anywhere, but in that room watching her daughter gulp and try to get the words out, as her husband looks on with a blank expression.

“So, there is this boy..” the girl stutters, “you know H, we worked together, and we are good friends. I think I want you to meet him”

“What is his last name?” says Mr. Iyer. “Well, it’s Singh, but don’t worry he isn’t Punjabi..”, she said with more confidence than she felt. “He’s from Rajasthan”, she added boldly.

“Like that is any better”, Mr Iyer swiftly silences his daughter. 

There is a pregnant pause in the room, when suddenly the eavesdropping kid brother pops his head into the room and says, “Aiyyo, North Indian-aa! Yenakku suthi potta kooda Hindi-ey varathey!” (OMG! A North Indian? I couldn’t speak Hindi if my life depended on it)


The Blogpost

Trisha was in a terrible mood. “Bloody asshole! Just because he is a senior manager he thinks he can say whatever he wants and get away with it”, she muttered. She logged onto her blog and opened a new post. Her fingers flew across the keyboard as she began typing out a rant about morons at work, specifically sexist men who made inappropriate comments. ‘Ding!’ – her G-chat icon was blinking. She glanced at it and saw that it was Karthik. “Can’t talk now, just got home” she typed and logged off. She was just about to shut her browser window also, when she noticed that she had a comment on a blogpost she had written the previous day. “Who could be commenting on my blog?” she wondered. She opened the post, titled ‘The Walk’, about the therapeutic effects that walking had on her. And she felt like the air had been knocked out of her. The comment was a poem that replied to her poem. It spoke to her very soul, and ended with a sentiment about wanting to hug her to make her feel better. “OH MY GOD! Is this some weird stalker or what?!!!” Trisha couldn’t believe this. She used her blog almost as though it was a diary of sorts, and had worked very hard to make sure nobody knew it was hers. Other than her closest friends, nobody even knew that she wrote. And now there was this comment. It didn’t sound like any of her friends, and she didn’t know what to make of it.


Karthik was crossing his fingers hoping that Trisha wouldn’t know it was he who had posted the comment. He’d always liked her, but didn’t know how to say it, especially because he knew she was committed. But when he saw that post it almost felt like it was crying out to him and he just had to say something. So he did, but now he felt that it was an impulsive gesture and one that could ruin the budding friendship he had with her. He wondered if he should delete the comment when suddenly he heard the familiar ‘Ding!’ of someone pinging him on G-talk.

Trisha: K, guess what?

Karthik: What?

Trisha: Someone posted a comment on my blog. Can you believe that?

Karthik: You have a blog?

Trisha: Yes, I do. Long story. But someone posted a comment. And its semi-stalkerish. And now I don’t know what to think. First I thought it was sweet, but now I think whoever did it is a stalker.

Karthik: T, you know that I have no idea what you’re talking about, right?

Trisha: Bah. You’re useless. OK, here’s a link. Go read. And no matter what, do NOT read my other posts.

Karthik: OK

Karthik didn’t know what to say to her. He’d stumbled upon her blog by accident, and he knew it was her because of her thinly veiled references to people they worked with. He could almost see her eyes flashing when she ranted about the lecherous senior manager, or her loud laughter when she made sarcastic comments about the woman who wore extremely weird clothes. She had tried hard to cover up her identity, but it slipped through in her words. He went back to the post on walking – the one where she’d sounded so vulnerable, in a way he had never seen her in person. She sounded like the world was collapsing around her, and the simple act of walking was all that helped her keep it together. He knew it probably revealed a side of her that she wanted to keep hidden and just the fact that she was confiding this in him meant that they were becoming better friends. “And then when she finds out I knew about this anyway, and that I am her semi-stalkerish commenter, what will she do?” he wondered. It was a scary thought.

Karthik: T, I saw the post, it seems fine. The commenter just sounds like he wanted to cheer you up.

Trisha: Isn’t it just like you to want to believe the best about people all the time? I think he sounds like a stalker.

Karthik: No! Why would you say that?

Trisha: Well, what’s all this nonsense about wanting to wipe away my tears, and hug me and all. You know what I think? Some weirdo must be reading my blog. In fact I suspect some idiot at work has stumbled upon it, and probably realized its me. Ugh!

Karthik: Aren’t you over thinking this?

Trisha: NO! I need to know who it was. I don’t like this semi-stalkerish vibe I’m getting from it.

Karthik: OK, you continue obsessing, I am off to eat dinner!

Trisha: No, wait! I need to analyze this further!

Karthik is now offline.

Trisha fumed. As always he’d logged off, just when she needed someone to help her think through things. “Such a useless fellow he is! He doesn’t even understand how I need his help. How else do I deduce who this could be?” And just as she was thinking that, a sudden realization dawned on her. She began dialing a number on her phone.

“HELLO loser! I know who the mystery commenter is” she announced triumphantly. “I know it’s you, and don’t you dare bother denying it because I refuse to believe otherwise.”

“Umm, T what are you saying?”

“Oh, please! Don’t play dumb with me. IIM-B, and you cannot even ask a girl out to her face.”

Karthik could not control his smile – “What are you saying, T? Who am I not asking out?”

“You’re kidding me right? Listen to me Karthik. I am not going to ask you out. If you like me, man up and admit it. And while you’re at it, also admit that you wrote that comment.” “But what if I really didn’t?” “Karthik, the comment talks about walking in a garden with winding paths. The only garden with winding paths that I’ve ever been to is the one in your society”

“And how would I know that, woman?”

“OK fine. Don’t admit it. BYE!” She slammed the phone, grinning.  She didn’t need him to say it, even though she would’ve liked it if he’d said it. But she knew she was right with this guess. There was no way anybody else could have written that comment. Just as she was thinking that, she saw a new email notification. It was from Karthik.


You’re right. It was me. I don’t know how to say it to you in person, so yet again I’m going to use the online medium. I do like you, and I want to be the one that calms you down. If you feel the same, meet me at the entrance to my society this evening and we can talk this over.”


“Hmpf! Such an idiot, cannot even just say he likes me!” Trisha thought. And then she flew out of her chair shouting – “Oh shit! Now I have to figure out what to wear to meet this idiot!”

The Love Letter that Wasn’t

Anu was frantic. She had a Math test coming up in two days and she felt hopelessly unprepared. “I hate Math. Why do we need to know this crap? It seems so pointless”, she complained to her friend Ankit. “Well, I heard that the BS Chopra Math guide is really helpful. Maybe you should get it”, he said. “I don’t have the money to buy one of those expensive guides. I hate school, I hate Math, I hate the professor, I hate myself”, Anu ranted as her eyes welled up. “Don’t cry, Anu, I’ll ask my brother if he has his old guide”, Ankit consoled her. “No. Nothing will help. I hate life”, said Anu and left in a huff.

The next day, Anu was at home trying her best to figure out differential calculus. “I hate this crap”, she muttered to herself. “Here you go” – She looked up to see Ankit standing in her room. He shyly handed Anu a wrapped packet. “I’ll see it later, I’m too busy cramming now”, she said. “No, I think you should see it now”. Anu reluctantly grabbed the packet and opened it. “OH MY GOD! You got me a copy of the Math guide!! Thank you, thank you, thank you!” Ankit blushed, and mumbled something unintelligible. Anu opened the book and began reading it as Ankit slowly left the room. The first thing she noticed was the name written inside the book – Arvind Jagannathan. So, Ankit had borrowed the book from a friend of his brother’s. She had barely processed this information when a card fell out of the book. “Anu, I will do anything to stop you from crying, always. Will you be my girlfriend?”, it said. It was almost as if her feet took flight – she ran out to her balcony and called out his name. He was almost at the gate but he turned and looked at her as she yelled out “YES!”


Many years passed. Anu was a longtime veteran of love and broken hearts. For someone with an intense dislike of Math in the tenth grade, she had managed to pass out with a degree in Computer Engineering from IIT Kanpur, and was one her way to one of India’s top business schools for an MBA in Finance. She no longer hated Math as intensely as she did when she was younger, in fact, she had become a Math geek who enjoyed solving puzzles.

On the first day of b-school she was sitting in a corner and doodling on her notebook when a deep baritone broke into her thoughts – “I must say you draw amazingly well”. She looked up and saw a guy staring intently at her doodles. He wasn’t cute in the traditional sense, but there was just something about him. She didn’t know what to say so she mumbled a quick thank you and went on with her drawing. But now that she knew someone was looking, she made sure she was no longer doodling but showing off her drawing skills.

Days passed, and Anu got to know the quiet guy better. He was her polar opposite in many ways – calm, and with a sense of self-assurance that she envied. They spent hours and days arguing about everything under the sun. They became extremely good friends who had long conversations about anything and everything. They had discovered many things in common too. Over the next few months, Anu slowly realized that she had fallen hard for this simple, unassuming guy who was so unlike all her exes. She wondered if he felt the same way about her, and wished he would give her a hint. But he never did. And Anu didn’t know what to say so she didn’t say anything either.

“Anu, you’re nuts. If you like him, you should tell him. Why do you have to wait for him to make the first move?” her friend Shruti asked her one day. “I don’t know Shru. It just seems like one of those things where you’d expect the guy to make the first move?” “Seriously?! Which era do you live in, dude? Just tell him. What’s the worst that can happen?” Anu didn’t have an answer for that, so she just let it slide. But Shruti wouldn’t let her forget the conversation. Everyday, she kept asking Anu if she had thought of telling him, until finally one day, Anu decided to tell him after one of the weekly parties at school.

The party was like all other parties at the school. Loud music, alcohol smuggled in innocuous looking soda bottles, couples going for walks in dark corners of campus. Anu didn’t know how exactly to tell him what was on her mind so she opted to go for a walk with him. She hoped that over the course of conversation she would find some way to tell him how she felt. For some reason he was exceptionally chatty that night. As they walked around campus he suggested they talk about random things like their childhood, friends from school and favorite things to do. While he went on about his love for Math, and how he thought it was so cool that she was a Math geek too, Anu opened up enough to tell him how she got interested in the subject. “You know, once upon a time I detested Math”, she began. “No way! You are always ready to try out puzzles, how could you possibly be one of those people who didn’t like Math?” “No, I was. I hated it so much, I was convinced I’d flunk my tenth boards. But then, my ex back then, he got me this awesome Math guide that helped me study for the boards. I think the guide made me fall in love with the subject.” “Wow”, he said, “that’s some guide! I wish I had one of those.” And then Anu told him something she hadn’t told anyone at the time. “Actually, the guide was the standard BR Chopra one. But this was a second hand book, and the previous owner of the book had scribbled these math puzzles and suggestions all over the margins. They helped me really understand the material, and I used the puzzles to sharpen my skills. It’s how I got interested in Math puzzles too. Sometimes I think that book is pretty much the reason why I got as far as to be able to crack the JEE. I wish I could thank the owner….”, her voice trailed off, as she looked at the guy standing in front of her with an inscrutable expression on his face.

The pieces began falling into place almost instantly, for both of them. They were both from the same small town, even though they hadn’t met till they got to b-school. She knew he went to the same school as Ankit’s sister, infact, she had even mentioned to him once that she knew a schoolmate of his. He’d said he vaguely knew her and they’d moved onto other topics. Anu could not believe however that she had never made the connection, that while she had thought she would always remember the name emblazoned into the cover of the book, time had nearly erased that memory. Arvind Jagannathan. With every puzzle she solved in that guide, she’d thought of how awesome it would be to meet the guy who seemed to love Math so much, that it had become easy for her to fall in love with it too. And here she’d met him, been friends with him for almost a year and had almost missed out on the most important connection of them all. “You got my book, didn’t you?” he asked shyly, almost hopefully. Anu didn’t even let him completely finish the thought before she kissed him.

She had always thought of the Math book as being her first Valentine. After all, the card that fell out of it was the first time a boy told her he’d loved her. However it turned out the book was a Valentine of a different kind entirely. It led her toward a path she had never thought she would be on. She had always thought the card that fell out of the Math book was her first Valentine. But, as it turned out, the book itself was her first, and last Valentine.