Wednesday, 12 July 2017

There is so much advice out there on weaning babies, and every generation has its own rules and regulations. These rules might be always changing (the advice on feeding babies peanuts, for example), but when it comes to babies, I've always held by my mother-in-law's advice that mommy knows best. Yes, mommy might need a bit of help from Dear Mother Google, but by and large, we are always aware of our babies' needs and the best way to fulfil them.

When it comes to food, babies are such a blank slate, but at the same time, pretty strong minded. Adz, for example, never ate potatoes as a baby. I remember feeding her a pilau once that had the tiniest bits of potatoes, and when I looked over, that child had picked out every since scrap of potatoes (from rice!) and put them aside. Baby Sky, on the other hand, is a little food monster and will gobble up everything you feed him, and then whine for more. Adz and I thought we would have a little bit of fun with him, and gave him a slice of lime one day. That little creature sucked the entire lime, and then looked at us with a big smile and went, mmm!

So, considering that he seemed pretty happy with experimenting with food, I decided to start spice early on. I am Indian, after all, and spice is a huge part of my life and cooking. I came up with quite a few combinations to include spices in his everyday food, and the ten recipes below are an unusual, yet, perfect spice primer for your little gourmet.

If you need more information on any of the spices I use, I write The Spice Box column on FBC, which has  information on every spice and herb you need.

1. Apple and Pear with Star Anise, Cloves and Cinnamon 

Forget plain old applesauce.

Peel, core and chop any ripe apples or pears of your choice. Place in a pot with water and add a star anise, 4 cloves and a stick of cinnamon. Stew until apples and pears are soft. Remove the anise, cloves and cinnamon stick and blend.

2. Beet and Apple with Za'atar (pictured) 

The strong flavour of beets pairs well with this middle eastern spice mix. You can make your own za'atar (leaving out the salt). Apples add a touch of sweetness to the puree.

 Boil (or roast) 4 small beets, until just tender. Add a peeled, cored and chopped apple to the water and boil together until soft. Place in a blender with 1/4 teaspoon za'atar. Blend to a puree.

3. Roasted Red Pepper with Harissa

I love the flavour of hot harissa, but I use it very sparingly in this recipe. The roasted red pepper is very sweet and helps balance out the heat of the spice paste, and this is a perfect recipe to introduce baby to a little chili pepper. Make your own harissa to control spiciness and salt, if you want, but you can also use shop bought paste, once you taste and add just enough so that the mixture is not too spicy.

Preheat oven to 400F. Place two whole red peppers on a heavy roasting tray, and roast for 40 minutes, turning them once. Take out of the oven and place in a ziplock bag (this will make the peppers easier to peel). When still hot, take the peppers out of the bag, and peel, discarding seeds, stalk and skins. Place in a blender with 1/4 teaspoon of harissa and blend to a puree.

4. Roasted Cauliflower with Mild Madras Curry Powder (pictured) 

Being of Indian origin, spices are a very important part of my life. My Madras Curry Powder is one of the best known recipes on my blog and I love to add a titch to cauliflower to make this simple, delicious puree. This is one of Baby Sky's favourite recipes, and strong flavour of cauliflower is perfect with the spice mix. If using shop bought curry powder, use the mild version.

Preheat oven to 400F. Brush a roasting tray with a little grapeseed oil. Slice half a cauliflower into thick 'steaks', and place on the tray. Sprinkle with about 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon of Madras curry powder and drizzle with a little more oil. Roast the cauliflower for 30 minutes, turning once, until soft. Blend to a puree, adding a splash of water, if needed.

5. Roasted Squash with Nutmeg, Cinnamon and Allspice

This recipe is very reminiscent of warm, woody flavours and is also a Baby Sky favourite.

Preheat oven to 400F. Peel and chop a small butternut or buttercup squash, coring out the seeds. Place on a baking tray and grate over 1/4 of a nutmeg, and sprinkle over a pinch of cinnamon and allspice. Drizzle with grapeseed oil. Roast for 30 minutes, or until soft and blend.

6. Roasted Carrots with Berbere (pictured)

This is another easy recipe. You can find Berbere spice mix in most Arabic or spice stores. As this Ethiopian spice mix can be pretty spicy, I just add a tiny hint of it to the carrots.

Preheat oven to 400F. Place 4 peeled and chopped carrots on a heavy roasting tray and drizzle with a splash of grapeseed oil. Sprinkle a pinch of berbere spice on the carrots and roast for 30 minutes, until soft. Blend to a puree.

7. Potatoes with Cumin and Cilantro

This is one of my favourite side dishes, and it's a simple cinch to make it baby friendly.

Peel, chop and boil one large potato until tender. Drain. Add a splash of grapeseed oil to a pan and add the potatoes and 1/2 teaspoon of cumin. Fry for a few minutes, then transfer to a blender with a small handful of fresh cilantro leaves. Blend to a puree. You can replace the potatoes with sweet potatoes, for a different flavour, or use a combination of both.

8. Charred Eggplant with Roasted Garlic, Parsley and Tahini

Another recipe with Middle-Eastern flavours, this one was inspired by one of my favourite chefs, Ottolenghi. The use of citrus is optional (there is advice both for and against introducing citrus into baby's diet before one year), but I like to add some lemon zest for a nice, fresh flavour. Leave it out, if you wish.

Preheat oven to 400F. Place one large eggplant and two whole, unpeeled cloves of garlic, on a roasting tray and using the tip of a sharp knife, pierce a few holes all over both (otherwise, it might explode, yes, speaking from experience here!) Roast the garlic for 30 minutes and the eggplant for 1 hour, turning over once. Take out of the oven and let cool a little. Peel the garlic and eggplant and place the flesh in a blender. Add a teaspoon of tahini, 1/2 teaspoom lemon zest and a small handful of fresh parsley and blend to a puree.

9. Lentils with Turmeric, Cumin and Coriander

Dal is a classic in India. For Baby Sky, I leave out the copious amounts of salt.

Place 3/4 cup of rinsed split red lentils in a small pot and cover with cold water.  Bring to a boil, skimming off any scum that rises to the surface. Boil for 20 minutes, until soft and add 1/2 teaspoon each, turmeric, ground cumin and ground coriander. Blend to a puree, adding more water, if required.

10. Pinto Beans and Red Peppers with Smoked Paprika 

This is another simple recipe, full of protein for baby.  You can replace the pinto beans with any other kind of beans or chickpeas. I use a mild smoked paprika for this recipe. You can use canned beans for this recipe, just rinse them out before blending, which makes life a lot easier.

Place 1/4 cup of dried pinto beans in a large bowl and cover with cold water. Soak overnight. The next day, rinse the beans out, discarding the soaking water and place in a heavy based pot. Cover with cold water, bring to a boil and boil for about 45 minutes, or until the beans are tender. Drain and place in a blender with 1 chopped red pepper and 3/4 teaspoon of smoked paprika. Blend to a puree. You can also replace the fresh red pepper with a roasted and peeled pepper. See tips for cooking beans here.

These are just a small collection of recipes for baby. You are pretty much only limited by your imagination when it comes to spicing up baby's life, of course! 

Monday, 20 March 2017

You stop for the exhibitionists.

Ah, the joys of driving in India. Once upon a time, I had no compunction jumping in and out of buses, sometimes even when they were moving. In fact, I spent half my life on the City Bus Number 5, first going to school, then pre-university, then college. Bus stops are for wimps and hanging out of dangerously swerving buses is the life.

Man, how things have changed. The last few times I've been to India, all I've been doing is stomping my foot on an imaginary brake. And wearing seat belts. How the mighty have fallen! And I told the conductor on City Bus Number 5 to stop, hold it, come to a FULL STOP dammit, then gingerly wiggled my way down. At a BUS STOP. Shame on me.

This time around, I took a road trip with my family. Oh the joys of a road trip with an Indian family. Everything from packed tiffins to constant arguments to toilet stops in random places. Yup, I missed that. The experience was so profound that I was moved to write these tips for driving in India. You know, as you would.

Please to stop for the cows and related bovines.

Driving in India Tip Number 1: 
You shall not drive in India (okay, sorry, that was a bit too Fight Club, but I couldn't resist.) But really. Hire a driver. Ride an autorickshaw. Get your dad to weave dangerously in and out of traffic on his bag of bolts motorbike.

Driving in India Tip Number 2: 
Indian drivers (men) REFUSE to take directions and will second guess a GPS! Ergo, prepare for twice the journey time. Google maps? Google schmoogle, what do those Google people know about India anyway?

Driving in India Tip Number 3: 
The following are suggestions -
- Lane markers.
- Seatbelts (If there is a cop, loosely drape belt over shoulder. Do not clip in holder. Remove the seatbelt clips from backseats as they will poke people's butts)
- Speed limits.
- Traffic lights.
- The 'No Talking on Mobile Phones' signs.
- Left hand turn lanes.
- Turn signals.

Driving in India Tip Number 4: 
The middle of road is the only place to be. Move over left or right depending on how the other driver honks.

Driving in India Tip Number 5: 
Car seats for kids? What? Didn't we keep you alive this long without this car seat, car shmeet business? Note: If baby cries, remove said baby from the car seat in the middle of a four lane highway at highway speed. If Canadian mother of said baby objects, use Indian mother guilt. If she still objects, pull over to the side of a highway and then take baby out.

Driving in India Tip Number 6: 
If in doubt about directions (see #1) go straight then left. Straight, straight, straight... then left. If you do ASK a passerby (by pulling over dangerously on a highway {yes, there will be a passerby on the edge of a highway too} of course) for directions... they will always be go straight and to the left. No no, correct, madam!

Driving in India Tip Number 7: 
Pedestrians and cows (and some goats) are always welcome on gorgeous four lane highways! See previous tip. Also... perfectly acceptable to drive the wrong way down a double highway. Especially if you're a motorbike!

Driving in India Tip Number 8: 
The side of the road is a toilet! Tree or bush optional.

Driving in India Tip Number 9: 
Say hello by honking. Swerve around a car? Say sorry by honking. Oh hey, look a monkey. Honk. No honking sign. Honk. Honk at the lorries, how dare they take up the whole road? Oh look, Mr. D'Souza's nephews wife's sister's maidservant. Honk. Pretty woman? Honk. Pretty man? Honk. Cute baby? Honk honk (chooo chweet that baby, hanging out in between daddy, mommy, and three siblings on a bag of bolts motorcycle).

Driving in India Tip Number 10: 
Traffic cops are friends not fish (sorry, that was too Finding Nemo). But really, cops are friends, with benefits. Benefits to them, I mean. Carry a handy stash of hundred rupee notes, and they won't eat you (sorry, sorry, more Finding Nemo).

A truck full of ginger. Yep! 

Bonus Tip: If, when driving along, you see a tractor full of ginger (or any vegetables, mind!) swerve in front of said truck, honk until he stops. Then, bargain for very reasonably priced vegetables (or fruit. Or ginger). Oy vey!

Monday, 13 March 2017

Adz and I (2014) Photo: Pritham D'Souza (Photosynthe)

"Are you the nanny?" 

If I had a dollar for every time I was asked this question when I was out with Adz, well... I'd be about twelve dollars richer (yes, I keep count.) I understand, I really do, that it can be a bit jarring to see a white child with a brown person, though in this day and age it shouldn't be surprising. At the same time, however, should the automatic assumption be that I am the nanny, rather than the mother? It is a question I've asked myself several times, usually after one of said encounters.

Being part of a mixed race, mixed culture relationship is not easy. As an Indian woman, born and brought up in India, I was indoctrinated into my own culture and it was an abrupt transition when I first moved to England for graduate school. I met and fell in love with my partner within the first few months of school. I didn't plan on falling in love with a white Canadian man. I kept it to myself for the first couple years. It was only when I realised that this relationship was serious that I opened up to my mom. I told her I was seeing someone. When she asked, I might have lied stretched the truth and told her I was dating an Indian boy. Exactly how I was going to pass off my very white, redheaded, blue eyed boy as Indian was something I hadn't even thought about. It was after we'd decided to move in together that I confessed to mom. Surprisingly, she took it quite well, though I did have to go through some snarky comments about white Indian men from her. The rest of my family also took it reasonably well, though with some mild racist attitudes.

Mixed race relationships and racism

Being in a mixed race relationship in London was fine. It was a cosmopolitan enough city, that we didn't get much grief. At least, not that much. I did get yelled at on the street, told not to take "our men", got called a brown bitch and told to go back home. Par for the course, obviously. We also got quite a bit of flak from Indian people in London, especially since we lived so close to Southall, a predominantly Indian suburb of London. I got asked (in Hindi) why I couldn't find someone from my own community. We got plenty of sideways angry looks, but not enough that I was so bothered about them. As far as I was concerned, my family were fine with my relationship, even though mom refused to acknowledge the whole 'living together' bit, but well, you can't have everything.

We moved to Liverpool a few years after. Surprisingly, Liverpool was a lot more accepting, even though we were the only mixed race couple in Hoylake, our little seaside village. I can't remember any incident in Liverpool that targeted my race. My football affiliation though, got me plenty of abuse but this is just because I loved wandering around Liverpool in an Arsenal shirt, being deliberately provocative (Sorry, Liverpool and Everton fans, but you guys are so easy to wind up).

Through all these moves and life changes, though, our relationship stayed strong, and Kay and I got married in 2006. Adz was born soon after. No one in England ever asked me if she was mine. It was just assumed. She was a local. We were accepted.

We moved to Canada when Adz was two. I'd been told that Canada was a lot easier to live in as a mixed race couple. I was excited to move here. We'd been planning on moving for a while and we picked Edmonton, after a series of circumstances meant that we could actually move with a good nest egg.

I came into Canada on a tourist visa, with the intention of being sponsored as a permanent resident. By this time, I'd lived in England long enough that I was a naturalised citizen, and it was reasonably easy for me to come to Canada. We had a nice apartment picked out in a great part of the city and as I couldn't work until I became an official permanent resident, I was happy to be a full-time mom for the first time in two years.

When people assume you're the nanny!

Adz and I started off our Canadian adventure well. We explored our neighbourhood, found playgrounds, and favourite lunch places, went out for ice cream and coffee (for me), discovered farmers' markets and enjoyed the gorgeous Edmonton river valley. I got used to the famous Canadian friendliness and even though my British/ Indian soul was suspicious of all the smiles and sincerity and the yoga, it was a refreshing change to hear hellos and have polite bus drivers. I spent my time house hunting as well, as we hoped to move into a home soon.

The first time that our differences were pushed to the forefront was a bit of a shock, especially since Adz and I were getting used to being smiled at and doted on more often. We were at the arts centre, and this nice looking older lady came up to us, and asked me if Adz was mine. I smiled and said yes, thinking that she was going to comment on Adz's cuteness (and she was adorably cute, with her big brown eyes and auburn curls). The woman turned to me, and glared... and said 'Jesus will smite you woman, for claiming this pure white child as yours'. Woah, there! I nervously backed away with a rictus smile and legged it from there as fast as I could. I was shaken, for sure, but I put it down to mental illness on the part of the woman.

I put that incident out of my mind, and we continued to live our lives. The second time, however, was more deliberate. Adz and I were at the park this time, and she was running around, exploring. I decided to talk to a pretty young lady who was pushing her child on the swing. As I said hello, I got a cold stare back. I just assumed that she wasn't used to having people approach her, and smiled, and asked if she lived around there. At that point, the lady looked back at me, then at Adz and asked, quite deliberately, "Shouldn't you be doing your job and looking after the child?" I was confused, and said, "Yes, but we just moved here" – still not getting what she was getting at. At that point, she looked at me again, and said "As the nanny, you should really be keeping an eye on the kid". I was too shocked and embarrassed to respond, quickly gathering Adz and walking home. My husband was also gobsmacked when I called him in tears.

But still – mistakes happen, right?

That said, my next experience was in equal parts amusing and horrifying. I was sitting at the edge of the swimming pool with a Filipino woman. Our kids were all having lessons together, and I got to know this lady, and we usually chatted off and on. One day though, a middle-aged white lady came up and sat next to us. We both smiled at her and asked her if her child was in lessons. She responded in the affirmative, pointing out her child. And then (I swear I am NOT making up this shit), she looked at both of us and said "it must be really nice for you nannies to get together when the kids are in lessons, do you come here often?". Both the Filipino lady and I looked at each other in absolute disbelief, and she said, "they're our kids". And the other lady says, "oh, I just assumed you are the nannies, you look so different from them". What. The. Hell.

There was no apology, just a matter of fact, "you look different". Wow! What can I say? Every time I've told this story to people, they react with equal parts horror and astonishment that someone could be so tone deaf and have such a lack of awareness.

Thankfully, as Adz has grown up, she's begun to look a lot more like me. That said, I still get the side eyes when I am out with Master Sky and her, and we've been asked many times after that, usually by white people, if I am the nanny. Adz calls me mommy rather loudly and that puts an end to that line of thought.

"I am not the f*****g nanny"

I started writing this post about three months ago. As it turns out, this BBC video of Robert Kelly, an expert on South Korea, being gatecrashed by his children went viral, and it was almost like this post was fated to be.

When this video first surfaced, a lot of people automatically assumed that the woman who comes rushing in to get the kids is the nanny or the maid.

I didn't. My first thought was, that poor mom! Then I laughed, actually, as this is exactly something I have done myself. My husband had an early morning interview with CBC, and Adz woke up, and decided to head into his study to say "good mornging dadabat" (Aside: ahhhh, don't you just LOVE it when they mispronounce words?). It wasn't a video interview, thankfully, but I've never moved so fast in my life. If it had been on video, you'd have seen me in ratty sweats, with the worst case of bedhead, frantically dragging a six-year-old out of the study, with wild shushing movements.

But when I saw the posts on social media and other newspaper sites, I was disheartened at how many people had automatically assumed that the woman in the video was the nanny or the maid. As someone in a mixed race relationship with kids, and as someone who is relatively colour blind when it comes to race, it didn't even occur to me that people would assume such a thing. Though, after my experiences, I shouldn't have been surprised.

I did some more research, and came to the conclusion, though I might be wrong, that the majority of people making this assumption were white, middle-class people. And again, to my dismay, a lot of them were Canadians and British. It was so easy to stereotype a Korean woman as a maid or nanny, especially since she is with a white man. Looks like racial, ethnic and cultural stereotypes are still alive and kicking.

Breaking the stereotypes

I came across a lot of excuses for why people assumed that Jung-a Kim was Robert Kelly's nanny, rather than his wife. Here, I want to debunk some of those excuses as, pardon my language, bullshit.

I know that there are a few nannies in Canada, who are Filipino. I happen to be really good friends with a lot of them. I also happen to be friends with the mums of the kids they look after. I also know mums from all different backgrounds, as well as nannies and grandmothers and grandfathers and dads and babysitters. So it did make me sad to read some of the stereotyping that happened after this video went viral.

1. She looked so panicked, it was like she feared for her job.

Oh yeah, when something like this happened to me, I definitely feared for a job – my husband's job as an expert, as it happens. As the wife of a man who gets regularly called upon for his expertise, I would have reacted the exact same way, had my husband been on Skype with the BBC (I mean, it's the BBC. It's a big deal). Trust me, panicked is the least of how she would look.

2. She looked frantic and dishevelled.

Have you ever tried looking after a baby and a toddler and keeping them in line? I am mom to an almost six month old baby and a MUCH older child, and my normal look is like I've been dragged through a hedge backwards. As I like to joke, I am awake and dressed. In actual clothes. That's enough to get me out. I work from home and make no apologies for looking like a slummy mummy. Nannies don't have a 'look'. Neither do mommies.

3. She was so rough with the children. A mother would have been gentler.

Give me a minute. BwahaHAHAHAHAHAHA! You're out of your mind if you think moms are gentle with their kids all the time. Getting my daughter ready for school in the mornings is a battle that I almost never win if I didn't have at least one moment, of "stay goddamn still, so I can brush your goddamn rat's nest of hair!" Cue - "owwwww, mom, owwwww, stop it mom, owwwww". Yeah, I am not gentle all the time, or if I am in a rush, or panicked in the first place. Show me a mom who is soft and gentle all the time, and I'll show you a saint. And for what it's worth, the nannies I know are a lot nicer to the children in their charge.

4. The kids look white.

Yeah, sorry, genetics is a thing. Both my mixed race kids look white. This excuse is, in my opinion, a cop-out. Kids don't necessarily look like their parents, and mixed race kids will favour one over the other. Sometimes. This is something I feel strongly about, as you've read earlier in my post.

My Adz has a good way of putting it: "I am like a bunny, mom, in the summer I go brown and in the winter I am white."

5. She looks so much younger than him.

I once got on a bus in London with my then-boyfriend, now husband, Kay. The driver gave me a child ticket, then gave Kay an adult ticket and a long, hard glare. I was twenty-three. Kay was twenty-nine. I still have that child ticket.

What I think that this video clip has made quite clear, though, is that racial stereotyping is still a thing. In 2017. Whether conscious or unconscious, we still have biases and one of them is about mixed race marriages and children. In a situation like this those cultural biases come to a head. To me, Jung-a Kim is a superwoman – daaaamn, those reflexes! Robert Kelly is a lucky man to have her in his life.

Source: The Wall Street Journal

Confronting biases and making changes

In this post, I wrote about my mom facing her stereotypes about gay people, and being courageous enough to change her preconceived ideas, ideas that were mostly church based, to be fair to her.

If your first assumption was that Jung-a Kim was the nanny, then maybe this is a good opportunity to take a close look at your biases and make a positive change. It doesn't take a lot to just say 'what beautiful children', instead of 'are you the nanny?'.

We can make this world truly colour blind and more accepting, if we are willing to let go of our assumptions and give people a chance. We don't choose who we fall in love with. We just do. And if more people felt the love, then maybe we wouldn't be fearful, intolerant or hate filled. And this world would be a much better place for it.

Friday, 10 March 2017

Beef Kheema Pav

I've been quite silent over here at The Tiffin Box, and first, I just wanted to say thank you to a few of you who have emailed me and asked me if things are okay. The internet is a funny thing. I don't know all my readers personally, yet so many of you messaged me, worried about me. It gives me this unbelievably warm feeling of being connected and cherished and so thank you again. 

I am fine. To be completely honest, at first, I was just burnt out. Last year was an interesting one. After almost nine years of being an only child, Adz was going to be a big sister. I found out that I was pregnant and while we were quite unsure about this whole thing at first, we decided to roll with it. Unlike with Adz, where I had an incredible pregnancy, this one was quite hard. Maybe it was just me being older, but the last thing I felt like doing was cooking or eating, or even writing, for that matter. I'd sit in front of the computer, and I'd just be blank. I'd have ideas, but I couldn't seem to get them out on paper. I didn't even pick up my camera for a while, with zero interest in doing anything. My mother was visiting, thankfully, and she picked up a lot of my slack, and after a few visits with my doctor, I gave myself permission to take a few months off without the associated guilt. 

I gave birth to Baby Sky in September. He's a gorgeous little squiggly handful of a guy, full of personality right from the moment of birth, and so very different from my mellow, easygoing Adz. Now that we have him, it is hard to imagine life without him. Well, technically, life is generally harder with him, seeing as I'd completely forgotten what having a new baby was like, but despite the complete lack of sleep and general zombie-esqe pattern of life (eat, play, nap, yowl, expel, and repeat) yes, life is better with this new little person. 

It has been almost six months now, since Baby Sky was born, but despite all my bright ideas and thoughts, I still wasn't ready to write. Like before, I'd sit in front of the computer and have all these thoughts, but no desire to tap those keys and put them in writing. Now, I haven't been accepting a lot of projects recently. Partly because I just haven't had the energy to do anything, but also because I am a bit of a perfectionist, and I give my best to any project I take part in. I didn't think that I would be able to offer anything when I was still burning out. 

Last month, however, I accepted a project from Merkato, a global recipe swap, rethinking beef recipes. The reason I accepted this project was the concept. I would be creating a recipe based on my cultural background, and swapping a recipe with another Canadian blogger, Shel Zolkewich whose recipe I am featuring in Part 2 of this post) 

But in truth, there were other factors behind why I decided to break my blog silence with this project. 

I went to India to visit with my family and introduce them to their newest member in December and January. Baby Sky was introduced to his great grandmother and a huge number of his extended family. We had an incredible time, and I reconnected with some family that I hadn't seen in well over ten years. It brought back to me the importance of connections and being there for each other. Maybe we hadn't seen each other in all these years, but as they say, blood is thicker than water and we fell back into our easy relationships with each other, just like we had when we were children, running back and forth from each others' houses. Social media has definitely made being in touch easier, and with Facebook, we are able to keep up with our lives, even though we live so far from each other.

I digress, however. 

Family is certainly important, and my life has been shaped heavily by my own family, both in India and here in Canada. 

But it was what happened on the way back from India that led me to write this post and take part in this recipe swap. 

Adz, Baby Sky and I were connecting to our Canada-bound flight in Frankfurt airport. We had a few hours to kill, and while waiting for our flight to be called, I noticed that the gate agents were calling out these Muslim sounding names. When the people came up, there would be a hushed conversation, and then what sounded like people getting upset with lot of arm waving and some tears and general confusion. I wasn't sure what was happening, so I opened up the news on my phone. 

That was when I saw the mind boggling news from the United States, banning people from seven Muslim majority countries from entering the States. I realised that the airlines were informing people from these countries about this ban and to be honest, I couldn't even comprehend what was going on. On one hand, I was just so grateful that I wasn't transiting through the States and was going to Canada instead. On the other hand, I could completely sympathise with these people who were travelling to the US, being tolday they couldn't travel for whatever purpose they were going there for. Having just come back from India and having had such an incredible family trip there, my heart was bleeding for these people. I could not imagine how they must have been feeling. I know that I would have been devastated, had I been told that I wasn't able to visit my family back in India, for whatever reason.

Beef Kheema Pav

Since last November, since that ill-fated election in the States, my anxiety levels have been extremely high. I am a brown immigrant to Canada, and my children are mixed race. While racism is not a new concept to me, having faced it in England as well as to a smaller extent in Canada, the sheer vitriol coming from supporters of that person (I am sorry, but I just can't say his name without heaving!) against immigrants and people who were different was scary. 

My experience of being an immigrant, twice, was much easier than others. I am not ashamed to say this out loud, and I am one of the lucky ones. In England, my path to naturalisation was easy, having been there as a graduate student, and then working there. When we came back to Canada, my path to residency was still easy. I didn't choose to fall in love with a Canadian, but the fact that my husband was Canadian helped ease my way. I was also lucky that I was so well versed in the Western world, that integrating into English and Canadian society was natural for me. I speak good English, I know pop culture inside out, I am abreast of news, and I listen to Blue Rodeo*. 

But while my life as an immigrant is easy, to the point where a lot of people I know don't even see the colour of my skin, as long as I am able to keep up with conversations around hockey, or sport or music or sociology – this does not mean that I am unaware of how precarious my status in this country is. When people on the street look at me, they see a brown woman with white children and assume, a lot of the times, that I am the nanny. Some people talk slower to me, like they feel that I am not able to understand English. Some people are shocked by my lack of accent (see here). And I have been accosted on the street and told to go back home. It happens to all of us, those of us who appear different. 

But to actually see the level of hate against immigrants that has manifested in that person being elected? I am truly flabbergasted and yes, it makes me anxious for my future and the future of my mixed race children. I'd like to say that such hate is not usual in Canada, but I would be wrong. Just a look at newspaper forums will tell me otherwise. People will tell me that those forums are not representative of what Canada is like, but then that's what we thought about the States. People will also tell me not to look at these news stories or engage with them, but it's like watching a particularly gruesome incident, and my morbid curiosity won't let me disengage. While both Canada and the States are countries founded on immigration, the rhetoric today has changed. Today, we are ruled by fear of difference. And when fear takes hold, hate is not far behind. 

And that was one of the reasons why I took up this project. The people swapping recipes in this project are all people who have different cultural, national and religious backgrounds. But what we all have in common is that we are all Canadians. 

I am going to be upfront with you all. I am not a nationalistic person. I've lived and travelled in too many countries to be the kind of person who believes that 'my country is the best' rhetoric. I love living in Canada, sure, and I adore the people I live with and all my friends, but I would be happy living anywhere else in the world, as long as I have my little family with me. Maybe this is an antithetic view of the world, but this is me and I won't apologise for it. 

Good Luck Parsi Cafe in Mumbai

My recipe for this global swap project is inspired by one of my favourite Mumbai street foods. When I was in India this year, I took a little street food jaunt with my friend Addie, and we hit up this little Parsi cafe in Bandra where the food is tinged with Iranian influences. It is, and rightly so, famous for its kheema pav. 

Kheema is a generic term in India for ground meat, and a good, spicy, salty kheema curry can have any kind of meat, with lamb and mutton being the most common. Beef, however, is also quite common in many communities in India, particularly the Catholic community. While it can be harder now to find beef in India, several places do have it, and this cafe did (or at least assured us that we were eating beef kheema). 

There is nothing fancy about kheema pav. This is street food at its simplest and most filling. You get a steel plate of curried minced beef, a soft, cheap white bun and a wedge of lime. You squeeze some lime juice on the meat, and use your fingers to tear the pav and scoop the kheema into your mouth. The flavours are an explosion on your tongue, your mouth being assaulted by salt, heat, tang and the fragrance of spices. You take a sip of sweet chai, and then mop up the last bits of curry with some more pav. 

Kheema Pav at Good Luck Parsi Cafe in Mumbai

Kheema Pav at Good Luck Parsi Cafe in Mumbai

For me, this dish brings back memories of my time in Bombay as a student. I was forever broke, but also hungry all the time. Many of us hunted out the best street food joints in the city, and we would travel in the horrific Mumbai traffic to head down to Sardar's for the best pav bhaji, or to small Punjabi joints for delicious tandoori chicken. The Catholic cafes had great seafood, and every colony in Bombay claimed that their pani puri wallah made the best version. 

That said, my recipe for kheema pav comes from my aunt's cook, Christine, she of the delicious pork sorpotel.  Her recipe is simple and uses minimum spice, but can easily rival any of those from these famous street vendors. Add my recipe for fresh pav, a squeeze of lime juice and a pat of butter on top, and voila! You're on the streets on Mumbai, taking in the unique flavours of the ordinary Mumbaikar.

Thankfully, my recipe swap partner Shel loved it too, and her photographs are so much better than mine, so check them out. I also adore the fact that she made them for Hockey Night in Canada. Now how much more inclusive do you get than that? 

* I know you are dying to hear my Blue Rodeo story, yes? Well, when I was first dating Kay, my Canadian boy, he took me to see blue Rodeo perform in this tiny underground pub in London. Goodness, I think the entire Canadian population of London was there. I was only a couple of feet away from the band on the stage. After the performance, the band members all came and mingled with the audience, and I said hello to Jim Cuddy, who gave me a hug and asked me if Blue Rodeo was big in India. Well, I said, they were definitely popular with one particular Indian. Me.  

Fresh Pav at Sardars Pav Bhaji

--> Kheema Pav
(Printable Recipe)

A Mumbai Street Food Recipe

Pav (Bread Rolls)

1 tablespoon active dry yeast
¼ cup warm water
1 cup milk, scalded
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons butter + a little extra
1 teaspoon salt
3 ½ cups sifted all purpose flour
1 egg

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Soften active dry yeast in warm water.

Combine milk, sugar, butter and salt. Cool. Add 1 cup of the flour and beat well with a wooden spoon.

Beat in softened yeast and egg.

Gradually add remaining flour to form a soft dough. Knead the dough (around 7 - 8 minutes) until soft and pliable, then shape into a ball and place in a large oiled bowl. Cover and let rise in warm place until doubled in size (1½ to 2 hours)

Lightly turn out the risen dough on to lightly floured surface. Pat down and shape into 12 small balls.

Place the dough balls next to each other in a baking tray, then cover and let rise for another hour.

Bake at 375 degrees F for 15 - 20 minutes, until the rolls are golden. Brush a little extra butter on the crusts while still warm.


1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander seeds
1 teaspoon garam masala
½ – 1 teaspoon mild (or hot) cayenne pepper, to taste
¼ teaspoon aamchur (dried mango powder)
2 tablespoons canola or sunflower oil
1 tablespoon ghee (optional)
1 cup, finely diced onion
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated
1 – 2 hot, green bird’s eye chillies, finely chopped
1 cup, finely chopped tomatoes
500g ground beef
½ cup water
½ cup fresh or frozen peas
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Small handful fresh cilantro, chopped
Fresh pav, softened salted butter and lime wedges, to serve

In a small bowl, mix together the cumin, coriander, garam masala, cayenne pepper and aamchur. Keep this spice mix aside.

Heat the oil, and the ghee (if using) in a heavy based sauté pan, and add the onion. Fry on a medium heat for 7 – 8 minutes, until softened and beginning to brown on the edges.

Add the crushed garlic, ginger and chillies and stir together for a minute, until fragrant.

Add the chopped tomatoes and the spice mix to the pan and season with a little salt.

Fry, stirring often, for 10 – 15 minutes, until the mixture is thick and the oil is beginning to shimmer around the edges.

Add the ground beef and fry for 2 – 3 minutes. Add the water, cover the pan, and let the kheema simmer for about 15 – 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, blanch the peas in salted, boiling water for 2 minutes, then drain.

Uncover the pan, and add the peas to the kheema, and continue to cook for another 5 – 7 minutes, until the mixture is on the dry side. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Take off the heat and stir in the chopped cilantro. Serve with the pav, butter and lime wedges.

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Think Beef

Baby Sky's birth was wonderful. I had a planned C-Section – planned, because Adz's birth was pretty traumatic for me – but this one went without a hitch. I felt at peace and healed up beautifully. Mentally, however, I was still a bit unsure. On one hand, I was ecstatic with my beautiful new baby, but on the other hand, anxious again. When we took Baby Sky for his first immunisation and weigh-in, the nurse recommended I see a therapist, just to talk through things.

I mentioned my anxiety, and as we talked through it, I realised that the majority of my worry was from the election that had just taken place in the States. That person had won, and the fear in the pit of my stomach had never left. My therapist mentioned, almost as an aside, that I was not the only one who had had anxiety triggered by this election. As we chatted more, I realised that the root of my fear was the fact that I was brown.

I no longer felt as safe on the streets as I was. It might have been a false sense of security, but having now lived in Canada for over seven years, I was beginning to adapt to the Canadian way of living. When I first moved here, I wanted locks on every side gate and to the backyard. Now I was leaving our door open when we pottered around in the backyard. But suddenly, I was back to locking and triple checking everything. I was overthinking every sideways gaze at me and the children. I started spraying myself with fragrance because I didn't want people to think I smelt of curry. I kept an eye out on public transit instead of being immersed in my phone.

In some ways, I was happy to know that I was not alone, that there were other people who felt triggered by the nastiness of that election. But in some ways I felt more alone than I have ever been for a long time.

Even now, as I write this post, my hands are shaking, I feel nervous and jittery and my chest feels tight. If this is my reaction – the reaction of someone whose immigrant journey, as I mentioned in my previous post, was easier than most people's, then I can only imagine what people who came here fleeing war and persecution must be feeling. What those people who seek asylum and refuge in Canada are thinking. What the mental state of those people who are braving sub-zero temperatures to cross over to Canada from the States must be like. How they must feel, having their families torn apart, having to leave everything that they have behind, their worries for their children and parents.

I don't get it. I honestly don't. How did this person – this person who openly espouses intolerance and deals in hate and fear mongering – get elected? Was everything I knew about the States wrong? According to my Facebook feed, I am preaching to the choir. Everybody is against this person. Everyone is horrified. Everybody is exhorting resistance. Yet, there were millions upon millions of people who voted for this person. Who are these people? How do they not know that their history is also one of immigration, moving to the States for a better life, and fleeing persecution? How can they suddenly be all about white power and intolerance? I don't understand it.

But then again, maybe I do.

I might joke about this, but there is a reason why my family didn't make much of a fuss when I announced that I was marrying a white man. Just after Kay had proposed, I went back to India to go wedding shopping. My grandmother asked me to show her pictures of my future in-laws. She looked over carefully at the photo, and said, "well, this is good. They are white and fat and your children will be nice and fair." Eh, what?

I don't know how my folks would have reacted if I'd gone home and said I was marrying a black Muslim man. Or even if I'd outed myself as gay. See, it doesn't matter if you're being discriminated against. You can still be racist as a brown person. Or casteist. Or intolerant of another religion ("Jess: It's all changing now. Nasser Hussein is captain of the English cricket team and he's Asian. Mrs. Bhamra: Hussein is a Muslim name, their families are different.... Pinky: You can marry anyone you want. It's fine at first when you're in love and all that but do you want to be stared at, by every family that do because you married the English bloke? Jess: He's Irish. Pinky: Well, they all look the bloody same to them, innit" – fine, I am a 'Bend It Like Beckham nerd, but seriously... this.)

It takes courage to admit that some of your ideas about how things are in this world are wrong. I've snapped at some of my relatives when they talk disparagingly about 'furriners' (foreigners, as Indian people dub white people). My kids and my husband are 'foreigners'. Technically, so am I. Are they okay talking about me like that?

I had this experience with my mom, as I was trying to explain being gay and gay rights to her. She didn't understand it at all, and all her perceptions about being gay had been coloured by the vehement opposition of the church, as she is very religious. But we did have a conversation about it, and I got her to read this article on being gay in India  and the persecution they go through. At the end of the piece, she was in tears as she understood the discrimination and prejudice. She changed her mind that day. She is a brave, thoughtful woman who had the courage to admit that her convictions were wrong.

I wish a lot more people were like her. Perhaps then I would feel better about leaving this world to my children.

I found it rather fitting that my recipe swap partner, Shel Zolkevich, made these Mexican taquitos. In her recipe post, she has a funny story about why they are called PTL taquitos, I must admit I chuckled at that one, especially with a husband that mispronounces a lot of Indian words.

We don't need a wall in today's world. Having made and loved each bite of these, all I can say is that we need more taquitos, instead.

PTL Chipotle Taquitos 

2 tbsp canola oil
1 large onion, diced
1 lb ground beef, lean
½ tsp salt
1 tsp chili powder
½ tsp cumin

3 cups mashed potatoes
1 canned chipotle, from chipotles in adobo sauce, diced
½ cup mozzarella, shredded

24 corn tortillas, 4-5 inches wide
24 toothpicks

1 cup canola oil, for frying


Sour cream
Chopped avocado
Salsa verde

Heat 2 tbsp canola oil over medium high heat. Add onion and fry for three minutes. Add ground beef and fry until all traces of pink are gone, about eight minutes. Add salt, chili powder and cumin. Mix well. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine mashed potatoes, chipotle, cheese and ground beef mixture. Mix well.

In a wide frypan, heat 1 cup of canola oil to 375 degrees F.

Place one tortilla on a flat surface and add 1 Tbsp of ground beef and potato mixture in the centre. Roll tightly and secure with toothpick. Set aside. Continue to make five more taquitos. Fry six at a time, for two minutes on one side and two minutes on the other. Repeat until all 24 are done.

Garnish with sour cream, chopped avocado, sour cream and cilantro.

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Think Beef