Photoblog: Just One Snap? (India Adventures with Dan and Vero)

“Excuse me, just one snap?”

If you’ve traveled in India, you may have heard this before…you want to take a photo with someone, of someone, or they want to take a photo of/with you…you’ll hear it.

Here are a few snaps from our first week in India…Dan has the lion’s share of the photos so we will share more in due course.

Golden Temple in Amritsar, lit up for New Years and with fireworks going off EVERYWHERE. Ludicrous and awesome.

Dan and Veronica at the Golden Temple when it’s looking more golden. It was cold, but you also have to cover your head at the temple, which explains the hats.

We ate breakfast at the Golden Temple’s kitchen, which serves between 25,000 and 30,000 free meals on an average day. On a festival day (when we were there!) the number is north of 100,000. Crazy. As we finished eating, this lovely couple asked if we would take their photo. They are from Amritsar; they came to the temple for New Year’s Day breakfast. Love the pink turban.

We went to Wagah, a border town on the western edge of India, to witness the daily border-closing ceremony with Pakistan. Pomp, circumstance, and killer hats.

Not the best photo, but Dan has most of them. Here, we are at Humayun’s Tomb in south Delhi. This was built in the 1570s and inspired the design of the Taj Mahal. Photo credit: my friend Himanshu, a former AF summer associate and UVA Darden grad. Great to see him!

You’ve seen it before; you’ll see it again…but it’s even more majestic and beautiful in person. India’s greatest monument and maybe the world’s greatest expression of love.

Playing around; a cool photo.

At the Taj Mahal complex.

The Brothers Katz.

Much, much more to come. Dan has been leading the charge on photo taking, while I have been managing the organization and negotiation with Veronica reading everything in the books and in sight to ensure we are well informed. We’re a great team and have about a week left…Dan has most of the rest of the photos so we will put together another post when we next have decent wifi.

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Photoblog: Hanukkah 2011

What do you get when you mix 4 North American Jews, 5 Mumbai-based Hindu Indians and a Muslim Afghani-American?

A killer Hanukkah party, that’s what!

Jess, visiting from Canada, took the lead on latkes and applesauce. We made the latkes without eggs, a nod to Jess’ vegan diet, and they held together remarkably well (thank you, corn starch and chickpea flour). Diti, meanwhile, whipped up some outstanding dal chawal from scratch. Minor setback during the jeera (cumin seeds) portion of the recipe, but we all like a little minor kitchen fire now and again, don’t we?

Manor and Devorah joined, with gingerbread cookies; Awista brought hummus (which we ate with rotis, talk about fusion!) and Mitesh, Smriti and Aradhana joined with a bottle of Sula Seco champagne. Manasa came a little late and brought cheer + wine. All in all, a lovely party. We had a great time.

The spread.

Four Jews and an Indian (right to left: Devorah, Manor, yours truly, Diti and Jess)

The third night

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Photoblog: Thai Cooking Class

On my first night in Chiang Mai, Ryan, Jenny and I took a fantastic cooking class. The Chiang Mai Thai Farm Cooking School typically offers a farm visit + class option, but also runs the occasional night class. We opted for the night class, since we had plans during the day to explore Chiang Mai.

In any case, we headed down the block from our guest house around 5 and met up with a number of other Americans and two very lovely French girls. My brief “je parle un peu de francais” convinced one of them that I could understand her, which made for a very funny evening.

In any case, we picked from a menu, and immediately set down to work. There were three options at each stage, so Jenny, Ryan and I divided and conquered. Here are Ryan and Jen with their sprigs of lemongrass, about to be made into curry pastes:

And the mortar and pestle:

I made a red curry paste, while Ryan did a green one; Jen whipped up the massaman (delicious). Here’s the green-in-progress.

The end product of red curry paste was a little underwhelming – it didn’t quite fill the small bowl I’d been given. I may have mortar-and-pestled it into oblivion:

With the curry pastes prepped, we each made a different curry – vegetable green curry, vegetable red curry and chicken massaman. I think Jenny’s massaman turned out best, but I also really liked Ryan’s green (even though he thought it was too spicy). The red curry was a little too dry for me, I would have liked to have added more coconut milk and water; remember it for next time.

Here are Ryan and Jenny under instruction from our super nice, diminutive assistant teacher. She had lived and worked in the US for a while, so her English was excellent. When we asked her, “where did you live in the US?” she replied, “Baltimore” which of course got Ryan excited. His first question? “Do you like the Ravens? Ray Lewis?”

She broke out into the Ray Lewis dance; we were laughing hysterically, and Ryan was in love. Absolutely hilarious.

With the curries finished, we were onto our soups. Jen made a coconut milk chicken soup, while Ryan and I both made tom yum with shrimp. The tom yum was really simple; I could easily re-create it in the U.S. – but again, I thought the chicken might have been a little tastier (the creaminess of the coconut milk is hard to beat.)

A happy soup chef:

One of the french women and I were shunted off to the secondary cooking station, under the guidance of the Thai Ray Lewis (versus the main table, who were being taught by a nice guy). We got along great and laughed a lot, despite the obvious language barrier. I was proud to be able to tell her that an eggplant was an “aubergine” – guess I haven’t forgotten all of my French…

She was nice enough to take a few photos of my pad thai in process. This was far and away my best dish. The sauce is kind of complicated by the dish itself is deceptively simple. A definite make-at-home, especially if I can get the sauce pre-made (yep, I’ll admit to taking shortcuts).

And, last but not least – it was time to eat! Here’s a happy Ryan…

We made mango sticky rice and sweet banana spring rolls for dessert, which we ate mostly out of politeness and curiosity – we were all SO full. 3 hours after we’d started, the 10 of us said goodbye (adieu to the French) and waddled home, happy.

Next up: Chiang Mai market, street food and a waterfall trip.

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Happily Abandoning – Off to Thailand

I’m heading out to Thailand tonight, for a brief vacation and a visit with the Happily Abandoned, aka Jenny and Ryan Levinson. This is the three of us from their wedding back in 2008.

Jenny and Ryan are friends from my days at the World Resources Institute, where they first met. We went to shows together (The Bridge, White Stripes, All Good Fest), played company softball (we lost a lot) and I even took their apartment when they left for San Francisco in 2007. 2828 Connecticut Ave forever…

It’s been a while, and we’ve always met up whenever they’re east (or I’m west) but since they’re close by, and I have the time, it’s off to Chiang Mai for the weekend. We’ll be hanging out with elephants, visiting the school that Jenny’s been volunteering in, going for hikes, maybe renting mopeds for an epic exploration session and definitely eating our fill of Thai food (and getting foot massages).

Be sure to check out their blog and photos to see what they’ve been up to so far – I’m excited to visit them, and even more excited to host them when they come to India in January.

I’ll try to throw up a few blog posts while I’m away – otherwise, stay tuned for post-trip photos (and a backlog of images from August through December…including Portland, Mumbai, Delhi, New York and more…)

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Pani puri @ home and Three Cheers for Nanda

Life is good. Why, you ask? Well, don’t take this the wrong way, but life is good because I don’t cook much these days beyond the occasional egg, fruit salad, chai and coffee and…a peanut butter sandwich? That’s right. And that’s mostly thanks to the lovely Nanda.

Nanda comes Tuesday, Thursdays, and Saturdays and cooks. She buys the groceries, makes sure I’m stocked up and does the dishes before she leaves (that’s RIGHT!) She’s Bengali, who married a Maharashtrian but she can make everything from Punjabi to Chinese.

Generally, I stick to some tried and true favorites – some combination of baigan bhartha, paneer tikka, aloo palak, methi aloo, bhindi masala, some rajma/chole, some dals, rice, chapati, parathas. Sometimes, I’ll ask Nanda to make pulao, or pav bhaji, or Chinese. That’s about it. It’s good, it’s healthy, it’s cheap and it’s fast. And Nanda is a total sweetheart, so I am happy to give her a second job (she works for another family around the block).

So, I was talking with Nanda on Saturday while she cooked and casually mentioned how much I love chaats, Indian snacks. “Chaats?” she asked, “which ones?”

(Pani puri, someone who is a better photographer than I am)

“Pani puri, sev puri, dahi puri, kachori, samosa…” I started listing my favorites.

“You should have told me! I can make you any of those right here!”

And so, tonight, the great chaat revolution has begun. I came home and took out of my fridge the tamarind water, the green chutney, the chickpea mixture (probably has a name but I’m an ignorant foreigner, sorry!) and the puris (of course.) And I had pani puri for dinner. In my house. As much as I want.

I am in heaven. Here’s a low-res BlackBerry photo of my pani puri set up. Delish. Oh and if you think it looks like goop (Mom) well you’re wrong. It’s NOT! 🙂

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Great commercial from Harvey Nichols – Walk of Shame

Friend of mine here at the office showed this to me. Pretty edgy clothing advert…funny to boot. Worth the 55 seconds it’ll take to watch this.

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The 45 Most Powerful Images of 2011

Great list, sent by friend and colleague Sean Moore. Thanks Sean.

Warning – some of these photos may be emotionally difficult to view, so proceed with caution. But they are stunning images…

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