Happy New Year! I’m talking to you Chinese people….

I thought I’d share my favorite non-PC story involving my favorite Chinese friend in honor of today. I’m sure she won’t mind. If you are offended easily or think this is insensitive – please stop reading now. I totally understand. I once wrote a note to the New York Times condemning an Indian Cultural Day they had in Central Park called “Curry in the Park”. I was outraged that they would define all of the beauty that is the Indian culture and reduce it to a seasoning used in the food.  How dare they! They wrote back that it was, in fact, a showcase of Indian food. Oh. Anyway – I get it. Racism is terrible. But sometimes….it’s funny. On to my story.

Let me set the scene.

I worked in a very serious, very conservative private bank in New York City. This was the defining job of my career. All my biggest successes and f’ups happened here. It’s also where I learned the type of team that I wanted to be in (and lead eventually). We were hardworking, sarcastic, funny and silly. If you made a mistake in our team, you wouldn’t be walked through how to do it better – you would be teased and laughed at. There was no training or “on-boarding”. You just worked like hell to figure things out while the rest of the team rolled their eyes. It sounds rough. But it was amazing. You developed all the skills you needed to be a good planner – including the king of all skills – thick skin.

We were also quite a mixed bag. Cold, stylish leader without a heart? Check. Smart, creative Chinese gal who bordered on being mean? Check! Rich, Hermes wearing Euro daughter of a client? Put together, chic New Yorker with an accent? Check and check! And me, a married Indian gal with a baby in her late 20’s. Let’s just say we didn’t blend into a crowd.

Sorry about all the back story but you need to know this in order to really appreciate the situation. So because we dealt with billionaires and people who managed billionaires, the atmosphere in the office was always quiet and well-heeled. Except in our area. We were always laughing and shouting and eating. A mark of most good event groups. We also kept to ourselves most of the time – not that anyone was knocking down our door to be included.

Then, one fateful holiday season – it happened. Our guard was down. We were invited to join the secret Santa gift exchange on our floor. We decided to do it. We even decided to go to the party for the gift exchange. All of us. Except the head of the group who spent December in Prague or something. We were going to assimilate! At least for that hour.

We all shuffled into the conference room and pretended to be excited. One by one we opened our gifts. Oh look, the strange dude in graphics got me a cookbook. How nice. The lady in accounting got someone a candle. Charming. You get the point.

Then. Our Chinese gal opened the first of 2 gifts from her secret Santa. Hmmm. Geisha stickers. She smiled. We stared. We started to feel the corners of our mouth convulsing – we looked at the floor. We looked at the ceiling. We looked anywhere to avoid eye contact with her. We prayed the next gift wouldn’t be ethnic specific. We were wrong. She opened a box of Chinese rubber stamps. Ok – at least this was the right bucket of stereotyped gift. (You say Chinese, I say Japanese…) There was no ill intent. The person meant no harm. But we were all dying. Literally bursting at the seams laughing. We never participated in a gift exchange again. True story.

I know what you’re thinking. How awful – that person should have been reprimanded. Oh no. You didn’t go to HR for this stuff. You thanked the Gods that this happened so you could hold it over your co-worker’s head! That’s how we rolled.

For months after we talked, relived, re-enacted the moment. It was like a Christmas miracle to our team. It’s been 14 years or so since that day, and it still brings me joy.

Here’s to the year of the goat!

(Please note that the Chinese gal and I remain the closest of friends and she had to help me remember some details. I remembered the gift giver as a boy, it was a girl. I remembered 3 gifts. It was only 2. Thank god for her. Chinese people. They’re good to have around)

Ganesh is Good!

So…I made it to 31 days of blogging straight. Phew. I’m tired. Now goodbye until December. Ha ha. Just kiddin. It was very appropriate that the day my self-inflicted challenge to “write” every day ended, I went to celebrate the Indian god that you pray to when you start stuff. Typical.
Anyway – I met my family today to celebrate the Hindu god Ganesh. You know, the one with the elephant head. Every year in late August, this god of new beginnings is the central focus of all festivities for 10 days. A huge, I’m talking 20 foot huge, statue is created for the holiday. On the 10th day it’s taken to a body of water and submerged as an offering for a good year. We didn’t see that happen. I’m not even sure where they’d go in New Jersey to do that.The shore? Would we want Ganesh to be with all the other people sleeping with the fishes? I dunno. What I do know is that the festival involves food. Not Indian buffet food – there’s no chicken tikka masala here. This is Indian street food. For Indian street rats like me. We also did some shopping and spent some quality time with my parents, which means we let them buy stuff for us. They love that.
Here’s some pics and here’s to an amazing new year – so says Ganesh.
My mom and dad about to approach the big guy.

20140831-185803-68283070.jpg
Here’s Ganesh in all his glory.

20140831-185909-68349720.jpg
And here’s my favorite of all the food – and there was a lot of food – eaten today! It’s a puffed, crispy thin bread stuffed with all kinds of yogurt, potatoes and cilantro chutneys. Then they top it with fried thin noodles. A food for the gods. Or for me. We also found a pickle bar. Indians love a good condiment.

20140831-190157-68517802.jpg

20140831-190214-68534750.jpg

Bros before….you know

We had a busy weekend. We picked up a kid at camp. We drove 3 hours to upstate NY and had a fun day with friends, came home, slept and then headed west to Harrisburg to see my family (and pick up the other kid).
We were also there to celebrate two birthdays and an Indian celebration called Raksha Bandhan (we’re efficient that way).
To be clear, there are hundreds to Indian celebrations. What can I say, we like lots of Gods and lots of ways to worship them. And by WE I really mean my people, not me. Because as I’ve told you before, I’m religious light. I dabble. The Catholic Irish Ukrainian dude I married is the same way. We do the big things. Baptism so the kids get into heaven? Check. Making sure they know how the Indian god Ganesh got an elephant head? Done. Mortal soul secured.
So we approach holidays in both religions with some whimsy. Don’t you think some of the problems of the world would be resolved with some whimsy? Whimsy is undervalued.
Anyway, back to the weekend.
Basically the celebration is about the bond between a brother and a sister. She puts a sacred thread on his wrist, dots his head with a red mark called a Tilak (red powder dye and water. Think runny red lipstick) and she feeds him something sweet. He promises to protect and love her and gives her a small gift. Lovely.
What happens if you don’t have a brother like me and my sister? You’re screwed ! Just kiddin. Our cousins step into the role for us.
Here’s some pics from the celebration. The last pic is of my cousins who payed dual roles, our brothers and the birthday boys.
Notice my sons face as my daughter feeds him the Indian sweet. Maybe next year she can feed him an M&M or something.
And speaking of tweaking tradition, one of the sacred threads resembled a football – so we chose that for my son. He missed the subtle cultural fusion we tried to create.

20140811-092801-34081241.jpg

20140811-092813-34093579.jpg

20140811-092825-34105110.jpg

20140811-092841-34121642.jpg

Chaat. It’s what’s for dinner.

The other day I found myself alone at mealtime. No kids. No hubby. Just me.
Know what I had?
I had this.

20131120-192310.jpg

And this.

20131120-192352.jpg

Now, if you’re a normal Mexican/Chinese/Thai food enjoying kinda person – chances are you’ve had Indian food. Although I’m not saying that you’re abnormal if you don’t enjoy the ethnic aisle, no judgements (but you ARE missing out you big boring weirdo). Anyway, you recognize the chick peas and the bread – they are staples in any good Indian buffet. But it’s the dish in the first picture that gets me going.

In India, street food is called Chaat – it’s the fast food of my people. What I had is called Dhai Puri – which means yogurt bread. Except the little round bread is fried to a crisp, stuffed with other fried foods, and then drizzled with a yogurt sauce. There’s also a tamarind sauce and garlic chili sauce on top – and more fried bits for good measure.
Healthy? No! Delicious? Yes!
The end.

That Guy.

photo

Insert Twilight Zone Music….

In 1997, my husband and I took a cruise to Bermuda from New York City, where we lived.

Back then, there was none of this relaxed cruising stuff. You were assigned to a table. And that’s where you sat all week.

Every night, we had the same staff serving us. They were amazing.

This is a picture of one of our waiters, a gentleman from Bangladesh who loved me.

As almost all men from the old country do. Just kiddin’

He took such good care of us. Special veggie dishes. Extra spicy, for me.

Loads of extra shrimp in my husband’s scampi. That kind of thing.

We found out that he lived on the boat 10 months of the year.

Went home to his wife and kids for 2 months and was back at it.

At the end of our week we took this photo, said our goodbyes, and left a nice tip.

Cut to 2006

We were now living in Eastern Pennsylvania with our two kids and a cat

Miles and miles from Bermuda. Or Bangladesh.

I’m in Harrisburg, with my whole family.

We were there celebrating my sister’s bday – at the local Indian restaurant.

Like usual.

Guess who our waiter was.

Guess.

Yes.

I swear.

Really.

He left the cruise job, brought his family to the US, and moved to my hometown. Happened to get a job at my parent’s favorite place to celebrate all things. Happened to be working the night we were there. And happened to be our waiter. Again.

Insert Twilight Zone music again….

Pop Culture Vulture – 2013 edition

Here are the 3 things on my television set that keep me from getting the 12 hours of sleep I need at night.

imgres I know everyone’s been talking about this show. BUT it’s just so freaking good. I won’t reveal the juicy, devastating details of this season but I’m telling you – it’s epic. Thank you Masterpiece Theater – I haven’t been this happy since the Colin Firth edition of Pride and Prejudice.

imgres-1 Let’s just say that I was the one person still watching 30 Rock and memorizing funny lines when I heard it was ending this week. This show is the perfect replacement. Mindy is my new Liz Lemon. She gets bonus points for being Indian. Even if you’re not Indian, or don’t know any Indians, or thought she was actually Dominican or something, you’ll love this show. LOL people. LOL.

imgresI know. This show is on MTV. The channel that brought us The Jersey Shore, Teen Mom and other signals of the Armageddon.  But I saw the movie a few years back and I didn’t hate it. I thought it was kind of sad. People online pretending to be other people.  They sometimes have long, sordid relationships where the other person thinks they are the boy/girl of their dreams and…not so much. Mary the cheerleader turns out to be Mike the 50 year old living in the basement. Sad and Dysfunctional.  You take that combo, throw in a big reveal at the end of each episode, and I’m in! Laugh if you will, but as everyone was shaking their head in disbelief over Manti te’o, I just thought to myself,” another victim of a catfish.” See. It’s actually educational.

p.s. the margins on this post aren’t cooperating. I would spend time fixing them but my kids aren’t cooperating either and I’ve chosen to fix them instead.

Tea Party

Most of my weekend was spent in like this…

20130127-182303.jpg
On Sunday I was lured out to the mall with the fam. The boys went in search of….something. Not pertinent. And my daughter and I found our way to Teavana. Actually she pushed us that way. My girl loves a spot of tea. She takes it black with a little sweetness incase you’re wondering. She’s obsessed with this place. Have you been? It’s like a faux zen garden. Lots of confused Asian imagery everywhere. Is it Chinese? Is it Indian? In the end, at $16 an ounce, it doesn’t matter.
Don’t get me wrong. I come from a tea family. Chai was a regular word in our house long before Starbucks took it over. It means tea. Which is why I smile whenever I see a menu with Chai tea. I usually go for the coffee coffee.
So we went and she picked her favorite. The oolong maharaja (see what I mean?).
Here’s how you but it – not bagged.

20130127-184309.jpg
Then you steep in hot water and let it sit for a few minutes while you think about the incredible mark-up…kidding!

20130127-184431.jpg

20130127-184507.jpg
Strain, add a bit of sweetness and done!

20130127-184710.jpg
It made the whole house smell amazing and my girl was happy. Totally worth the money.

Previous Older Entries