Thursday, February 25, 2010

#5 All Food is Finger Food

Welcome to the first in a five part series entitled, “5 Things We Really Like About India”!

For those who know me (Courtney) well, you don’t need much explanation of the above title to understand how happy it makes me to say it. I have always loved playing with my food. In high school I would sit at Steak ‘n Shake, bumming food off my friends usually, and at the end of the meal would create some disgusting concoction that would make my friends “ooo” and “aahh” (not totally true. Reality was more like, “gross, Courtney”). I have since graduated from salt, ketchup and hot pepper mixtures to gravitating toward taco bars. Any hands-on eating experience warms my heart. That being said, I think I was specially made for this part of Indian life. Every meal is eaten with your hands (actually, ‘hand’, maybe I’ll explain that one later…). The traditional way to eat is to combine rice and some “gravy” into a mushy ball, pick it up with your right hand and roll it into your mouth. Only the truly gifted can do this without tipping their head back to catch the food; we are nearly there. I absolutely love it.

Neil has always told me that I’ll never be able to tell our kids to stop playing with their food. If they grow up here, I won’t have to. :)

Train Ride

We went to Goa for a conference and were challenged to try taking the train instead of flying. Goa is on the other side of the country from Chennai and is known as a tropical getaway. We decided to go for it, but waited to buy train tickets until about 2 weeks before, which we found out was way too late. One travel agent even refused to work with us! In the end, we had to resort to flying to Goa (2.5 hours in a plane) and taking the train back (about 24 hours).

Here is a video of us getting ready to board our first train and some shots of what it was like.

All in all, we had a good experience with it. 24 hours on a train is much more comfortable than 24 hours on a plane. We did a lot of reading, walking around, Sudoku, journaling, listening to podcasts - anything that would take up a nice block of time. Food was pretty easy to get as there would be someone walking through about every 5 minutes saying "Chai, Chai", or whatever else they had to sell. People on a train are very friendly too. there was a lot of laughing going on around us and I even saw a group of people playing some form of charades.

There were a lot of good memories, and we might try it again sometime, but after a full day of traveling, we were both ready to crash at home.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Even before we got to India we kept hearing “you have to go to the movie theatre”. I couldn’t quite figure out what was so great about going to the movies here, until I got to experience it for myself!

Neil and I went to see Avatar with Jason & Karyn at a movie theatre called ‘Sathyam’. This is well known to be the nicest movie theatre in Chennai—it’s the nicest one I’ve ever been in! Here are the highlights:


-Big, comfy seats all with their own armrest. Seriously the most comfortable I’ve ever been at the movies.

-Intermission for a potty break (or to get more food)

-getting to eat 2 veg puffs, 1 brownie, 1 coffee, 1 veg sandwich, bottled water & a container of caramel corn for around $6US (I can’t remember the exact amount, but this is conservative. It very well might have been less.) We barely get a coke for that in the States!

-this is by far my favorite…the whistling, yelling, and clapping. The theatre was so much noisier than we would ever go for in the States, but we loved it! There were a couple of times when a scary, slimy monster would be sneaking up on the hero and someone in the crowd would whistle, seemingly to get the hero’s attention. Or, when a really good part would happen, they would clap. If something scary or exciting happened, some would yell. It was awesome!

If you ever find yourself roaming around Chennai, looking for something to do, go to the movies. (actually, if you ever find yourself roaming around Chennai, looking for something to do, CALL US, then we’ll go to the movies.)

Monday, February 15, 2010

Subway Delivers!

So another great thing about India is that nearly everyone delivers...including Subway. I'm not sure why this hasn't caught on in the States, but here, you can go online and choose your own sandwich, toppings, sauce, bread, and then they'll bring it right to your door for no extra charge. Pretty wonderful...


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

num num nummy...

I had another cooking adventure--my first true (North) Indian meal! While this one did involve a pressure cooker, thankfully nothing tragic happened :)

I make a "bath" for every market purchase before we eat it. Some clean water + a little vinegar = my interpretation of "clean". I love my grinder and the little spice bowls they frequently use here. It was my first time grinding my own spices and what made it even better was that it was my favorite spice: cumin! I absolutely love the stuff. They have really good snack selections here and I'm always on the lookout for anything 'jeera' (cumin) flavored. I managed to spill tomato juice all over my cookbook, but no harm done; I just figure it has more personality now.

So, we had our first homemade Indian dish and it was great! I feel so much more at home now. :)

A few of you have requested recipes. I've included the recipe for the meal in the pictures below...

Curried Vegetables

2T cooking oil 2 med. tomatoes, seeded & chopped
1 t. cumin seeds, crushed 2 med. potatoes, peeled & diced
1 clove garlic, minced 1/2 c. chopped carrot
1 t. salt 1/2 c. green beans (can be frozen)
1 t. garam masala 1/2 c. peas (can be frozen)
1 t. grated fresh ginger 2 c. water
1/2 t. ground turmeric 1/4 c. raisins (golden are best)
1/4-1/2 t. cayenne or chilli pepper 1/2 c. whipping cream (opt., I used plain yogurt)
(depending on how hot you want it) 2 c. hot cooked basmati rice
Fresh cilantro for garnish
In a large skillet heat oil over med. heat. Add cumin seeds. Cook & stir for 10 seconds. Add garlic, salt, garam masala, ginger, turmeric & cayenne at the same time. Cook & stir for 15 seconds (watch closely to avoid burning!). Add tomatoes, potatoes, carrot, green beans, peas, water, and raisins. Bring to boil; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 15-20 minutes, or until veggies are tender (mine took more like 40 min.). If desired, stir in cream or plain yogurt. Serve with rice. Garnish with cilantro.

It's pretty spicy, so I recommend serving with a fruit, like pear or pomegranate.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Less than $1

Let me be specific. All of this...

for 63 US cents. I love veggie shopping here!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Knights

When we first arrived in Chennai, our teammate Jason looked at me (Neil) and asked if I wanted to coach a youth basketball team. My Indiana blood screamed "YES", and it came out of my mouth quickly, but then I thought, "Basketball in India?". Does anybody really even play here? Is this too much westernization? Am I being type-casted?

I was also a little nervous because I've never actually coached before, but Jason assured the guy who ran the league that I had played basketball all the way through college. Which is true, I did play some pick-up games while at Lincoln; but I think the connotation might have led to a different interpretation. This was confirmed when the league director saw that I had worn some IU stuff (wristband, shorts) and asked me if I played at IU.

As it turns out, coaching basketball has become one of my favorite things here in Chennai. It is sponsored by the church we've been going to as an outreach event. Only about 10% or less of the kids are from the church. Most come from middle or upper class families, and quite a lot of them are Hindu. These parents want their kids to have a really quality, international education and exposure. Many of these kids might end up studying abroad. So, learning basketball can be a helpful way for the kids to feel comfortable and fit in if they end up in another country some day.

My team is called the Knights. They are amazing. All the kids have really good attitudes and are really excited about playing together. They do a great job of listening to me too and at trying to do the things we are teaching them. We have won our first three games and clinched the division already.

It makes me so happy to be around these kids and have fun with them. I introduce a "word of the day" before the game. The first word was "remember", stressing that they needed to remember all the good things we taught them at the camp. I used the story of Moses and the Israelites to show how important it was to remember the good things of the past and not forget when things got tough. Last week, we talked about "teamwork" and how only having one person not do their job can lead to the whole team losing, using the story of Achan keeping back the treasures of Jericho for himself.

Basketball is one of my favorite things in life, and I thought it would have to be in the shadows here in India. But, it has been such a great tool to get to know these kids and have a chance to impact their lives.