Life These Days

The other night we were reading before bed and I was engrossed in a book about food allergies.
Me: Oh my gosh. Varun. Did you know you can be allergic to tap water? Maybe THAT’S the problem! Maybe you’re allergic to tap water.
Varun: (Silence)
Me: Seriously!
Varun: Tap water? Amelia. I’m Indian, that’s just embarrassing. Do you have any idea what I’ve had in my tap water?

In other news, this week has been a huge reminder that we really are guests in Canada. Besides our immigration paperwork, I received another clue courtesy of the payroll department at my university. Apparently, my social insurance number expired when my work permit did. (If I explained it, you’d probably fall asleep). Two trips to the Service Canada office later and still no Social Insurance Number, I remain paycheque-less.

Although it’s frustrating to wait for money I’ve earned, and it’s downright maddening not to be able to get a job off-campus, I’m thankful to live here. I try to remind myself of all of the wonderful things about Canada. Like HST*. Wait, never mind. At the very least, I am thankful that both Varun and I can live in the same country. And I’m hopeful about the upcoming shopping possibilities in Canadia.

Whole Foods, check. J. Crew, check. All we need now is Trader Joe's!

*Ontario has a lovely little tax called HST, which is 13% tax on every item except “basic groceries”, public transportation and prescription drugs. This is why I go crazy shopping in PA with 6% sales tax. This excludes food and drinks, clothing, shoes (shoes!!!), tanning beds, coffins, toothbrushes and internet services.


Paperwork Water Torture

“But Mom, Amelia likes writing papers. If I had to write papers like she has to write for school…I’d rather stay up all night studying for an engineering exam”, Varun mentioned nonchalantly. I could not believe my ears. I confirmed later that this was indeed true, he would rather cram for an exam about electronic circuits than write a paper about child development. (GASP). Clearly, we have different areas of gifting.

Details are not one of my gifts. One look in my linen closet or email inbox would confirm this. I tend to publish these posts before editing them because I’d rather see the finished product than check for commas. So how did I get this job?!

Immigration Application and much-needed caffeine

Despite my intense hatred for details, I am currently in the midst of filling out, organizing and double-checking our paperwork for Canadian Permanent Residency. (Don’t worry, Varun will also double-check. No one in their right mind would leave that up to me!)

Today, however, I’m almost losing it. The form requires every address that I have lived at since 18, and every address that Varun has lived at since 18. So far, this is over 17 locations. They also want an account of every activity/place since we were 18. With NO gaps. For me, this is something near to a mild form of torture. I have to bribe myself to sit down and try one more page.

Maybe I could just write a nice letter or 10 page research paper to the Canadian government explaining why they should let us stay. Or maybe I should get back to finding out Varun’s address in May of 2004. Save me now.

Cooking Fear #238

I have a serious love for a North Indian dish called Biryani. It consists of meat, rice, spices, raisins and nuts layered and cooked together into an aromatic and flavorful blend of deliciousness. Once, a friend and I were craving it and spent the better part of week searching for the perfect Biryani in Mumbai. After testing several restaurants, we came to the sad realization that no one makes it like Mama does (Or Mama’s cook, as the case may be).

At any rate, when Varun and I went to India in June, I had one mission: learn how to make biryani. One morning, the girl who works for Varun’s parents was reportedly preparing biryani for supper. I grabbed my journal and headed to the kitchen. Now, biryani is reportedly a very difficult and time consuming dish. But I was determined. Although I know the words for most spices and ingredients, I was finding it difficult to ask in Hindi, “How long did you marinate the mutton?” and “How many servings does this make?”. So, I dragged Varun, who was still in his pre-chai stupor, into the kitchen to translate. The conversation went something like this.

Shanti: (something in Hindi while measuring a spice)
Varun: Then you add that.
Me: Okay. What was that called again?
Varun: (translates the question for Shanti)
Shanti: (Says something else. Presumably answers Varun’s question while handing me cashews to chop)
Varun: Chop those. Add a pinch of that. Then add kevera.
Me: What’s kevera?
Shanti: (Points to a brown, wrinkled seed and talks animatedly)
Varun: Then let it cook for three whistles.
Me: Three whistles? But our pressure cooker isn’t big enough! Can I make it in the oven? On the stove? How long does it cook for?

As you can imagine, my notes from that cooking lesson were a jumbled mixture of words scribbled in Hindi, lists of ingredients, instructions, tips and question marks. Upon arriving home I would look longingly at the page in my journal but, intimidated by the gaps and lengthy process, would flip quickly to a blank page, salivating at the thought of biryani I couldn’t savor.

This weekend, I decided to take the plunge. I found a recipe online and compared notes to create a coherent and, hopefully, accurate set of instructions. Like any good cook, I decided to invite over guests upon whom to test my untried recipe. The guests? The friend who had scoured Mumbai with me for the perfect biryani and his girlfriend. (They’re also mixed: She’s from Canada and he was born in India!)

Guess what! It was fantastic. Despite my fears it didn’t take hours of prep, dirtied only two pots and tasted very similar to Shanti’s.

Now, like all of my Indian cooking experiments, this one was not without a few casualties:
1. For some reason which I’d love to know, the rice is meant to be colored orange and yellow with food coloring. Mine turned out pink. Yipes.
2. Despite my friend’s advice, I stubbornly stuck to the recipe and left it cooking on the stove. This resulted in the bottom of the pot having fossilized rice burnt into it.

And my dear husband scrubbed and scoured that pot until it looked as good as new. Now, if you’ll excuse me, there are some leftovers calling my name…

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