Reviews

Stone Mattress: The queen of dark yarn shows her best yet again

Stone MattressTitle: Stone Mattress: Nine Tales
Author: Margaret Atwood
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Published: September
Pages: 288
ISBN: 9780385539128
Rating: 5/5

Good short stories are rare to come by. Not all novelists are adept at writing short stories, for such works do not have the luxury of a whole book to capture the reader’s interest. In my mind, very few have achieved this feat. I love Alice Munro for her captivating short takes, or Tanith Lee, who, some say, writes better short stories than novels or James Joyce, for his wonderful book, Dubliners. And then there’s Margaret Atwood, who is an accomplished novelist as she is a short story writer.

Stone Mattress, her latest book is one such masterpieces she has produced in her 50 years in the publishing industry. A missive with nine stories, some written or narrated by her in the course of her career, these stories are nothing short of exquisite. Her characters are old but feisty, callow but bold, self-aware but bohemian, lonely but free-spirited and her stories question the rules of gender, genre and age.

One may say, the collection has a theme, the theme of the transcending power of the story itself, as Atwood alludes in the afterword. It is no surprise, that those of who have devoured Atwood in the past, will find the stories imaginative and compelling, where her writing makes something magical out of the mundane.

The first story, Alphinland forms part of a (loosely put) trilogy. The subsequent stories are Revenant and Dark Lady which delve into the lives of a fantasy fiction writer, a dying poet and a muse/ex-lover.

This is followed by Lusus Naturae or ‘freak of nature’, which is one of the works which was previously published.  The other stories in the book The Dead Hand Loves You, The Freeze-Dried Groom, Zenia with the Bright Red Teeth and Torching the Dusties are equally laden with affliction. But the best, perhaps, is the ‘Stone Mattress’ which lends the book its title. Originally published in the New Yorker, the story about Verna who is raped at 14 and who now tries to avenge the brutality caused to her, is sharp and gritty and hits you with brute humour.

In her book Negotiating With the Dead, Atwood pondered: “Writing has to do with darkness, and a desire or perhaps a compulsion to enter it, and, with luck, to illuminate it, and to bring something back out to the light.” This book, which is her 55th, illuminates themes that are dark and heavy, where the characters are plagued by inner demons and a desire to avenge the deeds done to them when they were young; the book satisfies you in a way that only Atwood can.

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‘The quality of the ingredients reflects in the product’

Daniel Koshy, executive pastry chef at JW Marriott Bengaluru, bakes poetry in kitchen and has a distinctive style that marks all his creations. Baking for him is an art and a discipline and nothing makes him happier than a kitchen redolent with warm and delicious breads, cakes and pasteries. He chats with Svetlana Lasrado about his career.

How did you start your career in baking?
I always wanted to be a doctor and had even prepared for the entrance examinations in Kolkata. Alongside, my sister had filled a form for the Institute of Hotel Management – I took the test, passed it and joined IHM, Chennai. In my third year, I was selected for the prestigious Oberoi Management training programme which takes only 15 trainees across India. During my training programme, I realised my passion for pastry-making, and I decided to pursue this as my career.

What were the challenges you faced?
Under the traineeship, we were sent to several large and small properties for six to eight months to gain practical experience. While I was a management trainee, I had worked with several senior staff members. However, I was aware that if I were to come back post my traineeship, I would be posted as a manager and would be supervising the same personnel. I knew that one can only gain respect as a manager based on his level of knowledge and skill. I therefore was sure that if I were to be posted after my traineeship, I needed to be at the top of the game and master the skills.
I chose to slog during this period, trying to learn and grasp as much as possible so that I could earn respect from my colleagues. It was indeed a gruelling phase.

Tell us more about Bengaluru Baking Company and your role here.
The Bengaluru Baking Company is my baby – I was instrumental in setting it up right from the start. From conceptualising the menu, setting up the systems, getting the infrastructure in place, I have done it all. I have seen the first customer walk into it and every dish that goes out from here – and so BBC is extremely special to me.

Your first food memories
My first food memories are of my mother’s cooking. I admired her eye for detail. I would always watch over my mum’s shoulders trying to pick her secrets. She was a teacher and when I would come home from school there would be nobody around to cook something for me. So I used to try and recollect how she cooked, from cookies, cakes to pakodas, and would replicate her techniques. Although I did it out of necessity, I always tried to cook something tasty.

Any interesting anecdote you would like to share?
While posted at The Oberoi, Mumbai, during the training programme, I was working under a pastry chef who was moving to the property in Egypt. He handed over his responsibilities to me and I began running the kitchen. Subsequently, a senior woman chef had joined the team. One day, I felt that a dessert was not up to its mark and had to pull her up for the mistake. The fact that she was senior to me resulted in quite a sticky situation!

Where in Bangalore do you shop for ingredients?
In Bangalore, I like to shop for quality ingredients at Foodhall at 1 MG Road.

BBC also regularly conducts baking workshops. What have been the highlights so far?
At BBC, we have been conducting cooking classes for kids, which has been a revelation. The level of knowledge the kids have these days is truly amazing. Right from the ingredients to variety of products, they seem to know it all! I suppose it tells of exposure to a number of food and cookery shows on television and on new media. Even during the classes for adults, I realised I don’t have too much explaining to do.

What do you think has been the key to your success?

Personally, I would attribute my success to the fact that I take complete ownership of my work and put my heart and soul into everything that I do. However, I believe that success is a subjective term, and for me it lies in being able to come each day to work and love what you do. I can showcase my product to people and when they come back with a smile – this is the best form of success that I can possibly experience.

What advice would you give home bakers?
My advice to home bakers is to be sure of using quality ingredients while baking. While you
might be following the method exactly, without using fine ingredients, the end product will
never be up to its mark. They should always remember that good ingredients will always translate into good products.

What’s your top baking trick?
I believe in keeping it simple and following the recipe to the T. The trick lies in adhering to
the method without playing around with it. Once you stick to the recipe, you will know what
the end product will be, after which any adjustments can be made. However, if you don’t
adhere to the method, you will never know how the product will turn out in the end.

What do you like to bake?
I love baking cheesecakes – it is one item that has its own charm. Although it is not a difficult product to make, one has to be very careful about focusing on the nuances.


 

Recipe for Philadelphia Cheese Cake
Making the base: Crush 150 gm of Hob Nob’s biscuit and mix it with 50 gm of soft, unsalted butter
Making the mixture: Take 650 gm cheese and 200 gm sugar and cream them. Now add three eggs and another egg yolk into it. Mix 100 ml fresh cream, 225 gm curd and 22 gm corn flour separately and add it to the mixture.
Assembling: Take a one kg ring and make a base for it using an aluminum foil. Grease the sides of the ring and put the biscuit mixture inside the ring. Using your hands, level it and keep it in freezer for five minutes. Now fill the ring with the cheese mixture. Bake at 150 degree Celsius for 60 to 70 minutes on a water bath.

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An exotic slice of Andhra Pradesh

Spice Route.

Red and green chillies, lip-smacking ‘gongura pickle’, and ‘Hyderabadi Biryani’ — mention Andhra cuisine and these are the first things that come to one’s mind. The region’s specials are meant to be high on ‘spice’. Probably, one of the hardest things to find in Bangalore is a good place that serves authentic Andhra style food.

But at ‘Sree Spicy Hub’ in Jeevanbhima Nagar, one can savour an array of authentic dishes that have the typical Andhra flavour without drilling a hole in the pocket. The speciality of the food lies in the fact that all the spices are brought from Andhra Pradesh and prepared in the restaurant by cooks from Andhra itself. “This is because we want to preserve the taste of home-made food,” say the proprietors Gopi and Murli. The food comes in great quantities too, hence you have the option to order half portions.

The menu offers a variety of refreshing drinks to start off with. When it comes to starters, the regional delicacies have much to choose from. Try the gongura mutton, or the most favourite ‘Andhra chicken’ which is a true speciality of Andhra Pradesh. Juicy inside and crisp outside, the chicken tastes best when paired with spicy chutneys. You also have the ‘Andhra breads’, that is chapathi and pulka fried in spices, which is a great choice.

And for those who like fish, there’s more than you can hope for at this place. Choices include the simple fried fish marinated in masala or coated with a rava batter and fried.

Somehow, the natural preparation is best if you like fish for what it is.

The prawn preparations are yet another delight and are cooked just right with a generous coating of masala.

When it comes to the main course, you may be spoilt for choice because of the immense variety. The different varieties of biriyani be it mixed vegetable, chicken or prawn, is worth every morsel. Prepared in a unique style, the dish is just perfect when paired with the spicy green peas masala or mushroom curry.

Nattikodi pulusu curry, an ethnic Andhra dish, is another delight for those who prefer non-vegetarian food. Try out the ‘Spicy Hub Special Biriyani’ too which is a filling platter. For those who like their rice plain, red rice is also available.

Top it with a dash of ghee, sprinkle gun powder and curry leaves powder and it makes for a perfect meal. Completing the rice fare are lemon rice and the curd rice which is cooked to perfection.

Apart from being tasty, the food is reasonably priced. So if you are in the neighbourhood anytime and in mood for some great Andhra food, do try out this place.

It is located on 10th Cross, Jeevanbhima Nagar Main Road. They take delivery orders too.

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Hey Mr Burgerman…

SPICY DELIGHT

What started as a project by an MBA student in Chennai, has now turned into a thriving business chain of food kiosks.

Burgerman, the brainchild of Sunil Cherian, forayed into the Bangalore food market in December 2009. From then on, it has done all it takes to give a reason for everyone to have a yummy day with the lip-smacking burgers on offer at several push-carts all over the City. There are many Burgerman kiosks located in different places like Ulsoor, Sarjapur, Bellandur, Koramangala, Sahakarnagar, Hebbal, Bannerghatta Road, all in all bringing the total number to 15 push carts in Bangalore. It recently opened its first express counter on Bannerghatta Road.

The kiosk on Brigade Road

The kiosk on Brigade Road

Burgerman, as the name suggests, specialises in a variety of burgers. A treat to any foodie, it provides the vegetarians and the non-vegetarians alike five varieties of snacks to choose from — Mini Burger, Cheesy Burger, Beemer Burger (without cheese), Bowger Hotdog and Steeker (chicken sausage). Apart from this, one can try out the different combinations from its array of flavours like mild creamy mayo, sweet and sour barbeque, Mexican-hot and spicy garlic chilly sauce and medium-spiced Indian tandoor.

The outlet, which is hidden among other kiosks in front of the Fifth Avenue Plaza on Brigade Road, is the favourite spot of many. After indulging in their shopping extravaganza, people make a beeline for it for a round of juicy burgers with a blend of different flavours to suit the platter.

“Among the local crowd, the Indian tandoor style is very popular,” says Sham A, who is the Operational Head in Bangalore. Besides this, the Mexican style sauce is the most favoured. It’s sure to send your taste buds tingling with its tang and spice and make you rush to grab a bottle of Diet Coke, which is also available at the counter. If you are concerned about your health, you need not worry. “The patties used for the burgers are baked, not fried. So these make it a non-processed food rich in protein. And we also get a special type of lettuce called iceberg lettuce from Ooty and its stocks are replenished everyday,” he adds. With the burgers priced anywhere between Rs 20 to Rs 50, this is an ideal place for people who love eating out. Says Tincy, a student of St Joseph’s College, “This is a cheaper version of McDonald’s and the burgers here are to die for!” Vouching for this, her friend Athmika quips, “It’s a nice place to come and hang out after college and it isn’t that expensive either.”

Published: Deccan Herald

 

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The beach beckons

PARADISE ISLE

MALPE

Nestled among the lush green flora of coastal Udupi and set in a rustic ambience, the Paradise Isle Beach Resort at Malpe beckoned us after a weary journey from Mangalore. The resort, which boasts ethnic architecture with a touch of modernity, offers a plethora of facilities. Once in the cottages, hear the gentle whooshing of the sea, and be greeted by great views of the Malpe beach.

SEASIDE HAVEN Paradise Isle

SEASIDE HAVEN Paradise Isle

There is something for everyone here. Foodies can indulge in an appetising breakfast followed by a sumptuous meal that is a blend of the ethnic and Continental.

The butter garlic sautéed calamari and the stuffed mushrooms have us craving for more. The resort also houses a food court and a coffee shop that offers over 60 varieties of coffee.

At the Ayurvedic Spa, indulge in an aromatherapy body massage, salt glow and a beauty-enhancing detoxification. To supplement this experience, there is a fully-equipped health club with facilities for badminton, table-tennis, billiards and swimming. There is also an in-house discotheque.

But, the bounty here is the array of water sports. Feel the spray of the salty seas on a jet ski or venture out on the banana boat.

There is also a boat ride to St. Mary’s Island and a tour over the tranquil backwaters that combines a sight-seeing trip of the cultural beauty of Udupi.

How to get there

Paradise Isle is approximately 60 km from the Bajpe airport and also from Mangalore. The resort provides transportation services.

Things to do

For those in the mood to laze, the beach is the best place to be.

  • Take a ride on the backwaters and photograph beautiful Udipi.
  • Visit the health club, spa, food court.
  • Indulge in water sports.

Tariff

Accommodation costs between Rs. 1,500 and Rs. 9,000. Meals and other services cost extra. The charges for water sports are Rs. 200 per person.

For details, log onto http://www.theparadiseisle.com or call 0820-2537300 / 2537791 /2538777 /2538666 or e-mail your queries to info@theparadiseisle.com.

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