What would RTH do?

That is the question.

If I were in a highschool yearbook, they would vote me most likely to die of a lynch mob. That does not prevent me from opening my mouth and serving a warm hearty cup of STFU to people who deserve it. My dark scathing humor will leave no matter of existence untouched. My innocence will touch your soul.

Welcome to a warped world turned inside out and upside down. All sorts of discretion advised.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Denial

The first step of therapy is admitting there is a problem.
The second step of therapy is denial. Just deny everything and go right back into your happy place.

Being an Indian cricket fan is a tough, tumultuous and thankless job. There are far too many ups and downs for an ordinary heart to handle. It takes thick rhino hide, nay double thick tyrannosaurus hide to be an Indian cricket fan. We had been the number one test team since 2009. Then Just earlier this year we lifted the world cup and arrived as world champions in one day internationals as well. A few months later in a hot English August we lost our number one test spot to the English. When you have a number one team you expect them to clutch on to that top spot clawing and fighting. You hope to have a hard fought tough contest where a better side eventually prevails in a photo finish. As the NRA says "from cold dead hands". When you hold something precious, you fight unto death to keep it.

Unfortunately, no such thing happened. Here is what played out. The Englishmen came and asked for the number one spot. Our team peed in their pants and dropped down dead. They might as well have taken it from our cold dead hands then and there, but cricket is a funny game that allows no such thing. So for weeks now the Englishmen have been brutally whipping a dead horse till cricket thinks the horse is dead enough to pass its winning crowns.

As you can see it is very painful. Can you imagine watching your prize horse laying on the ground flaying in misery as a bunch of Englishmen pummel it to pulp, and then some more just for kicks? It takes me way back to the day when I was a little kid and our horse was not even a prize horse then. Our horse was some weird sickly breed. It was tiny with sprightly legs and skinny like pale hide stretched on a bag of bones. But we pleasantly denied it. It was not a nothing horse, it was not even a prize horse. Oh our horse was better than that. We had a glorious unicorn, it sparkled like Edward Cullen, it had a majestic horn and massive wings with which it soared in the sky like an eagle.

So that is the denial I shall regress myself into. Our cricket team is a magnificent unicorn, soaring in the sky. What pummeling at the hands of Englishmen are you talking about? Are you daft like a tea partier, you tea drinking, boot wearing country of Englishmen? Can't you see it flying high above the sky? Why it could take a pee on your barmy heads from up there. This is no ordinary cricket team of mortals, it is a unicorn, an immortal, descended from the heavens. An incarnation of great Gods.

One might ask why did this God like unicorn lose? A very good question. It has a simple answer though. People don't believe in unicorns and since I'm all grown up now, neither did I. But oh if you close your eyes and believe, the unicorn will fly high again. Cricket is a funny game where nothing can be told till the last ball is bowled. I've seen many unicorn miracles as a child. There were games where we were written off and all set to lose. People turned of televisions in disgust and went onto other things. I however believed in unicorns and watched the miracles. Remember the fateful last over that Sachin bowled against South Africa or the sandstorm innings in Sharjah? Or remember when Srinath and Kumble won us that match? Remember that battered team that emerged victorious in Perth after being broken in Sydney? All because of the unicorn.

Denial is beautiful like that. It makes victory tremendously magical, but it makes losses painful because your prize horse did not just get to old or too weak or blind sighted. People just did not have faith in the unicorn. It is like Tinker Bell in Peter Pan. Tinker Bell dies if people do not believe in magic and fairies. You have to clap and believe in Tinker Bell. So I won't shed a tear, I won't feel bad, I won't believe we have lost and I won't believe we are no longer number 1. I'm going into denial and will clap like Nancy Pelosi for my Tinkerbell cricket team and if we all believed and did so we will be number one again.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Anger Management

Or Not!

Lately I've been feeling very angry. My patience hangs by a thread, and I feel irritated. People seem to have gotten thick and obstinate. All I know is I'm angry, but I don't know why.

Or do I.

For one I'm seriously pissed of at the Indian cricket team. I was on Cloud 9 when we won the world cup. The losses and ties in the West Indies irked me, but in the end we won the series. Winning consoled and pacified me, soothing the embers within. Now we are losing and I'm seething. I was happy as a clam, but the barmy English have made be crabby.

Secondly, I've learned that heathens cannot fast. I'm just too enamored by food, that fasting makes no bloody sense. Who the heck invented fasting anyway? Why can't we do something less painful like charge up a car's cigarette lighter and nicely sear our thumb till its medium rare. I did that recently. It kind of started out ugly, but then I had pretty rings on my thumb. As if many people had liked it and put rings on it. Now its back to being ugly chapped and scaly as the layers of skin peel of each day to let new flesh grow back in. I could not eat rice with my hands for while there and firmly holding silverware was painful, but there was yummy in my belly.

Last years week long fast was just a lucky fluke. I had gone soft and dreamy. Although, I am impressed with the fact that I had an awful cold and was hacking up a storm, choking on my own spittle, refusing water and then performing throat acrobatics to prevent the spittle from flowing down the food pipe and breaking the rules or Ramadan. Got to admit though, heathens got skills. Going back to the point, for that brief period I had convinced myself that fasts meant something. That even heathens have faith, and we could commit ourselves to our beliefs. I convinced myself that it represented my strength and conviction. I convinced myself it would enhance my jedi powers. Now I'm more like eh, I believe what I believe, fasting ain't going to do jack, fasting ain't going to get me jack.

Actually the truth is I'm just plain angry. Some emotional spiel of faith and inner strength is not going to do the trick. Now if someone were to come up to me, look me in the eye and yell "You heathen, you are weak. You have no faith or inner strength. You could not last a day in a fast. You don't know the meaning of jack". Then perhaps, I could do it just to spite them and then smite them with my enhanced jedi skills.

I'm also upset because movies lie. There is a dialog in a Hindi movie that goes loosely like "If you desire something truly and sincerely, then all of creation comes together to fulfill your desire". For some reason I believed it because it is that emotional spiel of faith that makes you warm and fuzzy and hopeful. Then I think logically about the possibilities and it poses conundrums. What if two true and sincere desires conflict. For example, what if an Indian fan truly and sincerely desires for an Indian victory and an English fan truly and sincerely desires for an English victory. Is it a draw? Does it go towards who is back by the most true and sincere desires? Either way only one side or no one gets what they want. The system is fucking flawed. Most importantly what about the Indian teams free will, what about the English teams free will?

What about Shanti Priya, she actually truly and sincerely desired Mukesh Mehra. She loved him, cared for him, was with his child and wanted to be with him. Shouldn't Mukesh have had a change of heart and actually grown a heart? Just because one Om Prakash is a hopeless romantic they both have to suffer and die, and then be reborn so that Om's wishes can be fulfulled. Not a very fair system at all. Kind of turns you off desiring lest someone have to burn for it.

There is plenty wrong in the world to be angry about as well. For starters there is the Tea Party that still exists. Sarah Palin won't go and hibernate in Alaska. Michelle Bachmann is yet to be consumed by a combine purchased with her farm subsidies. Our debt ceiling debacle is over but the economy is still running wild like while politicians throw childish hissy fits over absurdities. Unfortunately, most of nation is divided and throwing their own hissy fits too and pretending that politicians are the only ones. Not me though, I'm throwing my hissy fit right here and not pretending like I'm some saint.

People are cruel to animals and children in Somalia are dying of starvation. And I'm angry not because I feel helpless, but angry because I feel like a heartless soulless beast who can't get myself to do something. Its not that I don't care. I really do. Its like I feel that I have a huge burden on my back, that there is a massive karmic price I have to pay for being a human being, that there is some karmic punishment that I should be receiving for being a human being - and that the karmic system as just forgotten about it and not making me pay.

It is a messed up situation because I'm almost desiring for that burden of being whipped like a fight dog and starving to death like a Somalian child being transferred unto me, but desiring is wrong because we all might burn and die, and I cannot fast because that is one messed up faith and conviction to be doing anything on, and all these negative emotions spinning around me might break off into a massive tornado that hits UK which hopefully occurs at an opportune moment to cancel a match India is losing or does not take place if India is winning which brings me back to the free will of the Indians and English. Capeesh?

Or it could just all be PMS. Most likely its PMS. Only PMS could make sense of all this. Its the right time for PMS to hit.

Deep inside it all there is a very calm and still contentment. There maybe ripples on top, but the lake is deep and there is that water deep inside still pristine, untouched and unmoving. Like a storm swirling in malice, but deep inside there is the eye where it is quiet and peaceful. Ripples and stillness, storm and calm, all part of the same object. All you have to do is find the bottom of the lake, the eye of the storm and stay there. Our world is probably like that too, deep inside all the chaos, there probably is a happy place inside where you fast between happy meals.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Burgers, Fries, All things tasty and nice

That's what America should be of.

Here in Madison, we have a great local brew pub - The Great Dane. It is your quintessential Wisconsin brewery that produces a wide range of exquisite craft brews. Along with the seasonal ales, lagers, stouts and porters their menu boasts of some delicious good old fashioned pub food burgers, fries, chicken wings and all the jazz. This is Madison though, and in a true Madisonian twist their menu is quite eclectic and international serving unique and global foods. You can have an Asian influenced sesame seared tuna salad or have a classic Middle Eastern falafel. Perhaps your palette craves something out of the ordinary like an African styled peanut stew or perhaps something spicy to tingle your taste buds like a Jamaican jerk or Indian tandoori. At The Great Dane, you could take a culinary tour around the world and come back extremely satiated.


My favorite item on their menu is the Brat & Bacon Pretzel burger. This is one whopping burger. Big, juicy, messy, cardiac arrest on a bun, but oh so very tasty. First they take your traditional beef burger patty, then top it off with a quarter pound of bratwurst patty. If that is not enough they top your patties with strips of thick cut applewood smoked bacon. Of course you get your usual fixings of lettuce, pickles and tomato. Then they take fixings to a whole new level of goodness with caramelized onions and sharp cheddar adding that kick of zest. A masterpiece like this cannot be served on any ordinary wimpy burger bun. It requires something special to hold up to all that flavor. Soft fresh baked pretzel bun is the perfect bread to pull together this burger. The burger is then served with your choice of side and a Pilsner mustard. Screw cardiac arrests, this is heaven in a mouthful.

The reason I really love this burger is because it has taken the state of Wisconsin and compressed it all into one burger. This is no ordinary burger. Every bite is bursting with the culture of Wisconsin, the heritage of Wisconsin, and the history of Wisconsin. We are after all a blue collar state, a state of immigrants, meat packers, brewers and dairy farmers. Our shared culture gives us the love for beer, brats and cheese and of course the Green Bay Packers. What better way to represent all than than the Brat and Bacon Pretzel Burger.

That is the power of food. Food is not just about eating. It is a means to nourish the body as well as the soul. Spices and flavors don't just make food taste better, they tell stories about people, their culture, their history. Restaurants, diners, cafes, food trucks and the likes don't just serve meals, they serve a community. They bring people from diverse backgrounds and diverse beliefs together around the table to share a meal and the passion for food.

For the longest time food and foodies in America received a bad reputation. Only the lazy, unfit or obese would obsess with food and the world that revolves around food. With channels like Food Network and Cooking channel, food has finally received a makeover and is getting its fair due. There is a food revolution going on in America. Eating, our long neglected cultural ally is finally making it back mainstream and earning the reputation it deserves. Various food related shows now highlight the fresh produce and ingredients found in America and the wholesome as well as indulgent foods that are made from it. There are shows that pay ode to our small towns, urban scenes, immigrants, micro cultures and all the various things that meld together to form Americana.



A personal favorite of mine is Guy Fieri's Diner's Drive Ins & Dives. This show is not about the elite restaurants catering to the rich or sophisticated. This show is about the smaller guys, the home style cooks, the family owned little joints, the eclectic & eccentric highlights of quaint little towns across the American landscapes. This show is about food that wraps itself around your soul, comforts you, loves you and takes you to a happy place away from all the worries in the world. Of course part of it is with the layers of grease and fat hugging your organs while adding inches to your waist, belly, hips and butt - but there is good stuff too - and in this crazy crazy world we live in, we could all do with some grease and fat in our lives. Its cheap and tastier than recession, depression and unemployment.

Another favorite is Eat St. on The Cooking Channel. Street food and farmer's market are booming in the United States. People had limited incomes in developing countries of South America, Africa and Asia. So students and working professional relied on street foods, good delicious, cheap foods that reflected local products and cuisine. With food trucks bursting onto the scene Americans are quickly adapting to the street food scene. Why go for the same old junk fast food when inexpensive and tasty alternatives are available on your neighborhood food truck. I always find it amusing that back home in India people are quickly being enamored by supermarkets, fast foods, chain restaurants and abandoning years of mom and pop stores, street food and local produce while here in America we have received a wake up call and are abandoning our commercialism to retrace our roots our blue collar and immigrant heritage.


Cooking Channel recently had a pilot show called Eden Eats, where a gorgeous former culinary student Eden Grinsphan eats her way around the globe in one American city. In the pilot she tasted African, Mexican, Eastern European, Moroccan, Filipino, Lebanese and Cuban cuisine within twenty four hours at Austin,Texas. I dearly hope that they make more Eden Eats shows in different cities because this is another show that reflects the multiculturalism that gives each American city its flavor.

Call me crazy and weird, but the truth is sometimes when I watch shows like these -I often find myself holding back some tears welling up in my eyes. Its the nourishment for the soul, there is an emotional and cultural experience to food that most people don't get. It warms my heart to see a young teenager eagerly learning and preparing their grandmothers recipe that has been passed on through generations in their family. I can feel the passion when an immigrant family shares their journey and how they share their culture through food. I feel as part of a community when regulars visit a joint over and again and tell us how the place has been unchanged since their childhood days. I can feel the love and commitment when people buy joints or communities come together to save a local favorite from tanking or being shut down. I totally get it when doctors, engineers, entrepreneurs, lawyers and all sorts of fancy job holding folks take a leap of faith quit their day jobs and follow their passion for food.

Food sometimes can often bring out the best in people and bridge gaps. For example I'm cynical of American Christians, especially evangelical Christians. I often feel that they are holier than thou and extremely judgmental. I get sick and tired of their endless ramblings about Jesus and being saved. Their prejudices against homosexuals, immigrants and other religions make me furious. So chances are that in most other settings I would have not warmed up to Christian chef Lance Nitahara. He is a chef at Camp of the Woods a Christian Conference center with ministries that subscribe to some very hard core fundamental Christian beliefs the kind that irks me.



However, because my introduction to Lance was in the land of food my perspective of him is completely different. I actually admire him, adore him and have a tremendous amount of respect for him. Cast aside the cocky ass hole chefs you see on shows like Hells Kitchen or Top Chef. They are not true chefs with a passion for food but commercial puppets. Lance Nitahara is a chef in the truest sense. It definitely is a combination of his Hawaiian heritage, love for food and Christian beliefs that make him a graceful man. He was graceful in defeat his first time around on the show Chopped and honorably acknowledged his competitor Madison Cowan who beat him in the final round. Then he was graceful in victory in the redemption episode where he considered his competitor Yoanne Magris whom he beat that she was equally the winner and chose to share his prize money with her so that she could visit her grandma. I'll admit, I definitely welled up when he did that.

Put a plate of delicious food on the table and the walls that divide just fade away. We enjoy the warmth and comfort of food, and sharing the joy of food, we have that in common and perhaps we can start there. I may have a lot against southerners, we may clash violently on our political and social beliefs, but we all will probably agree there is nothing like shrimp and grits or biscuits and gravy and perhaps we can start by sharing a hot southern breakfast. Up here in Wisconsin we may kick and scream over Scott Walker, government and politics, but we all will agree over our fine Wisconsin brews and cheeses and perhaps we can start at the pub with cold beer and a cheese plate. No matter what your views on immigrants or Jews or Muslims or Asians, we all could do with delicious tacos, matzo ball soups, spicy kebabs and melt in your mouth pot stickers, perhaps we all can start at our multicultural dinner tables.

All our lives we are taught to chase success. Our commercial culture is enamored with big corporations and bustling metropolis. We've forgotten our farmers, our small towns and our blue collar workers. Even our voted officials probably don't know we exist, but these diners, drive-ins, dives, food carts, farmers markets and kitchens all over America have not forgotten us. They have diligently been serving us for decades, feeding us, nourishing us. What would we be without the dear old lady whose happiness in life is rolling out pie dough and baking pies to feed us? What we be without the line cooks serving up pancakes, crispy bacon, skirt steaks, fries, greasy burgers 24/7, 365 days a year? What would we be without all those little  family owned places that brought a whole new world to our dinner plates? I don't adore celebrities, business tycoons, successful managers, politicians, managers or any of those people we ought to. I look up to that guy who peels potatoes all day, does that all his life and his content about it. I look up to the people who flip burgers all day and are happy because they feed people. I look up to those who sweat it out in kitchens whether its in a small home or a big restaurant and take delight in serving people. I look up to people to whom success and reward is full belly, thankful taste buds and a content smile.



If you think about it it is these food places that have held America together. Today these are the few places where the American dream is still alive. They represent our history of a hard days work and making it. They probably hold the secret, the glue to make us forget our differences and bring us all together. So the next time you are pissed of over the government, stressed out over the economy, upset over differences in social, economic, political or religious views - keep the guns, the swords and even the pens away and grab the kitchen tools. Bake dozens of cookies and share it with the neighborhood. Lets go back to the days where we have more pot lucks and share more dinners with neighbors. Ditch the superstores and super chains and go to your local farmer, local diners, and local joints. Throw away the differences and enjoy the feel of community at a local hang out. Get over your prejudices and immerse yourself in a new food culture and we might find surprising common ground.

There is a lot driving America apart, but if there is one thing our size XL roly poly nation with beer bellies, jiggling bits and chubby cheeks has in common is the love of food. We all have the love of burgers, fries, all things tasty and nice. Let that not be an embarrassment to us. Let us use our love common to bring us together. Corporate America, Government and everyone else has failed us. But we still love burgers, fries, all things tasty and nice. Let that be what America is made of.

Bon Apetit.