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The Home Food Challenge!

November 6, 2016

Only after moving to middle-east for good I am eating so much in restaurants. Otherwise, my sonny would eat out once or twice a week with his buddies – but i had no company. Rare outings with my Zumba gang or school friends that’s all. Otherwise 100% only home food, ofcourse I would get namkeens like pakoras, samosas, murukku etc and chaat every week when I would go for grocery shopping at Kovai Pazhamudhir Nilayam. (On the way pick up drop things at dry-cleaners/tailor etc., etc. and stop at ATM).  Amazing, how I am literally doing nothing here for lack of transport. Finally found again a good Zin – a young delightful Tunisian girl all of 23 that’s all. She reminds me of Shakira – I hardly listen to western music. Barely aware of a few popular names that’s all. How my new trainer lifts and drops her long curly hair like the Latino singers is something i have not seen my male trainers do for obvious reasons. Such a sweet feminine touch – but she’s too fast with her footwork given her age: like dances to herself more than look around to watch whether we can keep up! That’s okay I guess she’s recently certified and so far I have had male trainers who have been 36-38 years so even if they were good on their feet they lacked the nubile agility of this little young thing who is like a nimble deer! More fun for me to just keep watching her! Later told her my age and my need to pause for catching my breath. She said she couldn’t believe I am 48 (some consolation coming from PYT 🙂 ) and promised to slow down a bit for my sake. I love her feminine touch to zumba and the different kind of energy level she seems to have over male fitness guys who do have the stamina but not the feminine grace (naturally). New studio, so no appliances. Zumba toning or body conditioning is the greatest casualty but I hope to catch up with it at home whenever I feel like.

Anyway, eating out during weekends more for pastime. I hate the restaurants here. The same few. Earlier used to like Chili’s – but the original stuff of Italy spoiled me totally. Can never eat out again in these fake places.

Mostly we try to eat at home even during weekends – my hubby hates outside food. Every week even as I keep dinner ready at home, always during weekends he changes his mind after we go out and asks me to put everything in the fridge for next day so we could eat out.

This week however we are going strong, resisting temptation to eat out – time pass (1 to 2 hours) in restaurant.

The challenge is, how many weekends we can resist eating restaurant food! Not only saves on our bills but also offers us the healthy option. OMG how much oil (reheated no doubted) in every gravy/paratha/fried rice and how much colour and spice.

Even for dinners/lunches in friends’ home we are suggesting/going for potluck these days.

As for my young man, he confessed how much he misses home food and to my surprise he totally hates outside food these days but has no option but to eat out many a time given his circumstances. But he is learning to cook. A positive outcome.

I am a vegetarian but both my husband and son claim, my chicken and mutton biryani are the best even over the finest restaurants they have been to. I am not adding anything special. My food is loaded with love and that could be a reason! And my spices are home-ground. Everything from pudina (mint) to meat is fresh. My sonny was surprised that I used only a single tbsp of oil for entire 2.5 cups (of rice) of biryani (upto the brim of a 5 liter pressure pan) (with 1.5 kg chicken or 1 kg mutton both fresh from market and not frozen). He is hearing from his friends that even in US, in McDonald’s etc, they are changing oil only once a week and frying the chicken in the same reheated oil. But unlike in India, they have a sieving machine to clear oil where as our guys use a local strainer. So everytime you buy a samosa or a packet of pakoras, just think of the oil. Never reused cooking oil again in my life. I am also tempted easily by garam garam samosas in winter especially. I know its maida and deep-fried and is the worst artery-clogger. Once a month atleast I can’t resist having a punjabi samosa (not any other. other states cannot match their taste).

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Ah! Finally successful weekend without eating out! Did it!

Even for Diwali last weekend we surprised ourselves limiting ourselves to home food.

Even as I blog this, one of my friends has received her 11th chemo and is confined to one room. Makes me realize the value of life. Life is so precious.

Recently lost a relative, my husband’s cousin. Ironically he who was a cardiac surgeon himself who even had performed a heart transplant in GH with his own hands, fit as a fiddle who had just finished swimming on a sunday morning and played one set of badminton thereafter, died of cardiac arrest – with all vitals absolutely fine: no blood pressure, cholesterol or diabetes or blocks or anything. He was 67. So what guaranty do we have. Do we know something that the good doctor did not know?

Every year until I crossed my mom’s age, I was anxious. Every year I count after that I know I am lucky. I have surpassed my parents’ age which is a big feat to me. You don’t know what a gift it is. To grow older … to be able to see your grand children someday…. I  know how important it is now even more than ever before to take care of my health…

Its not frankly for health reasons alone. God knows how life sucks in gulf. Everybody is here for money, nothing else. Where is life. In India, especially Chennai, city life means music, dance, arts, cinema, beach (with crazy beach crowds and beach food), shopping, etc., etc. Yeah nearly every metro in India gives you such a heady feeling. In spite of the heat and dust and pollution and corruption and poverty in pockets, there is something very much alive and throbbing in India: which all the oil in the gulf cannot buy.

So eating out to many here is more like a weekend pastime. With no entertainment (especially for our men for whom weekend back home means going to pub/club) – a ritual, nothing more.

Since September also trying NOT to buy clothes. Got a shirt when i had to go with a friend for shopping last month and there was a sale. If not for the single buy, have not bought any clothes even in Europe. The real test would be when I visit India. I don’t have to go anywhere – but will have to see my friends in malls/restaurants.

Window shopping is possible online! We can pick clothes as much as we want and fill the trolley but need not have to pay up at the counter necessarily. We can empty the cart and shop again tomorrow!

Many times I guess women like me shop chiefly for the reason it works like a therapy for us. I have used retail therapy to feel better even during my long and lonely years in Chennai. I never needed company. Sometimes especially during summers when everyone would be on holiday, when I needed to be still there for my son, I used to leave for the city’s shopping district by 11 am. 2-3 hours in the air-conditioned shops is cool – as they even have good washrooms and clean drinking water these days. To do some justice to my conscience, I would end up buying atleast my lingerie and nighties there 😀 Once a month of solo shopping would infuse some deplete energy in me. And restore my sagging spirit. You need not have to spend much for this: do some real shopping of course. I hate to browse for hours and leave without picking up anything. Buy useful but inexpensive items that you won’t have to discard: like lingerie, night clothes, towels, mats etc. Fix a budget and stick to it – but if you take a friend along, the tagging friend could make you buy things you may not want.

The toughest challenge hahaha as I may say for any woman is to resist buying clothes. I can’t believe until some 3-4 years back I never bought so much as I do today. My wardrobe used to be so limited. Hardly 10-12 suits and a half a dozen kurthis that’s all. My husband says my zumba gang spoilt me! Earlier my budget would be not more than 300-400 bucks yes! Shocking, but i always bought cheap stuff and never cared for brands. But may be hanging out with girls who are better groomed has had a self-conscious effect on me in these last 3 years. Contrastingly, my school group still shops cheap.

I guess its time each and everyone of us takes up one or more of these challenges:

  • See how long you can resist eating out during weekends.
  • For non-vegetarians: how long without meat.
  • How long without sugar? Gave up sugar a long time back even if I have no diabetes but have sweets now and then. Even yesterday got myself date halwa! God save me!
  • For women: See if you can resist shopping for clothes. See how many months you can manage putting off before you indulge in yet another shopping spree! How many sale can you miss!
  • For women: How many days without cosmetics. This I can, and I do except for a day and night moisturizer. Can go on indefinitely if I have to.
  • For both sexes: How long without hair dye. So far not for me. Only the traditional occasional organic henna from India. When someday all my hair could be salt and pepper, would i go for a chemical dye/hair colour. Many start it from 35 i know. So far blessed. But if you are dyeing your hair, can you give up now? A challenge nothing  more, to test our mettle. Or rather our resolve. Can we do it?
  • This is for south Indian women only: how long without coconut oil ??? I couldn’t over 2.5 months for the first time in my life. As I undertook keratin treatment for severe hair loss I had to stay away from coconut oil for this long. 10 days back couldn’t do it any longer and back to square one! To hell with keratin, now I want my curls back. Even if it means I have to go bald! Seriously, how long can we south Indian women keep away from coconut oil in our hair and body? Missed it dearly for over 2 months: pure hell every shower was.
  • Spiritually: Many of my friends go on fruits and milk only for every Ekadashi (twice a month) / Sankatahara Chaturthi (once a month) / Pournami (once a month) / Pradhosham (twice a month). So far I have not been able to subsist that way. Makes me real tired. Instead of total fasting, this fruit diet removes toxins from your body and purifies the bloodstream.
  • How much can you go organic. Expensive I know. Still…
  • Personally I would like to see how long I can remain without checking my Whatsapp messages ! Too many groups, too many chats. In fact except for family and school gang I have put others on silent mode. Still. It is one challenge I cannot take. Maximum 1 hour I can keep off. Would love to test longer. Hopefully soon.
  • How many hours away from Wordscraper. Very additive but the positive about it is, it is only word game.
  • How many hours away from mobile phone. I guess this can sync with whatsapp.
  • How many hours away from laptop? Impossible because computer and books and tv are my lifeline.
  • How many days without walking or exercise (like Zumba or any form of physical fitness) : I feel guilty if I stay too long without physical exertion. 3 months without zumba made me feel very guilty. Walking is fine but zumba makes one lose more calories. At the end of each session the feeling is great – you feel good about yourself.
  • How long without Naukrani? I went without a maid during our residence in Malaysia. Doing it again here in Middle-East. Not sure if I can in India. Wherever I turn people ask me why I cannot hire a nepali/srilankan cleaner. They charge 600 riyals. I spend 400 for my zumba. For health reasons. Yet people who have servants feel I am leading a luxurious life spending a lot on my physical fitness. It is as if I am unethically indulging myself. Splashing/wasting money. 600 riyal for helper is fine (though I am glad someone is making a living out of this).
  • How long without driver/cook. Lifelong for me so far. God knows what future holds.
  • For chain-smokers how long without smoking ???!!!
  • For social drinkers (most of the men from my society are this): how long can you stay strictly dry. Can you give up alcohol once and for all.

I shall add more points whenever I remember. Just a revisit to our old habits for testing whether we can grow out of any of these addictions… whether we have it in us to keep up our resolve unlike the banal and futile new year resolutions we all make year after year… Do we have the mental strength in us to overcome these weaknesses… Not all are weaknesses… for instance, coconut oil is a healthy habit ! Fitness is good for you. Organic food is the best.

I am attempting these tests myself to check out what is the strength of my resolve. Not saying I shall secure even a pass in any/all of them but at least there is a wish …

 

 

 

 

 

 

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