Some quick lunches

It is almost a given now that Mumbai will have a long lock down. Fortunately for most people, the virus has not spread through the country. There are a few hot spots though, and Mumbai seems to be one of them. I’ve had a long-range plan brewing for a while. Eat a nutrient-rich low calorie meal as long as fresh ingredients are available, then move on to calorie dense long-lasting foods: carbs and vegetable proteins, from the dawn of human civilization. Right now The Family does most of the cooking. We have elaborate and fancy meals with whatever fresh material we can find. Both of us are losing weight rapidly because the calorie content is low. By next week we will move to eating the rice bowls that I’m planning, and start gaining weight.

They are not to The Family’s liking, so I tried two out on her in the past two weeks. The first one I tried (photo above) was rice with onions I’d pickled for a day, dry masala broccoli, and a two-minute egg. The week after this was found acceptable, I introduced my second rice bowl. That was rice with carbonara sauce, topped with a green olive tapenade and a fresh salad (the featured photo shows it just before it was assembled). The Family found it strange but acceptable. This is going to be fun. Next week I guess I take over lunch. I’m looking forward to innovating with a new rice bowl every day. We have a variety of spices and pickles, preserves and little frozen treats to add to them. Dal and rice and everything nice, that’s what locked down lunches are made of.

Getting started on getting ready for Portugal

The easy part is over: we have tickets and hotel bookings for Portugal. The next step is harder: getting to know the little bit about a new country which makes your stay more interesting. There are many different directions to explore.

The sounds of a country are often hard to anticipate. I’d heard very little Portuguese a week ago, it has more or less disappeared from Goa. A few words: velha and novo, saudade and igreja are all that remain. Now, listening to Fado on youtube, my exposure to the language has exploded. Just shows how little I started with. The written language is a different ball game. If you have bluffed your way through a couple of Romance languages, then surely you can navigate written Portuguese.

The Family and I sat down and researched writers. Fernando Pessoa and Jose Saramago are names we already know and have some familiarity with. Brief searches quickly threw up many more names. But surprisingly, it was difficult to find books in English translation. On second thoughts, if translations had been available then we would have known more authors. I guess this is a part of what one of the articles calls "cultural marginalization".

Films? During the years when I was immersed in world cinema, Portugal had just emerged from the worst period of its recent history. Its cinema was not available in India. This lack of familiarity meant that Portugal was overlooked in most video libraries in the decade after that. If Portugal had a consulate in Mumbai perhaps one would have been more exposed to its culture. But the Portuguese consulate is in Goa, and it hosts no events in my city. So my exploration of Portuguese cinema has to start from zero. Given the number of major awards Portuguese film makers are winning today, this is bound to be a pleasure.

Maybe I have some familiarity, at second-hand, with the food of Portugal. Goa has sorpotel, just the right accompaniment for long relaxed evenings with a drink on the beach. The word xacuti sounds Portuguese to my untrained ear, but it could well be a local Goan dish. Vindaloo is definitely practised very differently in Goa and in England, so I wouldn’t be very surprised if a Portuguese version turns out to be different. I’m prepared to be completely surprised by the food in Portugal: I expect lots of fish.

But the real fun is to look for sources on travel to Portugal. One part of this is to choose a guide book. The first search on Amazon threw up half a dozen books. The Michelin Green guide is not my plate of cod. I’ve had a wonderful time walking around Rome with the Blue guide, and would not mind doing the same in Lisbon, except that it is currently unavailable. That left me with the usual suspects: the Lonely Planet, Rough Guide, AA and DK. After some thumbing through the books in the usual downtown bookstore I settled for the Rough Guide.

The other part of the fun is to browse blogs. A comment on my previous post led me to the very new Kat’s travel blog, and on. A great find was the addictive Salt of Portugal; I’m still dipping into it for tips on what to do. A food blog called (as nearly as I can make out) The Algarve Kitchen caught my attention with an explanation of the phrase "Cha com agua salgada". I’m sure there’s much more out there, just waiting to be read.

In this slow way I’ve just begun to figure out how to collect the material I need to go through in order to become an instant expert on Portugal.

A long lunch

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China is going through an anti-corruption drive. One of the ways it manifests itself is that the large official lunches are no longer paid for. Instead you pay for your own lunch; as one of my colleagues said, "no free lunch". This does not mean that the meal is substantially smaller. In the photos alongside you can see some of the things that we had one day. The incomplete description refers to chicken. Through whatsapp The Family has already told my cousins and hers about the donkey that I ate for lunch. The nicest comment to come back was "he is brave". The slices of donkey meat were served cold in a soya sauce, and did not taste very exotic.

The unfortunate outcome of the new government policy is that you no longer have lunch with your youngest colleagues because they prefer to go to a corner noodle shop, where the price of lunch is about half of what we pay. Maybe we should start doing that just for the pleasure of getting to know everyone at work.