The Tiffin

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Nothing spells ‘alive’ like a hot, home cooked curry.

Imagine sitting at your cubicle at work, your tummy just about to grumble for its midday meal, and in rolls lunch.

A tiffin of two or three different curries, a chapatti and some rice.

You open up the insulated carry bag just to get a whiff, and OMG…

Hungry yet?

This hunger is really the premise behind “The Lunchbox”, a movie Ms and I saw on a desperate, mid-winter whim the other night.

Set in the heady bustle of Mumbai, it’s a story about Saajan, a lonely widowed accountant on the brink of retirement, and the misplaced tiffin of Ila, a neglected young wife.

The food is cooked with love, and delivered to the wrong man with the right appreciation for the cook’s craft.

A conversation begins through a series of illicit hand written notes, passed back and forth in the tiffin, courtesy of the dabbawallahs’ flawless delivery system (as declared by Harvard University).

From the moment Saajan encounters the first note, we are transported to our childhood – to the days before iPhones and email, when kids wrote notes and traded sandwiches.

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Everything about this movie is real. The noise, dirt, sweat. The claustrophobia. The smell of yellowed office files, hot curry and cigarette smoke. The graininess of analogue video and romance of handwritten notes.

Looking at the overcrowded transport, there’s the sense of a city under strain. Development misplaced. Out of context. Fucked up in a million different ways.

And that is part of the reason the film has a universal resonance.

When Ila shares her dream of escaping to Bhutan, where the value of one rupee becomes five and the only GDP is “Gross Domestic Happiness”, we understand.

We’ve all been there. Longing for a simplicity lost to the world as we know it.

A world constantly filtered through a digital interface that screams for our attention, day and night.

While most of us manage some kind of escape – a tree change, a sea change or a holiday to Bali, for Ila and Saajan, there is no escape.

Except through food.

The poetry infused in Ila’s cooking comes alive in Saajan’s writing, as the very act of taste reignites his joie de vivre.

There’s a moment in the film where we hear the voiceover of Saajan as he writes to Ila. We see him standing on his balcony, drawing on a cigarette and Ila, pouring herself a cup of masala tea, as she sits to ponder on his note.

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Right in that moment, there is nothing else in the world except two people connected by a single piece of paper, and the freedom to reflect.

It made me want to throw out my computer and write, the way I used to.

Uncensored and unencumbered. With a piece of paper and a pen. No thoughts. Just a feeling bleeding on the page.

A real page.

I’m heartened by that thought, as I am by the number of requests I’ve had these past two weeks for hard copies of the Hello Pepi books.

It’s a 3D world that tugs at us, reminding us that we are more than just a hologram.

We crave touch. And taste. And smell.

The kind we don’t even know we’re missing until we feel it, once again. We are alive!

There’s an oft repeated line in the film that goes:

Sometimes the wrong train will get you to the right station.”

Maybe books aren’t dead. Maybe it’s time to go and find a publisher.

And so the journey carries on… 🙂

When was the last time you tasted something so divine, the world stopped spinning?


Speaking of joie de vivre

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This Toy Dog is for Real – Take him home!

Don’t believe me? Check out Mamta Chakravorty’s review – Pepi’s first fan from Bangalore!

Short, Sweet and Tangy

Some of you will have noticed a change around here. It was time for a new look, one that properly reflected the spirit of Go Wild. Quietly.

It was also time – past time – this chick got her scamp back on, with a return to weekly posts.

If you’re unsure what any of that means, check out this post, wherein I explain this blog’s reason for being, including its ancestral link to all things Fraggle 😉 .

With any luck, this blog will start to get a little more creative, now.

It’s like those tomatoes I was telling you about.

Fraggles, living under rocks as they do, aren’t known for their stellar gardening skills.

But when faced with green tomatoes, any self-respecting Fraggle would first consult the great oracle, Madame Trash Heap (otherwise known as Google) before letting them go to waste.

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Green Tomato Chutney

They’d add a bit of this or that:

400g green tomatoes
100g ripe tomatoes
1 pear
1 red capsicum
1 Spanish onion
100g brown sugar
100ml apple cider vinegar
50ml malt vinegar
1 clove garlic
1/2 red chilli
1/4 tsp peppercorns
1/2 tsp cummin seeds
1 tsp yellow mustard seeds

Throw it all together in a pot.

And after an hour or two have turned a raw, bitter fruit into a tidbit shared by the whole clan.

Short, sweet and with a hint of tang, just like this post 😉

So, without further ceremony, welcome to my new pad! Feel free to take a look around and enjoy the quiet.

While you’re at it, if there’s any feedback you’d like me to hear, let me know in the comments. Navigation issues? Aesthetic likes or dislikes? Topics you’d like to see more (or less) of? Hit me with it, I’m all ears this week.

Or, if you’re perfectly happy…

What’s cooking in your world today?

Raw

There’s a standing joke in my little household about how, if I were forced to fend for myself in the wild, I’d never survive.

Something about the cruelty of having to fight over scraps of raw meat and berries just doesn’t appeal to my slothful sensitive nature.

But now that I’ve seen The Walking Dead and freaked myself out with the likelihood of an impending apocalypse, I thought it time to put that to the test.

Across town is Yong Green Food, a vegetarian café where the vegetables are practically jumping onto the plate.

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There’s an array of raw food options, and I’m not talking salad.

Rawsagna. What’s that, you say?

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Rawsagna. Layers of RAW zucchini, mushroom, avocado, cashew cream and walnut bolognese.

For the less raw inclined, there are slightly more cooked options.

Oyster Mushroom Calamari.

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Quinoa Fritters.

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Buckwheat Crepes. Hang on a minute.

This menu is starting to sound suspiciously familiar.

Back in rural Tasmania, when vegetarianism was most definitely not on the ‘cool kids’ list, ‘Yuckwheat’, cashew cream and ‘Quin-oh-ugh’ were staple parts of the diet.

Along with many other weird and wonderful things. Like brown rice and corn bread and gluten steaks, goat’s milk and soy cheese and almond ice-cream –

Well, anyway. I should be feeling right at home by now. Except I think that I’ve regressed.

The Dragon Bowl with soy beef slices?

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I don’t know. Fake meat doesn’t have the same appeal it used to have.

And although everything looks and tastes way better than I ever knew raw food could taste…

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Tiramisu with cashews and coconut cream just can’t compare to the real thing.

Back at home, with my gardening skills being, well, what they are…

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…I’m now more convinced than ever I have no chance of surviving in a raw food, post-apocalyptic world.

Of course, I’m dreaming. If zombies really took over, we’re more likely to be eating cans of cat food than cashew cream…

Zombie fodder, here I come!

What are your chances of surviving in the wild?

A Pasta Meditation

I once knew a delightful and eclectic man who had lived a colourful youth in the sixties and seventies – a time when Melbourne grunge earned its reputation.

Living in a hovel with barely two cents to his name, he told me of the days there was nothing to eat but the herbs in his wild, overgrown garden.

From this had evolved a rich pasta sauce made entirely of wine, fresh herbs and garlic.  He had turned it into a Friday night tradition, to which I was now being treated.

Prior to this, I had only thought of herbs as a garnish or a flavour enhancement – never as a main dish.  But I was so enamoured with the sensory explosion, I had to try it for myself.

If you struggle, as I do, to keep your own herb garden alive, this can be a costly affair.  However, the rewards far outweigh the cost.

Now it has become one of my own favourite Friday night rituals, so I thought I’d share it with you.

Fresh Herb and Red Wine Sauce

The dish is less a recipe than a meditation, and as I’m no Masterchef, it probably doesn’t follow ‘correct’ procedures or exact quantities.  But that’s the point.

The beauty of it is allowing yourself to disconnect from phones, emails and blog stats (!), to focus on the task at hand, and see where the flavours will take you.  So view this as a guide rather than a formula, and feel free to get creative and vary the ingredients.

1 cup of red wine
1/2 cup olive oil

1 chopped onion (in this case, Spanish onion)

Large serve fresh (or frozen) basil leaves
1 star anise
1 small strand of cinnamon
1 strip of lemon rind
2 garlic cloves

2 strands Rosemary
6 strands Thyme
20 leaves Oregano
5-10 leaves Sage
Generous handful Coriander
Generous handful Dill
Touch of Tarragon

Heat the oil and wine in the pan.  Add onions, and simmer gently.

The quantity and combination of herbs should be balanced according to taste, and added to the pan in stages, allowing them to simmer for a couple of minutes before each new addition.  This is the order I would add the herbs:

Basil, cinnamon, star anise and lemon rind.
Rosemary and thyme (I leave stalks on and remove them later).
Oregano and tarragon.
Sage and garlic crushed together using mortar and pestle.
Dill and coriander.

Simmer until wine is reduced.

Add approx. 350 g Passata and 200g crushed tomatoes.

Simmer low until flavours are infused (15-20 mins).  Cover and leave to sit.

You know you have succeeded when the flavours are so well harmonised that it is impossible to identify the individual herbs.

Cook enough fettucine for two.  Add the herb sauce and some parmesan cheese – and your meal is ready to enjoy!

Accompaniments

Serve with a glass of red wine (or a martini!).

Add some lamp or candlelight (a real fire, if you have one), and your favourite person.

Some fine, mellow music.

Let your tired soul be nourished for another week…

What would you add to this ritual?  Or maybe you have a favourite ritual of your own you’d like to share?  Feel free to leave a link if you have a post on it…