As kids, I’m sure all of us felt we were invincible. Jumping off flights of stairs, whizzing down hills at manic speeds on our bikes, or launching ourselves into the sky while swinging at the playground, daring gravity to pull us back down to earth. Scrapes, gashes, and blood were all part of life. We’d simply dust off the dirt caked onto our grazed knees and elbows, and hurdle right back into whatever destructive activity we were caught up in.
Even when we caught those epic colds, the ones where we couldn’t breathe because we were so stuffed up, and our fever had us sweating bullets through the sheets, we rode it out. We cried, whined and complained, but we usually (hopefully) had someone there to make and feed us soup or daal khichri (a mix of rice and lentils cooked to a soft mush that was easy to eat and packed with healthy goodness), to rub Vix on our chests, and to change our sheets regularly. The sickness always passed, and out we were again, rushing into life with everything we had.
We were not thinking about vitamins, or healthy living, or how drinking the right amount of milk would benefit us thirty years down the line. It never occurred to us that pizza for every single meal for an entire month doesn’t make sense. We were kids, and had our whole life ahead of us. We were superheros and gods.
The other day my Aunt called to tell us that my cousin had gotten engaged. Yeay! Awesome news! Of course, immediately we started making plans of when the wedding would be, which members of the family would fly over (the wedding will be in Pakistan), and how much fun we’d have. It’s been a while since there’s been a really close family friend / family member’s wedding and I miss it. The craziness that leads up to it, all the organizing, hah even all the drama. It’s just so much fun.
And of course within all these discussions, was a key component – what are we going to wear?? Normally I’m a jeans / top / semi-sneaker flats kind of gal. I don’t really think about bags or shoes or coordinating anything. My wardrobe is simple – everything works with everything else so it’s easier for me to grab whatever is clean and get dressed in the morning so I can head to work. But a wedding is different. These are fancy outfits that cannot be bought the day before. And I’m South Asian, so these fancy outfits are always decked out with embroidery, jewels, and all things bling. So I started looking up potential outfits to get made and started taking measurements.
So here we are. The last few days of Ramadan. As some of you know, for the past 20 something days, Muslims all around the world have been taking part in daily fasts for the month of Ramadan, including this blogger. That means no eating or drinking (yes even water) from sunrise to sunset for 30 days, scheduled to end later on this week. To most it sounds crazy. No water? Even during the summer? For over 15 hours a day?? Hah. Yup.
The thing is, it actually hasn’t been that bad. I feel really blessed that the weather has been mild and I’ve had a filling meal available to me as soon as sunset rolls around. There are many (1 in 5 NYC children according to Food Bank of NY) who don’t have this option. Ramadan or not, Summer, Spring, raining, snowing or perfectly pleasant, they don’t have the option or luxury of choosing to fast. It’s the state of being they have to exist in. Knowing that, and reflecting on all that I have, I feel blessed. I feel blessed knowing that I have a safety net in the community that surrounds me.
There are times when you’ve had a rough day (or week or month or year.. you know how it is) and all you want to do is just curl up on the couch with a good book. Just get wrapped up in the story that you are reading and really let yourself go. Now times like this, a good book is sometimes enough. And then again, sometimes you want something sweet to go with it. Something simple and straight forward like a chocolate chip cookie. With milk, or coffee, or on it’s own… a cookie is the original “mini dessert”. Or at least tied with cupcakes.
But… sometimes… you want something more. You lick your lips, squint your eyes, let your mind try to connect with your taste buds trying to figure out what exactly you are craving. Yes yes… you want a chocolate chip cookie. But what else? It should have a nuttiness… but not actual nuts. Just a hint of a flavor. And there needs to be a crunch in there.. but subtle. And the crunch can’t come from something overly sweet because you don’t want it competing with the chocolate.
Ohh India. Sometimes I feel like I can hear you giggling every time I think about baking something.
Growing up my sisters and I always brown bagged lunch to school. Back then I was sure it was because my mother wanted to torture us and make us stand out from the crowd with sandwiches made of whole wheat bread and aloo tikkis or tuna kababs. I remember being so jealous of all the kids that got to have school lunches. Delicacies like frozen pizza, mystery meat burgers with fries, and a baked pasta sort of dish with what I think was some sort of cheese caked on top. The only thing that salvaged those lunches were surprise treats – usually a bag of chips or (more often) apple slices. I’d try to trade up for something that involved chocolate like Kit Kat or peanut butter cups or (even better) cookies. And then, sometimes, the heavens would open and I’d find a baggie with two or three chocolate chip cookies of my own. Those were the best days. I’d savor the crispy Chips Ahoy and think, “This is the best thing in the whole world!”
Years have passed; I’ve tried everything from Chips Ahoy, to tubes of pre-made cookie dough, to mixing a batch from scratch and I have to say, chocolate chip cookies still make me happy like nothing else can. Especially when they are freshly baked coming out of the oven. I can barely stop myself from “taste testing” that first one while letting the others cool on the wire rack. Now, I appreciate all chocolate chip cookies, but I do have a favorite type. Something with crispy edges, a soft but not doughy center, not too thick and not too thin, and just the right amount of chocolate chunks to cookie dough ratio. May sound like a tall order, but I’ve found my local favorites that get it right most of the time. First is Pret a Manger since it’s close to work, the cookies are warm, and I can usually grab a sandwich so I’m not having just cookies for lunch (most of the time). Second choice are the cookies sold on the Sweetery NYC truck which used to stop off at Midtown. Oh and their red velvet cupcakes are amazing too!
But here’s the thing. Lucknow, India doesn’t exactly have a Pret a Manger or food trucks. Well none with chocolate chip cookies that is. And though it’s easy enough to get chaat, or parathas, or kababs on any street corner, cookies are hard to come by. Especially fresh baked ones. So what’s a girl to do but bake a batch? Sounds simple enough right? Yea. This is where India straight up laughed her little tukhus off.