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February 14th, 2014

So it is cold season in Delhi just as it is cold season here at home. The article below emphasized the horrible air quality in Delhi these days. A pity since I thought they had been doing much better recently. When I visited in 1987 the air pollution was such that at the end of a day being out and about in the 115F weather meant that my nails turned black when I drew them across my sweaty cheek. Visiting again in 2003, also summertime, was a different story. The factories had been moved to the outskirts of the city and the rickshaws were burning propane rather than gasoline as they zipped across the city (rather like hitching a ride on a riding lawn mower according to netcurmudgeon). Since my visit the city and its surroundings have expanded. Newer technology parks - which are more like small cities -- have drawn more and more people to work as call center agents which draws a middle class salary in India. More people can afford former luxuries like designer clothes, watches, fine dining...and cars. I didn't know about the months-long smog but can imagine what it must be like based on my experience living in Bangalore for 5.5 months. The air quality was appalling because of traffic and construction. We were all coughing like long-term smokers. And sometimes smelled worse. What drew my attention in the article below is the home remedy for the cough and cold: a mashed ginger and cardamom tea. I think it is well worth trying!

Ironically it is the first International Hindu Environment Week next week. Perhaps a discussion of air quality is on the agenda??

Here's the story in Time World ( by Nilanjana Bhowmick / New Delhi :

During the winter, many Delhi homes wake up to the comforting sound, and aroma, of ginger being ground in a mortar and pestle. The city’s favorite winter concoction of ginger and cardamom boiled with milk, sugar, black pepper and tea leaves isn’t just to ward off the cold but also a traditional remedy for boosting health.

“My entire family — especially my young children and parents — have been suffering from colds and coughs and wheezing,” says Poonam Bhatia, a mother of two who lives in the suburb of Noida. “We use home remedies like this to keep our immunity strong.”

This winter, it seems like more ginger than ever is being ground as Delhi struggles to cope with an appalling smog that has hung over the Indian capital since the beginning of January. Three-quarters of the noxious miasma is generated by the city’s almost 7.2 million vehicles. The rest comes from industrial emissions, construction work and the burning of agricultural waste.

The pollution in Delhi is now so severe that by some measures it is worse than in Beijing, which has long enjoyed notoriety as the world’s most polluted capital.

The Centre for Science and Environment, a Delhi-based environmental advocacy group, says that this winter Delhi’s average daily PM2.5 level — a measurement of very small airborne pollutant particles capable of penetrating deep into the lungs — was 240 micrograms per cu m, whereas in 2013 Beijing’s remained mostly below 250. Also, when Beijing’s PM2.5 reading crossed the 500 mark for the first time this year on Jan. 15, Delhi had already recorded eight such days.

The World Health Organization considers a safe level of PM2.5 to be 25.

For residents of Delhi, the smog causes major transport disruptions, with regular pileups on expressways and mile-long queues on major roads. Trains and flights are delayed for hours or canceled. “I had to wait for six hours at the airport a few weeks back,” says Pranati Chaudhuri, a retired professor who was returning to the capital from Kerala with her ailing husband. “We almost missed a medical appointment.”

More serious though is the health impact. A 2013 study found air pollution to be the fifth largest killer in India, causing more than 600,000 premature deaths — up six times from 2000. The study cited Delhi as one of the major trouble spots. “This year, there’s an unidentified virus going around which affects the lungs,” says one of Delhi’s top pulmonologists, Dr. Vivek Nangia. “These kind of respiratory ailments will only increase if we fail to clean up the city’s air soon.”

Although peak pollution levels have jumped 44% from last year, traditional immunity boosters like the ones Bhatia uses are all that most Delhi residents have to go on. “What other option do we have? We cannot stay indoors at all times. We have to go out to work, the children will have to go out to play or to schools,” she says.

Nangia warns elderly patients against early morning walks or outdoor exercise on the worst days. He also advises schools to start late, but the entreaties fall on deaf ears. There is scant awareness of the dangers of pollution, and there are no official warnings of severe pollution levels.

In Beijing, municipal authorities shut schools on the worst days, which protects the health of children but also sends a clear message to parents that pollution is a hazard to be taken seriously. In Delhi, by contrast, pollution tends to be seen by an inured population as just another inconvenience — a bit like bad weather. “I sometimes ask myself: If it’s hot, can I keep the children away? If it’s cold, can I keep the children away? If it’s pollution, can I keep the children away?” says Lata Vaidyanathan, principal of the city’s elite Modern School. “I think the answers don’t lie in all these — it lies in cleaning the air.”

At the moment, there are few voices calling for better air quality and the political parties still treat it as a fringe issue. Local authorities implemented Euro-3 emissions standards in 2005 and introduced a sweeping program of mandatory green fuel (compressed natural gas) for public transport, but neither of these measures — nor the extension of the metro network or the provision of cycle tracks — can compete with the hegemony of cars and trucks, which cause the bulk of the city’s smog.

“In a couple more years, this is going to become a emergency situation where we will have to tackle it on a war footing,” warns Nangia. “We are definitely heading towards that.”

Until then, you’ll be able to hear another sound in Delhi’s households every morning, besides the grinding of mortar and pestle — and that’s the sound of coughing.

July 31st, 2013

mango raspberry jam

maggie outside
I had made a batch of mango jam last week using a combination of mangoes that were getting too ripe and commercial mango pulp. I tried it as a soft spread and it just didn't gel enough. It tasted AWESOME mixed in with a chicken stir-fry though. I'd been in touch with my canning guru Jackie who suggested I follow the peach jam recipe in her book. Which I did, but I guess I didn't let it cook long enough. Over the weekend she sent me a recipe for mango raspberry jam and since I wanted to reprocess the mango jam - I used this recipe which calls for pectin. I like pectin because it takes a lot of guesswork out of deciding if the jam has set. But I worried it would be too sweet with the 5.5 cups of sugar the recipe calls for since I was reprocessing already sugared mangoes. So I used the 1.5 cups of crushed raspberries, 4.75 cups of mango compote from the jars (I didn't feel like opening a new jar for .25 cups), .25 cups water to make up the volume, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, a box of pectin, and 3 cups of sugar. Which got me close to the 10 cups of stuff as the original recipe calls for.

The resident taste-testers had it on Keebler crackers after dinner and gave it a thumbs-up. (So it wasn't just because they were hungry:) It has a lovely color to it.

Nota bene on the low sugar strawberry jam:
Both kids have figured out that there are 2 different strawberry jams - the low sugar and regular...and are unwilling to eat the low sugar version unless I sneak it in under the high-test. But only a little bit at a time. sigh. Even netcurmudgeon avoids it because it is a bit tart.  I think that the low-sugar version tastes amazing with vanilla yogurt. The good kind - Farmer's Cow full-fat vanilla with cream on top. Om nom nom nom nom.

July 8th, 2013

more on jam

maggie outside
So shesingsnow and I made strawberry jam on the 4th of July. We decided it was a very patriotic and pleasurable way to spend Independence Day afternoon. If we hadn't had air conditioning it would have been far less pleasant. But we do. We used the Ball RealFruit low or No-sugar needed pectin and one cup of sugar rather than giant heaps of it. Here is the recipe:

4 cups crushed strawberries

1 cup strawberry juice – used 4 oz of water, a ¼ cup scoop of strawberries, blended and then add water as necessary OR you can use 1 cup of unsweetened grape juice. I don't ever have grape juice though.

3 Tbsp Ball RealFruit low or No-sugar needed pectin

1 Tbsp unsalted butter

1 cup sugar

recipe calls for 6 half pint (8 oz) jars – we used 3 half pints plus 1 pint = 5 half pints

Prepare boiling water canner – more than ½ full and boil a full kettle of water to add as necessary. Prep jars, lids, rings.

  1. Combine strawberries and juice into the stockpot. Gradually stir in pectin.

  2. Bring strawberry/juice/pectin mixture to full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down. Boil for 1 minute to activate the pectin. Stir constantly, add 1 tbsp butter to eliminate foam. This works. Really.

  3. Add sugar gradually while stirring.

  4. Bring to a boil AGAIN for another 1 minute.

  5. Remove from heat

  6. Put in sterilized jars and process 10 minutes in boiling water.

We were rather delighted with the results. In a comparison tasting between the high-test jam I'd made earlier and this jam we both decided that this low sugar jam was quite yummy and tasted more of strawberry. And I am much more comfortable feeding it to my kids. It is more like Polaner jam, really, which is made entirely of real fruit. They do this, however, by making a fruit juice concentrate. Four pounds...yep, 4 lbs, of fruit go into making 1 lb. of their fruit juice concentrate. And they say that it takes 2 lbs of fruit to make each of their 10 oz jars. So 1 lb of the concentrate to 1 lb of fresh fruit. (I'm having a tough time seeing how they do this without using the same amount of pressure it takes to turn limestone into marble.) And so it yields a fairly sweet tasting jam. But it is fruit sugar rather than high fructose corn syrup and that seemed better to me in the long run. The fruit juice we made on July 4th was more water than fruit and we got away with it because the fruit was drippingly ripe. The kids have been eating it with no complaint. Not that I told them I'd reduced the sugar from the last jam they tasted.

A good way to spend the afternoon! And now I am dreaming of peach-ginger jam...!

June 29th, 2013

making jam

maggie outside
Yesterday I spent the evening practicing Vedic chants. Today...I made strawberry jam. Hopefully the kids will like it because if they don't that's probably the last time I'll do it. Soooooo much sugar. A very hot and sticky process. But the finished products look quite promising. And we go through a jar of strawberry jam in about 2 weeks with all the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches the kids eat. Now if I got into making the bread and the peanut butter we'd see some real home-brew cooking. And I'd be insane.

Here is a picture of the jars cooling.

strawberry jam June 2013

Hopefully next time shesingsnow will join me on the canning adventure. It is always more fun with a friend. And easier because while one person is stirring the cauldron the other can shout out "A quarter teaspoon Tongue of Newt!"

April 27th, 2011


maggie outside
Bathe a cat first thing in the morning and the rest of the day will be a cake-walk.

Maggie came up with bottom dripping oog (yes, that is a technical term) so she got put down cellar again until I could address her issues. Make that subscription to fruit bat of the month club. She's old, creaky, and has lower GI problems.

I let her up, closed her in the lavatory and went after her with Sunil's wipes. Then I brought out the 5 gallon BUCKET OF CAT DOOOOOOM.

And now she has a very clean bottom, is somewhat damp overall and rather indignant. She has no right to be mad -- as I explained to Sunil, if the small mammals in the house can't clean their own butts then I will do it. Resigned to butt detail every day, that's me.

January 31st, 2011


maggie outside
Naveen is sleeping. Body completely relaxed, tucked in with 2 blankets, three stuffed animals, his teething giraffe and a pacifier. Make that 1 stuffed animal; he tossed out 2 before finally succumbing to sleep. When he is awake every moment is an adventure. He loves to toddle from room to room examining things he encounters: A floor-washing robot charging, a chair, a cheerio, a toy, a random piece of paper. It all gets scrutinized, sometimes appropriated, sometimes abandoned for another item.

He loves playing with my father's 2-headed Indian drum, the mrthamgan. Hard to say, interesting to play. He arrives at my parents' house and immediately sets off to the living room where the drum is stored. Then he will bang on it happily for a while, go off wandering and then return to bang on it some more. He claps and beats his hands to the rhythm of music he hears. We practice short rhythmic passages together, tapping on tabletops, with blocks, with books. And he grins and giggles and crows with delight.

January 28th, 2011


maggie outside
Made chocolate cookies last night.

They're still good today:)

Nom nom nom nom.

January 24th, 2011

Life in Hoth

maggie outside
Yikes. Last night the exterior of the house started making rather alarming noises. Kind of like pressure-related metal clangs. After a brief tour outside we both concluded that it was probably:

cold weather
ice responding to cold weather

or perhaps the Abominable Snowman settling in for the night.

January 20th, 2011

quiet time

maggie outside
It's ten to 8 and both boys are blissfully asleep. That means I am free to drink my morning tea in one go and be howled at by Maggie who cannot abide my having any peace. At least she can be easily appeased by picking her up and slinging her over my shoulder.
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