The photo above is an example of everything I love about Nepali food: it was served to me as a snack while visiting someone’s home. Everything was simple, but supremely good: a brown flour roti, some black dahl – plain but creamy, and a bowl of mixed beans and vegetables, lightly seasoned. It was all made from scratch, of course, and tasted fresh and bright, despite it all being cooked. I love the way Nepali home cooks can take the humblest of ingredients and a few spices and turn seemingly anything into a feast.
Archive for the ‘Kathmandu’ Category
in daily life, Food, Kathmandu, Nepal, Vegetables
These might not be the kind of mountains most people think of when they think of Nepal, but at this time of year, heaps of the white daikon radish, known locally as mula, appear on the side of the road in certain parts of the city. I’m always in awe of the quantities there are. Nepalis love to pickle or ferment mula and serve it as a flavourful accompaniment to their dahl-bhat dinners. There are so many variations of mula achar; the word achar is often translated as pickle, but it is not a pickle in the way we know it–rather it almost serves as a seasoning to the plainer tasting dahl, and can be made with a wide variety of vegetables. A common version of mula achar involves julienning it before drying it in the sun, and then tossing with spices and oil before packing it into jars to mature.
Makes me hungry just thinking about it. I don’t think, however, that this farmer would sell me some in less than gargantuan proportions, so I’ll have to get some from my local vegetable seller. Ah, the local vegetable sellers I buy from–they’re a colorful cast of characters and that’s a whole story in itself!
in animals, cats, daily life, Kathmandu
in daily life, Kathmandu, sky
in daily life, Kathmandu
To all my regular readers (I know, I know, I’m being optimistic here), you may have noticed a dearth of posts of late. The reasons for this are several – firstly, just over two months ago I had to find a new place to live, as the owners of the house I was renting sold it rather abruptly. I was sad to leave my little pink house surrounded by rice fields and with its great view of the hills, but by a miracle I was able to find a new place–and even tinier yellow house, flanked by bamboo and cow sheds, and even closer to those hills. It has ample water — a rarity in Kathmandu, and the landlady is also really lovely. Unfortunately, my old ISP doesn’t cover the area, so I still don’t have consistent internet, a fact that should be sorted soon but has kept me offline more than usual. Then, a few weeks ago, my laptop broke down, which kept me offline even more; gratefully, I’ve got it back today–so you should be hearing from me more, now.
Happy December, everyone!
in activities, Kathmandu, Nepal
On Wednesday, I was at Baber Mahal Revisted on a writing assignment for Friday, the weekly paper I do regular restaurant reviews for. While there I took a few minutes to check out the new photo exhibition that had just opened the day before at the Siddhartha Gallery.
If, like me, you are fascinated with Mustang, the remote area in northern Nepal with a unique Tibetan culture, you should make the time to visit and see these photos. Taken by Italian photographer Luigi Fieni, they are are a record of 16 summers he spent in Mustang while working with conservation projects there. There are stunning photos of scenery, beautiful gems of local people, and on the top floor a photographic record of the restoration of ancient murals by ordinary people.
The exhibit runs through November 12, 2014, it’s free, and well worth a visit: Siddhartha Gallery, Baber Mahal Revisited, Kathmandu. Gallery hours are Monday-Friday 11 am to 6 pm, and 12 noon to 4 pm on Saturdays.
in daily life, Food, Kathmandu, rice
I stood off to the side, watching the fun, laughing with them, taking photos. They were working, but it felt like a party.
The thought crossed my mind, “I should try it sometime.” And I told myself that, yes, I would next time I got the opportunity. I’m not sure why I thought that the next time would be better than today, but I did.
She must’ve read my mind, because not a minute later my friend called out, “Have you ever tried this? Why don’t you do it?”
But the mud, my clothes, I wasn’t dressed for this…
The next thing I knew I was kicking off my shoes, rolling up my leggings, and stepping into the deep, squelching mud.
Someone passed me a bundle of seedlings. “Two at a time, two at a time,” they kept calling.
And that’s how I found myself this morning, planting rice.
The mud was not just between my toes but over my ankles and crawling up my calves. The paddy had been dug up before being flooded, and bending over, I stuffed the rice seedlings–which look exactly like long blades of grass–two at a time into the oozy earth, trying to space them evenly.
“This isn’t as hard as I thought it would be,” I thought, “and it’s certainly a lot more fun.” Then I finished my bundle and looked up and realized that the field looked much the same as when I’d begun, and the small paddy was barely a fraction planted.
The rest was taken up by more experienced hands than mine, but I came away with a newfound appreciation for the time-consuming, backbreaking effort that goes into producing a plate of rice. –A job that here in Nepal, is still done mostly by hand, at least in hilly areas, where the paddies are small and often terraced.
Yesterday was National Paddy Day; by this time most of the rice should already be planted. But the monsoon has been patchy so far, inconsistent, so not all farmers have been able to plant out yet. On the cover of today’s edition of The Kathmandu Post there’s a photo of a woman preparing her fields for sowing, but they’re too dry to plant in yet. The Himalayan Times has a happier photo on its front page of schoolchildren playing in the mud while planting rice at a festival to celebrate the National Paddy Day.
The field behind my house has played host to two neighbourhood weddings over the past few weeks, and when I got home this afternoon three men were tilling it — two by hand and one with a small mechanized tiller, removing all traces of the partying and leaving smooth furrows behind. As I watched them the rain rolled in, first lightly and then so heavily that they abandoned their work and ran for cover. It’s been raining ever since and, cozy in my house with a mug of coffee, a makeshift prayer came to mind as I watched the rain fall: A good monsoon, and a good harvest, for all those hardworking farmers that most need it.
The rain is still coming down.
The strange thing, after you’ve lived in Nepal for a while, about getting extra power when you least expect it, is the euphoria of it, the feeling like you’re living on borrowed time or have been given an unexpected gift, and you’d best make the most of it. Tonight–for whatever reason–the power stayed on for an extra eleven minutes past the scheduled time when it should have gone off. It’s usually pretty punctual. Unless there’s been a good rain, or perhaps a special holiday, and they decide that they can afford to just leave it on for the day.
Perhaps this is the moment to explain, for those who don’t know, that Kathmandu has scheduled power cuts, referred to as “load shedding.” The city is divided into groups, with a schedule published that lets you know when the electricity will go off where you live. Mine is Group One.
This state of affairs can be circumvented, of course, with generators or solar panels or UPS devices; and while I can’t afford these at the moment I honestly don’t mind. While there are, most certainly, moments when the power going off is frustrating or interruptive, I’m used to it, and it doesn’t bother me. I enjoy following the rhythms of my neighborhood, listening to the thick silence or surrounding sounds that suddenly seem stark and clear when the electricity’s off, particularly at night, and waiting for the cry of a child, somewhere nearby–“Bhatti aio!” – “Power’s here!”
And even though I miss my fan on a warm night like tonight, when a strong breeze blows in the window and moves across my body it provides a moment of joy, and gratitude, and unexpected bliss.
in daily life, Kathmandu, writing
Yesterday a good friend came over and we had lunch together. We’ve known each other for years, and we talked the way you only can with someone you’ve known, well, for that long. The power was off for the scheduled electricity cut, and we ate in the kitchen, a breeze coming through the back screen door there. And I thought how lucky I was to be there, in that moment.
Yesterday I also heard that the anthology I have a story published in, Chicken Soup for the Soul: Alzheimer’s and other Dementias, is a bestseller; not ten days after its release, they’ve already had to order a second printing. And while my part in it is very small, and certainly nothing to do with its bestselling status, as a writer it was an encouragement to my own dreams. It made me happy.
Tonight it rained, a heavy rain that we’ve been needing in Kathmandu for weeks now, to clear the dust and bring down the heat and water the earth. Some might say a small thing, but it isn’t really. None of it is. It’s wonderful, and we should enjoy every bit of joy, large and small, that crosses our path. One of many things living in Nepal has taught me, and for which I am very grateful.