Archive for the ‘Nepal’ Category

Breakfast, and change

in Food, Kathmandu, Nepal

Yesterday I enjoyed a late breakfast at Mike’s Breakfast’s new location. For anyone who lives in Nepal, Mike’s needs no introduction. For everyone else, the short version is that it’s an eatery–specializing in American style food, especially breakfast–that has been around longer than I’ve lived here. It was opened by Mike, a US Peace Corps volunteer who loved Nepal so much he stuck around for decades. He passed away some years ago, but his namesake restaurant continues.

The lease on their old location in Naxal was up this December, and they’ve been slowly moving to their new place in Baluwater for a few months now, while still keeping the old place open. When I drove past their old location this week, though, it was empty. Sign gone, construction for something new in full swing. Even though I knew it was coming, it still hurt a bit. I know change is supposed to be for the better, but that doesn’t mean I enjoy it. In the last year, a lot has changed–in big ways with friends moving and family illness, to the trivial of places I love in Kathmandu being demolished by the ongoing road expansion, or just closing, never to be seen again.

This time, though, I knew where Mike’s Breakfast was moving to. So I went there yesterday. And guess what? It was great. In some ways, even better; larger, more peaceful, just as much if not more greenery. Some construction is still ongoing, and those unique mosaic benches still need to find their place, but it felt right.

I had what I always have–a large mushroom cheese omelette with toast, and coffee made fresh from local beans, both of which are wonderful, unpretentious, simple things made well. And while I ate I thought that perhaps I need to give change a chance. While I won’t ever not miss people and things that are gone, sometimes what’s new can be even better. Here’s hoping!

A Winter’s Treat

in Food, Nepal, Newari Food

The weather’s getting colder, and people’s minds are turning to hearty, warming winter fare. There’s another kind of winter food though, special because it is made only in the cold season. It’s also exceptional in that it takes a full day’s work to make, and then a whole night to set. I am speaking of course of the Newari specialties takha: and sanyakhunya.

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Ghosts on Everest

in children, climbers, Mount Everest, Nepal, Sagarmatha, trekking

As I walked along the edge of the hill lonely and desolate, I saw a line of rock formations, man-made. Then more. Then metal plaques attached to huge rocks. I bent over and began to read. Lives I had never heard of. Some had died here, mountaineering or even just trekking. Others had once climbed here and died elsewhere, but this spot had been chosen to commemorate them.

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Fun and Food at a Newari Pasni

in children, Food, Nepal, Newari Food, Newars

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Today I attended the pasni ceremony of the daughter of a family I’ve been friends with for years now. Pasni  commemorates the first time a child is fed solid food–in this case, rice. It’s traditionally done for girls at 5 months of age and boys at 6 months. It begins with a visit to a local temple for a traditional blessing; when we arrived, the baby had just returned from this. We joined the family in the large bedroom; the baby on the double bed where her mother and grandmother sat, us with the rest of the family, on mats all around the room.

“What’s her name?”

“We haven’t decided yet,” answered her mother, to laughter from the room. She told us they’re currently using a nickname that rhymes with the names of two other female cousins.

The baby’s aunt began giving the traditional gifts, each one passed to the baby on a tray in turn (and removed by her mother): baby clothes, paper money, an orange. Similar gifts were given to other senior female relatives: a sari, bills, the orange. Jewelry was also put on the baby: a tiny golden ring which had been bought a size too small–again, everyone enjoys the humour–and a gold necklace and thick silver anklets.

Then, one by one, everyone puts a vermillion and rice tika on the baby, and then feed her a substance that resembled rice pudding; instead of a spoon, a solid gold coin is used to do this. She’s calm and zen, considering strangers are among those smearing her forehead and stuffing food in her mouth–for the first time, too!

Perhaps the most surprising thing about the whole affair is how warm and casual everyone is. There’s no sense of formality, of pretension; an ritual that goes back hundreds of years is underway, and while believed vital to the baby’s future, it’s performed with smiles, reminders, humour. And lots of camera flashes.

The ceremony is over sooner than expected, and as this is a Newari family, we are treated to a full spread of local eats. Newaris are the original inhabitants of the Kathmandu Valley, traditionally the caste of merchants and business people. Their culture, language, and food is completely unique within Nepal.

And their food is delicious.

Usually when I attend functions or visit friends’ homes, there are one or two dishes that are outstanding; at this meal, everything was:

An egg boiled, then fried was the first serving, with slabs of marinated meat and a bara, a small savory pancake; then another plate of more meat, soya beans, lightly spiced; a fantastic fresh cucumber and daikon pickle, both fried potatoes and yoghurt-turmeric spiced potatoes, a chicken curry. This yoghurt potato dish is from a small town in Gulmi, the ancestral home of this family; visiting their village is the only place I’ve ever eaten it. Now, the family makes it wherever they are. All of these dishes were bound together with beaten rice, commonly enjoyed with food at community functions.

This was taken before the yoghurt spiced potatoes and chicken curry arrived; I was too busy tucking in by then!

This was taken before the yoghurt spiced potatoes and chicken curry arrived; I was too busy tucking in by then!

Raxsi, bara, meat and boiled then fried egg.

Raxsi, bara, meat and boiled then fried egg.

This was all washed down with small cups of raxsi, a local clear alcohol of unknown and varying strength were poured for us from the fine spout of a traditional brass jug, served with the first course, and throughout, long after we’d been sated.

When I asked if it was homemade, the reply was uniquely Nepali: “Yes, it’s homemade, but by somebody else!”

Resting after all the exertion.

Resting after all the exertion.

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