When Your Mouth Isn’t Doing The Talking…

Danny Danziger and Mark McCrum came out with a book in 2009 titled “The Whatchamacallit” – a fun and witty compilation of “everyday objects you just can’t name, and things you think you know about but don’t. ”  According to the author duo, the beginning of wisdom is to call things by their right names. In continuation with our effort to add to one’s ever expanding vocabulary in the Ragtag Daily Prompt, MNL from Cactus Haiku has prompted us with borborygmus as the word for the day.

Borborygmus can be described as a stomach rumble or peristaltic sound, also referred to as ‘bubble gut‘ due to the rumbling, growling or gurgling noises produced by the movement of the contents of the gastrointestinal tract as they are propelled through the small intestine by a series of muscle contractions known as ‘peristalsis‘. The rumbles and grumbles are produced in the stomach as fluid and gas move forward in the intestines. The scientific name ‘borborygmus‘ is derived from the 16th century French word ‘borborygme‘, which in turn was related to the ancient Greek  βορβορυγμός (borborygmós – which the Greeks coined onomatopoetically).


Incomplete digestion of food can lead to excess gas in the intestine. Hunger can also trigger peristalsis through the ‘migrating motor complex‘. After the stomach has emptied, it signals the brain to restart peristalsis via the digestive muscles. The rumblings can also be caused when air is swallowed if one is sipping beverages through a straw, or constantly talking while eating.


As a marathon runner, borborygmus is something we often deal with. The medical terminology makes it sound a lot more threatening than it actually is, but something as innocuous as sipping an energy drink through the straw of a tetrapack while in the middle of a run can trigger fluid and gas movement, creating rumbles. If one’s meals and races or training sessions are not timed properly, it can cause discomfort while running. An athlete is often advised to not try anything new on race day – whether the pre-race meals, energy aids during the race, or nutrient replacements post the event, one should consume foods the digestive system is accustomed to. Any sort of experimentation can be left for training days.


A variation of the word has been found in literature, used to describe noise in general. ‘Borborygmic’ featured in Vladimir Nabokov’s “Ada” where noisy plumbing was referred to as “waterpipes seized with borborygmic convulsions”. In “A Long way Down” Elizabeth Fenwick described a room as being “very quiet, except for it’s borborygmic old radiator”. Graham Greene’s “Alas, Poor Maling” was a short story featuring a character who found “irritating noises taking the shape of borborygmus”.


Have you ever wondered what your body is trying to communicate with you? Maybe you will pay closer attention to all those creaks and groans from now on. Aside of the noises inside, do you think you could identify some borborygmic sounds in the vicinity? Now you know the word for them!


Weekend Kitchen Experiments – Handvo

Weekends are a time for trying out new recipes and experimenting in the kitchen. I love baking and usually tinker with sweet dishes, but had some extra time on hand yesterday and tried out this savory preparation for breakfast.

Handvo is a vegetable cake originating from Western India – a part of the cuisine specific to the state of Gujarat. It is often made with bottle gourd, though other vegetables can also be used as filling. The commonly used ingredients are wheat flour or rice, a mixture of lentils, bottle gourd and/or other vegetables and sesame seeds, making this a wholesome meal to enjoy by itself or with a side of pickle or chutney.

There are four parts to the ingredients – the dough, the vegetables, the tempering, and the garnishing. For the dough, rice and gram were soaked the previous day for a few hours, ground, and then left to ferment overnight with yogurt. Bottle gourd, carrots and ginger were peeled and grated, fenugreek leaves were finely chopped, and green chillies were crushed. A tempering was made by heating oil, adding mustard seeds and turning off the heat once they started spluttering. Sesame seeds and dried red chillies were added, followed by all the remaining ingredients assembled earlier. The medley of food components were mixed well.

With an oven pre-heated and a baking pan greased, baking soda needs to be added just before you are ready to pour the batter into the pan. Sesame seeds were sprinkled on top and the mixture was baked for about half an hour. (The top needs to turn crispy brown – baking could take anywhere between twenty-five to forty-five minutes.) It was left to cool for about twenty minutes before removing from the pan. I sprinkled chopped coriander leaves on top before serving. Additional sesame seeds or flaxseed powder can be added to the garnish, if desired.

Handvo is usually prepared and served as a cake. I baked the mixture in two sets, resulting in two “flattened cakes” instead of one thick one. It does not affect the taste – I just wanted to start eating while the second lot was still in the oven, and the flatter version baked faster. And this is a very nutritious meal – with it’s assortment of grains, seeds and vegetables, and the fact that it is baked. Minimal oil is used for the tempering.

The “flat cake” since I divided the mixture into two sets for baking.
Garnished with coriander leaves.
All set for a healthy breakfast.

Considering the time required for soaking and fermenting the grains, and baking the entire mixture, this is a longish meal preparation. The ingredients, however, are mixed and set aside and the dish otherwise does not take up too much of time. Give this one a go if you like trying cuisines from around the world and are looking for healthy alternatives.

Sunshine Cooking – Lemon Blondies

The sun decided to peek through the clouds after weeks of heavy rains. I decided to do some extempore cooking to celebrate the bright occasion – something that represented sunshine. These Lemon Blondies fit the criteria perfectly. (They are regular brownies, but there’s no cocoa or chocolate or walnuts or dates, so in the absence of any visible brown, they’re blondies.) Baking ingredients are always easily available at my place, and with a mixing time of barely ten minutes, along with fifteen minutes to bake and some intermittent cooling, I was all set to eat within half an hour.

The ingredients are basic – sugar, butter, flour, eggs, baking powder. I mixed 3/4 cup powdered sugar and 1/2 cup salted butter with 1 tbsp lemon juice and 1/2 a lemon’s rind. 2 eggs were then added to the mixture, followed by 3/4 cup flour and 1/2 tsp baking powder, and we were all set to enter the oven.


Glaze was prepared with 3/4 cup icing sugar, 1 and 1/2  tbsp lemon juice and 1/2 a lemon’s rind, and a pinch of yellow food coloring. The cake was cooled for about ten minutes once out of the oven. Icing was applied and left to dry completely.


In a few minutes, we were all set to eat the extempore sunshine treat.

Lemon Blondies

The crunchy frosting perfectly contrasts the softness of the blondie, just as the sourness of the lemon juice and rind balances out the sweetness of the sugar. A delectable snack that almost melts in the mouth. Try it out if you can – it’s easy and quick to prepare.


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Rainy Day Snack

Sometimes it is important to open ourselves to the simple things in life. No elaborate cooking here, but a modest snack to accompany a rainy evening. There’s no name for it – I just soaked bread slices into a batter made from chickpea flour and water, and shallow fried the whole thing. Served with ketchup and a beverage made of some syrup and lemon juice. Devoured the mini-meal with a book by P.G.Wodehouse for company. 🙂



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Weekday Whims – Gulab Jamun

So, I tinkered a bit in the kitchen today with some vintage recipes. The rains have been incessant and I picked up this sweet preparation to work on – best eaten warm from the stove. I have made Gulab Jamun in the past and have also featured the preparation on this blog, so I won’t elaborate on the entire cooking process. It is usually something I would attempt to fill out  a weekend – the milk solid based sweet dish just popped into my head and I decided to make it this evening. Here you go!

Soaking in warm sugar syrup – all ready to be eaten.
Dough balls ready to be fried and then soaked in syrup
Playing around with the dough shapes

Here’s my previous post on Gulab Jamun – for those who missed it and would like to know more about the sweet.



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Murakami Musings – A Reader’s and Foodie’s Delight

When literature inspires…

Murakami, anyone?

Haruki Murakami is known to weave worlds in his novels where fish fall from the sky, cats disappear, and two moons rise. And in the very same books characters go about their mundane routines singing songs, cooking spaghetti, eating eggs, or driving to McDonald’s. A determined assault on the normal, parallel worlds that are not so remote from ordinary life, a dizzying collection of writings that display the author’s genius in uncovering the surreal in the everyday, the extraordinary within the ordinary. Many readers do not “get” Murakami, but that’s precisely what makes him a great writer – his writings make you think and are not straight forward stories.

Drawing inspiration from literary works, a food writer and a chef have come together to create a pop-up menu inspired by Murakami’s novels – titled “The Literary Table“. Shirin Mehrotra runs a blog called, “Will Travel For Food“, and Shriya Shetty has interned with popular chefs like Kelvin Cheung and Gaggan Anand. The duo describes the event as “an aglio olio style Udon with a pour of Cutty Sark from ‘Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki And His Years Of Pilgrimage‘”.

Shetty reveals how she worked on the menu, adding elements that have been mentioned repeatedly across Murakami’s books – instances where people like eating omelettes, noodles and seafood. Instead of selecting dishes from the texts, she has taken inspiration from the imagery as well. Shetty cites a setting in ‘Norwegian Wood‘ for example, where Toru describes going for a walk with Naoko – the imagery depicting birds, wet grass and a bottomless well. One of the dishes created involves a balsamic pomegranate reduction alluding to the dark well, grass comprising greens of pak choy and lettuce, and red bell peppers for the birds. Each of the items in the menu is an attempt to take the eater into scenes featured in the book.

The Literary Table” is the second such bookish pop-up by the writer-chef duo. They did a Harry Potter themed food event last month – a black taco with black garlic prawns and a charcoal khuboos representing Sirius Black, while The Deathly Hallows was a sour dough with dulce de leche. “The starter of the dough grows stronger with time and is resurrected by adding more flour and water, and the air is like the invisible cloak that makes it stronger”, they offer by way of explanation.

The germ of this literary-inspired pop up to cater to both, food and book aficionados took shape in 2016 when Mehrotra created her version of Felix Felicis potion – a dark rum-based potion spiked with jaggery and cinnamon. This was followed by a potato pie inspired by the epistolary novel ‘The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society‘. Both these dishes were individual creations and Mehrotra never thought about a pop up event featuring an entirely themed menu. Shetty, on the other hand, had already done a ‘Game of Thrones‘ inspired pop up. The two food cum book lovers connected through their respective blogs and created last month’s pop up featuring items inspired by Harry Potter characters.

Describing what’s on the menu for the Murakami pop-up, Shetty attempts a “flavor profile” of the writer as “ingredients that never go together, but do” – much like his writings. Citing an example from ‘Hear The Wind Sing‘, Shetty alludes to a dish where he mixes canned peaches with pancakes and coke. Her version of this “crazy creation” – buttermilk biscuits, Coca-Cola-braised chicken, pickled peaches, and a side of chilled coke to be poured over the dish. Coming back to the ‘Norwegian Wood‘ reference, Mehrotra reads out lines of a song Modori sings to Toru: “I’d love to cook a stew for you, but I have no pot”. This reference is the inspiration behind udon in clam broth with shitake, fried spinach, roasted tomato and chilli paste. And while eating Murakami’s words, visitors can sip on Cutty Sark whiskey that finds a mention in ‘Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years Of Pilgrimage‘. An added treat is jazz band ‘Ink of Bard’ who will be performing a set of covers from Murakami’s playlist.


A hand-painted representation of a dish mentioned in Murakami’s writings.
The team behind “The Literary Table”.

Sweetness Overload – A Trip At A Time

Holiday Indulgences

This picture was taken at a café called “Honey Hut” during one of my travels. As the name implies, their entire menu comprises items prepared with honey. I picked a Honey Cold Coffee and a Honey Pie. The coffee was an espresso with milk and caramel flavor, and of course honey. The pie was an apple pie served with honey and vanilla ice cream. There was honey in the pie itself, and you had the choice of drizzling honey on top of the ice cream scoop as well, but I declined the onslaught of more honey. They also have milkshakes, smoothies, teas and juices – with honey mixed into an array of ingredients. For those who don’t have much of a sweet tooth (Though I doubt one would enter Honey Hut in that case), there are savory meals as well – sandwiches, burgers and salads with an assortment of honey-based dressings and dips. Can I interest anyone in a honey indulgence?

Honey Hut cafe (1)


Follow Your Heart

‘International Yoga Day’ and ‘World Music Day’ were recently celebrated around the globe, with both occasions coinciding on the 21st of June. Yoga and Music are two subjects close to my heart. I have been a yoga practitioner for almost eighteen years now, and have dabbled in various musical instruments over the years.

A friend of mine, from the percussion class where I had learnt the doumbek, is currently in Bucharest, Romania for a gig. He uses music as an aid to travel and explore, just as I run marathons around the world – clubbing the pursuits that are dear to one’s heart. I play the doumbek as a hobby, but he is a professional musician and drummer who is equally adept at the various percussion instruments. He shared this picture just before the performance yesterday – an array of sounds contrasting the spectacular architecture of the concert venue.

When you follow your heart, the world treats you to it’s many wonders.

Venue: Bucharest (Romania); Photographer: Omkar Salunkhe


The Reading Promise – Book Review

Title – The Reading Promise

Author – Alice Ozma

Genre – Memoir

On the weekend celebrating Father’s Day, Alice Ozma’s tribute to reading is a fitting book that highlights the parent-child relationship and the bond forged through books.


This is not a book about books – If you’re looking for a list of titles to pick up and authors to check out, you’ll be disappointed. The Reading Promise is about the very act of reading, and how books connect people. This is a book about individuals having the quilt of their lives woven together by the books they shared. It is a tribute to the words on a page, the person who read them to you, the one you read them to, the memories associated with each book you have ever read. For Alice Ozma, reading is an act of love, and she describes her book as a love story.

When Alice was nine years old, her parents went through a separation. Her father ended up with sole custody of Alice and her sister Kath. Dad wanted the girls to know they would always be his priority no matter what. And the bibliophile that he was, he made a pact with the girls to read to them and with them everyday. Books ensured they would always be there for each other – whatever else might separate them in life, reading would be the one activity that bound them.

Kath did her own reading (she’s seven years elder to Alice), but dad and Alice took up a challenge to read together for a hundred consecutive days. This was a fun activity for a nine year old – she got to read and spend time with dad. They successfully completed the challenge and realized there was so much fun and learning on the way that they set a new target for a thousand consecutive days of reading – even giving the project a title, “The Reading Streak”. Avid readers, however, will always read – target or no target. The 1000-day goal ultimately resulted into 3,218 days – the reading streak continued for nine years, only coming to an end when Alice left home for college.

“The Reading Promise” beautifully takes us through the father-daughter relationship and the role books played in their lives. As a single father raising two daughters, dad relied on literature to get him through parenthood – according to him, anything you ever needed to know could be found in books. And this love for books is what he shared with his children. As mentioned earlier, this book is about the memories associated with books read over a lifetime. Alice’s mum’s attempted suicide, her  parents’ divorce, her sister leaving home, her first accident while driving, road trips, visits to museums – from the ages of nine to eighteen books backed her every step of the way, whether to learn how to cope from characters going through similar situations, or just as a diversion when situations got too overwhelming.

Each chapter begins with a quote from a book she was reading at that point of time. So, from a child to an adult the reader is taken through an assortment of books that grew up along with Alice (or rather helped Alice grow up).

Anyone who has been raised by bibliophile parents and grandparents, who has literally been born and brought up around books, who has tonnes of friends who are bookworms, and has in turn introduced one’s children and grandchildren to books will love “The Reading Promise”. It’s an ode to the unsaid promise that books have always been there for us and we will always be there for books. And as we share books with the people we love, we promise them that we will always be there for them. Books, and the memories of reading them, are treasures we entrust to our loved ones. A reading family will identify with this greatly. (Even Alice Ozma’s name has a literary story behind it – Dad went all out right from the time of his children’s births.)

“The Reading Promise” was written when Alice was twenty-two years old. (Hence the tagline of the “promise made thirteen years ago”.) The writing is simplistic and childlike – not intended as a literary marvel but more as a compilation of the bookish antics of the father-daughter duo. Read this if you have bonded over books with your parents/children. A fabulous read for all bookworms, though fathers and daughters will particularly enjoy this one. A single father raising daughters and using literature as a medium to have “the talk”. Or dad showing up at the theatre because rehearsals have gone on too late, and arguing with the director that it’s nearing midnight and the day’s reading is pending. Alice’s writing strikes a chord of how protective dads can be, no matter the age of the daughter – that eagle eye will always be on the lookout for “injustices” (however trivial they might be). As it pays tribute to this special bond and the role books play in the equation, this is a must-read, on Father’s Day or any day.

P.S. There is a detailed list of books the pair read over nine years, compiled at the end of the book. At a glance, it literally reflects how the father raised his children  through books and how their reading choices evolved over the years.

Rating – 5/5


Eat Well. Live Simply. Laugh Often.

Wow! Today’s Ragtag Daily Prompt brought back some old college memories. This blog is a fun site for the hobbies and activities I like to share with the world (and also connect with like-minded individuals to learn from and grow on the way). I try not to keep my posts too technical for the benefit of my followers who are following and reading about my myriad pursuits. For those of you who are so used to being bombarded by books, running and dance articles, I do have a professional life besides all of these. (Time management is the key!) I am a nutritionist by profession, though I try to keep this blog fun by avoiding too many serious posts. So don’t worry! We’ll stick to tradition and keep this write-up light as well.

Our prompt for today “julienne” transported me to those years of university classes. I majored in Food Technology, Nutrition and Dietetics with a specialization in Medical Nutrition Therapy (MNT) and Sports Nutrition, along with a super specialization in Diabetes Education. Nutrition therapy, however, is not just about planning and prescribing diets on paper but also cooking each of the meals you plan. Principles of food science need to be applied to account for changes in food composition in raw versus cooked foods, meals should be an assorted mix of colors and textures in addition to being palatable. Each food preparation was rated on a “sensory evaluation” chart – an individual score for each parameter (taste, smell, visual appeal etc.), followed by an overall score by adding up the individual gradings.

The cooking practical classes were quite something! Now I’m quite good with my gross motor skills (lifting, punching, jumping), but my fine motor skills are another matter altogether. I’m capable enough to paint, sketch, embroider or engage in any miscellaneous art and craft, but finely dicing and chopping ingredients, applying decorative piping onto cakes or muffins, or cutting vegetables into julienne strips were an enormous task. I still wonder how I got through university exams. (Maybe I made up in theory.)