Friday, June 29, 2007



Okay, here's the story: I heard this tune maybe thirty-one years ago, in a club or discotheque -- it went straight to the bedrock of my being and remained there, WITHOUT A NAME, for all this time. Every so often, I would hear the sweet-hot saxophone solo playing somewhere in the distance and something would turn over inside me -- and I would still not know the name of the song.

Cut to ... ten days ago. At a FedEx counter in Long Island, NYC. I had to mail my passport to the British Consulate and was a bit tense (I HATE mailing my passport anywhere. I am convinced I will never see it again, etc etc). But the man behind the counter was exceptionally calm and confidence-boosting. Just as I completed the address on the mailing envelope, BAKER STREET began to play on the radio. On an impulse, I asked the man whether he knew the name of the tune and he said, after a slight pause "... uh, that's ... Baker's Street."

Ahhhhhh! Heavenly relief!

I have been sneaking off to YouTube to hear it every couple of days ...

Meanwhile, in Newport ... no, I've NOT been sleeping, even though I've certainly not been posting daily activities either. The past few days have been so pleasant I've been feeling too much like a seagull soaring on an updraft to write about it! But today's my last day and I thought I'd enter a few notes.

Day ONE (Sunday 24th June): I had a hilarious time baking bread -- it was a mess! I did everything wrong! And it STILL PRODUCED EDIBLE LOAVES! This is the amazing thing. I mean, when I say I did everything wrong, it was essentially a case of paying the wrong kind of attention to temperature. Instead of just planning in advance to ensure that the yeast was correctly set up to eat its sugar quietly and fluff itself up, I instead soaked it in milk that wasn't quite hot enough, then tried to keep it warm by placing it over a pan of boiling water, so that it got scalded, then I used it anyway and made all the same mistakes again with the dough. The wretched lump of flour-water-salt just sat in its bowl, looking miserable, while I attempted to keep it warm by repeatedly over-heating it so that its outer skin became leathery.

Finally, recognizing that this wasn't going anywhere, I shaped two short batons and stuck them in the oven, expecting that the result would be two very hot batons, now converted to stone. Surprise! The dough DID rise a little bit and it developed a nice little crust and though the interior was not aerated half enough, the sliced results were quite tasty and edible. I am now convinced that bread will make itself regardless of what abuse the would-be baker subjects the dough to ...

For dinner that day, G pan-fried some shrimp with garlic and pesto and we ate them with angelhair pasta. Delish.

Day TWO:
It was my turn to make something for dinner and I chose Shepherd's Pie. It came out effortlessly well -- I mean, if I had to quibble, I'd say it could have been a little more moist. But otherwise ... really. It's embarrassing.

G went out to the beach with a friend, in the afternoon. I made another two loaves of bread. And this time, realizing that room temp wasn't warm enough, I got the sequence of warmings and risings correct and ... ta-daaaaaaaaaaa! Two beautiful loaves! All nicely shaped and fragrant. At night, emboldened by this success, I went on to an encore using a packet of spice for CHICKEN TIKKA MASALA. It was totally easy and the only thing that wasn't quite perfect was that it took a little longer to wrestle into place than I would have preferred. But it was okay. With brown basmati rice.

G and I went to a local establishment called
THE ACCIDENTAL ARTIST where we both had a delightful time decorating unglazed pottery which would later be kiln-fired for us to pick up a few days later. I did two mugs and a square platter and G did two mugs -- but I could probably have spent a whole week in there and not had enough! As some of you know, decorating ceramic is one of the things I can do obsessively ... And at an excellent price: $7 for a walk-in individual, $5 each for two or more people who come together. Over and above that, you pay only for the unglazed mug, dish whatever -- a mug is $8, for instance -- and that's ALL. You pay nothing extra for the paints you use, or the brushes or the length of time you spend there. I was AMAZED that the place wasn't teeming with people. G and her sister and mom had all been there before, so she knew the routine. It was really FUN. Alas, I will not be here to collect the pieces, so they'll remain in Newport, awaiting my return. But I don't really care. The painting is what I'm interested in and the results are a secondary thrill.

In the evening, I followed a recipe I got off the internet but through my friends in Delhirium, Sunita, Sonal and Amit, for RISOTTO as made by JAMIE OLIVER. It's so simple and delicious, you'd have to be brain-damaged to get it wrong. I made tons, so we definitely have enough food now to last till when M and S return from their holiday in Maine -- reportedly excellent.

The previous day I went over next door for a visit with Y and R and their mom, Mrs A -- and had a fun time chatting. So I went over again today to talk with the mom, who is an old Newportian, from an old Portuguese family and full of wonderful stories. Also G made OATMEAL CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES yesterday, for delivery to Y's grandson T today, for his birthday. The cookies are called VANISHING COOKIES because they're so good and I'll testify to the fact that they vanish ...

In the evening I taught G how to play a great card game called RUSSIAN BANK and in the afternoon we went down to the Wharf to have lunch at a local eatery called PANERA. It was good, and later we walked a little further to the Gateway Centre to buy my bus ticket back to Boston ... sadness!

And that brings me up-to-date. Got to end this now or I'll never get anything done before I bundle all my belongings into the two tiny bags I've been travelling with for these past couple of weeks. My sister S sent me thrilling birdie gifts -- including a funny little clock that wobbles on a spherical orange base and the DVD of PAN'S LABYRINTH, which I watched last night (alone, coz it's DEFINITELY not PG-13), awash with tears but in a sad and beautiful way, because it's that kind of movie.

Oh -- and OF COURSE we went for walks in the morning, and to the grocery and ate tons of icecream -- yes, the ice-cream scoop is limp from overuse! -- but that's all standard stuff.

1 comment:

Mudra said...

Dear Ms. Padmanabhan,

I'm the Editor of Sans Frontieres, the Umang magazine and would be really glad if you could write something for us.

Umang is an inter-college fest that takes place every August in Bombay, organised by students of NM College. Umang 2006 saw 31000 students and 83 colleges participate. Sans Frontieres has a readership of more than 1500 people, all in the age group 17-22.

We prefer our authors to go freestyle, writing about whatever they want. Maybe you could write about the emergence of the art industry in India, or even your own college days! It could be anything you wish to write about, basically.

Please do email me at to discuss this in greater detail (I had to leave a comment because your email ID is not listed here). Thanks!