My Dearest Komal Anjli and Amar,
When I first heard of the corona virus and about the immense ‘lock-down’ that the Wuhan region had instigated, my first words were, ‘The whole world should be in a lock-down for the next two weeks!’ My immediate follow-on words were, ‘Of course that is not possible and any way the virus seems to be contained by the Chinese authority’. That was in January. Only nine weeks on and we have a pandemic on our hands. Slowly but surely, country after country is instigating lock-downs. I only hope we have been able to curtail the spread of this virus. Only time will tell.
Besides many other challenges one uphill challenge has been to make 87 year old Lalitaba understand the concept of isolation. She has blurted, ‘What a load of fuss!’ ‘If it is my time to go, then that is my karma(fate)”It is only dangerous in unhygienic areas/countries.’ etc.,etc. Here in what I call ‘sterile land of Switzerland’, there have been some of the highest number of cases.
There are zillions of statistics, hundreds of conversations on the television, umpteen reports on internet, and many forwarded Whattsapp videos. Let us not frighten and depress ourselves. Let’s find ways to see the positives of this unusual situation. My task for you: Give me 3 positives to this unusual situation we find ourselves in. Please write in the comments below
Another way to deal with this ‘curfew’ is to keep busy with alternative activities. All those activities you weren’t able to pursue due to lack of time, now you have have oodles of time to realise them. These would be some of my suggestions:
- Use that non-detachable phone and socialise with your relatives and friends. Find out how your elderly relatives are coping.
- Perfect time to quit smoking, might even save your life!
- Start that Journal. (I have an idea on this topic which I will write about in a future letter).
- Do Yoga. Take it up or do more!
- Learn a new language.
- Practice your Piano.
- Organize that party of the future.
We have already started the first suggestion. It really is wonderful to be talking to every one more frequently. We have had family conference calls and friends calls including virtual birthday celebrations. These have really sparked our moods. I just have to remember to look presentable at ALL times!
In order to help you with the last suggestion, below is what I prepared for you earlier! So get planning.
Tips on Organizing Parties
My first step of any party is to ask myself the following questions:
- What is the best guest mix?
- Is it breakfast, or lunch or dinner or just a snack to accompany tea?
- How many people am I catering for?
- What did I offer the last time?
- Have I taken allergies and veg/non-veg preferences into account? For me the second part is easy, as I never offer non-vegetarian dishes at my gatherings.
Umpteen questions you will need to answer to plan successfully. To find appropriate answers, it is a good idea to keep a log of all your past parties. Remember also to put down the date and the details of the guests.
Tips for planning the menu:
- Ensure menu is varied.
- Keep to well tried recipes.
- Be aware of the preparation time and try and keep that to a minimum.
- Include only one time-consuming item per party. Leave other time-consuming recipes for smaller gatherings. This is an excellent tip which I forget many times and then find myself panicking at the end: just when I have been slogging all day and when all my energies are at rock bottom.
Plan your sequence of preparations
- Using your menu, make your shopping list.
- Shop at least a few days in advance.
- Think through sequence of work…perhaps making a chart and scheduling some preparations for the previous day. Take into consideration, soaking time, duration of preparation, freshness of the dish/ingredients, time required to reheat, etc.
- The more you can prepare in advance the more you will enjoy the gathering yourself.
Other early preparations
- Prepare and set cutlery and crockery earlier in the day.
- Prepare your serving vessels and spoons in advance too.
- Remember the serviettes.
- Also prepare all the table decorations in advance.
- Always have a supply of chutneys in the freezer: green coriander, tamarind, red pepper chutney, etc. etc.
- Plan for pre-dinner, during-dinner and after-dinner drinks. Dad usually serves cocktails for pre-dinner, wine during dinner and whisky or liqueurs or schnapps for later.
- Make provision for non-alcoholic drinks.
- Also remember plain water, sparkling, non-sparkling or tap.
- Make sure you have correct and enough glasses.
Planning the best Menu
My menu depends on the occasion: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Teatime or Snacks for cocktails.
Most of the gatherings are based on the Gujarati theme and so the relevant rules would apply to the planned menu. In a traditional gujarati household, except for the rice which is served at the end, all other dishes would be served at the same time!
To move with the western influences these days, I serve the savoury(farsaan) as starters and the sweet(mishtaan) as dessert. Over time I have learnt that most guests remember the savoury and the dessert dishes the best, so it would be a good idea to spend more time in planning those items!
The one time I deviate from this format is when I am organising a brunch menu. My menu has evolved to offerings from all the influences in my life: Indian, Swiss, African and British! One example of such a brunch menu would be:
- Indian: Puri and Chundo with Chai.
- Swiss: Muesli and Rosti
- African: savoury casava(mogo) dish
- British: Scones with jam and clotted cream with an egg dish.
Some of the recipes from this letter are already available on the blog. I will upload more and put in the links.
Besides answers to my request above, I would love you to elaborate on any party menus that you have already hosted. Did any of the recipes here help you? Amar now you will have more time to add your comments to my letters. I know you read them.
That is all for this letter. Please stay safe and be mindful of your health. Look forward to talking to you soon.
Lots and lots of love, hugs and kisses,