Monday, February 25, 2013

Hectic weekend on many fronts

I'm sort of running on fumes. I realized this today when I got out of bed at 5am. I awoke at 4:30am but tried in vain to convince myself that it was way too early. Didn't work, so I thought I'd bite the bullet, get up & do something productive. My faithful dog Twinkie decided I was crazy so she just rolled over and went back to sleep.

A few hours later I was suddenly hit by a wave of exhaustion so immediate that I had to lie down for 20 minutes. The 10 1/2 hour time difference between here & India has been the hardest jet lag I've ever had to get over. Even China wasn't this bad, maybe because it's in the other direction. In addition, I'm in the midst of negotiations regarding the sale of my house in Whitfield Estates, where my late husband Rea & I lived. I'll be downsizing so there are a lot of things I'll be selling off. In case you or someone you know might be interested, I'll post them here.

This coming Fri 6-9:30PM & Sat 11-4 is the Village of the Arts' March ArtWalk and the theme is "A Taste of the Village". It's a wonderful chance to come & sample the art, food & music all of our galleries have to offer. I'll be baking cookies, muffins & some special breads, available Sat 11-4. I'm not quite up to doing too much more at this time, so no special ordering this week.

Sunday's Palma Sola Farmers Market 11-3 celebrates the beginning of the month with a variety of live musicians during the day. Their gorgeous celery is in season. If you haven't seen a head, it's ENORMOUS!!!  I'm going to make a fabulous CELERY APPLE BISQUE with some of the farm's produce. Stop by on Sunday to sample some, get the recipe and pick up the fresh ingredients to make it at home.  Email me at if you directions.

I guess I need a little more R&R before I get back to my usual mega energized self. Thanks for understanding that there won't be any pre-ordering available this week. See you this weekend.

Hugs from my kitchen,

Friday, February 22, 2013

If it's Tuesday it must be Varkala, Trivandrum, Abu Dhabi then NYC

With no radio, tv and an uncertain internet connection I had no idea what was happening in the rest of the world like the Pope resigning, a meteorite striking Russia & the murder of Pistorius' girlfriend. We existed in a world of our own, exemplified by our visit to Golden Island. We travelled in two autorickshaws through town, winding up on a dusty road that suddenly transitioned into newly laid blacktop. That backwater piece of road was upgraded prior to the visit of a local politician recently. Political corruption is widespread in India according to the book "The White Tiger", which I highly recommend. 

A long open boat ferried us across the peaceful water, powered only by a small wiry man skillfully using a bamboo pole. Think gondola. The calm silence, broken by the occasional bird call, was almost meditative & extremely relaxing. Egrets flew along the bank amidst the wild palm tree forest. High on a cashew tree (pictured below) I saw how a single nut, covered in a protective shell, is suspended from the real fruit...the cashew apple. The skin contains a compound similar to poison ivy (just like mango), so the cashew has to be roasted first to destroy the allergen before being shelled by hand. No wonder they're so expensive.

After walking around the small island and seeing the Temple we passed a huge pile of coconut coir waiting to be processed into mats & other useful items.

On my last day at Odayam Beach I woke up with a familiar aching pain in my upper arm. I knew it as the precursor to a frozen shoulder, something I've suffered three times. Fearful that flying for 19 hours might result in my inability to use that arm, I sought help from a local Ayurvedic physician, Dr Manoj, at his Sanjeevani Ayurveda & Yoga Center. After a consultation he prescribed treatment. A series of hot cloths soaked in herbal oils were placed on my shoulder over 15 minutes, followed by a full body massage at the experienced hands of two therapists. Oil was rubbed into every pore of my body from the top of my head to the bottom of my toes. The entire process took two hours and felt wonderful. After a follow up consultation I left with multiple Ayurvedic teas & meds to take for the next three months. I'm delighted to report that the pain ultimately disappeared, never having progressed. You can learn more about this type of holistic medicine, a specialty of Kerala, at his website

That night we travelled to an adjoining town to see the really big (10 elephant) Hindu Festival. Electric lights had been erected everywhere to illuminate & create a party atmosphere for the week long festival. The parade consisted of elaborately decorated & animated large floats interspersed with multiple marching drum groups playing locally made drums. It was loud & raucous to the delight of a couple of thousand people lining the route cheering. Everything led to the Temple, which was lit up with a variety of flashing neon signs. As we walked along the route, sometimes we drifted into the midst of the ear splitting drummers. Ultimately, all six of us plus a driver piled into a single autorickshaw for a wild ride home. Our cramped condition, coupled with laughter, the dimming sound of drums and assorted horns honking, provided the perfect final memory of my time in Kerala.

If you fly out of India be prepared to go through 10 checkpoints where someone will examine your passport & boarding pass, which will ultimately be stamped four times! Most stops seemed redundant but at 2am, waiting to board at 3am, it was something to do. Four hours to Abu Dhabi and another 15 to JFK, my luggage and I arrived. A ride through intense rain during rush hour, via a car service with a driver who only spoke Mandarin, assured me I was back in New York City.

Reunited with my kids, we watched the debut of a tv show that my son Rob directed. As the pair of survivalists lost in the mountains of Transylvania sought civilization, I celebrated my own return with Mu Shu Pork and Dim Sum. If you'd like to see the show here's a direct link.  "Belly of the Beast" is the name of his episode on the Discovery Channel's show "Dual Survivors".

After the longest Tuesday in memory, I woke up Wednesday morning to fresh coffee & French croissants, a far cry from my former almost vegan diet. Then off to the airport again, again.

I'm finally home, and after a moderate amount of sleep, back in my kitchen. This weekend I'll be at the Sunday Palma Sola Farmers Market from 11-3 with a variety of jams & baked goods. Not exactly sure what I'll have but there will definitely be some Hamantaschen to celebrate Purim and loaves of bread, cookies & muffins.


Click on their FaceBook link below to get info & directions 

Next week I'll be back to my usual schedule of sending out the blog Monday, with pre-ordering available until Wed afternoon. It's good to be home and I hope to see you soon.

Hugs from my kitchen,

Village of the Arts
932 12th Street West
Bradenton, FL  34205

(941) 746-6647

Monday, February 18, 2013

Ahhh India

My 12-hour flight went by quickly and proved to be an opportunity to catch up on recent Oscar bound films. From the air Abu Dhabi Airport looks huge and spreads out over a large swath of land, punctuated by a series of low buildings. The control tower curls up toward the sky and looks as if Dr. Seuss had designed it. Once I arrived it took me over twenty minutes to make the trek to my next gate. I passed several “Duty Free” shops where prices of imported items, (like huge Hershey bars, perfume & alcohol), were insanely expensive but that didn’t stop people from stocking up. At the boarding gate we were herded & crammed onto a single bus, then driven to the steps of our waiting plane which was resting on the tarmac. After four hours, distracted by yet another meal, nap & movie, we finally arrived in Trivandrum, India Wednesday at 3:15am. By then I had lost all sense of time since leaving NYC at 10pm Monday night, just 18 hours earlier.

I walked out of the airport and was shocked to see hundreds of exuberant Indians of all ages excitedly waiting outside the Arrivals exit. Many local people work in the Gulf States for a few months before returning home into the loving arms of their families. Most flights from the Gulf arrive at ungodly early morning hours but that doesn’t seem to dampen their happy spirits. It felt like New Year’s Eve in Times Square. And there was my family, my brother Teddy waiting with Faizal, the local taxi driver. Only then did I notice the humidity engulfing us.


I woke to the loudspeaker of the local mosque calling men to prayer at 5am, then drifted off again. Over the days I’ve become accustomed to his sing-song voice several times each day. The sound of nearby pounding surf finally roused me out of my twilight existence. Each day we’ve begun with strong coffee and a gigantic bowl of fresh fruit salad. Yoga is available at 8am on the shaded rooftop of the “hotel” next door. Most "hotels" are composed of just a few simple rooms, set along narrow dirt roads adjacent to the Indian Ocean, or technically the Arabian Sea on this side of India. The surf is constantly in action but the water itself is warm & crystal clear, with no flotsam or jetsam in sight.
I’m staying at “The First Place”, an ecological small hotel within view and just above Odayam Beach, offering an almost private expanse of sea, sand & solitude. This is the home of Aryuvedic medicine and practitioners, massage therapists and treatments are available everywhere, and  inexpensive by Western standards. A Swedish Day School for children occupies two rooms here and it’s always delightful to see little blonde kids giggling & chattering away in Swedish. Some of their parents are working here as part of international exchanges with local hospitals and other institutions.

Breakfast & lunch are available, based on local Kerala cuisine, which is spicy & vegan/vegetarian. There are lots of restaurants around featuring cuisines other than Indian. At dinner time many restaurants prominently display their fresh caught fish & seafood outside on ice. A dizzying list of fresh juices is usually available everywhere, while a limited number of places offer beer & alcohol. This is the perfect place to spend some time if you want to get away from the hectic world and experience life at a slower pace. You can get more information at their website

Life here operates on "island time". First you plan something, then you might or might not do it depending on what else pops up. No hurry. And sometimes no electricity & internet. Local transportation is via scooter, car, bus, train and autorickshaw. This last one is my favorite. It feels like a jazzed up enclosed golf cart on speed. Drivers like Faizal whiz around at roller coaster speeds barely missing on-coming traffic...and everybody honks at everything! Personally, I think they should be considered as one possible answer in our quest to find transportation around the downtown Bradenton venues.

While coming back from a little shopping trip in the next town our autorickshaw, driven by Faizal of course, was suddenly forced to stop when we almost collided with the oncoming Adiyam Hindu Festival. Dozens of men drumming in matching bright outfits, fireworks, costumed dancers and three elephants provided the assembled crowd a reason to cheer. I'm told that the quality of a Festival is judged by the number of elephants participating. If that's the case, Bradenton better start looking for paciderms before the next Blues Festival in December.

Last night we ate dinner overlooking the Indian Ocean. I've had to be careful eatMy meal of freshly caught fish, prepared with garlic, lemon & butter was outstanding. But I really fell in love with the naan being baked in a tandoor oven a few feet away. It was awe inspiring and although I don't have a tandoor oven at home, I'll be figuring out how to make something very worthy.

Enough for today...more tomorrow about our trip via a gondola-style boat to Golden Island.

Hugs from tropical India,   Bonni