The Great Indian Curry Hack

I have a new piece up at Tenderly, a gorgeous new vegan/vegetarian magazine from Medium. The Great Indian Curry Hack is my story of being a grad student in the US long long ago and figuring out a way to cook Indian food using ingredients available in my small New England town. This piece also carries my first ever published recipe—and my first ever attempt at food photography! Here’s an excerpt.

The Great Indian Curry Hack

You can read the rest of the piece here. It’s behind a paywall, but you can access it here for this month: And if you’re a Medium member, do leave a comment/clap over there!

Weekend read: Harry Potter by Ayn Rand

Oh, I love funnywoman Mallory Ortberg (of The Toast), and if you haven’t read her work yet, you couldn’t do better than start with her Harry Potter Ayn Rand mash-ups. Like so:

Here’s an excerpt from the first piece.

Harry and Ron stood before the Mirror of Erised. “My God,” Ron said. “Harry, it’s your dead parents.”

Harry’s eyes flicked momentarily over to the mirror. “So it is. This information is neither useful nor productive. Let us leave at once, to assist Hagrid in his noble enterprise of raising as many dragon eggs as he sees fit, in spite of our country’s unjust dragon-trading restrictions.”

“But it’s your parents, Harry,” Ron said. Ron never really got it.

Harry sighed. “The fundamental standard for all relationships is the trader principle, Ron.”

“I don’t understand,” Ron said.

“Of course you don’t,” said Harry affectionately. “This principle holds that we should interact with people on the basis of the values we can trade with them – values of all sorts, including common interests in art, sports or music, similar philosophical outlooks, political beliefs, sense of life, and more. Dead people have no value according to the trader principle.”

“But they gave birth to y–“

“I made myself, Ron,” Harry said firmly.

Read the rest here.  And go on to  The Chamber of Secrets,  Prisoners of Collectivism , Goblet of Fire, Order of Psycho-epistemology, and Half-blood Prince.  You’re welcome. And now, the wait for The Deathly Hallows begins.

I’ll leave you with this lovely cover of Fabio-Harry battling evil Marxist Dementors in The Prisoners of Collectivism.

Library booksale haul

The local library had a book sale on Sunday, and I spent a happy half hour browsing through seven tables of books. So much more satisfying than receiving a delivery by drone. I picked up these 6 titles.


I’d read  The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, the Le Guin and the Nancy Drew before, and thought it might be nice to own a copy of each. And I didn’t remember a word from The Sign of the Twisted Candles, which I  last picked up almost three decades ago. It was apparently first published in 1933, but I had little context when I read the series as  a child, and thought they took place in 1970s America. Ha.


The cover on the left is the 1933 original; look at Nancy’s puff sleeves and her hat. The cover on the right is from the 1968 edition and continues to this day.

I’m going to start with The Floating Girl by Sujata Massey, featuring the half Japanese, half American Rei Shimura–I enjoyed her escapades in Zen Attitudes very much. And I’ve always struck out with de Lint, but perhaps Wolf Moon will prove the exception?  I’ve only read The Flanders Panel by Perez-Reverte, which I remember as good but not great, but I picked this one because of its killer first sentence: “The telephone rang, and she knew she was going to die.” Ahhh. Can’t wait for the weekend.

The A to Z bookish survey

Via my favourite food blogger (and all-round star) Nupur of One Hot Stove, here’s a bookish survey that originated over at The Perpetual Page Turner.  Be sure to check out their answers, and please share your preferences in the comments if you like!

Author you’ve read the most books from:  Kidlit series authors such as Enid Blyton and Elinor M. Brent-Dyer. In more recent times, Agatha Christie.

Best Sequel Ever: Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers. I know it’s not exactly a sequel (more an example on how to up your game midway through a series), but I love it to death and beyond.

Currently Reading: Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson. Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect by Matthew D. Lieberman.

Drink of Choice While Reading: Tea and coffee.

E-reader or Physical Book? Physical books, always. I do own a Kindle, but I love books as objects of beauty.

Fictional Character You Probably Would Have Actually Dated In High School: I’ve always had a thing for the Enid Blyton animal whisperer heroes. You know, like the boy who dips his hand into a jar of treacle and gentles a bunch of enraged bears. (I think he’s in Mr. Galliano’s Circus?)

Glad You Gave This Book A Chance: The Bloodstone Papers by Glen Duncan.

Hidden Gem Book: The Mapp and Lucia books by E.F.Benson. 

Important Moment in your Reading Life: Most recently, watching my son turn into a reader.

Just Finished: If You Give a Moose a Muffin by Laura Numeroff.

Kinds of Books You Won’t Read: Self-help, new-age, religious, spiritual. I won’t touch chick-lit, though I happily read romance (with the usual caveat of no douchebag hero/ T00-Stupid-T0-Live heroine).

Longest Book You’ve Read: I have lots of omnibus sets with teeny tiny print. Like this one, which comes in at 1332 pages.


The longest stand-alone book is probably Atlas Shrugged, which I read as a teenager. Someone get me a Time-Turner, quick.

Major book hangover because of: Reading Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy in two days. 

Number of Bookcases You Own: I got rid of three bookcases and their contents for the move to California, and I also have books boxed in storage.  As with my books, my bookshelves are simultaneously too many and not enough. 

One Book You Have Read Multiple Times: William by Richmal Crompton. 

Preferred Place To Read: Bed. But I’ll read anywhere–I don’t own a purse or handbag which can’t fit a standard paperback.

Quote that inspires you/gives you all the feels from a book you’ve read:  Well, I really like “He had the look of one who had drunk the cup of life and found a dead beetle at the bottom.” — P.G.Wodehouse.

Reading Regret: I wish I were truly fluent in an Indian language so I could read original regional literature.

Series You Started And Need To Finish: None I can think of–I’m pretty obsessive about reading every book in a series if I like it.

Three of your All-Time Favorite Books: Oh, this is impossible to answer.

Unapologetic Fangirl For: Richmal Crompton, author of the Just William books.  She wrote tight, unsentimental prose about children, for children and adults. She’s written 38 books about the same character, in a very controlled setting (a small village in England), and each of the stories is magnificent. One of the best writers I’ve ever read, and definitely the funniest. 

Very Excited For This Release: I don’t track new releases, but I’m a-quiver for my library hold to materialize for The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman.

Worst Bookish Habit: Despite owning at least a hundred bookmarks, I use whatever I can find (spoons! couch cushions! Lego!) to mark my place.

X Marks The Spot (Start at the top left of your shelf and pick the 27th book): Watership Down by Richard Adams in fiction. The Other Side of Silence by Urvashi Butalia in NF.

Your latest book purchase: Mohsin Hamid’s Moth Smoke, bought last week  for a friend.

ZZZ-snatcher book (last book that kept you up WAY late): Hmmm, hasn’t happened for a while. Probably Saladin Ahmed’s Throne of the Crescent Moon last Christmas.

Random bookish things: Project Bookmark, Charles Darwin, Captain Marryat.

Have you heard of Project Bookmark? It’s a Canadian charity that places “text from stories and poems—on plaques, called Bookmarks—in the exact, physical locations where literary scenes take place. The charity has a total of 12 Bookmarks in three provinces, and envisions a national network of sites and stories so that residents and visitors can read their way right across Canada.”

Like this.

That’s Michael Ondaatje with a Bookmark celebrating a scene from  In The Skin Of A Lion, on Toronto’s Bloor Viaduct. Pretty cool, right?

Project Bookmark has just kicked off an innovative month-long fund-raising campaign. Each day in April, a different reading personality will champion the cause, and offer prizes to everyone who donates to the campaign that day. The champions include Margaret Atwood and Guy Gavriel Kay and many other literary heavy-weights. Do check out this video by Project Bookmark’s founder Miranda Hill for more about the campaign. And don’t forget to donate your $$ for a shot at all these prizes!


I’m reading this over and over again: Charles Darwin’s List of the Pros and Cons of Marriage.  Here are some pros.

“Children — (if it Please God) — Constant companion, (& friend in old age) who will feel interested in one, — object to be beloved & played with. — better than a dog anyhow.– Home, & someone to take care of house — Charms of music & female chit-chat. — These things good for one’s health. — but terrible loss of time. –

My God, it is intolerable to think of spending one’s whole life, like a neuter bee, working, working, & nothing after all. — No, no won’t do. — Imagine living all one’s day solitarily in smoky dirty London House. — Only picture to yourself a nice soft wife on a sofa with good fire, & books & music perhaps — Compare this vision with the dingy reality of Grt. Marlbro’ St.”

And some cons.

“Freedom to go where one liked— choice of Society & little of it. — Conversation of clever men at clubs—Not forced to visit relatives, & to bend in every trifle.— to have the expense & anxiety of children—perhaps quarelling— Loss of time. — cannot read in the Evenings— fatness & idleness— Anxiety & responsibility— less money for books &c— if many children forced to gain one’s bread.— (But then it is very bad for ones health to work too much)”

Read the whole thing, and much more, here. Oh, and Darwin did marry, and went on to have ten children.


From Amitav Ghosh’s blog, here’s a fascinating piece on Captain Frederick Marryat and the British Museum Buddha. I read Captain Marryat’s sea-stories as a child, though I never really warmed to them, partly because I had zero context for his work and partly because I’d much rather have lived in Malory Towers than on the Coral Island.

Here’s an excerpt from the blog post, where the art historian Rupert Arrowsmith writes about the provenance of this statue.

“…this Buddha-image was not bought from anyone in Burma, nor was permission ever given for its removal.  It was swiped during the anarchy following the British invasion of Lower Burma between 1824 and 1825.

The person who swiped it, and then handed it on to the British Museum, was Frederick Marryat, a high-ranking naval officer who later became the author of popular sea stories.  The sculpture can only have occupied a monastery or temple, and it is unimaginable in the context of Burmese Buddhism that its pious custodians would have let it go without a fight. […]

The Buddha-image wasn’t the only souvenir of Burma Marryat brought back with him from the war of 1824-5.  He is now thought to have acquired more than 120 artifacts, including an important royal carriage.  He later wanted to donate all of this to the British Museum in exchange for a lifetime position on the board of trustees, but the Museum said no.  They didn’t say no because they were worried that there had been something unethical about Marryat’s methods.  In a typically British twist to the story, they said it because they thought he was the wrong class, and would probably lower the tone of the boardroom.”

Do read the whole post here.

Calvin and Hobbes–and Bacon

Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes strip stopped running (almost to the day) seventeen years ago, leaving behind a giant Calvin-and-Hobbes hole in the universe.

BUT. has done four of these strips, and though they aren’t officially endorsed by Watterson, I think he’d approve.

Go to Pants Are Overrated for the other two strips. And if you find a way to send these guys money, let me know.

Have a happy holiday season, y’all.

Happy Roald Dahl Day!

Were he alive, Dahl would be celebrating his 96th birthday today.  Events galore at, and here’s a lovely episode from Letters of Note for you to enjoy.

“One rainy Sunday afternoon in 1989, with encouragement and much-needed help from her father, a 7-year-old girl named Amy decided to send something to Roald Dahl. Taking inspiration from her favourite book, The BFG, and using a combination of oil, coloured water and glitter, Amy sent the author a very fitting and undeniably adorable gift: one of her dreams, contained in a bottle. ”

Go to Letters of Note to read Dahl’s reply. He wasn’t a perfect man, but his response to this child is perfect in every way.


The London Review of Books reviewed George’s Marvellous Medicine back in 1981 in a piece titled “Sweet Porn”. The LRB blog has re-posted an except today under the title “Emmanuelle and the Chocolate Factory”. I don’t subscribe to the LRB, so I can’t read the full piece (for which I am mostly thankful), but here’s an excerpt.

For pre-pubertal Westerners, sweets fill the vacuum later to be occupied by sex. It is unnerving to watch an otherwise decent child being temporarily demoralised (in the literal sense of being morally corrupted) by a desire for sweets as an otherwise decent adult may be by sexual need. In both cases, the overwhelming lust for immediate sensual gratification destroys habitual scruples, yet is itself tainted by a guilty awareness that fulfilment may collapse into satiety, shame and physical discomfort. The whole animal being is involved. A three-year-old with a chocolate-smeared face can wear the hangdog look of a man whose wife surprises him in adultery… Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is thus, in effect, a piece of soft pornography, with Charlie in the Emmanuelle role: ‘as the rich warm creamy chocolate ran down his throat into his empty tummy, his whole body from head to toe began to tingle with pleasure, and a feeling of intense happiness spread over him.’


Get rid of that icky feeling by visiting writer Kristen den Hartog’s lovely mother-daughter reading journal Blog of Green Gables, where she details their “mission to read all of [Dahl’s] kids’ books in a row.” Her post on the BFG is doubly interesting because the protagonist of Hartog’s last novel And Me Among Them is a girl giant.


Over at the Huffington Post, there’s a juicy collection of his funniest quotes from his children’s books.

“I understand what you’re saying, and your comments are valuable, but I’m going to ignore your advice.”

And and and

“And Charlie, don’t forget about what happened to the man who suddenly got everything he ever wanted. He lived happily ever after.”

The End.

Things I’ve learnt today: a new Nancy Drew, e-cigarettes, and repurposed Walmarts.

1. Nancy Drew is a vampire slayer.

From”Vampire-mania has gripped River Heights, with teenage girls going wild over the new “DieLite” novels and movies. But what happens when a supposedly “real” handsome young vampire arrives on the scene? Will Nancy expose him as a fraud — or fall under his dark spell? As if that wasn’t enough– there’s something dark and sinister happening while everyone’s distracted by the vampire madness. Could this possibly be linked to what’s happening in Bayport, home of the Hardy Boys?”

2. There is such a thing as an  e-cigarette.

From Wikipedia:”An e-cigarette is an electrical device that simulates the act of tobacco smoking by producing an inhaled vapor bearing the physical sensation, appearance, and often the flavor (with or without nicotine content) of inhaled tobacco smoke, without its odor or, ostensibly, its health risks.”

3. An abandoned Texas Walmart is now a library.

From Slate: “Minneapolis-based architects Meyer, Scherer & Rockcastle, Ltd. breathed fresh life into the [Walmart] warehouse, about as big as two and a half football fields, late last year, when they repurposed it as the country’s largest single-story public library.”