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Posted on May 16, 2018 - by

Mango Lassi Recipe

LUCY BURDETTE: While in India for two weeks, we ate lots and lots of wonderful Indian food, most of it very spicy. Not necessarily hot–unless you asked for that, but definitely spicy. A man we met explained it this way: Indians don’t like plain food. That was certainly our experience! (We did not eat street food or uncooked vegetables–did not want to risk the dreaded Delhi belly.)

One day I noticed that two of the other travelers in our group – both originally from England – were sipping tall white drinks at both lunch and dinner. They explained that this was a yogurt drink called a lassi, good for calming stomachs that might be a little bit distressed by traveling and unfamiliar flavors.

So I tried one and was instantly hooked. Apparently there are salty lassies as well as sweet, which can contain fruit, especially mango. I only tried the plain one as we were being very cautious about eating fruit too. But I determined I would make one and share it when I got home. So here is the simple recipe for a mango lassi.

Ingredients

One ripe mango
About 3/4 cup plain whole milk yogurt
Sprinkle of cardamom
Ice cubes

Peel and pit the mango and whirl it in your blender or food processor until puréed. Then add the yogurt and whirl that in too. If it’s too thick to drink, add a couple of ice cubes and grind them up with the yogurt/mango mixture. Or you can just add the ice cubes to the glass. Sprinkle with a little cardamom and enjoy!

Are you a fan of Indian food? Or an adventurous eater?

 


Posted on May 12, 2018 - by

Magnificent, Mind-boggling India

LUCY BURDETTE: If you say you’re going to Paris on vacation, people don’t ask why. Paris speaks for itself. But India? When I mentioned our upcoming vacation to friends and relatives, I most frequently got one of two reactions. 1. Oh that’s on my bucket list and I’d love to see it. Or 2., and much more commonly, why on earth would you travel to India?

I’ve been fascinated with novels about India for a while  I have loved short stories and novels by Jhumpa Lahiri and Sujata Massey, novels and memoirs from Thrity Umrigar, especially The Story Hour and First Darling of the Morning, No One Can Pronounce My Name by Rakesh Satyal, The Golden Son by Shilpi Somaya Gowda, The Orphan Keeper by Camron Wright, and one of my favorites, Mira Jacob’s The Sleepwalker’s Guild to Dancing. Many of these books are set in the United States, or a combination of the US and India, but with Indian characters torn desperately between their old life and a new life in America.
And now perhaps I have the smallest sense of how hard it would be to leave India, contrasted with the powerful pull of the United States. I think that was the call of India to me – the absolute foreignness of the country – the other. Not wishing to be the annoying relation who insists on running her slideshow and home movies ad nauseum, I’ll give you a few snapshots of the fascinating things we saw. (Of course we saw many beautiful temples and historic sites, but I’ll concentrate on the people.)
As you saw in an earlier blog, first we took a harrowing rickshaw ride through Old Delhi. We were overwhelmed by the noise, the colors, the fierce jockeying for position on an incredibly narrow road, which set the standard for travel. Whether on bike, foot, motorbike, car, bus, or some kind of animal, you mustn’t hesitate. The road belongs to the fearless and to the loudest horn.
Out in the country, we tended to see people living as people have probably lived for years – washing their clothing and their bodies in lakes and rivers, women in beautiful saris working in the fields, men in more western clothing.

photo by John Brady


We saw people living under tarps, sitting around open fires; cement block homes with clay tile roofs, their insides open to passersby. Everywhere along the highways and the smaller roads were people scratching out a living with tiny stores and even smaller kitchens. We often saw groups of men standing around chatting and sharing cups of chai. Where are the women we would wonder? (Probably working.) We saw scooters carrying entire families, five was probably the maximum. Or sometimes women riding sidesaddle on the back of the scooter in their beautifully colored saris.

After the busyness of the city, we enjoyed celebrating the Holi Festival of colors in the small town of Narlai…children of all ages love throwing colors on visitors…
Even the animals are decorated for the holiday…
Later that afternoon, we visited Kahrda or Desuri, depending who you ask, a small village not that familiar with tourists. Some of the villagers followed us around their town…
Others were busy with their own affairs.
These men in turbans are the heads of villages all talking about the problems of their towns…notice that their white outfits have been painted too.
Our guide explained that the women wearing veils over their faces are daughters in law. Best not to show their faces when mother-in-law says something…
At the end of the afternoon, the women and children sang us a welcome song…
We wanted to sing them something in return but what? Frere Jacques? Why would Americans sing in French?? For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow? Maybe too British and therefore unwelcome. We droned through Yankee Doodle Dandy…
Then on to the bustling streets of the pink city, Jaipur, where we saw vendors selling bolts of bright colored cloth for saris. Below is a wedding party deciding on the wedding sari. It is said that all the women must agree on the final choice.

Sewing a sari right out on the sidewalk

Next we enjoyed visiting Kanota Castle where The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel was filmed, though we’re not ready to retire there…

One of the reasons we chose this itinerary was to have an opportunity to see a Royal Bengal tiger in Rathambore National Park. And honestly, some of our friends familiar with the park were quite discouraging about our chances.

After the worst bumpy dirty jeep ride for three hours the first afternoon, where we saw no sign of a tiger other than some old poop, we got discouraged too. We decided to give it one more try on the early morning ride. Our guide explained that deer and monkeys work together to spot the tigers and warn the other animals in the forest that they are approaching. So listening for calls of distress from the monkeys is how the guides decide where to drive and wait. So glad we went as we saw this lady tiger and her sister not ten yards from the jeep. They are truly stunning animals.

Of course at our next stop, the Taj Mahal was beautiful, both evening and morning.

Finally, we drove back to Delhi and then flew to our last stop, Varanasi. The drive from the airport was difficult, as poverty was on full display.

Early the next morning, we walked with the pilgrims through the narrow streets of the town to the river. Many Hindu Indians long to end their days getting cremated at the Ganges River and having their ashes deposited there. But people also bathe in the river and do their laundry.

One of the most remarkable sights we saw was that of ten cremation fires burning on the banks of the river. The bodies, wrapped in bright colored cloths, were carried down the steps on stretchers, dipped into the river by their relatives, then left to dry, and finally placed on the fire with family in attendance. Out on the river, a fleet of primitive boats jammed with tourists watched the process. We were grateful that our guide was sensitive to the feelings of the mourners, and encouraged us not to photograph the process.

Every night, there is a big celebration where the people put the Ganges River to bed.
photo by John

It’s kind of like the Sunset celebration in Key West, only the river is the living being, rather than the sun.

On the way to our long flight home, these two ladies wanted to take my picture, so John was able to get all three of us.

This trip touched me in ways I never could have imagined, leaving me awed and horrified and grateful and exhilarated and exhausted and humbled all at once.

Where have you been, or where might you like to go, for the trip of a lifetime?

 


Posted on May 6, 2018 - by

How Not to Travel to India (or Anywhere, Really)

I can so clearly remember my grandparents disappearing into our guest room one afternoon during a visit in the early 1980’s. When they finally emerged, it turned out they’d been worrying in advance about the trip home, looking for their keys. They searched and searched, more frantic by the moment. My little grandmother finally found them— pinned to the inside of their suitcase where she’d put them before they left home. I knew that would never be me.
Fast forward thirty-some years…
Rickshaw ride in Old Delhi
After touring two days in Delhi, the time came to pack up and join our group in the hotel lobby in order to catch the plane to Udaipur. You can imagine my despair when I found my passport missing. John ran downstairs to fetch the group leader and a hotel employee and they rooted through every item in our room, including my cotton unmentionables. The passport was gone. And soon after, so was our group. We were left to twiddle our thumbs for four hours until a driver and translator could be dispatched to help get my documents replaced. (No one drives their own car in Dehli – the traffic is heinous and you must be fearless in cutting off other cars, bicycles, rickshaws, ever present tuktuks, and the occasional cow or water buffalo.)
First stop, the Delhi Police Department. Outside the building, a long discussion ensued between our driver and guide, with consultations with other people by phone–in Hindi so we couldn’t understand a word. It boiled down to this: Tell the police you were walking around the hotel and then when you looked, your passport was missing. Do not mention the rickshaw ride in old Delhi (where I suspect I lost it) because then they will send us to that police station to make the report. Okay, my passport is gone and now I’m fibbing to the authorities.
Lucy with her saviors
The interior of the station reminded me a little of places I’d seen in the Caribbean. There were fierce, unsmiling, uniformed men in berets, carrying rifles. There was a woman in a sari who was seated at a desk providing “women’s services.” The back of the office opened out to a dusty courtyard where a set of black metal seats welded together were placed facing the sun, along with what looked like a beach umbrella stand covered with a ratty towel. And behind that was a row of scooters. A dirty black and white dog wandered the courtyard, pausing to lift his leg on one of the bikes. Eventually we emerged with a police report. “I think we should look at this as an adventure,” I told John. “One day it will make a good blog.”
Here’s the photo taken at the moment we left the station with our copies of police report in hand. All still cheerful, in other words.  “Just think,” I added, “if I hadn’t lost my passport, we never would have seen that police officer scratch his nose with the tip of his assault rifle.”
Next we visited the American embassy. It was around 3:30 when we called from the old-fashioned phone stationed at a table on the sidewalk. I was told that the cashier had gone home at noon and there was no way to get help until the next morning. At this moment, our good cheer begin to ebb.
As we trudged toward our car, the sidewalk phone rang again and the guard waved me over. “Do you have exact change?” “Yes!” “Do you have passport photos?” I explained we had just stopped to get them taken. “Without spectacles?” the woman asked. Of course that’s not what we had.
“If you can get pictures retaken and return by four we will try to help you.”
So off we went to our second photography studio, this one stationed inside a tiny dry cleaning establishment. Two men banged on the back metal door, and the photographer came out and hung a white cloth over the front window. And then took the worst photo of me I have ever had taken in my life. I considered posting it here for you but could not bear to do it. An hour later, I emerged from the embassy with temporary passport. Still, we were short one document, the exit visa.
We arrived at the visa office the next morning, and were advised by a lovely Australian man to visit the “office” on a nearby street where my documents could be uploaded and added to my application. (You might have had such equipment in your office in the 1990’s. I was taking this picture from the sidewalk.)

 

Then we returned to the visa office and waited, hearing nightmare stories of people who’d been waiting 10 days to three weeks—returning each day to try to resolve another mysterious technical issue. (Luckily, I had Rhys’s new book on my phone or I might have gone mad.) The workers buzzed around, seeming to accomplish little as people poured in but none went out. We heard rumors that the office closed down for lunch and I began to get seriously worried. Finally we were called in and given my papers, and then rushed off to catch a plane and join our group.
The next morning as we woke up exhausted. John said: “I’ve been thinking about document discipline. We are going to have one zippered pocket for our documents, no lip balm, no hand sanitizer, no iPhones allowed in that pocket.”

 

“Document discipline? I’m all in,” I said. “How about we pin them to the inside of the suitcase?”

Soon I’ll share a little of what was actually on our tour of India, rather than Lucy’s private tour of Indian bureaucracy…meanwhile would you care to share one of your traveling disaster stories??

And PS here’s John’s take on the “incident” with practical suggestions about how to stay organized when traveling…


Posted on May 6, 2018 - by

Book Launch Party for DEATH ON THE MENU

Will be held at RJ Julia Booksellers in Madison CT on August 9 at 7pm. Lucy will be talking along with special guest author Rhys Bowen! Call 203-245-3959 to reserve books or reserve a seat.


Posted on October 18, 2016 - by

Shrinks in Books and Movies

Recently I read a book of essays called “true confessions from both sides of the therapy couch”–and this got me thinking about how I started in this writing business to begin with. And part of it was my dismay at the way shrinks have been portrayed in books and movies. Often we were shown as crazier than our patients or sleeping with our patients or merely bumbling fools… You get the idea. Two movies that come to mind are “What about Bob?” (crazier shrink than patient) and “Tin Cup” (shrink nuttier than her patient and sleeping with him too!)

From the very beginning, I wanted to use my training in clinical psychology by including reasonable psychologists in my novels. The challenge was to dream up characters who could use the principles of psychology to help solve mysteries without imploding with self-importance, stumbling over personal issues, or crossing ethical boundaries. If I put shrinks in my books, I wanted them to be complicated people with possibly difficult backgrounds, but aware of keeping boundaries and the general weight of their work. I didn’t want them to scare off readers or watchers from trying psychotherapy if they needed it. I wanted to do it right.

For that reason I loved Judd Hirsch’s gentle but firm therapist in Ordinary People. Did you believe in that breakthrough moment when Timothy Hutton, the younger brother of the dead boy, finally realized what happened the night his brother died? I sure did!

And even Tony Soprano’s psychiatrist felt real to me, though I wouldn’t have chosen to take on a mobster patient LOL. I can remember so clearly the moment when she struggled with the urge to use her patient, Tony, for revenge after she was raped, but ultimately chose not to.

Stephen White’s series featuring a clinical psychologist in Colorado was another great model for me. And Hallie Ephron’s first books, written with Don Davidoff as G. H. Ephron, were wonderful examples of a decent psychologist. (And of course that’s why we met!) I hoped that my psychologist characters, like Rebecca Butterman in Deadly Advice, would spring to life like those.
Do you notice mental health professionals in the books you read or movies you see? Which are your favorites?


Posted on September 27, 2016 - by

Grilled Shrimp and Peaches for a Crowd

LUCY BURDETTE: I know I’ve mentioned my supper club on this blog here in the past–we are six couples who try to get together 3 to 5 times a year for dinner and chatter. The hostess (and host) are responsible for the main course and the table setting, and each of the other couples brings a dish. The hostess can assign certain recipes or leave it open-ended. For various reasons, this year got away from us so we wanted to throw together an easy summer supper. We ended up with a mixed grill, potato salad, salad, grilled vegetables, and a lemon and orange-glazed angel food cake from 4 and 20 Blackbirds bakery in Guilford CT for dessert. Everyone loved our shrimp and the peaches so I’ll share those recipes with you!

Ingredients for the the shrimp

Three large shrimp per person (33 for my event), shelled and deveined

1/2 cup good olive oil
One large lemon
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 to 2 large cloves of garlic, choppedMix the ingredients, olive oil to brown sugar, and taste to see if you need more lemon. Stir in the chopped garlic. Let the shrimp sit in the marinade in a glass dish for 2 to 4 hours, stirring from time to time. Meanwhile, soak bamboo skewers in water. I had the 8 inch kind, which fits three large shrimp.

Thread three shrimp crossways onto each skewer so they will lie flat on the grill. Grill on medium high heat for three minutes each side. The brown sugar should result in a nice glaze.

For the peaches: Pit six peaches and slice them lengthwise. (We all agreed there was no need to peel them!) Brush the peach flesh with lemon juice and then a bit of olive oil. Sprinkle with fresh rosemary. Grill for 6-8 minutes in a grill pan, flipping once.

I served the shrimp with grilled sausages and grilled peach halves–A very very mixed grill!

Lucy Burdette writes the Key West food critic mysteries. Are you all caught up? This easy dinner will leave you plenty of time to read… and then for all the latest news, follow Lucy on:

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Posted on September 21, 2016 - by

Blueberry Zucchini Bread #recipe

 

John has batting practice

We’ve had a zucchini extravaganza in our garden this summer. As my friend Gina says, tis the season where people lock their garage doors and car doors to prevent gardeners from leaving baseball bat-sized zukes on the premises…

But in case this happens to you, here’s a yummy recipe for zucchini/blueberry bread.

Ingredients

3 large eggs
½ cup unsweetened applesauce
½ cup butter
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
½ cups granulated white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 cups shredded zucchini, squeezed with a paper towel
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp no sodium baking powder
1/2 tsp  no sodium baking soda
2 cups fresh blueberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Oil two 8×4 inch loaf pans.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, applesauce, vanilla, sugar and zucchini.

In a food processor, whisk together the flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, and baking soda. Cut in the butter.

Mix a tablespoon of the flour mixture into the blueberries.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir gently. Carefully stir in the floured blueberries.

Divide the batter between the two prepared pans. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool for at least 20 minutes, then turn out bread onto wire racks until it has cooled completely.

Lucy Burdette writes the Key West food critic mysteries. Are you all caught up? Hope you have plenty of time to read this fall… and then for all the latest news, follow Lucy on:

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Posted on September 15, 2016 - by

New England Crime Bake, Version 2016

Can’t wait to join in the fun with mystery writers and readers at the New England Crime Bake in Dedham MA, November 11-13!


Posted on September 15, 2016 - by

Mysterium: The Mystery Conference

I’m looking forward to participating in Mysterium, a one-day conference at Wesleyan University (Middletown, CT) focused on mystery writing (October 8.) The conference is organized by Amy Bloom and is awash in big names like Laura Lippmann, Stephen Carter, and Ann Hood, and includes several of my cozy-writing friends, Barbara Ross and Liz Mugavero, and fellow Jungle Red Writer, Susan Elia MacNeal. Hope to see you there!


Posted on September 15, 2016 - by

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