I haven’t been doing a whole lot of writing these days—at least not the kind of writing that captures a story and a recipe with a clear beginning, middle and end….
Steph and I met 22 years ago through rec soccer. We were the only two girls on team House of Pizza, also known as “the red team”.
We’ve seen a lot of milestones together, from awkward crushes and *NSYNC concerts, to my $1 grilled cheese party and our respective college graduations. When I got married, Steph traveled from her home in Portland, Oregon to stand by my side and dance to Jagged Edge’s Where the Party At—the same way we did back in middle school.
With our newest milestone on the horizon (TURNING 30!), Steph and I met in Austin, Texas to eat, celebrate and enjoy the 85° October weather.
- waiting in line at Franklin Barbecue for some of the tastiest brisket on earth
- browsing the quirky wares at Uncommon Objects
- eating burgers and milkshakes at Hopdoddy
My dad and I made a plan last Thanksgiving to get together for an end-of-summer tomato canning adventure. Yes, you read that correctly: we were already thinking about preserving tomatoes before it was time to plant any….
Welcome to the sixth entry in my Remembering India series, where I share recipes, meals and adventures from my 2008 studies abroad. Today I backtrack to my first 24 hours of sightseeing and exploring in Mumbai and Navi Mumbai.
It was Saturday night when we landed at Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport. Between our flight and a 9 1/2-hour time difference, my classmates and I were propelled almost 8,000 miles and a full day into the future.
We boarded a van, where I glued my eyes to the window—trying my best to get a clear picture of my new environment. I thought about my family back in New Jersey, who were probably eating lunch right now. Where am I and what have I gotten myself into?
The streets were dark, but peppered with glowing yellow light. I could make out a few kiosks, an occasional fire, and long rows of square dwellings standing shoulder to shoulder.
The van dropped us off at Hotel Supreme Heritage in Navi Mumbai. We received our room assignments for the next six weeks, where it was revealed that with an odd number of females on our trip, I would be assigned a single room. Later down the road, my friend Lauren and I would decide to become roommates. But for the first few weeks, my single room would become my sanctuary. I’d do laundry, watch music videos, and even cry in my single room—because adjusting to a new culture, climate and diet—all while working with children who’d never have the same opportunities as me—was guaranteed to overwhelm from time to time. I had a lot to learn, a lot of joys and frustrations to feel, and it would all begin as soon as I could see my new city in daylight.
On Sunday morning we met in the dining room to fuel a full day of sightseeing. There were eggs, Bombay potatoes, muesli, chicken sausages, uttapams, and pancakes served with honey. I tried a bit of everything, comparing the milder flavors of British/American breakfast to the punchy, spicy flavors of Indian breakfast.
We boarded a caravan of auto rickshaws to Vashi train station. We discovered that with the proper arrangement of butt sizes, we could fit as many as 3 passengers in the back seat (meaning we could split the fare three ways, instead of two). From there we hopped on a train to Mumbai’s CST (Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus), where about 7 1/2 million passengers ride each day. Butt sizes made no difference here, as I’d learn quickly….
Friends, it’s time for a giveaway! A few weeks ago, I posted a recipe for one of my most memorable meals: Chicken Biryani.
I want you to make it at home, so I’m giving away a handmade recipe booklet, along with all of the spices for the recipe.
The booklet includes recipes for ghee, garam masala, crispy fried onions, ginger-garlic paste, and step-by-step instructions for the biryani. My talented friend Steph Kimmel designed and illustrated the cover—which is extra special, because she was also part of my study abroad group in India where I ate this biryani.
As for the spice kit—I’ve packaged some adorable jars filled with turmeric, red chili powder, saffron, cumin, coriander, my own special garam masala blend, and a jar of whole spices.
To enter the giveaway
- Follow me on Instagram (@whatsinseasonwithdes).
- Tell me one of YOUR most memorable meals in the comments section of my Biryani Giveaway post (same as GIF above).
I will randomly pick a winner on Monday, July 25.
Best of luck, and I can’t wait to hear from you!
I’ve been taking a little break from my regularly scheduled posts. With everything that’s been happening in the news over the last month, it’s been hard for me to speak excitedly about the bounties of summer.
I want this blog to be a place where we can speak openly and honestly. In my mind, food is not just about survival. It’s about nourishment, community and understanding other people’s experiences.
Right now, a lot of people are experiencing pain….
Welcome to the third entry in my Remembering India series, where I share recipes, meals and adventures from my 2008 studies abroad. Today I remember a delirious overnight train ride, along with the most satisfying dish of chicken biryani I have ever eaten.
You can find the recipe for my re-creation of this biryani in the fourth installment of this series.
Have you ever woken up from a dream that is so vivid but so hard to describe? You see snapshots in your mind, but you just can’t find the words to get them out of your head?
That’s the way I feel about a very special tin of chicken biryani. I ate it from my lap on an overnight train from Mumbai to Goa.
I didn’t expect it, but this biryani comforted me. The summer I went to India was one of the most vulnerable times of my life. I was healing from a broken heart and trying to start a new life with new friends and a new purpose. So after a night of living on a train with strangers—each with their own story and energy—my overloaded senses were ready for the familiar relief of a soothing, hot meal.
It was late at night when we boarded the Konkan Kanya Express. The outside world was pitch black and quiet, but our electric-blue train cars were brightly lit and full of noises.
My seat was in a car with only two of my classmates, along with a few other couples and families. I was a little nervous at first to have a slumber party with a bunch of people I didn’t know, but there was nothing I could do besides settle in and be happy that I could still visit with friends until bedtime. Sleeping in a car full of people I knew would have been fun, but it probably would have kept me from tuning into my environment….
Welcome to the first entry in my Remembering India series, where I share recipes, meals and adventures from my 2008 studies abroad. Today I reveal why I became What’s in Season with Des.
In the summer of 2008, my college professor designed a one-time study abroad program in Mumbai, India. The program’s mission was to work with Mobile Creches and D. Y. Patil College of Architecture to come up with design ideas for learning and daycare centers on active construction sites.
I was 21 at the time and had just finished my 3rd year in architecture school. It was a rough year for me—partially because I’d realized how much I disliked architecture school, and partially because I was trudging through each day with a broken heart. My only coping mechanisms were staying up all night in the studio and eating my feelings—both of which turned against me. I was tired and lonely, and had gained about 25 pounds.
Feeling like I had nothing to lose (besides all of that bacon-cheeseburger weight), I applied to the program. I didn’t even have the money to pay for it, but I’d figure that out later. If I could just get in, I’d at least have the hope of being part of something meaningful and potentially life-changing.
The story of a white lady’s self-discovery in a foreign country is hardly a new one.
But there’s a reason I’m telling it anyway, and it has a lot to do with food.
Ever since I was little, food has been as critical to communication as it is to sustenance or survival. In my family, a simple bowl of pasta and fresh tomato sauce could express love—the height of summer—or the start to a big meal. It could even set the scene for my great aunt and uncle to yell at each other at the Sunday Dinner table.
On my trip to India (where I knew absolutely nothing about the cuisine), food was equally important in telling a story. Dinner at a friend’s house meant that I was welcome, and that a special meal would be coming my way. A scalding masala chai meant a 15-minute break. An ice-cold beer meant that it was the end of a long day, and a mango lassi meant that I was getting my ass kicked by hot green chilis.
Even on the days that I felt alone, I never ate alone.
Instead, I sat with friends as my fingers and tastebuds got thrown into the sweet, spicy and sour extremes of one of the most thoughtful and purposeful cuisines I have ever gotten to know. To discover that herbs, spices and fats were as valued for their medicinal properties as their flavor was pretty eye-opening—though in full disclosure, not enough to preclude me from ordering Dominoes, McDonald’s and the occasional brownie sundae with my friends.
When I came home from my trip, I felt a big loss. I’d developed such a closeness to my friends (some of whom I haven’t seen since), that I didn’t know what to do with myself. I spent my first two weeks streaming episodes of the OC from a Korean website, while I internalized the relationship struggles of Seth, Summer, Ryan and Marissa. After two months of sharing meals with friends, I was right back to eating alone, making poor choices every step of the way. My heart was still broken, after all.
It wasn’t long before someone who saw what I was doing to myself, pulled me aside and said:
You need to get back in shape.
And they were right.
In August of 2008 (about a month after I got back), I began eating seasonally. I dedicated the majority of my meals to vegetables, eggs, yogurt and spices—ingredients I gained a new appreciation for on my trip. Between that and running, I was 15 pounds lighter by October.
That year I spent a lot of weekends visiting my sister, my stepbrother and our friends. They would jokingly ask, “What’s in Season with Des?” to find out what I’d been eating that week. I always shared my knowledge, and I assured them that if I ever started writing about it, I’d know what my blog title would be.
So here we are, eight years later. I’ve got a lot of recipes to share with you from my trip to India—some traditional, some a little less so. Each one is tied to a specific routine, time or place on my journey, which I’ll share with you along the way.
Enjoy, my friends,
Related Stories & Recipes
Remembering India: My First 24 Hours
Remembering India: Pramila’s Paneer Bhurji
Remembering India: Chicken Biryani
Remembering India: Sights, Sounds & Railway Food
Remembering India: Ghee + Thane
$1 Grilled Cheese Party
Three weeks ago, my husband and I packed a cooler full of snacks and took a drive to Knoxville, Tennessee for the Big Ears Music Festival. We hiked, saw a lot of great performances, and ate some of the most tender, cloud-like biscuits I have ever encountered.
If you happen to find yourself driving along I-81 into Knoxville, I would 100% recommend you do the following:
- Try the sticky rice gelato at The Split Banana in Staunton, Virginia
- Hike McAfee Knob along the Appalachian Trail right outside of Roanoke, Virgina (optional: eat pizza at the summit from my aunt and uncle’s pizzeria in River Edge, New Jersey—see photos below)
- Order the blue cheese dip at Ridgewood Barbecue in Bluff City, Tennessee
- Sample the biscuits at Tupelo Honey Cafe, Just Ripe and OliBea—all in Knoxville
- Eat way too much fried chicken at Chandler’s Deli in Knoxville
Day 1: Cambridge, MA to Charlottesville, VA
Distance: 560 Miles
We stopped for lunch at La Toscana in River Edge, NJ, where my uncle makes what I consider one of the best slices in New Jersey. We packed a couple of extra slices in our cooler and headed to Charlottesville for the night.
Day 2: Charlottesville, VA to Knoxville, TN
Distance: 400 Miles
It started to rain just as we were reaching the summit. It was cold and misty, but the view was breathtaking. We sat on top and enjoyed the cold pizza slices we lovingly transported all the way from New Jersey….
On a Saturday night in 2008 I made and sold over 150 grilled cheese sandwiches. I had just been accepted to a study abroad program in India and I was raising money to go.
The cost of this program was waaay more than I could afford, but I wasn’t willing to miss out. This was a chance to work with Mobile Creches, a non-profit dedicated to children of migrant families who live and work on active construction sites. Together with the builders on any given project, Mobile Creches provides learning and daycare centers where the children can be safe, fed, and given an education.
Mobile Creches was looking for design ideas for their centers, and my college’s one-time study abroad program was built around making that happen. I knew I would never again have the chance to live and go to school so far away, so I reached out to my family, applied for scholarships, and got a work-study job that paid a whopping $7.50/hour.
Then I threw a $1 grilled cheese party….