A letter to my yet-to-be born nephews

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Arjun and his cousin Malhaar

Flashback April 2014 : This was a little before I got pregnant. Although I initially wrote it for K and N, I read it a few times to Arjun when he was growing within me.

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My best friend and my favorite cousin are going to have a baby in just a couple of months. I am incredibly fond of both these women but work and distance separates me from meeting them as often as I would have liked. It limits the opportunities that I have to tell their soon-to-be-born kids of how kick-ass their moms are. And how this is the one and only time when they can see their mom at the workplace, in meetings, experiencing the daily conundrum of life, be a part of everything that’s going on and still be aloof.

I want to tell those little ones (I am not sure what I should call them, the doctor also doesn’t refer to them as babies till they are born, so I will be calling them little ones), that –

“Mommy is incredibly proud to host you for 9 months as a part of her and this is the time when you will be undividedly hers, and she yours. Of course, later on you will be a priority too, don’t grumble in there, your mommy can feel it. But while you are cocooned inside, have a fun time. Your mom is eating different foods. I am sure you must be playing a guessing game of ‘what-mom-ate’ based on the tastes and smells you get. Yes you are right, there are a lot of different tastes, sweet, sour, salty, spicy, but momma is protecting you from the bitter taste, and she most always will.

Little one, I have known your mom since she was a very young. She is sweet yet determined, organised yet crazy and loving yet stern. I wish to tell you these things because at times you may find she is talking mildly in a soft voice and sometimes as if she is commanding an army. Dont worry little one, it is just the situation that demands your mom to act that way. But in her heart she is always the kind girl.

It is still a few months before you arrive and yet all arrangements for you have been made. That doesn’t mean you should hurry up, oh darling, take your own time in there. Because you will be spending the next 100 years on this land, but just the nine months inside. So fully utilize this time, get in a lot of nutrition (mommy is really eating for two) and become a big fat baby while you come out. Recognize your mom’s scent, hear the way her stomach grumbles when she is hungry, feel the tremble of her shiver when she sees a scary thing and notice her goosebumps when she reads something emotional. She is your shield little one, and yet she will let a few things seep in so that you are not utterly shocked once you come out.

You dont know the concept of gravity yet, but when you do, you will be able to appreciate how your mom held you up in her stomach, and how her back must have hurt. Of course the version you are seeing of her is the slower one currently, because she has to protect you. Oh but let me tell you, she is one fire-brand. You haven’t seen her kick a football so hard that it goes out of the field or watched her get into a train full of people, where it seems not another person can get in. You haven’t seen her hop on a bike and zoom off with your dad or brave the snow and dashingly go off to buy groceries. And you will see how once you are 2 years old and running around, she can run behind you but way faster than you. She can toss you in the air and swoop you up, and you will feel as if you are flying. She will tickle the hell out of you and laugh so hard, that you will think this is the best moment in life.

She will do a lot of things for you little one, but you are doing good too. Your kicks reassure her, your swelling size makes her confident. Uncomfortable, but confident. Your movement makes her feel alive inside and the nudge of your toe lets her know you are eager and connecting. She can feel your heartbeat and that is what keeps her going.

Love you little one, more than you can ever know. ”

Rutvika Charegaonkar

“I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don’t let anybody tell you different.”

― Kurt Vonnegut

The day my heart went walking around outside my body

Version 2

This post is published on the fabulous Lalita Iyer’s bog Mommygolightly. It was written when Arjun was two months old. Now at eight months, is it time to start thinking about the next one? May be.

“When I look at my two-month old baby sleeping on my lap, satisfied after nursing for half hour, I often wonder: how did this miracle land up in my life?  The baby was just a thought up to a year back and now he is here. And then I realize: Oh, I made him. These tiny little fingers, that beautiful curve of his lips, the peach coloured skin, I made all of him.

Why did I decide to have a baby? Frankly, in my mind there was never any other way. Having a child was always the plan. Like millions of women, I always wanted to get married at an “appropriate” age, and then eventually have kids. Preferably two.

Having a baby seemed the most natural, instinctive thing to do.

When I started seriously thinking about it, I realised that the baby business was a permanent fixture, an irreversible act, which will be our responsibility at least for the next 18 years. Were we in the state of mind to make a lifelong commitment we could not run away from?

I had read many articles where women/men said most people have babies to make their life complete. That was not true for me. I felt complete enough. I have a good career, a challenging job and a baking and blogging hobby which filled my weekends. The husband and I love to travel and we travel very often. So I felt completely satisfied as it is. Even without the baby, I had a big list of things I wanted to do. Accomplishing those would already take a lifetime.

 So having babies to feel complete was out.

 The second common reason was ‘wanting to live your life, fulfil your dreams through your kids’. Hell no! I have to live my life, be happy with the way I do things and only then can I provide a stable, fulfilling life to my kids. I never once thought that I will live out my dreams through my kids. My dreams are my own. I want to fulfil them. Our kids will have a life based on their aspirations, their view of the world. Some of our goals may coincide and I hope they will want to do some things their parents like to do, but that’s about it. Thank you.

 Then why do I want kids?

Till now I have been a daughter, a sister, niece, wife, daughter-in-law etc. But not yet a mother. It is one role I get to play in life only after I have kids. So much has been written and said about ‘mom’ that in a strange way, I want to live up to that image. I want my children to grow up into enriched individuals and look back at their childhood and say, “It was good”.

My mom is my shrink. There is nothing in the world that she doesn’t understand by merely looking at me and nothing she can’t solve by a few soothing words and a warm bear hug only moms are capable of giving. I want to be my child’s shrink. I can’t give up on being that amazing person for my child as my mom is for me.

 Also, I want kids so that I can look at life from a different point of view. Life makes us all cynics. Growing up takes us away from innocence, one day at a time. I want to see things from my little child’s perspective. Everything in the world that we take for granted, is new for them. I don’t remember the first time I saw a dog, or sat in a Ferris wheel or felt rain pouring down my face. But I will see my children discover all these things and I will capture those moments as if my own. I want to take a swing so high that the world looks tiny. Dance in the rain, sing silly songs, go running after a butterfly, or simply kneel in front of a dog and stick out my tongue like he does. Only a little kid will give me the liberty of doing such childish acts. And to look at the world through a wonder filled kaleidoscope.

It is a going to be a beautiful journey, but right now I write this when my days and nights have morphed into one unending time slot of 24 hours which is on a continuous loop of feeding, burping, nappy changing, soothing and back to feeding again. But yes, now I know.”

Rutvika Charegaonkar

Black Forest Cake and Bed (Ar)rested!

Two months back at the bake sale, one of my friends was narrating her pregnancy experiences to me. She’d been told to take bed rest from her 8th month onwards. I listened politely, but stuff like this never happens to me. Right? Right?

And exactly 10 days later, my baby was in a hurry to come out too and I was put on total bed rest for 6 long weeks, at the least. There you go. I was thinking to myself “How did this happen to me? TO ME??”

My pregnancy was relatively easy till then and I had just bought some lovely maternity dresses and wanted to wear them and go out with my adoring husband, while lapping up all the attention. And there I was, stuck to the bed. Albeit I knew it was for a fixed time, and the alternate was a preterm baby and all complications, still, the first 3-4 days were the worst. It was as if a full speed car got stuck in the middle of a highway. Stopped. Midway.

But then, acceptance slowly seeped in. It became less difficult with each passing day. I got time to read. To pause when reading and to think. About the book or an article and about what it said. For the last several years I had been reading, but never pausing. Never taking it in. Gobbling it up, and filing it away in the reserves of the brain. Now was the time to ruminate.

To look out of the window on crisp winter mornings. To look and to stare. Think about the swaying leaves, and notice how that purple-rumped sunbird came for honey on the same flower, everyday at the same time. To listen to the various sounds omnipresent in the air. The vehicle horns, the chug-chug of a long distance train, a bus coming to a halt, children laughing, furniture being moved in the adjacent apartment, two birds chirping on the potted plant outside, a distant dog barking, first loudly and then fading away. May be it was chasing a car. Just like my mind was chasing a thought, first in a single solid story, connecting to something else, and then something next while the first stream of thought vanished.

It also gave me time to think about parenting. Analyze people around me and their parenting styles. Pick up different situations from people’s lives and imagine what I would have done in that scenario. Is it wise to read a lot of parenting books and go by the milestones prescribed? Or go by my gut, intuition and be a parent accordingly. One thing I decided for sure is that the first six months, the baby should be fully connected to me. I will have the exclusive right to feed the baby. Even after I resume work 3 months post delivery, I will hop back home as my office is close-by. I owe it to my baby to give it a healthy start. And come on, it’s a kickass feeling to be the sole provider for the baby. My best friend just accomplished this feat, so I know it is tough, but doable.

Sometimes it is essential to slow down. To take a break and let your mind wander. Let your body recuperate. Let the baby making take centre-stage while work and baking and blogging takes a back seat. I took this 6 week break for the first time since I ever remember. And may be bed rest is meant for those of us who won’t voluntarily slow down. Slow down. Pause. And get back to activity like never before. I am sure this was the calm before the storm. Before a screaming baby comes into this world and captures our attention. All of our attention.

I cant wait 🙂

Rutvika

P.S : From yesterday my bed rest has been relaxed and I can flutter around waiting for the baby to show up.

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And while baking has been suspended for the last few weeks, I had a black forest cake ready to be shared. I tweaked the original recipe and substituted it with a favourite dark chocolate cake and whipped cream and cherries on top. The whipped cream absorbs the depth of the dark chocolate and there is a medley of flavors in your mouth with some cherries. Its beautiful! And fancy, great for a celebration.

Black forest cake

Black forest Cake

What you will need :

  • 180 gm dark chocolate cut into pieces
  • 200 gm butter
  • 1 tablespoon instant coffee powder
  • 125 ml water
  • 1 and 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup corn flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 3 eggs
  • 75 ml milk
  • 2 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream, I use Tropolite
  • 4 tablespoon icing sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 can of maraschino cherries
  • Chocolate shaving for decoration

What to do :

  1. Pre-heat oven to 160C. Gease two 8 inch baking pans, and line the base with parchment paper.
  2. Mix lemon juice and milk and keep it aside.
  3. Mix instant coffee in water and let it dissolve.
  4. Melt butter and chopped chocolate in pan and remove from heat once it is melted. Keep aside to let it cool.
  5. Whisk the dry ingredients together, namely all purpose flour + Cocoa powder + baking soda + baking powder + corn flour.
  6. Then add granulated sugar and brown sugar and mix well.
  7. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs and add milk and lemon mixture. Then add chocolate mixture and mix till thoroughly combined.
  8. Fold in the dry ingredients and pour the batter into the prepared pans. Bake for 35-40 minutes till a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.
  9. Remove from the pan and let it cool on a wire rack.
  10. Meanwhile, whip the cold cream till it forms soft peaks. Add the icing sugar and vanilla extract whip till it forms stiff peaks.
  11. Chop 3/4th of the maraschino cherries and reserve 1/4 cherries for decoration.
  12. For assembly of the cake, take one cake layer and spread it generously with the whipped cream on all sides. Spread it with a layer of chopped cherries. Then place the second cake layer on top. Cover it with the remaining whipped cream.
  13. Spread chocolate shavings on the cake and all sides and decorate with cream and whole cherries on top.
  14. Black forest cake is ready!

Note :

  1. You can use the cherry juice from the can as imbibing syrup to moisten the cake.
  2. This chocolate cake recipe can also be used with other buttercream icing.

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Persimmon Eggless No-bake cheesecake

Pregnancy Blues

Last Sunday, husband and I were sitting in Kala Ghoda Cafe, having their most delicious rösti and hot chocolate, when a group of girls and boys occupied the adjacent table. They were perhaps 3-4 years younger than us, but in an entirely different zone of life. They were chatting, laughing, constantly getting up to take selfies and creating a hullabaloo in the tiny little cafe. While I was clumsily sitting with my 30 week pregnant belly and thinking out aloud ‘We will never be this wild and free again’. The husband heard it and was alarmed at why was I suddenly feeling this feeling of being trapped. I saw the worried look on his face and assured him how I am fine, and I so want the baby and how it is the correct thing to do and the next stage of life and so on.

Just a day back, at our pregnancy and lamaze class, Fit for Birth, the counsellor had advised us to be on a lookout for pregnancy and postpartum blues. Although I have never been capable of having the dramatized versions of “blues”, I knew I was in that zone.

Now my subconscious knows how badly I want this baby and the two-three months that it took us to get pregnant, I would cry like a baby when I got my periods. But still, now it feels like I have been pregnant forever. It is awesome, let me tell you, this whole thing of making a baby inside me, it makes me feel almost God-like. I am making kidneys, brain, lungs, heart, arms, legs, eyes; you name it, I am making it. So that part is amazing. But it is taking a toll on my senses.

There is a constant feeling of tiredness, fatigue, acidity, it feels as if my body is burning at times and uninterrupted sound sleep at night hasn’t been granted in a long long time. When I look in the mirror I can see a lumpy body, lack-lustre hair, mildly puffy eyes and pimpled cheeks. We haven’t been able to get out of the city in the last 3-4 months and it looks difficult for at least another 5-6 months.I long for that Pineapple daiquiri with strong white rum, and a puff of the clove cigarette Gudang Garam I love and indulge myself in once every two months or so.

Strangely, most of my dresses still fit me, with a stretch over the belly, but it makes me wonder what kind of clothes did I wear pre-pregnancy? (Mental note : I need to re-look at my dressing style once back in shape). And thankfully all my medical stats are on track, so I can manage to do most of my daily stuff uninterrupted, albeit with less energy. But the sheer willpower required to get out of bed every morning, make breakfast, get dressed, go to work, attend pregnancy exercise classes in the evening and stay awake till at least 9.30 pm is exhausting. I long to be me, the one with a zillion times more enthusiasm than now.

When my best friend was pregnant and in her last trimester a couple of months back, I remember her telling me how she too was bored. At that time, I thought, ‘Oh, how could you be bored of this miracle?’. But I hear ye now, and I know exactly how it feels.

On the other hand, or may be on the same lines, I am desperate to see my baby now. I want to hold him/ her in my arms, look at that little face and see how it’s little hands hold on to my finger. But yeah, no sooner than full term. I was born about 6 weeks premature, and my momma had a rough six months nursing me to health. So I better wait and carry the baby in my womb to meetings and movies, and not eject it prematurely.

Perhaps once my mom-in-law is back from the US in 15 days, I would feel relief. Relief from the responsibility of running the house, freedom from worrying if the maid will show up, not being in charge of shopping for groceries and having someone experienced to talk to in the middle of the night if the baby is aggressively kicking.

Well, till then, its time to enjoy the different shades of blue.

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Meanwhile these gorgeous beauties are in the market. Hachiya Persimmons or Amar-phal, they are exotically delicious once fully ripe, but cut them a day earlier and you will be shocked at their astringence.

persimmons

This fruit can be beautifully pureed. Just unplug the green head, cut it into four pieces and puree it in a mixer. Thats it. With the skin.

Opening a persimmon

I made a no-bake low calorie cheesecake with these beauties and it looked gorgeous!

A slice of cheesecake

No-bake Persimmon cheesecake

What you will need :

  • 3 ripe Persimmons (2+1)
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 250 gms paneer (cottage cheese)
  • 300 gms hung curd (about 650-700 gms curd)
  • 200 gms Digestive biscuits
  • 60 gms butter (Amul)
  • 1 tsp Vanilla extract
  • 5 tsp Gelatin (4 + 1)
  • 1 and 1/2 cup water (1 + 1/2)

First layer of cheesecake

What to do :

  1. Hang 700 gms curd so that the water drains. Roughly it will reduce to half the volume.Take 300 gm of such hung curd.
  2. Break digestive biscuits into a crumbly powder . Soften the butter and mix it with the crumbs to form an even paste. Then cover the bottom of a 10 inch springform pan with it and press down really hard. Refrigerate for an hour till it sets.
  3. Combine the grated hung curd and grated paneer. Add powdered sugar. Add 1 tsp vanilla extract and mix well to remove all clumps. Set aside.
  4. Puree 2 ripe persimmons.
  5. Add 4 tsp gelatin in 1 cup water and keep aside. This process is called blooming.
  6. Prepare a double boiler. Essentially a large utensil to boil water and a smaller utensil which can be placed within. Heat the gelatin-water mix in this double broiler. Do not let it boil. Boiling destroys the thickening capacity of gelatin.
  7. Heat the persimmon puree in a separate bowl. Then add the heated gelatin with the persimmon pure, and take it off heat.
  8. Lightly mix the persimmon and gelatin mixture with the hung curd and paneer mixture, till fully incorporated.
  9. Take out the chilled biscuit pan and pour the cheesecake mix on it. Press evenly and again chill for sometime.To make the persimmon glaze :
    1. Make a puree with 1 persimmon. Put on gentle heat.
    2. Bloom 1 tsp gelatin in ½ cup water and heat over double broiler as earlier.
    3. Add to persimmon puree. Mix well.
    4. Pour over the chilled cheesecake.

    Chill the cheesecake again for an hour, un-mould and serve!

Side view of Persimmon cheesecake

Notes :

  • This is not a very sweet dessert. But the mild tartness of the fruit goes very well with the hung curd and paneer to produce a delicate light dessert.
  • You can add some cinnamon and honey to with the paneer and hung curd to give it a spicy autumn feeling.

Cheesy Onion and Sesame Seed Braided Bread

The Baby kicked!

Yesterday my baby (or foetus, if you prefer to call it that way) kicked  a feel-able kick for the first time. A real knock-off one which the father could sense too. And once again I realised what they show in movies is total crap! The baby does not know what “All is Well, All is Well” is and kicking the first time can not really be defined.

I had been feeling the flutters since the last two weeks, as if I am slowly releasing an air-filled bottle deep under water and the bubbles are gushing out. Thats how the initial baby movements felt. And then I would frantically place my husband’s hand on my tummy so that he could feel it and I would momentarily stop breathing. Lest my breathing rhythm would camouflage the baby’s kick. But naah, I could just feel it inside, and nothing through the layers of the womb and skin. So the Eureka moment of “He kicked/ She kicked – for the first time” was spread out over a two weeks!

Similar thing had happened when we found out I was pregnant. Being led on by the movies, I was expecting a lightning moment where I realise I had conceived, and would tell the husband, he would lift me in his arms, we would sing a song or two and already start dreaming about baby’s names. But noh! It was a long, excruciating process where you confirm that you are really pregnant.

I had a stack of home pregnancy tests, anticipating I would miss my periods and intended to take the test the very day I missed them. Curiosity was killing me, but still we decided to wait for a day. I couldn’t sleep all night, as if it were result day the next morning. And at 4 am, I finally woke up and took the test, unable to resist it any longer. In the sleepy groggy state I waited for a second for the strip to change color. It did not. I was disappointed and came back to sleep. The husband had woken up by now, consoled me saying that we will check it again a few days later and then he went to use the bathroom. I slept.

When we woke up at 7 am, husband said to me that the strip lying on the counter had changed color. I went and checked, and it had! Very slightly, but there was a change. Duh. We had to take the test again, and till then nothing could be confirmed. And then the next day there was another home pregnancy test, and then later on the blood test at the gynaecologist, and then finally it was confirmed that I am pregnant.

All the song singing and whirling and twirling stayed in my head.

Someone may say I am watching too many shitty movies and soaps, but they are a source of education. The first time I saw the home pregnancy test was in FRIENDS and Rachel has to be thanked for it. So there you go.

Another dilemma I am now facing is when I see mothers talking to their babies in the womb. I find it REALLY awkward to look down at the tummy and talk. Sure, I have conversations with the baby, but in my head. I can’t, for the love of life, unmute myself and quote Einstein to that little tadpole like thing deep inside layers of amniotic fluid. The father talks to the little one, but it is as if he is talking to me and I am responding to what he is saying. But me saying something to my stomach in an empty room? Well, thats not happening.

I just hope that doesn’t make me any less of a mother, but I have to preserve my sanity. I am sure the baby will eventually know my voice, albeit without a woman who talks to her body parts.

Lovingly,

Rutvika

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My other love has been Beth Hensperger’s book The Bread Bible. I have made several breads from the book before like this one or this one or even this beautiful one. All three use entirely different methods and with some adjustment of flour, the bread dough shapes up beautifully. There is really nothing like home-baked fresh bread.

And when it comes filled with cheesy onion and sesame seed filling and shaped like this one here, it’s a total winner.

Braided bread

It may look intimidating in the first glance, but it is super easy to shape the bread like this –

Braiding the bread

Cheesy Onion and Sesame Seed Braided Bread

What you will need :

For the dough

  • 3/4 tablespoon instant yeast
  • 3 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 110 grams salted butter (at room temperature)
  • 4 1/2 to 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup hot milk
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • 1 large egg

For the filling –

  • 4 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 and 1/2 to 2 cups chopped onions
  • 3 tablespoon grated parmesan or cheddar cheese
  • 5 tablespoon sesame seeds + 1 tablespoon for sprinkling
  • rich egg glaze of one egg yolk + little milk

What to do :

  1. In a large bowl using an electric beater with paddle attachment, combine yeast + sugar + salt + 1 and 1/2 cup flour.
  2. Add milk and water and beat until creamy for about 1 minute.
  3. Add the egg + softened butter with another 1/2 cup of flour and beat until butter is incorporated.
  4. Add remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time until a soft dough which releases the sides of the bowl is formed.
  5. Then turn the dough into a lightly floured surface and knead till a soft yet springy dough is formed, dusting with flour 1 tablespoon at a time. Knead for 6-8 minutes by hand.
  6. Place dough in a greased deep container and turn once to coat. Cover with a plastic wrap and let it rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 1 and 1/2 hours.
  7. Meanwhile prepare filling. In a medium skillet, melt butter + oil. Add onions and cook till translucent and limp but not browned, or the filling will turn bitter. Remove from heat and stir in cheese and sesame seeds. Set aside to cool at room temperature.
  8. Then gently deflate the dough, turn onto a lightly floured surface. Grease or parchment line a baking sheet.
  9. Cut the dough in half. Roll one half into 18×12 inch rectangle. Cut lengthwise into three 4 inch wide strips (4×18 inch.
  10. Carefully spread filling in the centre of each strip, leaving one inch margin on all sides. Fold over the edges and pinch them together, encasing the filling. Lift the ropes and place them on the greased baking sheet one inch apart.
  11. Beginning in the middle braid each rope loosely to each end. Pinch the ends and tuck them under securely. Cover loosely with a plastic wrap and let it double, for 30 minutes.
  12. Twenty minutes prior to baking, preheat the oven to 170C. Gently brush the braid with egg glaze and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
  13. Bake for 30-35 minutes till browned on top and sound hollow when tapped. Repeat with the other half of dough.
  14. Let it cool on a wire rack.

Cutting the bread braid

Notes :

  • If using unsalted butter in dough preparation, use 2 teaspoon salt.
  • Depending on the type of flour and humidity conditions, little more or less flour is required to make a soft and springy dough. The book calls for 4 and 1/2 cups, but I had to use 5 cups of flour.
  • If using active dry yeast, use 1 whole tablespoon of yeast.

 

Bon Apetit!

Inside the braid