The Green Bean: A few words about worm poop

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If only gardening came with the sort of results reminiscent of teleshopping channels. “If our worm poop doesn’t bring those periwinkles back to life, it’s mud!”

It has been a few hours since I went around applying an inch of vermicompost to all the pots in my garden and I can’t fight the urge to go see whether anything has changed yet. Have the lemons gotten bigger? Has the hibiscus bloomed? Have the periwinkles come back to life?

This is ridiculous, I know. More so when I confess that I haven’t been around on an inspection for a week. I have a bag full of excuses for this indiscretion, the most honest of which would be that I have been avoiding my plants because I’ve been afraid of what I will see.

But as I do intend to turn the corner, I decided to stop putting off their fertilisation needs any longer. This morning, I tore open that bag of vermicompost – 5kgs of Selli Vermi Vermicompost ordered online, delivered the next morning; could this city be any more convenient for gardeners? – and got right into it.

This was a bit of a challenge because the mud in all the pots had gotten so hard, it forced us to conclude, “They don’t sell mud here. They sell iron.” And it’s true. It never pays to be one of the lazy ones who picks up 10 kg bags of Mixed Matti for Rs 130 at the local nursery because it is just so much more convenient than buying (and more importantly remembering potting proportions for) cocopeat, mud and compost separately.

But it is what it is and if I can keep these plants alive until April next year, I promise to do a better, more thorough job at the potting and sowing process rather than go for the easy alternative of Mixed effin’ Matti – which may very well be stuff they scraped off the side of the road and weighed down with stones, for all I know.

We dug and loosened the soil as best we could and applied a layer of compost to it. This particular compost boasts traits like reduced requirement for watering (ahem), good nitrogen levels to keep the plants tripping and added nutrients to make the soil rich.

So yes, I guess now all I need to do is breathe and let my plants do the same. In a few days we’ll know how this exercise panned out.

In the meanwhile I’m going to keep myself occupied by reading more about caring for gardens. Maybe even getting around to finally learning the names for some of the flowering plants. I don’t think referring to them as “The purple one” and “The pink one” is going to fly much longer now that I’m actively trying to help them thrive!

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The Green Bean: Green thumbs down

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Bangalore is undoubtedly the best city for gardens and gardeners. So much so that it’s officially the city’s tag line, or something: Garden City. However, I have sold it as more of a ‘Beer Garden City’ to my friends, family and anyone who will listen, but that’s a sales pitch for another time.

I live in the best city in India to grow things. The sun is always shining. It rains on occasion. The temperatures are pretty balanced throughout the year. Basically, I have no idea what I’m talking about, just that if you plant things in Bangalore and care for them, they will grow. Really, really well.

So how do you end up torturing two tomato plants on the terrace and losing a baby lemon tree to weeds in the front yard?

I have a friend who used to say that before she decided to have a child, she would first buy a plant. “I will take care of it for a while, and if I don’t kill it, I will consider having a child.” I used to tell her this was a silly way to think it. You can’t compare a plant and a child. They’re both completely different things, not to mention their yields and maintenance are like comparing peaches and popcorn.

But having lost (interest in) the tomato plants once my Instagram ‘Likes’ reached double digits, I was made to feel very guilty on vacation recently, by concerned plant rights activists like my sister and husband.

“She doesn’t even water her own plants,” Sabaa stated my as she went about watering the dying orchids in her sun-deprived living room in Munich. “Her housekeeper does it for her! And if he sees something growing, like a tomato or a flower, he lets her know. Then, and only then, does she go up to the terrace to take a picture of it to post on social media.”

“Oh and she didn’t even use the tomatoes for in a salad or anything,” my husband chimed in. “She just totally forgot about them.”

At that moment, I detested the two of them for being right. I had let the tomatoes go. It was my fault that the mint – which, by the way, spreads like friggin’ weeds if you’re not a plant murderer – wilted. And where in the world did that lemon tree go to? Seriously?!

Gardening is hard work! Especially if you’re as slow on the uptake as I am. It’s just that all those growers, gardeners and green bloggers make it look so easy. But obviously it isn’t.

What’s more is that I now actually respect my friend’s decision to keep a plant alive before taking on the responsibility of nurturing a child. Of course, I’m hoping more than ever that my competency in nurturing one isn’t a reflection on how I will fare with the other. Regardless, as long as I have the intention to do better, be more hands-on, learn along the way and bear in mind that photos are merely the one perfect moment of a million imperfect shots, I should be golden. Or green. Or whatever.

So I have decided to stop being such a lazy person and really put my efforts into my little garden. You don’t have to believe me, really, even if I do show you the power point presentation I’ve made, chalking out my plans for a fresh start at a salad garden.

But I know that I am capable of making this happen if I really put my mind to it. It’s just a matter of hard work and determination. Actually, given my reputation across two continents, it is now a matter of saving face!

To add some accountability to my endeavours as an aspiring gardener, I’m going to post an update about my garden every Thursday! I’m calling this series, The Green Bean. It will document many of my own (mis)adventures in the garden and also feature tips, tricks and on occasion, solid advise from seasoned gardeners and friends.

Food Porn Project | Behind The Scenes – An introduction

I don’t remember the last time I ate a meal without taking a picture. No wait. I do. It was 6 months ago. At this restaurant. The lighting just wasn’t right.

I’ve started to realise that taking pictures of food is loosing its charm. I mean, there are just so many things to contend with when capturing that perfect shot. There’s the table setting for instance – who wants a boring glass of water, an empty bowl of salad or half a human being in their photo? Really? Then there’s that little problem with hungry human beings. Seriously? They waited 15 minutes for the dish. Would another 3 minutes’ wait kill them? Then there’s the matter of quality. Image quality that is. Let’s be honest. If you’re an amateur smartphone food photographer like me, you’re really not all that good. Yes, maybe you have your moments. But overall, we take over a 100 photos a week for that one shot that gains over 11 likes on Instagram because anything else would just lead to a meaningless existence.

I have a new obsession now. Actually, it’s been bubbling into existence for a while. It still has everything to do with food, but without the fuss of actually taking food photos. It also, in my humble opinion, has way more character than #foodporn, #selfies, #shelfies and everything else I’ve experimented with over the last year.

Introducing The Food Porn Project: Behind the Scenes. In this, I take pictures of people taking pictures of their food. Quite simple. Extremely pointless. But like this video with a singing puppies it may be entertaining. And unlike said video of puppy singing, it may even have some value to add.

Let’s face it. Food porn is essential. It serves a purpose. Done well, it leads to the discovery of amazing food across the city/world. Done even better, it has us salivating on our desks at the 4am binge when lunch is a long forgotten affair.

My first subject and the object(s) of her affection

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My first subject is my friend Sandhya. I like this picture not because of the angle or how intriguing she looks in her quest for the perfect picture. It’s the expression on her face. Pure concentration, that. Which was followed with, “I just can’t get all the dishes in the frame, ya!” So that says a lot about the spread at Soo Ra Sang, where we enjoyed Korean-style beef and chicken BBQ accompanied with a range of pickled items from beans and beetroot to dried prawns and pickled radish.

Soo Ra Sang, or Korean Place as I fondly call it, is among the reasons I moved to Bangalore. Over time, we’ve had the pleasure of introducing a lot of our friends to the place and saw them pass the baton, Bibimbap in this case, on to their friends.

I think our one year anniversary is coming up soon so it might be time for me to write that review I’ve been meaning to for a long long time.

While I work on that and a million our posts I have in the pipeline for this blog, I’m glad to have this little project added to all the excitement. I’m sure I’ll polish it up, give it more of a purpose and find a way make it even more intriguing in time to come. But until then I’m just going to enjoy taking pictures of people looking awkward (or otherwise) in their attempt to stoke this near-universal obsession with #FoodPorn.

Fast food vs food that moves fast: Brahmin’s Coffee Bar

We seem to talk about fast food like it’s a bad thing. In some instances it might well be. But look a little closer and you’ll see that there’s a big difference between fast food and food that moves really fast. You only have to visit a South Indian cafe to see why.

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Take Brahmin’s Coffee Bar for instance, where there’s always a hungry crowd to feed but the line moves at the speed of light. In fact, dawdle about at the cashier a minute too long, debating between idli, vada idli and khara bath and you stand to get yelled at. “Move along already! Can’t you see there’s a queue?” shouts the owner who already has change for Rs 500 ready because he just knows the denominations coming his way based on your order the number of people accompanying you.

It’s a bar all right, in the chaos it creates. There are people standing helter skelter, inside the bar and outside on the pavement. There isn’t a chair in sight and the tables, or what look like tables, are merely plastic trays in which to dump your plates and glasses once you’re finished. These too are cleared out frequently to keep up with the volume of diners entering every minute and others queuing up again to place another order.

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The food arrives in an instant. The idlis are soft and still steaming. The vadas are crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. The khara bath needs a few seconds to settle down but once it does, it’s filled with flavour, spice and a hint of crunch. The coffee is scalding and there isn’t an inch on which to place it as you blow on your fingers while going for extra helpings of green chutney. Word of advice: take an extra pair of hands just so you can eat comfortably.

Don’t have an extra pair of hands? Use your car’s roof as a table or the cleanest part of the pavement. We got lucky and found a big stone on which we perched. The meal was simple and delicious, the chutney, divine. You can see why there’s a special counter to dole out ladles of extra chutney, free of cost too! The filter coffee had just the right balance of sweet and strong brew with a little milk to take the edge off.

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Fast food isn’t the same as food that moves really fast. The former requires a label to warn you that its contents are ‘hot’. The latter doesn’t need a label. Real food never does.

Mini Review | Daddy’s Deli, Bangalore

It’s easy to over order Daddy’s Deli, a Parsi food place in Bangalore. Which is why I recommend you go there at least 5 hours after breakfast. I did, with four others there wasn’t a grain of rice or a hint of curry left on our plates at the end of the meal. Try the Dhansak (duh), the salli boti, biryani and (strange as it may sound) the Goan prawn curry which comes with a portion of steamed rice.

They also have a counter with homemade gourmet ice-creams — honestly, the word ‘gourmet’ is a bit too exploited in India, don’t you think? But the flavours are interesting — honey and thyme and caramel were my favourites. But overall they’re more watery and crystallised than rich and creamy.

Verdict: I’d stick to the food on a ravenous appetite if I were you.

Photo taken @ Daddy’s Deli, Indiranagar, Bangalore