Where do I begin?

Thank you for the wonderful response to the guest post by my talented friend Jen, while I was away. I'm back after a four-week vacation where we spent three very cold but exhilarating days in Switzerland and the rest in India. I have so much to say and share that I don't know where to begin! How about at the beginning, you say? That is a very good place to start...And, I will. Eventually. Except that I need to precede it with the end which ties in very nicely with meeting good friends and Europe.

When I think of my friend, Gabi Helfert, I think of Europe and the spectacular images she has shared of her life and travels in Europe. Gabi has this incredible ability of making you see patterns, lines, themes in everyday surroundings because of the magic she does with her camera. I am also in awe of her handheld, low-light skills just as I am enthralled by her architectural series. Gabi is also one of the most intelligent women I have the good fortune to know, albeit only virtually until now. Mediocre is not a word she is familiar with, for she excels at anything she touches. Especially Lexulous. There is no word that Gabi does not know. Period.

Meeting in Europe was not an option, but the day after we finally made it back home on January 8, Gabi and Joey visited us and stayed with us for two days. Fortuitously, Gabi was in Fort Collins, Colorado for Blue, a curated photography exhibition at The Center for Fine Art Photography, where two of her photos are on display until the end of this month. Given the dates, I did not know whether meeting would be possible but Gabi made it happen. I am so grateful for that because she is everything and much more than what I knew she would be. Warm, giving, intelligent and oh, so very down-to-earth! I also knew I would love Joey because of the conversations we have been having, through our mutual stories and pictures.

If you appreciate good photography and you haven't yet seen Gabi's photostream, you totally should!

It was the best way to come back - to a home filled with dear friends. You don't miss the family and friends you left behind, especially as the silence starts to slowly envelope you and the jetlag smacks you right between the eyes.

Jetlag on the way out was piece-meal: two hours were dealt with at my sister's, in New Jersey. She fed our tired souls with the best of Gujarati comfort food. Her husband whipped up a shrimp ceviche that I was supposed to help with, but snoozed off instead. November had been a rough month on the health-front for Medha with two back-to-back viruses and more than her, I was in recovery mode! It did not help that we were at the pediatrician's and then the hospital for some tests until 7pm the day before we flew out. Needless to say, stress levels were through the roof but since all was well - it had to be - we were able to breathe many deep sighs of relief and take our vacation as planned.

Zurich helped us crush another six hours of jetlag. Within a few hours of landing in Zurich, my nephew and his charming wife whisked us off to France. Just like that. There was no pesky border control. I looked back several times to make sure that there was no border patrol chasing us but apparently that is the norm: no-one asks for your passport or visa as you cross borders by road, especially at small border crossings. The assumption is that you have a valid Schengen visa since you are in the area - which we did. We visited a little border town called Eguisheim in France that dresses up for the holidays.

Never underestimate the cold in Europe, especially when you are tired and jetlagged. We had looked up the weather and it was hovering just below freezing. That's not a big deal for us Coloradoans, right? Wrong! We have started to take the radiant winter sun for granted and 29F felt like much much worse. No wonder they have those vats of vin chaud lined along the pretty cobblestone streets. Yes, you can guzzle alcohol while walking on the streets!

Vin Chaud

Medha and I squealed in delight when we saw a bakery that was selling macarons. My nephew told me that they are known as Luxemburgerli in Switzerland, made famous by Confiserie Sprüngli. I made a mental note to look up their store on Zurich's famous Bahnhofstrasse but lost all interest as soon as I bit into one. My friend Jen makes a darned sight better macaron or Luxemburgerli. Coconut cookies were also labeled macarons. Go figure.


After being disappointed in these expensive cookies, I was a tad bit hesitant to try out more foods until my nephew insisted that he would not leave without a bite of tarte flambée. Tarte who? To call it an extra-thin pizza would only do injustice to this exquisite creation of the Alsace region. It is a very very thin layer of dough that is smeared with a mixture of fromage blanc and crème fraîche, topped off with thinly sliced onions and bacon. If you're lucky, you might get lardon instead of bacon. I think we got bacon.

Tarte Flambée

With full bellies and drooping eyelids, time was a blur until we got back to Zurich where my nephew and his wife treated us to a traditional homestyle Swiss fondue. The cheeses in the fondue had me dipping for more, after each time that I declared I was done! We dipped apples, pears, several different types of local breads, and even potatoes. My favorite was bread, dipped in kirsch before being dipped in the fondue. That slowly evolved into anything with kirsch and it was my favorite thing to eat! Especially these Lindt Kirschstengeli.


As I read over everything that I have written in this post, I wondered: is this too much detail? It reminds me of a comment made about my blog that a friend recently related to me: there's too much other stuff on her blog. Definitely so. I understand that it does not appeal to many but it's also one of the things that isn't going to change, not for as long as I continue to write this blog. I thank that person for their feedback and I hope their needs can be met on other blogs and sites. This blog will always continue to have too much other stuff.

I will, though, reign in my ramblings for those of you who wrote in asking for the recipe for the chutneys that were served with cocktail samosas at Jen's tea party, I thought I wouldn't make you wait any longer. The green chutney is a mint chutney that was also used to make the open-faced cucumber sandwiches for that same tea party. It is a variation of this green chutney. There are no pictures for this chutney as my pictures from November 2010 are currently AWOL. I will track them down eventually but humor me until then, will ya?

Mint Chutney

  • 2 cups loosely packed fresh mint leaves
  • 1 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro
  • 1 medium size clove of garlic
  • 3 tbsp lime juice
  • 1/4 tsp sugar
  • 5-6 green chillies
  • Approx 1/2 tsp salt or to taste
  • Up to 1/2 cup water
  1. Blend everything together with as little water as possible until smooth.
  • To make the open-faced cucumber sandwiches, cut sides off white bread slices and slather each slice with a generous amount of salted butter. This layer of butter prevents the bread from becoming soggy from the chutney. Slather with an equally generous layer of chutney. Pile on cucumber slices that have been cut at an angle, overlapping them slightly. Cut each sandwich into 3 long pieces. Sprinkle with a mix of salt and your favorite paprika or red chilli powder to add some color to an otherwise very green-looking sandwich.
  • This chutney is very versatile and can be served with samosas, pakodas, batata vadas or as a condiment with an Indian meal. I love it on buttered toast!
  • Variations of this chutney include adding fresh ginger, omitting garlic and adding ginger, using lemon juice for a less tangy chutney. Add more cilantro and use less mint to make this more of a cilantro chutney. Or omit the mint completely. Add more green chillies to up the heat. Get creative with the variations. You really cannot go wrong!

Oh, and Happy New Year! It makes me very happy that you are still here, reading my blog!


Nandini Vishwanath said...


This post read like a dream. A motion picture :)

Sumi said...

loved the post. Europe is beautiful in its own way..I am going to miss the driving from country to country part terribly as we r going to move back again to US:)

Shammi said...

Don't care what you write about so long as you write lots :) What I'm saying is, whatever you write is interesting and well-written - and funny, so you go Manisha! Next time you should come to the UK.

suvi said...

It is YOUR blog Manisha. You should absolutely write what you want to write!

I, for one, love reading your posts, in fact psstt...many times, I don't read the recipe but read the post one more time.

Finla said...

I agree with Aqua it is your blog and you should write what ever suits you and if people dont want to read dont read and dont come there are lot of us whou love to read what you write.
Isnt it wonderful that thee is not border control, even when my sis came here she was shocked when we went from on country to qanother like that. You know we live close to holland so if we cycley 10 km we get to Holland.

I have never hqd shop bought Macaorons; Loved the post you should write aobut your Indian trip too.

Anita said...

Lexulous, what happened to that word game, I wonder. You lost too many times to Gabi and gave up?

It's your blog and it's a free world. Why should people come here if they are looking for something else? Food is just one aspect of our lives; it is not our life.

I regret not finding the time to write about my recent travels...already the details are hazy. Am determined to get a post out before the month ends!

Aparna Balasubramanian said...

Good to see you back after that vacation. Don't mind too much other stuff. The more the merrier, eh? ;-)

Cynthia said...

Happy New Year to you and the family Manisha! I'm off to see Gabi's photostream

Desisoccermom said...

The "other stuff" on your blog is what keeps us coming back for more. Bring it on. :)

cybergabi said...

Wow, thanks so much for your wonderful words, Manisha. It was such a treat to finally meet you and your family and enjoy your company and hospitality. And what a great narration of your adventures of the last weeks!

It's always funny when Americans come to Europe and are baffled that you can drink alcohol on the street. Reminds me of Pulp Fiction, where Vincent tells Jules about the 'little differences': "Well, you can walk into a movie theater in Amsterdam and buy a beer. And I don't mean just like in no paper cup, I'm talking about a glass of beer. And in Paris, you can buy a beer at McDonald's."

So glad you enjoyed your travels!

cybergabi said...

Oh, and as for the criticism: I'm with the others. It's your blog, and I am enjoying your 'other stuff' as much as the food part. Screw them!

jjmadison said...

You are such a gift Manisha. Being the "other half" of Gabi's quotient, I was honored to be a part of your blog, but most importantly to have spent time with you and your family in your home. So many of the qualities I value about kind, smart, loving and compassionate people exude from you. Having now met all I can say is "when are you coming to Rotterdam to see us here?" Until then, I am thrilled that we have connection via your blog and your flickr site. I've now got to get to the kitchen and get going with these recipes. Much love to you.

Laurel said...

Funny, "the other stuff" is the big reason I read your blog. Cooking is interesting, but (like Jen, actually) I read for what makes you you, and all the interesting things you tell us about.

Noodlehead said...

This is such a great post! hopped here from Jen's blog, where I regularly lurk! We live din Switzerland for a bit and I had forgotten numerous things about it. reading your post brought it all back. Thank you for letting me relive a wonderful experience through you and with you :)

GB said...

Bring on the other stuff! that's what makes the blog real! So glad you're back.......waiting to hear/read about the rest of your adventure. Shopping? do tell!

Miri said...

Whats not to like about the "other stuff" - oh you mean, some people would prefer we kept on track and didn't digress...? well, we are like that wonly ;)

The cheese fondue and tarte flambe look so so so good! :)