Oh Thanks To The Hot Chic Waiter Girl, Venky Went Red!

Hi, my dear reader,

These days I love coming to vacation rentals with a kitchenette as opposed to a hotel room. Being equipped to cook your own food – should the inspiration strike – isn’t something I’d want to miss.

That is especially true for me in a plant paradise place like Maui! The sheer variety and access to farm-fresh harvest is like no other in an agriculture-dominated state like Hawaii.

All that said, the first three days of being here we ate at a restaurant. We had signed up for a bunch of other activities. One of which was to spend a day deep in the forest area, where a nearby local farming family catered to our food needs.

We were excited about our find of this eating joint and ordered our salad. Five minutes later, our sweet young waiter served a plate, and I said to my husband, “we can share this, baby .. the second plate must come soon”.

Waiter girl was a little surprised, “you meant two plates, right??” I confirmed no, two salads, and went back to the conversation with my husband.

The second day we were at another restaurant, and we asked for a salad. Same response – hey, we wanted to check if you meant two plates or two salads. No error, two salads, I said.

The third day was the best! 😂

We went to this place called Flatbread Company for my husband’s birthday lunch. As usual, we ordered two salads. And one pizza – thin crust, only veg, no cheese – after ten minutes, I added.

Five minutes went by, and our lovely waitress comes by and asks -” did you really want two salads? Our servings are big, just so you know” .. I said yes and smiled. And then, very spontaneously, she said, “You want a veggie pizza ten minutes after that??”

Oh, dear! 😂😂😂

The and word and the tone of surprise 😂 Venky was red by this time!

I gave her a chuckle and said “yes and yes” 😂 and sensed our conversation wouldn’t resume until after I had enlivened Venky .. and had to come up with something. And I spontaneously said – “What guy wouldn’t want to be memorable to a hot chic! Trust me, she’ll remember you as the sweet guy who wolfed down a salad and followed it with a pizza!”

And our man was laughing and smiling, and all was well again.

I secretly ordered a beautiful macadamia nut torte with pineapples to end the meal.

My dear reader, whether it’s a guy or a girl eating huge salads in front of crowds, does make others feel awkward. They think that way because they know they themselves aren’t doing it. And they _are_ supposed to be doing it!

So, often they will convey their awkwardness by way of surprise. Our waiter ladies in all three situations may not have felt the slightest embarrassment themselves. They may have purely asked for clarity of the order.

But if you’re a big salad eater or want to become one, you must learn to handle such situations by feeling offended or embarrassed. Often, you will still feel bashful – like how Venky did – even after years of being this way. That doesn’t go away at all. And you’ve got to learn to take it in your stride.

Plus, you’ve to remind yourself that vegetables and fruit are extremely low in calories when cooked right. So, one needs to eat a fair quantity to feel satiated. And one can afford to take in big helpings as well, without worrying about gaining weight.

Life lessons come anywhere anytime .. no!

I’ll catch up with you soon, am going away on a farm tour after this email .. here are some salad pictures for your inspiration.






Desi Visitor To The US – Part 3

Hello there,

I’ve been waiting to tell you this ..!

After I last spoke with you, I had some shopping to get done before the upcoming weekend, and off we went. Now, this is a warehouse store where you get to shop when you are a paid member with them. One thing about these places is that you get giant quantities at bargain prices. (And you’ll end up eating more than you want to, just because you bought it. Well .. that’s a topic for another day!) But like I said, the best of us can go down a rabbit hole if we don’t watch out. And this time, it was ME!

Here’s what happened.

I needed two items – Basmati Rice and a big bag of baby organic greens like Spinach or Kale. So, I pulled the cart, and my husband showed the id card, and we were ushered in. Right by the entrance was a sampling booth handing out Trail Mix – it’s a mixture of dried fruit and nuts. So, I accepted, and Venky said a terse ‘no.’ I dismissed it as his grouchiness that comes up when we go shopping! Earlier it was worse, and now it shows up only now and then 

Well, I was walking as I was still munching this when the next sampling lady offered some Lemon Tea. It got me curious, and I stopped to see that it was a new brand, hmm. The lady said how she loves it when she carries it in the car for long drives. I tasted it and moved on. As I came out from the produce section and went towards the rice aisle, there was a long line to taste some Ice cream samples. This wasn’t my thing, and I wanted to get done with shopping and so took a detour around two other aisles to get to where the rice was.

Now, here was another sampling booth with almost no takers, w-a-y in the back. And the sample lady was breaking slabs of chocolate and filling them in tiny paper cups. It had specks of green and red and looked very pretty even from far. Before I knew, I was chatting her up and eating that absolutely beautiful, inviting, divine chocolate! And asking her which aisle it was in!! It felt soo good upon finding it and then picked up the rice. My husband was wearing a full-blown grouchy expression at this time. I gingerly asked him why – he gave me that look and said, “I thought we came here to buy exactly TWO things!!”

So, add this to your shopping smarts list as the #6:

Shop like men – go precisely to where your required item is, in the shop, and refuse samples entirely if you don’t want to be lured. Two reasons why –

a. It is not rude to reject it.

b. You’ll not miss what you don’t try.

If you’re curious what I fell for, here it is –  http://www.deavas.be/belgian-thins-dark/

It helps to know that sample stations are strategically placed, and samples are handed out – not because the stores love you – but to sell it to you, so you don’t even realize it! We both ate some of that damn chocolate, and now he’s hidden it in a safe place. So all’s well 🙂


Ready for label Gyan?

There are two crucial pieces of information on the back of a package.

1. The Nutrition Facts – a nutrition table

2. Ingredients – the list of ingredients in the decreasing order of weight, which sits right below the nutrition table. I tend to start with the ingredient list.

1. Make sure it reads like a list of things that a seven-year-old can read. Such as this one here: http://www.foodforlife.com/product/breads/7-sprouted-grains-bread

You do not want something that feels like it was put together in a chemistry laboratory. Check this one out: https://www.kelloggs.com/en_US/products/kellogg-s-froot-loops-cereal-product.html

2. Since the ingredients are listed out in the decreasing order of weight, they’re present, and you do NOT want sugar, salt, or oil to be your top ingredients.

Now, this is easier said than done. Because, often, sugar is not written as plain sugar. They may call it fructose, dextrose, glucose, sucrose, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, malt syrup, evaporated cane juice, cane sugar, fruit juice concentrate, and so on. There are close to sixty or so different names for sugar alone!

Fats similarly, comes in many guises. Oils of any kind, hydrogenated, partially hydrogenated, are ALL fats. Laughably, even when the front of the package says zero-fat or low-fat, the reality is often the exact opposite of that description.

Salt goes by names such as table salt, sodium, sodium nitrite, sodium benzoate, disodium, etc.

3. It would be great to have the word ‘whole’ before as many ingredients as possible, which would mean that fiber content is intact. If you spotted the word ‘sprouted,’ that would be a huge plus, as sprouting enriches the nutrient density big time.

Let’s now read the Nutrition Facts, the table you’ll find above the ingredient list. If we used my favorite tortilla example here http://www.foodforlife.com/product/tortillas/sprouted-corn-tortillas

1. First, look for calories. This one has 120 Calories.

2. Make sure that calories coming from fat is always less than 20% of the total calories. So, 20% of 120 would be 24, and we want it to be less than 24. Now, let’s check! Fantastic, it’s only 15.

3. Then, make sure the Sodium content is the same number (or less) as Calories. This one rocks it – it’s Sodium number is 10!

So what this means is, for every serving size mentioned, you’ll get 120 calories. Out of this, 15 comes from fat. This amount of serving will also give you 10 mg of sodium. ( 2 tortillas is the serving size mentioned on the label)

Next, you know what? Ignore every other number! They don’t matter.

Let’s see how you do it on your own. http://www.hellmanns.com/product/detail/97902/low-fat-mayonnaise-dressing

Would you buy this? Why or why not?

Waiting for your answer,


Desi Visitor To The US – Part 2

I hope you are doing fabulously. 

The strange thing my aunt noticed about the States is how every gas station doubles up as a mini food shop. She soon changed her stand and said how e-v-e-r-y shop carries food items here in this country – hardware shops, home improvement shops, even laundromats! She says she got tired fighting her temptation for chocolates, my poor aunt.

Food scientists have pointed out that there is a food ad every five minutes or so on the television at any given time. And needless to say, they are NOT advertising the goodness of eating veggies! It is important to realize that you will be bombarded with food cues to the point that it will wear your resistance down and push you towards making some choices that may not be typical of you. So, please be aware.

The second point to observe about the food scene here is the size. A regular cookie in a coffee shop will look like the size of homemade poori. Coffee or tea bought outside is given black, and you are free to take as much milk or cream as you desire. Less said the better, about the cold beverages – they come mostly in super large bottles and smaller ones cost you disproportionately more in price. The desserts such as cakes and pastries are just frosting more than two-thirds of the way. Single-serve portions of anything are huge for one person.

Then, you will also find that foods tend to err on the sweeter side, actually cloyingly so. Even the supposedly savory ones like ketchup or salsa! Some call out to you as “health foods” – for example, granola and yogurt – granola usually has a lot of oil, and yogurt has a ton of fat. The convenience of pocket foods can be tempting too – for example, granola bars. With misleading names and deceptive descriptions like ‘all-natural’, ‘honest goodness,’ the best of us can fall hook line and sinker for these things.

Please also keep an eye for the sneaky salt in foods where you least expect to see, in really ridiculous amounts. The breads, pizza bases, dinner rolls, ready to eat soups, even soda has it! Look for salt in the sauces, ketchup, canned rajma, chana, and other cooked beans. All these above factors can cause you to gain weight if you are not watchful.

Did you say, “enough already, this is depressing?” Oh, nooo – I only meant to alert you, that’s all. When I see my relatives when they visit here, I find them erring on the extremes of too much trust or too wary. But knowing these things can help you navigate much more confidently.

So, what do you do differently? Number one thing to do is,

1. Do not shop or even step out to these stores when hungry.

2. Make sure to carry a little food in your bag all the time. This way, you’re never at the mercy of a poorly stocked shop for food, ever.

3. In a Departmental Store, all the safe foods are in the periphery, usually near the entrance – colorful fruit, veggies, and so on. The aisles are where the junk is.

4. This one is the most important – if you have to go to the aisle and buy packaged food, DO NOT pay any attention to what the front of the package says.

5. Always turn it around to read the ingredient list and the nutrition label.

I will stop at this, and we’ll go into detail about these two things – the ingredient list and the nutrition label in the next post.




Desi Visitor To The US – Part 1

The coming summer months in the US bring a lot of Desi visitors – both at home and business.

There is a definite concern to stay healthy through their stay and make the most of their travel. So all this month, I’ll stick with this theme and share some essential tips to eat healthy while in the US. This could be of interest to you right away if you or your dear ones are planning to visit here soon. So feel free to forward the mail to whoever needs it.

This part is all about shopping for vegetables and fruits while in the US.

The most prominent question I get is whether to buy organic or the regular non-organic produce and the ‘why’ behind it.

If parents visit their children here in the US, first responsibility they take upon themselves is the kitchen department cooking, grocery shopping the whole nine yards! The place where I live shows a lot of business visitors as well – round the year, but spiked around this time when they tend to combine a family holiday with work. All these situations involve some produce-shopping instances. And if you have a standard mantra that’s like “buy what _looks_ good AND reasonably priced,” it’s likely going to be disappointing to you often. My relatives often grumble about veggies being tasteless here.

Well, until they went shopping with me!!

I shop for organic everything, as much as I can. This is because natural farming works towards preserving long-term soil fertility, preserving genetic diversity, and reducing all forms of pollution. Which is in complete alignment with my values, so I don’t think twice about my organic produce preference. Besides, the taste is just bursting with flavor when it’s grown with care.

But I like to remind my people that a mere organic tag does not make ALL food choices healthy! For example, potato chips made from organic potatoes and fried in organic sunflower oil!!

So, here we go – Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen are your two critical lists.

Dirty Dozen is a set of twelve produce items that are best bought organic. These were found to be the most pesticide-laden of all when they are non-organic.

Clean Fifteen are the ones that are least likely to be contaminated by pesticides.

This list is put together by EWG, which stands for Environmental Public Group. They are a non-profit organization with a mission to “empower people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment.”

I feel compelled to educate you, my dear Desi reader, about these things that you may not know, as a visitor. I want you to have a whale of a time here!

Dirty Dozen – Strawberries, Spinach, Nectarines, Apples, Peaches, Pears, Cherries, Grapes, Celery, Tomatoes, Sweet Bell Peppers (Capsicum), Potatoes.

Clean Fifteen – Sweet Corn, Avocados, Pineapples, Cabbage, Onion, Sweet Peas, Papaya, Asparagus, Mangoes, Eggplant(Brinjal), Honeydew melon (a variety of Kharbuj with a smooth light-green or light-yellow outer skin), Kiwi, Cantaloupe (a type of Kharbuj with a wrinkled dull yellow skin), Cauliflower and Grapefruit.

A big part of visiting a new place is getting to shop and eat for local produce and specialties. Here is a link for you to locate a Farmers Market near you and check out the offerings. What you’ll find at these markets is way superior to a big box store, given that everything here is very fresh.  http://www.localfarmmarkets.org

In my next part in this series, I will address a hot-pain question “last time I came to the US and gained all the weight in the world!how do I eat smart this time?”. So be on the lookout for that as it’s all about smart shopping.

Ask away any food questions you may have about your US visit in the comments section.