Tag Archives: sisters

Ever been to The Taj Mahal in France?

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Greetings from France!

I’ll be reporting from an ocean’s distance closer to India from now on, as I am about to start a Master’s program in Dijon in a couple of weeks…

It’s good to be back after a year away from my “second set” of family and friends. Things are just as I left them, for the most part, and the beauty of fall in France is a nice welcome.

But I’m still homesick. I miss my family and dear friends in the States. Facebook gives an odd sense of closeness: I see events going on around the town I left, I comment on ideas and updates. In the end, though, I am too far away for hugs and strolls down Bardstown Road and Bell’s Two Hearted Ale.

My fiancé, Nicolas, knows I’m homesick. So, he did what any man would do and took his girl out for Indian food.

Yes, the first date-night dinner we shared was at the Taj Mahal, a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant whose scents of curry and coriander and cumin wafted into the narrow French street and brought a sense of security to a girl so far from home. I could not have chosen a better place than this little purple-walled, vibrantly decorated place.

(It’s sometimes hard to find [good] ethnic food in France, which has always been one of my chief concerns about living here. [Does that sound strange?] Coming from food-centric Louisville, I am pretty demanding when it comes to variety. You should have seen how much Mexican food I ate in the weeks before my departure. Ghastly.)

Nicolas and I loaded up on Indian comfort food, beginning with vegetable samosas and chicken skewers and fresh naan. Then there was curry. Buttery, basmati-fied curry. As they say in France, “eet was zee best!”

(They don’t really say that in France.)

At the end of the evening, I was feeling a bit philosophical. Existential questions included, “how does a girl from Kentucky come to France and feel comforted by Indian food?”

Well, my friends, I think it has to do with associations. I’ve never been to India, you know. I didn’t even grow up with a vast knowledge of Indian cuisine. But in this last year, Anchal has brought me closer to India, and to my sisters there, than I imagined possible. By working with Colleen and Maggie and the rest of the Anchal gang, I’ve developed a funny sort of long distance connection with people I have never met, not to mention a tangible connection with the amazing women and men working stateside on the Anchal Project.

Staying connected, even in small ways, is good for the soul. My little French Taj Mahal reminded me of Anchal, and how grateful I am that I can stay involved, even across the Atlantic.

Now, that’s some powerful stuff, right?! If you’re reading this and wondering if this kind of Didi love is your thing, don’t hesitate to get involved! We need you!

-Emily

Cooking with My Didi

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In honor of the Didi Scarf launch, I decided to invite my sister, Allison and my sister-in-law, Nancy, over for dinner at my house. We attempted to connect with the cuisine that our artisans might make by cooking a traditional Indian dish “Vegetable Kurma over Rice with Roti”. Together with my sister-friend, Christina, and my husband, Jake, we had a fantastic time laughing sharing stories, and most of all eating. Nothing brings people closer like food experimentation.

As we were making the meal I thought about how the very act of cooking, of providing nourishment for myself and others, is such a challenge in many parts of the world. I thought about how, many times, this challenge rests on the shoulders of women. It is a great and noble responsibility.

Much like Colleen and Maggie and Devon and Lauren, my sister (my didi) and I sometimes work together. She majored in Architecture at Smith College and I received my Landscape Architecture degree from RISD. From time to time we collaborate on design projects, ask each other’s advice about a certain element, and rely on each other for contacts and expertise. Even though we are very different we sometimes are tapped into one another’s wavelength. For example, she showed up to dinner wearing almost the same shirt I was!

For the recipe, I used the internet as a source. This proved to be a bit of mistake, for the measurements ended up a bit off. It seemed as though the author of the recipe confused tablespoons with teaspoons. We ended up having to make a lot of it up on the fly, but it turned out pretty well. Below is the amended recipe we made:

Serves 6-8 people

Vegetable Kurma

*Prepare Rice separately using a ratio of 1:2 (1 cup rice : 2 cups water) and boil in a sauce pan until all moisture is gone from the Rice. Add saffron or raisins if so desired
For the masala:
2 cups coconut milk (we used light, but regular is fine too)
2 tsp poppy seeds
6 tbsp dry roasted cashews
1 tsp coriander powder
2 tsp sesame seeds
1 ½ tbsp garam masala
1 tbsp tamarind extract
1 medium-sized onion, thinly sliced & fried in a tbsp of oil until golden brown (use only half of it for here)
1.5 tbsp ginger-garlic paste (made by grating fresh ginger and garlic and then mixing together)

Other ingredients:
3 roma tomatoes – chopped
4 cups mixed veggies cut into almost equal sizes – potato, green beans, carrots, bell peppers
2 tsp red chilli powder (or less based on the desired spice level)
1/8 tsp turmeric
1 tbsp tomato ketchup
3-4 tbsp canola oil
The other half of the thinly sliced onion

Preparation:

In a blender add all the ingredients listed in the “masala” list with enough water to make fine paste.

Heat oil in a pan and add rest of fried onion with tomato. Sauté for few minutes and then add all the vegetables. Cook them until done, not mushy just tender. Season to taste with turmeric, red chili powder and salt.

Add the masala to the vegetables. Cook on low-medium flame until oil separates on the edges. Mix in tomato ketchup and cook for few more minutes.

Roti (Flatbread)

Ingredients:
2 ½ cups self-rising flour, or 2 cups self-rising flour and ½ cup whole wheat flour (If you don’t have self-rising flour on hand you can use 4 ¾ tablespoons of baking powder added to the 2 cups of flour)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup warm water
Vegetable oil for pan
Melted butter

Preparation:
Place flour(s) in a bowl. Mix in the 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil.

Add water slowly, stirring as you go, until dough starts to come together. Keep stirring, adding a little more water if dough is still dry, until dough forms a ball.

Turn dough out onto counter and knead, adding a little flour if the dough is too sticky. Dough should be soft, but not sticky enough to stick to your hands or the counter.

Let dough rest for 10 minutes, covered with a damp cloth.

Roll out dough in a large circle, about 1/4″ thickness. Spread about 1 teaspoon vegetable oil over the surface of the dough. Roll the dough up into a long roll.

Cut the dough into 8 to 10 pieces. Roll each piece out flat into a 6 inch circle. Let circles rest, covered with damp cloth, for 5 minutes.

Heat a flat heavy griddle or skillet (a cast iron skillet or crepe pan works well) over low to medium heat.

Roll the first circle of dough out as thin as possible (to about an 8-9 inch diameter circle).

Add about 1 teaspoon oil to the skillet. Place dough in hot skillet. Cook until bread puffs up and turns light brown on the skillet side. Slide bread to the each of the pan with your fingers, and quickly flip to brown the other side (about 1-2 minutes).

Remove from heat and place roti in a colander to cool. Cover roti with a damp towel while you cook the rest. Add more oil to the skillet as needed.

Roti can be reheated just like tortillas: in a low oven, wrapped in foil, or in the microwave covered with a damp cloth. Brush roti with melted butter before serving, if desired.

Makes 10 6-8 inch rotis

The entire meal took about an hour and half to prepare, but mostly that was due to some confusion, adjusting, and general joking about. Also, we were listening to Otis Reading during the process so there was some dancing too. I would suggest trying the recipes for yourself and amending it as you see fit. Maybe invite your didi, a didi-friend over and relish in the joy of nourishment.

-Lizzy

Christina Sohn – photo credit, Jake Beckman – cheerleading credit

People with sisters are happier!

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I didn’t grow up with a sister. Sometimes I wonder how I might have been different. Would I have been more talkative? More envious? More empathetic?

A few weeks ago I came across this NY Times article that says people with sisters are happier and I must admit I was a bit jealous.

I am a sister – to my one and only younger brother. Lucky man. I might be his buffer against depression. Sadly, I don’t have one of my own.

But I do have two first cousins who are sisters – and it was fascinating to watch them growing up. They hated and loved each other. They borrowed each others’ clothes and sometimes never returned them. They grew in reaction to each other. If the older one dyed her hair blond, the younger one became even more of a brunette. But despite these superficial differences and reactions to each other, they listened to each other, loved each other, and were there for each other.

The article suggests that the reason people with sisters are happier is because sisters talk to you more and this increased talking time (maybe coupled with empathetic listening) somehow makes you happier.

I’m inspired by examples of sisters who take care and love each other. I’m also inspired by women who are driven by a sense of sisterhood and feel that all women are their sisters. In my experience in India, Anchal’s artisans showed me the spirit of sisterhood with their affection and desire to make me a part of their community.

Sisterhood matters! It is the theme of our new campaign “Didi Connection” we’re launching in collaboration with actress and activist America Ferrera (very soon!) to coincide with the Half the Sky premier.

Our scarves this Fall will be symbols of sisterhood with the very important mission to support our sisters out of the sex trade. I hope you will become a part of this new global sisterhood.

What is the Didi Connection?
In India, women affectionately call each other “didi” which means sister. The casual and everyday use of the word inspired “The Didi Connection,” a community that links and supports women across continents and seas. We believe that all women are sisters and that we can make a positive difference in each other’s lives. Don’t you? The first initiative of the Didi Connection is a premier collection of Didi Scarves.

Premier Collection of Didi Scarves
In collaboration with actress and activist America Ferrera, our first line of Didi products are Didi Scarves, a symbol of connection and support between sisters across seas. When you buy one of our Didi scarves, you are supporting a woman, our sister, out of the sex trade in India. Our goal is to sell 600 scarves and support 15 of our sisters in leaving the sex trade for good. We won’t be able to do it without you!

Maria