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Monthly Archives: January 2012

Paula’s Plate…….

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The Lady is in the middle of a controversy…..her announcement late this week that she has had diabetes for three years has resulted in a debate about her irresponsibility for the fried chicken and all the fixins that Paula Deen has apparently been force- feeding her followers!!  (Point to note, which ties to my blog on the breadth of news reporting outside the US….this made the news in the UAE….not your hub for southern cooking!) 

The issue at the middle of the debate is a tough one…..celebrities become role models these days and Paula Deen’s celebrity stemmed from her yummy southern cooking. Timing is everything and the explosion of the popularity of the Food Network and their discovery of The Lady and Sons in Savannah, Georgia combined with Paula’s charm, ability to relate and inspiring personal story is the stuff that makes legends….and she has certainly become one.

Can you blame her being smart enough to leverage an opportunity of a life time?  Definitely not.  I do, however, remember our first trip to the Lady and Sons.  The restaurant and Paula had been profiled on the Food Network.  However, the day we went in she was at the restaurant and was happy to chat with my kids and sign her cookbook.  You had to be happy for her and the food was delicious.  Over the years, we still go down…it’s a family tradition for us when we go to Savannah and no trip to Savannah, especially for my son, is complete without a meal at Lady and Sons.  Actually, that’s the only reason we still go……..the food has become mediocre, the commercialism of Paula Deen in the store is somehow both obnoxious and pathetic.  

It is certainly not her responsibility to make sure we eat healthy food.  For many of us a meal at her restaurant is that once in a while treat….nothing wrong with that…….but there are also many many  people there who clearly are overweight and unhealthy and certainly that is their responsibility not hers.   Her personal life and health matters should be private ………so it is sad that it does appear she came forward because she is now being paid to be a spokesperson.  Where does the commercialism stop?  When is “enough is enough” when it comes to wealth.  Why is her son now creating a healthier cuisine called “Not my Mama’s Meals”……that feels disrespectful to his mother but clearly done with her support…….all in the name of business success I suppose….. I think enough is enough…..

Taste buds………..

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I had forgotten that a large majority of the population of Dubai and in fact the UAE are from the Indian subcontinent, specifically, Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.  This was brought home to me yesterday at dinner.  The smell of spices and curry at the buffet drew me into the restaurant.  I piled up my plate, I’m such a pig, and sat down when the waiter approached to as if I would like a cup of tea……that did it!   There is absolutely nothing as romantic to the taste buds as a mouthful of spicy curry followed by a sip of hot, sweet milky tea…..and if the milk is condensed milk….well that’s just heaven.  Gosh, you say, she’s lost her mind….or maybe its jet lag?  No…..just try it and you too will then understand……………

World media versus American media:…..

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The U.S. has probably the most sophisticated and well-funded news media infrastructure in the world…..and at one time the most innovative…..where else would the 24 hour news programs have been created after all.  But, every time I go overseas and read the newspapers and watch the World News stations in other countries I am struck by how one-sided and narrow we are with our news coverage.  Case in point:  I picked up Khaleej Times on the flight to Dubai.  Now we have all hear the news of the crisis in Syria but the coverage not only covered what I already knew but then discussed the efforts of the Arab League proposal and efforts for governmental and humanitarian efforts in Syria.  Granted, it appears to be met with as much disdain as you would expect from Syria but at least there is a regional effort underway.  Maybe it’s just me but my view from news reporting Stateside never delivered that full picture………somehow it makes me feel a bit better to know that there is a broader regional effort at work . 

Moving on, the rest of the news covered included the US Republican fun and games, well covered, coverage of the turmoil in Europe, Sports:  soccer, cricket, tennis but also the NBA…..the “Bucks cool down the Heat”…….and the sad end to the San Francisco 49ers season……

Come on American media.  If you don’t have the right journalists to really cover the stories get rid of the pretty faces and the narrowly focused newspaper writers and let’s show the world that we too are capable of broad minded information gathering and sharing to our public.

Marco Polo………

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I am on a bit of a road trip for business over the next several weeks.  I am on the way to Dubai at the moment and will be in London and Mumbai as well.  At the end of the trip I thought I would take the opportunity to pop down to Colombo and visit my father, aunt and in-laws for a few days.  When I told my dad about the trip and my visit to see him he asked me if I was following in the footsteps of that famous explorer Marco Polo.  It made me stop and realize how fortunate I was to travel the world and what a privilege it is.  So more to come from Dubai and beyond……….

Little Bro…..……

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I want to use today to officially thank my younger brother for encouraging me to start writing this blog and for being my “blog guy”.  He is the “posted by MA”, which of course makes me “the Talent”, if I do say so myself!!

When my little bro was born I was five years old….and despite the fact he made me the infamous middle child I adored him: my “baby brother”….to be looked after, played with and shown off to all.  Yes, I was, and still am enormously proud of him…..this despite many embarrassing and annoying incidents:  These included at age 3 pulling down his pants to show people at the front door of our house that he was officially potty trained.   When I started dating it never failed:  While I was trying to have a conversation on the phone, quietly, so that my very strict parents would not know I was speaking to a boy, he would roll his drums over and started “practicing”, follow me, with his equally pesky friends, everywhere I went and routinely blackmailing me with threats to snitch to my mother.

 But OK, I wasn’t a complete angel….One Sunday afternoon my parents headed out leaving me in charge with the pest who decided to spend the afternoon diving into the Water Well in our back garden in Sri Lanka.   I decided to scare him so the next time he jumped in I closed the well cover.   Timing is everything, the phone rang, it was my boyfriend whom I subsequently married.  Time flew by because I so rarely had the house to myself to talk to him without my mother around.  Yikes, about an hour later I suddenly remembered little brother in the Well.   (I often wonder why my husband actually wanted to marry me after that incident).  I slammed down the phone and ran to the Well and lifted it open and peered into the darkness, nothing….all of sudden the brat, who had been clinging to the ladder on the wall, leapt out at me.  We were terrified and relieved although neither would admit it.   Neither of us told our parents but that story subsequently became a family legend for his children and mine……..none of whom would ever be that stupid apparently.

The reality is that we always protected each other and all these and a thousand other annoyances were done with the knowledge that each of us would always be there for the other.  And so it has been through all these years.  So “little bro” thanks for being my wing man yesterday, today and tomorrow.

The spirit of Chocolate chip cookies……

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We came to America in the early 1980s to attend college.  My husband, to do his MBA at a very prestigious business school and me, at an amazing, though not so prestigious college both of which have boundaries that touch each other in what is known as University City, Philadelphia.   We lived on campus in married student housing for a while, until we realized that I could almost cover my tuition with what we were paying for housing……but that’s another tale….,

In the apartment next door were another couple of our age.  A few days after we all moved in there was a knock on the door late one evening and there was Debbie with a plate of what to us was “biscuits” then, not cookies, still piping hot, smelling amazing but nothing we had ever tasted before.  Our introduction to Chocolate Chip Cookies and to a warm and friendly pair of Americans.  She and I hit it off and while our husbands were studying we spent the evenings together and I learned about Thanksgiving, her family, American traditions, which I had only read about in story books and she learnt about me: growing up in London and Sri Lanka, our two years in Zambia….and we were both fascinated with each other and became good friends very quickly.

When I wasn’t in school I was pounding the streets of Philadelphia looking for a job with very little luck…..I had hoped I would have gotten a job quickly   It was getting cold and I knew I didn’t have the right business clothes but we had very little extra money as we were both determined to do this without calling home to our parents in Sri Lanka…….pride as well as the fact that we had two years earlier run away to get married….so neither set of parents were pleased.

One night, I was feeling really down and there was a knock on the door…Debbie with cookies and a big bag….I swear my husband would have left me in an instant and married Deb, if he had the chance!!!  She came in and asked me if I could do her a huge favor.  Of course I would.   She opened the bag and there were three business suits and a trench coat.  She had to give them away she said because her mother was coming and was very upset that she, Debbie, had gained weight (all those cookies…hadn’t we all?) and couldn’t wear those suits.  She had appeased her mother by telling her about me and had asked her if it be okay if she gave them to me to help start my American business wardrobe.  Her mother was apparently thrilled.  It felt really ungracious to say no but I was squirming inside.  Shortly afterwards, dressed for success, I was hired as a bookkeeper in a small company, my first job!  Shortly after that, I met Debbie’s mom, a lovely lady, like her daughter, and it was clear to me that Debbie had made the whole story up after seeing me leave the building day after day not dressed for success and wanted to find a way of giving me the clothes without making me feel inferior.  She flatly denied that though.

All these years later, those suits and the trench still sit in my closet….yes way in the back, but always present in my mind as the spirit of a generous and lovely American who saw someone who needed help and did it in a way that was kind and gracious…..and that, along with warm chocolate chip cookies, is the true American spirit

The long arm of chivalry………

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The tragedy of the Costa Concordia continues on with energetic debate on all the news media……central to this debate is of course the Captain of the vessel’s apparent breach of Maritime law. . Having said that, I started to think about the foundation of his behavior. Don’t get me wrong I am absolutely NOT excusing any aspect of that low life’s behavior….just mulling the broader implications. Every newscaster is droning on about the provisions of Maritime law and the Captain’s duty to ensure “women and children first” and his duty to “go down with the ship”. However, what is the social norm of our generation? “Every person for themselves”…..I happened to be “old fashioned” in this regard. My son, offers his seat to a lady or child, opens doors…..and is most often told no or given a strange look….he knows I will kick his you know what if he doesn’t so he does when I am in eye shot……and me? Seasoned business person I may be but I like the little niceties of good manners. So come on!!…..in this generation…..does the general population really think of “women and children first” and “going down with the ship” in our everyday life. So does it surprise me that this man’s gut reaction was to save himself……….sadly it doesn’t. We make heroes of good people, remember US Airways and Captain Sully……….and we should. Now there was a man who was raised well!! But look at the underlying message. It is all about “doing the right thing: but that starts with good manners and living by the golden rule