Friday, December 25, 2009

Santa-Ananda Finds Nimboli

Santa-Ananda found his way to Nimboli today. Most people in attendance at the annual Christmas party had no idea how lucky we were to have this red suited jolly man actually find Fire Mountain Retreat's address in rural India. As you can see in the photo, Santananda and Mrs. Claus were having a good time singing us a few Western style Christmas carols. (Mrs. Claus let us all know she prefers Mrs to Ms. since she is an old fashion type of girl!) The local English and Marathi teacher, Gita Lotanker, even joined in the singing, since she had learned Christmas songs as a child attending convent schools. Most of the children were not impressed by the Claus' singing but the adults in the audience were amused and entertained by their antics.

Sunil Anaokar is holding son of Ananda, our neighbor and Fire Mountain staff employee, while two other happy flower children look on.

Kazi brought us the flower face masks and hats from Thane. They were too cute!!!

Not turkey, cranberry sauce, sage nor rosemeary were anywhere to be found within hours of Nimboli. So, Christmas dinner was a Fusion Style dinner, as they say in the food industry, a blend of two cultures. A delicious Chicken Curry was made by Sunil. Jeanetta believes no Christmas dinner is complete without mashed potatoes and turkey stuffing even if there was no turkey. She had to improvise with the recipe substituting local Curry leaves for sage. She has become quite fond of Curry leaves since her move to India and believes curry leaves was an improvement on the original recipe. Probably no one in the crowd knew what stuffing was, but she was not worried. She hoped that there might be leftovers, since stuffing is a family favorite for her. Kazi said he went back for seconds after figuring out he liked it. Vanita made her wonderful cabbage, carrot, coconut vegetable dish.

Kazi after discovering he likes stuffing!

Unexpectedly, many more people came then anticipated, but there was more than enough food for everyone. Jeanetta has no experience in cooking dal for 35 people and had cooked enough for probably double that number. Food never goes to waste as the staff were happy to take home leftovers. Sunil expertly handled the dispersion of food and candy to the 30 children who descended upon the party from neighboring houses.

Cooking vegetarian cookies and cakes without eggs is always a challenge since most recipes require eggs. But when Jeanetta and Dewa attended the Ayurvedic clinic at Shivpuri last summer, she learned some recipes for both. Fortuantely, some of the classic favorites such as Russian Tea cakes and Shortbread have no eggs and the basic recipe can easily be adapted to local ingredients, such as cow's ghee. Her mother, Muriel Manning, used to tell her that when you use good ingredients, you will make good food. And making cookies and cakes with cow's ghee is a winner.
Gita said her favorite was butterscotch cake. Now, Jeanetta is a card carrying chocolate lover. She does not even know how to spell butterscotch let alone know how to make the butterscotch flavor. But fortunately the internet occasionally works in Nimboli, and she could download a few recipes. The cake turned out to be a Butterscotch Pudding cake which is a much better error than a dried out cardboard type of cake. You bakers out there must know what this means. The speed of which the cake disappeared from the table tells us that it was a success.
Presents were stacked on the dinner table after dinner for the children to see. All of the staff's children were told to pick one. Fortunately, when one little girl received a toy truck she found an equally bewildered and disappointed boy holding a see through sack containing a pink plastic tea set. The exchange happened before any explanation crossed an adult's lips.

The adults were made to engage in a pink elephant kind of exchange. Everyone picked a number. As the numbers were read out, the person with the number could pick a new unwrapped present, or "steal" one from someone who had already opened a present. The person losing their present then had permission to "steal" someone else's present or pick a new one. There were lots of screams and laughter, especially as one young women was "not going to allow anyone to steal her present" and she didn't. What fun!!! What laughter!!!

Even Mrs. Claus was happy to be holding her present after it was "stolen" from her three times.
Santa and Mrs. Claus slipped away into the dark of night when no one was looking. We hope they come back again next year.

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