the untameable | orange + cardamom sherbet

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So. Another new year. What people should’ve done last year, what they should do, the quickness of it all, things on people’s minds. Mine too, of course, but for now I’d rather linger on the end of last year. A trip, a place far away in so many senses. I didn’t have my camera with me in Bangalore and for some reason I’m averse to phone photography so I have no photos this year. Which is a shame. Because India does visuals so well. The pastel paintbox houses, each a shade from coriander to peach, stacked so geometrically. The saris drying on clothes lines, silver pots and pans heating up in the sun, dogs panting in the shade, motorbikes and rickshaws idling. 

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The ladies with jasmine woven into their dark braids; carrying chubby infants in expert hands, cows with flower garlands wrapped loosely around their horns, hand-painted trucks and tractors. In a small road in the village, teenagers chat. The cool boys on their motorbike with their snazzy collared shirts and slicked back hair doubtlessly inspired by a Bollywood hero. A girl carrying a puppy, the center of attention. Two old timers sitting on an iron balcony, presiding over it all, reminiscing. Heavy and rising afternoon heat. 

Inside the gated compound everything has grown. The tropical pines are thick and towering, the palms proud and facades of houses freshly whitewashed. Trees are dripping hibiscus onto the luscious lawns where nannies supervise the toddlers. There are cats prowling the boundary fences, the toms brawling in the evening as prayer bells ring and the smell of roasting spices floats out of every kitchen. 

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It is early morning. Airless and sultry, the day’s heat building after it barely subsided. Like so many things in India, winter’s changing. I’m out running, soon I’ll be joined by other neighbors, racing a tropical sun . There’s a gentle glow from street lamps where moths gather, a faraway crane is lit for the holidays, clouds hurry past the waning moon. There’s another person out, a grandfather. It’s more than 20 degrees but he’s wearing a white scarf wrapped over his head and face, cotton like his billowing shirt. He regards the morning suspiciously, seeing the high rises all around us like he was hemmed in, a look of passive disdain on his weathered face. Maybe he was thinking about the vastness of home, the untameable north of the subcontinent.  Miles away, a lifetime away. To him the year passing would be an inevitability, a grain of sand in the desert, or one of the thousands of stars that crowd the sky above it.

‘far and wide the vernal breeze wafts sweet odours from blossoming trees to distant lands’ Sanskrit Proverb 


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It seems we’re starting the year with sherbet. It is in a sense like a sorbet since it’s a frozen fruity thing (often citrus) but has dairy to make it smooth and creamy which sorbet doesn’t. You could also call this recipe frozen yogurt but I thought sherbet sounded nice. Anyway it’s a very simple recipe and if you don’t have an ice cream maker you could make cute yogurt pops instead. You can adjust the amount of cardamom according to your taste but if you leave it out altogether you might want to add some vanilla instead. It’s also kind of healthy so if you ever wanted ice cream for breakfast… like Drake said, you can’t drink all day if you don’t start in the morning.
Happy New Year. Hope this one is what you want it to be. Love you xx


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Orange + cardamom sherbet

2c natural yogurt of choice
3T fresh orange juice 
3T honey
1/2 - 1tsp fresh ground cardamom 


Put all ingredients into a blender and blend to combine.
Pour into ice cream maker and churn according to ice cream maker’s instructions. Make sure you freeze the bowl-part of your ice cream maker in advance (it varies but often 24 hours before churning).
Make sure you use a freezer friendly container to let your almost-sherbet finish freezing. It will keep for a long time.

It may help to take the sherbet container out of the freezer a few minutes before serving so it’s less icy and easier to scoop.

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Bangalore

nutmeg and pear | travel guide to Bangalore from an expat
There were white towels hanging on the clotheshorse; they looked even brighter against the pale cream walls. There was a new toothbrush by the sink, an unopened tube of toothpaste. Two lip balms by the bedside table. Moisturizer that was infused with coconut oil. My feet made a familiar slapping sound, skin on the heavy marble tiles of the staircase, I remembered to put all my weight on the arm holding the dark wood bannister and swing my legs down the steps. Grandma had bought the yogurt I’d always eat, they always remember, from the towels to the yogurt. I sat at their dining table, wicker chairs, grandpa turned on the TV. 6:30pm. It was dark out, the lights were glowing amber, moths fluttered and cast shadows on the walls of the patio. I listened. To the whirring fan overhead. To the chit-chat of Tamil television from the living room, the neighbors’ kids ringing bicycle bells. A car reversing; in India the parking sensors sing. A pressure cooker, a tomcat on the wall. Stillness, the warmth of day dwindling. Grandma moving steel dishes, looking for the sambar.
nutmeg and pear | travel guide to Bangalore from an expat
nutmeg and pear | travel guide to Bangalore from an expat
nutmeg and pear | travel guide to Bangalore from an expat

7:00pm. I’d seen upstairs, in the room that used to be mine, the notebooks were still there. From that year I’d lived in this house. The year I would sit, at 7pm, studying geography or biology, math running through my head. An odd, out-of-body feeling, I wasn’t sure if perhaps tomorrow, I should be back in the car going to school. I needed to go sort my tie and find the wretched leather belt. Check facebook, see what I missed. But that was three years ago - facebook and school. The problem with this house, with this place, was that it was so deeply caked in memories, every thing was a time suck. The house was big, too big for my grandparents really, with high ceilings. Grandma had planted succulents in little terracotta pots; the Dutch clogs that were a gift from dad years ago, grandpa had cleaned the photos on the walls. You’re home, the grandparents said to me, feel at home. Straight away, I did.

nutmeg and pear | travel guide to Bangalore from an expat
6:30am. AC running, the room was cold. Barefoot on the colder tiles, mosquito net over the windows, the balcony beyond. Bougainvillea cascaded over the tiles of the neighbor’s roof in a rich swathe of riotous pink ; pine trees and coconut palms fluttered slowly, like wings of a bird in to land. The sky was coral, fading somewhere to peach, elsewhere to blue, the moon a skinny crescent over the rooftop. I could hear the morning activity downstairs; grandma and grandpa are up so early they could run a racing stable. The steel vessels were filled with water, grandpa sat in his chair, reading the BBC on his I-pad. The air smelled fresh, a dog was barking, the place was coming to life. The cleaning ladies were out with their coconut-branch brooms, swirling the dust into hazy clouds, but the sky was clear, tropical blue, a color engrained deeply somewhere in my subconscious, in the same way as how I could interrupt my grandparents’ Tamil conversation with some comment without ever being able to speak a word.
nutmeg and pear | travel guide to Bangalore from an expat
nutmeg and pear | travel guide to Bangalore from an expat

Bangalore moved quickly, scrambling to stay ahead; a socialite at a shiny dance. A new mall had come up, next to our old haunt, we went in anyway. Some kind of smug satisfaction in thinking ‘ok so there’s a rooftop bar here, but you’re still not as cool as Phoenix’. In Phoenix, the old haunt, Zara was still packed with the cool crowd, every foreigner was queuing at Starbucks, the Apple store sold tech like the Belgians sell hot waffles on a snowday. Our bookstore still had the dusty, musty shelves of old books, the old Macleans you can’t find anywhere else. But there was a Le Creuset store now, across from it. I was happy, but it was strange; Sephora and it’s sensory overload were taking over real estate, there was a Kiehl’s next to an ayurvedic cosmetics place. At the gated complex where my grandparents lived, the boys had switched from obsessive cricket to football. One wore a Chelsea shirt, another’s dad drives a Jaguar, more and more of the girls were wearing shorts, a bunch of people had adopted rescue dogs. I stood, at the end of our road one day, watching a kid in a Barcelona shirt kick a football. The perimeter fence of the compound was behind him, bougainvillea grew there too. In the distance against a powdery evening sky, the silhouettes of buildings, they never used to be there. The ball bounced, a truck hooted, a dog barked. I could’ve been anywhere. But it was India and my grandparents’ place for sure.

nutmeg and pear | travel guide to Bangalore from an expat
nutmeg and pear | travel guide to Bangalore from an expat

I knew it was, because grandma would take us to her grocery store, and I could find pomegranates bigger than baseballs. I would sit on my grandparents’ swing, the jula on the patio, and I could hear the sing-song Hindi ads interrupting grandpa’s cricket matches, and grandma would be sorting the coriander leaves, or perhaps popping mustard seeds in a steel pan. The maids of the people behind us were washing clothes on a stone slab, someone was looking to buy an electric car. I went out in the heat, looking for the family of kittens Layla and I had adopted; one was stuck in a drain, we coaxed him out. There was a stray dog who had befriended the guards, I called her Jessie. The old tomcat Bob was embroiled in bitter feuds with a younger, fitter male; he ended up with a bloody leg, sleeping on top of the Jeep belonging to a woman who fed all the strays.

nutmeg and pear | travel guide to Bangalore from an expat
nutmeg and pear | travel guide to Bangalore from an expat

Three weeks went by, I felt at home, people stared at me at the mall like they’d never seen a girl in shorts before. I took an auto rickshaw; we went to a doctor’s office deep in a leafy Bangalore suburb; we avoided people we knew, years and lives ago. It was a foggy morning on our last day, my grandparents were wearing matching red fleeces, a stray dog sniffed at the hand luggage. We had tight connections and they wouldn’t let my grandparents into the terminal; procedures madam. We waved to them, I waved goodbye to the concrete jungle that the garden city was becoming, block after block of flats, grid after grid of housing complex. Cars, trucks, bikes on the road. I thought of my family of kittens, Jessie, my grandparents, Bob and his fights, change. ‘Wait for me’, I whispered, as the plane took off. Practical info My sister has also done a stunning Bangalore/Mysore/trains guide on her site, where she has kindly used my photos and added a lot of useful info, so I'd recommend reading that post if you'd like some more details.

Sleep: well we stay in a rather nice Mediterranean style townhouse in a gated community with a tennis court, pool, palm trees... no I totally do not mean to make you jealous. There are lots of reliable chains like Taj and Oberoi in the city centre and knowing Indian hospitality I'm sure they're amazing, and also less out of the way.

Do, see and shop

The area around MG Road is what I am going to call the center; it's where it all happens. There are great places to find nice sandalwood carvings and un-tacky souvenirs, jewelry stores for real gold stuff and great atmosphere in general.

You should visit the Vidhana Soudha which is really impressive as the seat of the Karnataka state government. From here you can get to Cubbon Park which is also great for culture - picnicking families Indian style, frolicking young couples, lots of plants. It's also car free.

Not in the same area (nearer MG road again) is Lalbagh Gardens for similar sights but there's also a lake which is nice for a walk around.

Phoenix Market City is my mall!! I know it's a mall but you have to visit, ok? Also they have one of the best stores for really worthwhile souvenirs that are both nice looking (I would buy all the plates and dishes and dark wood chairs) but are also made working with local artisans and craftsmen; keeping all those arts alive. That's Fabindia but there are quite a few other home furnishing stores that are worth a visit. Also Om Book shop for cheap books and older books (Dick Francis, alistair Maclean) and the sales at many known brands - Zara, Steve Madden, Aldo - are way better than in Europe. And also Apple products... and you might as well to go Big Bazaar because it's fun. There's groceries toys clothes houseware the works.

The other mall that's worth a trip is UB City which is in town near MG road etc and it's where the cool kids go... I was invited to a party there when I was a cool kid (yes those days existed) and it's got all the designers - both international and local talent. It's all fountains, glitzy tiles and great people watching. Also all the above mentioned cool kids used to go get smashed and have an ahem fun time in a neighbourhood called Koramangala (in the south-east). I've never been because I'm not that cool (if at all) but it was the place with all the nightlife, bars, etc, so if you're into that sort of thing, it all used to happen there :)

If you don't have time to take a train trip to see some of the everyday India I would recommend taking a drive - my old drive to school believe it or not was a really nice insight into village life- cows, pastures etc. Try a drive from the Whitefield road area to Indus international school :)

Eat Go to my grandparents' house and ask my grandma to make you chappatis with my vegetables - I wouldn't know the name but they're a colourful combination of carrots, beans, peas and some unpronounceable gourds in a broth-y spicy mix. Also ask for sambar - lentils, carrots, raddish, pumpkin, some other guord, a secret spice blend. Ok I joke but at Phoenix mall the places for Indian food that are always always packed are Copper Chimney which is pretty fancy and also Raj Dhani where you can get all these different chutneys, lentils, rice, veggies... in steel dishes, on banana leaves. Also try the Indian version of Starbucks - Coffee Day, which all my friends used to swear by.

Just a heads up that the traffic in Bangalore is bad. Like, really bad. A 5 minute drive can take 35 if a tractor parks somewhere inconvenient. So always leave with plenty of time. Taxis themselves are quick and cheap, they are also really into Uber these days. And there's also the good old auto rickshaw. Oh and the Metro works in the centre-sort of area around MG Road, it's very clean, safe and efficient.

Hope some of you found this helpful/interesting. The snow is starting in Norfolk... big hugs xx

India by rail: Bangalore to Mysore

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The man's face was like a book, but unreadable. It was so weathered, deeply darkened by time spent under scorching sun. The dark eyes seemed to hold stories, epics of unforgiving landscapes, a life where nothing came easy, where every day was survival and little more than that. My eyes met his for the briefest second, his train was just leaving. It was an all-blue second class sleeper. No AC, no windows. Battered benches. People spilling out into the walkways between the carriages. Their faces all spelled something similar. Restless lives. Funny that ours should overlap for that short second.

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There was a family on the platform across from where I stood. My backpack was the ubiquitous Kanken. They had none. A few jute bags, the young girls' heads were shaved, they'd been to some temple. They had on their best saris, powder pink, shocking blue, the men wore all white. They slept under the benches of the platform, I smiled at one of the girls, she looked away.

It was some sort of traveller's epiphany, if the concept exists. I realized why people did it, why half of the western world seemed to want to take one of those trains across India. To get lost, to wander, to meet the real people, to hear their stories. I'd never been interested. Maybe it was a kind of complacency that came from being lucky enough to have lived there, traveled around lots since before I can even remember. But I'd scoff at the mere idea of an Indian rail trip. And there I was, waiting for the Shatabdi express from Bangalore to Mysore. It wasn't one of those really rough trains; the people were all vaguely middle class, a few foreigners in the mix, but it was a taste of trains in a country that relies pretty heavily on them. Pigeons fluttered around the rooftop of the station, on the peeling panes of the railway house. My granpdpa was next to me, looking up at them. Years and years ago he'd stayed there, with grandma when my mum was still tiny, when the railways were a booming and well financed asset, before the pigeons claimed the rooftops for their own. His eyes are dark blue, always thoughtful, I could see him drift, his eyes, too, they were filled with something.

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nutmeg-and-pear-india-by-rail
nutmeg-and-pear-india-by-rail

Bangalore didn't fade away peacefully. The urban crush stayed, shanty towns seemed to rattle as our train chugged past, testament to a city that was growing quicker than its limbs could carry it . Nothing unexpected there, a stark reminder where you were. But it did fade to a luscious patchwork of green. Village life, pure and simple. Oxen ploughing the fields, buffalo here and there. At the railway crossing a lone rickshaw would stand, people were working the fields with scythes, growing maize and tall grasses. The sky was bright blue, the soil was deep red, the train was moving slowly and the sun was streaming in. My sister and I wanted to jump off the train, take off into that green wilderness, sit in the coconut groves in the shade. I could imagine the gentle rasp of the big leaves, the singing of tropical birds. So far from the chaos and dust of the city, from what you expect of this country.

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nutmeg-and-pear-india-by-rail
nutmeg-and-pear-india-by-rail

Mysore revealed itself, over the next afternoon and morning, to take life at a much more doable place than Bangalore. We'd rented a little apartment near the Chamundi hills, it teetered on a cross roads. From the balcony we watched a cow try to steal coconuts from a vendor, a fruit seller under a mango tree. Flame of the forest lined the streets, school girls in starchy blue uniforms tied their hair in braids knotted with jasmine. At Mysore Palace throngs of people stripped off their shoes to wander the halls with all their glory from the days of the Raja, I promptly turned my back on the monument and took photos of the people instead, a riot of color, confetti at an Italian wedding. Mysore felt less - less transient than Bangalore, the streets near the apartment seemed like the residents had lived there forever, there was a feeling of community that Bangalore couldn't quite muster.

On our last morning the owner of the apartment offered to take my sister and I on a hike in the Chamundi hills, 1200 steps to a sacred Hindu temple complex. We left before light, his radio blared out the morning prayers, the Sanskrit words shrouded in ancient mystery. We were by no means the earliest on the steps, locals were flocking down as we started to climb. There were others taking the steps purely for the sport; local boys did the whole trip at a run with Bollywood pop screaming out of their mobiles, the devout stopped at each step to make an offering with red and orange powders. Bare foot. Halfway to the top stood a man, I'll call him a sadhu though I don't know exactly what he was, he sung a haunting tune, maybe also in Sanskrit. Mournful words, robes all white, a graying beard, looking at the world through guarded eyes.

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nutmeg-and-pear-india-by-rail

The temple complex was unremarkable, it was too foggy to really get a good view of the city. Some of the trees bore light pink blossom, macaques stole bananas offered to the gods. There were more tourists climbing as we went down, the sadhu had barely progressed, but I had a feeling he wasn't in it for the sake of the climb or the dawn-lit photographs.

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We left Mysore that afternoon, back on the rails, Mysore station was quieter than Bangalore, we were on the first platform and I couldn't really see the second class trains. But I knew that the people would be there, people who'd have seen the stars pass through those grilled windows, people who'd have come, barefoot, to climb up to the temple for the blessing. When I was unpacking, I found my all white Stan Smiths, the shoes I'd stupidly worn on the hike to the temples. The toes had little marks of red and yellow, from where offerings had been made on the steps. I'd like to think that we'd been blessed too, in our own way.

Practical things I lived in Bangalore a while ago and I consider myself a bit of an India veteran buuut this was my first time really travelling as a tourist. funny. anyway, if you are interested in a very short, doable rail trip: - the indian rail system is quite clearly laid out for the AC, civilized type of train we're talking about :) the Shatabdi Express goes non-stop Bangalore to Mysore in about 2 hours. You can book tickets online, the official website is the IRCTC site but it's not at all user friendly, I thought the site Book My Trip was much easier, a lot like expedia or anything. If you shop around I'm sure there are others and trains are really affordable anyway. -in Mysore we stayed in a serviced apartment because we prefer to cook and do our own thing. The Red Lotus Suites were really close to the Chamundi hills and the palace but a fair bit away from the real city centre which we didn't have time to visit. The owner was also very helpful with organising taxis etc. They're simple but clean and spacious. Uber is huge here for taxis. - we visited Mysore palace which wasn't architecturally incredible to be honest but culturally was fascinating so it's worth a visit, there is also a rose garden which is nice. After the Taj mahal, it is also the second most visited tourist spot in India! - I think we probably enjoyed the steps to the temple in the Chamundi Hills most, it's a must do thing in Mysore apparently. Just be aware that some people do it for the religious aspect so just wear the usual respectful gear and you'll be fine. It gets very hot very quickly so plan on arriving by 6am, the pink skies at dawn are also gorgeous. - we also visited this Ashram. I'm no hippy dippie chakra talking person but it wasn't really like that. There is a rehabilation centre for birds with a pretty aviary, a couple of temples and a bonsai garden which we all loved. It's quiet and not too crowded and very green.

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I will include more details about Bangalore in my next post, as I said I lived here for a bit so I know a couple of things about the place ;) Anyways I hope you found this post interesting, if you are planning something similar you can always get in touch and I'll see if I can help. Sorry for the dearth of info about the trains themselves.

And I'd like to thank all of you lovely people who read nutmeg and pear, even once and a while. If there is anything you'd especially like to see on nutmeg and pear, please let me know, I'd love to hear what you think. Any certain recipes you'd like? Anything you're seeing too much? From what I hear 2016 was a bit rough for some people, so I really hope that 2017 is amazing for you all. Wishing you the brightest New Year's and hoping it brings you and your people lots of goodness. xo