Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The Productivity Report

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Channeling my love of productivity, I've been working slowly on a book that aims to bridge the gap between the research we know about increasing productivity and our practices.

To make the insights I find available sooner, I started ProductivityReport.org, a blog updated every Monday with findings from real research about what we can and should be doing (or not doing) to help ourselves achieve productivity goals.


I hope you'll check it out!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Foods of South India: Nannari Sharbath

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Nannari sharbath is a very sweet and fruity tasting drink made with sarsaparilla root syrup. Nannari is just another name for sarsaparilla. Whenever I look up individual ingredients used in Indian cooking, I almost always find theoretical associated health benefits. Nannari supposedly helps one cool down, which is what you want to do when the temperature hits 106 Fahrenheit and the humidity is 100 percent. In Chennai, that's called May and June. We only felt the tail end of the extreme heat because we arrived in early July. Most days are topping out at 100 or 98 now.

The drink pictured at right has basil seeds floating on top, which I adore. Basil seeds that have been soaked long enough to create a jelly layer on the outside are common in southeast Asian drinks. The texture feels similar to soaked chia seeds. Basil seeds also apparently have some health benefits: cooling, digestion aid, and so forth.

Sarsaparilla was popular in the United States back in the 19th Century, when people were into health tonics and elixirs. You might also recognize it from The Big Lebowski as the drink The Stranger (played by Sam Eliot) orders at the bowling alley bar.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Foods of South India: Coconut Chutney

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Coconut chutney, I believe it's unique to south India, though I have no doubt you can get it elsewhere. Coconut chutney is a dip or condiment, like any other chutney, but it's more savory than sweet, which might confuse anyone who's used to sweetened shredded dried coconut.

In southern India and similar regions, coconut chutney is commonly seen at breakfast, served alongside idlis and vada.

Coconut chutney has heaps of fresh shredded coconut, which is more toothsome than the sweetened kind that you'd find in a macaroon. When the chutney is mounded in a dish or onto a plate (which might be nothing more than a banana leaf) coconut water and cream drain to the bottom, leaving a lot of meat in the scoopable top part. Mixed into it might be a few black peppercorns or chilies, or curry leaves (not to be confused with curry powder). 

I’ve mostly had white coconut chutney, but it can have a greenish tint or be fully orange-red, depending on the other ingredients.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Foods of South India: Medu Vada

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Vadas, or medu vadas, I like a lot. They look and taste like deep fried doughnuts, but they're savory. Like idlis, vadas make for a fairly nutritional breakfast, if you can see past the fact that they're deep-fried. The dough is made with ground up lentils flavored with curry leaves and chilies, and you dip bites of vada into a lentil soup called sambar. All those lentils add up to some decent protein. 

If you’re me, however, you dip hunks of vada in chutney, because I just can't get enough chutney. 

I've read that a "vada" can be any kind of savory fried snack or fritter, so I'm not sure if the doughnut variety is specific to Chennai or if I simply haven’t encountered other vadas yet.