It's been two months since we came to India. We're in our new home, which is coming together piece by piece, and are just now starting to see a little bit of a return to a daily rhythm. We're acquainted with our neighborhood shops, the dogs that hang out outside our apartment complex, and also with some of our neighbors, something I was unsure would happen while living in such a large apartment community. It's beginning to feel like home!
In chats with friends and family, I often get lots of questions about the practical details of living here, so by request, I'm sharing a few words about how we do things 'round here. I just want to mention that this is not meant as a generalization. Some folks may do things similarly, but some folks might not. Pune is a city with a lot of options:
We moved into our apartment last Tuesday on my birthday and received our shipment a few days ago. Nothing was missing, nothing smelled, nothing was damp, the India-side movers were quick and efficient, and we only had a few small items broken. It was a crazy day full of energy and getting into the boxes was like Christmas morning. I nearly fainted when I opened one labelled "Bitz Box"...there were no bitz (what does that mean, anyway?), and I realized from the smell that it was my 'murica box!!! Before we left I went to Target (kind of like a Carrefour, Tesco, or Big Bazaar) in a last minute frenzy to buy supplies after I read about the scarcity of certain items on some India-focused expat blogs. Here's the list:
Having been here for about a month I've seen that most things are available in Pune. It might take some hunting, but one can find almost anything. If I did it again, I'd have left everything except: spices (Old Bay, anyone?), aluminum foil and cling wrap, Tampex (we get OB here, but not the kind with the applicator), stick antiperspirant/deodorant (they have mostly aerosol deodorant sprays here which are not antiperspirant), paper towels (the ones here are WAY too thin, dryer sheets, and powdered laundry detergent (most shipping companies prohibit liquids like laundry detergent but the powdered version is fine). Because smelling a "home" scent like the Gain almost brought me to tears.
The new place is great. We have plenty of space to spread out, a beautiful new all-white kitchen, a fingerprint-recognition lock system, marble floors in the common areas, built-in wardrobes, a nice view of the city, and of the plateaus behind it. It needed some minor repairs and had a major HVAC failure (one of the compressors failed and needed to be replaced), but our relocation agent really muscled through and managed to get it all resolved in a fraction of the time it normally would have, so we owe a big thanks to them. Once we add our personal touches to it, it will be perfect.
Since we got here in January, it's repeatedly been suggested that I have two things set up for home delivery: milk and salad (more on salad in a later post). Naturally, with all the buzz that had been made, I put it on my short list and signed up the day we moved in. The milk, operated by a company called Pride of Cows, is delivered in the early morning to my door twice a week for Rs. 80 per liter. It's seriously the most delicious milk I have tasted in my entire life, this coming from a kid who grew up on the milk from our local dairy farm in NJ.
Now, we've been eating a lot of paneer since we've gotten here and I would venture to say that it really has become a protein staple in our diets. Naturally with a milk as delicious as the one we're getting, it inspired me to try my hand at making my own...and it was a whole lot simpler than I thought! I could give a step-by-step tutorial, but there are so many great ones out there and I'd rather not re-invent the wheel, so I just suggest searching for one and going with it. I will say that even as a first timer, I find that this is something that's kind of hard to screw up.
For my acid I used 1/4 c of yogurt, as was suggested by a woman I chatted up in the dairy section at the grocery store yesterday (thanks, whoever you are!). She said to save some whey from my first batch of paneer and use it instead of the yogurt next time so that it has a better texture. The end result was a really great firm paneer that has a nice, creamy flavor. Next time I'll have to remember to add a little salt, as this one was lacking.