Peer-graded Final Paragraph (Weeks 5 & 6)

Biryani Nation

Richly spiced, steaming hot, a jumble of flavor and a variety of ingredients: is it any wonder one of Pakistan’s most popular traditional dishes is biryani? Available everywhere, from roadside stands to the finest five-star hotels, biryani is a ubiquitous delight that transcends the usual boundaries dividing this society. Whatever your caste, class, religion or sect, here’s one food we all find ourselves gathering for. One of the reasons for this is the versatility of the recipe. You can choose the kind of rice you use in it. You can choose the kind of meat you put in it, or none at all. You can choose which cooking technique you want to try–there are quite few ways to make it. You can choose how you want to eat it: with extra spice or with pickles; with gravy or with raita (yogurt sauce with mint or other seasonings added); with shami kebabs (flat patties, which themselves may be made with your choice of meat or only lentils) or with the Pakistani take on salad–another local recipe, comprising shredded cabbage, cucumber and tomatoes, generally provided without dressing–or even with sliced boiled egg. There’s a combination for everyone. The great adaptability of this dish to the peculiarities of palate and the limitations of resources means anyone willing to sample it is welcome to do so.

Biryani is also more than just a tasty dish good for any occasion; something about this fragrant concoction speaks to the Pakistani temperament, and often the act of making and eating it becomes an opportunity for self-expression. Whether you’re a home cook or a restaurant chef, how you make biryani can say a lot about you. From the ingredients you use to the combination of herbs and spices, and the way you prefer it to be served, every part of the process is an opportunity to leave your signature. I’ve been able to tell how well I’ll get along with someone simply from the condiment they ate their biryani with. Gentle and mild or fiery and hot, infused with many herbs and complicated mix of spices or plain and humble, biryani is one of the simplest ways to say: this is who I am; this is where I come from; this is what I like. It’s no surprise, then, that no two recipes come out exactly alike.

Biryani is a part of the nation’s fading history. As a dish invented to please the palate of Mughal kings, it reminds of us of the cultural glory that once was. Although the kings may be gone for good, but in kitchens throughout the country, a lost empire is revived once more in the aroma of rice and spice.

Pakistanis implicitly understand the symbolic meaning of biryani. As the layers of ingredients come together in perfect unity to create an unforgettable medley of flavor, so too does biryani represent the layers of society coming together for the greater good. Biryani is an allegory. It’s also an allegory often misused; we remark cynically upon the menu of certain political campaigns: biryani served up with a heavy dose of divisive political rhetoric. In the eyes of biryani lovers, it is unforgivable even if it is not uncommon. Suffice it to say that Pakistanis take their biryani very seriously. At once a lesson in history, an artistic statement, an opportunity to bond, and a symbol of hope and solidarity, it is also a warning how easily the greatest of our values may be appropriated by those who do not have our society’s best interest at heart. I pray the word of caution is not lost on us. Our future depends on it.

Pakistani-style Chicken Biryani

N.B. This task required us to write a single paragraph using transitions to improve the flow; I’ve edited it slightly into multiple paragraphs and removed the transitions for the sake of readability and because I kind of like choppy writing. My selected topic was to write four reasons explaining the cultural importance of any particular traditional food. I chose one that I’m always ready to eat some more of. (^_^)

Peer-graded Writing Assignment (Week 4)

Tucked away in a corner of a dusty ancient city, which legend holds was founded by the son of a Hindu god, is a plain little brick-and-mortar edifice stubbornly holding its own against this onslaught of age and mythology. Next to it is a modest garden that seems to be fighting another battle: that of nature against the crush of increasing urban development. If the squirrels that inhabit this garden were to climb up the wall that separates it from the building, they would see me sitting in a balcony and writing as I watch their games down below. The place where I now live is a sparsely but comfortably furnished walk-up apartment two flights of stairs up from the ground floor, and one of the things I love most about living here is the view waiting for me just outside the window.

When I tire of watching the “Animal Olympics” I move back inside to resume the day’s chores. Finding an unexpected comfort in these routine activities that are part and parcel of living on one’s own, I can’t help but marvel at how peaceful and calm things are. My building is probably not as noisy as most other apartment buildings in the city; in fact, until dinnertime nears, it can be quite easy to forget that I live–as some might cynically say–clustered with hundreds of other people, in cramped concrete boxes stacked atop each other. But I don’t see it that way. To me, this is home. Yes, it is not the fanciest or most modern building in the city, nor do I have the most luxurious apartment in it. But it is my own little part of the world to rest in and retreat to, and I cherish the security and solitude it gives me.
(Besides, let’s face it: at my weight, I could do with a little more stair-climbing!)


N.B. The prompt asked us to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the place where we live.

Peer-reviewed Writing Assignment (Week 3)

The kittens Ginger and Ale dash into the room, ready to raise havoc. They run in circles around the bed before Ale skids towards a rug in the center of the room. The girl on the bed watches them amusedly, wondering if they have plans to become stunt drivers when they grow up. As if on cue, Ginger gracefully executes a flying leap onto the bed and slides across to the other side. But the girl is too fast for him! She snatches him up and gives him a cuddle. Temporarily distracted, he wonders what she is up to sitting by her lonesome self. He notices she is working on her laptop–that thing with the clickity-clackity buttons–and he decides to help her by pressing some of those keys she seems to find so fascinating. However, she is far from thrilled and keeps pushing his paw away. Indignant at having his help refused, he turns his attention to the much more pressing matter of stalking Ale who is currently engrossed in chewing the tassels attached to the rug. Perhaps he needs an extra set of teeth (and claws) to help him rip up that fabric?
A feline philanthropist’s work is never done.