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Monday, February 8, 2010

Eating Thali with Dr. Singh

You may have seen references to him before, but let me formally introduce him.  Dr. Devendra Singh was my undergraduate research advisor at the University of Texas - Austin.  We've gone waaaay back (over a decade now), and even before I took any of his courses, I was reading his research in popular science magazines.  Dr. Singh is a professor of psychology at UT-Austin, and he is very well known for his work on waist-to-hip ratio. 

Dr. Singh with Mouse in August 2002
Serving as my undergraduate advisor and professor, he motivated me to jump into research headfirst.  Though I was a newbie in academia, he never once said a discouraging word and was truly supportive of my work.  While an undergraduate, I took three of his courses: Psychology of Sex, Motivation, and Substance Abuse.  Not only were these three classes multifaceted, discussion based, and difficult as heck, he also used a unique grading method.  The top three exam grades for a particular exam would be mathematically averaged.  That average exam score would then become the basis for 100%.  For example, if the top three exam grades were 97, 95, and 93, then the average exam score is 95.  A student who scored 95 on that particular exam earned 100%.  The person who scored 97 earned 102% for that exam.  So if you were really an overachiever, you could theoretically score over 100% for the class.  Additionally, students with the top five exam scores were each awarded a fig (the fruit).  The fig was symbolic as it is one of the most healthful foods available.  Full of calcium, fiber, and potassium, figs are alleged to alleviate many problems.  Any student who earned two or more figs in a single class earned a letter of recommendation in the future.  Any student who earned all three figs (three exams per class) earned a lunch with Dr. Singh.  Needless to say, I'm fairly certain that I earned at least eight figs over the three classes.  I'm very certain that much of his teaching style, frankness about taboo topics, and humor come from him.  Now my students get to hear some of his jokes through me.  Unfortunately, he is not currently teaching due to health problems.

Over the years, I've stayed close to Dr. Singh, and he invited me over for a traditional vegetarian dinner at his home last weekend.  He said, "Sometimes, it is nice for you carnivores to get a sense of what is like to eat vegetables."  Just to clear it up, I eat both meat and vegetables.  He's not only been an inspiration in my research, but also my baking.  In my early years, he was the taste tester for many of my baked goods. Most recent Dr. Singh influenced dishes are my chocolate kaju katli and mutton briyani.  Here's photos of a traditional thali meal served by his sister, Manorma.  We call her Mano.  Thali meals are usually served with rice, pickled vegetables, roti bread, and other small dishes .  This one had a delicious lentil dish, spicy potato, rice, pickled okra, stuffed eggplant, and a yogurt dish.  The only place in Austin that serves Thali is Swad (to my knowledge, please correct me if there are others), and I would highly recommend going to try it out.  I also LOVE their samosas. 

In addition to cooking up a wonderful meal, Manorma, called Mano, makes beautiful jewelry from supplies from India.  She normally sells at a rented space, but this year, she'll only be selling out of her home.  Here are just a few photos of the jewelry (all 50% off right now).  From semi-precious stones to mother-of-pearl, Mano's got it all.  The jewelry all very unique, catchy, and endless in styles and color.  My iphone photos don't do the jewelry any justice at all.  I'm lucky I didn't go home with a giant boxful of earrings.  The earrings range from $8-$15 after 50% off. The earring and necklace sets range from $15-$30 after 50% off.  I don't remember the price ranges on the individual necklaces or bracelets.  If you are interested in viewing the jewelry, call Mano at 512-346-2770.  She's only here for another three weeks!

1 comment:

  1. That looks fantastic! I loved seeing baby Mouse, too...soooooo cute and deceptively tiny!