Mexican Fiesta with Built2Cook

When my mum was learning to drive, she told me I was the best person to practice with because I wouldn't rush her, get tensed, or pass judgment. I translated that to mean I was her favourite person to try new things with! And so this Mother's Day, I offered my foodie-mum a choice of cuisines she'd never eaten before, and promised we'd explore one together. I'd make some stuff, she could make some with me, and we'd buy the rest. If she didn't like anything, she could ditch it, no questions asked. 

I was thrilled when she picked Mexican. I've ranted about this before, but Hyderabad has no decent - read, authentic - Mexican food. None. If I want it, I know I should just make it. This was the perfect excuse. Last year this time I was in Mexico, so this gave me an opportunity to get nostalgic! I'd also been itching to try a new food start-up, Built2Cook, which delivers pre-prepped ingredients for international recipes. They had tacos on their menu, with sides of salsa and guacamole, all for Rs.250. Bring it on! 

I like their website. Ingredients, portion size, and cooking time are clearly noted - and the ingredients include things like salt and oil, so you could literally have an empty larder and still cook up a meal. I also like their pictorial step-by-step recipes... given the people who order off Built2Cook are likely unfamiliar with the cuisine or even cooking in general, it's especially helpful. I wish they had 3 course options - right now, tacos were the only Mexican thing on their menu, so we had to look elsewhere for our other courses. I'd love to see a burrito up there.

The taco recipe came with a disclaimer that tacos are a diverse breed, and every person has their own recipe for the filling. I couldn't agree more. I wanted to tweak mine a bit, so I ran out to the local grocery store to buy a few things. While I was there, I did a quick cost comparison - 3 tacos would be Rs.60, the veggies would cost another Rs.120 (thanks, avocados!), sour cream + cheese would easily tally another Rs.200. That's assuming you don't bother with refried beans. Even without factoring in the opportunity cost of time spent prepping all that stuff, there's no doubt that Built2Cook saves you a lot of money. And assuming this is a one-off and you don't cook Mexican (or whatever else) all the time, you won't be stuck with a whole lot of, say, sour cream, that you'll never get around to using. 

I got home and was surprised to find they'd already delivered my box at 6pm. I'd specifically asked for 7pm, and I couldn't help thinking that on a weekday, they took a real gamble by deciding to show up an hour early. It's 46 degrees out in Hyderabad, so it's not even like they could have left the fresh-prepped ingredients with the watchman. My mum also told me that they didn't have change for Rs.100. I personally think if a startup only offers cash on delivery, its dishes are all priced at Rs.250, and they do their own delivery, they should definitely give their delivery people a stack of 50's. Alternatively, just charge either Rs.200 (similar start-ups in Bangalore often charge Rs.150 on average); or go big, maybe add a lime soda for people to drink as they cook, and round off the bill to Rs.300. It's the small things that make the difference. 

But we were excited with what we got - an enticing looking package reminiscent of Masterchef's Mystery Boxes, and a flyer with the pictorial recipe & ingredients list. My mum promptly pocketed the flyer for future reference, it's a keeper! We opened the box to find 4 compartments, with the ingredients for each component of the dish segregated neatly. Just in case anything got mixed up in transit, each packet or cup of ingredients was also labelled with the name of the ingredient, and the dish it was to be used for; eg: tomato (guacamole), tomato (salsa). Very nicely done. The olive oil and sour cream had both leaked, so some things were a tad messier than I'd have liked... but this was purely an optical problem - none of it got onto any of the other ingredients, and they'd packed a little extra of the basics such as salt and oil anyway. The latter's a bit of a double-edged sword, I guess, because with everything neatly portioned out, a newbie cook may be tempted to just add all the salt or all the oil... ouch. Maybe the recipe should specify how much of the seasoning to use, or say season to taste.

I loved the convenience of having all my stuff pre-prepped, it's like having a handy sous chef. As I said, I made a few tweaks to make it more like the Mexican I'm familiar with. In case you buy the same box and aren't too familiar with the cuisine, here's what I did:

- I kept aside the water chestnuts & babycorn to make a Thai curry with some other time, as I'd never had them in a taco before.

- Since it's not prime tomato weather, but it is mango season, I changed the tomato salsa to a mango salsa. Yum-my. Plus, it gave us more salsa.

- I bought some extra tortilla chips to go with the salsa & guacamole, and grated some more cheese to top them with. 

- When avocado oxidizes, it quickly turns darker. So to preserve the colour and enhance the taste, it's recommended to add a squeeze of lime juice. You also want to mash it up a bit, so it tastes buttery.

- I also shredded the lettuce and coriander more finely, but that's subjective - I've a picky-eater husband so I tend to over-mince and make it hard for him to take out anything!

I made us some virgin mojitos to sip on as we cooked, and ordered a bunch of other stuff we could eat along with our tacos, chips, guac and salsa. I put on a movie, mum sampled everything, and we had the perfect, relaxed evening. She discovered she really likes guac & mango salsa, and said she'd try them again soon!

All in all, Built2Cook helped create some of those memories that money can't buy. It looks very promising, and I can't wait to order another box for a date-night in with A! Now if only they had a Thai green curry, or an Austrian spatzle....

(Usual disclaimer: this isn't a paid review, just me spreading the joy for anyone else who may be interested).

Rant: Digital Marketing Faux Pas

I'm angry about a lot of stuff this week, none of which I can do much about. So to divert myself, here are the top ten digital marketing trends that make me wonder about companies' hiring standards, or lack thereof.

- Clickbait headlines are bad enough, but clickbait headlines with poor grammar? If I wanted that, I'd just read one of Chetan Bhagat's 'novels'.

- Ads which call out a specific product or price point, then direct you to the homepage. It's like being sent to the grocery store when you place your order at a restaurant.

- When the word 'only' is suffixed to outrageous price points. Rs.900 only for a dupatta? No, please, take a kidney too, it's only fair.

- Completely irrelevant jumping on the bandwagon. B2B businesses that wish people on, say, Father's Day, just because B2C businesses are. Happy Veteran's Day to you, too.

- Hashtag hashtags. Learn how they work before you use them, please. #korangukailapoomaalai #TamizhLols

- 'Mobile sites' that are basically desktop sites with text in font size 5 and awkward image alignment. I wouldn't mind if your company wasn't touted to be a 'cutting-edge' 'tech start-up'. (Aren't they all?)

- Asking for all my details, including location, several times; then emailing me a bunch of offers that are only valid in other regions. Is this some bizarre tie-up with a relocation company that I don't know of?

- Giving away freebies to bloggers who started their blogs purely to receive freebies. I've no idea which restaurant is actually worth eating at anymore. Or which blog is actually worth reading, for that matter.

- No opt-out clauses. Dear big e-comm company, I'd probably not have used your biggest rival as much if you didn't try bullying me into downloading your mobile app all the time. 

-  Remarketing that never stops. Twelve months into seeing the same pregnancy ad, I wonder how long they think the human gestation cycle lasts. You'd think a maternity clinic would know the answer, eh?

Raising an easy baby

We're fast approaching the end of the 4th trimester. It's been going great. When people ask, that's what I usually say - great, or fun, or amazing. I say eM's a chilled out baby, or that she's easy. They ask if she sleeps 'through the night,' and I respond that she's doing really well; she sleeps all that she can be expected to. I'm asked if she cries a lot, and I say: she's a happy baby, it's easy to comfort her. And given I say it with a wide smile, and am clearly relaxed, they all agree she's the best baby there ever was. I wholeheartedly agree with that summation!

But here's the thing: I don't objectively think she's any easier or more difficult than the average baby. What she is, is a baby. Her brain & body are constantly developing. Expecting her to actually sleep or smile through all those changes, especially when she doesn't have the words to understand them, is bizarre.

She adapts as best as she can. Sometimes that means wanting to be held for hours in the middle of the night. Other times, it means celebrating with her as she figures out her legs can splash, or that she has fingers, or whatever else. Either way, the important thing to note here is that she can't help any of it. She's not throwing a fit for lack of anything better to do. She's not at her best behavior just because we have company. You really can't hold her accountable for anything just yet!

I understand people ask these questions as a way to make conversation, but I don't want my child to be called 'good' or 'bad' for the sake of conversation. I get that she can't understand these words just yet, but I just don't see the point of having these convenient judgments repeated. At best, you'll be able to ignore them, because they'll change by the day. At worst, you'll subconsciously start to believe them. Difficult babies seem to be  a matter of perception. It's easier when you acknowledge your baby probably isn't doing anything other babies don't.

I think people also ask you about these details because they want to sympathize with you. But it seems unfair to say that the baby's been awake every hour, on the hour; if I'm not also able to say, "I think it's a growth spurt," or "She's due for a wonder week about now." It's not like the baby has the words to get her point across, after all. When I understand why she's doing what she's doing, it doesn't make the long hours less tiring, but it does let me be the adult in the equation.

I'm not in denial here. She doesn't cry "a lot", however that's defined, because I hate letting her. When that means bouncing her and walking around for four hours, I do that. She sleeps "well", because she only wakes up when she's hungry, and she only stays awake when she can't figure out how to go back to sleep. Again, if that means singing 'Twinkle Twinkle' forty times in a row (with the hand movements!) every two hours, I'll do it. And I'll still say she's sleeping as well as can be expected, and mean it. She's not forming bad habits, she's forming herself. It's impossible to spoil someone by taking care of them when they're confused or need reassurance.

So how do you raise an 'easy' baby? Simply, by being an easy parent. Don't expect anything from the baby just yet. Sure, it's exhausting at times, uplifting at others, and a dazed blur for the most part. But I have a happy baby, and a healthy one. Those are the only labels I'll ever accept for her. Onwards & upwards!