Baking | Oatmeal & Almond Slices – Of Friends, Food and A Memorable Travel Trail
“Remember the tiny kiosk where we had kulhar (mud pots) tea near Jhulaghat, that small village we stopped by for breakfast alongside river Kali, and the green house we barged in for lunch….everything is washed away in flood.” She told in one breath.
My heart feels heavy every time I watch the happenings in Uttarakhand, India on television. The early heavy rains, flash floods and landslides in Uttarakhand or Uttaranchal last month have devastated this beautiful hill station of India.
I called ‘M’ my childhood friend from Uttarakhand the other day to inquire about her family. She could not stop cribbing about the mindless construction of illegal hotels and resorts by outsiders on river beds all around the valley leading to deforestation. “Hazards are inevitable, but such human activities convert hazards into catastrophe…and that’s what we are facing right now” I could feel the despair and vulnerability in her voice.
“How are your children doing?” I changed the topic and tried catching up with our lives after 2008 when we visited her first.
“All are doing good here, Sanjeeta. So, where all have you travelled after your Uttaranchal trip?” She asked in her Pahari Hindi. “We have traveled far and wide M, but undoubtedly, Uttarakhand trip remains the most memorable journey till date.” I answered without thinking twice.
Me and DH (dear husband) love traveling and have visited many states of India, Uttarakhand was our first long distance road trip with our children, which makes it more memorable. I wanted to keep the trip children-friendly and selected Corbett National park for the same, where we can be one with nature and animals. A common friend gave me the contact details of one of our childhood friends ‘M’ in Uttarakhand.
I was really eager to meet ‘M’ after almost 35 years and asked if she can come to CNP. She insisted I visit her house in Didihat. “Its just five hours drive from Haldwani and am sure you’ll enjoy this uphill journey” she informed. I agreed and changed my itinerary to accommodate Didihat, without even knowing where this unusual sounding place ‘Didihat’ was.
We reached Haldwani early in the morning and were waiting for our taxi after a long and tiring journey from Chennai.
We never experienced ‘Mountain sickness’ until we started our uphill journey to Didihat through endless hairpin bends all along the way. At one point DH even suggested we return back to Haldwani for better. But my friend ‘M’ kept calling us on cell phone, encouraging us to keep coming.
We reached Didihat after a grueling twelve hours of uphill journey, with nausea, vomiting and splitting headache.
That was the first time we completely trusted our friends and did not listen to our gut instinct. And did I say that this proved to be one of the wisest decisions of our travel trails till date.
A homely delicious meal of rice, lentil and pahari (mountain) vegetable salad and we just conked out that night.
The next three days were a total bliss. Both of them ‘M’ and her husband looked more excited than us. They would get up as early as 4.30am, keep hot water for us, make breakfast and pack lunch for the days travel.
It is best advised to explore the wonders of nature in this valley in your personal vehicle. Haldwani is the last railway track and if you wish to travel further upto Munshiyari, you need to book a cab.
With old melodious songs from Indian cinema playing in the car, some of the most delicious Pahari food in cute picnic boxes, couple of thermos with creamy coffee and we all started our long drive to Munshiyari early morning. Mr. ‘M’ left no place unearthed from Didihat till Mushiyari.
And what a picturesque drive that was.
The air was rich and crisp with the scent of wild flowers and cool crystal clear mountain streams flowing across the road. Dense conifers and teak trees encircled with moss standing tall all along the way.
As you drive through lonely country roads maneuvering several sharp ‘U’ turns and reach near Munshiyari, the cool breeze up there and the spectacular views of majestic snow clad Himalayas is sheer bliss.
“You are the very first of our friends from outside world who visited us so far” M said as a mater of fact. Happiness was written all over their faces. Both she and her husband took turns to keep us entertained and feel comfortable.
My family was completely flattered with the hospitality showered on to us.
Blessed are those who are close to nature. Limited needs, low expectations from life, simple living and the unpolluted serene atmosphere make these mountain people cheerful and content.
How I wished this journey never ended…..
For those who wish to read more about our Uttarakhand trip in India, here are the posts I wrote in 2010 on my other blog Different Strokes;
Oatmeal and Almond Slices
I always bake some granola bars or cookies during our travel trips and pack them in air tight containers. These goodies come handy when you are with your children and travelling to some remote places, where looking out for shops or hotels is pretty tough.
These healthy granola bars and cake slices are a perfect travelling snack and a filling breakfast recipe. The recipe is quite simple and the slices stays good for a week or more if packed properly. These Oats and almond slices are neither dry as granola bars nor moist as cakes.
- 1 cup quick cooking Oats
- 1/4 th cup all purpose flour
- 1/4 cup crushed Almonds
- 1/2 cup powder sugar
- 1/4 th cup vegetable oil
- 1/4 th cup yogurt/curd
- 1 tsp. cinnamon powder
- 1/2 tsp. baking powder
Method; Combine quick cooking Oats, all purpose flour, crushed almonds, cinnamon powder, baking powder in a large bowl. Whisk yogurt, powdered sugar and vegetable oil with a fork in another vessel. Grease a rectangular baking tray or line it with a parchment paper. Add all the dry ingredients in the wet ingredients and fold lightly to combine well.
Pour the batter in the greased baking tray and bake at 180°C for 20-25 minutes till done. Cool the baked Oats completely on a wire rack before slicing it.
- The Oats and Almonds slices should be baked in a shallow baking tray, the one used to bake brownies.
- The batter should not be spread more than 1 or 11/2 inch in the tray.
- For healthier options replace all purpose flour with whole wheat flour.
- Skip the sugar and add one tablespoon of Honey in the batter. Drizzle extra honey or dust each slices with powdered sugar before serving.
We have travelled far and wide but this Uttarakhand trip remains one of the most memorable travel trails of ours till date. At times we often sit together to reminisce those unforgettable travelling moments spent in the valley. Of splashing & drinking water from fresh water springs, trekking in the wild, talking and shaking hands with rugged looking local Pahari people, plucking wild berries and staining our dresses, collecting fern saplings, sipping tea from special hand-made fresh leaf cups, standing on the edge of valleys and shouting our heart out.
Yes, travelling is fun, if you get to see and do what you always wanted to.
The family that travels together stays together. More than just yearly rituals, these vacations have helped us strengthen our family bonds. And the wonderful thing about travelling with family is that it provides some of the most precious moments and unforgettable experiences that will remain locked in our hearts forever.
Hope every one of us realize to cherish these natural wonders, sacred heritages and resources for our children much before they start thinking that nature is something you watch only on Discovery and National Geographic channel.