May 6, 2013

How To Spot A Social Climber & Chili Con Carne with Honey Cornbread

Belligerent Buddies: Me and B play party posers!

Oh! My! God!  Does it feel good to be back and blabbing! Taping the trap shut has been traumatic, I tell you! Have you noticed the exclamation marks?!? Intended to illustrate how excited I am! May I begin with how much I missed you? I was this close to curling up cocoon-style and crying. Okay, that was a tad OTT, but there was a tinge of truth to that. The grapevine’s been gushing with gossip, guys and gals, and God, have I gathered some juicy, jaw-dropping gems! Now do you get why I was so desperate? I’ve been dying to dish! I’ve also been dying to sleep like it’s going out of style, but that’s a separate story.

On a side-note, I swear I’ll stop adding exclamation marks to everything...soon!

Honestly, this hiatus was like being hit by a hurricane. I’m weak and worn out and want to whine. The upside is I have an amazingly awesome alibi for going AWOL. Come to think of it, there’s a couple. Care to count?  

Let’s begin with my best friends wed a week apart, which obviously entailed attending at least a million events. And what is a shaadi without some shor-sharaaba, right? Cue the music and move over Maroon 5 ‘cause I’ve got the moves like Jagger. Courtesy Kallu the choreographer, I am capable of cutting a rug to over a dozen desi dance numbers. Also, blatantly badgering my brother-in-law to get betrothed finally bore fruit.  He traded his freedom for a fabulous fiancée! In other news, the husband and I hosted a pre-nuptial party for our pals. And an extremely exciting Elmo-themed event for our baby’s first birthday. Oh, and there was our anniversary. And dare I forget that daunting deadline. The pressure of putting Hunger & Haw Hai’s first published feature was fierce.

UPDATE: Between the time that I began typing this out, till now, I’ve also hosted a laugh-out-loud ladies night. Now, I generally don’t gush about my girls, but I’m going with my gut and saying it anyways; I have a great gang! Hilarious, hot-headed homies! Additionally, I’ve attended another engagement, followed by an afternoon affair to applaud the affianced. Shout out, Juggan Kazim; may you always be blessed and beautiful! For the record, I’ve resolved to remain under the radar for the rest of the year. 

You know, the husband asks me the same question every weekend. Stay in or step out? Pardon me, my prince, but you're well aware that that's like asking me to pick between poison and Parisian pastries. A no-brainer. Slacking off is higher on my to-do list than socializing. Seriously, I’d sooner have my throat slit than spend Saturday night at some snotty soiree.

Here's why; I am in utter violation of several sacred social standards. For starters, I'm probably doomed beyond redemption for recycling clothes. Also, I'd rather have a hernia than go through the horror of having my hair done. And blah-blah banter makes me want to say bye-bye before I can blink.

But back in the day, I was the master of March madness and so I made a highly unprecedented move. I committed my calendar to being social and on the scene.  

By the way, this time was a brand new ballgame. The thing is, at my best, I’m elusive; at all other times I’m almost impossible to track down, but Section 1.1 of my crew’s Code of Conduct frowns furiously upon flakiness. And if my calculations are correct, I have a grand total of five friends and, frankly, I’d like to keep them close thus, blowing off besties was not an option. And so I sucked it up, spazzing at the sudden switch from wet-blanket to wild-thang.

I felt like I was perpetually primping for a party.

On the other hand, and I honestly don’t know how he does it, but the husband has this enviable ability to transform into a teenager at will. And nothing ups the ante like being aided and abetted by an entire entourage of Aitchisonians. Even I’ll admit their energy can be quite infectious.

I must also mention that my man was so moved by the moment, he managed to get his hands on a mic, making himself the MC at multiple mehendis.  Hype, humor, hullabaloo; he hit it out of the park. In fact, he did such a raging job that one reviewer raved he could give Ryan Seacrest a run for his money.  Of course, my counterpart is clueless about who Ryan Seacrest is, but somehow that’s not a shocker. Bless your innocence and enthusiasm, baby. Boo-Yah!

Anyways, at long last it’s over. I shall now head back to hibernating and being a hermit.

Oh wait, something slipped. Something saucy, something scandalous! I spy, with my little eye, something that starts with an S.

Celebrity Encounter: Poser Picture #2

The thing is I’ve secretly been supervising a sneaky social experiment. I’ve dubbed this delightfully devious dalliance Operation Shock & Haw. Here’s what happened; you all know how I feel about fame-hungry fakers, right? Well, in the name of science (and crazy curiosity), I set out to scope the scene in search of this scintillating species; the social climber.

See, I thought that since I’d managed to ditch the delirium of December, I’d magically skipped the season and was scot free until the summer. Seems like I spoke too soon. In reality, “the season” is immortal; like some pesky perennial party plant, around to annoy all year. Anyways, what began as an effort to keep the boredom at bay ended up as an incredibly interesting investigation.

Consider my probe a cut-throat competition to crown the King and Queen of kiss-a**.

Luckily, in Lahore, subjects were surprisingly simple to spot and so, I settled in to study and shamelessly scrutinize. FYI, the facts, figures and faux pas are fascinating.

Now, before I begin to berate the beast, bear in mind that I’m generally not judgmental. Just joking. Nothing jumpstarts my juices like playing both judge and jury.  I mean, motherhood has mellowed out the mischief maker in me, but please, I’m a parent not the Pope so, forgive me Father, for I have sinned.

Controversial question; stupidity could count as a sin, right?

I’ll openly admit that Shock & Haw was an evil, extremely amusing, and absolutely unnecessary operation. And even though my crime might not make the cut for cardinal, I’ll confess, it’s clearly not kosher.  

Again, parent, not Pope.

What does that mean?

Well, let’s talk about the glitch. See, in order to get the gossip, you’ve got to play the part, which meant this moment marked my metamorphosis into a masterful mole…or a huge hypocrite, depending on how you see it. By the way, not to brag, but I made a kick-butt chameleon!

For your pleasure, I possess proof, people! See, in the spirit of science I sought complete coverage, making a couple cameos in the society pages. And it’s plain with my pictures being published not one, not two, not three, but, count ‘em, four times, that I have indeed “arrived”.

Just in case you’re curious, to gel in with the jackass-ery, opt for over-dressed, over-enthusiastic, and over-the-top. Easiest infiltration ever!

Spotted: An undercover agent out to expose the idiocy of elitists. Careful; this cat’s about to come out with its claws.

Speaking of sneaking around, a reader recently tweeted to ask me why I don’t post anonymously. How absolutely absurd and abominable! First of all, never forget, no guts, no glory. And for the love of God, if I did that, how would I find fame and fortune? Enough said.

Actually, wait, I’d like to say more.

There’s a reason I’m not intimidated by people knowing my identity. See, in order to pick a fight (or feign pissy-ness), one needs to make peace with the premise that they are indeed target of my tirades. In other words, you agree that you’re the ditz being discussed.  And really, who wants to admit to asinine behavior, right? Fool-proof follies, my friends!

Anyways, let’s turn our attention to my thoughts and theories.

Foremost – and I’m seriously scared to spill this because the ladies might label me a sexist- but the phenomena is primarily found in the fairer sex. Really; or at least that’s what my fly-on-wall findings reveal.

I can see the feminist fists coming my way. 

So, let’s start with what it takes to scale that steep social ladder?

Because I’m a self-certified shrink, I’m going to claim that the psychology of social-climbing is, not-surprisingly, simple. Remember we’re working with very little intellect here so; it has little to do with smarts and a lot to do with a circle of sucking-up.

Or maybe it’s more like, you scratch my back, I’ll stab yours. The social circle of life.

See, even in the ocean, there’s a primitive pecking order. Sharks are the shiver-inducing Alpha’s. And there are the Beta’s, beginning with bottom-feeders, all the way to up predator prey.  In real life, the prey - anyone with a semblance of self-esteem - tends to be a paper-tiger. Personally, I’m interested in piranhas and pilot-fish.  

I’d say more about bottom-feeders, but they seem sort of self-explanatory.

I’d like to keep you in the loop so, it’s time for some translation; “sharks” are socialites who swing some weight in society. The “piranhas” are posh-set’s hand-picked posse. And then there’s my favorite, the”pilot-fish”; those sneaky suckers that swim alongside the shark, sustaining themselves on second-hand scraps. These people are leeches who latch on, living large and letting a frenemy foot the bill. And these El Stupidos are the subject of my speculations. Sort of.

Honestly, it’s impossible to analyze a social climber without addressing the socialites and their set first.

My research, which we all know means Wikipedia, reveals a slippery slope. Seems you can be a socialite and a social climber simultaneously. Tricky terrain. For simplicity’s sake, I’ve assigned “socialite” specifically to “someone who’s already a part of the social elite.”

As is typical with my OCD, I arranged them according to area. Please give a warm welcome to the Divas of Defence, the Goddesses of Gulberg, and the Queens of Cantt. Sorry, only minions live in Model Town. These are close-knit, carefully culled crews of the crème de la crème. I mean please, Lahore is lucky enough to have its very own Prince.

P.S. I only care to comment on the Prince in private. Email me with any inquiries.

These are the “that don’t impress me much; so you’ve got the shoes, but have you got the clutch?” type. You know who I’m talking about, right? That catty bag-and-blow-dry crowd; the ladies who lunch. These babes are all about securing a seat for their arm-dangling, alarmingly expensive accessories. Their standard issue inquiry; is anyone sitting there? Yeah, my sensibility.  And it's begging me to break this to you; your purse is not a person!

Other signs and symptoms include selective salutations. I’ve experienced it; one day it's "Hi," the next day it's "Who? These ladies could really give a lesson on how to look through lesser beings.

Time-wise, she's spent several years in front of that mirror, practicing that pout, plus the stop-swivel-smirk, to perfection. She’s clearly the paparazzo’s pet, but perpetually pretends to be surprised by shutterbugs, suddenly halting, swiveling to a forty-five degree angle, planting her palms on her hips, and dragging out the duck-lips. She never actually smiles. She’s going for faded and/or forlorn. Only the less pedigreed princess bares her pearly whites.

Not only do these ladies find the time to update their profile pictures every few days, but they’re also pretty partial to posting photos of themselves with their parade of posh pals. Why? Because us commoners really care about “the cool crowd,” of course!

For fun’s sake, I’m quickly going to quote what my source says about the socialite’s schedule, and I kid you not, they’re serious; “A socialite participates in social activities and spends a significant amount of time entertaining and being entertained at fashionable events attended by others of similar standing.”

Let’s break for a second, while I fall over laughing.

Frankly, these fools are famous for being famous. There’s no traceable talent to tout. Just over-enthusiastic appearances at every event they’ve ever been invited to. Newsflash: If you knew what “exclusive” meant you’d know that making an entrance is entirely optional; not an earth-shattering obligation.

Their posse is pretty pish-posh too. Who the heck owns Hermes hand ornaments? Or closets full of couture? Who bags Mr. Big Bucks? With lives orchestrated by the Oracle-like Elders of the Elite, they are paltry puppets playing a part they’re assigned for the Elders amusement. Minions don’t dare make their own decisions. They’re aware that ignoring the edicts of the Elders equals being doomed to eternal damnation.

And finally, let’s turn our attention towards my personal favorite; the pilot-fish. Sightings are most commonly reported in regions ripe with rich people. And where better to find the wealthy and their worshippers than at a big, fat Pakistani wedding (or in my case two)? Finding this catch of free-loaders was child’s play. A matter of wait, bait, and investigate.

Make your way to a wedding and watch the air-kissing and a**-kissing ensue. Fascinating how fast dignity can be forgotten. I tried it for about five seconds at some point of my stint as a socialite/social climber/spy-on-the-sly. I got night terrors.

Something tells me it has to do with the fact that I suck at small talk. Or maybe it has something to do with self-esteem? Science has still has so much to sift through.

Personally, these people are front-runners in the faker’s race.

Gutting a fish is gory, guys and gals, but during dissection I discovered damning evidence that implied something I had secretly suspected; a strategy consisting of several crafty steps that are the signature of a social climber.

Validation goes to the victor!

Now, not to nitpick, and maybe it’s just me, but isn’t “social-climber,” a mouthful? I say we switch to something shorter, something more suitably snarky. My moniker of choice; moocher. My instincts were inclining towards “mongrel”, but that’s mean, yo!

Even though this vermin comes in variety, I like to lump them together because, let’s face it, a leech is a leech is a leech.

Case in point; the Case of Kim Kardashian. Can someone tell me why Kimmy K’s a celebrity? I mean, I like big butts and I cannot lie, but are you serious when you say she banked on her bodacious booty to make it big? I don’t think so. She first found fame as Paris Hilton’s BFF. I still find it hard to believe that being pals with Paris could benefit anyone. Clearly, wonders will never cease.

Cutting to the chase, Kim cleverly cruised beneath the belly of a big fish, feeding on fame by association. And then she kicked her BFF in the kidneys, killing her career by outdoing every over-exposed antic Paris could have ever imagined, and not-so-quietly crept up the ranks and right into our collective conscious.

So how does it work?

Well, test results reveal that the moocher’s modus operandi relies on a time-tested technique. Like some sleazy, scamming, second-hand-car salesman, the strategy is to spin a sales pitch for yourself and sell, sell, sell! Save the shame for some other sham! You’re a self-serving marketing machine!

A word to any moocher-in-the-making; remember, there’s a fine line between blatant and believable BS. Find a balance or feel the burn.

Also, be aware that it don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that bling. I would advise going to great lengths, going broke if you must, to look like you belong. Wave goodbye to your individuality and welcome to the life of a lemming. 

Most importantly, the mooch must hone in on a host. Once selected, the carrier is infected with said contagion. The onset of the infection is slow and signs and symptoms aren’t easy to spot, but believe me, this is the birth of the fungus among us.

Don’t be fooled if this disease lays dormant. Ultimately, it will attack all of the host’s vital organs – cash, cards, clothes, contacts – with a vengeance.

Again, I don’t know if it’s age talking, but over the past couple of years this particular affliction has reached epidemic proportions. I gawk at teenagers, trying to remember if I was that trashy, or as fake and fickle, when I was their age.

Harsh, I know, but the truth usually is.

So, my research and reconnaissance reveal that full-time fakers have a favorite fraternity. It’s called the Friends of Friends Foundation. The FFF is something along the lines of a secret society for the scum of suck-ups. Being a part of the brotherhood begins with pledging to practice unabashed poaching whenever the opportunity presents itself with the hope of hijacking the who’s who of your homies.

Another interesting inference; the social climber suffers from intimacy issues, explaining why they accumulate acquaintances like assets. My conjecture is that they crave contact, but it’s kind of hard to connect when any and all newfound friendships only extend are far as knowing each other’s names.

By the way, if you want to see bragging at its best, feast your eyes on the faker who drops it like it’s hot.

Allow me to demonstrate; did you notice how I casually called out a celebrity like Juggan Kazim. Jiggs is my sister-from-another-mister, but I doubt you give a damn. And if you do, you’re incredibly odd…and I’d like to get to know you better.

Juggan might be the star, but I know how to shine from the shadows. Plus, I’m A-Okay with piggy-backing on her popularity. If she’s important, I must be awesome by association, right? Also, in case Hunger & Haw Hai needs coverage, I know I can count on her. See, I knew she would come in handy.

Interestingly, as moochers start their slow ascent up the ladder; they smarten up…ever so slightly. The most Machiavellian moochers learn to leverage their liaisons, initiating a launch sequence to independently lasso invitations. This is probably the easiest and most enjoyable part of the moocher’s process; attend one event, flaunt your foolishness, pop a pose for the photogs and be amazed as endless opportunities to be out and about open up.

Ultimately, the mooch suffers from extreme anxiety and comes down with crazies, flitting around fashionable affairs in a frenzy, desperate to be discovered, indulging in bizarre, bird-brained behavior, all in a bid to be accepted by A-listers.

Excuse me while I have a conniption.

So, as my quest to crack the social climber’s code comes to a close, there’s only one unanswered question; do moochers ever really “make it.”

Beats the heck out of me; I got out of the game faster than I got in and while the odds were still in my favor. In fact, I’d be lying if I said my act lasted long. Short-lived, shocking and so worth sharing!

At last, according to my analysis, aspiring moochers must have a tolerance to crush toes, a ludicrous lust for the limelight and the courage to battle a clique of constantly bickering girls with their own verbal venom.

Not for the faint of heart.

If that strategy fails, shameless stupidity is always a super fall-back.

To be fair to regular folk, I’m a firm believer in the fact that some people have a natural knack for connecting to any kind of person they come in contact with. And may I add that there are no ulterior motives. I’m genuinely convinced that this crowd is gifted.

Are these angels as real as unicorns, or do they actually exist?

For God’s sake, of course they do! Have some faith in fellow mankind, you cynics!

Writing this post made me feel like I kind of got the crazies myself; crazy lazies. I’m desperate to switch off and sleep. But because the boy and the blog must have a minimum of one wow-worthy meal a week, I had to crawl to the kitchen and create culinary magic. Okay, I’m totally lying. There was no coercion or animal cruelty. I love what I do, but I’m lazy without a doubt.

Since bumming around was not an option, I did the next best thing; I went looking for a no-fuss, one-pot wonder! Well, two if you count the cornbread. You could skip the cornbread, but it’d be like heading to Vegas and not hitting the casinos.

Laziness aside, I don’t just love chili because I can chill while it cooks. It’s a hit for being humble, hearty, and really hitting the spot when the soul and senses need to recharge. 

By the way, don’t confuse the consistency of chili con carne with that of a Bolognese. A chart-topping chili is chunky with minced meat, protein-packed beans, and the tart sweetness of tomatoes. And of course, there’s the unforgettable fragrance from the spices and seasoning.

Let your home smell like love.

In case you’re curious, cornbread is to chili what Calvin is to Hobbes. A dynamite duo. Cornbread is considered a cornerston of Southern cuisine in the States and traditionally tends to skip the sugar. My muffins are meant to be on the slightly sweeter side (because that’s how I like my cornbread). There’s something about the sweet against savory that sets my taste-buds tingling. Like a samosa with meethi chatni.

Cornbread muffins are best served warm with a pat of butter, but they also make a beautiful grab-and-go breakfast bite too.

Chili Con Carne with Honey Cornbread (6-8 servings Chili + 12 Cornbread Muffins)                                                                             
Adapted from Chilli Con Carne, by The Hairy Bikers and Honey Cornbread, by The Neelys

Ingredients Chili Con Carne (6-8 Servings)
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil (you can any kind of vegetable oil, I just prefer OO)
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 large onions, diced finely
  • 1 kg (2 lbs) minced mutton/beef
  • 2 cups chicken/beef stock (shortcut: 2 chicken/beef cubes + 2 cups hot water)
  • 2 cans (approx. 12-16oz each) chopped tomatoes
  • 2-4 garlic cloves, minced finely
  • 1 can (6-8oz) tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 ½ teaspoons dried basil
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground, dried coriander
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1-2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 can (approx.12-16oz) kidney beans
  • 4 tablespoons flour + ¾ cup water, whisked together
  • Salt, to taste
  • Pepper, to taste

Heat the oil in a large saucepan, over a medium heat.

Add the bell pepper and onion, cooking until they’ve softened. A good way to tell if they’re done is to check if the onions turned translucent.

Add the minced meat, stirring and breaking up any lumps until it’s browned.

Pour the stock in, stir, and continue cooking for about 5 minutes.

Stir in chopped tomatoes, garlic, tomato paste, chili powder, oregano, basil, cumin, coriander, bay leaf and sugar. Season with salt and pepper to taste. I’d recommend going easy on the pepper. You don’t want it be the dominant flavor in your chili.

Set the heat to high and wait for the chili to come to a boil. Once that happens, reduce the heat to medium and let the chili simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionaly.  Tip: The longer you cook a chili the better because the ingredients have time to meld and marry.

Add the rinsed kidney beans to the pot and simmer for 15-20 minutes.

Pour the flour slurry (slurry is just fancy for flour and any liquid whisked together) into the chili and cook for 10 minutes or until the chili has thicken slightly.

Serve hot.

Ingredients Honey Cornbread Muffins (12 muffins)
  • 1 cup cornmeal (Makki ka atta)
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 ounces butter
  • ¼ cup honey

Preheat your over at 200 degrees Celsius (400 degrees Fahrenheit) and line a muffin pan with paper muffin cups.

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, sugar and salt.

In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, butter, and honey.

Slowly pour the wet mixture into the dry ingredients and stir just enough for the ingredients to combine.

Divide the mixture between  12 muffin cups and bake for 15 minutes, or until golden.

Serve warm.

Until next time, you know you love me, XOXO, Hunger & Haw Hai.

P.S. Something's cooking in the comments section...

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  1. Omg what a dhoka. I was all comfy and curled in bed waiting to read your new post. Lol

  2. An "investigation?" "Consider my probe a cut-throat competition to crown the King and Queen of kiss-a**." Are u serious? U ARE judgmental and disgusting. Who are u to judge anyone? What a negative freak. I loved your recipes and ure posts, thought u were fun, positive and super unfortunate that u had to stoop to this level by publishing some shitty rant abt social climbers..what a loser! U should honestly stick to what u know best, making brilliant food and coming up with amazing recipes..not trying to one-up lahori society by bitching out people. Disapointed!!!

  3. Dear Anonymous,

    I'm going to start by saying that because I'm an avid fan of free speech, I believe everyone has the right to dissent and an opinion. I do, however, have a zero-tolerance policy for hate-speech and I rarely entertain inflammatory comments about myself. In this case, I'm making an exception because I'd like to address your concerns. And because my readers love a scandal.

    The truth is (and I assumed this was obvious), I'm a horrible human being who writes satire for a living.

    Clearly, this fact doesn't tickle your fancy and that's cool. It's always upsetting to lose a reader, but you can't win 'em all, right?

    I'll have to edit the offensive language in your comment, but I'll leave it up for yours and my readers viewing pleasure. Have a fabulous day!

  4. This is awesome beyond awesomeness! MAGIC!

    1. LOL :) I'm so overwhelmed by all you Anonymi! I'm dying to know who you are! Either way, thanks for the support and stopping by xx

  5. I think your writing needs a little more structure and cohesiveness, as you tend to stray away from the chosen subject.

    Plus quality over quantity just like food is a better approach in writing.

    1. I write like I talk, endlessly. Just kidding! I always appreciate advice on how to write better and tighter :) Thanks!

  6. Rock on Inches!! Love Love Love... XO.

    1. Hi Sadaf : )

      This serving of bitter, holier-than-thou sanctimony, curdled with a pinch of misogyny, woh bhi appended as a prefix to a recipe, may have turned me off cornbread (which I love) forever.

      Why must one trash others to establish one's own cred? Why can't we just live and let live? Please don't answer, I assure you these musings are strictly rhetorical, if unoriginal...

      Love to the little Bee ;-)

    2. I understand why you went for chilli after 2 weddings. This vent n that chilli shud do the trick girl..just let it all out. Its easy to live n let live when the courtesy is returned. ... which has become impossible at weddings as lately they have become in their very definition occasions for judgement

    3. Yeah, weddings drain me lol. I understand my writing isn't for everyone, but for those of you who do stick around and humor me, I deeply appreciate the support!

  7. Maha Kashmiri5/16/13, 3:04 PM

    I find you brutally honest while being incredibly funny at the same time - that is a mean feat in itself. Add to that, the fact that you can cook (and inspire someone like me, who has zero talent/ interest in the kitchen, to pass this recipe on to my help) means that you are a sure shot shark in my world. Also, I love the way you write so keep up the great work :)

  8. Thanks, Maha! You're far too kind! You have no idea what a rush it is to be slightly inappropriate, but make a point. Although, kuch ladiss ko meri batein pasand nahi ayee LOL Thanks for reading and keep following. Next post, I'm Sexy & I Know It ;)


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