Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Indo-Latin American fusion restaurant in Manhattan

Mixing Indian and Latino cuisines for an American audience struck as intellectually provocative - This is how the owner of the Vermilion restaurant, Rohini Dey described her venture to Financial Times of 12 July 2009.

The provocation in the restaurant starts with

Tamarind Margarita
Clove Tamarind Sour
Garam Masala Bloody Mary
corona cerveza

In the wine section there are the famous Malbec and Torrentes from Argentina as well as Chilean wines along with Indian wines.

The Latino entrants in the menu include
caldeirada de peixe from Brasil
chimichurri new york stripred mexican arbol - kashmiri mirch chimichurri
duck vindaloo arepa
peruvian black ceviche

Rohini is an economist and had worked in World Bank and Mckinsey before entering the restaurant business. She first started a Vermilion in Chicago and following its sucess opened the second one in NewYork. Both the restaurants have now become fashionable. Rohini has roped in some Indian celebrites such as Rajat Gupta, Salman Rushdie and Sabeer Bhatia as investors in this venture.

Rohini says Indian and Latino cuisines use common ingredients such as beans, coriander, plantain and guava. Samosa and Latin American Empanada are similiar. Of course, there had been some historic exchanges between the two regions. Chillies went from Mexico to India while mangoes were brought to Latin America from India by the Portuguese.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Latin Americans are the happiest in the world...

Nine of the world's ten happiest nations in the world are in Latin America, according to a recent study by a British research group, the New Economics Foundation, who compile every year a Happy Planet Index(HPI).

Here are the top ten countries in HPI
Costa Rica
Dominican Republic
El Salvador

Poor Honduras seems to be out of place at this moment with its ugly political crisis.

Costa Rica comes on top of the Happy Planet Index with the the highest life satisfaction in the world.This is not surprising to me since I had a personal experience of the Pura Vida attitude of Costa Ricans during my recent visit there. Here is my blog story on Pura Vida:

Costa Rica is unique in many respects apart from its Pura Vida atttitude to life. It was the first country in the history of the world to abolish armed forces, one of the first in the world which combined its ministries of energy and the environment back in the 1970s and generates an impressive 99 per cent of its energy from renewable sources. In 1997, a carbon tax was introduced on emissions – with the funds gained being used to pay indigenous communities to protect their surrounding forests. Deforestation has been reversed, and forests cover twice as much land as 20 years ago. In 2007, the Costa Rican Government declared that it intended to become carbon neutral by 2021.

There is one more unique thing about Costa Rica- It makes mountains out of the breasts of Latino women and silicon valley millionaires out of Indian men- by producing silicon implants and chips. See my blog,

Second place in HPI goes to Dominican Republic, the land of
-Juan Luis Guerra, one of my favourite latino singers,
-one of my favourite golf courses ¨the teeth of the dog ¨course in la Romana
-and my favourite writer Julia Alvarez.

The third place goes to Jamaica, the land of Bob Marley. I am a bit skeptical about the ranking of Jamaica which has one of the highest murder rates in the world.

I am surpised that Brazil is in the ninth place. It should have been at the top. In my view, after the experience of having lived in Brazil for four years , Brazilians are the happiest people on the world. They enjoy life not only to the full but even excessively,as witnessed during Carnival. Here is a Brazilian song illustrative of their spirit:

hoje est sexta feira
pega uma cerveza
nada de tristeza

chega de aluguel
chega de patron
traga mais cerveza

today is friday
take a beer
no sadness

no rental
no boss
bring more beer

Here is the utube link to the song,

The Brazilians look for any excuse to convert any moment into a fiesta even when it is not a happy one. Here is an example.
Last year, when there there was a strike by Argentine Airlines it caused thousands of passengers stranded at the Buenos Aires airport, angry,shouting and breaking glass windows. But when I reached the waiting lounge for the flights to Brazil, there the Brazilians were singing,dancing and merry making although they had been waiting there for over 24 hours for a two hour flight to the city of Port Alegre. Their merry fiesta at that miserable time made even the the non-Brazilians to forget their misery and join the mirth. This is Brazilian spirit. It does not let adversity be an obstacle for happiness.
The people who had taken further this concept of mirth even during misery are the Cubans. They have developed this as an art. Life is tough there with shortage of essential items for day to day life and with the frustartions caused by the anachronic system there. But the Cubans keep singing and dancing even while waiting for hours for the uncertain arrival of a rickety bus.

The researchers of New Economics Foundation have noted a key feature of Latin American culture. It is the presence of relatively unmaterialistic aspirations and values, compared to countries with similar economic conditions. Latin Americans report being much less concerned with material issues than, for example, they are with their friends and family. They have plenty of social and cultural capital even if they dont have financial capital.

While I do not agree with the exact ranking and some other aspects of the Happy Planet Index report, I share the conclusion that Latin Americans are the happiest people in the world.