To kick off 2023, the online #LitHappens book group is reading The Vibrant Years by Sonali Dev. I know it's still December 2022. Just barely. But since this isn't necessarily a cook from the book kinda group, I decided to jump in little bit early.
On the Page
I had already read a book by Sonali Dev. Back in May 2019, I read Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors: A Novel by Sonali Dev. I posted HRH Salmon in Mugal Cream Sauce. So, I knew that I would enjoy The Vibrant Years by Sonali Dev before I even cracked the cover.
This is the saga of the Desai women: 6oish Bindu also called Binji, her (former) daughter-in-law 40ish Aly, and her granddaughter 20ish Cullie. Bindu has received a large inheritance from a famous Indian director and uses it to purchase a condo in a posh Florida retirement community. Bindu and Aly agree to help Cullie test the algorithm for the dating app she is developing. And that is the stage for a variety of subplots including the secret that Bindu has kept hidden since she was a teenage actress in India.
The book was a fun romp that tackled some deeper issues of aging gracefully, midlife crises and divorce after kids have grown and flown the nest, and disastrous first dates. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Here are a few passages that capture the relationship between the three women. "'So, you and I went on dates from hell, and Binji met a man who sent her flowers that look like they were harvested in paradise by celestial beings.' Cullie made a pleasured sound even as she glowered affectionately at Bindu. 'And chocolate that was definitely crafted by celestial beings, probably from the organs of magical creatures.' She was not wrong. Bindu had never tasted anything quite so delicious."
And "Bindu had been in one of her cooking trances for days. It had been years since she’d done this. Painstakingly brought together a full Goan meal. Grinding coconut for the xacuti, scaling fish for a crisp fry, fermenting rice for sanna, caramelizing layer upon layer of bebinca, slowly thickening the milk for serradura, and on and on. Hunger had been gnawing at Aly’s insides for what seemed like an age. Years and years of denial, and she was starved for fullness."
There was quite a bit of food in the novel, too. From Bindu's Goan recipes to Chinese take-out and descriptions of the lunch at "Cullie’s favorite Iranian place in downtown Naples. Under the bright Florida sun, a plate of khoresh bademjan sat on the wrought iron bistro table between them, almost all gone. The butter-fried eggplant layered on slow-cooked lamb was delicious when it went down, but now it sat heavily in Aly’s belly, making her wish for the siestas of her childhood summers when she visited her grandparents in Goa."
In the Glass
But what inspired me into the kitchen was a boba tea with an agenda. "An iced matcha bubble tea sat on his desk, next to his coffee. Black with a packet and a half of Splenda. 'Wow. Bubble tea, a mention of my age. You’re really leaning into the little girl narrative. How bad is it?' Picking up the bubble tea, he held it out to her. 'Extra boba.' 'Now you’re scaring me.' His eyes did that hurt thing again, but this time tinged with humor. 'I would never manipulate you with boba. 'Oh, he totally would."
I decided to make a vibrant blue boba milk tea colored with a blue butterfly tisane.
1/2 cup large tapioca pearls (I used clear so I could dye them blue)
10 cups water
1 cup organic granulated sugar
1 cup brewed Bella Luna Blue (still hot)
Also needed: lidded jar for holding the boba before serving
brewed Bella Luna Blue, cooled
organic half and half
Place 10 cups of water in a large pot. Bring to a boil. Stir tapioca pearls into the water and return to a simmer. Cook until the pearls become translucent. This took approximately 45 to 50 minutes; it might depend on the size of your boba.
Once cooked, drain and run the pearls under cold water. Place the hot Bella Luna Blue in a lidded mason jar that will hold all of the prepared boba. Add in the sugar and stir until dissolved. Spoon the boba into the syrup, stir to combine, and let cool. Leave the pearls overnight to let them absorb the color of the tea.
Spoon soaked boba into the bottom of your serving glass. Add in ice cubes. Top with cooled Bella Luna Blue. Pour in half and half.