I’ve just returned from Anuj’s parents house in New Jersey where we spent the day in a cooking class with Anuj’s mom.  My belly is full, my hair smells like roasted cumin seeds and Anuj is sleeping beside me (it’s only 8:30).  I’d say that makes the day a success.

Stupidly, we didn’t take any pictures of the process, but I did get about a half a dozen recipes for Gujarati lunches and dinners and a goody-bag of spices to go with them.  This was an event Anuj, his sister and I have longed for for years, not only to watch exactly how their mom whips up her delicious dishes, but to capture the measurements and techniques she carries in her head so we could try them ourselves.  You see, my mother-in-law (and many Indian women, it seems) don’t use recipes – they’re taught how to cook staple dishes at a young age, and make them enough over time that it simply becomes habit to repeat them.  So today, it was my sister-in-law’s duty to convert the ‘pinches’ and ‘handfuls’ to ‘teaspoons’ and ‘cups’, and my duty to take precise notes (and then eat the results).

In my post-gluttony reverie, I came across this Mumbai shopping guide at design*sponge, which reminds me I never posted about our trip to India in February.  That’s a big to-do, considering all of the design inspiration I came away with.  I’ve got 1,000+ pics to show for it, but I won’t break them out now.

While we didn’t get to Bombay (this is how Anuj’s family refers to it, despite the recent push to go back to the original name) on the February trip, there are a few stores mentioned in design*sponge’s Mumbai guide that we visited in other cities, like Jaipur and Delhi.   The stores include:

Fab India – this was the first store we stepped foot in in India, as it was right around the corner from where we were staying in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, where Anuj’s parents are from.  According to their site, “Fabindia links over 40,000 craft based rural producers to modern urban markets, thereby creating a base for skilled, sustainable rural employment.”

I bought my favorite piece of clothing from the trip here, it’s a raspberry silk kurta with gold detailing (similar color and fabric to my wedding dress).  They also have great home furnishings, at a fraction of the cost of buying similar items in the U.S. (this is a frustration you must quickly abandon in India or else you’ll go nuts.)

Anokhia friend recommended Anokhi to me before we left, and I’m so glad she did.

To me, Anokhi is India’s version of J. Crew: colorful, fashionable, mid-range in price, and it’s everywhere.  Their pieces are made by local artisans using hand-block printing, an Indian tradition that has become popular with contemporary craftspeople around the world.

Shopping fanatic that I can be, I had to go into every Anokhi we came across (four) so I could see how they were different.  The one in Jaipur is easily the best, both for its size/selection and organic cafe.

Soma – This was not on the design*sponge list, but I can’t imagine they aren’t in Bombay.  Another high quality brand that sells hand-block textiles made by rural villagers, Soma was my favorite store on the trip.  Their items for the home were so beautiful that I barely looked at the clothing, and left their Jaipur location with a queen-sized bed spread, tablecloth, cocktail napkins, pillow covers, scarves, and a few small gift items.

I will post photos of the city neighborhoods, forts and palaces we visited on our trip someday soon.  In the meantime, what are you favorite Indian dishes to eat or cook?

Images: Julia Rothman for designsponge, fabindia, anokhi.