It is one of the strange realities of life. When we’re young, we can’t wait to grow up. And then the older we get, the younger we want to be. There is apparently, that subtle tipping of the scales when we turn thirty. Not that I hate being my age right now, but I believe eighteen was my ideal year. I would have been quite happy being that for the rest of my life. Not older, not younger. My Goldilocks version of just right. I didn’t really have a crisis of any kind at thirty. I faced it like I face any other birthday. Just another day. Friends tell me that’s just ridiculous, how can I not have freaked out?? I don’t know but I’m thankful, also a bit worried. Maybe the freaking bit just skipped thirty and is lurking about, waiting for me at my fortieth check post.
My husband doesn’t seem to care about age at all. The only time I can tell he misses his childhood is when I hear him tell me about it in that “wasn’t that just the best story you ever heard” fashion. I think he looks for it in his own way. For the longest time, he only cooked what he ate back home as a kid. I’m all for nostalgia but I had to stop his culinary visits. There is only so many times that I can eat rajma (indian beans) and rice. And when they started popping up again and again and again and (!!!), it was time to blow the whistle, which I did….only to have him start to cook his second-favourite dish repeatedly. It was touch-and-go whether he’d evolve into an all-rounder there for a while, but the ingredients he saw everywhere in California got to him, and he started experimenting with new stuff. Nevertheless, he still loves to visit his childhood through his food.
The current economy is taking its toll and no one is immune from its effects. While there are changes in weather and joys in spring, some part of me seems chilled in a grip of melancholy and in my head there’s a strident head-ache. Actually that latter thing could also have a lot to do with the fact that there is intense hammering on the outside of a wall less than two feet away from my head. I woke up to its dulcet tones early this morning and now its 3 pm and I’m thoroughly sick of it. I should be immune to stuff like this, there are days that I work around much louder noises on site. But the build-up has been unbearable. The only thing stopping me from going outside and bopping that construction worker silly with those shingles he’s so busily trying fix on my building wall is the fact that he’s whistling cheerfully. In the gloom and doom of the time we live in, someone is happy, someone is doing a job he loves. What kind of person would want to ruin that for anyone?
It is a good thing that I haven’t been contemplating making a soufflé of any kind. Every time that hammer hits the wall, everything shudders slightly and I’m willing to bet good money that it would fall flatter than that joke I heard last night at dinner. Since I’m home on this somewhat cold Friday and the construction work outside was slowly robbing me of the ability to string coherent thought together, lunch had to be a tried and tested go-to recipe I can make without thinking. The day called for something warming and comforting to warm me and soothe my aching head, so I decided to go with one of my versions of Egg Curry.
“Today I had yet another run-in with that girl. You know that girl. Everyone knows that girl. She’s the one you’d love to hate. And it would be easy to, what with her gorgeous good looks, engaging smile and perfect hair, she’s asking for it. But what makes it hard is that she’s also witty, intelligent and caring to boot, a perfect angel. She has to be the most annoying person ever! And it is hard to avoid her, she’s so easy to run into. All you can do really is smile back. And you probably should anyway…..you’ll walk past that mirror in a couple of seconds, and she’ll be gone as quickly as she arrived, not forever, just for a while.”
I don’t know what to do with these few lines above that I wrote, nor do I know where they came from. Here I was sitting down to talk about a delicious pasta dish, and this is what popped into my head. Maybe someday that girl will get out of my head and on to paper, along with the rest of her tale. Maybe it will be ‘that guy’ or ‘that kid’ instead of ‘that girl’, I don’t know. But I swear that the amount of random topics that pop into my head and clamour for elaboration are getting to be a veritable pain in the posterior. I mean really, I had thought starting to write about food would focus all my creative energy in one direction. But talking about food hasn’t brought the serene peace of mental vacuum that I hoped it would. As truly as nature abhors that phenomenon, food ideas are multiplying and bringing their non-related friends to the raucous party. And so I digress like, but much worse than my college history professor, who was supposed to teach us about history of architecture, but mostly taught the history of himself. If you are what you eat, than I’ve got to start giving random drug tests to my spices. Have they been secretly doped? Or maybe there was something in those chips I ate earlier. I always knew the processed food would get me.
Today I’m going to tell you about a super scrumptious potato. I was introduced to this dish fairly late which is surprising. Before I ate it I would have confidently told you that in my young life, I had probably consumed potatoes any which way they could be produced in Indian cuisine. But one spoon of this dish and I knew I’d been wrong. The first time I ate it was when I was eighteen and a bunch of us landed at my best friend’s place, desperately hungry for a snack. Unable to find his mom, he cheerfully proceeded to divide up a (major) portion of the night’s dinner among his friends. And I literally cried that all I could get as my share was two little potatoes. After that, whenever his mom cooked this dish, I was there, plate in hand, trying hard not to drool.
Fast forward light years (it seems like) forward and my best friend is now my husband, and since his mother lovingly and painstakingly wrote all her recipes in her own hand in a notebook for him, this now means that I can have this dish whenever I want. But I don’t. Because you see, the dish I am talking about is Kashmiri Dum Aloo, made in the absolute, authentic Kashmiri way. Kashmir is where my father-in-law is from. And though my mother-in-law is from the same part of India as me, she became a deft hand at cooking all his childhood food for him. This amazing lady, though a vegetarian herself, can cook absolutely perfect and succulent meat, without ever tasting the food herself. Ah moms, they are just so good with food, and they don’t even know it!
I drink rarely. Let me tell you why.
Fact one: Tastewise, alcohol doesn’t work for me. When it comes to wine, I like two, maybe three wine varieties and they’re all sweet. I have been told that the taste isn’t the point of the alcohol, but it is for me. I have also been told that the fact that someone like me lives so close to Napa and Sonoma is a terrible waste, but that’s what it is. I will never drink most hard liquor for the same reason.
Fact two: Alcohol does not like me either. I will throw up with any beer – am allergic to hops. Yeah, that’s what a doctor with a panel test and clown specs that made it hard to believe him told me. One time I tried this Hungarian drink called Unicum at a friend’s place and by tried, I mean a two tablespoon shot. I broke out in hives the next day and couldn’t shake the reaction for six months. Which is why I was at that doctors’ with the panel test. Bourbon will give me shooting pains in my ears. Clown specs doctor is working on figuring that one out.
To sum it up, there are about three to four liqueurs, two to three wines and a couple of other alcoholic drinks that I can safely consume without my palate or my constitution paying for it. I stick to those and am very wary of branching out, but find it infinitely easier to avoid drinking altogether.
Today is Cinco de Mayo. There is a multitude of parties and everywhere there’s a flurry of chips, salsa and of course, the ubiquitous margarita. Never has there been a holiday that was about something else but has become a reason to try out the food and (especially) the drink of a nation. The tequila flows freely and tons of margaritas are made everywhere. And the kid in me who loves chemistry and pretty colours uses it as a reason to mix up a very adult margarita.