Sunday, 2 January 2011

Curry and Salad

So, I'm glad I'm flexible and all since my life has so much transition, but it's kind of flummoxing to find out just how far my identity stretches and reforms in each context.  It's exhausting and disconcerting to have to find out again in each new home who I am for that place!  We know our identity mostly by observing what we do day in and day out;  that's how we what kind of people we are and what's important to us.  For instance, I'm a reader, one of the cornerstones of my identity.Books!  Books!!  BOOKS!!!  Yeah, well, you get it.  Also big in the last decade or so has been that I cook.  I cook things!  Food!  Cooking!  Feeding people!!  I have a reputation in Ukarumpa as an adventurous cook, I cook all the time, I have people over a few times a week usually.  I cook because I love it, to experience joy in God's creation of flavour and texture and smell and the civilized and rejuvenating art of eating.  I explore new cuisines and rarely cook the same thing twice.  I cook a lot when I'm in Ukarumpa.  Dinner parties, tra la, tra la!

So what happens to my identity here?  Tonight I made curry veg on rice with a chopped salad, one of my so-common-I'm-bored-with-it meals in Ukarumpa...and it's the first time I've made anything like it in America.  I'm just not cooking!  Who IS  this person who doesn't cook?  What am I doing instead?  Skipping meals by working lunch shifts at the restaurant, eating Gene's food on Tuesdays, eating left-overs the rest of the time, eating meat all the time and bread I didn't bake and prepared food...  I cook about once a fortnight now.  I don't recognize myself!

Perhaps that's what's upsetting--I have this huge vocation for cooking and feeding people and yet it's not part of my life here, so who am I, then, this person who doesn't cook here?  At least I still dress myself from thrift stores and hand-me-downs (let's give a little cheer for scuffed orange Dansko clogs, the $7 answer to rainy days and blah outfits), and with a lot more daring than last furlough, where my need to blend in was far outweighing my need to be creative.  I still read the Bible!  I still cut flowers and put them in vases around the house.  I still think I'm going to get around to sewing much more than I actually sew.  I still hate to talk on the phone.  I still love hanging out with people and impromptu parties.  I still am always up for prayer.  I still like arty films and swoon at classical concerts (another cheer here for Disney Concert Hall, my new favourite building).  I still prefer to park a mile away and walk than pay for parking...not that *that's* part of my life in Ukarumpa.  I guess I haven't totally changed...but I miss the parts of me that can't be me here.  I'm making up for it partly by being the me that can go to concerts and museums, that can go on road trips by herself and be on the streets at night and wear pants every day.  Throwing the dinner party for my birthday was great, but was the first time I've cooked for people in...since Alaska, I think!  Gah.

So, here, to reassert my identity as a cook, is a recipe for you. 
So-common-I'm-bored-with-it Curry, with a salad on the side

1.  Set the rice on to boil.  I like brown rice if you have the time.
2.  Briefly toast some spices in hot oil until they release their aromatics (40 seconds should do it).  Pick your curry country of origin and choose spices accordingly.  I recommend cumin, coriander, cinnamon, cardamon and black pepper if you don't know what to add.  Diced chilies are awesome, but expect to cough as the heat releases the volatiles!  Wipe your eyes and thank God you're alive and cooking.
3.  Add a diced onion, perhaps garlic, depending on the curry country of origin, and saute until soft and somewhat coloured.
4.  Heave in any other veg whose flavour would be enhanced by a saute before the stewing, like celery and peppers.
5.  In need of protein?  Don't neglect the lentils or chickpeas.  Heave in some chopped sweet potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, or the like.
6.  Add water and/or broth and/or coconut milk and/or tomato sauce or canned tomatoes.  Follow your instincts.  The curry force is with you.  Cover tightly and after it comes to a boil, simmer on low heat until the veg are soft--which will be just as the rice is finishing, if I don't miss my guess!
7.  While that gets to know itself and the rice is coming close to being done, get your favourite chef knife or mandolin chopper and make a salad of finely sliced veg, such as cabbage, green onion, coriander leaf (called cilantro in some places), parsley, bell peppers (called capsicum in some places), tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, daikon, or anything hanging around in the crisper.  Apples are fine, too.  Add green papaya or oranges--I dare you!
8.  Before serving, toss your salad in a simple dressing of lemon juice and salt, or be more adventurous and make a dressing balancing the sweet and salty with the following:  ginger, shallots, garlic, pepper, rice vinegar, katsup, soy sauce, olive oil, sesame oil, tamari, and a bit of water  (the Wagamama cookbook has a great Asian salad dressing) for a Southeast or East Asian style curry or pepper, coriander, salt, molasses, oil and vinegar for South Asian, or just yogurt, salt and lemon juice.
9.  Serve the curry on top of rice, with the salad on the side.  Eat!  I recommend finding a table with a tablecloth and lighted candles, but your lap and a TV will work depending on context.  Reading library books propped up on salt shakers is also a great accompaniment to this dish.  Eat your curry with a spoon, a fork, chopsticks or your fingers and bread depending on the curry's country-of-origin.  Obviously a pot of tea that compliments the curry's country of origin is not to be overlooked, though a big glass of tap water is quite satisfying.
10.  Box up left overs in lunch containers.  Your salad will be wilty if you dressed it tonight and eat it tomorrow, but the veg juices and dressing will make a nice condiment to dump onto tomorrow's reheated curry.  Rehearing this lunch in the staff room will get you a reputation as a good cook--no one else's lunch will smell as delish as your curry.

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