pakora patties

There’s no point in avoiding this blog just because I’m in a slump. Cooking slumps can be easily weathered, thanks to the spoiling of visiting in-laws, surprises in the freezer, and beer—that liquid nourishment. But life slumps? Those are far harsher on the writer’s fragile bones.

A bike accident this week left me banged up and my faithful Raleigh doomed for the dumpster. Rain and cooler temperatures marred the memory of last week’s sudden spring. Some unexpected and minor blips at work on Friday launched an unusually reflective weekend.

As the writer Thomas Moore says in his book The Care of the Soul, these are the days that reveal the most to us. They slow us down and force us to look at the weeds growing along the path: Loneliness (how did I end up here and where are all the people I love?), stagnancy (where exactly do I think I’m going with all of this?), restlessness (when will I be able to do, and be recognized for, something that makes me happy?)

When this stuff is staring you in the face there’s not much else you can do but stare back. I’m used to this, right? This is familiar. I’ve dealt with this before. But no: why does each new disappointment, each new criticism, each new failure, bear so little resemblance to the last one? Why is facing old demons so hard?

I thank God for these small and saving cheers: a co-worker reminding me of the Sex and the City episode where Samantha has to rush into the elevator to hide her emotions; good discussions about being a woman in a male dominated workplace; distractions of parties and board games and beer and friends who get me, even if they haven’t known me long; keeping up with the boys at a neighborhood bike shop ride through the wilder parts of Maryland; simple thoughts of afternoon cooking; excitement for next weekend’s Easter excursion with a friend I don’t get to see enough of.

I was holding off on posting about these Indian-spiced vegetable fritters (or pakoras if you’re trying to sound exotic) so that I could make them again and take better photos. That’s not going to happen, though, so here they are. I made them for friends awhile ago, and am finally sharing them on this sorely neglected blog.

As I type, Patty Griffin’s words become my prayer on this strangely and sedate Sunday:

Be careful how you bend me
Be careful where you send me
Be careful how you end me
Be careful with me

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goan nostalgic for shrimp curry

One year ago today I was in a plane headed across the world for Delhi. I knew little then of the pleasures India had to offer, in spite of frequent visits to buffets on Ellice Avenue. I knew little as I relaxed for 15 hours in the cool aircraft — watching movies, chatting idly, and eating out of tiny geometric platters — of the variety and intensity of experiences awaiting me.

In a tribute to the year anniversary of our honeymoon, I decided to cook up some curry to honor that wild and indelible trip. Though we didn’t visit the south of India, this recipe is inspired by the cuisine of the southern state of Goa (go-ah), known for its seafood. (The regions we visited boast plates of either Mughal-inspired lamb and chicken or the vegetarian dishes reflecting the Hindu reverance for all life.) Goan food is characterized by the addition of creamy coconut milk and fish to traditional curries.

I found the recipe over at Eat Like a Girl — a pretty blog with a wonderfully cheeky name.  Since today was a double-whammy training day, I needed something quick and easy and so used this recipe as a jumping-off point. We had purchased some pre-cooked frozen shrimp (oh the lows I stoop to in the name of a sale!), and so integrating it into this dish was a no-brainer.

Next time I would spend the extra 3 minutes and cook raw shrimp; our little guys tasted a bit like a long-forgotten cocktail ring rescued from the bottom of a freezer. Oh well, chalk it up to cheap post-work out protein.

And thanks to the genius boxes of spice mixtures we found recently at our local Indian grocery store, this little cyclist had no spices to measure or grind when she arrived home starving. Having adapted this recipe to the slow-cooker earlier in the day (not to cook the sauce but simply to keep it warm), all it took to deliver the aromas of India to our palates was tossing the shrimp into the simmering sauce, a pot of my hubby’s perfect every time basmati rice, some fresh cilantro, and a table set with cooling yogurt and sweet chutney.

I was unfortunately too hungry to reflect on it properly then, but thinking about it now, the happy dance of chili, cumin, turmeric, fenugreek, cardamom, caraway and cloves on my tongue will always take me back to that radiant land. A land of scents and tastes and heat unimaginable, a place of passion and devotion, a destination where two young lovers set out on the journey to eat and love (and survive!) in the most important of ways — together.

 

Good thing I didn’t sacrifice him to the Ganges, otherwise who would’ve made me rice?

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