A Masala Story

I made a simple tomato curry to share with people at lunch. Trupti asked what was in it and I was scanning my brain for the ingredients…balsalmic vinegar, onion, chicken masala… “Chicken??” My table mates gawked at me in disbelief. I didn’t know what to do, all I could feel was a terrible sinking feeling in my stomach. I didn’t understand why a box of spice would have meat in it. You put it on the meat… They explained that there could be meat in it as part of the flavoring.

Having unknowingly poisoned my friends, I left lunch feeling guilty, ignorant and despondent for several reasons. Primarily, I am so thankful for how much people have done to make me feel included and welcome here and then I go and feed them meat. I felt very ignorant as I enjoy making food for others, and knowing the difference between vegetarian and non-vegetarian should be simple. And I try as hard as possible to be conscious and respectful of Indian cultural practices.

When I make mistakes that directly affect others it’s the worst. Opening the steam cooker on myself was just stupid, but at least no one else was damaged collaterally. A Titus Andronicus I was not prepared to be. (Look it up.) Then I went home and checked my spice jars. I only have two, chicken and garam masala. I realized I had used the spice I always use, my favorite jar of garam masala. All that strife had been for nothing! When I said chicken out loud unthinkingly, I then fully believed that that’s what had happened. Why did I say I had used chicken masala? Why had my memory failed me? I don’t know, but it is just one more example of how the workings of the mind are limited, at times faulty, and should not be relied on for everything.

The mistakes that we have committed…had to be…For all that happened was necessary…to lead us to something beyond what the mind imagines… It is not a question of being down-hearted or grieved or in despair if you have made a mistake, for every mistake can be corrected; from the moment you have found it is a mistake, there is an opportunity to work within you, to make progress and be very happy!”  -the Mother

 

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Chapati and Masala

Two nights ago I biked home at the same time as Chandani and she asked if I wanted to cook something. Do I want to cook Indian food? How long have I been waiting for this day! It was great and I picked up some good tricks. I learned how to make chapati, which is the common Indian flatbread. It’s fast and easy to make, serves a crowd, and goes well with everything.

All it takes is whole wheat flour, a pinch of salt and enough water to make a soft dough. The dough is rolled out and cooked on a flat pan.

Chandani is really good at rolling them in perfect circles. It’s like she’s been doing this for a long time or something.

 She let me roll out and cook the last one.

I burnt it.

 Na’an, often served in Indian restaurants in the US, is made of fine white flour. Apparently no one eats na’an here, as it is only served in fancy hotels and such. Chapati is the bread of choice.  The south has thinner chapatti, while in North India they eat roti. North Indians eat more roti, and not as much rice.  South India grows only rice, but in the north it’s cool enough to grow rice and wheat, so all the wheat here is sent from the north.

We also made a potato curry. A bit of chopped onion and tomato and lots of spices. Spices, masala, are stored in the masala box, which allows you to mix and match spices depending on what you need. Pretty huh? You really can’t go wrong. This one has chili powder, cinnamon, turmeric, cumin, and chicken masala. The more spice the better.

 

The curry turned out great. With a bit of cool cucumber salad, I had my first delicious Indian meal that I helped cook.

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Last night I also made my first cup of tea! Very exciting. I had bought milk and tea and sugar and everything but was waiting for some reason. Chandani was my test-taster. She said it was a bit strong, “not bad but not great.” I replied, “That’s ok with me, at least I didn’t burn anything.”