Rice and Stuff
Why Curry is a Verb Not Only in the Sense of Something You Do With Favor
…because you can make any food substance into a curry. It’s easy—and pretty much the same for everything.
1. “Temper” (sauté) onions, curry leaves, mustard seeds, green or dried chillies, and curry powder/a mix of spices you make up yourself in coconut oil.
2. Add the thing you’re currying, cut into appropriate finger-smushing size chunks (and if necessary, soaked in salt water, as with eggplant), stir up a bit to coat with spices and oil and whatnot. Add half a dessertspoon of “saffron,” which is really turmeric, and half a dessertspoon of salt. Temper until it starts sticking a little.
3. Pour in coconut milk (enough to do what I, in my infinite food snobbery, would call “braising”) and simmer the whole mess for as long as it takes to reduce the main item to a smushable—but not smushy—state.
4. Crucial: having turned off the heat, let it sit and mingle with itself. Curry loves company.
Right, this works from potatoes to omelettes (a Sri Lankan specialty: make plain omelette, chop up, curry) to plantain flowers to okra to, oh, meat and stuff. It doesn’t all taste the same, of course, because every cook uses a different combo of spices and secret ingredients for each curry. Key secret ingredients: tomatoes, ginger, coconut vinegar, lime juice.
Why am I yakking about this? Don’t know.
Back when we lived in the Barn, lo these many years ago, Ester complained that The Rest of Us were always making “rice and stuff” for dinner. I think she was right; we were in the unfledged fledgling stages of being decent cooks and I recall, in particular, a long string of faux-Chinese stirfry suppers. The benefit of this cooking as any college student knows is that you have only to wash the wok, the rice cooker, and your dish. Plus the leftovers keep well. But I pity the poor girl, and Ester, if you’re reading these days, accept my apology. Rice-and-curry is only permissible two meals a day because it is usually well done and there is a lot of variety. I rarely eat it more than one meal a day anyway.
This is turning into a blog about food, which is one of the few things I can always think about and write about. I have been really busy with actual research work and would write about that but for the simple fact that if I was writing interestingly about my work it wouldn’t be for the blog. Or rather, the things I have written are not blog material. I could rant about this silly book I’m reading, A History of the Wife, which is shockingly poorly researched, and bad scholarship and reinforces all kinds of nonsense attitudes, blah blah blah. It was written only a few years ago! On the other hand I found a good source of demographic/census info today: the Bureau of Census and Statistics yearly review. What a triumph! What innovative methodology!
Which is not to say that I’m down on my work—on the contrary, it’s going well. I’ve been really busy. I did have a hedonism/Americana evening with Gavin on Saturday, involving beer, pizza, movies, and pie. The pizza was from Pizza Hut—to get delivery from the Kandy outlet, you have to call Colombo! And it’s near-impossible to get the number! The beer from everyone’s favorite source of everything, the Royal Mall Supermarket. For real: everyone in Kandy shops there. I always see people I know there, plus it’s walking distance from my house. Well, everything’s walking distance when I have time or am feeling irate about trishaws.
Gavin didn’t even know that they had beer there, and I chided him for his ignorance. He lives with a hostfamily and so doesn’t do anything domestic like shop. Apparently while he was there he ran into Judee (who’s been trying to get out more, a good thing) who later reported to me that he was “skulking around” and looking embarrassed to be buying beer. Ha ha; half the business any supermarket-cum-liquor-license does is arrack and things to go with it.
The highlight of the experience was the pie. Crust: ginger biscuit and hawaian (sic; coconut) cookie crumbs. Filling: lime juice, egg-and-condensed-milk custardy meringuey sweetness. Topping: fresh whipped cream. Verily and forsooth: Sri Lime Pie.
Have shared the bounty with various & sundry. Anyway. Trying not to just write about food. Went to an interesting talk given at ICES (my work-crib) Friday by one of the other researchers there, Dr. Das from Assam, who’s working on tea sector economics. He was so nervous that I didn’t want to look at his face while he was talking, though his PowerPoint (the other thing to look at) was boring in the worst kind of Tufte-analyzed ways. The assembled audience of about fifteen local econ profs and tea estate HR folks sort of ate him alive in the classic Sri Lankan academic debate style, which involves a great deal of genteel-nasty mocking. Actually, they ate each other alive and Dr. Das couldn't get a word in edgewise, which I think was something of a relief for him.
Dr. Das is nice but always seems really really nervous which I certainly would be if I were Indian here, because people simultaneously look up to India (not just north) and revile its Regional Bully policies. Also, I bet people always speak Sinhala or Tamil to him because he’s brown. I may hate being white but at least people are thrilled when I speak Sinhala, not disappointed when I don’t. On a slightly related subject, which I won’t go into now: man, Brown is Beautiful, and I am one giant towering honky.