Sunday, May 26, 2013

Oh, No, Not Calcutta!

A child is born.  His parents dote on him, particularly his mother.  She is far from her family and restless, but caring for his little needs, taking him his stroller around Cambridge while his father studies at the university every day, gives her new purpose.

She and her husband give him their best gifts: their Bengali food, the curry and the rice balls; their Bengali friends who, along with their children, fill the house during the boy's birthday parties; Bengali scenery, absorbed on those visits back to Calcutta; and their Bengali culture, transmitted during special classes with the other Bengali children.

The son would rather eat pizza and Coke.  And when those Bengali children show up, they all gather in a bedroom to watch TV while their parents sit on floors all over the house, playing strange games and music.  On those Calcutta trips, the boy relieves his indifference towards the Taj Mahal by thumbing through the guidebook instead.  As for the classes--booooring!

Jhumpa Lahiri's  The Namesake gripped me from its first sentence.  This surprised me, since I regard India as the land of skin-melting heat, tongue-burning food, sudden-appearing cobras and, of course, poverty.  If it's on my list of places to visit, then it's somewhere after Viet Nam, but before Albania.

However, this story is about Indians in America.  It is about parents giving their all and children wishing they had given something else.  It is an old story, made fascinating here as it portrays a people attempting to have it both ways--the family connections in the old world and the wide open futures in America. 

Now, for all this cross-cultural fascination, I have absolutely no Indian recipe to share with you.  But I don't think you'll mind tearing into some --

Rio Grande Quesadillas.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Would You Like Whipped Cream With That?

It's been a wild week.  I'm resting up some sore body parts.

And I'm bored.

At least I had the foresight to visit the library and bring home an armful of  books.

When I'm not too whacked-out on drugs for the sore body parts, I actually read them.

Having finished How Starbucks Saved My Life by Michael Gates Gill has me wanting to work for the one-on-every-corner coffee giant.  (Don't worry.  I'll get over this wish, as soon as I open the next book.  I can just imagine me messing up everybody's coffee order.  I can, however, mix you a stiff chocolate milk.) 

Gill was a WASP-y boy, born on the Upper East Side of New York and schooled at Yale.  These privileged beginnings ushered him directly into a top advertising agency.  His career thrived.  His family life suffered.  Eventually, all his professional wisdom and experience meant nothing in a world where youth and vigor reigned.  He made a few other mistakes along the way and boom, he was out of the agency and out of his comfy Connecticut home.

"I had been placed on an upward escalator reserved for those few affluent, properly educated, well spoken and well dressed peers who would never stop ascending.  I had not voluntarily gotten of that easy escalator . . . I had been pushed and then stumbled farther down.  . . . and no one seemed to have been able to help me or even really notice my great distress and basic needs."

But one day, he sat at a Starbucks table, drinking a latte, and a young manager offered him a job.  And he was just desperate enough to take it.

Did he like it?  Could he handle the pressure of serving the public, of remembering the differences between an Iced Venti Americano (light on the ice) and a Decaf Grande Skim Two Pump No Whip Mocha?  And how did it feel when friends from his former life came in to the store at 93rd and Broadway and found him behind the counter, wearing an apron instead of a business suit?

I think you will like finding all that out for yourself.

Meanwhile, thaw out the chicken breasts, fire up the grill and whip up the heavenly sauce for:

Grilled Basil Chicken and Tomatoes

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Can't Go Wrong with Bacon

I love my UrbanSpoon app.  I love the way it nudges me to try new, independent restaurants all over town.  Aren't I just the queen of variety, sampling barbecue up on the northwest side, and sandwiches slicked over with garlic butter down in Bloomington and waffle cones in Cincinnati?  

Then again, maybe not.  I can pick up a menu, splashed with colorful pictures of foodie wonders and, more often than not, end up with bacon on my plate.  I've just got a finder for it.  Cats hunt mice.  Bees detect flowers.  Dust finds computer screens.  Bye-bye Nesquik's menu-searching eye skips over the meatball sandwiches, the garlicky pasta, the fried potato skins and lands straight on something with bacon in it.

I'm sure this wouldn't happen to me in an ice cream parlor, although I hear bacon has made inroads there, too.

But really, how can a wrap or a salad or a burger go wrong if you add a strip or two of pig to it?

Even when I'm not looking for bacon, it finds me.  I chose this salad because of the picture.  I didn't even notice that stuff hiding between the carrots and the spinach, but look at the ingredient list and you will see that my finder has, once again, sniffed out the bacon.  Bacon wants to be my friend.

Pretty Layered Salad

As for the Finished Book Pile, it's more like the started book pile as I give Nathaniel Hawthorne another try.  So far, I've swallowed a short story about a minister that takes to wearing a black veil.  I understand this eccentricity about as well as I understood why Hester Prynne wouldn't reveal her fellow adulterer.  But just like we are eating spinach, carrots and peppers today, I'm making myself sit down to a helping of literary vegetables.

Please pray for me.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

This is Why We Live Here

We cleaned the tile grout and the window sills and all the other parts of the house we never get to. We ran around town picking up the flowers and the wedding cake and the pans big enough to hold all the food, plus an extra fridge to hold all the giant pans. We shopped for the perfect grapes and strawberries and mixed up a fragrant chicken salad, then we stayed up a little late to make the bar cookies that go with the special soup for the pre-party lunch.

But beyond keeping track of everything that needed to be done, it really didn't feel like work.

When it all came together, we saw the people that we love best, people that we have known a long time, and a few people that are new in our lives but that we expect to know forever. I'm a non-hugger, but I just kept hugging this weekend.

I miss some places I have lived, their skyscrapers and their curvy hills. I'll go back and see them any chance I can get. But I moved here for the people, and I'm riding on that warm, full feeling I get when we come together and catch up.

It didn't hurt that the grass was a brilliant green, that the trees dressed themselves up in white and magenta blossoms.

I don't know how many times I said this to myself this week, but I'll say it again: I'm glad I live here.

If you are not so fortunate, you may comfort yourself with this soup: 

Chicken Tortilla Soup

As for the reading pile, I'm making progress on And There Was Light, by Jacques Lusseyran, (but understandably, given the kind of week I've had, have not finished it yet) and I'm bumping it up to "recommended" status.

He's deep into the French Resistance. What does a Resistance movement do, anyway? you ask. Well, they spread information by stealthily printing and distributing newspapers. They give safe passage to shot-down fliers. And there is no Resistance unless multiple peoples in multiple places are moved upon to act and, in miraculous ways, they find and assist each other.

Which seems to be what the universe is trying to teach me: Join in. Lend your time, means and talents. Let others lend you theirs.