Monday Meal Review: India

THE SCENE

On my brother Keith’s last day in Tulsa, in the very last half hour, he said something that will stick with me for a long time.

I was sipping my tea, watching him play with Ava, thinking how happy I was.

Conversation turned to our next visit and how work always tries to ruin plans. The way they make you guilty for taking even a little time off.  How, inevitably, they squeeze as much out of you as they possibly can.

Rather abruptly he said: “I won’t cancel, no matter what.”

I nodded, and took another sip of tea, appreciating his sincerity.

“Three weeks before Damien died I was supposed to visit you two,” he continued, looking off towards the fountain, watching the water tumble into the cool pool. “Work begged me to reschedule my flight – to stay for a big project. Damien was crushed. And I didn’t get to see him before…”

He trailed off and grew silent.  After a long pause, he quietly added “I’ll never do that again.”

I put down my tea. “I had no idea.”

“He was so disappointed.”

I could see the guilt in his eyes, but I also knew in my heart he did nothing wrong. He couldn’t have known. There was no need for guilt.

I turned to Ava and helped her with her drink, to distract myself from the tears I didn’t want to come.

I’d trained myself so well. Nothing but calm showed on my face.

Not much was said after that.

The birds chirped, Ava babbled, and we went on with our breakfast.

He’s right though. We can’t organize our lives around the pressures of work. We simply can’t do it. Family, friends, those are the things we need to put on the front burner.

I could empathize because I have guilt, too. The morning my brother, Damien, went into the hospital I was supposed to give him the $2.00 I owed him. Feeling like a pesky little sister (me age 12, him age 14), I decided not to – I didn’t want to bug him.

Bugging him just might have saved his life.

There’s a lot of what-ifs floating around in the world.

The lesson in all this?

We have to remember to take a deep breath and love what is. Now.

There’s joy all around, if you look for it. And that can be pretty rewarding.

THE FOOD

Saag Paneer [recipe] with homemade Garam Masala [recipe]

What I liked most about this dish:

The soft, mild flavor of saag paneer is totally addicting. The warm spices remain subtle – but just enough to take stewed spinach over the edge into Indian deliciousness. Mr Picky said “I really didn’t think I’d like this.” He did. My brother also gobbled it up.

What I liked least about this dish:

Ava was not keen on the green spinach – so I “watered it down” by mixing it with rice. That helped and she nibbled on it. Our version is pretty healthy; you can add more cream to make it richer, if you’d like.

Homemade Paneer (cheese) [recipe]

What I liked most about this dish:

I could have eaten this entire block of cheese, if my pants had been more elastic. My brother was eating this one off the plate. So was I. It’s already on the “must make” list again. Considering it’s so easy, it’ll probably be sooner than later.

What I liked least about this dish:

I didn’t squeeze the curds out as well as I could have, so it took quite a bit longer to drain out than I expected. Still, the flavor was good and – between the saag paneer and nibbling – it was gone in less than half an hour.

Masala Chai (Spiced Tea) [recipe]

What I liked most about this dish:

Everything. I can’t believe how easy it is to make Chai at home. It’s one of my top favorites and I’m looking forward to making this recipe all the time. It was a huge hit at Ava’s birthday party with adults and kids (our version was decaf). My brother was all about it -drinking his weight in the stuff by the end of the weekend.

What I liked least about this dish:

Nothing. My brother liked it best without sugar and milk, whereas I liked both. It’s totally customizable and fun to make.

Kulfi Pops (Indian frozen treat) [recipe]

What I liked most about this dish:

It was interesting to try this new combination and fun to serve it up to the kiddos.

What I liked least about this dish:

The flavor was good, but the texture – grainy and very sweet – was not something I was used to. The kids didn’t seem to mind, Ava’s friend Sanya even ate two!

Ava’s Corner

Opt In Image
Hungry for more?
Be notified when National Geographic releases my memoir.

Simply fill in your details below.

Comments

  1. Jessica Bennett says:

    What a story. Thank you for sharing, even though it must be a difficult thing to do. It hurt my heart but reminded me not to wait to do things since you never know. . . The meal looks perfect for a hot summer day, by the way.

    • Sasha Martin says:

      You have the right idea! And yes, it was so refreshing. It’s going to be 105 all week, so I’ll probably mix up a batch of Chai again (iced)… and swim in it!

  2. …oh..is that called “aging” the cheese? The longer it is aged, the dryer/harder it becomes…For Example: Good Parmesan is aged a couple of years.

    • Sasha Martin says:

      I don’t think it’s quite aging as it is such a short period of time – I think aging has to be longer – days, weeks, years.

  3. Brian S. says:

    This menu brought back many memories of my long ago time in India, far more than a selection of the most sophisticated dishes of the subcontinent would have done. I never saw those sophisticated dishes, but there was a tiny tea stand on every block. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mff04a8vO0g The chai was incredibly good, and when I was there was served in a handmade clay cup which you smashed on the ground after drinking. In the Indian neighborhoods of NYC, again no great curries but kulfi available in every store and delicious.

    It is better to have a happy family than to cook sophisticated fish or lamb entrees. Remember the film “First Night”? I’m looking at it now from a new perspective. One restaurant served the most authentic Italian pastas and entrees, but the chef there would come out and yell at the diners, call them stupid pigs. The other restaurant had ordinary Brooklyn-style food but if you went there with your family you’d be showered with affection and have such a good time with your family that you’d remember it for the rest of your life. The film was intended to show that the first restaurant was better, and indeed a food critic would agree. But is is really better??

    • Sasha Martin says:

      Nice sentiments. The selections depend on so many things – the weather, the available produce, what I’m in the mood for… but generally I love finding the family-friendly dishes that are a) delicious and b) that I can make quickly. I need to watch that movie again.

  4. elisa waller says:

    that video was so perfectly cute …especially after reading the story….how special….I so love chai tea…and are those “shaped popsicle sticks”? where in the global world did you get them?….what a fun visit with uncle keith… <3 funny about how much he ate the cheese and drank the tea..last time I saw him he too was concerned about that elastic band around his waist……haha…..curds to you!
    Not to take away from the story, but I remember wanting to go visit around the same time but deciding I couldnt, my reason was because amanda was so little and I was so new at mom hood……Love love love you!!!

    • Sasha Martin says:

      Ah, yes, thank you – the Popsicle sticks are from Michael’s. They are meant to be painted by the kids, but I think we can save that craft for when the kids get bigger :) Love you xoxox

  5. What a great post, thanks for sharing. It is very important to live for now with the people you love.

  6. Michelle says:

    I’m so glad Uncle Keith was able to visit!! A sweet gentle soul who remembers I like extra icing on my piece of birthday cake :)
    The chai tea was superb. I do believe I’ll have another cup! Oh, speaking of cups, nice cups in the video! Love you guys!

    • Sasha Martin says:

      Love you, too! I almost fell over when he told me that he remembered you like your cake with extra frosting. What a great memory :)

  7. Beautiful story. Miss you, Uncle G.

  8. Just want to say…that picture would make a great greeting card/Xmas card…(the lOl)

  9. Keith Glennon says:

    I had a wonderful time! Thank you!! Remeber the “CHIA” tea! LOL !! I mean lOl…. :)

Speak Your Mind

*