Friday, May 25, 2012

Kitchen Recoveries

Most of the time, I cook efficiently and fairly simply. I worry sometimes, when I start to spend a lot of time in the kitchen and break open my piles of cookbooks and imagine recipes I'd like to make and write long and detailed shopping lists, that it's a sign of something not-so-good, psychically speaking. Just as many people turn to eating for comfort, I turn to cooking. Avoidance isn't always a bad thing, except for when it is.


Friday, May 18, 2012

The Simple Life

FOR JUDITH

Just some perfect olives, vivid green and
almost buttery.
Whenever my parents and I are in the same place, my mom will ask me to make a salad because mine always taste the best, she says. It's so gratifying to watch them enjoy something so thoroughly, and (always) marvel over the deliciousness of the dressing; I don't think my mom ever quite believes that it's usually just olive oil and vinegar/lemon juice/orange juice with salt and pepper (occasionally mustard) thrown in -- not really a dressing at all. My parents make their salad dressing the way they make curries (or, in fact, most things): they put in pinches and dashes and splashes and glugs of this and that and the other. The result always tastes very good, but is a study in intricacy, involution even. Of course, it is occasionally the case that the situation is reversed: I remember looking at my father with intense distrust when we went to the market in Paris so he could buy ingredients for soup, and all he picked up was one leek and one large potato. When it came time to prepare the meal, I would have hovered over him in the kitchen had the kitchen been large enough, but instead I sat in the living room shouting annoying queries as he calmly cooked: "Are you sure you don't want chicken broth? Should I get some carrots? There are vegetables in the fridge! Maybe some mussels?" And yet the soup -- practically just water -- ended up being one of the best I've ever eaten. (I still don't know how he managed that.)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Vegetables I hate

I really love vegetables. Honest. Except for a few. And then there are the allergies; I'm allergic to a lot of raw vegetables, but I can pretty much eat anything cooked. Except for avocado, but that's a fruit. So. Yeah.

I feel guilty about the vegetables I just don't like, though. I mean, what have they ever done to be unlikeable? Nothing. There's no reason I don't like them except that I don't. And so I feel ungenerous towards them. Like I've done them wrong. Like my antipathy is simply a lack of understanding. If I just got to know them better, I would understand their charms.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Cooking for the Revolution: May 1 Diary

Today is May 1, the worker's day -- my daughter and I are taking part in the general strike that's been called by the Occupy Wall Street movement, so no school, no work, no internet, and no chores. Like the dreaming anarchists of the late-19th century, we are spending the day thinking and creating and (I mean, c'mon -- we're only human) getting a little bored. Or, at least, my daughter is. However, the political radicals have not really thought through the whole "no chores" thing: taking care of a cranky and bored eight-year old is actually WORK for someone *cough* me, even if I forgo vacuuming and scrubbing toilets and mending socks. I mean, kid's gotta eat. Where's that collective child care I was promised? Oh yeah. That was Kropotkin, not the weedy dudes in Zucotti Park.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

My Dinner with Habermas

When I was in grad school, I worked with a very eccentric and brilliant sociology professor who spoke by turns in a rich baritone and a tremulous high pitch; he always had something interesting to say.

He invited Jürgen Habermas to lecture in New York, he of the public sphere and theory of communicative action et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. If you are reading this and have no idea who Habermas is, not to worry -- I barely knew anything about what he had written at that point, though I knew, from way he was spoken of by people who knew better, that he was someone who had done game-changing work in political theory. Someone that I should have known, in any case.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Cruel Optimism, or Make Extra Just In Case

I have a very bad habit of falling in ”unrequited love.” I don't consider the term particularly accurate, because it implies that what Person A is feeling towards Person B is actually love, and that there is a broken circuit: this so-called love is sent but not returned, like a misformed boomerang spinning forever outwards, lost in space. But of course it's not love, and nor is it an exchange. It’s a one-sided conversation; it's the most profound form of turning inward. We talk about this phenomenon in romantic or tragic terms, in terms of the unfairness of life and the vagaries and capriciousness of the heart. It's none of those things, though. It's merely a form of self-immolation, a throwing oneself on the funeral pyre, a form of sati. It is allowing oneself to burn in one’s own desire. There is no romance in this.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Crab Curry Test, or Cooking for Cowboys

My dad is a cowboy and an imp. These are the two things that are perhaps most surprising about him, especially because it's not that often that you meet an East Indian cowboy, even in Alberta. (My uncle, who was cast as the Indian Marlboro Man in a 1970s ad campaign and appeared on billboards and in magazines, was probably India's only cowboy, so maybe it's got some family connection.) When Dad was in medical school in India, he styled himself as a matinee idol, complete with ascot and blindingly white smile; when he arrived in Canada after a stint in England, he was a mod; when he moved his new family to Flin Flon, near the Arctic Circle, he learned how to skate and snowmobile and ice fish and cross-country ski; and then, when we moved to Southern Alberta, he became a cowboy. It was called "assimilation," at least by him.