Friday, February 12, 2010

Day 43- Aloo Gobi Masala

Dear Mr. President,

Tonight my best friend and I are making an Indian dish that is a favorite of ours, aloo gobi masala. Tomorrow night I'll be making another vegetable curry for a date. Indian food is comfort food, to me. When I lived in Boise, I worked as a waitress at an Indian restaurant, owned by a classmate of mine, and lived in the apartments over the restaurant. The smell of the spices, the simple comforts of good chai and naan still feel like home to me, despite having been raised on nothing more exotic than the occasional stir-fry. I was a terribly picky eater before working at the restaurant. While the kitchen staff, unlike much of my family, took my vegetarianism with a grain of salt, they would not abide my other dietary quirks. The restaurant closed each night at 10, and the waitstaff, the owners, and often the chefs, would sit together in the closed dining room to eat supper. I quickly got over my fear of strange-looking food and learned to appreciate the new flavors.

I had moved to Boise believing I could repair a long-distance relationship that was already far too broken to bring back. By the time I'd arrived, I was more alone than I'd ever been, cut off from family, forced to make completely new friends, and still grieving over recent loss. The owner of my restaurant sat next to me in Engineering and in Arabic class. We became fast friends, and he hired me on before the restaurant opened. His family, boisterous and kind, adopted me as their own, and his father often introduced me to friends as his adopted daughter. For a girl with a willfully absent father, this was no small matter. I learned more at this job than at any other, and I never would have survived my time in Boise without the love and support of this family. We've all moved on and now live on opposite coasts, but I miss them terribly.

I suppose these culinary experiments of mine are a seance, of sorts, crafting a potion to recall the warmth and comfort of those happy times. It's a strange sort of magic, nostalgia. I suppose I could pivot this personal story to a broader statement about the importance of immigrants to the American character, or about the difficulty of defining "family," or even another comment about the virtue of small businesses, but I'd rather just bask in the memories tonight, savor the smell of the spices and the images they recall. It is nights like tonight that I appreciate how lucky I am to have been born in America, and to have had the experiences I've had. I hope that, despite the demanding nature of your job, you managed moments of this same relaxation. Have a lovely weekend.

Respectfully yours,


Aloo Gobi Masala

1 tbsp oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp minced ginger or ginger paste
2 tsp red chili flakes
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp paprika
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp garam masala
2-3 potatoes, cubed
1 lb cauliflower
1 diced tomato
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil and saute garlic, ginger and chili. When the garlic begins to brown, add potatoes, 1/3 cup water, and all the spices. Cover, simmer and stir occasionally for 7-10 minutes. Add Cauliflower, more water (if needed) and tomato. Cook 10 minutes, covered, until tender.

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