Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Patricia Polacco

I just found a new favorite children's book author and illustrator: Patricia Polacco. I checked out two of her books from the library last week, and we just read them for the first time tonight. They both got thumbs up from the boys, and yours truly. The first one we read tonight is Thunder Cake, complete with a yummy recipe, which the boys begged me to write down. The second one is Chicken Sunday, which made me cry. That really freaked them out. It was a good cry, the kind you do when you see someone do something really nice. I looked up the author online and found out that she started publishing when she was 41, so that gave me some hope! I also found out that she was born in Michigan, and after a 30 plus year hiatus, lives here again. Check her out--she seems to be quite prolific.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Indian Food

When I was a teenager in Boise, a doctor from India lived with our family for a few months while waiting for his wife and children to join him in the States. After his wife arrived and they were settled into their new home, they invited us over for dinner. I believe that was the first time I tasted Indian food, and it was love at first bite. At the time, there were no Indian restaurants in Boise, so when I started college in Provo a few years later, and we discovered the Bombay House on North University, we were delighted. We developed a family tradition of eating lunch there every time my parents came to town. Imagine my delight when Dan and I arrived in Ann Arbor and discovered not one but four Indian restaurants to choose from. Ann Arbor also provided me with the first recipe I've ever made at home that actually tastes like "real" Indian food. When I started my Master's degree in Southeast Asian studies, I received in my welcome packet a free copy of a previous student's masters thesis: Beyond Curry: Quick and Easy Indian Cooking Featuring Cuisine from Maharashtra State by Hemalata C. Dandekar. Here is the recipe from her book that I love:

Basic Chicken Curry

3 dried red chilies, broken in half (I use red pepper flakes)
5 black peppercorns
5 whole cloves
1/4 inch cinnamon stick or 1/4 t cinnamon powder
1 T shredded, unsweetened coconut (optional)
1 T cumin seeds, or 1 1/4 t cumin powder
1 T coriander seeds, or 1 T coriander powder
1# tomatoes (fresh or stewed)
5 cloves garlic
1 inch piece fresh ginger root, coarsely chopped
1/2 c onions, finely chopped
1 1/2 T oil
1 bay leaf
3# chicken
1 T salt

In a small pan, dry heat red chilies, black pepper, cloves, cinnamon, coconut, cumin, and coriander over medium to high heat, stirring constantly. The heat helps dry the spices, making them easy to blend and drawing out the flavors. In a blender, puree spices, tomatoes, garlic, and ginger until they form a homogeneous liquid. Heat oil in a 4-quart heavy pot. Add the bay leaf and chopped onions, and lightly fry until the onions are a crisp golden yellow tinged with brown. Constant stirring is necessary to prevent burning. Blot moisture from the chicken with a paper towel. Add chicken to the pot. Stir until the pieces are browned, then add the tomato and spice mixture, stirring and coating the chicken with it. Clean the blender container with 1 c water and add this along with the salt. Bring to a boil on high heat. Lower heat, cover, and simmer for 1 1/2 hours, stirring every 15 minutes or so. Serve hot, with rice.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Am I a slob? (don't answer that)

I don't like to clean the house, or do any housework of any kind. I don't think anyone likes to do these things, but it seems that most responsible adults do them anyway. I don't. I tend to do dishes when we run out of spoons, or bowls, or something else that we can't eat without. I wash a pot if I need it to cook in. The floor of my bedroom is covered in clothes, and I've just been stepping on (not over, on) them all week to get to my bed (usually I at least kick them to the side, but there is no room for that now). Janie came over today, and she could barely get from the front door to the couch because of all the backpacks, shoes, fleece jackets, car seats, baby toys, library books, DVDs, swimming suits, socks, bags, and mail blocking her way (not to mention giant, man-eating dust bunnies). My friends say comforting things to me like, "Andrea (they don't call me Potato Girl), you've got three kids." But I've noticed that they have two, three, even four kids, and their houses do not look like my house, even when I drop by unexpectedly. What do I do with my time, while other people are cleaning their houses? I spend a lot of time on the computer. I sit on the couch or lie in my bed reading books or writing in my journal. I take naps. In the evening, I watch old Grey's Anatomy or House episodes. I like to do research, learn about things, think about things, and write about things. I clean the house in my mind. Yes, that's it.