Thursday, October 7, 2010

A day of stress passes...

Last night's little foray into the world of Alton Brown and Rebecca Ray went well enough. But, I'm not a stand-up comedian; my talents lie more along the lines of being a smart alec.

I pre-cooked the paste underbase of my khurma, the part composed of bloomed cumin, four softball-sized onions, a head of garlic, two serrano peppers, a couple of inches of ginger and a large can of crushed tomatoes. It's well I did this; I guess I'd never timed it before and had the vague notion that it was a 45-minute affair. It took twice that time, but was done perfectly so that I could go an hour ahead of time to prepare my demonstration at Macey's grocery in Provo.

If there has been any revelation in Indian for me over the years I tried to do it without satisfaction, it has been the need to cook this base thoroughly! Indeed, the foundation of a good curry sauce is utterly and completely cooked onion (and the other aromates listed here). There are lots of other important things to know, like how best to bloom which spice or aromate, but this one thing is more important than all.

It was a little awkward: electric range, two grates covered with my griddle for baking roti, another for the saag shorba and the remaining one for the khurma, when to light up my rice cooker, an hour to pull off all the dishes, and distraction galore with questions from the attendees (not offended by that).

My one regret was that when it was time to mix some chopped cilantro leaves into the khurma, I didn't have any. I didn't know if the woman running the demonstration for the store had stocked the refrigerator (she had), but under the pressure of direct, public scrutiny, I decided against looking and having possibly to ask her to go get some (which I'd then have to wash, dry and chop). With the addition of that garnish, however, I think the dish would have been perfect.

Indian is complicated: it's easy to over-look preparing something. At home, this is no problem since I usually cook in a very lazy mode, taking 6 hours to piddle around doing what would only require 2. I figure, that way, I won't tire of it. I took the same approach in building the mother of all decks on the back of my house: I started in April and finished in November.

Julene said it was a little spicier than usual. I was going for that; I'm usually conscious of not serving food that the squeamish can't eat, but as someone who could not for medical reasons eat hot and spicy food until just a few years ago, I haven't acquired the taste myself. I'm not averse to eating hot, I just don't because I like to perceive the flavors rather than them losing themselves in my mouth along with my now-numb tongue. Last night, however, I wanted to raise the spiciness just a little. I think I failed, though. I didn't find the curry spicy and the soup wasn't either. I should have discoursed on this fact, but it fell through the cracks.

Imagine: nambi-pambi Indian food. I should be ashamed of myself. Still, this doesn't prevent anyone from leaving seeds and veins from the chilis in when they do the cooking.

So, the attendees were duly polite and appreciative. One man pressed me with more questions about India, the Indians and their religions, meat-eating and all sorts of other cultural issues than culinary ones. And, of course, the difficulty of managing food over an electric range kept interrupting and distracting me—lest disaster ensue. By the end, I couldn't decide if I was doing a food demonstration or teaching a high school geography class with a food demonstration on the side. I surprised myself by how much my dear Indian colleagues have taught me about the Subcontinent over the years. I hope I didn't betray them in any way.

So, as I told the Macey's lady, I'm glad to do this for whatever motivation they may find to ask me, but I don't crave attention or glory or honor and so won't volunteer to keep doing it. I said this in response to her announcing that the next opportunity would not come until after the end of the year. Fine by me.

Last, I was interviewed by the food columnist from the Provo Daily Herald. I had completely spaced that she was there until she came up to me afterward. That can't have been a bad thing.

As if to save me (and I needed it), Julene attended too. She helped clean up the kitchen at the end. We got out of there after 9 pm.

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