18 September 2008

A Summer Recipe for Summer's End

There is one recipe that my husband and I love to make as soon as the weather starts to get warm, and that we make all the way up until the end of summer: dahi vade. We have taught this recipe in our Vegetarian Indian Cooking classes, served it to all our friends both Indian or American, and everyone just loves it. I promise that even though it seems complicated, it's really pretty easy. Dumplings made of lentils, fried then soaked in water and squeezed out, and served with yogurt, chutneys, and spices. It makes a good appetizer with dinner, or a light dinner by itself. It's cool and refreshing and delicious. In the waning days of summer, it's definitely something I want to have one more time before we move on to warmer/heartier fall dishes!

Dahi Vade

2 cups urad dal, soaked in water overnight
Salt to taste
Red chile powder to taste
1 tbs whole cumin seeds

Oil for frying

To serve:
Plain yogurt, thinned out with some water and stirred until smooth
Black salt to taste
Red chile powder, to taste
Roasted and crushed cumin seeds
Minced green chiles, to taste
Cilantro chutney
Tamarind chutney
Chopped cilantro

Take the soaked dal and grind it up as smooth as you can in a blender or food processor with a little bit of water and some salt, the cumin seeds, and red chile powder. It shouldn’t be too thick or too liquidy.

In a large skillet, drop the paste by tablespoonfuls into hot oil and fry until golden brown. After they are cooked and cooled a couple minutes, place them into a big bowl of cold water. You can let them soak for hours to get really soft, or you can serve them soon after.

When you are ready to serve, remove the vadas from the water and gently squeeze them to remove extra water/oil. Place maybe 5-6 vadas on each plate. Pour some of the liquidy yogurt over them. Then sprinkle the following on top: a pinch of black salt, some red chile to taste, minced green chiles, cilantro chutney, tamarind chutney, burnt cumin seeds, salt, and chopped cilantro.

17 September 2008

Kshama Vani

If you're reading this blog you probably know that my husband and I are in an intercultural marriage, mixing cultures, becoming members of each other's families, and mixing religious faiths (mine Anglican Catholic, his family Jain). And (if you're reading this and I don't know you and you're feeling indignant or offended about our practice of either Anglican Catholicism or Jainism), while neither of us claim to be perfect practitioners of our faiths, we both find many things to admire in both religions.

That is why today (a day late) for the occasion of Kshama Vani, I ask forgiveness if I have ever offended you, either knowingly or unknowingly. I am sorry if I have done those things which I ought not to have done, or left undone those things which I ought to have done.

09 September 2008

Responding to Ignorance

I've been enjoying the summer so much that I haven't been posting much. I've got some recipes and things to post soon though, but first I wanted to post this.

I was reading Cagey's blog today and thinking about how ignorant people can be and how you can just be blindsided by the awful things people can say sometimes. How do you respond to something like that?

I had a similar experience in 2006 and was so angry that I wrote an op-ed for the Roanoke Times, which they published. It was satisfying to get my anger out in that way, although the chances are pretty slim that the jerk who screamed at my husband actually would have read it. I can no longer find the op-ed on the Roanoke Times' website, so here it is:

It's been two days, and I'm still wondering what that guy was thinking.

As the pickup truck sped past us in the Valley View Mall parking lot, a man leaned out and screamed at my husband, "Osama!"

To give you some background, I'm American and my husband is Indian. Not American Indian, but from New Delhi in the subcontinent of India. There are challenges and rewards that come with mixing cultures in our marriage, and I'm happy to say that we make it work. It's an adventure!

At that moment I was livid. I'm a pale-skinned Caucasian and I've never experienced prejudice due to my race or appearance. Before the truck sped out of sight, I yelled back and—well, it wasn't very ladylike. I was shaking with anger.

I expected my husband to be angry too, but he shrugged it off. For one thing, he's not Middle Eastern; he is Indian, and a doctoral student at Tech. He is not Muslim; he is Jain. To my way of thinking, it takes a real bonehead to connect him with a mass murderer like Osama bin Ladin, based apparently on nothing more than his dark Indian complexion.

I haven't stopped thinking about how hateful and hurtful it was for someone to scream at my husband like this. I was humiliated that, in the place where I grew up, some people are so hateful and ignorant. The more I thought about it, the more connections I seemed to see between this sorry incident and our nation's parlous political state.

As I write these words, it seems that we may be about to expand our Iraq adventure into Iran. Ignorant people draw hateful cartoons about Muslims, and the reaction is burning rage. The Trotskyite neo-cons in control of our foreign policy are thirsting for war with another Middle Eastern country. And if people like the guy at the mall are a clue to the state of public discourse in America, the prospects for prudent consideration of the consequences are dim.

In the aftermath of 9-11 and in the run-up to war with Iraq, we witnessed the same kind of ignorant hostility. The actions of a few terrorists—themselves provoked by our meddling in the Israel/Palestine conflict—caused people like our "friend" in the parking lot to display indiscriminating animosity toward certain groups of people: Saudi Arabians, Iraqis, Middle Easterners, Muslims—a hatred that now seems to include all people whose complexion or facial features resemble even remotely those of the terrorists.

Such malice has caused the deaths of thousands upon thousands of innocent people: US soldiers, women, children, and non-combatants in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Whatever politicians' real motives are for a war with Iran, they can only regard the ignorance and anger of people like the guy in the pickup truck as a useful tool as they forge ahead in their utopian quest to remake the middle east.

I'd like to believe that in southwest Virginia in the year 2006, we are not so easily led by politicians who manipulate bigotry. I'd hope that we are not so consumed by a volatile and dangerous mix of ignorance and hatred that we would lash out at people simply because of their appearance.

So I wonder about the guy who screamed at us. Why?

Because, after all, people like him are as likely as anybody else to suffer losses from the war. It might be him—or his brother, or his buddy—who comes home next in a casket. So what could he have been thinking?

I'd like to believe that he would realize that the safety of his own family and community is endangered by our reckless adventures in the middle east, and that he would at least considering saying "no" to another disastrous and illegal war.

But after our encounter in the mall parking lot, I'm not so sure.