My latest snap of cravings for Indian food hit a couple weeks ago, and because I haven’t learned anything over my two stints in the East Village, we ordered in from a restaurant on 6th Street and received puddles of oily, listless and weakly spiced curries that we dragged our way through only to be rewarded with bellyaches. Also, regret. I have an archive of Indian recipes I make several times a year, that I crave like clockwork as soon as we hit a cold snap and never disappoint, a cabinet full of robust rust and mustard-colored powders and seeds and yet I let someone else put lackluster chana masala in our bellies.
I have a confession to make: For years, I have been cooking a dish that I love very very much but I haven’t told you about it because it comes from two words that I cannot bring myself to publicly own up to.* Especially on a site where if you suggested I use one, I’d suggest you haven’t been paying attention.
Thanksgiving usually marks the end of my yearly fall fanaticism, and the beginning of the inevitable resignation to winter that goes into full-swing after the New Years. I’m no longer obsessed with the myriad of fall flavors, its squashes and medium-body soups and wines, I just want to stay warm. I hibernate, so to speak. I start cooking meals at home with more regularity; I find excuses to stay in.
I spent the summer in Israel when I was 15 years old, and while I know I did all of the expected stuff–day trips, stays at hostels and kibbutz, the big cities and the desert–one of the things that stands out most clearly in my memory is something sort of random–the way the Israeli kids dressed on hot days: black jeans and often long-sleeved shirts. I’d look at them, so covered, so dark, and want to scream. “Don’t you know how HOT it is here? I’m melting in my Tevas and tank top and you’re there wrapped as tight as you can in WINTER clothes.” Clearly this penchant for melodrama isn’t a recent phenomenon.
Considering that I was on a two year extended Indian cooking kick before I started this site, I find it odd that I have included but one Indian-spiced recipe in the time since. I’m not sure if others do this, but I tend to go in and out of food crazes — currently, the absolutely only thing I want to eat after the gym is tofu pad thai, which doesn’t sound so horrible until you consider that I hit the gym three times a week, and no doubt reverse its effects just as often. I’ve gone through similar phases with poached eggs (atop anything), dinners of asparagus and roasted tiny red potatoes (only), dumplings, and for two torturous months of Alex’s life, a certain Belgian Endive and Grain Mustard salad of Nigella Lawson’s I fiended for, even first thing in the morning.
As you may have noticed, I’m not the kind of person who just throws together things in the kitchen without a map, compass, 637 glowing reviews on Epicurious or a friend’s sworn assurance, sometimes written, that a specific recipe is a guaranteed to blow the ennui right out of your taste buds. Sure, I’ll make small adjustments while I work on something to accommodate our personal preferences, but aside from pasta sauces, eggs and salad dressings, I rarely go it on my own intuition.