I worked at an Indian restaurant called Shalimar for about six months…I’m not sure I ever made more than $25 a shift, but that didn’t matter, because, as part of the gig, I got to eat from the lunch buffet every day. I also dated the chef, Raju… a fascinating amalgamation of old and new. He pumped serious iron every morning, drove a black Escalade and wore a thick gold chain with an ‘om’ symbol hanging from it. I remember one night in particular… him taking me to the “Indian store”, buying us sugar cane juice and renting a non-sub-titled Bollywood movie. The juice was in a green can, sweet, and the movie was innocent, repressed, in a way that I liked. He had limited English proficiency, but we spoke the same language…the one comprised of the gestures made in the kitchen and those made while eating everything with naan. I still have the mix CD that he made for me…(think: Panjabi MC). It was the music of the kitchen, the beat of the tandoori oven, and I loved it.
This is what I love about food…it’s never just about the food…it’s about who made it, where it came from, where you ate, who you ate with. Food is a conduit….through which so many essential life elements flow, comingle, crash. Pulling my head out of kheer clouds, I decided it was time for some Indian this week….and friends were coming over….the perfect opportunity.
So, I sauteed a couple massive portobello mushrooms in butter, added some coconut milk, red pepper flakes and curry powder, and blended in a paste of (CSA) kale, (CSA) chard, (CSA) onion and (CSA) garlic.
It wasn’t Shalimar, and it wasn’t Raju…but it was a good Indian-ish dinner with good friends….we should have ended the night with some Bollywood.