14 October 2008

Hither and thither


I am in the village of Baghmara, India.


The magnificent sun is rising slowly casting its light on meadows and fields seasoned with fresh dew; birds chirp; the Ganges – caring and undisturbed - flows through the village. A new day has arrived.


In fields, I take my morning walk. At this early hour there are no secrets, no questions, no quests. The scenery around reveals its beauty - the blinding beauty, if at that.


I tred barefoot on the grass, soft and wet with morning dew. As I walk, and breathe, and see, and feel, I loosen up my grasp on my worries and unease; really, those are so unimportant, so self-imposed.


Time in this place seems to be a distant rustle of the wind. Fleeting minutes is now the soothing flow of the Ganges.


In the sky, the sun slowly takes over from the moon and awakens the village: men and women, old and young, all take up on their daily routine - and what a heartbreaking labour it is, that routine – with a gratifying and grateful smiles that seem to be residual on their faces, regardless of hardships and losses.


The air is enriched with fragrances of spices; women in the village are busy cooking breakfasts for their families. As my indian friend Vijay tells me, in India, each meal of day’s usual three is warm, right from the stove. So it is no surprise to me at all that I hear the pans’ clang as I pass one home after the other.


Cardamom, ginger, cinnamon and cloves…those suggest a subtle longing on my childhood.


Turmeric, coriander, garam masala, cumin. The latter snaps me to attention: heady, earthy, mighty cumin. I hear oil sizzle playfully, people’s voices engaged in a joyous conversation.


I hear my name being called…


I am back in my small shared kitchen (that would be in Amsterdam), and - as it might have already transpired to you - imaginary, that was my trip. If, My Dear Readers, it has also transpired to you that I might, by seldom chance, have gone disproportionately insane, I beg to differ. All what it took me to drift away was to invite Vijay (that would be my new friend) to cook dinner together. He was cooking and telling me of his home town back in India (at my rather authoritative request); I – at first - fussed around in futile attempts to assist, what with stirring, seasoning, trying yet uncooked dishes, then I just sat down and listened. And, as it has certainly transpired to you by now (I simply like this expression, ok?), imagined.


Now, you might want to excuse my rural edges, but when I happened to be in the vicinity of those potatoes (yes, those ones in a picture from the left above), I announced to Vijay that I was going to eat them up. All by myself. That was not polite, of course. But they were gorgeous. And I was hungry, I trust you understand. (On a side note: there were other dishes too, so I did not have to feel guilty for starving my guest, after all).


Cumin fried potatoes (after Vijay, 2008)


Makes 1-2-3 servings (that depends on your hunger level, really; mine, of course, was high.)


3-4 medium potatoes, cooked al dente (try different sorts to discover different flavours interplay)
1 ½ tsp cumin seeds
3 Tsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Turmeric (see an update note below)
fresh herbs for garnishing (dill, coriander, parsley, what have you)


Method.


1. Wash, peel and boil potatoes. Make sure they retain a bite (cooked al dente); you don’t want them to turn mushy.


2. Once cooked, drain potatoes. Let cool for 5-10 mins. After this, cut them in small chunks.


3. In a skillet, heat olive oil. Add cumin seeds. When the oil turns slightly smoky and you hear the cumin seeds slightly cracking, turn out potato chunks onto the skillet and stir them thorougly (for even cumin seeds distribution). Fry potatoes over medium heat for 5-7 mins. At this point, you might sd well want to season potatoes with salt and freshly ground pepper.


4. Turn off the heat. Garnish potatoes with herbs and eat/or serve immediately. :)


This is an extremely simple dish. And yet, it possesses an extremely strong character; such character that supports you in autumn and strengthens your belief in warm sunny times that will be coming back - of course they will!


P.S. I have just calculated it’s been a second time within the last 30 days or so that I am featuring potatoes here, among other significant -in the author’s imagination - things. What shall I say in my defence? It’s like with clothes: let's say, you have one dress (God forbid!); try different scarfs or brooches with it, and your dress will look anew. Every single time. Huh!
Update: A little while ago I got an editorial message from V. which goes like this: 'I think you forgot to write turmeric in the Cumin fried potatoes'. Goodness me!

3 comments:

toni said...

Ohhhh.......lovely! The imaginary trip, the potatoes, and a new "friend"!!!

Carol said...

Anya,

Your photographs on your blog are exceptional!
The lovely light is what makes your photos stand out! The potato recipe looks yummy; I'll look thru your blog for more recipes.

white on rice couple said...

I can never be tired of potatoes, especially when they're accompanied by your prose and photography.