31 January 2016

Where it's closest to sunrise

4:00 pm, Friday. 

I can't move and I'm in the middle of a busy intersection. The traffic light's changed already. I press my shoes into the asphalt, my toes, as if claws, curl down into the smooth leather soles, my hands meld into the handlebars of my bike that I had to dismount and is now hanging onto me, and for some reason I shut my eyes closed and clench my teeth. I don't see how in a distance an elderly woman falls over on the sidewalk, but I do see two men run up to lift her up.

7.30 am, Friday.

– I know you are sleeping, but you need to see this, it's Venus, Anthony nudges me on my shoulder, bends over the bed and points towards the window.

I'm looking at a pinhole in a sheet of black paper held up against a lamp – light is blazing through it. My eyes are hurting because I tore them open from sleep, but it's completely mystical and I sit up and look southeast where it's closest to sunrise and Venus shines bright. It doesn't twinkle and I don't blink.

4:01 pm, Friday.

I bend forward as if someone punched me in the stomach.

Car horns are bawling at me.

– Yes, it's reeeeeeed, I knooooooow, I shout back, to nobody in particular, the heart pumped up.

5:00 am, Thursday, one day before the storm.

– Good evening, someone says. I look around, there is a man. He is with another man, a friend, talks fast, holds a can of beer in his hand, but “good evening” is meant for me, and the smile. I wonder if he watches me ride off, and then, if my bicycle's rear light is on.

4:02 pm, Friday.

Canvas bill boards on either side of the road are flapping like trapped swans, as are my skirt and a coat. Beeeeeep in front of me, beeeeeeeep behind me. I'll run when it's green again, just another second to get out of this.

I dial Anthony.

– I got caught in a spectacular gush of wind, it almost knocked me off my feet in front of oncoming traffic. But I'm almost home, stopping for groceries now.

The heart's still pounding, the hands sweaty. I wonder what the weather is like on Venus.

Curried Lentil Soup 

Adapted very slightly from Molly Wizenberg, via Bon Appétit
Yield: 4 servings

This is a very soothing, very heartening soup. It is informed by dal maharani, a heady mix of black and brown lentils and beans, but with fewer spices, milder. Soft, silky and highly aromatic, it tastes and feels very creamy. For the most part it's because of the French lentils, they plump up and get fuzzy, sort of, in the broth. But should you not know there is is a puree of chickpeas to give the soup its richness, you would credit a stick of butter for it, or cream. It's quite ingenious, that.

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely diced
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped, divided 
2 tablespoons curry powder (or a good-quality garam masala blend)
170 g French green lentils (de Puy) 
4 ¼ cups water, divided
1 * 400 g can chickpeas, drained, rinsed 
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
fresh cilantro or spring onions, for serving

Warm 2 tablespoons olive oil in a heavy large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and carrot; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook until the onion is translucent, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes. Add half of the chopped garlic; cook for about 4 minutes longer until the vegetables are soft but not brown. Add the curry powder, stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the lentils and 4 cups water. Sprinkle with more salt and pepper, and bring to a boil. Bring the heat to low and simmer until the lentils are tender, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, puree the chickpeas, lemon juice, ¼ cup water, the remaining garlic and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a processor.

Add the chickpea puree to the soup. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and additional curry powder, if needed. Add more water by ¼ cupfuls to thin the soup to a desired consistency. To serve, sprinkle with finely chopped fresh cilantro or thinly sliced green onions.