Manna from Heaven

Today I was reading Katchori recipes. You know, as one does. I was eating Katchori Chaat and wondered what, exactly, I was happily inhaling. Little did I know I was about the get my whole life.

After I stopped ogling the pictures, I started reading the ingredients. And there it was, right down at the bottom of the list: “amchur,” a thing I’d never heard of and had to click away and look up. And what to my wondering eyes should appear but … mango powder.

Look, I know cloves and turmeric, ginger and coriander. Of course. But mango powder? Mango powder? What is this mystical, magical, heaven-sent substance?

Oh, I’m sorry. Don’t you know about mangoes and their exalted position as one of the three fruit proofs of the existence of God? Well, if you didn’t know, now you know.

So. Amchur. Mango powder. Why am I not surprised to find that it’s a common ingredient in Indian cuisine? India is good at this kind of thing — luxuriant detail, fantasy, extravagance. If anyone was going to think of creating mango powder, it was going to be someone in South Asia.

My Katchori Chaat was delicious. A little spicy, a little thrown-together looking, a little I-made-this-from-whatever-I-had-on-hand looking. Delicious.

My recipe reading, in addition to introducing me to amchur, made me remember the giant 600 Curries cookbook I bought a few years ago. A cookbook so voluminous, so encyclopedic, it’s totally intimidating. I have made exactly one recipe from that book. Indian cooking, I think, requires that I understand food science better (or at all), requires that I understand the complex properties of food.

But I’d like to learn how to make Katchori … and then take my learning a step further to Katchori Chaat. And yes, I want to do this so I have a reason to acquire some amchur, but also because I love to cook, and I love a challenge.

I have questions, though.  There are so many kinds of mangoes. Can amchur be made from any of them? How is the result different when you use different mangoes? How many of the kinds of mangoes I’ve eaten would make good amchur? Have I ever had an Indian mango? (Seems pretty likely that the answer to this is no.) Why haven’t I?

I’ve got some research and adventurous shopping to do. Stay tuned …


It’s March, which means it’s time for the
13th annual Slice of Life Story Challenge!
Curious? Head on over to Two Writing Teachers
and see what the rest of this year’s slicers are up to.
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Original Slicer - GirlGriot

I cook like Olivia Pope.

Yes, you read that right.

I am a single woman. I live alone. And, while I love to cook, sometimes it’s just too much. With just me in the house, some nights the production of dinner-making is taking up time that could be spent … well … on just about anything else. So, that’s what I’m saying. I get her, Olivia Pope. Popcorn and wine is not a lie.

More often, for me, it’s popcorn and herbal tea. Sometimes popcorn and ginger ale. But you get the idea.

I’ve gone through many popper styles — electric, air, microwave. But the best is made on the stove.

I used to have this old-school beauty:

This is the Wabash Valley Farms™ Original Whirley Pop™ Stovetop Popcorn Popper (they clearly needed to use the word “pop” at least one more time). I loved it. And I used it so much, I wore it out. Now I just use an old stock pot. It’s not as fun as turning the crank, but it definitely gets the job done.

It gets the job done because it’s popcorn, and it’s really not that serious … except that, maybe it is. If you fire up the Google, you will, in fact, get 47,900,000 hits for “how to make popcorn.” Really. Nearly 48 million hits. But sadly, only 3,400,000 returns for “how to make caramel popcorn.” Why so few? How are we living, people? Surely, caramel corn should play a larger role in our lives. And the results tumble down from there. Only 1,880,000 for kettle corn.

So yes, all of this is quite silly. But it’s also reminding me of popcorn balls (7,040,000 hits!), specifically, the popcorn balls my grandmother used to make. She didn’t make them often, so they were an extra especial treat. And they seemed like magic. No one else ever had them, and I never actually saw how she made them, so they just seemed to become … there’d be a big bowl of popcorn, and then <snap of fingers> there’d be popcorn balls! She was a kitchen magician.

And now I have my pick of recipes, and I might have to give them a try.

Um …

But not tonight. If I can’t work up the gumption to boil some pasta and throw on some bottled sauce, am I really going to take on the decadent extravagance of popcorn balls?! I think not.

I am more likely to go on the hunt for the Brooklyn Popcorn truck!



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It’s the Slice of Life Story Challenge — posting a little bit of something every day in March!

Go check out the hundreds of slicers over at Two Writing Teachers!

Eve had her apple …

… so did Snow White. And so do I.

I am allergic to apples. I have been forever. I love apples. What’s not to love about them? Their crispness is a delight. Their juice is so sweet. They’re so good with cheese. They’re so good with peanut butter. They make excellent PIE.

They also make my lips swell and my gums burn and my jaw ache.

It’s not just apples. The list is long: carrots, cherries, peaches, pears, nectarines, plums, hazelnuts, walnuts, figs, apricots, green beans. Yes. Some of these are worse than others. Cherries are particularly painful. Walnuts make it hard for me to breathe. And some things have fallen off the list. I used to be allergic to almonds, but that seems to have faded. I eat almonds now without pain and suffering or anaphylactic shock.

Thank heavens this allergy doesn’t extend to watermelon, pomegranates, and mangoes!

I respect my allergy, but come on — we’re talking about apples, peaches, nectarines, plums … am I really expected to never eat them? That would just be cruel. So I continue to eat most of the things on that list, just in as much moderation as I can manage. (And I have an epi-pen prescription.)

Tonight I learned, for the first time, where all this itchy swelling comes from. Apparently — well, according to this totally random website that I’ve backed up with zero research — I am allergic to birch pollen, and I have Oral Allergy Syndrome! Who knew? I just thought I was an unfortunate freak who couldn’t eat a bunch of delicious things unless she was prepared to suffer.

How do I know it’s birch pollen, you ask? Because there’s a handy chart that lists the foods connected to the various allergens:

oas-chart

Happily, I’m not allergic to all the foods listed in the birch/alder category … and praise be that I’m not allergic to ragweed or mugwort! It’s interesting to me that strawberries and peanuts are on the birch/alder list. Whenever people learn that I’m allergic to apples, they always ask if I’m allergic to peanuts and strawberries. I’m not (just knocked wood). And, allergic to spices? That has to suck. Maybe almost as bad as an allergy to apples.


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Heaven on the Vine

Today is National Watermelon Day. No, really.
Who knew?
So, in honor of this, here’s a watermelon story from my June trip to Florida for VONA: There were a lot of different camps happening at the University of Miami while the writing workshops were in session. Ballet camp, football camp, etc. So we were often surrounded by kids when we were in the dining hall. One morning, I saw a tall, slender, bored-looking, blond girl at the salad bar filling an enormous bowl with watermelon (in other words, doing exactly what I was approaching the salad bar to do!). I smiled and told her she was a girl after my own heart because I so love watermelon. Her whole demeanor changed. She smiled and laughed and told me that she is from Serbia and how her mother always teases her because all she ever wants to eat is watermelon. She will spend her last money to buy the biggest one to bring home, just for herself (definitely sounding a lot like me), and her mother will ask her how she expects to eat such a huge melon herself, and she always just says, “Watch me!” I’m telling you, it was as if I was talking to myself!
And here’s a roundup of watermelon things I’ve had to say on this blog:
Source: Agricultural Marketing Resource Center

(I don’t know why the spacing is off in this post, why I can’t get a blank line between paragraphs. I’ve messed with it for more than half an hour, and I now officially give up. Feh.)

Not exactly ready for my close-up, but …

In Providence, there is a restaurant called Haven Brothers.  I had a burger there a couple of years ago.  How could I resist such a funny little place?  And that burger was excellent.  Thursday night, I went back after setting up for the conference.  I wanted the quick, easy comfort of a burger and fries.  I walked in, read the menu for a minute, placed my order (murder burger, no lettuce, no mushrooms) and turned around to find this guy:

How could I have stood for even a second in such a tiny space and not have noticed that movie camera?  In any case, this is Jeff, and he’s making a documentary about Haven Brothers.  He wanted to interview me, so I let him.  Silly, really, since that was only my second visit.  And, too, I was so tired I was practically brain dead.  I gave him all kinds of wacky answers.  Maybe the best one was when he asked me to describe Haven Brothers to someone who’d never been there.  I said something like: “It’s everything you like about your favorite taco trucks rolled into one little sit-down place. On wheels.”  What?  But I think I stand by that one.

I have a feeling my interview might just wind up on the cutting room floor … If not, I’ll be the sleepy-eyed woman in the black velvet coat talking about taco trucks and burgers!

__________

I haven’t quite recovered from my trip north, still want to sleep for about 27 hours.  I’ll get back to richer posts when I’ve gotten some rest.  In the mean time, see the rest of today’s slices at Two Writing Teachers.