Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Curry du jour - a recipe from a lazy cook

I used to love to cook. When I was a freelance artist, I was very disciplined. I worked at home, but I kept to a schedule and didn't break it unless there was an emergency. I worked from 9am to noon, took an hour break, and worked until 5pm. If there's wasn't an art director screaming for an inhumane deadline, I'd stop dead, no matter where I was in the day's work.

Cooking has something to do with this, I promise.

At noon, I would have a quick bite to eat. Then, I'd do whatever preparations were in order for dinner. Back then, this could mean anything from making pasta from scratch to deboning a whole cornish game hen, stuffing it, and sewing it back together (a very impressive feat, believe me). Vegetables were chopped, vinaigrettes were left to develop their flavors, and little bowls of ingrediants were filled if I was going to cook Chinese food. I was quite orderly, and I knew that by the time dinner rolled around, I'd never have the energy for any of this.

This cooking mania was prompted by a show on PBS about the "Great Chefs of New Orleans." I bought the accompanying book and both volumes of Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking."

One memorable meal was that crazy deboned game hen, with a tri-color vegetable pate starter, and petit peas wrapped in steamed lettuce leaves. Another one was a white bean pate with whole vegetables. It looked beautiful. Each slice had circles of orange carrots, purple beets, green peas and red peppers. It tasted like school paste and was dumped in the garbage. We had a pizza that night.

For years now, I haven't enjoyed cooking all that much. I'm certainly not the uber-disciplined person I used to be. I tend to cook the same things over and over again. It's usually tofu and broccoli or string beans in black bean sauce, pasta with chicken or turkey sausage in marinara sauce, white pizza with red peppers and mushrooms, or a spinach and cheese omelette. I eat lots of Boca Burgers and ramen.

I was planning on making a curry last night but was feeling lazy (and had yet another night of ramen, tofu and egg). Dick couldn't find a can of tomatoes at the store, so he bought a pound of tomatoes, and knowing I would have to cook something from scratch was too much to deal with. Seriously, this is how I've come to think of cooking - too much to deal with. If I lived in a city, I'd be looking at takeaway menus every night, but where I live there's only one choice in that arena - a pretty lousy pizza from the General Store.

So, today was curry day. It was now or never, for we had a big leftover leg of lamb and I didn't want it to go to waste (sorry to all you vegetarians for subjecting you to images of deboned capons and legs of lamb).

I wound up making a mean curry. It's simmering now. Here's the recipe:

1 lb of tomatoes, de-seeded
2 tablespoons of good curry powder
3-5 cloves of garlic, your choice
1 cup of chicken or vegetable broth or bouillion
1 onion
Meat optional
Green peas
Chickpeas would probably be good in this, but I don't have any

Put the tomatoes, curry powder, garlic and liquid into a blender and blend until almost totally liquid. This stuff tastes great cold, like gazpacho, but spicier.

Cook the onions lightly in olive or canola oil. Then pour the curry liquid in the pan.

If you're using meat, throw it in about 1 to 1 1/2 hours before you want to eat. Cook the cauliflower for about a half an hour. Throw the peas in for five minutes at the end.

Serve with basmati rice. If you've got some Indian bread, great. This is really tasty, so having something to sop it up with is good.

Not a big deal of a recipe, but it's easy. I didn't bother to tell you how to cut up the cauliflower or how much to put in. That kind of detail is just silly. Cut it up however you want. You want lots of peas? Throw 'em in.

Tip for de-seeding tomatoes: Just cup them in half and scoop the seeds out with your thumbs. De-seeding always sounds like it's going to be a chore, but it isn't.

I'm annoyed because I'm out of basmati rice. I wonder what my Japanese brown rice is going to taste like with butter in it. Sticky and buttery, I'd guess.

Now it's time for me to cook the cauliflower. See ya. Don't expect another recipe too soon.

Photo note: Looking at this makes me think it's summer.

Addendum: I put too much lamb in it. Would you read a cookbook like this? Actually, I think it's not a bad idea. If recipes were less rigid, people would be creative. And, I'd like to see some famous chef write "I put too much lamb in it" instead of telling me that I need to put 1/8th of a teaspoon of cumin in something. Cooking is not that exacting! And failures are inevitable.

Also, Japanese brown rice cooked with butter is quite delicious. It wound up being my favorite part of the meal.


TMC said...

Sounds delish!

If I promise to bring plenty of basmati, can I come by? How's 7:30 for you? Can I also bring my thermos for leftovers for lunch? :)

jmcleod76 said...

That picture is looks delicious!

And no need to apologize about the capon or lamb (to me, at least ... can't speak for others). Even after eight years of vegetarianism, I still find meat appetizing. If I weren't so lazy, I might still eat it. It's a moral decision, for me, bot not because of the killing, per se; because of factory farming.

Anonymous said...

Brown rice with curry sounds awesome, sans the lamb leg:)
Ahem, I had no idea lamb legs could so peacefully coexist with being a buddist:)

Three Cent Stamp said...

I was so perfectly happy with my salad until I read your post! Thanks a hell of a lot! :-)

The recipe is easy enough that I might even be willing to try my hand at cooking again. I usually work so many hours that I am too tired to cook.

Love curry.


Julie H. Rose said...

As to eating meat & Buddhism:

Ask a Zen Master about this one!

Evey Zen teacher I've known personally eats meat.

An anecdote: If I was visiting someone who served me meat, it would be impolite to refuse.

I was a vegetarian for 8 years, and it wasn't good for my body, even though I ate quite well.

When I moved to the country, raised sheep, and met others who raised animals, I started eating meat. Bacon was first, from a friend who made his own. The animals were all treated well. Factory farming is repugnant in the extreme.

I meet vegetarians who eat chicken, which I find strange, since chicken factories are so horrible it's difficult to read about them. I can't say "oh, this animal has a really tiny brain and that one does't, so I'll only eat the ones I think have less sentience."

I hope I haven't offended any vegetarians here. I respect other people's choices. If you came to my house for supper, I'd cook vegan or vegetarian, depending on your needs.

jmcleod76 said...

True that, Julie! The Buddha never forbade eating meat, because the monks were dependent on lay people to feed them. To refuse a gift of food from a devoted follower could not only have alienated the person in question - creating a block to them receiving the Dharma - it could have also made people less willing to support the monks. I know first-hand that people seem to resent having to go out of their way to accommodate other people's dietary restrictions .... something I find inexcusable when it's a restaurant or a large catered dinner for a lot of people. I'm sure there are circumstances under which I would bend my self-imposed rules in order to be polite, though I haven't encountered the need to, so far. Most people get that I don't eat meat, even if they think it's silly, and aren't offended so long as I'm sensitive not to put them out too much. I can almost always find _something_ I can eat (though I have been in the position, at work picnics, of having to pick microscopic bits of ham out of a pasta salad I unwittingly took, and didn't want to waste .... granted I wasted the ham, but you'll have this ... the thought of eating it made my stomach turn, just then, because I wasn't expecting it).

And I don't eat chicken for just the reason you mention ... chickens, perhaps more than any animal, are treated horribly before they're killed. But I do think there's something to the idea that some animals are less developed than others. For instance, I know for a fact most mammals are capable of what I would consider a rich emotional life. No one will ever convince me otherwise. I'm not so sure about fish, though. I think fish probably feel fear when they're caught, but I don't think they feel anything akin to "love," for lack of a better word. Dogs definitely do ... they mourn when separated from their pack (whether canine or human). Elephants, too. Elephants even have funerals for their dead.

So, it may be rationalization on my part -a dishonest response spurred by cognitive dissonance - but, because they're generally free before they die, never factory farmed (even though they are occasionally "farmed" in a sense that defies the traditional definition of the word), and because I don't attribute the same level of awareness to them as I do mammals, I don't feel _as_ bad (usually) about eating fish as I would a mammal. We all draw our lines somewhere ... and I know every piece of lettuce or broccoli I eat has the blood of countless insects, worms, moles, rabbits, gophers, etc. on it. None of our hands are clean, but we do what we can to lessen the suffering of the world. Every step is a misstep, but the converse is paralysis.

So says I ...

Julie H. Rose said...

Y'know, I was going to take this post down after I discovered the curry (with too much lamb) wasn't as good as I expected. (Note to cooks: if you want a summer cold curry, it's great right out of the blender.)

But look at what this post spawned! Thanks, Jaime, for your comments. Thanks, Nika, for asking about how I could be a Buddhist and eat meat.

It appears that this is a rich topic indeed.

Jaime, I understand your point about fish vs. mammals, but, personally, I can't make that judgment.

I'm not planning on eating my cat, but just for the sake of argument, if she was hit by a car, why shouldn't I? In some way, I can see that as the ultimate honor.

I don't think I could bring myself to do this, but I did eat my own sheep, whom I felt I had relationships with, and that felt right. When people buy pre-packaged cut-up meat in the store there's a disconnect.

Most of the vegetarians I've known lived in cities. I was, too, when I did. It seems like the natural order of things to eat meat here in the country, at least to me.

And I apologize to my cat, Miko, for using her as a devil's advocate.

jmcleod76 said...

Sorry the curry wasn't that good ... :o(
It sounded yummy. Ah, the power of suggestion and the enticements of the imagination.

And I agree ... why shouldn't you eat your cat if she was hit by a car? If I hit a deer on the road, I'd certainly have it butchered and give it to someone who needs it ... except that, I wouldn't have loved the deer in the same way I love my dogs/cats ... emotions are slippery things.

And I get the the thing about it feeling right to eat an animal you raised yourself. I don't think I could do it; it would feel like a betrayal, I think. But it's natural, at least, or more natural that buying it from the store, anyway. Technically, the truly "natural" thing would be to hunt it down ... give it a "fighting chance."

I think the reason there are so many urban vegetarians is because it's an internal rebellion against the alienation of modernity. We've shed so much of what was once visceral in our everyday lives, and now we're alienated, not just from one another, but also from our food. We rejected self-limiting parochialism in favor of lonely individualism, and we rejected getting our hands bloody in favor of buying pre-cut Saran wrapped packages of meat ... there's a level on which I think that feels wrong to many people, even if we won't admit that's the reason.

Julie H. Rose said...

Before I comment on the content, I feel an obligation to say that the clarity of your writing is stunning.

I agree with what you wrote about urbanity and "alienation of modernity". I have always felt that is why tattoos and piercing became popular. "We" have a need for ritual, for intense visceral experience (which you can't get from Second Life, for example). Even here in Maine, now that I don't raise animals, I feel separated from nature most of the time.

Oddly, I feel that eating meat is my rebellion against the same thing you write so eloquently about. Never thought of it this way.

I used to buy chicken from a farm run by Buddhists outside of New York City. They sold the chicken whole. You headed to cut off the head and feet yourself. What a lesson! They raised them with great care and provided this opportunity to come to terms with your relationship to meat; "Can I cut off the head?!" "Is it okay to cover it with a towel when I do this?"

Julie H. Rose said...

Missed a typo: "You HAD to cut off. . ." NOT, "you headed to. . ."

Anonymous said...

Boy, that little comment sure encouraged some passionate discussion:)
The reason I asked how meat-eating and the idea of non-violence/compassion to all the living beings can coexist is because that's the part that always puzzled me about some Zen masters. I tend to judge people not so much by what they say but by what they do and how they do it.
Whether Buddha "forbade" eating meat or not doesn't really matter. We all are gifted with the ability to reason and in this context logic leads me to conclude that compassion doesn't exactly jive with raising a living being with the purpose of slaughtering it afterwards.
I actually think that hunting down a mammoth or an antilope with a spear or what have you was a totally appropriate way to supplement your diet back in the day. If you give an animal a fighting chance, I think it's fair. It's the needlessly cruel and cowardly way in which it's handled now that turns me off. The notion that somehow we're entitled to eat animals just because we're smarter and figured out ways to breed and slaughter them in masse is the one that I object to.
Julie, maybe you should do a post about it,I've never seen this topic to leave anyone disinterested. It is visceral.

Julie H. Rose said...

Nika, you're right that this is rich topic. Maybe I should have a face-off with Jaime and you.

But, I have no real defense. Your comment made me feel a bit guilty about eating meat. I don't eat much. I honestly LOVE tofu and could eat it every day.

And you are correct about actions versus words. Many "masters" lead less than admirable lives. I've wondered how they could be such Masters if they were sleeping with their students, drunk all the time and whatnot.

But, being a Master doesn't make one a superhuman. We are all flawed in some manner.

Back to the meat issue: It's hunting season here in Maine. Last week two moose were killed in my town. Killing a moose is about as sportsmanlike as killing a cow. They are so trusting, most of the time, and are obviously big targets. So, when I see a picture of a 12-year-old kid proudly standing with his gun after a moose kill, I'm bothered.

If the family of the kid NEEDED that moose to eat, to make it through the winter, I'd be okay with it, but no, they're probably mounting the antlers on the living room wall and eating mooseburgers once in a blue moon.

But then I eat some lamb, and I don't think a thing about it. So, I've got some soul searching to do!

Anonymous said...

As to the profusion of "urban vegetarians", I think that it has to do with higher concentrations of educated and liberal population in cities. Sure, getting a degree doesn't automatically make one a liberal, but in general, good education leads to broadening one's horizons and challenging stereotypes.
After the election I looked at the map of FLorida. Guess what, every county that had larger presence of educated professionals, mostly concetrated around centers of learning, i.e. a state universities
voted liberal. Is it a coincidence?

Civil rights and feminism got started in urban centers for that same reason.
Forgive me for being blunt but I see a lot of parallels between slavery and present day treatment of animals in the industrialized world. But that's a subject for another discussion, perhaps.

jmcleod76 said...

Ha! You won't be facing off with me! I'm an unrepentant moral relativist, at least when it comes to other people's decisions. I know why I made the decision I made about eating animals (at least warm-blooded ones), and I know I wouldn't like to be judged cruel by a vegan or non-fish-eating vegetarian (though I'm sure I am). I accord the same courtesy to my meat-eating friends, particularly the increasing number who have tried vegetarianism and who are aware of the sticky issues involved in just about every choice we make with regard to eating and commercial consumption. To my thinking, eating only a little meat, or only eating meat from family farms is helpful and shows a commitment to making examined choices.

Anonymous said...

Julie, sweetheart, in no way do I want you to feel guilty. I just want to understand the motives.

jmcleod76 said...

I don't know you, but good points, all around.

Anonymous said...

jmcleod76,as much as I hate judgmental attitudes and people telling other people what to do, being a moral relativist only pays off until the real visceral issues are raised. There's no room for moral relativity when it comes to murder, to torture and similar things.
We all agree that these actions are intolerable in our society, do we not?

Anonymous said...

Thanks jjm, hope you don't take anything I said personally:)
I love a good, spirited argument once in a while.

Julie H. Rose said...

Well, you all make good points.

Nika, your demographic analysis is a good one.

Oh, these are thorny issues!

I once was a hard-line pacifist, but then I would think, "Would you have killed Hitler" and the answer was always yes. But I don't think people like him are evil - I think they're sick, and one doesn't kill mentally ill people, so I'm in a moral dilemma I can't see my way out of.

Do I equate torture of human beings to the treatment of animals in factory farming? No, I guess I don't.

Honestly, when I think of this, it makes me wonder why all the young vegetarians aren't out on the streets, screaming about the WAR CRIMES of this administration instead of worrying about wearing vegan shoes.

I must admit to finding these spirited arguments a bit nerve wracking. I tend to back away from them.

In the end, I believe you (and everyone) else is entitled to their opinion and your opinion is where you need to be at the time, so I won't argue my case, for I have none.

Though, I do think that Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld should be charged with war crimes.

And this came from a post about CURRY??!!

jmcleod76 said...

True enough, Nika … you’ve caught me; there are some behaviors I unconditionally condemn. And, actually, meat-eating used to be one of them. I’ve backed off from that stance in the last few years, though, for many of the reasons I’ve touched on above. The unfortunate fact is that eating is killing. That’s not some pat bumper sticker slogan (i.e. “If God didn’t want me to eat animals, he shouldn’t have made them out of meat,” which is about the most puerile thing I’ve ever read). It’s simply true. The vast majority of animals on this planet are carnivorous or omnivorous. It’s the way the world works, and you can’t judge a lion, for instance, for eating a zebra (I’m not saying you do … this is going somewhere, I promise …). Human beings used to be much like lions, in that respect. We went out, clubbed something to death, and dragged it home to feed the fam. Farming evolved as a means of more reliably ensuring our survival. Being able to count on a more regular supply of food – food that wasn’t likely to fight back – could very literally mean the difference between making it through the winter or not. I, for one, wouldn’t have to think about that very long about that choice.

Of course, things have changed since then (at least in the industrialized West). We now have an abundance of food, including many sources of proteins, fats and other nutrients that are plant-based. There is no logical reason for anyone, at least in our culture, to eat meat. But we also have literally millions of years of evolution and culture telling us to eat meat. That’s just not going to change overnight. It will happen slowly, as more people examine their choices about eating via non-judgmental information about the ramifications of those choices. On top of that, as I’ve pointed out above, growing vegetables also means killing; as you till the Earth to grow food, rabbits and groundhogs and gophers and moles, etc., are displaced from their homes to be eaten by other animals, or beheaded by machinery, etc. Short of eating only food created by chemicals in labs or starving to death, there is absolutely nothing you can do to avoid taking other beings’ lives. All you can do is try to minimize the harm as much as possible.

That’s why, for me, meat-eating has become a gray area. I don’t want to do it, because when I look at a farm animal, I see a reflection of myself. I can’t imagine myself raising a sheep, feeding it every day, allowing it to come to trust me as a caretaker, then killing it. For that reason, I won’t eat one that anyone else killed, either. But I also recognize that trying to set down an absolute when, to my thinking, there is no way to be guiltless, is a slippery slope.

p.s. We're TAKING OVER Juie's blog ... mwhahahahaha!!!!! Maybe we should take it outside ;o)

Seriously, though ... good web-versation. Post about curry, indeed! (Though, to be fair, Julie, you're the one who brought up your vegetarian friends).

Julie H. Rose said...


You and Nika are not "taking over" my blog. This is just the sort of thing I'm more than delighted to initiate, as long as it doesn't lead to virtual fistfights.

And if more people join the fray, great!

Maybe I should post about "curry" more often.

LazyBuddhist said...

Just as I am a lazy buddhist, I am also a lazy vegetarian. Actually, I'm not a vegetarian, I believe the proper term for me would be "pescatarian" since I eat fish.

Even as a kid I had problems with "cute foods", i.e. lamb, duck, rabbit, etc. I simply wouldn't eat it. Later, I swore off anything I would want to pet, so pigs and cows came off the table too.

Eventually, after years of Buddhist practice and teachings on how all living beings are our kind mothers, I gave up fowl too and started identifying as vegetarian. It just seemed more in accordance with my personal beliefs.

So, why do I still eat fish? Partly out of convenience. It's easier to order something of substance in restaurants, it's easier to find dishes to share with friends, and dammit, fish is tasty. Is it a sentient being? Uh, yeah. Sorry fishies.

If I'm invited to someone's home for dinner and they are serving meat, I'll usually have a small portion and make appropriate yummy noises so as not to offend. But, personally, I think meat is pretty gross, and can't imagine handling it or eating it of my own accord. But, I'm not going to judge others who do.