Saturday, November 29, 2008

A Snippet of a Conversation

“May I go to the restroom?” he asked. And then a moment later, “Please?”

I stared. “You don’t have to ask my permission to leave”. I was flustered.

“I know”, he replied quietly. “But it is polite to ask.”

I lowered my glance and nodded my assent. He stood up and heeled his chair back into position.

“Can I bring you anything back?”

His voice was playful, and I rose to the challenge.

“Yes”, I said. “Bring me back the mirror.”

We both blushed. He started to say something, hesitated, and then turned away.

I looked around the coffee shop. On the bookshelf next to our table was stacked an odd assortment of books - some which I would never have imagined belonged in such an establishment. I pulled out a volume on the wines of Tuscany and lazily flipped through its pages. Friends of mine, a couple, were visiting Italy. I remembered her asking me if I would like them to bring me back a bottle of Italian wine. She had called me a connoisseur. I smiled despite myself. Although I would like to be, I am not a good judge of flavors. I prefer Beaujolais to Burgundy. Some people tell me that is sacrilegious, but I have never understood why.

I glanced at my mug of Ethiopian coffee. Strong. Bitter. Overpriced. And served in an awfully ugly mug. Most “cool” coffee shops serve their hot beverages in hideous mugs. They are meant to be artistic, I suppose. I try to be broad-minded about these things, but to my rather primitive and untrained mind, all art – all appealing art at any rate – needs to be aesthetically pleasing. I put the book back on its shelf. The book at least had aesthetically pleasing pictures.

I closed my eyes and listened to the lowered voices of the other customers. Coffee shop conversations always sound so intimate. I sighed and opened my eyes. He had returned, a boyish grin on his face.

“I tried”, he said earnestly. “The mirror wouldn’t come off the wall.”

I giggled with mirth at the thought. He extended his hand and I saw a shiny quarter in it.

“It’s like a mirror”, he said. “I can’t believe I found this. It has been ages since I found a coin.”

I took the extended quarter from his fingers and looked into his face. I could not tell if he was lying. Coffee shop conversations are meant to be mysterious. And the lights were too dim for me to care.

Friday, November 14, 2008

"May I Write To You?"

Yesterday, someone asked me, “May I write to you?” How often does one get asked such a beautiful question? I think people today say, “Can I call you?” or “Can we talk again?” But an exchange of ideas, and the continuation of a conversation through the writing of letters is practically unheard of. I was quite happy when I was asked this question and consented to a correspondence, upon which we exchanged our email ids. Not quite as romantic an end to the wonderful question as I would have liked, but still…

I would like to write to someone. As a child I had several pen-friends. I even tried reviving my interest in writing to people in distant lands after I became an adult. However, this franchise soon disillusioned me because I found that most adult pen pals are only trying to pave their way to a romantic relationship. But imagine… if you were writing just for the sake of writing… to be able to tell your story, and listen to the stories of others… wouldn’t that be beautiful and delightful and enlightening? C.S. Lewis said, “We read to know we are not alone.” I think this might be truer for writing. We write to know we are not alone… to know that someone wants to read what we have to say and share… that insignificant though we may be in the grand scheme of things, little bits of ourselves are significant to others even if only just momentarily. Is it any wonder then that I enjoy writing this blog?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Hurray for the President Elect

Last night was one of the most historic nights in the history of the United States of America. By an overwhelming majority Barack Obama was elected America's 44th president - and became the first African American ever to be elected to this post. The energy of the American public was infectious and heart-warming. As I watched election night TV, I was struck by how many things were different about this US Presidential election - people turned out in record numbers to cast their votes, first time voters (the generation many people think does not care) were keen to have their voices heard, and in the face of ignorance and prejudice, Senator Obama scored a proud victory.

Listening to Sen. Obama's address to the nation after winning the 2008 presidential election, I was moved. This isn't my country, and I cannot vote. But this certainly is an incredibly exciting time to be in America! I hope many more good things lie ahead...

Monday, November 3, 2008

"Pie" Surprise

Typically, when I attempt to throw together a recipe from things that just happen together in my fridge, I end up with an eatable, but equally forgettable end product. However, last night, I made up a recipe that turned out something that was a delight – one which I am going to continue to make often.

So, in an attempt to clean out my fridge, I located these things:
• One butternut squash that I wanted to make soup with, but which I did not end up making
• A quarter packet of mixed vegetables – too little to put into anything else.
• Half a red bell pepper left over from a pizza that I made last week.
• One pre-made pie crust with which I was going to make apple pie, but I ended up eating the apples raw

So, I decided to make a vegetable pie – most of my previous vegetable pies have been passable, occasionally good, and never exceptional. However, I needed to clean out the fridge. So on I went with the project, and the result was amazing – a LOVELY pie: tasty, savory, filling, healthy, and above all EASY! It really was what I might classify as “healthy comfort food”. I’ll post pictures soon. Here’s how I made it:

I diced the whole butternut squash, the red bell pepper, and half an onion and boiled these in a bit of salted water with the leftover mixed vegetables. Don’t add too much water – we just want enough so that we don’t have to drain out any water after the veggies are cooked. I threw in some garlic powder and some rosemary and thyme (I grow the rosemary and thyme. If you don’t have these, just use whatever dried herbs you have – oregano, sage, basil…). I boiled all these together covered for about 15 minutes till the squash was a bit mushy. Then I let it cool and drained out the little water that remained. Then I mixed in a handful of shredded cheese (I used a low-fat cheddar-pepper jack blend because I happened to have some, but any regular shredded cheese is fine), and a couple of pinches of red pepper flakes. In the meantime, I had thawed out my pie crust. I sprayed my pie dish with some non-stick spray and rolled out the bottom crust. I spooned in the vegetable mixture and covered it with the top crust. I slotted the top crust, sprayed it will some non-stick spray and popped it into the oven for about 30 minutes (at 350 F), and then took it out to cool. Wait for it to cool a bit before you slice it. I had a slice for dinner last night with some spicy habanero sauce. Will have some more tonight. Do try to make it – it is really delicious!