Our blogging friend Anita announced a party, and invited us to join in the festivities.
Make puri, she exhorted; just enjoy the making and the eating, and then tell us all about it. Of course, I was delighted by Anita's invitation, and resolved to make the puri within the time frame that Anita had proscribed.
To make a long story short, I awoke this morning, the last day of the party, without having made the puris. I was feeling tired, a little deflated, a little out-of-sorts, and honestly didn't know if I would be able to make them.
I made a pot of rose tea, and added rosewater to my cup for that Extra Something. I sat in my grandmother's rocking chair, she who always was so much of the kitchen, offering the work of her hands from her kitchen at any occasion; for her, just being with you was as good as a party . As I drained my cup, the warm coral-pink cloud of rose from the last swallow of hot tea permeated my very skull, and infused into my very self, it seemed---warm, pink, vital: waking my senses and getting me out of the chair.
Here's the simplest of recipes to get you started, Anita offers cheerfully from her post.
How could I refuse such a gracious offer?
And so I began in the kitchen. I cleaned collards, and then put them in a crock to cook slowly in a pot liquor of smoked almond broth. As Little Guy sliced hot dogs with a Chinese cleaver, I made the puri dough following Anita's recipe, with only a small change: substituting some of the salty smoked almond broth for the salted water originally asked for.
LG went back to his playing as I added tomato paste to the sliced hot dogs in the pot, and cooked the mixture to a lovely reddish-brown. To this, two cans of bacon and brown sugar baked beans were added, and the pot left to simmer.
Though I had made pita breads countless times, and felt at ease with rolling out those breads while cooking them, I felt less at ease with cooking the puris as I rolled them. I decided to make all the rounds first, placing them on a big platter and covered with a towel, and then I would fry them.
As I rolled out the breads, I felt comforted by the crick-crick, crick-crick sound of my ring on the round pin. I felt happy as the dough stretched and turned, as the pin rolled around.
When the first circle of dough went into the hot oil, it bubbled happily and seemed to burst with joy, and I laughed out loud.
Come here, LG, I said, look at this!
Naah, well...okay, he said. Okay, all right, let me get my stool.
LG, perched on his stool, stood at the stove by my side as I splashed the top of that first puri with oil, and then flipped it. He watched with much exclamation as it continued to balloon and as I carefully brought it out from the oil to drain on kitchen paper. We both admired its beautiful, happy golden, glistening roundness. It was too lovely for words.
The next thing that I know, dear reader, LG has completely taken over the stove: he is using tongs to pick up a circle of dough to slip it into the oil; he is using a kitchen spoon to carefully splash oil on the top of the circle; he is checking the bottom, and flipping---his puris are puffing, and we are both wooping and clapping as if we were both tiny children.
I had no choice, dear reader, but to watch him and set the table in between puris.
So with vegetarian baked beans in hand, I joined my family at the table, to eat the collards that I had prepared, the beans and franks that LG and I had made together, and the puris that LG had cooked, for all intents and purposes, mostly by himself, with some salty gherkins on the side. This is the best dinner ever, LG said, happily and solemnly, all at once.
My grandfather had an expression whenever he was in the midst of eating something the he very much relished: there ain't going to be no rind.
So it was at our table today, as we toasted Anita and all those at the party.
From the moment that the rose cloud of tea awoke my senses to the moment the dinner was finished, I was so mindful of not only metta, embodied in the kindness of the kitchen, the kindness of the invitation and the gathering, but of ksanika, also known as point instant theory. This is a way of thinking about time, of the passing of time, and of the value of the moment: each moment is here and then never again; our lives' moments, the stories of these moments, are so very much as a movie, a flip-book---miss a frame, the story is changed, and perhaps even makes no sense at the time. What one needs to remember, though, is just to keep watching. The world is a beautiful place, a magical place, and in the kitchen today, I felt as if I were dancing with it.
I thought of the party, and imagined the individual frames, the moving pictures that were making up the story of a party, the story of a gracious hostess, and equally gracious guests.
I may not be able to see the rest of the pictures, but I felt so much the connection to the story.
Thank you, Anita. Thank you, dear guests and dear readers.
Remember: the plot may twist and turn; but the story is about beauty. It's about magic. It's about the metta that fits it all together.
Eat puris. Laugh together.
Enjoy the moving pictures.