"Like the study of science and art, accounts of historical events can be intrinsically fascinating. But they have a wider significance. I believe that people are better able to chart their life course and make life decisions when they know how others have dealt with pressures and dilemmas---historically, contemporaneously, and in works of art. And only equipped with such understanding can we participate knowledgeably in contemporary discussions (and decisions) about the culpability of various individuals and countries in the Second World War. Only with such understanding can we ponder the responsibilty of human beings everywhere to counter current efforts at genocide in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia to bring the perpetrators to justice."
"...we humans are the kinds of animals who learn chiefly by observing others---what they value, what they spurn, how they conduct themselves from day to day, and especially, what they do when they believe that no one is looking."
----Howard Gardner, from The Disciplined Mind, published in 1999

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Moving Pictures; or, Heart Like a Puri

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.

15 comments:

Anita said...

I have no words! It caught all the magical in your post (Babette's Feast came to mind). I am glad your pooris puffed and even more happy that LG enjoying frying them! It is wonderful to do this as a team.

Thank you (and LG, you too) for joining in and making it a great party.

There ain't going to be no rind!

Anita said...

Forgot to remark on the power of a cup of tea! :-D

Nandita said...

That made a lovely read Neroli, and ah could smell the magic of the rose tea with extra rose water :) Got here through Anita's party post :)

Manisha said...

You make it sound like an art form, this making of puris! And it is, when there is so much joy and togetherness. Thank you for a wonderful post!

Like Nandita, I too, came here from Anita's.

Vee said...

I am never going to think of puri the same anymore. That was a lovely read, Neroli.

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.

I am not so much of a tea lover but that sentence has me craving for some coral-pink cloud, right now. Happy to have discovered you, Neroli.

swampy said...

Those same words in your post are in my vocabulary but I don't seem to be able to connect them together to create beautiful art as you do.
Some people paint pictures with oil, water color, pastels...you paint pictures with words that seem to awaken all my senses and remain with me throughout the day.

neroli said...

Dear Anita, thank you for your kind words, and for being the hostess with the *most-est*---we'll all be visiting each other for a good while with this party :)
Thanks to your efforts, and the Power of Tea ;)---we did indeed have our own feast a la Babette.
And it was so wonderful to be with LG in the kitchen.
We've pronounced him Chief Puri Fryer---I'll be the dishwasher ;-)!
Indeed, there will never be a rind in that case!

Nandita, welcome! It's so good to see you---I'm glad that you enjoyed the *cuppa* rose while you were here: that's happy magic indeed!

Manisha, welcome; I'm glad to see you! You say it so perfectly when you speak about the art that arises from joy and togetherness. Thank you for your kindness, and for being a part of what makes this party a work of beauty!

Dear Vee, welcome to you! Thank you so much for your kind words---I'm sipping a cuppa for you right now, my friend. I'm so glad that you found your way here also---isn't it a wonderful party?

My dear Swampy, the mere fact that one of your depth and breadth of perception, intelligences (all 8 of them, to be exact! ;-), and talents can find anything to enjoy here---much less take something away with her---is in fact quite humbling and wonderful.
You say this time of year, you miss being in the classroom; yet I say to you that you are still teaching---(and I am one of your most unrefined pupils---and for this, I am grateful for the generousity of your art, my friend.

captain corky said...

I love stories with magic and beauty and tea. Nothing beats a good cup of tea. Thanks for the magic Neroli. ;)

wolfbaby said...

Now that sounds like a beatiful day!!

The Artist formerly Known as Purpleworms (!) said...

Ah, Neroli - I love puris and your description and story were just beautiful! Time to go home and have some rose tea!

bee said...

now i feel less guilty about my puris. that was a beautiful post.

Latha said...

Lovely Neroli! Your sentences have touched me! I love this statement "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".
How true! How easily we forget moments that pass and how easily they dont mean anything! The value of each moment is the memory u build with it! Beuatiful! Really enjoyed the description of u're first puri making adventure!
Cheers
Latha

neroli said...

Dear Corky, you're most welcome---I'm glad you enjoy your visits here, for I certainly enjoy my visits to the log. You've got all manner of magic up those uniformed sleeves!

Wolfbaby, it was indeed a beautiful day. You know exactly what I mean, don't you? With your lovely children, all kinds of wonderful things happen, yes?

Artist, dear, thanks for your kindness---I'm glad that you've got the tea---the least that I could do. Too bad I can't send LG to fry you up some puris!

Dear Bee, I am always touched by your generousity: and if the least that I can do for you is to make you feel less guilty about your gorgeous puris, well, then, I am very glad!

Dear Latha, welcome! It's so good to see you. Thank you so much for your kind words---by giving them, you are certainly making this present moment (and therefore, the whole story) much more rich. What a valuable thing we can all do for one another, here at this party, don't you think?

Pelicano said...

What a beautiful post Neroli! I can tell that you're a great mother to LG- so patient and giving him room to learn things, and then to share in this meal, knowing that he helped. Wow- and written so well.

neroli said...

Oh Pel, I can't tell you what a gift your words are this evening.
Thank you *so* much!