Coming to India for me is always bitter sweet. You would think that it would be full of just joyous reunions, happy occasions and days filled with laughter and lots of shopping. Not really.
Years ago whenever I looked forward to any event, an event that was exciting, when the event actually begun, I would start counting down to when it would end. I hated that I did that. Because I basically never enjoyed the moment I was in. But I couldn’t help myself. That has changed drastically with age because I have taught myself to enjoy the present before it passed.
Coming to India is wonderful because I get to see my friends, my family. But it also means going back. See I’m doing it again!
The funny thing is that even though it has been some 20 years since I left India, when I come here, it feels like I never left. Except this time when I arrived at the airport, I felt, for the first time, like a foreigner. Maybe it is my state of mind or maybe distance is doing its job.
This feeling went away after a few days, but not before it left me a bit shaken up. It is confusing because when I am here in India I feel like I have never lived in Holland and when I’m there I feel India as just a distant memory. A friend pointed out that I don’t live anywhere. I will reluctantly agree that that is true. However, all my social conditioning tells me that I need to put my roots down in one place. But somehow I haven’t achieved this. Sentences like ‘home is where the heart is’, ‘this is home’, are words I have never really understood. I do believe (always have) that home is not a physical place. That it is possible to feel at home in different locations. That eventually home is where your loved ones are. And that could be in ten different places.
As wonderful as this realization is, and it is because it means you can be happy anywhere, it comes with a huge contradiction because it means feeling divided. When I am here in India for too long, I hanker for my favorite people in Holland and when I’m there, for my dear ones here in India.
We are taught to believe that not feeling grounded; being a gypsy in your heart is a bad thing. I am here to say, it isn’t. Just as that feeling of grounded (however it looks) is not a bad thing, nor is your wandering heart. Because that is who you are. And the ‘you’ whoever and whatever it is that makes you, you, can NEVER be bad. It has taken me half my life to figure that out. And believe me I’m not all figured out yet. 🙂
I am an angst ridden being, always, always questioning things around me and myself. I embrace this quality today because it means that I have allowed myself the opportunity to find out who I am. To never follow things just because they are, is the reason I think we exist. We were given that ability to question and therefore discover. We must never let such a chance go.
Once you realise this as a truth it is then a choice to either love ourselves or fall prey to what people want you to be. To either go with the flow (not a bad thing btw) or be a seeker. I am lucky to have friends that encourage the me in me. Who actually love me because of how mad, crazy and eternally restless I am.
So I’m raising a curry toast (!) to love and friends and to how important it is to respect and embrace yourself and to constantly be in quest.
This curry is prepared with so much love that it convinced a 15 year old to not only try a vegetable that she intensely dislikes (we know how 15 year old’s can be right?!) but to love it so much that she finished it all by herself. If that’s not a compliment I don’t know what is. I think all of us that cook, cook for this reason alone, to see a face of delight.
This curry is so simple it shocked me too. No standing hours in the kitchen. It took less than hour, which by the way is amazing for an Indian dish and cost me around €1 to make!
- 9 baby gggplants
- 3 medium onions, chopped fine (half for for curry and half for the stuffing)
- ½ cup raw peanuts
- 1½ tbsps sesame seeds
- 1½ tsps poppy seeds
- 1 tbsp coriander powder
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 2 tbsps fresh grated coconut (used desiccated if you can't find fresh)
- 2 inches ginger, grated
- 4-5 garlic cloves
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- ½ tsp red chili powder
- 2 tsps kahmiri mirch/chili powder
- 2 tsps tamarind extract (pulp from a lime sized tamarind ball, soaked for half hour)
- 2-3 tbsps vegetable oil
- handful of curry leaves
- salt to taste
- Wash the eggplants and pat them dry. Do not chop off the thick stem on top. It helps hold the eggplant together during the cooking process.
- In a pan, dry roast the peanuts, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, coriander powder and cumin seeds and grated coconut. Use a medium flame and stir the ingredients frequently. Once they turn a light brown, take off heat, transfer to another dish and set aside to cool.
- Add a tablespoon of oil to the same pan and brown the chopped onions. Add a pinch of salt to draw out their moisture.
- Once all the dry roasted ingredients have cooled down, grind them together to a fine paste along with half the cooked onions, ginger, garlic, tamarind extract, turmeric powder and a little water to help make it a smooth paste. Remember we still need it to be a little coarse since this is what we are going to stuff into the eggplants.
- Using a paring knife, carefully make crosswise slits through the eggplant stopping an inch before you get to the stem end. Stuff about a teaspoon of the paste into the slits. No need to be neat!
- Heat about 2 tablespoons of oil in a deep saucepan, sauté the curry leaves and carefully add the stuffed eggplants to the pan. Since they splutter a lot, cover the pan and let them cook for about 10 minutes, until they soften. Rotate them every few minutes so they cook evenly.
- Reduce the heat a bit, add the remaining ground paste to the pan, the other half of the cooked onions, red kasmiri chili powder, 2 cups of water and salt to taste.
- Cover the pan and cook on medium heat until the eggplants are cooked through and the oil starts to separate from the curry paste and collect around the edges.
- Serve warm with basmati rice or Indian bread.