Thursday, April 30, 2009

Notes From A College Tour (Part 1)

So here I am, at the aforementioned coffeeshop, writing on my laptop like any other coffeeshop patron. ^__^ And why yes there is a cappuccino nearby.

I'm not sure the following anecdotes will be organized by anything except the order in which they come out of my head, but we'll all do our best to follow along.

Notes From A College Tour.

(Editor's Note: This appears to be Part 1: The Food. Go figure.)

1. If you pay close enough attention to these little stories, you will be able to figure out my (non-Blue) identity. If you were on this particular campus, you might have figured it out already. I can't go ten feet without seeing my name in print. To put it in the vaguest terms possible, I'm here for an event at which I am also one of the honorees--and there are posters advertising this event, with my name in prominence, at every turn.

2. At the same time, five years out of undergrad, I'm safely assured of my own anonymity. I'm good at blending in, and I don't look much like the person I was in 2004. The people I've gone to meet have had to look twice before figuring out who I was.

3. The biggest difference--or psychological difference--is the way everything feels smaller. In two ways. When I was a student, the university town was twice as big as my hometown. (It had a movie theatre! With four screens!) After living in DC, it seems tiny. More interestingly, everything seems smaller now that the price factor is no longer aspirational. This is a town where the highest-priced entree at the nicest restaurant is $15. It's almost laughable--and, in the case of my frugality, delightful.

4. This makes it very easy for me to take the Proust Tour, as it were; to go into all the restaurants I used to frequent (on special occasions) and into the ones I aspired to frequent and--in the case of the former--see if the food tastes the same. Consider the Magical Sandwich Shop, which I will not name because it is the only one of its kind and thus easily googled, but which is known for doing a particular thing to its sandwiches which involves a special pressing kind of machine and lots of cheese. Today I had a Magical Sandwich which, as far as I could tell, tasted familiar but lots less magical. I think it was because it's much less appealing to eat something which contains five layers of cheese and one layer of mayonnaise.

5. What does surprise me is that all of the restaurants, which are all locally-owned (sure, there are fast food chains here too, but I'm not going to bother with that), still have the exact same menus that they did five years ago. I think I was expecting, on some level, a reflection of the way food has changed in the last five years--and don't tell me it hasn't! We are in a post-Pollan world, after all. Shouldn't the corner bistro with its six female-named sandwiches (the Dinah, the Paula, etc.) have added a seventh sandwich (say, the Barbara) made with all-local ingredients?

Have to go now, for a... um... thing... will catch up later with more notes and better stories. (There are actual stories coming, not just descriptions of restaurants!)

Cabbage Thing

The Farmers' Market has stopped selling cabbage. I guess it's out of season.

I kept this bunch in the freezer for a month or so, not wanting to use the last cabbage in the house, until the other night when I needed something I could cook in ten minutes.

So... no cabbage now until fall? I should have frozen more. How will I survive without my weekly allotment of "cabbage thing?"

On the plus side, it's almost asparagus season...

I Am A Provision of Living Personification

So I was doing a vanity search and discovered that somebody out there was taking my blog posts and reprinting them on his own (spam) blog--but he appeared to be doing that old trick of "translating the text into another language and then translating it back into English" first. Or, possibly, the college student trick of "running most of the words through a thesaurus so it isn't really plagiarizing."

The TMBG quote "Every jumbled pile of person has a thinking part that wonders what the part that isn't thinking isn't thinking of" (from this post) thus becomes the very delicious Every jumbled provision of living personification has a philosophical factor that wonders what the factor that isn’t philosophical isn’t philosophical of.

Almost makes the spam worthwhile.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Jyoti Update

Bleh. The raisins did not work. I suppose I'll be Pollyanna about it and say I'm glad I get up extra early every morning (so I have time for yogas).

Serves me right for publicly complaining about the rice!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Me And Jyoti: Any Rice You Can Cook, I Can Cook Better

Two recent dinners.

On the left, an aloo paratha (oddly shaped, perhaps, but a paratha to be sure), yogurt, raisins, and some more of that stuff that would have been mattar paneer had the cheese not melted.

Here on the right is leftover dinner from Jyoti. Aloo gobi, naan, and rice. (I added the raisins into the rice for what will soon be obvious reasons. Also squirted some honey on top.)

I'm going to avoid making comparisons. After all, we all know the story of how that fantasmic "mattar black bean" dish came to be. I am still at the young grasshopper stage of cookery. That's part of the reason why I ended up at Jyoti; I wanted to steal the taste memory of "real" aloo gobi so I could try to improve my own.

But... that gobi was all soggy and mushy, and the rice was terrible. Oh-my-that-rice-was-awful. Thick and overcooked and chewy and not at all fragrant. When I was plating the leftovers for dinner tonight I almost chucked the rice to replace it with my own delicious steamed basmati, but (say it with me, people) IN THIS HOUSE WE DO NOT WASTE FOOD. We do, however, dilute it with raisins to avoid constipation.

One of the more unfortunate things about teaching myself to cook is that it has made me like restaurant food less and less. I know I don't always create perfect meals and my samosas don't always close, but I don't make food that tastes like it's been sitting in an industrial vat all day long, either.

At the same time I want to go out to eat other people's cooking so I can learn more about my own; so I don't get stuck in a "food culture" of half-Madhur Jaffrey, half-Barbara Kingsolver, and half-weird. But when I go out to places (Indian or otherwise) I find myself thinking things like "well, this is mushy" or "this is bland" or "this rice is a crime against humanity."

I am becoming a food snob.


What do I do now?

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Money Is Also A Strange Loop

So I was looking at my finances the other day, and calculating up the amount of money I could have in my savings account at the end of the year if I continued to save 1/5 of everything I earned. It was pretty impressive.

Then I realized, rather obviously, that if I continued to do this for five years I would have a full year's salary in my savings account. That was more impressive.

What was even more impressive was the realization that, no, I wouldn't just have a year's salary. I'd have a year's worth of money that I could live off of (if I needed to) while continuing to put twenty percent of it back into savings.

That's strange loop territory. ^__^

(The stranger loop is that, of course, no I won't actually have a year's salary. Assume I get a COLA at the appropriate intervals, and you see the problem. Like Zeno's Paradox, the numbers will get pretty close--but as long as I only save twenty percent and no more, they'll never meet.

And then, of course, there's the unpredictability of it all; in this economic climate making the presumption that I will have a continued salary for the next five years is, after all, presumptuous. But let's leave that alone for now.)

The next thought, however, brought me back down to earth.

If five years of working earns me enough savings to live on for one year, then how many years will I need to work to be able to have enough savings for retirement?

Never mind the variables or inflation or 401(k)s or anything like that. Let's even ignore things like getting married, having children, buying a house, traveling, major medical expenses, etc. Let's just look at the basic math.

5=1. 10=2. 20=4. And even after working for the next 40 years (which would make me 67 years old) I'd only have enough money saved for 8 years of retirement.

Again, we'll leave the variables out (and the response "but people usually spend less money per year when retired," which I will balance out with "yeah, but stuff is going to cost more in forty years").

What does one do when looking at an equation like this? Try to invest? Try to save more? I can't be the first person who's stared down the end of this equation.

It got even sadder when I started looking into the ING Orange Account, which is supposed to offer the best returns on both savings and checking accounts (which, according to the blogosphere, it does), and saw this:

Read the small print. For every $10,000 you put into the account, you'll get $150 at the end of the year. Here I was going to be all excited about the magic of compound interest, but this is on the level of a fourth-rate magician pulling quarters out of people's ears.

It's got to be investing, doesn't it. Maybe CD ladders, but probably a combination of CDs and investing, which means I really need to sit down with the pen and paper and do some research.


Monday, April 13, 2009


See, when I was in high school, in a town ten blocks wide, I discovered the cappuccino. Except my cappuccino came from a metal box in the town gas station, one spigot next to the regular coffee. It cost twenty cents more than the regular coffee, and tasted like coffee with cream-flavored cotton candy mixed in. My high school boyfriend used to buy them for me.

We picked the coffeeshop at random when my father and I went up for the college visit; I think it was the closest restaurant to our parking spot. I'd never been in a coffeeshop before. The gas station sold coffee, all the restaurants in my little town sold coffee, but this was a place with pages of coffees on its menu, the number of coffees by far dwarfing the number of fair-trade sandwiches. There were musical instruments painted in mural around the walls.

I ordered a cappuccino. An iced, mocha cappuccino. It came in a glass eight inches tall, fat and thick as a milkshake. I feel like there must have been a cherry in there somewhere.

This coffeeshop was, in my mind, the epitome of everything I had heard about college. Musical instruments painted on the walls! I knew it would be my favorite restaurant.

But--despite my scholarships and general frugal living--the economies of my own student life meant that I never went back into that coffeeshop, not on my own, not for over a year. I think I went four times during the four years I attended that school, and whenever I went someone else paid, which meant the only drink I dared to order was water.

In grad school there was another coffeeshop, this one utilitarian and hippie and activist, the only decorations hand-painted signs which read things like "meat is murder" and "abortion is not murder." The coffee was much cheaper here and came in water-stained tumblers. The "Mexican" coffee, done up Chocolat-style with the chili powder, was delicious; but the economies of grad school were even worse than those of college and I rarely ever went--and never on my own, just to sit and savor. I've tried to recreate that coffee on my own but it turns out dumping chili powder into a cup of coffee isn't quite the same.

Now I go to Tryst every weekend and drink a chai that is better than any other chai I've ever tasted, with foam two inches thick that can be cut with a spoon, and two animal crackers on the side. I go in with a book and sit next to four other people on a squished couch or at a long table, and we talk sometimes and read sometimes and I scoop up chai foam with the head of a giraffe. I do this in part because I spent eight years not being able to do this, not once, and in part because... it is nice, after all, to sit and read in a warm room filled with other people, and to do it with a cup of something rich and hot and foamy.

Next week I'm going to be back in my undergrad college town for a few days, and I'm going back to that coffeeshop with the musical instruments and the iced mocha cappuccino. It's still there. And for the only time in my life, I'm going to go back as often as I want.

Next Dinner In Jerusalem Artichoke

I said to myself "eat the plain paratha instead of your new aloo parathas or your potato-filled samosas; you've already got a starch on that plate."

So I did.

And then when it was done I ate a samosa anyway. ^__^

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Strange Loops and Samosas (Step-By-Step)

I've been thinking about Douglas Hofstadter and his twenty-seven-year-old Pulitzer-Prize-winning treatise on recursive mathematical properties and their paradoxes. And it's thinking like that that makes my jumbled pile of person think that I should be working on my seminal work... whatever that may be.

But... I sat down and considered for a moment that it took me ten years of writing half-finished, short-sheeted novels before my consciousness generated the story that would, in fact, become a novel; ten years after that and I haven't been able to recreate the experience. (Lots of short sheets, though.)

So I sat for a while with my book this afternoon and puzzled how I could possibly ever get it revised and published, or if I even wanted to, or if I should use the power of the internet to push my characters off into the cloud for viral consumption. (It doesn't help that the only copy of said book is in paper; it was written on way-too-old technology and before it can go anywhere will need to be all-three-hundred-pages retyped.)

I even read the first chapter aloud, into my audio recording software, to hear how it sounded.

And then I got discouraged.

And then I made samosas. ^__^

1 1/2 cups flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 4 tablespoons ghee/oil. Mix with your fingers until it looks like "thick breadcrumbs."

Add one tablespoon of water at a time and slowly knead until the dough forms a ball. (You'll need between 4-6 tablespoons.) This is the hard part because you've got both hands in the dough and you've got to stop, turn on the sink, stick the tablespoon under the water, turn off the sink, dump the tablespoon of water into the dough, and try not to notice how covered with flour your kitchen is getting. ^__^

(Probably next time should fill up measuring cup with 1/4 cup water beforehand and pour it on the dough in increments.)

Here's the dough after it has sat, covered, for the requisite 1/2 hour. In honor of Douglas Hofstadter I added the recursive feedback loop in the background. ^__^

I am still not sure what happens to the dough in that mysterious half hour between kneading and rolling out. For all intents and purposes it appears exactly the same. Is it a science thing?

Here's the leftover aloo paratha stuffing from this weekend, to which I have added the necessary peas.

I guess I skipped the photo of the step where I cut the ball of dough into eight pieces and roll each piece out into a circle. At this point I've cut the slit in the circle of samosa dough and folded over on itself to make the "cone." That's not exactly a cone, as you can see. The dough is pretty limp, so I have to help it out.

I have no idea how this picture turned out so interesting. Didn't know my camera could do that. ^__^

As you can see, they are closed before I put them into the oven. I don't know why some of them choose not to stay that way.

Also, I think I need to work on my samosa-shaping. Proper samosas are shaped like tetrahedrons, equilateral on all sides, and they have that ridge down the one side. Like this:


Nine happy samosas, after baking. They really are delicious, even if they aren't perfectly tetrahedral.

This samosa is ready for its closeup. It is also ready for some constructive criticism. I know that using white flour and deep-frying would make a difference, but... is there a way to make better samosas even when baking them?

And here they are on the plate, along with yogurt, the chutney powder that I seem to be putting on everything these days, and the mattar black beans. What's that stuff on the beans, you ask? It's the cheddar cheese that melted in the frying pan yesterday. I let it sit on my cutting board until it chilled and then I cut it into smaller pieces and put it back in the refrigerator. IN THIS HOUSE WE DO NOT WASTE FOOD. ^__^ (Especially expensive Farmers' Market cheddar from happy cows.)

Aloo Parathas, Step-By-Step

Since I had so much fun with the last "step-by-step" cooking experiment, I thought I'd do another one. This time: aloo parathas. (Mostly because I had an extra potato.) Recipe comes from Jaffrey's World-of-the-East Vegetarian, obvs. ^__^

I should warn you ahead of time that these parathas took nearly two hours, start-to-finish, to make. And the kitchen was a mess afterwards. But they were well worth it.

2 cups flour, 1/2 teaspoon or so of salt, 2 tablespoons oil, 2 cups water. Mix and knead until it forms a ball. We should notice right away that these parathas require considerably less oil than the "delicious, flaky" ones. I'm all for that. In fact, except for greasing the pan that's all the oil we'll need for the entire process; there's no "rub the ball with oil" or "rub the parathas with oil" or anything like that. Oh, and Jaffrey says we can use ordinary veg/canola/olive oil for this one; no need to haul out the ghee. Clearly these parathas are much less high-maintenance.

Here's the potato.

The ball of dough is supposed to sit, covered, for at least 1/2 hour. I'm not sure why. It doesn't feel any different, in terms of texture or heft or malleability, after it's sat. I'm suspicious that it may have less to do with the dough itself than that it gives you a 1/2 hour block in which to cook up the potatoes. Let's see... chop, boil, drain, mash, use the Magic Bullet to grind up a masala of fresh ginger, green chili, garam masala, cumin, and coriander seed, add masala to the mash. Let it cool so it won't burn your fingers when you add it to the parathas.

Uncover the paratha ball-of-dough, divide into eight parts. Roll each part out into a palm-sized circle. Put a small spoonful of potato mix into the circle.

Bring the edges of the circle together and twist them so they close over the potato mix. Unlike my samosa experiments, this dough actually made a seal when I did this. No idea why. (Maybe the oil-flour-water ratio???)

Gently press down on the top of the filled paratha with the heel of your hand until it begins to flatten.

Then roll it out. These will be approximately 6 inches in diameter. What's really cool is at this point you can feel that there is, in fact a potato mixture inside there, surrounded by a thin layer of dough, but the dough seams are completely gone.

Be careful not to roll it too thin, or you'll squeeze the potato out.

Heat up the pan and put just enough oil in to keep the thing from sticking. This was the hardest part of the whole process. Too much oil and the parathas never developed tasty brown spots; too little oil and my smoke alarm went off. Cook on both sides until they look like the one in the picture.

Freeze the ones you don't use and eat the rest!

And now, a note about the other dish in the picture. It's a little embarrassing. See... um... back when I tried to microwave my Farmers' Market cheddar cheese and realized I couldn't get it to melt in the microwave (low oil content), I thought "ooh, then I can use it in recipes instead of paneer!" (This is again because there's nowhere I can buy paneer in a 60-mile radius, and the stock I bought in January has run out.)

I pulled out the recipe for mattar paneer and found out, to my unfortunate surprise, that Farmers' Market cheddar does in fact melt when it's put into a frying pan. In fact, it melts almost instantly. So I hauled it out of the pan and decided to replace it with canned black beans since it was the quickest protein I had on hand.

But there was a problem. Canned black beans come in their own goo, and I did not want all that brown goo to pollute my pretty red-and-green dish; I was going to take a picture of it, after all! So here I am in my kitchen, tomatoes and peas bubbling in their ginger sauce on one burner, a paratha activating my smoke alarm on the other burner, a glopful of melted cheddar cheese on the counter, and I'm rinsing off canned black beans in the sink, a handful at a time, letting the water run through my fingers until it ran clear.

I'd do a handful, throw them into the mattar mix, flip a paratha, and then rinse another handful. (In hindsight I should have just gotten out the colander.) But those black beans did not turn the dish brown! (I also would not recommend recreating the mattar black bean recipe; it doesn't taste awful or anything but it's not the kind of thing one would want to cook on purpose. The beans are way too heavy for the spices.)

Saturday, April 11, 2009

I Am A Twenty-Seven-Year-Old Strange Loop

Every jumbled pile of person has a thinking part that wonders what the part that isn't thinking isn't thinking of...
--They Might Be Giants

So I'm nearly finished with Douglas Hofstadter's newest book, I Am A Strange Loop. His middle book, Le Ton Beau De Marot, is one of my favorite books ever, and I have to admit that I've never made it all the way through GEB but am starting it over again and this time I will prevail!

A quick summary: Hofstadter wrote this huge tome called Godel, Escher, Bach about... um... recursive mathematical properties and their associated paradoxes (is that a good way to sum it up? it's a bit more complicated than that, especially with all the Bach canons thrown in). Then he wrote another huge tome called Le Ton Beau De Marot which is all about linguistics and translation (maybe if one says GEB is about the paradoxes of math, Marot could be about the paradoxes of language). Lately he wrote a much shorter book called I Am A Strange Loop which is about the paradox of thought itself (the part of us that wonders what the part that isn't thinking isn't thinking of).

The last book is by far the easiest to read, mainly because it deals with a lot of things that most people have probably pondered at some point in their lives (to wit: how does that mass of cells in my brain churn out thoughts?). In fact, as I read it, it seemed a little unfair that Hofstadter had taken the time to write out all of these ideas that I had, myself, already present in my own mass-of-cells brain. It was like he was stealing the inside of my mind and selling it.

And then, deep within the recesses of this book that seemed to contain my own ideas in Hofstadter's writing, he happened to casually mention that he wrote the 900-page, Pulitzer Prize-winning GEB when he was twenty-seven years old.

That's the age I am now.

There are huge chunks of GEB which explore Zeno's Paradox (Achilles can never catch the tortoise because even in the time it takes for Achilles to reach the tortoise's point X, the tortoise will have moved incrementally forward to point Y, and by the time Achilles reaches point Y, the tortoise will have inched forward to point Z, etc.). Sometimes I look at my generation and think that we're in our own version of Zeno's Paradox; every time we approach the bar of adulthood, it has inched a few years down the road; and when we hit that age, we find the bar is still further away.

Hofstadter was 27 in 1979; he had been an assistant professor for two years already. No one gets to do that anymore. Some people would say that today's twenty-somethings aren't prepared for the job (Hofstadter wrote GEB, but my own peers turn out things like this). That's, of course, a causality loop as much as it is anything else, combined with the unfortunate fact that few people now get the careful, one-on-one mentoring that Hofstadter got as a student.

(For all of education's current emphasis on group learning and group work, and for all of the internet's development of the hive mind, it is interesting to read biographies and notice that most people who are notable enough to have biographies trace their work back to a lengthy period of one-on-one mentoring. Just sayin' is all.)

But I suppose there's another side to all this Zeno Paradoxing: if thirty is the new twenty, as it were, then I have another ten years to create my seminal work. That tortoise is still just a bit ahead of me. I had better start running.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Michelle Obama Dress

Just one more reason to like Michelle Obama. ^__^

(Also I have a fashion idol to emulate who is not Dora the Explorer.)

I have the pink one, and I want the blue one too. Unfortch the blue one was all sold out at the ATL, as was the green one (the green one's even sold out online, except for size 18). There's also a white one, but.the one I tried on was already stained with someone else's makeup even before I got a chance to slip it over my head. So... yeah.

The unfortunate side of all this is my going back through the ATL advertisements to see if my suspicion is right, which it is: all the models wearing these Michelle Obama dresses are white. The dress itself comes in four colors, but the models only come in one.

(Meanwhile, the internet, no doubt sensing my dissatisfaction at ATL's shortsightedness, provides an interesting solution: no doubt picking up the keywords "Michelle Obama" and "fashion," all of my gmail sidebar ads are now suggesting I shop at J. Crew.)

Royal Basmati

So I have to write about this basmati.

I bought fifteen pounds of Royal Basmati brand basmati (the brand that comes in the woven cloth bag) and it is wildly, completely different from Tilda brand, which was the one I had come to know from desi groceries. (Since there are no desi groceries in DC, I got the Royal Basmati at Safeway.)

It may have been because I cooked it according to Madhur Jaffrey's directions, which can be summed up as very little water, let it cook in its own steam.

But for whatever reason the Royal brand tastes much more substantial than the Tilda brand, and it's so incredibly fragrant. I didn't use any oil or butter; it was delicately rich and flavorful on its own, straight from the pot.

Another advantage of Royal over Tilda is that I've been eating Royal for the past three days and it has not at all... um... plugged up the system. (Do you think that's because of the steam vs. water thing? Does adding more water to rice increase both its bloat and one's own?)

Anyway. So I had basmati with silverbeet/chickpea and yogurt/chutney, and then that bottom picture is basmati with black beans and peas.

Yay basmati!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Two Dinners (Taco Bell and Weird Food)

Hmm. This is what I feed other people...

...and this is what I eat by myself.

First of all, that top pic is unduly influenced by better lighting. But the truth remains: at a request that she not have to suffer "any of my weird food," I cooked my sister a quasi-Taco Bell spread of beans (from a can!), salsa (from a jar!), and chips (from a bag!). The cheese, like the apple, is from the Farmers' Market, and believe it or not it would not melt in the beans. I think it must have something to do with the low oil content.

The bottom pic is my handmade paratha, yogurt, chutney powder, piece of cheese (which I ended up putting back in plastic wrap; too much dairy on the plate), and chickpeas/silverbeets. A genuine plate of weird food. So weird, in fact, that I spent the past two days soaking the chickpeas in my crockpot. (Did you know that dried chickpeas, after being soaked, actually taste kinda like peas? That's pretty cool.)

Where does one go from here? Every once in a while I consider the "food culture" I've created for myself and wonder if anyone else will want to jump on. Sure, everyone loves a freshly baked loaf of bread, and most people will tolerate homemade yogurt, but chopping up silverbeet and soaking chickpeas? After all, that first meal looks way better. Why not go with the bag and the jar and the can?

(Not to mention the whole other issue of my food culture being the white girl who brings dal to work every day... in a bento.)

Dunno. All I know is that I have a potato sitting in the bottom of my refrigerator that needs to be turned into samosa filling tomorrow. And--today, at least--I don't care if I'm the only one who ever eats it. ^__^

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


I stretched out the sambar by throwing two handfuls of mung dal into the liquid and letting it bubble for an hour or so.

And then I ate it with leftover silverbeet, rice, yogurt, and chutney powder...

...and with a Granny Smith apple, Farmers' Market cheddar, and another third of handmade paratha.

(I love my little Fiestaware bowls, but dinner looks so much nicer when I put it on a plate.)

It's odd--and maybe unfair--that leftovers, even when they go straight from the pot into the freezer and back again, even when they are reheated on the stove instead of the microwave, taste less "alive" than food that is cooked and eaten right away. Particularly because right now I have rows of leftovers in my freezer; soups, dals, etc., not to mention the parathas. (Those, of course, taste just fine reheated, which adds to my theory that if you put enough oil on something it's going to taste good no matter what.)

And here's today's breakfast. I have to say I love these weekend morning breakfasts. Mostly because I do the best photography in the mornings. ^__^

Silverbeet: Five Colors Plus One I'd Never Tasted Before

Barbara Kingsolver claims the one vegetable she would save, if she were taken away to a place where she could only have one vegetable, is the silverbeet, aka Swiss chard.

The magical thing about the silverbeet is that it grows up, in a single bunch from a single root, with five different-colored stalks. Red-orange-yellow-pink-white.

I cooked this using Kingsolver's recipe; onion/garlic in olive oil, then add the silverbeet and a protein (I picked chickpeas!), serve over rice. (Yes, I subbed in asefoetida for the onion.)

There it is from the top; you can see the steam.

I'd never eaten Swiss chard/silverbeet before. Never ever. Eating it was like discovering a new color. It was so different that I stopped and turned off Jon Stewart so I could focus solely on the experience of eating the silverbeet.

It's hard to say exactly what the silverbeet tasted like, because it didn't taste like anything else I had ever tasted. It was very good. It had a hint of an artichoke-leaf taste. Parts of it were bitter, but parts of it seemed sweet. It tasted much better cooked than raw (I know, because I tried a raw leaf and it just tasted like a leaf), but it's hard to describe exactly what it tasted like except that the whole experience was just fascinating. (Now I know how that guy who discovered umami felt like.)

I know, I know, I'm going on and on about a chard. ^__^

Still, it's not every day one gets to taste something completely new and exciting. The people behind Coke or McDonalds or Ben & Jerry's spend their entire working lives trying to create this experience. I should send them all silverbeets.