Skip to main content

TBT: Tandoori-Style Cooking With or Without Electricity

Rolling blackouts! Mass unemployment and utility shutoffs! Shuttered restaurants and cafes! Social panic! This is not the 2020 I wanted, but I guess it's the apocalyptic time my husband and I have been preparing for since our mid-20s. I don't mean that we adopted "prepping" culture as seen on TV; rather, we studied climate change and sociology and did our best to brace ourselves for when we couldn't rely upon the comforts and conveniences of a reliable electrical grid. We shared a few experiences in countries where you can't take electricity for granted, and we practiced confronting power outages in the United States as adventures rather than catastrophes.

It was all fun and games back in our child-free "extended adolescence." Then we became parents and survived an epic two-week power outage during a cold-record-breaking ice storm that spanned Christmas and the New Year, while caring for a three-year-old. It was tough, but we managed to keep our wood stove raging around the clock and thanked our past selves for investing in a humbly-sized, energy-efficient home and a wood burning stove we bought from a farmer and popped in with the help of a buddy. We managed so well, in fact, that our toddler, instead of being traumatized by the experience, thought it was magical to "camp" together through the holidays, close to the ravenous wood stove, while using candles and glow sticks for lighting. She asked, for years afterward, when we could do it again.

Now that she's a much more independent and helpful older child who can wield an ax effectively, I say bring it! 

It's dreadful to think of what could happen to the majority of families with children in our country this year, most of whom have experienced job loss or other economic hardship during the pandemic, if we do not at least manage to end the current disaster of a presidency, which has disregarded and threatened all efforts to contain the virus, failed to adequately sustain small businesses and non-oligarch households, continuously undermined access to health care, and fanned the flames of racial violence and climate change.

So please, I know you're sick of hearing this, but if you haven't already, vote FOR BIDEN FOR THE SAKE OF THE CHILDREN and brace yourself, because even for those of us fortunate enough to have stable housing and the ability to keep up with our utility bills for now, and even if democracy doesn't die in this fall's darkness, it's going to be a tough winter. It will take time to undo the chaos sown by the current administration, if that is even the path we choose as a nation at all. We shouldn't have to fend for ourselves like characters in a dystopian sci-fi movie, but here we are, folks.

So here's the point of this brilliant blog post:

If you can get it, spicy Indian food helps. We all know that a flavorful, hot meal is a comfort. And Indian food is a comfort food like no other on Earth--warm, complex, exciting, creamy, soothing, and chock-full of nutrients that aid in digestion and immunity. Indian food cooked from fresh, whole ingredients is a communion with the divine, but most recipes take a very long time and a lot of labor (which is why it costs so much at restaurants). In an apocalyptic time, I suppose cooking a dish that takes days to prepare (like some dosas I made last spring--oh, they were good) can be a fine distraction or meditation, not unlike the trend of making sourdough bread from starter. In our current crisis, most parents don't have the time for anything but opening a few boxes and jars and heating stuff up with whatever we have--a microwave, a solar cooker, a gas stove, a campfire, whatever! And that's when pre-made Indian food comes to the rescue.

In the year 2020, happiness is a pantry stocked with convenience foods. I wrote the post below in simpler, sillier times, when my husband and I didn't know how valuable our little adventures with power outages would be in preparing us for our future. Everything is harder now, but a hit of Indian food--even pre-made--continues to be a joy that is accessible to us. (And if our kid doesn't like it, she can open a can of SpaghettiOs.)

Tandoori-Style Cooking With or Without Electricity

There was a power outage this morning which caused mass hysteria, an unusually romantic mood at the doctor's office, and a cup of free coffee for me. It also made me hungry for the prepackaged Indian food in my cupboard.


I'll start at the beginning. Last night, Mr. G and I were gossiping and giggling about someone we knew who hurt himself very badly because he worked on building his muscle mass quickly without learning proper lifting form. Then Mr. G said, "Hey, speaking of muscles, watch this!" and treated me to a circus-like show of push-ups balanced on two rickety bar stools. Ironically, Mr. G then experienced a back spasm and spent the rest of the night moaning in pain.

So this morning, I drove him to his doctor's office in a nearby town. A power line had gone down, so some of the traffic lights on the way were out. I dropped Mr. G at his doctor's door and ran across the street to buy some much needed coffee. The cafe was dark inside, and the girl at the counter apologized. She said they were out of power and had regular coffee brewed, but they couldn't make espresso. I cheerfully whipped out my debit card to buy a coffee... duh... but all was well, because the manager offered the coffee for free... presumably to make up for the fact that the lighting was dim. Anyway, it was nice of him.

On my way out, two women with a brood of children were coming in. One woman stood holding the door open and staring inside with a look of stricken horror as if she were afraid to go inside. (It wasn't really that dark--there were big windows on two sides.) I shrugged and said, "The power's out, but they have brewed coffee." The woman strained to see the counter and then shouted (still standing in the doorway), "You can't make espresso?" Nope, just brewed coffee for now. Free cup? "Oh no!" she said. "We NEED cappuccinos!" She whipped her head back and forth, as if not sure which way to run, and babbled something high-pitched about why would the power be out, couldn't they fix it, and how badly they needed cappuccinos this very second.

Happily caffeinated, I ran back across the street to rejoin poor Mr. G. The doctor's office, too, was out of power. The nurses were carrying around flashlights and setting rows of them on the counters in the examination rooms. It made an effect kind of like being in a spa or massage parlor instead of the doctor's office, normally lit with harsh fluorescent overhead lights. A nurse with a flashlight led me down the corridor to Mr. G's room, where we sat giggling and whispering until the doctor came in and made some crack about the mood lighting. The doctors and nurses were a bit flustered about the whole situation, because important things like the computer system and the adjustable chair/bed things were all out of commission.

OK, so this got me thinking about how much we take electricity for granted here in the U.S. of A., and how a simple setback like a power outage lasting a few hours can throw people for such a freaking loop.

After studying in Rome and taking two trips to non-resort Mexico, I stopped thinking of electricity as a given. Now when the power goes out at my house, it is No Big Deal. In fact, it can be an excuse (as long as you're prepared) to do some fun things you might not otherwise--like getting everyone in the house together to eat all the ice cream before it melts, lighting candles, taking a break from the computer, and preparing a fresh and raw food meal or a meal cooked in the fireplace or out on the grill.

I like to keep candles and matches around the house and non-perishable foods in the kitchen that are simple to prepare. First of all, there's the stovetop espresso maker that can be set over an open fire or on the wood stove, and its friend, the hand crank coffee bean grinder. Essential! As far as dinner goes, I find that there are a lot of nice, non-perishable but delicious and healthy convenience foods at my local grocery store. Check the labels--non-perishable, prepackaged foods often come loaded with garbage amounts of preservatives and high fructose corn syrup--but some do not.

I just bought these Patak's brand curry sauces and chutney on sale. They are 100% real food. The ingredients are all vegetarian whole foods and spices. Each jar makes about three servings, just enough for Mr. C, Mr. G, and me!


(Not pictured: tikka masala, because I already ate it. YUM!) The chutney can be eaten cold with crackers or flatbread, or as a side to a curry dish. All the curry sauces have the same instructions: mix with vegetables or precooked chicken, heat up for 15 minutes. Done. They are good served over rice, but they can also be served with this easy pre-made naan bread:


Mmm, Tandoori naan! Fresh from the same supermarket. The naan here only needs to be baked in the oven for a couple of minutes and then--ta-da! A flavorful meal that can be heated up easily in the kitchen or over a fire, if the power is out and your stove/oven is electric.

If you have an extra five minutes to make it extra fancy, you can add diced chilies or chili powder to the curry to fire it up (it's blander than homemade), and you can sprinkle dots of butter and crushed garlic on top of the naan before heating it up. DELISH!

It's nice to remind ourselves that most people in the world get by without dependable electricity. I don't feel sad about that--I feel comforted that we will survive. Not only that, we can have our espresso, too, Crazy Cappuccino Lady from this morning. In fact, power outages are a fun opportunity to get a little playful and creative. Instead of worrying or freaking out, we can declare a sort of surprise holiday from electricity and have fun with it. It's a POWERful experience to feel less dependent upon things you cannot control. Especially when you can whip out a delicious Indian meal in no time and enjoy it by candlelight. Survival never tasted so good.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

35 Great Things About Turning 35

The prime of life starts at 35! It's the best-kept secret from younger people, but your 35th birthday is a major cause for celebration. For mine, I have made my own listicle of 35 reasons why experts agree that 35 is the best age to be: You get to say, "I'm 35." The number 35 carries so much more gravitas than 30, but you're only a few years older. At 34, I've started fudging my age--by adding a year. People automatically take me seriously, and if they don't, at least they tell me I look young for my age. (Eye roll, hair toss, "whatever.")    35-year-olds DGAF. Inner chill reaches new heights at 35. Despite its #2 status on this list, it's the #1 response I hear about what's best about hitting 35. My gorgeous friend Nerlie was beautiful and resilient and wise beyond her years in high school, but now, at age 35, she gets to fully enjoy being herself on her own terms. She writes,  "I've survived so much that I don't

Blown Away on Publication Day

The responses to Leirah and the Wild Man 's publication have blown me away! I feel like one of Victorian illustrator Arthur Rackham's little fall fairies lifted on a happy gust of wind. I told my husband earlier this month that I wanted to release my first novel secretly, so nobody I knew would feel obligated to buy it and pretend to read it. Even worse, I didn't want my parents or coworkers to actually read my salacious book! I’ve tried for years to find a literary agent who might grant me access to the professional services and veneer of legitimacy that traditional publishing offers, so I would have the courage to put my weird and wild writing out there for readers who don't know me but happen to be looking for 11th century Byzantine thrillers. But I ran out of patience with the publishing industry's compounding scandals, dramas, changing rules, and vulnerability to volatile markets and supply chains. Years ago, finding an agent felt not only possible but inevitab

LEIRAH AND THE WILD MAN: Available for Pre-Order Now!

I am thrilled to announce the surprise release of my first novel! Leirah and the Wild Man: A Tale of Obsession and Survival at the Edges of the Byzantine World is now available for pre-order. Leirah dreams of stealing a Viking longship, hunting pirates, and freeing the world's thralls. As if by magic, the dragon boat of her fantasies appears at her backwoods homestead, and a crew of seductive outlaws invites her to join them in terrorizing the rich with disguises based on the monsters of local folklore. But Leirah fears their secretive interest in her favorite brother Aven. She takes him and flees on an epic journey down the length of the Danube, from the Black Forest to the Black Sea, through the gates of Constantinople, and into the last stronghold of the Goths.   on sale October 23, 2021 (hardcover)   and   November 11, 2021 (ebook) Nook Kindle   I released this book softly, with no marketing or distribution arrangements made in advance, so you will not find it already

Pocket of Joy: Laughing Off Bogus Critics

Beware the false devils of other people's anxieties, insecurities, and petty jealousies that they try to project onto you. If you hear negative messages about yourself repeatedly, especially from people who are very significant to you, like your parents or closest friends, they can worm their way under your eardrums and hijack your own inner voice with their damaging scripts. Once internalized, they can sound like fundamental truth, but they lie as shamelessly as the false angels of your ego do. Don't listen to those who fear your competition because they feel threatened by your talent, your passion, or your persistence. Don't listen to those who would betray you just to keep you down in the crab bucket that they themselves are too afraid to escape. Don't laugh with people who are laughing at you in a mean way. It's healthy for your friends and mentors to keep you humble with constructive criticism, friendly ribbing, and gentle teasing. It's good to maintain yo

Pocket of Joy: Starting a Shiny New Project

Oh, the buoyant thrill of a sparkly new idea! Ooh, the giddy joy of starting in on it--like planting the first footprint on a blanket of new-fallen snow, or drawing the first line on a clean sheet of paper, or sweeping the first brushstroke of slick, wet paint across a wall! Of course, it takes follow-through to manifest a dream through the sweaty, dirty, messy middle of any big project. But when you know you can do it, you can hold onto that shiny new feeling to sustain you all the way to the finish. Here I am chiseling away at the remains of my old kitchen back in the spring, when my new kitchen lived only in my imagination. My husband and I have been working on our kitchen (with my parents' help early on) for four months now. Our summer has been a marathon of hard, sweaty, dirty work littered with setbacks, frustrations, and frequent changes of plans--including the decision to redo our main bathroom at the same time, while we're at it! Anyone who has repaired or remodeled a

Pocket of Joy: Catching More Grief with Sugar

A few days ago, I wrote about the irrational anger at death that I discovered lurking under my grief and fear . Then I saw this poem by Gabrielle Calvocoressi, and it broke my heart open in a different place. View this post on Instagram A post shared by Gabrielle Calvocoressi (@gabbat) It is said in pop psychology that sadness lies beneath anger, but in myself I find layers of both, one upon another over and over again, glued together with veins of sticky sweet frustrated longings and backed up affections and other feelings wedged here and there untidily, which cannot be easily peeled apart and healed. I suspect that most people are like me in that way, more or less, and so they have patterns of mixed up emotional tissues unlike mine, in other disordered arrangements. Last week I realized once again, as I must do from time to time, that I am a coddled pet of this world, with so many privileges that a sense of entitlement sneaks up on me whenever I forget how a

Small But Sweet Bathroom Renovation

We have fixed, upgraded, and redecorated our little old bathroom just in time for another pandemic winter! Now that the kitchen and main bathroom are both functional and personalized for our family, we are ready to hunker down in comfort. I had hoped I wouldn't have to spend quite as much time at home heading into 2022, but here we are. At home. What a difference it makes to have a beautiful bathroom, though! For a tall person, it is such a relief to my back to have a higher bathroom vanity that allows me to wash my hands without bending over, and a shower that rains down from well above the top of my head! We put up a taller mirror (an inexpensive antique) than the one that was there before and installed the new light fixture ("rescued" from our local Habitat ReStore) up close to the ceiling, making the room seem taller and bigger even though there is actually less space between the vanity top and ceiling. We saved loads of money by doing as much work ourselves as we co

Feast Your Eyes on This Cozy Cabincore Kitchen

My dream kitchen has become a reality at long last! Just in time for fall, I am falling in love with this new hearth of my home. Feast your eyes on this pure Michigan, cozy, crazy, cabincore kitchen! It's too bold and particular a style to be everyone's cup of tea, and that is exactly the point. This isn't a generic, beige box of a house to be flipped into the impersonal sales market, and it's not a rental unit, and it's not an entertainment space designed to be minimally offensive to the maximally judgmental hypothetical guest, it's my family's home , where we personalize our own cups of tea using supplies organized within our giant alien ceramic shelf pod and its smaller companion weird ceramic pod that holds our precious baggie of holy basil given to my husband as a tip at the bike shop he manages. Most of the ceramics in this room were created by a personal friend, artist Lisa Truax, who used local Michigan earth as one of the components in the piece tha

Releasing My Thirsty Darling

Good news! I have accepted the death of my most cherished lifelong career dream, and that means I am ready to release my debut novel exactly the way I want to: full of blood and other juices, rich historical detail about places you've never visited in another book, a large cast of complex characters entangled in complicated relationships, historical authenticity beefed up with a healthy disregard for biased conventions, and an all-absorbing plot that moves at its most effective pace. Leirah and the Wild Man glides forth destined for a fate of cult classic, not bestseller. Let's... push... things... forward. (Shout out to nostalgic muse Mike Skinner of The Streets and his legendarily underrated Original Pirate Material .) Here she comes, my thirsty darling, like the Lady of Shalott floating off to her glorious doom after a fever-hot vision of Lancelot torched her will to stay locked up and safe in her tower. She won't live happily ever after, but she'll look flawless a

Pocket of Joy: Sunny Days with Dark and Stormy Nights

We need both sunshine and rain to survive, all of us--all people, all animals, all plants, all life on Earth. And when we can learn to enjoy changeable weather and seasons with a flexible attitude and a readiness to take advantage of whatever comes along, we can weather the storms of life--metaphorically speaking. Literature helps us to envision pleasures we've never experienced as well as terrors and hardships we've never faced--in the safe, pillowy world of our own imaginations. Reading literary fiction makes us more empathetic and resilient when we encounter situations we've read about in real life. Dark fiction inoculates us against shock and despair in the real world. Writing fiction has therapeutic benefits as well. Way back when I used to participate in NaNoWriMo , I learned that a good author must behave like a fickle, brutal god of the ancients--setting up trials and tribulations for our beloved creations just to watch them fight their way through. My writing compa