July 22, 2017

Aromatic Rice (for Good Moods)

You can gauge my mood by paying attention to what I'm reading and eating. Happy, fun memoirs or serious classic novels and smoothies for lunch? I'm hunky-dory! Plath poems or self-help books and lots of buttered noodles? I'm sinking into depression.

Depressive moods also mean that I re-read books that make me think about life...like Arundhati Roy's The God of Small Things. I particularly love her poetic language. For instance, she describes one character as "Thirty-one. Not old. Not young. But a viable die-able age."

I feel that way about myself these days. I am almost forty-four...not old, not young, but a viable die-able age for sure. My mother died suddenly of a heart attack when she was forty-seven. Just three years older than I am now.

One of the other refrains in the novel is "things can change in a day." Roy writes "a few dozen hours can affect the outcome of whole lifetimes. And that when they do, those few dozen hours, like the salvaged remains of a burned house -- the charred clock, the singed photograph, the scorched furniture -- must be resurrected from the ruins and examined. Preserved. Accounted for.''

I know firsthand how things--whole lives--can change in a day. I've learned that lesson more than once. When I read that passage, I think about--overthink, really--my past. I examine ruined relationships and try to figure out when it all changed, so that I might prevent another sad ending.

And then I eat an entire pizza. Or fried chicken tenders and Nachos BellGrande. Or pretzel chips dipped in Country Crock.

Yep. That was my week. Don't judge me. Nothing major happened...I just found a dead, stinking mouse in the pantry (so gross) and had to take my pup to the vet for stitches (so expensive) and felt left out/unwanted/unneeded (so dumb). 

When I get sad, when I worry that everything will change in a day...when I feel like everything is awful (even though I know they are not), when I feel completely alone (even though I know I am not), when I cry myself to sleep (even though I have no real reason to)...I need something else to focus on. That's when I'll cook myself a comforting meal.

This week, I needed something restorative yet light (because it's a bazillion degrees out and I cannot eat any more pizza or tacos or cheesy pasta), so I made this...

"A fragrant, healing bowl of rice"
Recipe from Appetite by Nigel Slater

Interestingly seasoned with whole spices and flecked with chopped herbs, a bowl of rice is the perfect antidote to almost any kind of overindulgence you can think of. Food to soothe and revive.

oil--either peanut or vegetable
a small onion
basmatic rice-- 2 or 3 handfuls
garlic--1 large clove
green cardamom pods--4 or 5
a cinnamon stick
cloves--2 or 3
a small, hot pepper
cilantro leaves (or parsley)--a handful, chopped

Warm a little oil in a small saucepan. You need just enough to cover the bottom. Peel and finely chop the onion, and fry it gently, over a low, simpering heat, until it is soft but not colored. Squash the garlic flat and add it to the onion with the cardamom pods, cinnamon stick, and cloves, then let the spices cook briefly in the oil. You need to warm their essential oils but not let them color.

Tip in the rice, then tuck in the hot pepper. Pour three times as much water as rice into the saucepan and bring to a boil. Add salt generously and turn down the heat so that the water is simmering gently, then cover the pan tightly with a lid. After ten minutes you should remove from the heat. Avoid the temptation to lift the lid. Leave the rice for ten minutes, maybe a little less, then lift the lid and sift through the rice with a fork. You can pick out any whole spices at this point if you wish, or leave it to everyone to police their own. Grind over some black pepper and stir in the chopped cilantro (or parsley) leaves.

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