Red lentil, red bean and yellow split pea curry (with sweet potatoes, red peppers and kale)

Red bean, red lentil and yellow split pea curry

Red bean, red lentil and yellow split pea curry

Isaac likes to ask questions he knows the answers to. He’ll ask them again and again, and there must be something reassuring in getting the same answer every time. Of course this is dangerous when you have a mother who earned the name “Miss Snide” in her youth because of her snarky response to every question with an obvious answer, and who can’t give the same answer twice. So frequently our walks to school go a little something like this. “Mom, do you think Clio is cute?” “No, I think she’s a hideous beast.” “Mom, do you think Clio is cute?” “No, I think she’s foulfiendish.” “Mom, do you think Clio is cute?” On and on until I finally break and yell, “Of course I think Clio is cute, I only tell her so ten thousand times a day!” Last night when we were reading before bed it was, “Mom, what’s your favorite color?” “You know the answer, you tell me.” “GREEN! What’s your other favorite color?” “You tell me again,” “Blue!” And then Isaac recalled a time when one friend, who is a girl, said that her favorite colors are pink and red, and another friend, who is a boy, said she couldn’t like red because it’s a boy’s color. And then both Malcolm and Isaac said “There’s no such thing as boy colors and girl colors! Any body can like any color!” Isaac said it’s a made up myth. And Malcolm said that it sucks for girls, though, because they only get two colors, but boys get every other color there is. Well! It seemed like such a wise thing to say. It seemed like such a perfect metaphor for so much else in life, and I’d never thought about it before in that way. Pink and purple. I mean of course I’d realized how ridiculous it was to think of these as girlie colors, or let colors be so defining, and I’d always been proud of my boys for liking pink and purple in defiant solidarity. But I’d never realized how imbalanced it was. I’d never really thought about how every single other color belongs mostly to the boys. I had a funny sort of flash of “What else do we just live with and take for granted that I need my eleven-year-old to state with brilliant matter-of-fact clarity?” This week Isaac had to fill in a big poster about himself, and in the box for favorite color he drew just about every color known to magic markerdom. I love to think about my boys refining the light of the entire spectrum through the perfect prism of their ridiculously lovely combination of imagination and good sense. I love to think about them glowing with all the colors, with every color in the world.

Red lentil, red bean, and yellow split pea curry

Red lentil, red bean, and yellow split pea curry

Speaking of color! This dal had red lentils, yellow split peas and red beans. So it was very warm and autumnal. It also had red peppers and sweet potatoes, to add to the warmth and autumnalness. It was tasty, too, and satisfying. If you cook if for a nice long time, the red lentils will break down into a sort of background creaminess, but the split peas and red beans will retain their texture. We ate this with basmati rice and some Ooto flatbreads.

Here’s Louis Armstrong with What a Wonderful World.
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Kale and black beans in curried pumpkin sauce with pumpkinseed-arugula pesto

Kale, black bean and pumpkin stew

Kale, black bean and pumpkin stew

This meal reminds me of something I used to make back in my bachelorette days. Can of pumpkin purée, can of chickpeas, loads of broccoli. It was quick, easy, cheap and not very fattening at all. In those days, I used to walk around the city I lived in. I’d walk for hours, every day, no matter the weather, lost in thought. And as I walked I repeated the mantra, “mad as a hatter, thin as a dime, mad as a hatter, thin as a dime.” This time of year, we always read a lot about diet tips and trends. I always want to yell out about my story, calling out like the over-eager kid in class. It’s not much of a story, really. At one point in my life I was really skinny, and I wasted a lot of time and energy thinking about getting skinnier. I wasted a lot of energy depriving myself of energy, really. I was obsessed with numbers on a scale, I felt good at losing weight – it was a skill I’d conquered, and one it was difficult to stop once I’d started. I felt as though I’d conquered hunger, as well. The longer you ignore it, the less frequently you feel it. For me it wasn’t about looking like Kate Moss, who hadn’t been invented yet, it was about a million other things. About being the most thin; about becoming less human, more ethereal, less heavy on the earth; about getting away with something; about worrying people; about scaring myself. And the reason any of this is worth mentioning is that I’m not like that any more. I know that millions of women are, and some men, too, and I’d like to say that it’s possible to regain balance and perspective, to feel good about yourself. And, actually, to stop thinking about yourself so much, so that you’re free to think about other things. It helps to have help, of course, from parents and boyfriends and friends. But mostly you find the balance yourself, gradually, over days and weeks and years. You learn that the better you feel about yourself, the better you feel about yourself, and that being healthy feels better than being thin and having ulcers and stomach aches, and having your hands and feet turn blue when it’s cold, and getting dizzy if you walk too far. You learn that it feels good to be strong. You’ll allow yourself to take up some space on the earth. You learn that you can loosen the vice-like grip of your control on everything you eat and how often you exercise without really changing yourself all that much. You’ll learn that all of the control in the world can’t save you from things over which you will never have control – your body will change over time, and there’s nothing you can do about it. But you’ll realize that we’re all in it together, all heading in the same direction, and pulled by the same gravity. (And then, maybe, you’ll have a couple of kids and your whole world will turn upside down forever!) You’ll learn about the pleasure of eating with other people, and eating like other people do. You’ll find a place that you’re comfortable with yourself, and you’ll see that everything goes in cycles – you’ll gain weight, you’ll lose weight, everything will even out. You’ll throw out your scales. You’ll develop some rules to live by, probably unconsciously, that will help you to maintain your balance through thick and thin. You’ll mostly stop comparing yourself to other people, because you’ll realize that everybody is built differently. You’ll stop comparing yourself to yourself years ago, because everybody changes. You’ll know that you’re not fat, and most of the time you won’t even feel fat. You won’t worry constantly about your food and your body: you’ll take pleasure in them. That’s what I want to say when I see all of these advice columns, on websites, and on the covers of magazines at the grocery store, and on the news – all trying to sell themselves by making you feel bad about yourself so that they can tell you how to feel good about yourself.

And, of course, you’ll keep making meals like this, because they’re cheap and tasty, and full of vitamins, and yes, just a bit because they’re not very fattening at all. Kale and beans and pumpkin!! Can you think of all the vitamins and protein in this one meal! I was hoping my boys would like it, and they did like the sauce and the beans, but the kale was a little bitter for them. I bought a bag of baby kale, and because it was so young, I didn’t boil it first, but it was a bit bitter, so next time I’d parboil it just for a few minutes. I’ve been thinking for a while about combining pumpkin flesh and pumpkinseeds in a meal! It just makes sense that they’d go together, and they do! The flesh is sweet and warm, and the seeds are smoky and cool, and they’re just perfect together.

Here’s Tom Waits Diamonds and Gold.

There’s a hole in the ladder
A fence we can climb
Mad as a hatter
You’re thin as a dime
Go out to the meadow
The hills are agreen
Sing me a rainbow
Steal me a dream

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Kale and chickpea curry with ricotta naan

Kale and chickpea curry

Kale and chickpea curry

I love to walk to school with Isaac: it’s one of my favorite rituals of the day. He holds my hand and lags behind slightly, and Clio lunges ahead after squirrels, cats, or even any spiraling dry leaf. Clio runs in circles around us, and Isaac sings or tells jokes. His jokes are perfect, sweet and nonsensical. He told an existential one the other day that was very clever, and it went a little something like this…Q: What did the birthday say to today? A: How do you like the present? B’dum tish! Today he told a joke, and I just didn’t “get it,” because I’m quite slow sometimes. I said, “I don’t quite understand your joke.” He said, “that’s okay, it wasn’t much of a joke.” As we approach the school, we start falling in line with his friends, and they form little shifting huddles, and then they all rush, joyously, to their doorway. Clio and I stand watching them, out in doggy exile, and when Malcolm sees us he walks over, cool and slow, and Clio falls all over herself trying to give him hugs and kisses. Miss Sandra, the crossing guard, greets everybody with good cheer, and leaves us all with a “have a good day,” and you believe that she means it, that somehow the fact that she said it might actually help you to have a good day. All around the courtyard, happy excited children fly about, glowing like fireflies. They greet their friends and hug their parents goodbye. I’ve always thought that the amount of energy and love, spoken and unspoken, that radiates from a typical drop-off at our school shines so brightly it could be seen from outer space. It must be like that for every school in the country. Drop-off was emotional this morning. The children flew happily about like they always do, but the parents and teachers – and there were more of them around than usual- were quiet and thoughtful, full of concerns, and hopes, and good wishes, forming a strong web of good will and sympathy that must spread from school to school across the country and beyond.

This was a strange weekend to be at work – so grey and dreary, the restaurant was not at all busy, and I just wanted to be home, where it was warm and bright and my family scampered through the day. I thought all day, too, about making this curry. I wanted something bright and warm and comforting and flavorful. So that’s what I made. It’s got a sauce made with cashews, golden raisins and coconut (I used just plain old sweetened flaked coconut, as it happens.) And it’s got kale, potatoes and chickpeas. It had a nice texture, soft, but not mushy, and the flavor was a little sweet, a little spicy, and balanced with lemon. And these naan!! I had some ricotta left over from a tart I made the other day, and I decided to make the naan with that instead of yogurt, as is traditional. And I added an egg and some melted butter. Maybe I should stop calling them naan, as I drift farther and farther from the original recipe! They turned out so delicious, though. Tender, flavorful, simple. I couldn’t stop eating them!! None of this was hard to make, either, it was an after-work meal, after all.

ricotta naan

ricotta naan

Here’s Ombra Mai Fu, from Handel’s Xerxes. My friend Diane suggested it yesterday, and it’s so beautiful!

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