Eggplant & chickpea flour croquettes

Eggplant and chickpea flour croquettes

I like strange people, I always have. I’ve been drawn to the eccentrics and outcasts. The self-proclaimed rebels that say, “If you don’t like my attitude, screw you.” The kids in choir and band and theater. The ones who wore black and listened to the Smiths (like everyone else who wore black and listened to the Smiths.) The kids who pretended they didn’t care about the prom and were witty and dismissive about school spirit day. They might not have been the most popular, but they were (almost) convinced that they were the most cool, and they had that familiar combination of arrogance and insecurity you never really grow out of. I’ve always been proud to be different, and felt that my strangeness was one of my most winning qualities. There’s always going to be somebody prettier and smarter and nicer and better at everything, but there will never be anybody strange in quite the way that I am strange. Like everything else in life, having children seems to have shaken me a bit, in this regard. The other day Isaac wanted money for a popsicle at snack time, because everyone else got one. And I said, “Well, we don’t do things just because everybody else does.” Which I firmly believe. But then I thought, maybe we’re different enough already. We’re vegetarians, we don’t have cable or a video game system or a microwave. Malcolm made my heart ache with his sweetness once, on a play date. I offered to make popcorn and he proudly announced, “My mom makes it from scratch on the stovetop!” How long before that embarrasses the hell out of him? I want them to be happy with themselves, and I want them to feel good about all the ways they’re unique. I want to encourage the rebel in them. But I don’t want to impose that on them. On a rainy morning last week, I dropped Isaac off at school, and I saw Malcolm at his safety post. I’m always tempted to go up and give him hugs and kisses, of course, but of course I don’t. I had this discombobulatingly self-conscious moment, completely foreign to me as a mom – this idea of him watching me walk away in the rain. It felt weird to be a person and a mom at the same time – it feels strange to me to worry about feeling strange. Luckily we live in a town that celebrates eccentrics, most of the time. My boys are strong! They’ll be what the need to be. And we’ll keep up with those things I’m passionate about, like being a vegetarian. But we’ll try not to be witty and deprecating on school spirit day, and we’ll try not to make snide comments about LMFAO. Because, after all, what a joy to watch them dancing to those silly songs!

And we’ll keep eating strange vegetarian food like these eggplant and chickpea croquettes! I roasted and pureed the eggplant, so the croquettes were quite smooth. Like savory cookies, almost. Which is how we sold them to the boys, who liked them quite a bit. I made a fresh-tasting salsa of tomatoes, roasted peppers and tamarind to have with the croquettes, but you could use any salsa or sauce that you like.

Here’s Strange by Screamin Jay Hawkins.
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Fried green tomato pakoras and cilantro, tamarind, almond sauce

Fried green tomato pakoras

September 11, 2001 was a perfect golden day, just like today. We had just moved to the town we now live in from Boston. It felt like coming home. I felt as glowingly hopeful as the weather. And then, of course, everything changed. So much has been written and spoken about that day – I feel like there are no more words for it. Everybody has a story of where they were, and how they heard, and friends that they lost. It’s impossible to forget the dizzying feeling of standing in a bright green world, with a vast, clear blue sky overhead, thinking about the horror occurring so nearby. And what a tangled mess in the years that followed, when the tragedy was cynically exploited to keep us in a constant state of fear, to build support for a war that caused so much more death. Our world changed, and it kept on changing, with all of the lies, and mistrust, and disappointment. And little did we know, in our own small world, how soon our life would change – Malcolm was born exactly ten months later. And, to be honest, half of his class was born around the same time. September 11 babies. Because it’s also impossible to forget the feeling of clinging to life and love and hope. It sounds trite and saccharine now, as I write it, but it was such a strong, renewing feeling at that time. It’s discombobulating to think about Malcolm’s life, sometimes, to think about his bright, strong, creative spirit, and to think that his whole life we’ve been at war, or preparing for war.

Little Malcolm

Phew, I was not going to go on like this! There are no more words, she says, and then she rambles on and on! I was going to talk about tomatoes. Tomatoes – they have such a lovely life cycle, where we live. They grow all summer, the little sweet ones ripening early, a delightful promise of more to come. The weighty, ripe, beautiful late summer tomatoes come all at once, so warm and sweet and juicy, and they continue on into autumn, as their leaves wither around them, and the fruit glows like bright stained glass. I went picking last week, and I got a lot of green tomatoes, because I find them an inspiring challenge. As I was picking I got very excited with the idea of making these fried green tomato pakoras. Hooboy they were good! The batter perfectly crisp and tasty, the tomatoes inside soft and just the right amount sweet. The sauce was good too – cilantro and jalapenos from the farm, brightened by tamarind and tempered by almonds.

Cilantro almond tamarind sauce

Here’s Talib Kweli’s The Proud, which is one of the most honest and intelligent songs about 9/11 and how complicated it was (and it samples Nina Simone!)

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