Millet, red lentil, and sweet potato dal and pumpkin ricotta flatbreads

Millet dal and pumpkin flatbread

Millet dal and pumpkin flatbread

Yesterday around mid-morning, I spent ten minutes sitting on the couch in my pajamas, with Clio half-on/half-off my lap. I petted her velvety ears and watched people rush by in the rain. They seemed so busy and productive, and I could just imagine how the world smelled like rain to them, and how they felt icy drops trickling into their collars, and how their cars had that feverish chilled-but-warming feeling. And here I was, so toasty and still and unproductive. I felt like I was in a Basho poem. I thought of the quote from the Hagekure (and Ghost Dog!)

There is something to be learned from a rainstorm. When meeting with a sudden shower, you try not to get wet and run quickly along the road. By doing such things as passing under the eaves of houses, you still get wet. When you are resolved from the beginning, you will not be perplexed, though you will still get the same soaking. This understanding extends to all things.

I found that I didn’t feel quite so unproductive, because my mind was busy, and then I felt foolish for thinking that. Then I thought about writing about thinking about writing about sitting there. And then Clio said, “Man, you’re cramping my style. I’ve got some napping to be getting on with.” The mail came, but I didn’t bring it in because it’s only bills and advertisements. Then I went up to clean the bathroom, and thought about writing about that, but luckily for you I won’t do that. When I was little, I used to narrate my actions in my head in the third person. Not all the time, because that would be crazy! But often. “And then Claire sat on a bench in the middle of the room. She always got through with looking at paintings before everyone else. She did everything quickly. And now she sat and watched the people looking at the paintings…” And on an on it goes! I feel like I’ve been doing that again lately, because of The Ordinary. Not in third person now, so it’s slightly less eccentric. But when I cook, I’ll think about writing about it, and aboutexplaining how it’s done. And sometimes I’ll wake up in the middle of the night, and try to occupy my brain with whatever I might say on here the next day (explains a lot about the quality of the work, doesn’t it?) and I’ll find myself writing in my head. And, yes, this might seem crazy, but I think this is a good thing!!! I firmly believe that the more you write, the more you write. The more you think about writing, the more you’ll write, and hopefully it will become a habit. (This doesn’t guarantee good writing, mind you! It just makes it easier to get started.) I think this understanding extends to all things. The more you draw, the more you’ll draw. If you want to make movies, you should watch movies, talk about movies, take photographs, write movies, make shorts. The more you cook, the more you’ll think about cooking, and the more you’ll want to try new things and experiment with new ingredients, until you’ll get sick of it all and go out to dinner. If you want to make music, the more you listen to songs, and practice making music, and think about music, the more life will present itself to you as a song. Because even if writing and making movies and drawing aren’t important, which, arguably they’re not at all, I’d still like to go through life looking for things to write about (or sing about or draw pictures of.) Just as the actors that work with Jaques Tati started to see little comic pieces in everyday exchanges in the world around them, you’ll start to find that even small things are worth noticing and remembering and examining, which in some way makes life worth living.

And now I feel foolish for writing about writing, so let’s talk about this dal instead. It’s made with red lentils, millet and sweet potatoes, and it’s cooked for some time, which makes it dense and soft and porridgey. Red lentils are nice because they cook quickly, but if you cook them longer, as (I believe) Indian dals are cooked, they take on a whole different life. I added spinach and peas to pep things up and provide a little texture. And I used beautiful black cardamom pods, which are so smoky and sweet (but watch out for them when you eat the dal, you wouldn’t want to bite down on one!) I decided that cumin was too obvious in this dish, so I left it out in favor of other sweet and smoky spices, like cardamom, nigella seeds and smoked paprika. The flat breads were quick and easy to make – they have a little pumpkin puree and a little ricotta, which gives them a nice flavor and texture, and they were just crunchy enough to provide a pleasant contrast to the soft dal.

Here’s Station Showdown from the Yojimbo soundtrack, cause it’s all about the millet. Golly, this soundtrack is brilliant!

Continue reading