We may never get to India, but we can fix Indian food, learn the fragrant masala spices – fenugreek, cumin, coriander – discovered by the explorers and traded like jewels. We might fix tandoori chicken, coconut butter cauliflower, master curries the color of gold. Naan is as flat and wide as a frisbee. But roti steals the show: buttery, flaky, every bite a joy. Kachumber salad made of cucumbers cools the heat, and quenches.
As the crow flies, Cuba is not even an hour away from New Orleans. We let the ropa viejo – old rags – cook all day. While we wait, we smash sandwiches in the Foreman grill so melted cheese runs out the sides and the edges of the meat crisp. We chomp and listen to Ruben Gonzales at the piano.
Stale bread recycles with pleasure into croutons. Butter, salt and pepper, the chunks baked to make them crunch, the warmth filling our kitchen with the smell of rescued bread. What else can we fix from what we might otherwise throwaway? A website is selling ugly, unwanted vegetables and fruits. Not camera ready for grocery stores, but perfectly edible. Rescued from garbage cans, they fill stomachs that don’t judge.
There’s an Ethiopian restaurant on Magazine Street; tiny, painted burnt red and off the street. How soon can we go? The food is communal: lamb stews and sautéed eggplant, scooped up with addictive rubbery injera. In Rome one Christmas when everything Catholic was closed, an Ethiopian restaurant took us in. While the wife cooked in the back, the husband brought out giant, cold cans of beer before delivering a steaming platter to the middle of the table. No plates or utensils were needed, just appetites, and humans, reaching.
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