January 14, 2016
Y’all, I’m so bad at waiting. It’s one area I really have not made any improvement in as I’ve grown. I’m still impatient as I was when I was a kid.
When I was little, my dad would take me shopping for my mom’s birthday or Christmas present, only for me to come home and almost always be unable to wait to tell her what we had gotten for her. Guess what, Mama?
For the first few years of our relationship, I almost always ended up giving Jill her birthday present in June (her birthday is July 25th). That usually meant that I would also end up buying an additional present so that I’d have something to give her the day of. I am an enthusiastic, impatient mess.
Waiting for feedback from supervisors and agents, waiting for a loved one’s test results, waiting in line, waiting on traffic, waiting on a particular day to arrive, waiting to see someone, waiting for a letter to arrive or a pot to boil or a flower to bloom…you name it, I stink at it.
I’m not sure if there’s an inherent virtue in being able to wait, though patience is certainly a necessity in situations involving students and small children…I may never know, really, the gifts of calm and anxiety-free waiting. But I know that it’s probably good for me to have to wait, even though I hate it so much. It’s almost always good for us to have to practice doing things that we’re not good at, even though we would really rather not have to. All of this waiting doesn’t seem to be helping me get any better at doing it, but it is an important reminder that I am, you know, not the center of the universe, and that there is very little that I can actually control.
But, as Shiv would remind me, I can control my breathing. Deep breaths, Mama – don’t you love it when they apply the lessons we’ve taught them TO US? (Like maybe you got that concept a little too well, son?) I can continually bring my mind back to things that matter much more than my to-do list, like the faces in the photographs festoon the walls of my work cubicle. I can look down at the bracelet I’ve been wearing since I got it for my last birthday and be reminded that the greatest of these is all around me, if I can just stop and be present to it. I can think of the men we’ve collectively mourned this week, tremendous artists whose deaths remind us that it can all change in an instant.
INDIAN STYLE SWEET-AND-SOUR BUTTERNUT SQUASH
This dish is my mom’s creation; to get her “recipe,” I watched her make it and took notes, which meant I had to eyeball most of the quantities (though she did, graciously & uncharacteristically, measure out the water for me—thanks, Amma!) So, as you make this dish, feel free to tinker with the amounts of spice/flavorings. And if you’d like to substitute in another hard squash for the butternut, I think acorn or kabocha would work well.
For a meal, you might enjoy this sabji/sabzi (vegetable dish) alongside some aloo tikki; it’s also wonderful drizzled with a little plain yogurt and wrapped up inside warm naan or pita. This is also a great dish to make ahead of time, as it warms up easily and also thaws/freezes well.
~2 cups cubed butternut squash
2 cups water
2 T vegetable oil
1 T tamarind concentrate (substitute lemon/lime juice to achieve a similar sour note, though the flavor won’t be exactly the same)
1 T brown sugar
1 ½ tsp. fennel seeds
¼ tsp. each of ground ginger, cloves, cumin, coriander, & salt
generous pinch each of cinnamon & cayenne
optional: fresh cilantro
Heat oil over medium in a heavy-bottomed pot with a lid. After 1-2 minutes, add the fennel seeds, stirring them occasionally until they are aromatic and light brown. Add the squash to the pan and toss to coat.
Toss in all of the spices/seasonings, then the water, stir and cover. Allow the squash to cook for 15-20 minutes, checking at the fifteen minute mark to see if the squash is tender. Once it’s reached your desire texture (I like mine really soft), stir in the tamarind and brown sugar, then cook with the lid off until the liquid has evaporated. Garnish with fresh cilantro, and serve warm.