Monday, December 31, 2012

Strong and disparate flavors

Last Saturday as I was having my nails done a man entered the salon.  That's a rare occurrence in Tina's Nail Salon.  I overheard him telling the receptionist that he was there for a gift certificate.

"It's for my wife, Ivory," he said.

"Oh, Ivory!"  The receptionist knew his wife.  "How is she doing?"

"She's got a great attitude and she's keeping up the fight," he said.  His voice sounded cracked and dusty, like the pavement on an old Alabama rural route that never gets re-surfaced.

In my mind I could see Ivory sitting at home in a recliner in front of the fireplace, with a pink scarf covering her head, gazing at the flames and wondering if this might be her last Christmas with her family.  I wondered if the gift certificate her husband was buying for her would bring her any comfort.  I said a little prayer for her, this sister of mine that I had never met and never would.

I hate the fact that if you cry while getting your nails done there's no way to wipe your tears away discreetly.

Then I went to Trader Joe's to pick up some ingredients for the curry I wanted to make that night.  I ran into my friend Kathy and we talked about how she had company coming into town and how high maintenance they were.  They had allergies to peanuts, soy and dairy.  They were gluten-free.  They hated fish and refused to eat anything that had been cooked in a microwave.  And they were bringing their Great Dane.

We joked that Kathy should serve fish with an especially high mercury content just in hopes of fending these guests off next year.  She even considering skipping the fish and going straight for mercury tablets.  She was joking, naturally, but as we stood under the awning at TJ's and laughed about the upcoming visit I saw her face relax and as we parted ways we were both smiling.


In the produce section I ran into Selena from church.  She had just picked up some gifts that she had made at a pottery studio and she was so excited to show me the plate she had made for her grandmother.  It was a beautifully simple piece - with a sunshine in the middle and delicate blue forget-me-nots around the edges.  I could tell that she could hardly wait to see her grandmother open that present on Christmas morning.  The excitement and the joy of giving were radiating from her face like that sunshine in the middle of the plate, and although we don't know each other very well she reached out to hug me as we said good-bye.


When I make curry I start with Japanese curry but after I've made it according to the package directions I add my own ingredients.  I learned when I lived in Japan that you can add ANYTHING to curry and it will taste good.  You can put peach jam, peanut butter, ketchup, barbeque sauce, strawberry yogurt, vinegar, Thousand Island dressing, sour cream, anything.

This step is my chance to make the curry reflect my mood at the time and on this particular occasion I put Nutella, grated onion, oyster sauce, grape jelly, rice wine, coconut milk and Japanese dashi sauce.  Let me tell you it was awesome!  Some of my best work ever.

That's what I love about curry - the way it can absorb all kinds of flavors and make them work together.  It can meld them together and make them complement each other.  Curry is made better by the addition of strong and disparate flavors.

And I thought about the way God had blended the most wonderful moments into my morning.  Ivory's brave fight and her husband's sweet devotion.  Kathy and her resolute humor.  Selena and her exuberance.  All of that made my morning wonderful, and it makes me wonderful.

I do hate the fact that if you cry while grating onions there's no way to wipe your tears away discreetly.