Tuesday, March 23, 2010

G is For Galanga and the Wonderful Curries You Can Make With It

(Galangal root. No, it's not ginger.)

Last week we took our friends to a dinner at the Bangledeshi spot near our house. We haven't been there since last fall, and when I got there I remembered why.

Having lived a somewhat sheltered culinary life in Oxford and in the white collar world in general, I had forgotten what service at other cultural spots might entail. In truth, service has been up to my demanding standards at all the Buford Highway restaurants I frequent. I'm pretty patient, understanding, and often attempt to immerse myself in the scene. I can't think of the last time I've been slighted, save for the Chinese restaurant debacle during which Chris lost it on the waitress who in broken English called him a liar.

But dinner last week was something else. It was a reminder of what dining at other people's tables can be like in foreign countries. We take it for granted that when we enter these exotic restaurants, that we are still in the American South, but really we've crossed the threshold into new cultural territory. Some things are the same though. An insistent waiter is not unlike your Southern mother-in-law- who likes to see you gobble up her pineapple cheese casserole. (If you haven't tried this covered dish delight, you are missing out. The sweet pineapple is intensified by the salty cheese and ubiquitous Ritz crackers.) Then there's the command to try everything, a little of this, or a taste of that. Don't miss the pimento cheese. Yes, it looks unappetizing but it's not the appearance that matters. Right?

When I lived in London and went exploring in Holland, I ended up among a group of new friends who threw together a pot luck. The spread covered all four covers of the world. Try this, someone said as they ladled a curiously yellow soupy mess over a pile of rice. It ended up being a Indonesian-style chicken curry, and the next day, after my host had finished her morning prayers, I asked her to write down the recipe for me. You may not be able to find all of these ingredients, she told me, but she insisted I find them. She was right. For years I substituted galangal root with ginger, because I was too lazy to order the dried stuff online from an international food website. The ginger was a mediocre substitute at best and eventually I quit making the recipe. Then a few months ago, I was breezing through the Dekalb Farmer's Market when I spied a pile of galangal roots. Had my Indonesian friend not insisted, I would have forgotten about them.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Mold is a 50s Ranch-Style Home's Bestfriend

Not to gross out my dear readers, but I spent the good part of the early afternoon with Fred Rodriguez (Remediation Group), my newest client , as he went through our house looking for mold. Since I'm a firm believer in trading services whenever appropriate, he was valuing the amount of work I needed done on the house. Our friend N., who lives nearby recently had to have her home remediated after a series of health problems. (N. works for Fred and introduced the two of us.)

So what did he determine? Yes, we have mold (but apparently anyone who lives in a house as old or older does.) It's not as bad as N.'s place but we will have to do a significant amount of prep work in the basement before Fred will send in a crew to clean it up. Then what's next?

I was reviewing my nerded out list of house projects the other day and realized that we had accomplished 95% of our goals. I've added about ten more things to complete by this time next year, including packing up the contents of the basement and throwing out what can't be sold in a yard sale. Chris asked Fred when all this needed to be done to begin remediation. "Nothing is so bad it needs to be done now," he said. Then I chimed in, "It will get bad if it starts to bother me because I will bother you Chris."

Clean up begins next weekend.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Environmental Serenade

As I was running around Drew Valley the other day, I started to think about the running I did in Atlanta before I moved here, in particular, the neighborhood by friend's place in Buckhead. In the my the shapes of trees, curves of the street blended into my current surrounding, and as I approached the top of a hill, I had forgotten where I was. It was like waking up in a hotel bed after a night of boozing. I had to think hard. Where was I?

A friend just told me this is called disassociation. It's when you have so much going on that you layer information and things get confusing. I agree with her in some sense that this is my reality, but I also think it just shows the power of memory. So I went to yoga on Saturday to remedy the situation, forcing myself to take each moment at a time to filter out distraction. It seemed to work. Even though I had planned to make a day of writing on Sunday (I instead spent it up in the air with my guy in a helicopter and later braised beef short ribs), I find myself with a kind of clarity this morning.

With the washing machine whirring and Turner letting out an occasional growl at invisible passerbys to serenade me, I'm feeling quite zen staring out into the backyard as I start my day.

Monday, March 1, 2010


Is it March already? I just finished eating a grilled pimento cheese sandwich on the day that marks my commitment to all things health and fitness related. A kind of personal housekeeping, if you will. The timing is perfect. We just had bash to celebrate Chris' 30th birthday and both of us want to get back to our pre-move-in state. For me, it's all about a schedule. Can I convince him to go for a run with me at 8 am a couple days in the coming weeks?

Part of all this maintenance is to motivate me to incorporate a writing schedule into my life. I was feeling particularly creative after making a movie about Chris for his birthday and realized if I applied that same dedication to my other projects, they wouldn't take years to complete. I haven't decided if Ill go the route of Salman Rushdie, who devotes the morning hours until lunch to write (which may not work for me with my consulting anyway), or the route of my friends who commit to writing on a per word basis. But I need to decide by tomorrow.