Friday, October 7, 2011

Library Meals

I'm writing this from the Victoria University Architecture and Design library. I reckon academic libraries are one of the best things about being a student. I love libraries almost more than anything else. When I feel sad about the way we treat each other, I think about libraries. When I was 14 years old I heard The Police sing about Nabokov and I went to the St Heliers Bay library and got out Lolita.

When I was at Otago University I got a job in the Medical and Dental libraries. It is still one of my happiest work memories. The Medical library was busy, the materials were amazing and the students were awesome. My favourite shift was late night. The library was open until about 11 o'clock I think and I would often work late with Elvira. She was a third year medical student and as the library got less and less busy, eventually we would be the only staff on. One of our jobs would be to go and 'pick interloans' which meant finding the journals and books on the shelves which people from other universities had ordered articles from. We could come back and report what we had seen on our travels: a pizza being eaten up near epidemiology, people making out in the stacks behind opthamology, people asleep in the warm. Elivira and I became firm friends.

We always had a dinner break on late night. One at a time we'd go into the staffroom, heat up our dinner and eat it reading whatever magazines were in there. Elvira always had really nice food and one night I asked her about it and she wrote out a recipe for one of her favourite curries. I've still got it on the piece of paper she wrote it on in the soft lead pencil we used to keep at the issues desk. I love making it because it reminds me of Elvira and the library and people kissing in opthamology.

I usually put chickpeas in Elvira's curry. Dry pulses require a bit of a rhythm to your day. What I normally do is put them in water to soak before I go to bed the night before I make this curry. Does that sound like a faff? I can never tell, I'm sure it did the first time someone told me they did it. Anyway, it doesn't seem like too much trouble now, although, yeah, I can see how it takes some planning. A friend of mine cooks all her beans for the week on the weekend and then freezes them or puts them in her fridge - I'm not always that organised. Anyway, if I wake up to soaked chickpeas I put them in the slow cooker with a bay leaf and yeah, let them cook until dinner time. I love my slow cooker. It used to be my aunt's. It's a very old-school one and it works really well for cooking pulses. I really like cooking my own pulses rather than buying canned ones mainly because of the salt. My heart has never been in great shape, I smoked for years and I have really low blood-pressure, so, I try and minimise salt any chance I get and canned food is one things I try to avoid. Anyway, however you get your chickpeas, you have them and now you can make:

Elvira's 3 people curry

2 tbsp oil
1 large onion
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp garlic
1 tbsp ginger
4 tomatoes
1 tsp turmeric powder
(Elvira wrote '1 tbsp chili (or none)'. I have never been game enough to put this much chili into it - I think she was joking)
1 tsp salt (or as much as you want)
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp garam masala

Optional: 10 peppercorns, 2 cardamon pods

600 grams chickpeas

Enough water to cover everything.

You can also add vegetables

Fry the onion, garlic and ginger in a heavy bottomed pot.
Then add the tomatoes and spices and a bit of water if you need it and cook these on high for 3 minutes. Simmer for 10 minutes - you might need to keep adding water and it's a good idea to stay close for stirring.
Add chickpeas and vegetables and enough water to cover everything cover and boil for 15 minutes. Then remove the lid so the curry can thicken - if you like it thick.

This is good with rice or bread or potatoes and it's great if you're working late night.

Photo: Opthamology case study: Eye with severe peacock-ism. CC licensed by Quinn Dombrowski (Flickr user: quinn.anya)

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