Tuesday, April 6, 2010
You know what I'm not good at? Opening presents in front of people, particularly the people who gifted me the present. It always feels like a performance is necessary. I tend to overdo it and act like the present is the most awesome thing I've ever seen and how did they know I wanted it? I can't help myself. When I see the gifter's face light up with the delight at having found the right present, it sort of pushes me to keep going, further and further, till I'm pushing the limits of psychotic glee.
Almost Husband knows I do this. In fact, he's seen me do it so many times that now, when he gives me a present, he has to check with me;
"Wait - do you really like it? Or are you doing that thing where you act like you love it but you secretly hate it?"
It was a somewhat pivotal moment in our mutual gift-giving, the time he gave me a computer bag. I was in school at the time, just bordering on dropping out, and I had this crummy laptop that I took to school with me once, maybe twice, only to realize it refused to link up to the school's free WiFi. So I stopped taking it with me. Besides which, it was a school. Every room had computers. Almost Husband didn't know these details. He knew I'd taken the computer to school and assumed I'd been frustrated by the inconvenience of carrying it, and so, on my Christmas/Birthday celebration (they're very near each other) he gave me a computer bag.
"Oh...oh. (deep breath) Okay," I said when I opened the wrapped parcel. Words failed me. It was, without a doubt, the most practical gift he'd ever given me. I knew he was looking at me expectantly, hopefully. But I just...couldn't. I couldn't hide the look on my face, equal parts 'oh no' and 'oh shit'. I felt terrible, he felt terrible. I struggled to do my 'I love it' routine, but it was too late. He knew. I dropped out of college a few months later, and the bag lived behind my bookcase collecting dust, only to be donated to the Goodwill this past January, when we moved.
Ever since, Almost Husband's been nervous when getting me anything. Even when I drop bomb-like hints, he's nervous. I'd traumatized him. So this past Christmas/Birthday, he got me a slow cooker, which I'd been wanting/hinting at for months. When I opened it, I didn't have to act; I was genuinely delighted. I ordered some cookbooks on Amazon specifically for slow cookers; I made sure to tell him every chance I got that I loved it and couldn't wait to use it, I made sure he overheard me telling friends he'd gotten me the best gift ever. I needed to move past the Bag. Still, he was guarded, unsure. We were knee deep in the process of moving, so I decided to keep it in the box for convenience. We moved. We unpacked. The slow cooker stayed in its cupboard under the counter. A couple of months passed. And then, Almost Husband happened upon it a couple of weeks ago when getting out its neighbour, the rice cooker.
"Oh no, " he said, making a heartbreakingly worried face, "Did I get you another Computer Bag?"
And so, in an effort to put to rest his sweet worry, I finally dug out the slow cooker and one of my cookbooks and made the most delicious and healthy recipe for Indian Spiced Beans. I probably overdid my displays of enthusiasm with bubbly proclamations of ease and convenience. I reminded myself of that horrible infomercial for one of those micro-food processors where an older couple is making "Salsa In Seconds!!!" for their odd assortment of relatives ('Chubby Oaf Son-In-Law', 'Wide-Eyed With Disbelief Grandma' etc.)
After the quick prep and the four hours of gurgling and bubbling and simmering that happened in that wondrous machine, I ended up with 4 quarts of awesome that I've been eating every day since.
So maybe now we can finally put the Computer Bag behind us.
Indian Spiced Beans, via 125 Best Vegetarian Slow Cooker Recipes by Judith Finlayson:
2 tsp each cumin and coriander seeds (I used already ground cumin and coriander)
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 cups finely chopped onions
1 tbsp each minced garlic and ginger root
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cracked black peppercorns
1/2 tsp cardamom
2 bay leaves (I skipped these)
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes, including juice
1 cup vegetable stock
3 cups black beans or red kidney beans, rinsed and drained (I used a combination of both)
I bunch of kale or other dark leafy green, rinsed and coarsely chopped (not in original recipe)
1 cup plain yogurt (optional)
cilantro to garnish (optional)
1. If using cumin and coriander seeds instead of ground, toast them in a large skillet till fragrant. Careful not to burn them! Transfer to a mortar or spice grinder and coarsely grind. Set aside.
2. In same skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger root, cumin and coriander, turmeric, salt, peppercorns and cardamom and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Add bay leaves, tomatoes and juice, vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Place beans in the slow cooker and cover with the tomato mixture. This is when I added the kale too.
3. Cover and cook on Low for 8-10 hours, or High for 4-5 hours, until beans are tender. Stir in yogurt and cilantro for garnish, if using. Serve alone, or on a mountain of the cooked grain of your choice (I used couscous cooked in vegetable stock)