Stir first three ingredients carefully and wait for the relationships to bloom. After ten years, move from Indiana to California. Introduce best friend into the mix. Ann is the same age as the child, who is now entering public middle school after years of Jewish day school. Ann helps this child transition because she herself has been in transition for many years. She came from Andhra Pradesh when she was young and had her friends call her Ann instead of Ananta to help her acculturate. She, like the child, has eating restrictions because she is Hindu and fiercely vegetarian. She is also equally curious about the world and similarly unintimidated by it. They become fast friends and will spend many years sharing food, culture, religion, fears, love interests, overbearing parents, a drive to overachieve and our friendship – which has stood the test of time and space.
Peer into a Jewish household on a Friday night, and you’ll have an instant window into that family’s food legacy. The Syrian table is piled high with zucchinis and eggplants stuffed with lamb and beef, beautiful rice dishes, and my favorite, lahmacun, those wonderful flatbreads topped with tamarind-and-tomato drenched ground meat. The Eastern Europeans have lokshen and cabbage, noodle kugel, and of course, cholent.
Gearing up for my trip to India in 2009, I was admittedly more excited to eat than sightsee. The curries spooned over rice, the fiery hot condiments, and the intensely sweet desserts made me salivate in nearly catatonic daydreams. I had, however, only experienced Americanized Indian cuisine — in the array of Indian restaurants in Manhattan or from a chafing dish in Whole Foods. I certainly had never prepared an Indian meal myself before. I was not at all prepared for the invaluable epiphany I had in India. The fact is, authentic Indian food is missing from the kosher kitchen and it need not be.