When the cat is away…

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Absence makes the heart grow fonder…or should it be `makes the hands get free-er’?  What is it about the spouse traveling that makes us women feel like there’s no work to do? I meet my friends at the school or the bus stop, and they often mention that their husbands are traveling, so they’ll just order in a pizza for dinner… or perhaps we could go for a daylong trip into town since she is pretty free today because…you guessed it, the husband is traveling!

Is is that all of us devoted wives put in more effort into meals and households when the men are around? Or are the men just hard to please?! Your votes please!

In my family also it feels like L&M (Lord and Master) is the one who eats all the food, generates all the laundry and is generally the reason for my feeling overworked and busy…when pretty much the opposite is the case! While he’s away, our meals are simpler (I think) and it generally feels like there is less to do. There is also a slight sense of lassitude, especially in the evening. Do you lovely women reading this blog feel the same way too?

His being absent is irritating – no one to talk to after 9 pm, no one to help with logistics when I need to take one child but not the other to the doctor, for example. And `burning’ issues that need decision making (like hotel bookings for holidays!) are postponed until the weekend.

Prolonged absences work on a different level altogether – acquaintances and experiences need explaining, moods are gone through and forgotten , movies and plays missed  because there is no one to go with, and all the little events that make up the glue of a shared life are overlooked, brushed away in the compulsion to be somewhere else. Hats off to those who work with long-distance marriages and make a success of them .

A few years ago, for 2 whole years, L&M was on an assignment where he needed to travel 3-6 weeks at a time – weekends included! Torture. And I went through all the  aforesaid annoyances of a long distance relationship. But haha …there were some perks of the situation – I could occupy every single shelf in the cupboard and shove his stuff in the corners! The shoe rack was all mine! No one to yank the duvet and leave me out in the cold ! I could be late for every outing with no one to harass me! Yeah!!

In his current assignment, he does not need to travel too much – just 1-2 nights every few weeks. But I get my perks still – eating eggplant! Eating Italian Chinese! All the foods he detests and the kids and I love. Yup – I said eggplant.

Tomorrow we go out for Italian Chinese. Utterly insipid if you’ve ever eaten Indian Chinese. Which is itself a scandalous version of Chinese Chinese. But tonight’s menu is eggplant/aubergine/baingan (in Hindi), something L&M is allergic to. Likes it, but the allergy comes and goes, so it’s better avoided. My kids love what I created a few years ago, my very own spicy-sour concoction – Baingan Blast. So here it is, to share with you all.

BAINGAN BLAST (Prep time 10 mins+30 mins, cooking time 15 mins)

* Eggplants, medium sized – 2 (I use round purple eggplants, simply because they are the only ones available here. No reason  to not use other colors and shapes if you’ve got them. In fact, let me know how they turn out)

* Cooking oil – 1.5 tbsps + 2 tsps Eggplants GUZZLE oil! But this is a lot less than what it would have been if I did not use my little trick…for that, you’ll have to read the recipe carefully  ; )

* Fresh ginger – 1 inch piece, finely chopped (optional)

* Concentrated tamarind paste – approx 2 tsps, diluted in 1 tbsp of water.  Substitute with 3 tsps of tomato paste if tamarind is unavailable – it tastes different from my original recipe, but it’s still good!

* Sugar – 1 tsp

* Sesame seeds – 1 tsp

* Red chili powder/peperoncino/cayenne pepper – a pinch (as large or small as you can handle! Entirely optional)

* Spice mix – panch phoran – 2 tsps. This is a spice mix very typical of Eastern India, and consists of 5 aromatic whole seeds mixed together. But if you do not have it, never fear. Use a mix of spices, a big pinch of as many as you have from  this list…coriander seeds, fenugreek seeds (methi dana), aniseed (saunf), cumin seeds, nigella (kalonji), mustard seeds

* Salt – a generous sprinkling

– Wash and cut up the eggplants into medium sized cubes (about 1 inch pieces). Observe the texure – it’s like a sponge! That’s why it drinks oil while it cooks.

– Put into a large colander, sprinkle with a generous amount of salt (about 2 tsps I would think) and leave to drain for at least 30 mins. Traditionally, this was done to remove any bitterness in eggplant. In the old days, before modern agriculture, some vegetables like eggplants, zucchinis and cucumbers used to pretty often turn out to be bitter, so salting was the antidote to that. I do it `just to be safe’, and also because salting removes some of the moisture, which will be an essential step in reducing the amount of oil that we used to cook the eggplant in.

– Rinse the eggplant and cover and microwave for about 4 mins, until slightly cooked. Microwaving ensures that it is already partly cooked before it goes into the pan, and therefore drinks less oil while it is in there.

– Pat dry and set aside.

– In a non-stick or iron pan (I would use one that is wide and flat) add 1 tbsp of oil. When hot, add the eggplant and cook on medium heat, turning frequently until it is nicely browned on all sides. Use the 1/2 tbsp of oil to drizzle on the eggplants as you cook them. This takes about 10-12 mins.

– Remove from the pan and set aside.

– In the same pan, add 2 tsps of oil. When hot, add the spices (except for the sesame seeds). When they pop, add the eggplant, chili powder, ginger, sugar and tamarind /tomato paste. I would not add salt at this point because we have already salted the eggplant – remember? Better less than more.

– Mix well, turn off the heat, cover, and leave it for about 10 mins or so to soak in the flavors. Then taste, adjust the flavoring, sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve lukewarm/hot with rice, or bread. It also makes for an interesting starter with crisp breads.

Enjoy the blast of flavor, and don’t forget to keep some leftovers in the fridge for a traveling spouse…trust me, (s)he’ll appreciate it.

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7 responses »

  1. So true about traveling husbands, and I still wonder why…. it’s not that I’m making so much more when he’s at home and though….

  2. Very relevant entry for me- mine’s away for 2 weeks! The evenings are so easy. It’s the only time I can keep to a routine. Sure fatigue will set in after the weekend, but enjoying the little things like dinnertime whenever you want to eat. As someone who dated hubby 5 years long distance, I know absence can make the heart grow fonder! And yes, I will miss him… next week! lol
    Eggplant looks delicious!

  3. Shruti, I loved the way you describe our lives with traveller husbands, I bet all of us felt the same as you as we read it 🙂
    And today I’ll buy some eggplants to try your recipe that looks fantastic!

  4. So correct I totally agree, what you say is so true. Loved reading it. I usually do not make baingan, but this looks easy to make and tasty!.

    Will let you know how it went!

    waiting for more such good recipes!!

    Love,
    Ragini

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