“Can I have one?” I asked him
“You’re not going to like it,” he said.
“I just want to try it.”
“They’re alive,” he said, “when they go down.”
“They see all the way down your throat?”
“You still want to try one?”
I wanted to do it because he said I couldn’t. I wanted him to be proud of me. I wanted it to be the two of us standing in the yard, eating oysters in the dusk, always.
He skewered the shell. popped it open with a flip of his wrist. The oyster meat was gray, streaked with silver, a purple trill in the center where my father cut it from the shell.
“Here,” he said, holding the oyster iut to me flat on the blade, as if it were a spoon. “Open your mouth.”
I opened my mouth, sucked the oyster in. It was warm and salty and wet. I imagined it smothering in the pink insides of my mouth, staring at the dark tunnel of my throat in despair. I held it there, considering.
“Don’t spit it out,” my father said, and the burlap sack of oysters at his feet shifted, clinked. “Do not spit it out.”
It was too warm. It was alive.
I consigned the oyster to death and swallowed. My father looked pleased.
“You like it?”
I’d hated it. I shook my head. My father laughed, and his teeth were very white in his face, which became duskier and darker as the sun set. He stuck his knife in the seam of the oyster again, shucked again. He balanced the oyster delicately on the knife, brought the knife to his mouth, and sucked the oyster inside. I switched from foot to foot, scratching the inside of my calf with the thick skin on the bottom of my feet. I wondered how he never cut himself, how he could be so beautiful, so tall, so impressive.
–Excerpt from Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward
Read diverse books. We need ’em.
Aloo-gobi pot pie
- Ginger-garlic paste is staple in every Indian household. If you want to make the food of my people taste like the food of my people, ginger-garlic is a good place to start. It’s an easy recipe and keeps well in the fridge. The recipe I used makes a little more than I needed but it’s been in my fridge for almost 3 weeks now and it tastes perfect. Don’t tell the health department.
- The ramekins I used for these pot pies measure 4 inches in diameter. This recipe makes 4 pot pies.
- If you don’t have easy access to corn and oat flours, you can substitute regular savoury pie crust (store-bought or homemade)
Recipe for masala corn crust adapted from Green Kitchen Stories
For ginger-garlic paste
- 1 cup ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 cup garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
Put all the ingredients in a food processor or high-speed blender and pulse until it turns into a soft and completely smooth paste. If you feel you need more oil to get the ingredients to a pasty consistency, add a little bit more oil (about ½ a tsp). Store in glass jar in the fridge for all future Indian food experiments. You can squeeze a bit of lime over the top to help it keep for longer.
For the masala corn crust
- 100 gms oat flour (1 cups)
- 75 gms corn flour (2 tbsp + 2 tsp)
- 1.5 tsp corn starch
- 1 tsp garam masala
- ½ tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp salt
- 3 tbsp extra-virgin coconut oil, at room temperature (coconut oil stays in the liquid state at room temperature back home in India. So if you live in a warmer climate, make sure the oil is mostly solid but can still be worked into the dry ingredients)
- ½ cup full-fat yogurt (I used Greek yogurt)
- 1 large carrot (approximately 75 gms), shredded
- 1 onion (about ½ cup), finely chopped
To make the oat flour, grind rolled oats in a food processor until they turn to a fine powder/flour. Combine the oat flour, corn flour, corn starch, garam masala, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Add the coconut oil to the dry ingredients and using your fingers, press it into the flour until it has a crumbly texture, with pea-size bits of flour in it.
In a separate bowl, combine the yogurt, shredded carrot and onion. Add these wet ingredients to the flour mixture and using a spoon, mix well until you are comfortably able to work with the dough i.e roll it out, flatten it etc. Gather the dough into a ball and flatten it into a disc. Using your hands, flatten out the dough until it’s about ½ inch thick. Using the ramekin as a cutter, press the rim onto the surface of the dough and cut right through it. You should be able to cut out 4 circles of dough. Set them aside on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
For the aloo-gobi
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil or ghee
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp black mustard seeds
- 1 tsp Thai green chilies or serrano peppers
- 1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
- 1 tsp ground coriander seed
- ½ cup yellow onion, finely chopped (about a ¼ yellow onion)
- 1 cup tomato, finely chopped (I used a cup of canned petite-diced tomatoes)
- 2 cups cauliflower florets, about ½ inch in size
- 1 cup gold potatoes, medium-dice
- ¾ tsp ground turmeric
- ½ tsp chilli powder
- A big pinch of dry mango powder (optional, but sooo good)
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp water
- Cilantro, to garnish
Place a saucepan on medium heat and add the vegetable oil to it. Heat the oil for about 2 minutes and add the cumin and mustard seeds to it. Once they start to pop add the green chilies, ginger garlic paste and ground coriander to the saucepan and stir constantly for a minute, until the ginger-garlic paste stops smelling raw (one sneeze later, perhaps? I’m half-joking). Add the onions to the saucepan next and stir until the onions soften. Add the tomatoes to the saucepan. If using fresh tomatoes, stir until they turn soft and meld with the mixture. If you’re using canned tomatoes, this process should be shorter as the tomatoes don’t need to be cooked much. If you feel like it’s getting dry too fast, sprinkle a few drops of water on the top. Stir for about 1.5 minutes. This is your basic spice flavour.
Next add the cut potatoes to the saucepan and give it one or 2 big stirs until it’s all mixed in. Cover the saucepan for about 3 minutes to let the potatoes cook. They should only be partially cooked i.e they should taste cooked but still have that bite to them. Add the cauliflower florets next and mix well to combine with the rest of the ingredients in the saucepan. Add the turmeric, salt and 2 tbsp of water, give it all a big stir and cover the saucepan for about 4-5 minutes. Once most of the water has evaporated or been absorbed and the cauliflower is mostly cooked, take the saucepan off the heat.
To assemble and cook the pot pies: Heat the oven to 450 degrees F
Spoon the filling into the ramekin until it’s about 3/4 full. Place the oat-corn flour circles cut out earlier on top of the ramekin. It should fit in snugly into the ramekin, topping the aloo-gobi filling.
Brush the top of the pot pie with melted ghee or coconut oil. Place in the oven for 15-20 minutes until the top is crusty and biscuit-like and the inside is cooked but still slightly tender.
Top with cilantro and serve warm.