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Wednesday nights are MaineMan’s Friday night. This normally means it’s time for beer, a movie, dinner, or some form of small celebration in Culver City. MaineMan works four 11 to 12-hour days before getting Thursday through Saturday off. Not bad. I think I’d work long hours for four days to get three days off per week. Now how can I make this happen?
Nornabelle asked me if I wanted to join her at trivia, but I asked if we could take a rain check since it was the beginning of MaineMan’s weekend. I love me some trivia — I used to play religiously in Monterey during my post-Aspen days — but haven’t played since. It never seemed to be a big thing in New York. Knowing I may be playing in the near future I should probably start studying some old Trivial Pursuit cards.
MaineMan called and asked me what to do for dinner and my usual response was, “I have no idea.” I just discovered Balboa Park
by my office — perfect for running — and after a good 45 minutes in the valley sun (it’s always about 10 degrees hotter on the northern side of the hills where my office is than it is in my apartment) I was ready for some water, a beer and dinner, in that order.
When I got to his cozy apartment MaineMan mentioned Himalayan (yikes?) or Indian. I wasn’t 100 percent thrilled with the options, but after telling a co-worker that day that I needed to be more adventurous with trying ethnic foods I said sure. I hadn’t had Indian in a while and since I know they’re traditionally vegetarian I figured that’d be a good place to start. Though once he described it to me, “Oh it’s a store with a counter and you can eat there or outside,” I thought, re-he-he-he-heally? Hmm…
We put on an extra layer of clothing — I’m learning it gets freezing here at night — and went in search of some good Indian fare.
When we walked in to India Sweets and Spices, I had my doubts. There was a big display of some marzipan-type desserts that looked like fudge. There were signs that read cheese and sugar and I wanted to run the other way. We kept going further back and came to the hot food station and there I found a bevy of different “mixed vegetable” offerings — some with brown sauce, some with yellow sauce, others with green sauce, some packed in fried balls, some fried in a light tempura. I had no idea what anything was.
I noticed a bald man in scrubs sitting at a table downing a plate full of food. He had a big piece of nan bread that almost looked more like a Korean pancake. When I asked him what it was he mumbled something with his mouth full and pointed to the red sign above my head.
“I want that,” I told the man behind the counter, “Aloo paratha.” Who knows if I said it right.
I then proceeded to order a full plate of other items: a rice and two veggie sides. One was with curry and one was with lotus root in a brown sauce. He started ringing me up and when I said, “Oh no, he has to order (pointing at MaineMain), we’re together,” he looked at me cross-eyed.
“This for you two,” he said with some hope in his tone.
“Umm, no, this for me?” I responded with self-doubt.
“Oh wow, too much food,” he said shaking his head. The damage had been done. I asked him for a precautionary to-go box and he handed me one gladly with a smile as he continued to talk to himself about how much food I ordered.
MaineMan laughed and rolled his eyes. I thought the nan thing was just a side, I didn’t realize it came with an entire tray of yogurt and carrots and zucchinis. Whoops. This is the second time in one week where I’ve gone off the deep end ordering food. We had sushi at Kazuyo and I ate myself sushi sick. I didn’t get food poisoning, I just had that feeling I used to get when my family ordered Chinese takeout, “I’m never eating Chinese food again for the next year!”
We sat down at the random cluster of tables outside the store. I dug into my dishes and a few minutes in the potato/nan/veggie/pancake thing arrived at the table. There was some shuffling as to where this third tray and huge plate of food were going and we finally settled on one in front of me and one on the chair next to me. What a mess.
I couldn’t believe how tasty everything was. My goodness. How have I not been eating Indian food more often? My friend in scrubs came out and asked me how everything was. He mentioned he was observing Ramadan and just couldn’t get enough food in his belly that night. I don’t know how anyone does it, and especially being on your feet all day in a hospital! Here this guy was fasting from sun-up to sun down and he had one plate. I’m eating a typical three meals a day plus snacks and I had two plates in front of me. Typical.
The flavors and variety of the dishes at Sweets and Spices amazed me. How does one come up with these intense flavors I am now obsessed with? I would definitely be coming back. The most creative I get with spices is garlic salt and pepper. I have a lot to learn … in trivia and in cooking.