by Laura V. Anderson
Some days, dinner does not go as planned. I’ve been working some late nights lately, and I wanted to throw together a fast, easy dinner that didn’t require a trip to the grocery store. Since I already had red lentils and spices in my pantry, dal was the obvious solution. I also had a bag of red potatoes lying around, so I decided to add a few to my lentil stew for heft.
Tired, hungry, and harried, I peeled and chopped fresh ginger and garlic, and I cubed my potatoes. I transferred these to a soup pot as I rustled around for the other ingredients I needed. My kitchen is small—the two square feet or so of counter space it offers are perennially taken up by a dish rack and an electric kettle. There wasn’t really enough room for the soup pot on the counter, but I managed to balance it pretty well on the edge—or so I thought. Five seconds later, as I reached into my cabinet for coriander seeds, I heard a bang and looked over to see cubes of potato and flecks of garlic and ginger bouncing across my studio apartment.
One of the downsides of living alone is that you have no one else to blame when you find your parquet covered with potatoes. So I did what anyone would have done under the circumstances: I took a few deep breaths, closed my eyes and briefly fantasized about Chinese takeout and a stiff drink, then walked over to the closet, found my broom, and began sweeping.
This story has a happy ending: I swallowed my frustration and started the dal anew—slower and more carefully this time. The last of my fresh ginger was now mixed with dust bunnies in the garbage, so I used ground ginger instead (not ideal, but better than nothing), along with coriander seeds (I was too lazy to crush them, though they would have benefited from it), cardamom, cloves, black pepper, a cinnamon stick, and an ancho chile. Once the lentils were bubbling and dissolving, the potatoes softening, and the spices aromatizing my apartment, I could almost see the humor in the situation. Once I ate my first bowl, I was actually smiling.