Friday, August 7, 2020

Athena's Breastplate, and Cauliflower and Potato Masala

My daughter has already started making her Halloween costume.

I'm actually pretty happy about this, on the one hand, because she's been bored out of her little skull these past few weeks, quarantining at home all summer with little to no regular contact with other humans her size (besides a week here and there of half-day-masked-and-socially-distanced-dance-camp with two other girls in attendance). And there's a pumpkin growing in our garden, so it seems weirdly apropos. Maybe we'll carve it up and celebrate early.

Because on the other hand, who even knows if there will be Halloween this year? Things are changing at the speed of light, and schools that were opening are now not opening, and wandering around a crowded street during a pandemic taking candy from neighbors and SO MUCH TOUCHING of things other people have touched ... well, that seems ... unwise.

I hate to disappoint my daughter by telling her this. She's had so much disappointment these past few months, which she has handled mostly with grace, but also by sheltering in a little closer, by asking me to lie there next to her in bed while she goes to sleep, by patting me gently on the arm as she walks by, knowing that I'm stressed, too, asking me when it will all be over.

And there's something about this particular choice of costume that I don't want to discourage. My daughter has been deep into Greek mythology this summer, and has learned more about it than I ever knew, for sure. She loves the whole pantheon, is enthralled by the stories (which she can retell in exquisite detail), and has chosen Athena as her alter ego: the goddess of war, strategy, wisdom, crafting. It's not a bad choice for someone who is as active and creative and stubborn and determined as she is.

She's going to need a breastplate and sword for the fall.

And so might we all, right? I've been drinking Emergen-C and turmeric tea with ginger and taking Vitamin D like my life depends on it, because I worry that it very well might (anyone else in the room start experiencing all coughs and aches with a sense of panic? Yeah, me, too). I am deeply anxious about our kids going back to school, even though I know that they really want to be there and that our district has such carefully crafted plans to avoid and contain an outbreak. I worry about what will happen to families that can't afford to juggle the hybrid model or be remote when the time inevitably comes to do that, if their school district isn't already doing it in September. I worry about the families who are enduring ongoing trauma as a result of this situation. And in my darkest hours, I worry about the very real possibility of loss, which is always there, haunting you, which never really goes away after you've lost a child, no matter what they say about kids not getting as sick as adults do.

I am so very blessed to have the breastplates that I do have: a house, a job that will continue to pay and allow me to work remotely, caring colleagues who are friends, friends who are not colleagues. But we are not, like the Greek gods, immortal.

What are your breastplates? How are you taking care of yourself?

Cauliflower and Potato Masala
because we might as well eat turmeric and ginger, just in case.

1 c. potato, peeled and cubed
1 c. cauliflower, blanched
1 T. oil
1/2 t. mustard seeds
1/2 t. cumin seeds
1 t. chana dal
1 t. urad dal
1 pinch asafoetida (optional)
1 t. ginger (grated or paste)
1 cup onions, thinly sliced
1 sprig curry leaves
2 green chilies, chopped or sliced
1/4 t. turmeric
1/2 to 3/4 t. salt (adjust to taste)
2 T. cilantro, finely chopped

Steam cauliflower and potatoes until not quite cooked. Heat oil in a pan and add the mustard seed, cumin seed, and dals. When the dal turns golden, add asafeotida. 

Add the grated ginger and saute until fragrant. Add onions, chiles, and curry leaves, and saute until the onions are slightly golden.

Add the potatoes and cauliflower along with the turmeric and salt. Add 2 T. water, and saute well for about 2 minutes. Add cilantro and serve, in a dosa, with naan, with dal, with rice, or just as a side!

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