Sunday, May 2, 2021

The Empty Tub and Sri Lankan Dal

Almost a week and a half ago, I got my second vaccination. My husband is now more than two weeks out.

We've been following the CDC guidelines to the letter for the past year, masking everywhere, minimizing our exposure, reducing our grocery shopping. We sent the kids to hybrid school, so there was a risk, but there has been no in-school transmission. The kids haven't played with friends inside at all, and even when they're outside, they mask in close contact--no mater how brief--with everyone. Unfortunately, this has pretty much ruined my daughter's relationships with everyone on the street, who no longer ring our doorbell and ask her to play.

When this all started, my husband and I filled a plastic tub with two weeks' worth of nonperishable food, things that the kids could even cook if need be: pasta, beans, canned vegetables. There was extra toilet paper and tissues, cereal, applesauce and canned fruit. Flour for making bread in the breadmaker. We imagined what would happen if we both became ill, and no one else was able to come help. And for a year, the green plastic tub stayed in the corner of the kitchen, occasionally refreshed with a new box of cereal or bag of flour. Even in the corner, it was like an unspoken threat, more visible than the wills we updated in April.

This week, with a week to go until I was fully vaccinated, knowing that we wouldn't work through any of the groceries over the next week and that they'd still be around, I started to empty the tub, to put things away in cabinets where they'd normally go. The likelihood now of both my husband and me getting sick at the same time was much lower. We could get by on the things we usually keep in the pantry. It was a strange moment, exhiliarating and disorienting at the same time.

I know that we're not out of the woods. We will still mask, we will still be cautious, we know that it's not just about us but about protecting our whole community, especially given the new variants out there and the fact that right down the street in a town not far away the infection rates are still very high because people are living in much closer proximity without the privileges of protection (like the ability to work remotely) that I enjoy. The kids can't be vaccinated yet, and it's not clear when or if that will happen.

But for a moment, looking at the empty corner made me feel like maybe there is a light at the end of what has been a very dark tunnel.

Sri Lankan Dal
This is one of the recipes we discovered this past year; it's a good go-to that uses pantry staples, and is particularly warming and comforting, sort of like the lentil version of rice pudding, especially if you omit the turmeric and hot pepper, 

1 lb. red lentils
4 t. coconut oil
3 cardamom pods, cracked
1 cinnamon stick
3 whole cloves
1 large brown onion, peeled and thinly sliced
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
1/2 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
2 green finger chillies, finely sliced (optional)
4 1/2 c. water
1/3 teaspoon ground turmeric (optional)
7 oz (3/4 c + 2 T.) coconut milk
1 1/2 t. sea salt

Place lentils into a sieve and wash until water runs clear. Place lentils into a large bowl, cover with water and set aside while continuing with the recipe. 

Heat the coconut oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until hot, add the cardamom, cinnamon and cloves. Stir-fry for about a minute, or until fragrant. Add the onions, cook for about 10 minutes stirring frequently, or until onions are soft and golden brown.

Next, add in the garlic, ginger and green chili, stir-fry for about 2 minutes.

Drain the lentils and place into the saucepan. Add the ground turmeric (I sort of like it without ... it tastes a bit more "homey" and sweet) and pour in water. Increase the heat and bring to a boil then turn heat to a simmer. Cook the lentils for about 20 minutes, or until soft. Once cooked pour in the coconut milk and add the sea salt to the lentils, stir and cook for a further 5 minutes. Remove from heat, cover and keep warm.

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  1. Yeah....I put my own tub away a while ago. I had also labeled a container in the linen closet with 'covid supplies' (i.e. extra cough syrup for adults and kids, etc) that should probably be unlabled because it's now just normal stuff to have on hand.

    1. It's weird to me how the pandemic made us prepare in ways that we usually don't, right? It SHOULD all be just stuff we have on hand, but we made a bin for it. Our wills SHOULD be updated, but they weren't. Maybe death became more real for us? Or maybe we realized that we couldn't rely on friends or neighbors or external families in the way we normally might? Hard to know.


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