It’s a dreary, rainy October day. I’m in a grief fog. I’ve cried all morning. Up ahead, AB and JVB practically skip, as we make our way to lunch. They’re excited I’ve approved a new spot – an Indian restaurant.
I’m aware how high-maintenance this sounds – that I have veto-power over our lunch selections. I mean, you WANT to be my friend, amiright? So I can tell you where to eat?
But that’s not how it is. It’s an inside joke among us – AB and JVB find it hilarious I’m semi-picky, yet easy going, so they obnoxiously torture me by tasking me with responsibility for deciding where we eat each day. Despite my protests, they refuse to ever decide.
And they’re still bitter that, after two years of faking it, I informed them I actually hate their favorite Chinese buffet. But I reached my breaking point with rubbery chicken and my possible MSG allergy and the resulting gastritis each Wednesday. And, in my defense, at night this Chinese buffet doubles as the “Doghouse Bar & Grill”, which makes me uncomfortable. Still, I’ll never hear the end of it.
Even in my grief fog, I’m excited to try this place. Because, after Matthew died, Mark started cooking a delicious dish – Mark’s Indian Chicken Curry (recipe below), and it’s my new fave.
What I love most is it’s (a) healthy, and (b) unique, at least for me, being only moderately adventurous with my food choices.
Immediately after Matthew died, I avoided foods that reminded me of my pregnancy. Once representing the best of times, strawberries, blueberries, cherries, cinnamon toast, and many other foods resulted in meltdowns. It wasn’t that I wanted to forget my pregnancy, rather it was just too effing sad. While pregnant I ate with such intention – to nourish Matthew. So, after he died, certain foods, to me, signified heartbreak and failure.
Matthew’s death also diminished my interest in food. I contemplated never eating again – just allowing myself to slowly waste away. Though, deep down, I knew I needed to eat, preferably, something healthy. After all, I’d been through pregnancy, a C-section, and emotional trauma.
And, of course, I gained all the pregnancy weight (like 40 pounds). So I didn’t want to stack new weight on top of all that. And, I thought, six months later, I’d thank myself for making healthy choices.
AB and JVB fling open the doors to Mr. Curry’s Indian Restaurant and charge up to something that looks like a podium. Behind the podium is a buffet. It’s about 1:00pm. The restaurant’s empty.
Are we just late? Or does the food suck?
I survey my surroundings. A mysterious white powder covers most the dark green carpet in the dining area. I’m concerned.
“Hi! Three buffets?” The man behind the podium asks.
He’s friendly, but socially awkward. He’s tall, nearly bald – his dark, greasy hair’s in a comb-over. He’s wearing all black – the familiar white powder covers his shirt and pants.
“Yes!” AB and JVB exclaim as they hand him their credit cards.
“Is the food good?” I ask, as he runs their cards through, and I search my purse for mine.
“Ummmmm… You can go try a sample,” he suggests. AB and JVB laugh as they sign their receipts.
“Oh, no, that’s not necessary, but is it good?” I ask again.
“Ummmmm… You can go try a sample,” he suggests. Again.
Shouldn’t he be telling me it’s good? He’s trying to tell me it’s fucking horrible!
I reluctantly hand him my credit card, and he runs it through. I scribble my name on the receipt and catch up to AB and JVB who are loading their plates. The food actually looks pretty good.
We eventually settle in and start eating… And it’s the best freaking food I’ve ever had in my life (or pretty good or something). AB and JVB love it too. Though, I’m still in my grief fog. So as AB and JVB chat, I eat, silently, listening to the traditional Indian instrumental melody playing over the speakers.
“Eeeeeeeeeee,” JVB lets out a high-pitched wail, in sync with the music.
AB laughs. I feign a laugh. AB and JVB start making weird faces along with the music – just when it seems a high pitched sound couldn’t possibly get any higher, it does.
“This song’s my favorite,” JVB says, straight-faced.
I crack a smile, despite my grief fog.
“If something ever happens to me,” AB explains, “You two can come here and know this music is me, here with you. I’ll be talking to you through this music.”
“We could invite others from the office,” JVB suggests.
“Yeah, and we’ll be sobbing into our curry, missing AB. But we can have them play special songs to remember her, and we’ll know her spirit’s with us,” I explain to JVB as she nods in agreement.
“Oh my God! I meant you can come here and think of me if I have a sick day. Not if I’m dead!” AB exclaims, horrified we started planning her funeral in front of her.
“Oh, I’m sorry…” I apologize, trying not to laugh, “You’re just always talking about getting run over by the concrete mixer truck outside. And I guess I’m still in a dark place…”
“True,” AB agrees.
“This music is kind of erotic,” JVB changes the subject.
“Oh yeeee-ah,” answers AB, “Like it’s going to awaken more than just a snake.”
I can’t stifle my laughter any longer. I’m thankful for my work friends, who manage to lighten my load just a bit. We chat about our upcoming weekend plans (it’s Friday) and happenings in the office. We get seconds. And thirds. And chai drinks. And, an hour and a half later, we finish our meals. As we exit, AB waves enthusiastically to the man behind the podium.
“Bye!!!” she shouts, “We LOVED it! We’ll be back!”
On our way back to the office, I assure AB and JVB this is totally on my approved list of restaurants. They’re thrilled.
Because we aggressively patronize our favorite restaurants and possibly have semi-addictive personalities, we return to Mr. Curry’s the following Monday. The same goofy man, still covered in white powder, greets us. He grins from ear to ear.
Except, this time, it’s different. The food sucks. The previously delectable, tender, white meat chicken tastes like it’s been microwaved. The previously smooth sauce is now lumpy, further supporting my suspicion these are leftovers. Everything tastes of heavy garlic. And, later, I feel sick.
Of course, AB and JVB love it still.
So I can’t tell them I hate it – they’ll mercilessly tease me about how I’m so picky, and I limit their choices so much. Thus, I’ll have to stay quiet and hope they forget about this place, or, if we return, I’ll have to pretend I like it. Because I can’t axe another restaurant from our list.
For now, I’m sticking with Mark’s Indian Chicken Curry. I should point out this was originally Mark’s late grandmother Dorothy’s recipe. Dorothy grew up in India, where her father worked as a missionary, so I’m assuming the recipe is at least semi-authentic. Though, I’m no Indian food connoisseur, so I can’t really verify. But I love it regardless!
Mark never cooked this for me in all our years together because he worried I wouldn’t like it (maybe I am picky). But, after Matthew died, Mark’s aunt, Shari, cooked us a batch. And, as soon as I tried it, I was hooked. Mark’s mom was sweet enough to cook it for us a few more times (she stayed with us in the very early days). And, Mark’s been cooking it ever since, tweaking the recipe here and there.
One night, I photographed Mark’s Indian Chicken Curry for my blog, but it didn’t look appetizing at all, so I didn’t include it. Though, I promise it’s fabulous. Really.
This dish has been a life saver for me. And, as I predicted, nearly five months later, I’m thanking myself for making healthy choices – thanking myself for eating things like this. So, if you’re like me, struggling with food for similar reasons, it’s worth a try!
Mark’s (or Dorothy’s) Indian Chicken Curry
Sauté the following until onions are translucent:
- 6 large chicken breasts (cut into 1-2” pieces)
- 1 ½ cups chopped onion
- 1 ½ teaspoons onion powder
- 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
Coat chicken and onions in following and sauté for additional 5-10 minutes:
- 3 teaspoons Bolst’s hot curry powder*
- 1 heaping teaspoon cumin powder
- 1 heaping teaspoon ground coriander
- 1-2 tablespoons turmeric powder
- 1 large package frozen mixed vegetables (Bird’s Eye C&W brand ultimate petite mixed vegetables along with one small package green beans)
- 2 cans diced tomatoes (14.5 ounce size)
- 1 can tomato sauce (14.5 ounce size)
- 1-2 cans water (14.5 ounce size)
- 2 teaspoons Bolst’s hot curry powder*
- 1 teaspoon regular curry powder*
- 1 tablespoon turmeric powder
Mix together. Bring to boil, stirring to mix ingredients. Reduce heat to low and sauté until desired consistency is achieved.
Serve with desired combination of cooked rice, peanuts, unflavored yogurt or cottage cheese, Major Grey’s mango chutney (or any other chutney), bananas, raisins, chopped fresh tomato mixed with chopped onion, and coconut.
*There’s no right or wrong amount of curry powder. Simply adjust to taste.