My family has gravitated to Indian food for the last few years. We keep kosher, and eat mostly vegetarian — my wife and daughter are vegetarians full-time, and it’s just a lot easier if we all eat that way. Since many Indian religions are vegetarian, it’s always easy to find great food we can eat in an Indian restaurant or website.

Further: I’m usually the family cook. Part of my job in life is to please my wife, and I have to tell you, this is a great wife-pleaser! Some people also claim the spices are aphrodisiac. I wouldn’t know about that, but life is definitely better when your spouse is pleased with your cooking.


Indian Spice Palette

A lot of what makes Indian cooking special is the spice palette. The spices are definitely different from what we are used to, a lot hotter. For some dishes, you can just use curry powder, which is really a combination of several spices. But it’s more fun to play with individual spices such as turmeric, cumin, coriander, ginger, cardamon, garam marsala (also a combination), paprika, cinnamon, and others. For centuries, people built their lives (and a lot of them died) around efforts to get to India and the Indies to get those spices. You can just get them at the grocery store.

Gurinder Chadha (that's a person)
makes Aloo Gobi (that's a food)

Gurinder Chadha

What really started us on this Indian kick was seeing a movie a few years ago, Gurinder Chadha’s Bend It Like Beckham. The protagonist (Parminder Nagra) is a rebellious young woman from a Sikh family who wants only to be a great football (soccer) star. This appalls her family, who fear they will never be able to find a husband for a girl who “can’t even make aloo gobi.” (The American equivalent might be “can’t even fry a burger” — though aloo gobi, made of cauliflower, potatoes, onions and spices, is a wee bit harder than a burger.)

On the DVD disk, there’s a “special” where you get to see the director making aloo gobi under the watchful and critical eyes of her mother and auntie. There’s an amazing spice scene: Chadha has a palette (yes, literally a trayful of open cups of beautifully-colored spices) and just takes a little from here and a little from there — no tedious searching and unscrewing jars like we do. But the elders are not so pleased. “What do you mean, you’re not going to hand-grate the tomato?” asks the auntie. “Auntie, I’ve got a life, things to do, movies to make; I can use tinned tomatoes,” answers an exasperated Gurinder Chadha.


When dinosaurs ruled the earth, I might have bought cookbooks. But today, like a lot of people, I just look on the web. Advantage: if I know what I want, I can find it almost instantly. Disadvantage: less of the browsing you do in a cookbook, less surprises.