Saturday, January 17, 2009
Bill Maher, the intrepid comedian, once said that the reason he loves his dog so much is because when he gets home, his dog is the only one that greets him like he's the Beatles. As anyone that loves and has a dog knows, he's not joking.
Every evening, when I get home, I have a huge welcoming party waiting for me. Tails wag furiously, in fact so furiously that I wonder how they don't fall off! Opie kisses my face a hundred times, his whole body wagging. Lucy plants a quick kiss on my face and then runs in and out between my legs as if she were a train, rubbing against my knees and rolling over on her back for a tummy rub. Old Freddie, almost blind, a little overwhelmed by all the action and in fear of being unintentionally knocked over by the huge Lucy, stands a foot behind anyway and barks for attention, eager to tell me he's happy too.
Even the cats roll down the stairs and sit at a slight distance, a little disdainful of all this unbridled doggy excitement, but waiting for a chance to wind themselves around my ankles
The whole show is repeated, blow by blow, when Desi gets home. He usually gets in after me, and the moment the excitement over my return has died down, the dogs sit at the front door, waiting for Desi. Opie, who seems to have an implicit belief that I control when daddy gets home, will scratch my leg with his paw and make huge, appealing eyes at me, imploring me to make him come home immediately.
Animals react with such straightforward emotion to almost any situation. But they are not quite simple creatures. There is a lot I have learned from my animals just by being around them every day.
Lucy, for instance, has taught me the importance of trust, and loyalty to those you love. She is fiercely protective about her family. Sure, as the alpha among the dogs, she will bully Opie and Freddie relentlessly around the house. But she will not let any other dog do that. Once, as we were hiking on a trail, Opie crossed a fairly deep trench filled with water, jumping over it in excitement as he chased a squirrel. The excitement over, he wanted to come back and join us, but this time he wasn't sure how to get back across the trench. Suddenly, a bigger dog appeared from one of the homes backing to the trail, and stood threateningly and territorially in front of Opie who is as peace-loving as they come and never, ever gets into a fight.
Lucy, who had wandered ahead of us, ran back, and planted herself right in between Opie and the other dog, who suddenly didn't look so big. The other dog retreated, and Lucy helped Opie return to the rest of the family by navigating him through a shallower part of the trench.
From Opie, I've learned the importance of enjoying the world, just as it is. He has an indescribable enthusiasm for just about anything, and to him each walk or each ride or each treat is something to be enjoyed with all his heart. He will greet other dogs he meets on walks with a happy playfulness, and he will chase every squirrel he ever sees with gusto even when he has never managed to get close to one, and never will because he's just too slow.
From Freddie, I've learned to stay young at heart. At 16, which is only 80 in dog years, he's the most spry old man I've ever seen. Sure, he has bad days, but he bounces right back up and gets back to life as usual. And he never, ever complains.
From Pie, my black cat, I've learned the lesson of persistence. Once Pie sets her mind to something, it's hard to get her off it, and usually she gets her way. If she's hungry, she'll lobby you relentlessly for food or a treat. If she wants her catnip, she won't leave you alone until she gets it. And with those huge eyes and beautiful face, she knows she is hard to refuse.
From Pubm, my calico cat, I've learned the most important lesson of all: to not let fear control me (although, I'll admit, there are still times when I have to work on it).
When Pubm -- along with Pie -- was new to our home, she was obviously not used to dogs and fearful of them, which wasn't helped by the fact that both Opie and Lucy love chasing small and furry things and were unbearably excited to have two new ones right in the house. Pubm endured a lot of chasing in her early days, and was initially very timid, hiding away for hours after an encounter with Opie or Lucy. But she decided, after a while, that she wouldn't let them keep her from going around and exploring the house as she wanted to do. So she began to fight back, with a few bats of her paw and a well-timed meow. It was remarkable to watch her, because at 12 pounds, she is less than one-seventh of Lucy's weight. Soon, the dogs got used to her and started leaving her alone. Now, you can often find her sharing a couch with Opie or Lucy, and sometimes even stealing their treats right under their nose. They, in turn, treat her just like one of them.
Okay, now that I've waxed on about my kids, let me turn to my recipe for the day, one of my favorites and a fairly easy one to make.
I got the base recipe for this out of World Vegetarian, although I made quite a few changes, and also replaced the cream with a paste of pistachio nuts, which made it much healthier.
This Green Curry with Peas and Shiitake Mushrooms is deliciously smooth and velvety, and it goes beautifully with some rotis or parathas. The spices in it are fairly mild, so it would be a great one to try if you're sensitive to spicy food.
Here's the recipe. Enjoy, everyone!
Green Curry with Peas and Shiitake Mushrooms
2 cups shiitake mushrooms, cleaned and stemmed and cut into strips (you can use white or even criminis)
3 cups green peas
1 tbsp grated ginger
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup coriander leaves
2 green chillies
2/3 cup pistachio nuts, soaked for a few minutes in warm water, then ground to a paste.
1 tbsp canola oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
Salt to taste
Place the green chillies, ginger, garlic and coriander leaves in a blender and puree with just enough water to make a smooth paste.
Remove the paste to a bowl.
Place a cup of the green peas in the blender and using enough water, blend into a puree.
Heat the oil in a saucepan. Add the cumin seeds and, when they sputter, add the mushrooms.
Stir the mushrooms in the oil for a minute. Then remove them and set aside.
To the saucepan, add the green-chilli-ginger-garlic paste and saute for two or three minutes.
Add the mushrooms back to the pan along with the 2 cups of green peas, the green-pea puree, and some salt. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and add the pistachio paste.
Add enough water for a slightly loose but not watery consistency.
Let the curry simmer on low heat about five minutes.
Season with salt to taste.
Serve hot with rotis or chapatis or any flatbread.