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March 19, 2007

The Egalitarian Palace of the Peach


Oh, let us step boldly, combining the domestic sweetness of the peach with the exotic whiff of curry powder. Some days are meant for treading lightly and some are meant for shaking the earth. Let us shake, shake, shake away!


We start, as we so often do, with the simple onion. In ways, he is our narrator, faithful and omniscient. He will help us weave the tale of our journey, sizzling and crackling in a cast-iron skillet with olive oil and some pressed garlic. Listen . . . he is telling you a story.


We have been here before. It is the onion telling us, “Once upon a time in a far away land…”


It will continue to talk while we attend to the problem of a raw chicken breast. You may bake it or you may brown it. But, here, we shall poach it. Poaching, of course, is a fancy way to say that you will cook your chicken breast in boiling water like it was a common egg. Put it out of your mind for the time being. Most days, you wouldn’t dream of mistreating your meat. Today is a different kind of day.


Chop some peaches in their packing juices.


It is time to address the question of spices, most notably this curry with which you have been teased. You look at your peaches. They will be sweet, and if you’ve arrived at the conclusion that you will want sour to follow that on, you have made an error.


The sweetness of a peach instead segues well into a hot, not a sour. Sour irritates the peach, which prefers to go about its business good-naturedly. It can handle hot. Hot excites it, makes it feel alive. Not so with sour, which is too negative a sensation.


This understanding will help guide you to your spice mixture. You will want two parts curry, one part cumin and one part ground red pepper. That is, you’ll want that spice mixture if your curry is hot. If it is mild, and you want to experience the peak-to-peak journey that is sweet and hot, you’ll want to consider perhaps a little extra dusting of ground red pepper.


Dump this mixture on your onions, and stir it in. Clumps will appear and perhaps a feeling of panic will set in. You have erred, fatally, and your next meal will come courtesy Mr. Pizza Deliveryman and his soggy, flaccid pies (yikes!).


Calm, my friend, calm. ‘Tis the time to add your peaches … and the peach juice. Stir it together, and it will take on that familiar yellowish hue that tells the casual observer that curry powder has been deployed. The clumps will disappear, and in their place will appear a thick, bubbling liquid. Somewhere, Mr. Pizza Deliveryman will say, “Drats, foiled again.”


While the flavors blend together, your chicken breast should be done poaching. Cut it this way and that, always creating smaller and smaller pieces. We are raised to believe that wherever meat appears, it rules with an iron fist. Here, we have the makings of a true egalitarian society. Your chicken breast is there largely to soak in the flavors of sweet and hot and to transport them to your mouth.


Here, you might think to yourself that perhaps this is the time to depart the meat train altogether and to instead substitute tofu. Many people are frightened by tofu, because they are not capable of wrapping their minds around it. They dismiss it with scorn. Yet, in this case, if you cut your tofu into small enough chunks, there would be little appreciable difference in the final result if you were to substitute it for actual meat.


Again, you may have difficulties wrapping your mind around this. If this is the case, there is nothing wrong with you. It’s just that you are not ready to yet comprehend the meaning of tofu. Perhaps another day, when you are properly prepared.


Mix it all together. Perhaps, now, you’re wondering – am I done? Do you eat it, as is? You go to do just this, but there is something nagging in the back of your mind. There is a certain wet thickness to this that cries out for something over which it can be poured. Your mind strays to your refrigerator, and your leftover rice (barring that, the bag of brown rice in your pantry). And, you realize that the answer to your question was answered long before you thought to ask it.


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