SUE JACKSON Therapist/Writer/Photographer/Activist

Last year, as the unofficial blogger/photographer to the anti-East-West Link campaign, our battles were my blog's entire focus. But by Christmas, with the electoral win for people power and the dumping of the dud Tunnel, I was suddenly at a loss. What to write about now? Not sure yet. But there will be ongoing musings and images from this Australian life. So please leave a message. (No need to sign into an account. Simply comment as ‘anonymous’; then leave your name within the comment itself.)

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Tastes of India

Glorious Glenda (Lindsay) inspiring fellow swappers at yesterday's food swap

The first Saturday is one of my favourite days of the month. That's when I meet up with fellow home-grown food and sustainability enthusiasts to swap food and yarns. Yesterday I realised all over again why I enjoy it so much.
Glenda is a real force of nature. You can see her (above) exhorting us to join her later in the month (Sunday 24 February) for the Fab Feb Food Gardens Foray, where we will cycle from planter box to guerilla garden to shared public plot throughout our neighbourhood. There we'll be greeted by people who have decided not to wait on the slow grinding gears of officialdom, but have taken food security into their own hands by transforming unused public spaces into edible gardens. And there's a lot of it going on across Yarra. 
Glenda is the 'go to' person about all things food, and that's exactly what I did yesterday. Bemused by the unfamiliar luscious green vegetable that appeared on the swap table,  I asked her what it was. Glenda instantly recognised it as amaranth, a great addition to stir fries and a handy, vitamin-packed substitute for spinach. 
Amaranth has a particularly noble history; it was lauded by the Aztecs as 'the food of immortality'. Old history student that I am, I just love cooking food that I know is much the same as that prepared by people in ancient times and far-away places. It's easy to imagine them standing by my shoulder, perhaps nudging me and suggesting I add a pinch of salt. 
Amaranth is still treasured today as a staple in parts of the world as far apart as Greece and India. Not bad for something often dismissed as a weed.

Fellow swapper, Jo, delighted with her amaranth
Jo (above) and I decided we couldn't head home without it. 
I was particularly keen to give it a try after Glenda explained that one of our shared heroes, Vandana Shiva, the renowned Indian environmental activist, is a passionate advocate of the humble amaranth plant. It just so happened that our monthly games night was on at our place last night. And we had already decided on Indian food.
Dashing home, I consulted the internet, where I discovered a recipe for Indian amaranth dahl in coconut milk with star anise and cinnamon. What better complement for our chicken curry centre-piece? 

Delicious amaranth - so redolent of history!
I must confess at this point that the decision to have an 'Indian' Games Night was not entirely motivated by culinary considerations. It's true we are particularly partial to curries, but it wasn't only the food I was show-casing. 
My sister, Jane, who works all around the world, at my request, had kindly bought me a salwar kameez in Kuala Lumpar for my last birthday. I think salwar kameezes, with their skimming tunics and loose-legged, light-weight pants are the most gorgeous, comfy inventions and  ideal for hot climates. But regardless of all these virtues, Anglos like me are often too shy to wear them in public. So I decided that as we were at home and among friends, last night was the night for the launch. 

Stirring the curry in comfort, in my salwar kameez
We had a lot of fun and games as ever with our group. 

(Clock-wise from left) Anne, Jean-Marc, Viv and Bob 
Anne and Jean-Marc had lucked on a new game for the princely sum of $2 in an op shop. It is called Man Bites Dog, and players have to come up with the most creative headlines from the small number of cards they are dealt. It's amazing what you can do with cards like MP, Naked, Linked with ...
I'm delighted to report that the Indian food, and my salwa kameez, received rave reviews.


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