I was at the most amazing dinner party last night. And I am not normally a “dinner party” kind of person. Fortunately, I knew enough to dress up a little bit. Unfortunately, I had planned to bring a bottle of wine, but forgot.
Children’s book author/illustrator, Jim Aylesworth was in town. So a friend of mine in Cedar Rapids hosted this dinner party. There were three of us from Iowa City, so we rode up together. And there were a couple of other people we knew from Cedar Rapids there. Jeni and her husband cooked the most amazing Indian food I have ever had in my life! We started with an appetizer of pakoras and mint chutney, which I had never had before. Then the entrees included tandoori chicken roasted in butter sauce, bhuna pork kerala-style gosht, shrimp in green masala (jhinga dhania masala), and carrot curry. The side dishes included spiced chickpeas (kabli channa), onion salad (pyaz ka lacca), blood orange salad (malta aur kali mirch). There was also aromatic basmati rice and three different breads: lentil wafers (papadums), Mongolian flat bread and spelt chapattis. And some wonderful (spicy!) condiments: sweet mango chutney, mint chutney, mango pickle, lime pickle and coriander cucumber raita. As though Jeni hadn’t already fed us enough, there was also a plate of fruit and then gulab jamons with whipped cream and pistachio halvah (which had the most unusual texture!) for dessert. And then a plate of chocolate went around the table. What a perfect blend of colors, flavors and textures!
By the way, don’t be impressed that I actually knew and understood all this to the point where I could include the Indian and/or Pakastani names with correct spelling. I copied from the menu, which was also my place setting. I brought it home because I wanted to remember what I ate and see if I could actually find recipes for some of this stuff. I like to cook, and I’m actually not too bad of a cook…but this might be a little out of my league. We’ll have to see. (I feel a little guilty that I had this wonderful meal, while my family had chicken nuggets! And since they are all guys, that could very well be ALL they had. Maybe they got out a bag of chips for a side dish. But I would bet money that no vegetables were consumed.)
The entire evening was just absolutely perfect. It was truly a “grown-up’s evening,” if you will. Jeni has what several of us would call a “grown-up’s house.” Not only is everything very neat, it’s thoughtfully arranged. There are walls of beautiful books…and lots of art (Jeni is an artist). As opposed to my house, which has virtually NO art, unless you count my 16-year-old’s laundry, which is STILL piled on the living room couch, as “art.”
I could have stayed all night (in fact, I almost did — I didn’t get home until 11:00)…the food, the ambiance, the conversation…. One of the other guests is on the Caldecott committee for this year, so it was interesting to hear how that works. We also talked about travel, what we’re all working on, and of course children’s books!
Gee, after my book group on Monday night, and this get-together last night, staying home to watch Lost tonight is going to seem awfully anti-climactic! And it’s Wednesday night, so I can’t even do that unless I get my chapters of I am Anna Winkler done for tomorrow. Tomorrow’s the day I read to the class. I’ve got one chapter almost done, but still have another one to write. I guess I better get started…(but first I need to go walk off some of that amazing food from last night!)