Back To The Oven

Yesterday I went back to my favorite restaurant to have my favorite dish for the first time in months. The restaurant is Indian Oven, located over on East Main Street on the outskirts of downtown Columbus, and the dish is lamb korma, at medium-plus on the spice scale.

No words can adequately capture what it is like to have your favorite meal after a prolonged withdrawal period. Let’s just say it’s almost a religious experience, and the lamb korma was every bit as good as I remembered. I took my time in eating, carefully mixed the meat, sauce, and rice as shown below, and savored every delicious bite.

If you haven’t had your favorite dish at your favorite restaurant in a while, I encourage you to do so, whether through in-person dining, as I did for lunch yesterday, or through carry out if you are more comfortable with that. Restaurants have been hit hard and need our support. Who wants to get to the end of this cursed pandemic only to find out that a favorite restaurant that helped to define the contours of your enjoyable “normal” life has closed forever?

Deliberate Eating

Recently I’ve come under withering criticism about my eating habits.  It’s not that I’ve got elbows on the table, or that I’m chewing things with my mouth open, or that I’m violating other basic rules of dining etiquette that you learned from your Mom when you were about five years old.  Nor is it that my choice of cuisine is decidedly weighted toward the meat end of the spectrum, with a pronounced disdain for vegetable matter.

348sNo, this complaint is more about the eating process.  That is, when food is put down in front of you, how do you go about consuming it?

Consider the most recent instance where this issue arose.  Kish and I were having brunch at the German Village Coffee Shop, and I ordered two of the plate-sized whoppers that you get when you order pancakes at the GVCS.  I like my pancakes with butter and a liberal amount of syrup, like any other rational human being.  So, my eating process is straightforward.  First, while the pancakes are still piping hot, I slather on butter, making sure to spread the butter both on top of the stack and in the area between the two pancakes, in order to ensure an even array of moist butteriness.  Second, I carefully cut the pancakes into bite-sized pieces, so that the fluffy interior of the pancake is exposed, the better to soak up the forthcoming syrup cascade.  Then, and only then, do I apply the syrup — taking care to add enough syrup to flavor each bite, but not flood the plate — and begin eating.

This seems like the only proper way to consume good pancakes while achieving the squishy butter/syrup/pancake combo that any pancake lover strives for.  But by the time I have completed my preparations and begin eating, Kish has finished her food and is checking her watch, tapping her fingers on the countertop, and looking at me with a friendly, bemused, yet mildly impatient expression.

lsOr take Indian food.  At Indian Oven, which is the only place to get lamb korma in Columbus, Ohio, you are served a dish of well-prepared, steaming basmati rice and a separate dish of the lamb korma itself.  How, then, to proceed?  The only reasonable course is to dump the entire portion of rice onto your place, spoon the lamb korma on top of the rice, and then carefully mix the two, so as to ensure that every grain of rice is adequately coated with the spicy korma sauce.  Admittedly, this takes some time and attention to detail — but who wants to eat plain basmati rice, or end up with extra korma sauce in the dish that you have to eat with a spoon because you don’t have any remaining elements of the rice delivery system available to you?  And yet, the Jersey Girl finds this well-conceived, entirely rational approach to consuming lamb korma hilarious and, in all likelihood, evidence of some deep-seated psychological issue.

What can I say?  I guess I’m a deliberate eater.  Say, have I ever explained the right way to apply mustard to a hot dog?

The Right Way To Eat Indian Food

IMG_2392I freely concede that I am very much a creature of habit.  Some might contend that this is because I am borderline obsessive-compulsive.  I think, instead, that through my years of life experience I have learned that there are just right ways to do some things.  Once you figured out the right way, why in the world would you want to take a different approach?

Consider the proper approach to consumption of Indian food.  When I make a trip to Indian Oven for lunch, I invariably order lamb korma, medium plus on the spice scale.  Why not?  It’s delicious, has the right level of spice to give a flavorful kick to my day, and the portion size is perfect, with just enough food to satisfy my midday hunger without leaving me feeling bloated or leaden during the afternoon.

But there’s a right way to eat this perfect dish, too.  At Indian Oven, the dish of lamb korma is accompanied by a dish of freshly made Basmati rice.  Obviously, the rice is to be consumed in conjunction with the lamb korma — but how?  I suppose you could spoon out partial portions of each and gradually work your way through the servings, but that approach risks misalignment of rice and topping, potentially leaving the diner with either naked rice or leftover korma.  That would be like working through a plate of nachos at a bar and arriving at the end to find that, once again, there is an imbalance of chips and toppings, leaving you in a frustrating chip-less state even though there are still beans, salsa, shredded beef, and rapidly congealing cheese to be consumed.

In the Indian food context, the best way to avoid this unseemly predicament is to promptly combine the rice dish and the lamb korma on your plate, and then carefully mix the two together, so that each grain of rice is well coated with the korma sauce.  You also want to eyeball the meat and egg and potentially divide a few of the larger chunks, with the ultimate goal of enjoying a piece of meat and egg along with the rice on every forkful of curry-laden goodness.  So what if this almost scientific mixing and apportionment process takes a while as your fellow lunch companions gobble down their food?  Life is a journey, not a sprint.

So, what a casual observer (like, say, the Jersey Girl) might mistakenly perceive as almost a form of superstitious ritual is instead a carefully considered, time-tested way of maximizing enjoyment of a favorite dish.  There’s nothing weird about it.  An obsessive compulsive would do something outlandish, like count the grains of rice before mixing them with the korma.

You know, that’s actually not a bad idea.