This weekend we had a retreat for the SI staff. Next week our busy season begins, with teams of students coming down from the US all summer long. So, this was an opportunity to rest and be refreshed.
Our speaker was a pastor from Tennessee named Matthews. He is Indian, born and raised in the southern part of that vast country. How he and his family got to Tennessee is a story in and of itself! (I’m still trying to process all that he taught, and hope to write some blogs about some of it in the near future.)For those of you who know me, you can probably imagine how my ears perked up when I found out Matthews was Indian! We sat near each other for one of our meals, and I just had to talk food with him! I gushed about how much I love dal (a red lentil dish with garlic, ginger, and lots of awesome spices) and my masala dabba (Indian spice container) and the Basmati rice I shipped down when I moved.
On Saturday Matthews waved me over. How about if we cook a meal tomorrow night for whomever of the staff might like to come? Ummm… You bet!! Around 20 people said they wanted to give it a try. That was going to mean a lot of dal and rice!After the retreat ended on Sunday afternoon, I headed into Jarabacoa to find ingredients. Where I lived back in the US, deciding to cook spur-of-the-moment wouldn’t have been a big deal. I had three 24/7 grocery stores less than 2 miles from home, and far more than that just a little further out.
Here, well, it’s a bit different! The vegetable market and most of the stores were closed. Thankfully, one of the bigger ‘supermarkets’ was open, so I could buy ginger, garlic, onions and carrots. The garlic came in a package of 5 bulbs, the only ginger in a package about 4 times what I needed. But, it was there!I wanted to make raita (cucumber or carrots grated into plain yogurt) but there was no sugarless plain yogurt to be found. It was a bit disappointing, but I guess it shows how far I’ve come that I could just shrug and not fret about it! I decided to grate the carrots into a side dish with popped mustard seeds instead.
I walked back home and got to chopping, sautéing and simmering. The grater in my kitchen here is plastic. The carrots were giants. It was like a mini-workout for my arms! The dal got to simmering. I’d never quadrupled the recipe before. 4 cups of red lentils take quite a long time to cook down!I pulled out my lovely Basmati rice, inhaling its signature ‘popcorn’ smell. 20 people in a rice-eating culture meant I’d be cooking a whole lot of it. Sure, we could have just used plain white rice so I could save my precious supply, but, I really wanted to share this special flavor with my friends. I soaked some of my saffron in warm milk to add to it at the end.
I packed the hot pans in towels and boxes and carefully carried them down my stairs, loaded them in my car and slowly drove two streets over to Brian and Sissy’s. Matthews had cooked a huge pot of chicken curry with potatoes, Sissy had made a big salad, Mary Ellen had baked brownies, and Vanessa brought cheesecake. It was a feast!!Everyone seemed to really enjoy the food, which always make me happy. One of the Dominican SI missionaries, Vanessa, thanked me for cooking, and for sharing a bit of my life with them. I thought about it, and she was right. I was sharing a bit of myself, and it felt (and tasted!) good.
I pray that I continue to step out and be vulnerable in sharing more of myself. It was so awesome to have so many of our Dominican staff willing to try completely new and foreign flavors. I pray I’ll continue to have an open mind to tasting and seeing all the good things that God is doing here in the DR!