Fragrant, labor-intensive Indian dishes are whipped up as effortlessly as peanut butter and jelly sandwiches by several characters in Jhumpa Lahiri's Pulitzer Prize-winning collection of short stories, Interpreter of Maladies.
Our favorite, however, comes in the first story, "A Temporary Matter." A husband and wife have settled into a pattern of indifference and civility after losing a child, but a meal of lamb rogan josh, eaten by candlelight when the electricity goes out, offers them a small opportunity for reflection and tenderness.
An excerpt below.
"You made rogan josh," Shoba observed, looking through the glass lid at the bright paprika stew. Shukumar took out a piece of lamb, pinching it quickly between his fingers so as not to scald himself. He prodded a larger piece with a serving spoon to make sure the meat slipped easily from the bone. "It's ready," he announced.
The microwave had just beeped when the lights went out, and the music disappeared.
"Perfect timing," Shoba said.
"All I could find were birthday candles." He lit up the ivy, keeping the rest of the candles and a book of matches by his plate.
"It doesn't matter," she said, running a finger along the stem of her wineglass. "It looks lovely."
The scene made us want to spend some time on a pot of Spicy Lamb Curry. It also reminded us that a quiet dinner — no music, no television, possibly even no lights — always sparks good conversation.
(Book image credit: Houghton Mifflin; Curry: Faith Hopler for The Kitchn.)