When I was in graduate school, my California friends and acquaintances back home would invariably ask the same question with every return visit: “Remind me where it is you attend school? It’s one of the I states, isn’t it?”
After years of replying “Indiana,” the abbreviated responses remained constant: in summer, “Ooh, Hot!” and in winter, “Ooh, Cold!” The utterances were delivered with the force of profound revelation, and typically joined by smirking condescension, not unlike that of an older sibling informing a younger sibling that there is no Santa Claus.
Little did they know that while “grim” often defined my Midwest winters, it rarely typified my accompanying mood (and that’s coming from a bonafide cold-weather whiner who dons mittens and scarf when the temperature dips below 65).
Here’s why: daily survival on freezing, miserable days cheered me. Residents of idyllic weather states may miss out on shoveling snow and scraping frozen car windows, but they also lose the tiny joys derived from minor mid-winter feats, such as making it through the day without careening headlong into a snowbank or losing the feeling in one’s face.
Now that I once again live in a sunny state (Texas), I’m still (occasionally) nostalgic for those winter victories that brightened many otherwise bleak days: dry socks, sidewalk steam vents, nonskid soles, and making it home, unscathed, to savor central heating, slippers and a warming supper.
But I can still make one of my favorite celebratory suppers from those days past, and today is a good day to do it: our lone state weather-forecasters are predicting a return of old man winter for the next few days (in the low 60s, oh no! Crank up the thermostat and send in the downs!).
The dish in question is chickpea potato masala, a dish that champions home comfort. My streamlined version is not a complete break from the original. According to several Indian friends, everyone who makes it fervently contends theirs is the best and most authentic version, but every recipe is slightly different. Consider this recipe one permutation of many. I make no claims of authenticity, but am passionate about the contribution of this undemanding dish to the small thrills of winter.