It has been a little depressing getting into this whole vegan thing, because it feels like my eating world has been made a lot smaller. I mean, LA has a lot of vegan restaurants and everything, but the point of being vegan is to be healthy, not to go out and eat vegan versions of pizza and fried “chicken.”
This is the story of the night the depression finally took a turn, but not for the reason you would think. (Wait for it.)
One good thing about having to venture into this lifestyle choice is that I DO like vegetables, and I like cooking, and I even have the Moosewood Cookbook (a lovely illustrated vegetarian cookbook with a lot of vegan substitutions). Sam gave it to me a few years ago, so he’s clearly a visitor from the future. Or something.
Anyway, one fact about me is that I LOVE eggplant, and another fact about me is that I DON’T LOVE very complicated recipes. One night about a week ago, I knew that I have to cook something nutritional and veggie-ish for myself (I’d had a rather empty lunch), and was floundering and hemming and hawing about what to eat (classic me) until I saw the Moosewood Cookbook’s Eggplant Curry recipe. It’s basically veggies, spices, simmer 30 minutes, et voila.
Sam walked me to the store but was in a bit of a rush to go meet a friend. So he gathered the onion, eggplant, and frozen peas, and I gathered the necessary spices that I didn’t already have (cumin seed, mustard seed, turmeric). Sam left just as I realized I should have asked him to grab the optional cilantro. So I headed to the produce section to rectify this error.
Just my luck, every green leafy thing in the produce section was labeled EXCEPT the cilantro. I made the logical deduction that the unlabeled thing probably WAS the cilantro. I stood there sort of half-heartedly sniffing it and trying to figure out if it smelled like Mexican food. (There’s a lot of cilantro in Mexican food.)
A very tall man in a baseball cap approached the cilantro and we had this (paraphrased) conversation. Note: He was facing away from me the entire time.
Me: Excuse me… is this cilantro?
Man: Yes… but they don’t call it cilantro in Britain, where I’m from.
Me: Oh… that’s confusing. [In my head: I hope he’s sure it’s cilantro, then.] They should…
Man: Choose one name for it.
Me: … Label it.
At that point, the man wandered away, and I bagged some cilantro. But then I got really curious — what DO they call cilantro in England? Of course I didn’t have my phone to look it up (I’d forgotten it at home, which I very rarely do), and I might forget. Luckily, the man wandered back.
Me: Excuse me… so what do you call cilantro in England?
Me: Oh… of course! [I’m not sure if I actually knew that.]
At this moment, the man turned around, and I realized it was Stephen Merchant.
Me: [super flustered] I guess we just have the… uh… Mexican influence. Bye!
I walked away thinking A) I can’t believe Sam missed Stephen Merchant! B) I don’t even have my phone to text him! C) Of COURSE he was a celebrity, he was wearing a HAT! and D) Just generally feeling bad that I’d bothered Stephen Merchant, because I have a don’t-bother-celebrities personal code.
But also I wondered if he thought I’d been flirting with him, because “Hello Ladies.”
Anyway, I walked home and told Sam and his friend about Stephen Merchant (they were jealous), went back to my place and made the curry, using the cilantro that Sam joked had been “blessed by Stephen Merchant.”
I guess it made me realize that there are unexpected silver linings to any situation that puts us out of our comfort zones. If I hadn’t been forced to be vegan, I wouldn’t have dragged my miserable butt to the store, and I wouldn’t have had an accidental conversation with an internationally famous creative mind.
In case you’re wondering, the curry came out just okay. Maybe because the eggplants seemed kinda old/bruised, maybe because I didn’t add enough water at one point and it burned a little. But I ate it for several days, because… a girl’s gotta eat (vegan).
But this is ALL the cilantro I used. (I don’t love it, and I’m not good at mincing leaves.) The rest is still sitting (let’s be real: probably rotting) in the fridge.
I might start calling it coriander from time to time. I’m so worldly now.
Things have turned around since this meal, though. The next few things I made after my first vegan chili and this eggplant curry actually came out pretty good… I’ll share them soon. All I can say is, thank goodness I suddenly love Brussels sprouts, they are my champion.
Until next time…