Braggart of Blarney

When our relationship was nice and fresh, JJ and I went out one night with some friends to an Irish pub. There was a traditional Irish band playing lilting violins. In the dark his hand reached for mine and when his friends went to get drinks he leaned over for little kisses. Then he went and said something that struck me. He said, “How can someone feel so at home in a culture that is not theirs?” He was speaking about his love of Irish culture, of James Joyce. In his imagination he fancied that maybe somewhere in that Brahmin linage there was buried a Celtic bard. I didn’t have an answer for him, but I have always felt that way about India. I know I don’t quite fit, but there is something alluring, charming, and comfortably strange about it.

I asked myself often why I felt so comfortable with someone born years and worlds away. So different on the outside. The only answer I have come up with is that there is a piece of every person that seems, in some sense, eternal. On the inside he and I are very much the same.

We walk in two worlds. One where everything is connected, united, unspoken. The other where we like to define what is different, or unique, what separates us from others – Irish or Indian. Young or old. When we deny those rare and beautiful moments of soulful identity, when we allow them to be run over by the  expectations, need for control, the struggles for independence or absorption, the harsh “thou shalts” of the waking world, we lose something valuable. We lose love.

I am quite certain in the dark, hot night that vibrated with violin strings and smelled like beer there was a moment for us both of recognition. There were others too, but we would not let ourselves be mingled. JJ most of all.

Digging through my cupboard tonight I found a lot of stuff. Potatoes, lentils, green beans, pie crust. I decided to let that ubiquitous spirit world into my kitchen, where all things are united and good and right when they are cradled between pie crust and mashed potatoes. When it was all hot and done, no flavor, no ingredients had lost it’s self. They all stood, instead, independently mingled in delicious conjunction.

Shepard Girl’s Pie

  • 1 cup chana dahl
  • 1 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 1 sweet potato
  • 3 medium carrots
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup small french green beans
  • 4-5 medium red potatoes
  • Pie crust
  • Sharp cheese
  • 1/2 cup peanuts
  • garlic paste
  • lassie
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • butter
  • salt and pepper

Cook the Chana dahl, seasoned with the Garam Masala and a bit of salt in a pressure cooker. I would suggest reading about cooking with a pressure cooker if you have no experience. My success this time was jut due to sheer luck. All I can say is 1 cup Chana dahl and two cups of water. In another pan saute the sweet potatoes until semi-soft, add carrots…

Aren't they beautiful?

and let it cook a little longer. Add onions, green beans, peanuts, garlic and cinnamon in that order, stiring it up and letting it cook for about 1 min in between.

Turn of heat, cover and let it sit until the rest is ready.

In a separate pot boil the potatoes until very soft. Drain. Add 1 tsp butter 1/8 cup lassie, 1/8 cup grated cheese, garlic paste, salt and pepper to taste. Mash it all together and try not to eat it all before you assemble the rest of the pie.

In a greased pan, spread out the pie crust. Mix the dahl and the veggies together and fill crust. Splash with a bit of lassie and cover with the mashed potato mix. Grate cheese on top to flavor…

A most amazing everyday cheese.

and bake the whole damn thing at 350 degrees until the crust is set.


A human being is a part of the whole, called by us Universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest–a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness.  — Albert Einstein

Of all forms of caution, caution in love is perhaps the most fatal to true happiness. — Bertrand Russell

Lo, improving ages wait ye! In the orchard of the bones. Some time very presently now when yon clouds are dissipated after their forty years shower, the odds are, we shall all be hookeand happy, communionistically, among the fieldnights eliceam, élite of the elect, in the land of lost of time. – James Joyce


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