Tonight I had my next door neighbor over for dinner. At the last minute, I remembered that she is allergic to gluten, so I couldn’t serve the Coq au Vin I made yesterday (I had dredged the chicken in flour before cooking). Instead, I found a cauliflower and couple of potatoes in my fridge and cooked up a pan of Aloo Gobi. Aloo Gobi has turmeric in it. Enough to make the entire dish bright yellow:
Then I needed a protein to go with it, so I scrambled some eggs. Meanwhile I poured us each a glass of orange juice. Suddenly I realized we were having an entirely yellow meal. Well, there are worse things in life. What mattered is that I was sharing a meal and building a friendship.
But it got me thinking about yellows. When anyone asks me “What’s your favorite color?” my answer has come to be “Ugly yellow.”
Ugly yellows are those weird shades of yellow that don’t look so great on their own, but they make all the other colors around them glow. Chartreuse. Baby-poop brown (or in my family, s—-brindle brown). Mustard. Look at a Kaffe Fassett fabric; clearly he loves ugly yellows as much as I do.
Several years ago someone in swap group sent me a fat quarter of baby-poop brown. A truly horrible choice, I thought. Then one day I needed a fabric to go into a navy blue and cream quilt. Baby-poop brown turned out to be perfect:
When I was making my first quilt to be published (American Quilter, 2007?), my friend Nancy, who works at City Quilter in NYC, insisted I try a weird chartreuse that reminded me of a 1940’s brass bamboo bar cart. I argued, but she finally convinced me to buy a 1/4 yard and play with it. Needless to say, I went back and bought a lot more:
One day I realized that even my bedroom walls are ugly yellow. The fun thing is, depending on the day or the hour or the season, I’m never sure what color my room is — green? yellow? khaki? It’s always a surprise.
What if we all lived our lives like ugly yellows? Let’s face it, we all have our quirks and our off days, but what if we approached our relationships with the notion that our presence would make everything around us better and brighter? And the gift back to ourselves is that in the process we become better and brighter as well.
Think about it next time you browse the yellows at your favorite quilt shop. Buy a few ugly yellows for your stash, then go out and be an ugly yellow to the world.
Aloo Gobi (Indian Cauliflower and Potatoes)
(from Madhur Jaffrey’s Feast from the East)
Here’s what the cookbook has to say about it:
“This North Indian dish, supplemented with stuffed Parathas and Sour Lime Pickle, is put into small brass “tiffin-carriers” and taken as lunch by thousands of school children and office workers. Rolled in the same parathas, it may be taken on picnics or log car journeys.”
It does require an initial investment in spices, but once you have them you’ll make this dish again and again. (Be careful, turmeric stains!)
2 pounds cauliflower (1 medium head)
2 medium-sized boiling potatoes (about 3/4 pound)
6 Tablespoons vegetable oil
Measure into a small bowl or cup:
1/4 teaspoon whole fenugreek seeds
1 teaspoon whole fennel seeds
1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
1 or 2 whole dried hot red peppers
Measure into a second small bowl or cup:
3/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground coriander seeds
1 to 1-1/4 teaspoons salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon garam masala (this is an Indian spice blend)
Discard leaves and coarse stem of cauliflower. Break head into 2-inch-long flowerettes, then cut each flowerette lengthwise into very slim pieces, with heads never wider than 1/2 inch. Soak in cold water for half an hour.
Peel the potatoes. Cut them into dice, about 1/2″ x 1/2″ x 1/3″. Soak in a bowl of cold water for half an hour.
Drain cauliflower and potatoes and dry them in a dish towel. Heat oil in a large 12″- to 14″ skillet over high heat. When the oil begins to smoke, scatter in the contents of the first cup (the whole seeds). Stir once and quickly add the cauliflower and potatoes. Stir again and turn the heat to medium. Sprinkle the contents of the second cup (the ground spices) over the vegetables and saute them for 8-10 minutes Add 1/4 cup water and cover immediately. Turn heat to very low and steam vegetables gently for 7-10 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Sprinkle the garam masala over the vegetables, stir once and serve. Serves 6. (Six as a side dish, but 3 for a meal. And I have been known to eat the whole panful myself over the course of a single day. Yeah, it’s that good.)
P.P.S. There are lists of names of colors. Here are a couple for yellow: