We are going on with The Twenty-Seventh City! To refresh your memory, this is Jonathan Franzen’s novel about what happens when the city of St. Louis hires a young Indian woman, Jammu, as Chief of Police. She may or may not be the one behind the weird attacks occurring in the city and Martin Probst may or may not be her strongest opponent. Or is he an accessory? Such is the fodder for a lengthy but engaging tale. I really couldn’t pick which character’s side I was on, hence my decision to cook some food in tribute to their respective hometowns. Last week was Team Martin and some stellar toasted ravioli in honor of St. Louis. This week we are on Team Jammu.
I stretched this book over a couple of weeks because there was too much I wanted to say about it for one week of posting… and I really wanted to make some Indian food. Plus, this book is 500+ pages long. Sure, that’s not War and Peace long, but your Cook of Books wants to give you time to catch up with our ‘lil virtual book club going here. I mean, you may still be rereading Bossypants. I am. Oh, and by the way, I have read good ol’ W&P, and it is worth the hype. Granted, the war parts get a bit boring. I’m sorry if saying that makes me sound stupid but seriously, ask anyone who has read War and Peace and they will tell you that it’s great except for the war parts getting a bit tedious. If I covered it in The Book Cook column, we’d be going Russian for months. I would have to resort to just recommending vodka brands… which I could do if you like. Huh, maybe I should dust off my Tolstoy. Borscht-time here we come!
But let us stay in India this week. There were reasons I wanted to like Jammu. She is a young woman who knows how to effect change and take charge. Kind of like a young female Indian Hilary Clinton but with a streak of Satan. Surprisingly, it does not upset me that she sometimes turns to sexuality to exert power. Sure, she takes young women under her wing so she can use their nubile and willing bodies to manipulate men. But she also has a male minion doing the same thing. It is more her other tactics of control that are troubling: bugging people’s homes, kidnapping, arson and violence. The usual.
Also perplexing is the way in which she is trying to “help” St. Louis. Is she really helping bring more financial stability and public safety into the city? It seems like perhaps she is just trying to gentrify. Problem is, the way in which she does this causes a reverse white flight from the county they (the white folks) had flown into. The reverse flight is the result of her driving a more diverse city population out.
So maybe I should not root for her at all. But…she is so smart and strategizes like nobody’s business. She clearly didn’t need to read Bossypants. And the white upper class folks she is manipulating are so, well, wrong, not to mention racist.
So this week we are rooting for Team Jammu. She doesn’t eat a lot, as she is a stress case who can barely sneak a bite of donut in between her police chief/satanic duties. Therefore, I decided to pay homage to her we would look to her homeland and cook up something tasty in honor of India.
I found an intriguing recipe for Keema Aloo in one of my most favoritest, awesome-est timeless-est cookbooks: The Joy of Cooking. Keema Aloo is a “mince with potatoes”, the mince being meat. We’re replacing the meat with chickpeas. Because Jammu is one hot chick.
Indian Beans and Taters adapted from The Joy of Cooking
- 1 heaping Tbsp. olive oil, ghee or clarified butter
- 1/2 cup chopped onion
- 1 tsp. chopped peeled ginger
- 1 tsp. minced garlic
- 2 tsp. ground cumin
- 1 tsp. ground coriander
- 1 tsp. ground turmeric
- 1/4 tsp. round red pepper or to taste-1/4 tsp. is pretty spicy
- 1 cup cooked garbanzo beans
- 1/2 cup salsa (whatever hotness you like, or just use canned diced tomatoes and add some chopped green chilies)
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 8 oz. potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch cubes (if you hate skin take it off, but I like skin)
- 3/4 cup H2O
- pickled jalapeño
Heat olive oil (or ghee or clarified butter) over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until golden. Add ginger, garlic, cumin, coriander, turmeric and red pepper. Stir in and sauté a minute or so. Stir in the beans, salsa and salt. Cook until some of the liquid evaporates. Stir in the potatoes and water. Reduce heat and cover. Simmer until the potatoes are soft, about 15 minutes. Uncover and turn heat back up. Cook off some of the liquid to your liking. If you like it soupy, leave more liquid, but if you prefer it thicker, cook it off. The power is yours. Use it wisely.