Raising a multi-cultural blended family that is as familiar with its Asian heritage as its German-Polish roots in the heart of West Texas isn't easy.
The farm life, the mainstream Anglo-culture is a constant presence, but the desi relatives and cultural celebrations are often part of visiting my parents in Houston. While my children treat Indian clothes as special, reserved for celebrations, they are more likely to identify with cowboys than the Indians. As a woman of color, I'm just not comfortable with that...I want them to embrace both and more. Yes, I want them to have the world.
So I'm always trying to involve the family in experiences that introduces them to diverse cultures and people, teaches them to appreciate what is unique and different, and also recognize all we have in common. We learned Renaissance dancing and helped put together India Day at our local museum, we've cooked up special dinners to celebrate Eid and the Chinese New Year. But --as a family of readers -- we often explore through books.
One of my latest finds is food writer Ramin Ganeshram's Stir It Up! A wonderful middle-grade novel featuring a spunky, creative 13-year-old heroine Anjalie Krishnan.
I love the determined way Anjalie goes after her dream of becoming a chef and grabs onto the opportunity to compete for a shot at being a Super Chef Kid and get her own television show on the Food Network. Her ambitions clash with the expectations of her immigrant family. Anjalie's father runs a Trinidadian roti shop and throughout the story you see him, Anjalie and her grandmother working in the kitchen and the shop. Cooking is their world, yet he wants more for his children -- a universal want that will resonate with all parents.
Kudos to Ganeshram for skillfully resolving the conflict, making the family recognize that cooking for Anjalie isn't just work but a passion. One of my favorite things about the book is the close relationship between the heroine and her grandmother, Deema. Being a foodie, I also appreciated all the wonderful recipes --both traditional and innovative --sprinkled throughout the story.
Stir It Up!was a fun, fast-paced read that magically transported this reader to Little Trinidad --Richmond Hills in Queens -- in New York City. I could almost smell the spices flying about the kitchens...and it left me hungry for curry...so I made Deema's Easy Curry Chicken.
AND, here's a bit of good news: Scholastic Press, the publisher, kindly offered to giveaway a copy of Stir It Up! So leave a comment with your email or twitter handle for contact. The randomly chosen winner will be announced Tuesday, August 9, 2011.
Deema's Easy Curry Chicken from Stir It Up!
4 boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3 tablespoons chopped onions
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh shado beni or cilatro
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3 Tablespoons Trinidad curry powder
2 tablespoons canola oil
3/4 cup chicken stock
1 medium yukon gold potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup coconut milk
1. Marinate the chicken by mixing the onions, garlic, shado beni/cilantro, cumin and 2 teaspoons of the curry powder. Set aside in refrigerator for at least 20 minutes or overnight.
2. Heat oil in a deep saucepan and add the chicken mixture. Add the remaining curry and mix well. Saute for 2 to 3 minutes.
3. Add chicken stock, potatoes and salt. Simmer for 15 minutes and continue to cook until the sauce thickens, for about 5 minutes more.
4. Add the coconut milk and simmer for 3 minutes more. (Note: I had some peppers from the garden, so a sliced them up and added them at the end for color) Taste to adjust seasonings. Serve with rice or rotis.
Makes 4 servings.