Saturday, October 9, 2010

chickpea soul train

Actually, those three words have very little to do with one another, but it caught your attention, didn't it?

Let's handle the most obvious first - chickpeas.  Dinner tonight was Curried Chickpeas on Chutney Bulgur from Vegan Express.

I left out the chutney because Mister and I felt a little...adverse to it the first (and last) time I made this.  Instead, I steamed the bulgur in vegetable broth spiked with powdered ginger and a scant handful of cilantro, adding just a small pat of Earth Balance and pinch of sea salt.  It doesn't make much, so I served it with whole wheat flat bread standing in for naan and a bowl of thasos olives.

Since that was the last item on last week's menu, let me share the new one I composed last night.  All recipes are from Vegan Express because I fully anticipate this week will be at least as exhausting and busy as last week, if not more.

1. Tomato Chickpea Soup with Tiny Pasta and Fresh Herbs - it took every ounce of self-control not to put this on last week's menu, but I'm trying really hard to ease Mister into soup weather with just one soup dinner per week right now.  I also intend to make more grilled cheeses and try not to burn them while attempting to make the Rice Vegan gooey.

2. Thai Steamed Green Garden with Coconut-Peanut Sauce - I discovered the last time I made this that I just really don't care for steamed vegetables, so this time I'm going to lightly saute my veggies in a little peanut oil with just a drop of toasted sesame oil.

3. Gingery Rice with Sweet Potatoes Carrots and Peas - apparently, my goal is to see if I can change at least one major component of every meal I've chosen for this week's menu.  It's kind of like coached improv.

4. Pasta with Beans and Chard - it has been ages since I made this last and that's a shame.  It is sinfully simple and too tasty for the little effort it takes to make.  Continuing the theme stated above, since Mister hates raisins, I'll be substituting dried cranberries (which I always do when I make this but I couldn't let it go unsaid).

5. Big Quesadillas with Refried Beans, Spinach Arugula, and Avocado - at least with this one the ingredients list actually gave me the choice between spinach and arugula.  It seems a little wrong to call something a quesadilla when it has no cheese, not even fake cheese, but I can't think of anything better to call it beside Folded-Over-Tortilla-Thing, and I guess neither could Nava.

Now, let's shift gears.  I had a couple of surreal experiences the past couple of days on the train.  For one, I would like to point out that children, and people with children, are like cats.  Have you ever noticed how a cat will walk into a room full of people (assuming he's not a 'fraidy-cat like Angst) and instantly know who is allergic or who hates cats?  Have you ever noticed that the cat will then lavish all of his/her attention (and fur) on that person?

People with children are like that on the train.  They will spot the person who doesn't like kids the minute they get on the train and use their Obnoxiousness-Radar to locate the cluster of seats nearest that person that will hold them and their 500 children.  On my way to work today, that is exactly what happened - Mom, Dad, and their four offspring parked themselves directly across the aisle from me and the little boy and little girl on the aisle seats spent the entire time they were on the train staring at me.  At one point, I winked at the girl and that freaked her out enough to look straight ahead for a while.

That is the train I ride to work every day - the SEPTA R5.  Not exactly space-age technology, eh?  One night this past week, I walked right smack into my childhood on that train and it smelled awful.  When I was a child, my parents used to take my sister and I into Philadelphia around Christmastime so we could go to Wanamakers (five points if you remember the monorail - it's in a museum now which kind of horrifies me) and see the light show.  I still do that every December with my dad.  Anyway, I remember that the seats had backs that could flip so the people sitting in them could always face the direction in which the train was moving (good for motion-sickness-inclined little girls).  I had forgotten all about them until I got onto the train some night last week and sat in the oldest car in SEPTA's current line-up and saw those blasts from my past.  Smelled them, too.  I don't think they've been cleaned since I was a child.

Speaking of old, see how well SEPTA maintains their trains?  That is the R5 on fire about a year ago during the city SEPTA "workers" annual strike.  My father was on that train and because he's such a charmer, he sent that picture to my work email to let me know he was okay.  Thanks, Dad, you really know how to ease a girl's mind.

Anyway, tonight, on my way home from teaching my three favorite students (pretty fortunate, considering I have only three students), I had this kind of otherworldly experience.  I just happened to be in the front car and I looked through the window of the "cockpit" at the right moment to see the city skyline come into view.  It was so beautiful and I wondered if the conductor was so used to seeing it that he missed how amazing it looks at twilight.  Amy Lee's ethereal voice was pumping through the earbuds from my iPod as I looked out over the city as we approached 30th Street Station.  I was absolutely caught up in the feeling that I was looking out at a different time.  All I could see were street lamps and cars, but not close enough to identify them from any specific era.  Having passed through some ancient and/or stark stations in the last three weeks I've been commuting this way, I was struck my how post-apocalyptic/steampunk these adventures could appear and I allowed myself to spend the last few minutes of my ride in a fantasy of old-timeyness.

How awesome is that?  I mean, there is just absolutely nothing modern about that, but you know that once upon a time that building held the hopes and dreams of this city's residents.  There was surely a time that those magnificent doors were the Great New Thing and beyond them was the stuff that fiction was made from.  I love that they've never changed it - Suburban Station looked like that when it opened just a little more than 80 years ago and still looks like that today.

Through all of these great adventures, from relieving me of the stress of driving to restoring my ability to see my home through a tourist's eyes again, enhancing and developing my love of my city, there is one thing shining through:  It appears I have somehow inherited my father's great love for trains.


  1. I can relate to your expirience watching the city come in, and i assure you its not lost on the train crew. I actually took a ride in the cab of one of the oldest cars on the return trip from West Trenton all the way back to 30th street. The sun was setting by that time, and it was an amazing feel. Sticking your head out the window like an old style engineer is an amazing thing, and its something worth the opportunity if you get it. It almost feels like flying.

    As far as fantasizing of old-timeyness, most of that old stuff is on it's way out now. The old 1963 Budd Company cars bought by the Pennsylvania RR and the Reading Company, called "silverliner IIs" are all going away. they are almost 48 years old at this point! the "next" oldest Silverliner IIIs from 1968 are also on their way out.

    I don't think SEPTA ever has anything Space Age. a good chunk of SEPTA's equipment was old to start out with, and they just bought 1968 "Comet I" coaches for New Jersey Transit to add more seats!

  2. wow - thanks for sharing your experiences, Chris! You certainly know your trains. I am always amazed by how the city looks at twilight, whether approaching by train or walking through the streets just as the streetlamps flicker to life.