Yesterday was Karina's birthday -- happy belated birthday, K!
It's a grey morning. It's been raining, I think -- the wooden rail
outside my window is wet. It'll probably clear up by lunchtime; that's
been the pattern for the last week. Still, I'm glad that I managed to
steal a little time for sailing on Tuesday. There are probably only a few
more weeks of clear sailing weather left. David and I took out a bigger
boat this time, a Hobie Holder. We weren't tripping over each other in
the boat, and we didn't take on any water (though it came close a couple
of times). Mostly we just calmly sailed back and forth on the lake,
close-hauled when we could figure out which direction the wind was coming
from (the wind is very tricky on Lake Merritt, because of the tall
buildings surrounding the lake). Theoretically, you go faster on a run,
but because the wind is at your back, you don't really feel it.
Close-hauled, you're sailing just barely not into the wind (you can't
actually sail into the wind with a sailboat -- just not possible. Your
sails will start shaking back and forth (luffing) and won't catch any
wind), and the breeze against your face is sharp. I want to try sailing
on the Bay at some point, with a salt breeze.
Do you know the John Masefield poem?
I must down to the sea again,
To the lonely sea and sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship
And a star to steer her by.
And the wheel's crack and the wind's song,
And a white sail shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea's face,
And a grey dawn breaking.
I've always loved that poem, even more so since they established in Star
Trek that Kirk also loved it, that he thought of the Enterprise as his
'tall ship'... I often have trouble deciding what I'd do if I had a lot
of money, but I think I'd definitely buy a sailboat. Just a little
I slept badly last night. I wasn't surprised, actually, since I fell
asleep reading in bed with too many clothes on, and I was hot, tossing and
turning in tangled blankets. Bad dreams -- or anxiety dreams at least.
It was exam time at Mills, and even though I'd graduated, I'd mentioned to
someone that people were welcome to stop by my place around teatime for a
break, if they wanted. I'd only expected a few people, but tons showed
up, and more and more started arriving. I started serving them leftover
birthday cake, with juice and milk, 'cause that's all I had in the fridge.
They were all very upset, and I was trying to be helpful, but I didn't
have the answers to their problems. So I gave them more cake, on Ian's
good china. I was just gearing up to set some of them to washing dishes
and others to making cookies when I woke up. El thinks their problems are
actually my problems, that I can't get away from even while asleep. I
distrust explanations of dreams, though.
She couldn't sleep either. I, at least, got four hours of sleep -- she
hadn't slept at all. This was nice for me, in that when I got up at 5 and
staggered to the kitchen, she was there to set the kettle boiling, but not
at all nice for her. I convinced her to take some Benadryl, and hopefully
she'll be asleep soon. It was good to get a chance to talk to her,
though. We had a couple of hours before the rest of the household awoke
(big household right now, since Lydia is staying in the guest room this
month while she looks for housing), and we caught up on each other's
lives. We've both been too busy to talk much lately. Around 6:45 I
started making breakfast, and soon after that, Ian and Lydia had both
woken up, and El ate a little and then went to sleep. We hope.
I made hoppers for breakfast. I've never made them before -- they always
intimidated me a little because they're one of those extremely traditional
Sri Lankan foods that even my mother only made once in a while. The
recipe I used requires some forethought too, as to do it right, you need
to let the batter sit overnight. You can force it by letting it sit in a
warm oven for an hour instead, and that's what I did yesterday, but it
doesn't work as well. The batter than I let sit and used this morning was
I'm trying to think how to explain hoppers. First, you need an odd pan to
make them - a half hemisphere of iron, much more curved than a wok. You
can buy them in Indian grocery stores (or they can tell you where to get
one). If you buy one, you have to remember to dry it right away after you
wash it, and then rub oil on the inside, or it will rust. (El reminded me
of that). Once you have the pan, you rub it with an oily paper towel (or
fry nonstick cooking spray on the inside), and heat it a little. Then you
pour in a half cup of batter, right into the bottom. Then you pick up the
pan and swirl it a bit, so that a thin layer of batter comes halfway up
the sides of the pan, and the rest settles back down at the bottom. For a
plain hopper, you stop there, and put a lid on the pan (any lid that fits
just inside the rim is fine) and cook it for five minutes on low heat. A
very slow process, as you see. To feed four people would take an hour
(two hoppers a person is more than sufficient; they're substantial). It's
good for lazy mornings when you can just relax and chat in between each
hopper's cooking, or do dishes, or putter around the kitchen.
There are variations on the plain hopper (which is traditionally eaten
plain, or with curry). For something more Americans would recognize as
breakfast, you crack an egg into the center right after you swirl. It
settles in and in five minutes has soft-cooked; traditionally, you'd eat
it with the yolks still somewhat liquid. I'm not a big fan of liquid
yolks, but it works with this dish. Kids are often really fond of a sweet
hopper, where you add a quarter cup or so of sweetened coconut milk to the
center after you swirl, and serve with more coconut cream. Not a low-fat
meal, but yummy.
The batter is somewhat complicated, though not actually hard. Add a
packet of yeast to a half cup of warm water and a quarter t. sugar. Wait
ten minutes and see if it bubbles. If it doesn't, your yeast isn't
active. Start over. When you have active yeast, mix together 1.5 c.
flour, 1.5 c. ground rice (you can grind it in a coffee grinder if you
don't have a spice grinder), and 1-2 t. salt (err on the lower side to
start). Take a can of coconut milk (two cups). Pour 1.5 c. into the
flour mixture. Dilute the other half cup with a half cut water and set
the cup of thin coconut milk aside. Stir in yeast, blend very well, and
set aside, covered, ideally overnight (or for an hour in a warm oven with
the heat turned off).
When it's done rising (theoeretically it should double in bulk, but I
wouldn't count on it), stir it again, stirring in half of the thin coconut
milk. It should be a medium thick batter -- thin enough that when you
pour it and swirl, you leave a thin layer on the sides of the pan. It's
pretty easy to get the hang of after the first couple (much like
I don't know how to describe the taste of hoppers. More like injera than
anything else I suppose, but not as sourdough-ish. For a seriously Sri
Lankan feast, serve them with a good hot curry (fish is best), make some
egg, some sweet, serve some idli and masala dosai and sambar, put out some
sharp sambols and sour pickles and sweet hot chutneys, with lassi and
king coconut milk to drink and fresh fruit (mango, papaya, pineapple) on
the side. That breakfast will carry you through to dinner. I'm not even
going to start describing dinner, or I'll get hungry again, and I just ate
two hoppers, so I'm really quite full.