Kitchen Chronicles is a weekly series by Barbara Sibbald — novelist, award-winning journalist, and long-time contributor to Ottawa Magazine. Visit Kitchen Chronicles every Sunday for a new instalment — and a tested recipe.
— It’s so sweet to have you all to myself, says Fee.
— It’s been ages, agrees Anne. I was tempted to go to the game with the guys — it’s not every day you get to hang out in a box.
— It was really kind of you to invite Luc and Gavin. They were thrilled.
— Georges idea. He does have his generous moments. And I’m glad I didn’t go. Night in with my gal pal is just what I need.
— I know what you mean, says Fee. I love my new job but the social whirl is a bit much. At the end of the day I don’t know these people and they don’t know me either.
— And I spend all day listening to people’s problems, says Anne. No one goes to their doctor because they’re feeling great!
— Yeah, and then there are certain things, you just don’t talk about with your husband, says Fee.
— And that’s as it should be. It’s like that old saw about not putting all your eggs in one basket.
— Speaking of food, I’ve made channa* and bought some sag paneer. I’m too lazy to make that!
— Hey I couldn’t even manage the one dish. You’re a whiz with the Indian.
Fiona grins and bows slightly.
— That’s quite the compliment from the master chef! So what have you been up to, Anne?
— Mostly work and trying to pull things back together with Georges. We’re sleeping together again. Not having sex exactly, but sleeping at least. I figured if I didn’t at least let him back in our bed we’d have no hope, but maybe it’s too soon. He doesn’t seem to be interested in me sexually.
Fee seems to recall Luc told her that Anne and Georges were having sex again. So Georges is still lying, she thinks. This time to protect his ego.
— Guilt’s not exactly an aphrodisiac, says Fee.
— True enough. It’s quite a switch though. When he was having it away with wonder girl he couldn’t get enough of me.
— These sure are hard times, says Anne. I mean, I’m sure we’ll make it through, with talking and counselling…
— You have someone good?
— Yeah, we both like her and I’m starting to see small changes in Georges. He’s more considerate, for starters. Like this invitation tonight. Hey, that reminds me, did Neil find a good psychiatrist in Halifax?
— I think so. I met her when I went down east and she seemed great. She pulled strings to get Neil into that new half-way sort of home, which is excellent.
— And he’s liking that?
— Yeah. We Skype every day and he seems good. Well, better anyway. He says the meds are starting to kick.
— You’re a good sister.
— It’s weird, but I can’t help but feel some responsibility for Georges’s affair.
— Are you kidding me? says Fiona. You’re like the perfect wife: helpful, understanding, loving. You didn’t do anything wrong. In fact you did everything right. Georges messed up.
— I don’t know. Georges hasn’t had an easy life.
— That’s true, says Fiona
— Maybe he needed more than I was giving him. More love. More understanding…
— Anne, you can only do so much. Yes, Georges had a messed up childhood, but he has to deal with that, not you.
— Yeah. I’m trying to be as supportive as I can be. Cutting him some slack.
— That’s what we’re trying to do for Neil too. But for different reasons, although our upbringing wasn’t perfect either what with Dad bolting and all.
— That’s likely a factor, says Anne, but with him, it’s probably mostly the cyclothymia. If that’s what it is.
— His doctor thinks so. Sort of a mild bipolar. I certainly hope so. I mean I hope that’s the correct diagnosis, not that I hope he has anything!
— Diagnosing can be hit and miss.
— At least Neil’s got the meds now.
— There are some amazing ones, the trick’s finding the right one. And the right dosage. It’s tricky sometimes. I know he has a physician and all, but if you ever want to talk about it, I can try to help. I seem to do a lot of mental health work as a family doc so I keep up. And it seems the family is often left out. They need support too.
— Thanks so much, Anne. You’re such a kind friend.
Not like me, she thinks as she gets up to stir the channa, remembering how she’d kept Georges infidelity a secret.
— That smells delicious, says Anne.
Serves 3 as a main; 6 as a side. Doubles easily.
1 16 ounce can chickpeas (drain and save liquid)
3 tablespoons salad oil
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 bay leaf
1 inch cinnamon stick
4 black cardamom pods
1 teaspoon ginger, peeled and finely minced
1 teaspoon garlic, peeled and finely minced
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon chilli powder
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
3 tomatoes, chopped (use canned in off-season)
1 jalapeno, cut in half (remove seeds with a teaspoon and discard))
Salt to taste
fresh coriander, washed and minced
- Heat ghee or oil. Saute onion, bay leaf, cinnamon and cardamoms for 1-2 minutes.
- Add ginger and garlic; sauté 1 minute.
- Sprinkle with coriander, chili and turmeric, mix well and sauté 30 seconds
- Add tomatoes, jalapeno and chickpeas. Mix well and add 1 cup chickpea liquid.
- Cover, simmer gently 20-25 minutes minimum (longer the better)
- Before serving, add salt and chopped coriander.
- Serve with plain yogurt, basmati rice or naan.