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Friday, 22 April 2011

Dave, Beans and Baby

June 2010. Wembley Arena. 1500 people, awestruck at the sheer brilliance of the man performing in front of them. Dave Matthews, a living legend, a true performer in every sense of the word. He has the voice, the music, the lyrics, and the personality. A truly insane amount of personality. We are in the standing area, upfront. So close that I can see his brows furrowing in concentration as he connects with his audience. The air is charged, the energy is electrifying. I am 5 months pregnant, but I am dancing with the best of them. Who can resist that voice?

The tickets were bought before we knew I was pregnant. Actually, the tickets were bought before we were even thinking of trying to become pregnant. Because Dave Matthews belongs in that enviable category of people, who to get lucky enough to see, you have to compete furiously in cyberspace against an unknown number of competitors in a time-warp. And win. It’s usually all over in a matter of seconds.

Anyway, we are the lucky ones, not only with tickets, but with tickets so close that I can see his brow furrowing in concentration. And I am loving it, every mindnumbingly phenomenal moment of it.  

Two hours in, as I ponder upon both the extreme genius and the extreme lewdness of his lyrics, and I wonder what goes on in that brain of his, I realise there's only one thing going on in mine.

I am absolutely, flaming ravenous.

I look at Sid. "Can we...like get something to eat?"
He looks surprised. "Didn’t we just have the burgers?"
And he's right, of course.  Just as we'd staked out our prime viewing spots, we had indeed consumed one HUGE burger each. Cheese and all. True, very true.
I sigh. And bite my lower lip. "Umm...that was a while ago, no?" I say hopefully.  And then I add quickly – "It's this baby you know. All it's fault...always hungry. I mean, what can I do?"
"Ok, ok," he says, "Don’t make those sad eyes – let’s go and find you some food!"
I squeeze his hand gratefully. "You're the best, you know?"
He squeezes my hand back. "I know," it means.

We step out. I don't want burgers again. Not in the hot-dog mood. Not fish & chips. Not ice-cream.
I look at Sid again. "I want something...different."
"Like what?" he asks
"Like...Rajma." (Indian red bean stew)
"Like what??"
"Like Rajma," I repeat with infinite patience.
"Honey, we're in Wembley arena..."
I make ‘those sad eyes'. "I know, I know" I say, "I'll settle for something else"

I sigh again. This is really the crux of the pregnancy problem, isn’t it? You want food all the time, but you don’t want just any food. You want that one thing.  

I’m just about ready to compromise (big time) for a side of mushy peas from the fish & chip guy when I spot him! Way in the corner, the very last stall of all, but with a promisingly long line emerging from his counter, its none other than the Chilli guy!
My heart jumps gaily. There. I tell Sid, triumphantly - Rajma!!!
I choose a vegetarian three-bean chilli.

Nothing could taste better. It’s not Rajma, but it’s right up there with it. A hot bowl of delicious wonderfulness. Perfectly seasoned, so I can taste the tartness of the tomatoes and the sharpness of the capsicum and the garlickyness of the garlic and the coolness of the sour cream. There is nothing like getting what you want, when you want it. I am in heaven.

My baby inside me - the one who is always hungry, the one whose fault it is - agrees. He has started kicking furiously. I feel the growing roundness of my belly, his little kicks against my hand. And I am filled with so much love for this body, inside my body. So much love that I didn’t think my heart was big enough to hold.

We go back inside, Sid and I, hand in hand. Dave Matthews is still singing and my baby is still dancing. I wonder if he is listening to the words:

"It's crazy, I'm thinking, just knowing that the world is round
And here I am, dancing on the ground
Am I right-side up, or upside-down
And is this real or am I dreaming?"

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Please try it:

- 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 green capsicum
- 1 onion
- 3-4 cloves raw garlic
- 2 tomatoes
- 1 can tomato puree
- 1 can Red Kidney Beans (rinsed and drained)
- 1 can Pinto Beans (rinsed and drained)
- 1 can Black Beans (The Spanish frijole negro!) (rinsed and drained)
- 2 tsp chilli powder
- 1 tsp ground cumin powder
- 3 cloves
- 1 bay leaf
- Salt, to taste

Garnish (optional)
-  1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
- 1 tbsp sour cream
- 2 scallions, finely chopped

Heat the oil in a large pot. Chop the onion finely and add to the oil. Cook until the onion is soft. Add the cloves and bay leaf. Mince the garlic, and chop the tomatoes and capsicum and add to the pot. Next, stir in all the beans, tomato puree, chilli powder, and cumin. By now, you should be able to smell the flavourful, earthy, aromatic tastes all cooking together. Add salt to taste. Simmer for at least 30 minutes before serving, stirring occasionally so that all the flavours are properly mingled. I like leave it to simmer at least an hour before serving. When you are ready, ladle generous servings into a bowl and top with scallions, shredded cheese and sour cream.

Even as I try a spoonful of what I have just cooked, I am transported back to that evening in June. Try hard enough, and I can still taste that chilli. It wasn’t fancy, served from a tin shack in a paper bowl, but I tell you, nothing could taste better. The cheese melts in the heat of the bowl, the beans melt in my mouth, and my jumping heart melts somewhere inside me.  

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