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Thursday, 2 February 2012

To Aimee, Bumbles, Max and Erma, Delaware, Ohio and The Great American Bird

I don’t have any photographs of my friends in the house.

I really should, but I don’t. I don’t know why this is. And this is not the time for conjecture. I’ve actually organized this post (ha!) with very serious and defined thoughts (haha!). So, really, this is not the forum for random musings.

But honestly, I’ve just about mustered up the energy to scatter around some pictures of my kid. And that too, after a lot of nagging from the mother-in-law. “What!” she exclaimed when she visited a few months ago, in distraught flabbergasted emotion (the kind that’s displayed exclusively by mothers-in-law and no other creatures on this Earth. I’m practicing already.)

Anyway: “What!” she exclaimed, “You don’t have a single picture of Ranbir in the house! What! Why! How!” Etc.

She was right of course. She often is. Sigh!  I really should have some pictures of my kid in the house. Most normal people do. Not that I consider myself evenly remotely normal, but you know what I mean. So I decided to get my act together.  And now, I have 5.

But pictures of friends? Haha. Now, that requires a whole new level of gusto...

But, I lie.

I do have a picture of a friend in my house. One picture.

I have a picture of Aimee on her wedding day. I’m there too. She is resplendent in full bridal glory. Her face is beautiful, alight with anticipation. My arm is around her shoulders; hers, across my waist.  We aren’t posing for the camera, I don’t know what we’re looking at. We’re both laughing.

I love this picture.

Now, the reason Aimee’s picture is in my house is because I actually did no work – Aimee very kindly gave it to me as a gift (edited, sized, framed and all).

Just Kidding.

The real reason Aimee’s picture is in my house is because she is more than my friend. Sometimes she’s even more than family.

Aimee is inimitable. Our relationship is inimitable.

And this is why I’ve taken this long to write about her.

Because words somehow aren’t enough.

I am doing so today because of one reason and one reason alone:  It’s because soon, very soon – today, tomorrow, in an hour or a few days, Bumbles will be born! (Babies, by the way, are totally inconsiderate like that. They just decide to show up without warning).  So, although I don’t know when exactly she’ll be here, I know she’ll be here soon!  And I am so happy for Aimee, I want to laugh and cry, all at once.

Which is also why, I wanted this post to be really good. I have no idea if it will be or not, but I will say that it took considerable thought and (argh!) planning. Structuring, order flow, section breakdowns. The toolkits of a serious writer. Ha! You believe me?? Please do! It’s true!

The other (and far less sappy) reason that this post took so long in the making, is that Aimee’s become bloomin’ vegetarian! Wouldja believe it?  And, for the life of me, I couldn’t think of a vegetarian recipe to associate with her.  Because it’s not how I think of her in my head, you know. Because, back when I first met her, she was a ruddy, mid-western, meat-loving cowgirl!

So, after much brain-racking and going back and forth, I arrived at the following considered opinion: Vegetarianism (for all its benefits) can step aside for just this once, because this one’s going to be about the Turkey Burger.

Now, this is not random. Nothing about this post is random. This is actually about as un-random as I’m ever going to get, so soak it in, folks.

I’m writing about the Turkey Burger, because the Turkey Burger is how we first met.

Just stay with me...

I’m taking you back in time now, to a sleepy little town called Delaware, somewhere in middle-America, right in the heart of the cornfields.  It was 2001, our sophomore year at college, and Aimee and I found ourselves together, in a drama class.

Neither of us had theatre on our minds (though in retrospect, it probably would have been far more enjoyable as a career choice than blah-blah-banking.) Anyhow, we were both there to satisfy our “distribution requirements” – this interesting concept, typical of Liberal Arts colleges in the United States, where one is required to take a certain number of classes outside of one’s core subject. There’s a whole wide world of such irrelevance-to-the-core. Such as Drama. Or Creative Writing. Or Spanish. Or Golf, if you so wish. All of which I did, by the way. And only one of which, if you care to know, has any bearing on my life.

So, yes, we both found ourselves by some miraculous feat of destiny in this 6:30pm drama class taught by an Elaine Someone (Denny??). See, I’m rubbish at names, but I’m great at faces. And expressions. Faces and expressions don’t just mildly interest me. They form my world. I read them. And then they become words. And words become memories. Faces and expressions are everything. There is no writing without them. And without food of course. That goes without saying.

Anyhow, Elaine Denny (so sorry if that’s not your last name, but it has a nice ring to it, so that’s what I’ve decided I’m going to call you) had one of the most incredible faces I have ever seen. Expressive, emotive, remarkable.  One that I will never forget. She was a petite woman, but when she walked into a room, she owned it. That was the power of her face.

Aimee and I met here for the first time. In Elaine Denny’s classroom.

I still remember what first drew me to Aimee. Even now, 11 years later, I can pinpoint the exact thing. She had eyes that twinkled.

I liked that.

We hit it off instantly. We talked effortlessly and incessantly. We laughed a lot. I noticed that when Aimee laughed, her eyes laughed with her. And suddenly, whispering to each other between role playing Rosalind and Portia, wasn’t enough.

You can’t fit a friendship like this into an hour.

So we took to going out for dinner after class every week. And we always did the same thing. Aimee would drive us to Max and Erma’s and we would both eat Turkey Burgers and talk for hours. It became “our thing.”

Now, I’ve got to tell you, having grown up in India, I had never had a Turkey Burger in my life. There aren’t any Turkeys in India, you know. Just chickens.  And random cows crossing busy, trafficked roads (which by the way, you're not supposed to eat.) 

So, frankly speaking, at first I was skeptical. I don’t think I ordered a Turkey Burger the first time.  But I think I stared so hard at Aimee’s food that I left her no choice but to offer me a bite. And then of course, there was no turning back. 

I don’t know if you’ve ever been a Max and Erma’s but man, do they know how to make a good Turkey Burger! Succulent, tender, cooked exactly right, seasoned perfectly – it is an absolutely flawless piece of work.  Plus, thanks to Max (or Erma, whoever the creative force is in that little relationship) they did away with the boring old sesame seed burger bun. Instead, the patty was served inside a multi-seeded bagel filled with some sort of cream cheese and pesto and avocado mush. It was flippin-delicious (no pun intended) ;0)

So, we’d eat our Turkey Burgers, Aimee and I, and talk and talk and talk. Until sometimes, they would have to throw us out. You know, when restaurants want you to leave, they first try to blind you by turning on all the lights to maximum brightness. And then they try to deafen you by moving furniture about randomly and clanking dishes etc. Yeah, we wouldn’t take the hint. We’d just sit there obtusely, sipping our pink lemonade, engrossed in conversation. Eventually they would physically throw us out. It’s great fun, if you haven’t tried it, this being thrown out business. I highly recommend it.

So, you see my friends, the Turkey Burger will always have a special place in my heart. Never, ever, do I see a Turkey Burger on a menu and not think of Aimee.

Here’s what you need (makes about 8 servings):
  • 2 pounds ground turkey
  • 3 teaspoons Worcestershire Sauce
  • Handful shredded coriander leaves
  • 1 whole Egg Yolk (optional, to bind)
  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon Olive Oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
Here's how you do it:
Combine the turkey, Worcestershire sauce, Dijon, coriander leaves, salt, pepper and egg yolk (if using) in a large bowl. Knead together with your hands, then form into round, flattened patties.

Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the patties at least 5-7 minutes on each side, until totally done. That’s all! Easy Poosy!

I’m actually not going to go into adorning the burgers in this post. Mostly because I’m terribly hungry and I want to eat what I’ve just cooked. But also because I’ve tried (and failed) to keep this short and I hate anything that is too long. So, some of my suggestions on various bun, relish and topping choices for your burger, follow in (a much shorter) Part II. So, stay tuned.
Although eating these burgers just as is, is really not such a bad thing. Burger aficionados might pooh pooh these little suckers and say they don’t hold a candle to their beefy brethren, but trust me, these are absolutely juicy, delicious and full of flavor – and not to mention, a lot healthier too!

So for now, it’s Turkey Burgers. Pure and Untainted.  
To Bumbles: I hope one day I will get to meet you and tell you how special your mother is to me.
And so this is for you.

Because this is how we were brought together, your mother and me. In Delaware, Ohio. By Max. And by Erma. And by the Great American Bird.

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