Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Most Memorable Meal in India - Chole at the Missionaries of Charity Orphanage in Agra

From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...Tucked behind a gate on Anjmar Road in Agra, is a Missionaries of Charity home. The facility, operated by the order of nuns that Mother Teresa founded, functions as an orphanage and a care facility for the chronic and terminally ill. As I passed through the gate and entered the grounds, I was followed by a young woman who was just completing the first of the ten years required to become a professed member of the community. She was lithe and fair, and her clipped accent indicated she was well-educated and came from a comfortable background. I suspect her task was to see that none of us one wandered into areas where our presence would be intrusive. She, instead, directed us to the right side of the compound and into a room of tiny miracles. Here, in cribs packed back to back, were twenty perfectly formed infants, abandoned, but found before starvation or exposure took their toll. Most of them were sleeping, but here and there you'd find a tiny flirt who'd shyly smile and reach for you. The babies in this room were adoptable and the vagaries of fate would soon take them to homes far from the streets on which they had been found. We passed through a connecting door into another room which told a different tale. Here, the infants and toddlers were dealing with physical or mental limitations that would keep them here until better facilities for their care could be found. Just outside, playing in a courtyard, were healthy children who were too old for adoption. The sisters had assumed responsibility for their education, job training, and, in the case of the girls, the arrangement of suitable marriages when they came of age.

Intent on showing us the others in their care, the young aspirant led us into a shaded courtyard where adult men were having a lunch of Chole and Naan. They were suffering from various mental or physical problems and many were horribly crippled. Off the courtyard was another room for those who were stricken with tuberculosis and AIDS. They were bedridden and obviously very ill. The young woman explained there was no money for the medicine that could effectively treat these men. They were languishing, waiting for a death that would not come quickly. Until it did, the sisters and their volunteers provided as much care and love as they possibly could to ease the final days of these men's existence.

Across the courtyard was a compound for the women that included a small cell-like structure that held some of them under lock and key. They had severe mental problems and the newer arrivals looked malnourished and had open wounds from scratching lice from their scalps and skin. The, soon to be, novice was now walking by my side and I asked how she was able to do this day after day. She smiled, took both my hands in hers and led me back to the children's quarters. There was a quotation hanging on the wall she wanted me to read. I'll share the last few lines of it with you. "I asked Jesus how much He loved me. He answered 'this much.' Then He stretched out His arms and died for me." She asked if I understood. I nodded yes and hugged her.

Today's Recipe

Chole is a North Indian chick pea dish. The base is a tomato gravy to which chick peas are added. Canned chick peas are used in this recipe. Like most Indian curries, spices can be adjusted so the dish is spicy or mild depending on your taste. This recipe will makes a Chole that's on the milder side.

Chole...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite


3 tablespoons vegetable oil or ghee

1 pinch asafetida powder (optional)

1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 medium sized onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 medium sized tomatoes, diced

1 teaspoon tomato paste

2 (15-oz.) cans chick peas, drained

1/4 teaspoon sugar

1 to 2 teaspoons salt, depending on taste

1/4 teaspoon finely minced ginger

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground red chili powder

1/4 teaspoon ground coriander

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin powder

1/4 teaspoon teaspoon garam masala

1 cup water

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