The Key Reporter – Looking for Lorraine: The Radiant and Radical Life of Lorraine Hansberry

The Key Reporter – Looking for Lorraine: The Radiant and Radical Life of Lorraine Hansberry
— Read on

A Single Woman and the Farmer’s market


Indira Ganesan, Bounty from a friend and the market, 2019

The problem is that everything looks so good.  And maybe if I lived in my concept of France, I could be one of those women who chooses one tomato, one cucumber, a small head of lectuce, garlic, one zucchini, and go home to make a lovely and delicious lunch for one.  I would pour a hand-made kombucha, and salute the validity of humanity, life, and food.  Instead I go and reach with my hand to grab several eggplant, add beans, add tomatoes, add kale, add and add until my bag bulges with dinner for four for a week.  And coming home, exhausted, hot and sweaty, cursing the already sky high sun, and eat a cookie, as the vegetables, packed away in the fridge, photographed in their lovely wooden bowl, languish.  Of course, France has nothing to do with it.  It is this self-care I learn again and again to make a meal for one, a meal not to show off culinary prowess borrowed from a score of cookbooks, but simply to feed and fuel myself for the day.

Over the summer, a student taught me to blend chickpeas with kale and broccoli, and make a soup that sits thick on the spoon. I ate some now, and am full.

It is lunch that undoes me, for the easiest thing is to grab two slices aof bread, dill pickle, cheese, a tomato, and call it a meal.I have written about this before, about the deliciousness of cheese sandwiches, cold or grilled. But it all that bread and cheese.   My mother used to make us sandwiches that were really salads in diguise, and sometimes I follow suit. But give me buttered toast, and I am happy.  Give me a sweetened bread and coffee and I am inspired.  Sadly, though I love the beauty of vegetables, I am not in love with them.

How do these words help anyone but me?  Maybe by writing, I can make nutrition happen, care for my body, live better.  Athletics were never interesting to me, but being exhausted is wearisome.  Murakami runs before he writes.  A number of women in New York walk in the park before gathering for coffee, and departing individually to write.  Me, I get in my car and drive, often to buy food or find a place to eat.  The work gets done, but there is so much else to be written, and read.  Here I am embarking on my nineth fall in one apartment, the longest I have ever stayed in one place.  It has taken me years to like where I live, and not miss where I am not.  Of course, the minute one starts to appreciate something, the more one is aware of how quickly it can be taken away.  To practice non-attachment, to place, food, people, to even my work, or the idea of work, that is ,writing books, might take another decade.  I write this to record.  Maybe to read without cringing a year from now.  To make a measure of this lived life.

More Home Truths About Food


In fact, it wasn’t just rice and lentils and vegetables and yogurt on the table growing up.  My mom is an excellent cook.  In the early days of immigration, there were lots of parties, and lots of food.  My mom made snacks and sweets, and specialties from all over South Asia.  Home cooks, my mother and her friends knew how to cook for the family and cook to impress, and traded ingenious ways to coax delicacies using Pillsbury products and Bisquix, in addition to what could be found from a trip to the Indian grocery store, hours away.  This supplemented the foods my grandmother had prepared and paxcked in her suitcase, and later sent through friends.  Savories like dried salted mango, homemade mango pickles, ready to fry pappadum.  

My mom would use a hand held brass press to shape chickpea batter into hot oil where the complicated shapes would bubble up and solidify into preztels.  There were pounds of carrots grated into halvah: that was my job, to grate the carrots.  I helped shape  the dough to transform into sugar soaked badushas and rasagullas, though my shapes were never as good as my mom’s.   Her hands steady, the same fingers that made perfect rounds to fry into sweets also made dresses for me, and my dolls, not to mention the slipcovers and  curtains. She had a BSc in Chemistry and Biology from india,and though her life centered around the house and us, she gave us dreams to leave and circle back.

She is in her eighties now, and doesn’t cook as much as she used to, and why should she, but she did make badushas for my niece to celebrate going to college.  And I made a hot-milk vanilla cake,decorated it with rose petals and lavender, and put it on instagram.  Unlike the beauty of the photo, the cake was less than great.  I had over beaten the batter, and a rubbery streak ran through it when I finally cut into it.

Now I have eggplants sizzling in ot oil, stuffed with amixture of coconut and spice.  Sounds good, right, if you like those ingredients.  The result won’t be instagram perfect. but I’ll let you know how it turned out.  I used Madhur Jaffrey’s recipe from her beautifully illustrated World of East Vegetarian Cooking. 

And this video in Telegu uses a different recipe but fun to watch:

My brinjal came out okay. Like anything, these things take practice. And fall is always energizing.


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