My blogging name is Waterchili because I am a Bengali (much buffeted by American and other cultures since childhood) living in a cold North Atlantic state. Yes, I know chili peppers don’t grow underwater. Maybe I was thinking about the frozen green chilis I use in my cooking, and the contradictory richness that life in Northern New England brings to me. It’s not really that I am a frozen Bengali gazing at life through a wall of ice, though you’re welcome to contemplate that fetching image; rather, I have green chilis from my mother’s southern garden in my freezer and they do gaze out at the world through a (thin) wall of ice.
I go on a long commute daily, using country and urban-village roads and glove compartment baby carrots and swuft water-bottle notwithstanding, I often find myself hankering desperately for something to eat or drink. Given my doctor’s counter-dysglycemic guidelines and my own earthy preferences, none of my legitimate wishes can be fulfilled in my actual roadside landscape, so I decided to fantasize about an ideal journey, studded with impossible snacks. (The one time I stopped for an actual apple dumpling, an elderly man in loose pants got out of his talking pickup truck–imagine a robotic female voice warning from the dash, “Proximity to body of water, proximity to body of water,” and the driver proudly claiming “she” even warned him of fire hydrants, other vehicles and such–to stop me. When the old man caught sight of me eating in the parking lot under the pleasant autumn sun, trying to catch the crumbs before they hit the ground, he declared helpfully, “Them things aren’t good for you.” Third chomp into my whole [as in hog]-baked-apple-and flaky-pastry perversion, standing two narrow asphalt lanes across from the orchard itself still full of fat and dark red apples on the hoof, I mean branch, I readily answered, “I won’t do it again, I promise.”)
What I really want is someone who sells raw sprouted chick peas with a squeeze of lime juice, served in a recyclable paper cone, at that bend in the road. On wet afternoons, I’d love to stop for a bowl of hot sambar with soft cubes of vegetables floating in it—the dosa or idli one would expect with this would be off limits. I’d cheerfully aver “I’m all set” before the server could hand me anything starchy. What about a stall for gingery spiced milk, to assuage the parched throat of an easily taxed driver? And is it only I who think opportunities for roasted peanut vendors are going begging at the street corner that intervenes between the high school and the fire station? And does no one else want little fried fish with hot sauce? The variety store (in Maine this seems to mean a convenience store that also sells sandwiches and pizza) could serve batter-fried okra, but doesn’t. At least the lady was nice about breaking my $20 when I bought my kid a bag of chips.