For Christmas, my beau gave me an Indian cooking class, for two of course.  So, it doesn’t exactly constitute a second trip to India, but it was the closest you can get without jet-lag.    I had been looking forward to this ‘trip’ for two months (and even suffered rescheduling because of a city-stopping blizzard).  Little did I know that this would turn out to be one of my all-time favorite gifts ever.

We arrived early on a Monday evening, walking around a gorgeous, residential neighborhood.  The four hour cooking lesson was in Ranjana’s beautiful home, which made the experience all the more curious and special.  Her husband greeted us at the door and took our coats.  Ranjana was not quite ready for us, since we were early, so her husband entertained us in their front parlor while we waited for the other couples.

Finally, our group of three random couples from throughout Chicago was assembled, and coincidentally, a friend of my coworker was there, but the two of us had never met.  We washed our hands and put on matching aprons.  Already, the smells and colors of the food and seasonings took my mind back to my visit to India nearly one year previous.

We took turns mispronouncing the spices, some familiar like cumin and others foreign as asafetida, which smells just like a skunk.  She took us step by step through nine dishes, careful to explain the golden trio of spicy, salty and bitter flavors, essential to each Indian specialty.  We rolled individual samosas and waited as they boiled to a perfect golden crisp in the hot oil.

The food was amazing, but it was just as inspirational to spend time with Ranjana and other young couples, all pursuing their goals.  At the end of the evening, we were ready to devour the feast we had created, gingerly drizzling chutney over samosas, daal and other treats.  It wasn’t just about learning traditional vegetarian Indian dishes, but also sharing the meal with other curious minds.

Wish me luck as I attempt my own samosas and chutney this weekend!  I promise to update you on how they turn out.