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Spicy Lentils

"It's the end of the workday, and the traffic's very bad, so getting to the store takes way longer than it should, and when you finally get there the supermarket is very crowded, because of course it's the time of day when all the other people with jobs also try to squeeze in some grocery shopping, and the store's hideously, fluorescently lit, and infused with soul-killing Muzak or corporate pop, and it's pretty much the last place you want to be, but you can't just get in and quickly out: You have to wander all over the huge, overlit store's crowded aisles to find the stuff you want, and you have to maneuver your junky cart through all these other tired, hurried people with carts, and of course there are also the glacially slow old people and the spacey people and the ADHD kids who all block the aisle and you have to grit your teeth and try to be polite as you ask them to let you by, and eventually, finally, you get all your supper supplies, except now it turns out there aren't enough checkout lanes open even though it's the end-of-the-day-rush, so the checkout line is incredibly long, which is stupid and infuriating, but you can't take your fury out on the frantic lady working the register." --David Foster Wallace

As Wallace says later in the piece, it is fundamentally about choice.

I just go home on the train, walk a mile and a half up the hill and buy some stuff from the local corner shop. Slightly more expensive but less annoying. I live in an area with a lot of people from Pakistan originally (and their grown up children and grand children). The local shops have rice, lentils, spices and fresh yogurt and vegetables, and they stay open late. There are also bakers or naan shops where you can buy freshly cooked naans and chapatis.

Ismail Merchant published Indian Vegetarian Cooking, a small cook book for Sainsbury's years ago. I've adapted one of the simple recipes from this book.


Serves 3 or 4 depending on how hungry you are. There is usually some left over.

For a fried topping


A pot of this, some rice, fresh coriander and a couple of naan breads from the local baker make a fast and filling meal. No queues. No shopping trolleys. No existential angst.

Keith Burnett, Last update: Sun Apr 14 2013