Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Great (Kreuz)kümmel Kitchen Caper

I was really looking forward to making my friend Kate’s recipe for Indian dal. After all this surrendering to German meat and potatoes, I was craving a home-cooked vegetarian dinner. So I went looking for the red lentils and spices and vegetables that I needed at Edeka, the giant shiny supermarket that has everything here. I needed cumin seed, so I looked up the German word for it on my itranslate app. It’s kreuzkümmel, which I couldn’t find in the acre or so of spices available. But I did see kümmel, and I figured, what the heck, it’s probably roughly the same thing.

Well. After cooking those lentils and sautéing onions, garlic, tomatoes and fresh ginger, and starting to combine everything, I realized that I needed to add the spices. I dumped in a couple teaspoons of what I thought was cumin seed, per the recipe, and started stirring. And then I thought, that doesn’t look like cumin seed. I smelled it—it didn’t smell like cumin seed either. It smelled like something I don’t like but I couldn’t put my finger on it. I went back to itranslate—ugh! Caraway seed! And even though another name for caraway seed is Persian cumin, it tastes and smells nothing like cumin to me, and I’ve never liked it.

Maybe it’ll taste ok, I thought. My dal looked beautiful, and Willem and I tried some over basmati rice. He was a good sport and ate most of it, in the way that teenage boys generally do when hot food is put in front of them, but didn’t ask for seconds. And me—like I said, I’ve got an aversion to caraway seed—in fact I’m gagging just thinking about it. So I tried picking around the little things without much success, and then dumped the rest of my plate on the compost pile.

Details, details. And I've just GOT to learn some German.

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