—  Ken and Vesta  —

Wedding and Portrait Photography

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I first experienced Indian food shortly after I turned seventeen. I’d been invited to the junior prom by a new boy in school. Dashingly good looking, but shy. By new, I mean that he’d transferred from someplace in New York at the beginning of my junior year. He ran track and played baseball, but he hardly talked to anybody, so I was shocked when he asked me. Actually, I didn’t think anybody was going to ask me as I had been eating a little too much of Grandma’s rich Spanish food and was slightly overweight at the time. (I’ve had a few periods in my life since then when the pounds just sort of built up and I had to work like heck to get them off again).

Paul couldn’t dance, but somehow he’d gotten a fifth of gin and we sipped it with Coke. I decided I didn’t like it, but it opened him up and he turned out to be an interesting person. During our conversation he told me how his father had spent his life in the foreign service, working mostly at American Embassies abroad. It seems they transfer their people around every couple of years and Paul had lived in all kinds of exotic places as he grew up.

He told me India was his favorite and that he loved Indian food. He had such a look of longing in his eyes when he said it.

“So where are we going after the prom?” I asked.

“A lot of guys are taking their dates to Sam’s Seafood for steak and lobster. I have reservations.”

I was already getting what I thought were enough stares. I just knew people were asking themselves how the dumpy girl got such a hot date.

“We don’t have to go there,” I said. “An Indian place would be okay, if you know of one.”

“Let’s go,” he said and we left halfway through the prom. Let them talk, I thought, I just wanted to get out of there.

I know, we’d been drinking and had no business out in a car. It was stupid, but we were kids and fortunately we hadn’t had very much. Well, we did spike our Cokes a little bit in this small Indian restaurant, but we didn’t get drunk and he took me straight home after we had this exquisite dish called tandoori chicken.

Captain Katie’s Tandoori Chicken

4 skinless chicken breasts

1 fresh 1/2 inch piece

1/2 cup plain yogurt

salt to taste

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon garam masala ***

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander seeds

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin seeds

1 dash lemon juice

Wash the skinned chicken breasts and pat dry with a paper towel. Make deep cuts on the surface with a knife.

Mince or grate ginger and garlic. Transfer to a small bowl and add the yogurt and the spices. Mix well, then rub the paste into the chicken and let marinate for several hours in the refrigerator.

Cook the chicken on a grill or in a broiler, basting with leftover marinade and turning to ensure even cooking.

Serve with a dash of lemon juice, but leave out the gin and coke, yuck.

Comments: This is an easy dish to do in your galley. Dub and I have had it twice since we’ve started cruising. Try it, I think you’ll like it.

* * * There are as many variations of the combinations of cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin and nutmeg used to make up Garam masala as there are Indian chefs. Sometimes pepper is used to make a hot variation. Garam masala is readily available in Asian food stores. I bought a good jar in that great supermarket in downtown Philipsburg, but I usually make my own, using a blend of 1 nutmeg, 1 1/2 teaspoon green cardamom pods, 4 one inch cinnamon sticks, 1 tablespoon whole cloves, 1 teaspoon peppercorns and 1 teaspoon cumin seeds all ground together.

Summer followed the prom. I did lots of sailing, hiking, biking and jogging, way before jogging was cool. I was a stunner when school started again, but Paul was gone, to where, I don’t know. I never saw him again. I missed him, he made me feel good when I was dumpy and frumpy and he taught me about Indian food and in turn I taught my husband years later, and then his mother.

My mother-in-law, Una Faye, didn’t take to it right away. They are meat and potatoes and Mexican food eaters in Krum, Texas. But she acquired a certain fondness for my Tandoori chicken, but she had to Texify it. “Just a few changes, dear,” she told me. She changed it a lot actually, but isn’t that what mother-in-laws are all about? However, surprisingly her Texas brand of Tandoori Chicken is really delicious.

Captain Katie’s Mother-in-Law’s Texas-Style Tandoori Chicken

4 large skinless chicken breasts

1 onion

2 cloves finely chopped

2 tablespoons lime juice

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon ground coriander

2 teaspoons paprika

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon Mexican chili powder

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

salt and pepper to taste

The Yogurt-Cilantro Sauce

2 cups plain yogurt

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

2 tablespoons minced fresh garlic

1 tablespoon lime juice

1 tablespoon honey

salt and white pepper to taste.

2 cups plain yogurt

Yogurt-Cilantro Sauce

In a mixing bowl, combine all ingredients and mix to blend. Season to taste with salt and pepper. And it’s better if made one day ahead, covered and stored in the refrigerator.

Texas-Style Tandoori Chicken

In a food processor, puree the onion and garlic. Process in the lemon and lime juices, add spices and the 2 cups plain yogurt and process to blend.

Marinate the chicken breasts in this mixture turning occasionally overnight in the refrigerator.

Prepare a charcoal or wood fire and let it burn down to embers. Remove the excess marinade and grill for 5 minutes on each side or until done.

Serve with Yogurt-Cilantro Sauce to taste.

Although I may occasionally poke fun of Una Faye, I love her as if she were my own mother. She is a wonderful person, I know this, because she let me copy all her recipes and only a wonderful person would do that.

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These two photos may not win many awards as they were taken with a tiny little camera, but we did the best we could with what we had on this Christmas season in Trinidad.

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Here, Vesta is posing with a gift she won at a party in the yacht club and it’s a good thing she won, cuz we were pretty gosh darned broke.

Having no money is always trying. Especially at Christmastime. And doubly especially if you’re far from home on a sailboat somewhere. But heck, it was warm outside, so we had the Caribbean to swim in and we could eat for a week or so, thanks to the gift basket, so we were pretty happy.

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