Wednesday, March 12, 2014


"Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see"

This wonderful village was a well-kept secret.  Once this was barren land, the inhabitants scraped to get by until the bright idea of working together brought them a wonderful life.  In this lush village, the birds were cheerful and the wild life flourished.  This tight-knitted community did not openly welcome outsiders and those who entered came under the watchful eyes of these proud dwellers.  Living under the same roof has its ups and downs, yet this was a place where happiness flows.

Meanwhile in another section of town, the crowd was abuzz.  As the story goes, right after talking to the boss, Sarafina who worked as a machine operator, began rolling on the ground, groaning and howling.  The people around her were amazed at this outburst.  "What could have brought this on?" they asked.  Some bad news they thought.  Sarafina was out of control.  How long would this go on?  The crowd of on-lookers were shaking their heads.  "She is hallucinating," someone cried out.  They were nervous and began to work faster, just then the boss called again.  After some cajoling, Sarafina came to the telephone.  Suddenly the moaning stopped, Sarafina stood straight as an arrow, she would get to stay on the job for now but she needed to do what is right.  She would be transported somewhere else.  The grimace on her face was replaced by a forced smile.  "I have pulled this off again," her look seemed to say.

Mr. Gilibrand a reasonable man decided to give Sarafina another chance.  Maybe he thought, it will be better for her in an environment where things seemed to be working out, where folks understood what pulling together means, where kindness flows and everyone was willing to work out the daily kinks that creep into their daily routine.

Sarafina landed in this idyllic village,this was where she would get a second chance.  The inhabitants were hard workers with contentment written all over their faces.  In this community of workers, merriment was the order of the day.  Each morning as they gathered to start the day's work,it is as if the sun came along to brighten their day.  As they go about their activities, caring for the folks of the community, they were planning their next outing.  It was as if they could not get enough of each other.

Sarafina stood by the door murmuring under her breath.  This was not a good sign, they immediately saw black clouds and the sunshine seemed to be disappearing.  The look on her face was one of evil and sadness combined, a melancholy stare.  Caridad James, the overseer of this charismatic group, knew she would not allow anyone to destroy their happy home.  She had experienced naysayers, ball busters, pretenders and a bunch of other troublemakers.  At this moment she began to reflect on the brood with whom she shared space and remembered a few dissidents.

Take Agatha, she puts up a fight against any change.  She was so used to upsetting the barrel that it took her long time to recognize even when the change was beneficial to her.  Leonardo kept the Bible close by, it was tattered, giving you the impression that this was his regular storybook.  Yet he was cunning and conniving at first but gradually came along for a peaceful ride with the rest of the gang.

Let's not forget Charmaine, a complainer who had every ailment you could think of.  She kept medical books nearby, willing to try any new remedy at the drop of a hat.  This was so out of control that something had to be done to quell this distraction.  Finally no one paid any attention to the stories of these many illnesses and the complaints all but vanished.

Selfish Sara only thought about herself and never lend a helping hand to anyone but came knocking when she needed help herself.  Caridad would always help out Sara even when others felt she should ignore her, but Caridad reasoned that in the real world you couldn't win them all.

You name it and Gretabelle had done it.  How in the world could one person have done so many things?  It did not matter who was having the conversation, she would butt in.  The finest things she claimed to have, yet suffering was all over her face when she came to the village looking destitute.
She had barely settled in when she ran from person to person, whispering, dividing and conquering was her life.

Still water runs deep, as the saying goes and this describes Hadra to a Tee.  She bites without opening her mouth, did not bend for anyone, yet she demanded immediate attention.  Caridad smiled as she remembered this handful of dwellers.  She had no doubt this newcomer could be straightened out in a short time, at least that's what she thought.

Caridad introduced herself and the rest of  the dwellers and knew right away that this one would be a challenge.  She thought she had seen it all but even those who had repented shook their heads, vowing to stay their distance.  There was trouble brewing in paradise, sunshine was replaced with black clouds; they were forever putting out fires and Sarafina was in the midst of this chaos that had overtaken the village.  They had allowed bad spirits to creep in and now they must fight to get back the joy that once flowed in their path.

Caridad called a few of the longtime residents, including Agatha, Leonardo, Charmaine, Sara, Gabrielle and Hadra.  She wanted to bring Sarafina into the foal and needed some assistance.  They were resistant to this move but Caridad reminded them of their beginnings and their turnaround.  The truth is that they now seemed like saints, compared to the daily disruptions that they were now experiencing from Sarafina.  The group relented, making it easier for Caridad to bring the plan to the rest of the villagers.

They had made headway and it was time for a celebration.  Rifat our rising chef brought out her delicious dish, Baigan Bharta, translated, Roasted Eggplant.  As they chomped down, Rifat gave a description of this tasty meal.  Baigan Bharta is eaten in most of Northern India and the recipes vary from State to State.  This recipe is from Bangladesh and is usually eaten during the Bengali New Year{early April} as a festive side dish with rice, fish, lentils and other vegetable dishes.  Baigan Bharta can be eaten year round and in Rifat's family, her grandmother and mother always prepared this mouthwatering dish during the monsoon season when people tend to feast on vegetarian and fish delicacies.

Questions From Making Room At the Table

  1. The title Making Room At The Table conjures {fill in the blank}
  2. Describe your idyllic world
  3. Describe your chaotic world
  4. The story tells of shutting out 'outsiders' This comes from selfishness/fear or both?
  5. What plan did Caridad bring to the villagers? How did the plan go over?

Baigan Bharta Recipe{spicy} Roasted Eggplant Side Dish

1 large eggplant{medium hard}
1/2 teaspoon Garam Masala Powder
1/4 teaspoon Turmeric Powder
1-3 Green Chillies or JalapeƱo peppers{chopped finely}The peppers/chillies should be avoided if you want to keep the dish mild.
1/2 teaspoon Red Chilli Powder {optional} or substitute paprika instead with a dash of black pepper for taste to keep the dish mild.
1/2 cup cooked green peas
1 Tomato very ripe {finely chopped}
1 Medium sized Onion {finely chopped}
3 tablespoons Vegetable Oil or Olive Oil
Salt to taste
Coriander {Cilantro} Leaves - 4 or 5 sprigs chopped or torn off from stem.

Above spices are available in most spice stores or at any Indian grocery store
Preparing Baigan Bharta

  •  Smear the eggplant with oil and roast it on the stove top on an open medium flame.
  • Turn upside down when lower portion becomes soft.  Keep on rotating until the entire eggplant softens and browns. Use strong steel tongs to easily handle the roasting eggplant.
  • Remove from the flame and submerge in a bowl of cold water until the eggplant cools. Dry off the eggplant with paper towel.
  • Peel the skin off and mash up the eggplant with your hands or with a wooden spoon.
  • Heat oil in a frying pan or a wok type of pan in a high flame.
  • Add onion and green chillies and fry on a medium flame until onions turn golden brown, lower the heat at this point.
  • Add turmeric powder, garam masala, red chili powder and salt.
  • Fry the spice mix for a minute and slowly add the chopped tomatoes and stir.
  • Cook until tomatoes become soft and mushy.
  • Now add peas and mashed eggplant.
  • Stir and fry for about 5 to 7 minutes over medium heat.
  • Baigan Bharta is now ready to eat.  Ideally it is served at room temperature or slightly warm.  You can serve it with rice pilaf or with Indian breads such as parathas, chapatis{tortilla type soft flat breads} or tandoori naan.
  • Garnish with chopped coriander leaves.  The coriander leaves will add an additional spicy flavor.