A boy sits alone. His fingers press the soft, musty pages so that the spine nearly creases. In one breath, he exhales the weight of day: the noises from the other room; the taunting from school; the meagerness of his lunch. He plunges into the story, head, heart and all. His feet land on an island swarming with pirates. The salty breeze gives way to damp boots of sailors who hunger for gold at any price. This is a world dreamed up by Robert Louis Stevenson. This is an adventure which quickens the pulse.
Gary Price celebrates the human spirit in bronze. His work is found across the United States. The Wizard Academy put “Journeys of the Imagination” on their Star Deck, the upper most floor in the Wizard’s tower. Most people see the clever clash of a boy riding a paper airplane. Just as important is the tiny figure at the base. The boy with a book.
Adventures are physical, nasty businesses. Ask Bilbo. He gave up the warm comfort of a familiar place for the cold mettle of dwarves intent on tricking a dragon and stealing back their home.
And yet, adventures do not require you to pack bags. Or really spend money. Fiction writers know this. So do cooks.
Finding good cuisine from Asia in California is not hard. Plenty of Indians, Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese conjur up specialties familiar to them, but wild to us.
Just North of San Diego in a strip mall, business people make their lunch choice from a dozen or so vendors. No waiters. No tablecloths. Just a series of windows and an invitation to brush crumbs from painted, outdoor furniture.
The Indian food joint celebrates cuisine from the Southern part of their country. After a careful scan of the menu, we order. The plate arrives with a long, golden tube too big for the oval plate. Walking the plastic tray from the window to the table requires the concentration of a Flying Wallenda. One false step and the prize plummets to the earth.
Dosas are made from rice and dals (lentils) ground into a flour then made into a pancake. Given the size of the pancake, the spatula must be the size of a tennis racket.
While still warm, the cooks roll this Indian crepe into a tube. As it cools, it gains enough tensile strength to stand on its own.
Two vegetable stews accompany dosas. Diner’s choice. Eggplant is always flavorful.
Plastic silverware is too wimpy to render bite-size chunks. So the fingers do the work. First a dip into the sauce. Next bite goes to one stew. Then the next. A complex pattern of tearing, dipping and eating.
The texture was combination between soggy and mild crunch. Like the top layer of dough of a potpie who’s soft underbelly echoes the savory of chicken stew while the outer surface reflects time in a blistering oven.
Most remarkable about this mystery carbohydrate is the taste.
35 years ago, my family spent our weekends crossing the high desert of Mohave county to splash on the lake. We drained the cooler of soft drinks and gobbled up hotdogs in between digging the sand or standing upright on water skis.
The return home was largely the same. Sun drenched skin too sensitive to the touch. Our hands dug into large, red or green cylinders to pull out a stack of Pringles. Crumbs fell like snowflakes.
The perfect shaped potato snacks fit perfectly on our palette. The saddle shape clearly molded from a child’s mouth. And the taste of potato mash laced with salty and powdered spices. Perfectly chemical and wonderful for a young person’s world view of haute cuisine.
Bite after bite, dosas became Pringles. Soggy Pringle when doused into the gravy. Crisp when consumed plain.
The point is this. Dosas might be the road less taken. Every menu has such an alternative. Take it. It might lead to a peripeteia or it might not.
The first part of the journey is choosing. Don’t keep your adventure waiting.