Well now here’s a development.
Years ago, I threw myself into making curry. There were a number of reasons why. I loved the cuisine; I wanted to “up my game” in the kitchen; I had a new job in Jersey City, N.J., and missed daily lunches in Chinatown, where my old job was located.
But those weren’t the only reasons.
If the truth must be told, I had gone through a terrible, painful, heart-wrenching breakup and — plain and simple — I needed a distraction. Looking ahead at a dismal calendar of lonely nights and even longer lonelier weekends, I knew I needed something to fill the time, lest the four walls of my Upper East Side apartment close in around me. What better a challenge than curry — something a white girl from Syracuse, N.Y., with limited cooking skills knew hardly anything about making?
Let’s just say it’s been an amazing journey. During those early bleak times, I’d take the train down to Chinatown, where scents and sounds would fill my senses. I’d spend hours canvassing Kalustyan’s in Murray Hill for hard-to-find ingredients, like cardamom pods, fenugreek seeds and garam masala. I’d spend my evenings experimenting with recipes, finding relief (if you could call it that) in the fact I wasn’t subjecting anyone else to my culinary misses. And as the years went by, I became a better cook…and my heart slowly began to heal. I eventually travelled to Bangkok (by myself!) – spending a week taking Thai cooking classes and marveling at how far my love of curry had taken me.
That wasn’t the end of it. I started a blog (this very one that you’re reading) and became widely known to friends as a real curry aficionado. I was invited to people’s homes to make spicy, fragrant, coconut-laden curry dishes. I wrote a piece for The Wall Street Journal about learning to make curry. I even had a recipe published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch — and recommended a wine to pair it with to boot.
But that’s still not the best part of the story. A few years ago, still looking for the perfect Mr. Right, but becoming increasingly doubtful I’d ever find him, I happened to find myself in a bar with a girlfriend on a random Tuesday evening in September. In walked two good-looking men. We struck up a conversation. The tall one, Frank, mentioned that he and his pal (who was married) met while working together in Hong Kong some years earlier. I mentioned my obsession with Asian cuisine.
“Name five ingredients in a Thai curry paste,” demanded Frank’s pal.
“Cumin, coriander, galangal, lemongrass and kaffir lime zest,” I replied, which seemed to impress them both.
By the end of the night, Frank wanted to know how he could stay in touch. “You can check out my blog, CrackingCurry.com,” I said, before getting in a cab. I didn’t expect to hear from him — I had pretty much given up on romance — but within a few days, Frank had checked the blog and tracked me down (my full name is on this blog’s About section). In his message, he asked for tips on great Thai restaurants in New York, and cleverly managed to turn that into a pickup line. “If you have a couple of recommendations I’d love to hear them,” he said. “Better yet, if you’d like to meet up over a curry at one of them I’d love that, too.”
And so later that month, we did meet up, at Laut, a Southeast Asia restaurant near Union Square. In fact, you can read my telling blog post on our excursion, where I effectively review the restaurant (it was so-so) and give better marks to the company (10 stars!). We continued to see each other. On a later date, I made him the first of many homemade curries – Halibut in a Red Curry Coconut Sauce — at my apartment. He seemed smitten.
As our relationship progressed, I’d take my usual trips down to Chinatown….but now, I had a companion. As we picked up ingredients for curry meals — leafy bok choy, shiny bird’s-eye chile peppers, nubbly kaffir limes — we’d talk about our experiences in Asia (Frank was born in Hong Kong, when his parents lived there as expats). We’d dream out loud about traveling there together.
This February, we finally planned the trip, to Hong Kong, Thailand and Cambodia, and the night before we left, Frank proposed. On Aug. 10, we tied the knot in New York City.
Turns out my curry obsession, borne from heart break, led me to love. I would never have guessed that my unusual hobby would mend my broken heart so literally. ✤