Happy Bayard Rustin Day!

erbette chard

Delicious erbette chard needs no assistance from fancy spices.

Yesterday was Bayard Rustin Day at our house.

When you’re trying to invent a holiday that you hope to see people actually celebrate, well, it’s not something that’s going to spring full-blown from the mind of its creator. That’s a work in progress, and will be for years to come. Enjoy the journey, children.

Previous observances have been rather slapdash; I keep meaning to spend days or weeks steeping myself in the writings of Bayard Rustin, and so far I haven’t accomplished that. But the food — well, the food is coming along nicely.

Mr. Rustin was a vegetarian — but only after going to India to meet and work with Mahatma Gandhi and his followers, round about 1935. (He was born in 1912, so that would’ve made him about 23 — plenty old enough to go off to India and have Important Adventures.) So anyway, my Rustin Day menus tend to be Indian-flavored.

So when I began cooking after the radio show yesterday afternoon, all I knew for sure was that I had a beautiful cauliflower, an even more beautiful armful of erbette chard, and a sack of potatoes. Also a bowl of frothy idli batter.

Well, after a little Google-fu, I came up with this menu:

Gobi Aloo (Indian Style Cauliflower with Potatoes)
That gorgeous erbette chard, simply wilted and buttered (because you do not upstage the chard!)
And my first attempt at idli, with a nice tomato sauce flavored with sambar powder and garam masala

Pristine idli with what might be a mint chutney

The idli was (were? — it’s one of those nouns that may or may not be plural) a saga in itself, stretching over a week or more. I wasn’t actually thinking of Bayard Rustin Day when I first started experimenting with them; I was only trying to lower my blood sugar in the evenings. Anyhow, between the fact that I can’t get urad dal in this town and don’t have an idli steamer, mine are kind of reddish gray and cupcake-shaped, not the pristine white lenticular shapes you see in pictures like this one. They are, however, tender and filling, and go beautifully with almost any rich, spicy dish.

Well, I put some in the solar oven — it worked pretty well, too — and happened to mention this in the chat room at the radio show. Miss Cat, of course, had to know all about them two minutes ago 🙂 We were typing at each other as fast as we could. I wonder if she will ever seek some out to try them.

Next year, we will pay equal attention to the intellectual feasting, I am sure.

(I bought my erbette chard seed at Bountiful Gardens. Now you can too.)


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