aloo mattar sabzi is like a cup of starbuck’s: lightly laced with some kind of food grade crack that keeps you mysteriously coming back for more. i think the indians must call it something like “peas” or “potatoes”. i would blame it on the all too cryptic indian ingredient referred to as “asafetida”, except this particular concoction does not contain it. there’s not even monosodium glutamate, to which i’ve decided i’m also hopelessly addicted.
my addiction began when i purchased a can of the substance from Cost Plus. at the time, i had been working in one part of the metroplex and living in another. my yearning increased at a rapid rate and in order to shield my problem from Cost Plus workers, i began canvassing stores across the metroplex hoping that none of them from one store spoke to anyone in another store. at one point, there were two employees at the Greenville location who i thought might be on to my rather obvious habit.
eventually, as with anything i end up truly loving, Cost Plus began to phase it out in favor of their own, much lesser line of canned indian cuisine.
i began to turn to sellers farther underground like Whole Foods and Central Market. and with my desperation, the price increased to nearly double. this helped to slow me a bit until i had practically weaned myself... just as WF and CM began to phase it out as well.
now i had to begin turning to more intimate sources: the middle eastern grocers themselves. the problem was that i trusted the freshness of their products much less. they didn’t have much to lose if i should nearly die from aloo mattar food poisoning.
but the fear wasn’t enough to stop me as i picked through the cans on the shelf looking for the least rusty and dented and dusty specimens. the sheer distance between myself and these stores nearly drove my addiction to a halt.
after a year of dallying as a result of my fear of falling back within the grasp of this painful and embarrassing addiction, brian and i finally went to Tajmahal Imports in the ethnically-friendly northerly suburb of richardson. (don’t get me wrong... i had had the AM in the meantime. most notably while in houston and working around the corner from the pakistani grocer.)
i loaded up on six cans only to be out again three days later (maybe 2.5 even, but who’s counting). i whined several times a week for several weeks how tasty some more of my crack candy would be. i hinted that perhaps brian should get some for me. this morning, i added it to my xmas list complete with a link to an internet resource.
then, i heard it. the baby called out to me with its perpetually outstretched arms outstretched. it said “alloooo mattaaaar sabziiiiiii”. it wasn’t out loud, but i could hear it coming from deep inside. the baby needed the AM and the threat of a little botulism wasn’t going to stand in it’s way. brian has been teaching me to listen to the baby and supply without question whatever it requests. and there it was. plain as day.
in order to keep the staff at Tajmahal from noticing further purchases of the green-labeled cans, i went to a place i had noticed across the street for just such an emergency: India Grocer.
i carefully walked up and down each of the few aisles, carefully loading my bag with stool pigeons designed to distract at the checkout counter. after weaving my way through, my heart began to sink. there were hardly any canned goods. then i remembered i had skipped the first two aisles thinking they contained unrelated items. i went back to check. as i reached the final aisle, i found the ever-present jars of patak’s sauces where the cans of aloo mattar should always be, yet never are. and just as i was about to turn and give up, i saw that green label poking its head out at me.
i plucked out two cans with minimal rust before finding two more with a frightening amount of rust. none presented expiration dates. i began to count my blessings for the two cans when i discovered a pocket of product with literally no rust! unheard of! i grabbed more and skipped to the counter where the little man cut me 20 cent deals as he rang up each item.
the labels matched my shirt.