CURRY PATTA, JUNGLE OATS, AND PEACE CORPS

My wife keeps a curry plant to flavor her beautiful Indian cooking. Our boys have taken to snapping off the greenest leaves and eating them raw. Their chewing fills the air with a sharp, fresh scent. Yesterday, the plant was brought indoors—frost—to spend the night on our low kitchen table. When the boys found it there this morning, they couldn’t resist eating curry patta (leaves) with their oatmeal.

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The episode stirred a cherished memory from my earliest days in the Peace Corps (my wife and I served as education volunteers in Malawi from 1996-98). I arrived at the school many weeks before the term began and decided to pass the unfilled days climbing Mt. Mulanje with a good friend, Mr. Smith. We hadn’t received our first month’s allowance, so our supplies were limited, and on the last day of our expedition we had nothing left to flavor our Jungle Oats© but the dusty remnants from a tin of Rajah Curry©. We laughed about it then, all the harder knowing how funny it would seem 20 years later to have eaten curried oats.

Malawi's Mt. Mulanje. Credit www.maravipost.com
Malawi’s Mt. Mulanje. Credit http://www.maravipost.com

If you must eat them, curried oats are best enjoyed in a cedar hut at 6,000 feet, with a cold, sharp wind blowing down off Chambe peak or some other pointed summit. They are equally satisfying on the morning of autumn’s first frost in the company of two young boys with adventurous palates. Either way, the Peace Corps has introduced me to an odd but joyful combination of oats and curry.

Read more about the Peace Corps experience, Malawi, and curried oats.

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