this week | april 8th, 2021

thoughts and things from the last week. this week includes books I read, things I wrote, food I cooked, and oh yeah I started a new job

Smoky Mountains, TN — Epson RD1

(I started) A New Job

Yeah so Monday was my first day at HubSpot and it just feels good to be at a tech company again.

People are young and cool and hyped about work. We spent this whole first week just using our product. And I get to be fully remote!

I’ve always low-key dreamed of living the nomad life. Spend some time exploring cities across the US. Looks like that will finally be possible!

I’m excited.

(I read) Fly Already by Edgar Keret

First of all, thank you Leah for sending me this book. I loved your little letter on the inside cover saying I should read these stories to my plants so that they will grow big and strong and now my rubber plant has twice as many leaves.

I love Edgar Keret’s stories. This guy’s so good at writing fiction in first person. My two favorites:

Director’s Cut is literally four paragraphs and is like, hey, what would happen if someone filmed every second of a person’s life?

Fly Already has this father and son looking up at a man about to jump off a building. Turn on Keret’s narration. I love his voice.

There were some other good pieces in the Fly Already collection, but the two above were my favorites and are available online.

Other things (I read)

Amazing set of photos and essay from today. Read this and save this and follow all the photographers on Instagram.

Just one paragraph but so much everything.

Oh man an interview with Professor Mackey, my poetry professor at Duke. The rhythm in his voice alone is enough to make music and magic. I once wrote an essay about his class for Professor Shuman’s non-fiction workshop so maybe I’ll post that soon…

Weird and good, my favorite type of essay.

(I wrote) A Poem

Medium’s formatting kinda sucks for poetry so all of that goes on Instagram instead. Maybe I’ll repost to Medium.

Okay so apparently Instagram embedding on Medium doesn’t work anymore so here’s a screenshot and a link

(I cooked) Dal Tadka

clockwise from top: poha, dal tadka, raita, grilled veggie taco that really needs some chutney

The highlight of my trip to the Smoky Mountains was cooking and enjoying homestyle Indian food. Thank you Smriti Auntie.

I’ve tried to make dal before because every time I get it from a restaurant it’s so good. But my previous attempts all sucked. Flavor’s not right, texture’s not right, something like that.

Here’s how you make it good.

  • Toor dal or other lentil
  • A secondary legume (chickpeas/chana are a good choice) for textural variety!
  • Ground turmeric for color and flavor
  • Black mustard seeds for flavor
  • Cumin seeds for flavor
  • Indian green chili for heat and flavor, jalapeño works great too
  • Red onion, tomato, other veg you enjoy

You’ll get the best dal at the best prices at an Indian store. I got a 4 pound bag of Swad brand toor dal for $4. I’ve asked my Indian friends what the best brands are and the answer is always Swad, the house brand of the Patel Brothers grocery chain.

While you’re there, might as well get your whole spices. Way cheaper than the tiny overpriced jars you’ll find at normal grocery stores.

No need to soak—just dump your dal and other legume(s) into your pot along with plenty of water, some turmeric, and a bit of salt.

For best flavor, cook low and slow. If you’ve got a slow cooker, get it going in the morning and when you get back from work it’ll be awesome. I used my dutch oven and just had it going a whole afternoon. If you’re really in a hurry though, you can always just use a pressure cooker and look up how long it’ll take.

I like to cook it until it looks like Cantonese congee, but all you gotta do is stop when it’s where you want it.

We’ll add more flavor with a tadka—which just means tempering/infusing spices in oil.

I added neutral oil (canola) to my wok and then heated up black mustard seeds, cumin seeds, green chili, and super thinly sliced red onion. You can also add some other spices if you have them—ground coriander for flavor, Kashmiri chili powder for red color, ginger/garlic paste, etc. I had some fresh tomatoes so added one chopped Roma with a tiny bit of white sugar.

Mix your tadka into your dal. If you like it, a bit of chopped cilantro is nice, but definitely not necessary.

Serve with rice or roti or be like me and make poha for dinner and grilled veggie tacos. Whatever you enjoy.

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Brian Lin

Brian Lin

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Brian Lin is a writer, runner, and stray cat lover. A recent Duke grad in CS and English, he is a software engineer by day and a typewriter poet by night.