As all savvy parents know, reports for school which even potentially involve “bringing in something to share” mean that the child will spend two minutes on Wikipedia taking desultory notes, after which the parent will spend hours cooking the exotic foods of Chad, sewing the festival day garments of Venezuela, or building a precise replica of the Taj Mahal using only post-consumer recycled products. As soon as Sam started talking about “his” report on Suriname, I knew what was coming.
My suspicion started when Sam informed me that he was “writing” about The Foods of Suriname, and that he would like to “take something in.” He seemed quite calm, which would trigger skepticism in anyone who has known him for five minutes, let alone 12 years. This is a child who, held captive by a band of violent criminals and faced with a choice between grisly death and writing a letter requesting his release, would choose the garrote every time. My fears were confirmed when I received an e-mail from Sam’s teacher, informing me that the main part of the presentation was the food, and that Sam would need only to write a few lines about Surinamese food in general, and the presentation food in particular.
Since “Sam’s” report was due Thursday, I spent a fair amount of Tuesday scouring the interworld for a recipe from Suriname that met my requirements: cheap, fairly easy, no peanuts, no liquid or other goo. Turns out that the culture of Suriname is almost entirely a mash-up of other cultures, particularly Indian, Chinese, Guyanese and Dutch. They eat curries, they eat roti, they eat samosas, they eat something called “hotchpotch,” but nothing fit the bill until I found a recipe for a snack food called Phulauri. It sounded similar to falafel, or frittata di ceci, both of which are non-threatening foods that most people like, which meant that children, who are human-like, might also enjoy them. They also met my requirements – cheap (mostly peas with some onion and garlic), easy, no peanuts and easily transported in their beautifully dry condition, sans crock pot sloshing in the car. I bought and soaked the peas, and was ready to play ball on Thursday morning.
I tripled the recipe, used the food processor to grind and combine the onions, garlic and soaked peas, and (aside from the icky sensation of having my hands covered in spicy pea mush for about half an hour) the balls went together easily enough. I fried them in small batches, and admired their crusty golden exteriors. They smelled good, and looked good, but when I tasted one (with catsup, to keep things authentic) I felt as shocked as if I had dipped my tongue into what appeared to be a spoonful of vanilla pudding, only to discover that it was actually mayonnaise. The balls looked falafel-y, but had a very strong cumin taste, and were, for some reason, excessively salty. I like cumin in blends with other spices, and I use it often in Indian and Mexican dishes, but this was just too intense a hit. I will probably never, ever make these again intentionally, but I did learn that it would be very easy to make falafel, which I will do.
The end of the story: I delivered the Phulauri to school along with a container of catsup, I corrected Sam’s PowerPoint presentation which listed the necessary step of “soaking and grinding the pees,” and received a text message later in the afternoon saying that his class had loved the snack, that there was a “problem with the catsup and the rug,” and that he thought he had gotten a good grade.
This snack should preferably be eaten warm and be served with ketchup.
- 2½ oz yellow split peas
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 5 gloves garlic, crushed
- Salt to taste
- ½ cayenne pepper (or other, without the seeds)
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- Oil for deep – frying
- Soak the yellow split peas overnight
- Grind the peas with the onion, garlic, salt and cayenne pepper
- Fry the cumin seeds in a skillet for approximately 1 minute; do not add oil or butter
- Place a lid on the skillet to prevent cumin seeds from jumping out of the skillet
- Add the seeds to the ground peas and mix thoroughly
- Add more salt to taste if it is required
- Make marble – sized (a little bigger is possible) balls
- Heat oil and deep – fry the phulauri