If you’ve read any of my romance books, you know that I like to take my characters from heartache to a happy-ever-after. There’s something so satisfying about that—how we can disappear into a book and live for a bit in world where everything eventually comes out all right.
The recipe below, included in an early chapter of Dinner at Home, is all about the heartache portion of the story. My main character, Ollie D’Angelo, has lost his boyfriend, his home, and his job, practically in one fell swoop. Comfortably Curried Carrots and Lentils is what he makes for himself his first night in his new—and lonely—apartment. Try the recipe when you’re in need of a little comfort.
Hey, it worked for Ollie.
Comfortably Curried Carrots and Lentils
2 cups green lentils
2 carrots, peeled and diced
3.5 cups chicken stock
2 T grated ginger
1 small red onion, chopped
2 T curry powder
3 T tomato paste
1 cup coconut milk
1 t salt
1 t cumin
½ t coriander
½ t cinnamon
2 cups baby spinach
Garnishes: Greek yogurt, chopped parsley, sliced jalapenos
Use a 4-qt. slow cooker. Rinse lentils and pick through for any stones. Combine all ingredients, except for baby spinach, and set cooker to low for six hours or until lentils are tender. Add baby spinach at the very end, replace cover and let wilt. Serve with optional garnishes. Can also serve over rice or couscous.
Here’s an excerpt that shows where Ollie was at the beginning of the book. And, as you can see, things are not all bad as Ollie gets ready to prepare his carrots and lentils.
In spite of the goodies he had purchased, Ollie felt the exhaustion peculiar to emotional shock set in on him as he entered his new apartment. Calling it home was out of the question, at least in these early days. The place was depressing and the fact that it was empty made it even moreso. He dared not even talk to himself, because his voice would echo pathetically.
After setting down his purchases on the kitchen counter, he walked back to the main living area and pulled the blinds up. He looked down at 10th Avenue, which, a bit farther south, morphed into Broadway, the main drag through the gay ghetto of Capitol Hill, wondering if he would ever feel a sense of home again. It didn’t help that, while he was making his way there, the cloud cover had become complete, blocking out the sun and shrouding the day in somber tones of gray. A light drizzle, more of a mist, had begun to fall.
Everything outside looked dirty and drab. If Ollie had taken a photograph, it would have shown up in black and white.
Ollie wondered why he wasn’t brought to his knees on the floor with grief and wondered why he wasn’t crying. Wouldn’t these be normal reactions to one’s world falling apart? Why wasn’t he on the phone with his mom in Chicago, pouring out his almost laughable tale of woe?
Ollie did sit down on the floor then, and smiled. He didn’t smile because he felt particularly happy, but because he realized he wasn’t sad.
Sure, he had lost almost everything in one fell swoop and was now faced with the prospect of starting over with almost nothing. But it didn’t take long for him to emerge from the cloud of shock and confusion and realize the reason he didn’t feel despair.
He was free.
Starting over did not represent a troubling, exhausting climb back to where he had been, but a chance to begin anew. And that prospect was liberating, exciting even.
How many of us have a chance to start over, really start over? Ollie realized that his experiences with Walker and his job had taught him things, things that would need to be examined more closely, but on the surface he knew that he now had the chance to learn from what he had been through, and come out on the other side a better person.
He could do anything.
It only takes a few days for Ollie D'Angelo to lose his boyfriend, his job, and his home. Instead of mourning what he doesn’t have, Ollie celebrates what he does: the freedom to pursue his real passion—cooking. He begins Dinner at Home, a home-catering business, and it takes off.
Late one night, Ollie catches Hank Mellinger, a streetwise hood down on his luck, about to rob his car. Ollie soon discovers that appearances aren’t necessarily what they seem. Hank isn’t a criminal caught red-handed, but a hungry young man trying to make a life for himself and the four-year-old niece he’s trying desperately to take care of.
Instead of calling the cops, Ollie offers Hank a job and a way to pull himself up by his bootstraps. Together, they discover they can really cook... and that their shared passion for food just might lead to a passion for each other.