Coconut milk is a staple in Indian cooking and I admit that my love of the nut may have had some influence on our decision to create an Indian-ish cuisine. Coconuts and I go way back. Growing up in Florida, there was a certain fascination with coconut drinks, coconut palm patterned prints, coconut bra tops….I think I even remember my first coconut milk curry, although less for the coconut part than for the searing heat that made me vomit (just the tiniest bit) at the table. I may have been ten at the time.
Five pepper curries and I have made our peace, but coconuts and I have engaged in a long and passionate romance. I love them. I love their milk in curries, in sauces and in brightly colored drinks with umbrellas. I love the shredded toasted flesh in my oatmeal, in cookies, chocolate and just straight up. I love the oil, for cooking and for rubbing into my always dry Tahoe skin. I love the shells - I still daydream about dancing on a beach wearing a coconut shell bra.
My view of coconuts is by no means universal, but I would bet that most coconut haters are more familiar with the imitation than with the delicate, creamy, just so slightly sweet, slightly briny, unadulterated nut. Such a perfect base for the spicy pepper heat of a Thai curry or the delicate, warm layers of yellow spices in an Indian curry, or the clean and zesty hit of rum in whatever Cuban drink my uncle used to make in Miami (I cannot seem to re-create that one).
Even when I am not eating them, coconuts have provided me with many quality moments. I remember as a kid opening our first coconut in the driveway with a hammer and nail, to puncture it and drain the juice before busting it open. I remember hanging at the bar in a pool fed by volcanic hot springs in Costa Rica and sipping rum right out of the coconut with a straw. I remember introducing my kids to the challenge of getting those darn things open! And I can picture so clearly, my son at 5 drinking thru a straw stuck in a coconut the size of his head. I love coconuts!