Chana Masala: Art You Can Eat

It is inevitable that any time at an artists colony will be plump with the exchange of ideas.

When you toss artists from disparate backgrounds into a small cauldron and essentially seal it for a month, art, words, music and and more will certainly be shared. And so it was for me at the Djerassi Resident Artists Program in Woodside, Calif., earlier this year, where I spentĀ a month isolated on a mountain ranch with a tiny crew of colony mates that included talented artists from Mongolia, India and Austria, a wonderful choreographer and composer and writers who inspired me every day.

In addition to art, however, we ended up having some rich exchanges over something surprising: Cooking.

As you may have read before on this blog, colony chef Dan Tosh fed us tremendously well on weekdays. But on weekends, left to our own devices, we ended up taking to the stove to teach one other a little about the dishes that fueled us in our own homes. Which is how I came to learn to make out-of-this-world chana masala …

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Djerassi Resident Artists Program: A Man Named Dan

It’s not often that I am so taken with a person that I find myself immediately professing my adoration at every turn.

Recently, however, I met one such someone — a man named Dan, a chef who fed me well for a month in the mountains of California and who wowed me each day with the meals he set on the table.

For those who don’t follow me on Twitter, I just spent a month in Northern California at the Djerassi Resident Artists Program, an artists colony that offers the gift of time and space to create. The program invites artists from various disciplines (musical composition, fiction, poetry, choreography, visual arts) to spend a month on the property — close to 600 acres of some of the most beautiful hills and forests I’ve seen — with nothing to do except wake up every morning, have a cup of coffee and start working.

Such colonies have been a lifesaver for me — I wrote the bulk of “A Tiger in the Kitchen” over seven weeks at Yaddo in 2010. (My book never would have made it out on time had it not been for my time there.) As many artists will testify, you can often accomplish in weeks at a colony what would likely take you months or more at home.

And this certainly was true for me at Djerassi …

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