Reflections on Life and Cooking
The kitchen at my grandma’s place was spacious, airy and bright. It had a huge rectangular window opposite the platform and another on the right wall. Near this window was a small wooden cupboard to store spices, condiments and kitchen tools.
Another cabinet stored goodies. Here used to be a huge container with a mix of dry fruits in the winters. This mix of cashews, almonds, pistachios, raisins, dried figs and dates, thin slices of dried coconut had texture, taste and crunch.I remember eating this healthy snack while reading books.
Bottles of pickles, lemon, mango and green chilli sat on the top shelf.. A lovely blue container had a picture of the universe with stars, constellations and planets. It stored small dried papads.
I found this container fascinating.I could spend hours looking at the pictures and trying to pronounce the names of the constellations. Here I discovered the Ursa Minor and Major, learned about Cepheus and Cassiopeia and became fascinated with the heavenly bodies.
The six seat dining table was in the centre. It was a place to eat, discuss, laugh and share.
Television was in the living room where no one was allowed to eat. We never resented this, in fact, we thoroughly enjoyed the meal times.
Mango ruled the kitchen in the summers. April brought tonnes of green mangoes. My grandmother had a small vegetable garden that had mint, curry leaves, coriander and lemon. Fresh mint chutney prepared with raw mango and jaggery added tang to meals.
The winter flavour was hot khichadi, tomato shorba (thin clear tomato soup) and papad.
The mixture of rice, mung beans and vegetables was cooked to perfect. Subtle flavour of garam masala, fennel seeds and coriander was irresistible.
Grandma was a practical cook. She once shared her secret of good cooking
“Good cooking is an art, my dear, but a good cook needs to acquire the wisdom to transform a failed cooking experiment to a new culinary experience.”
So in this kitchen, I learned the rudiments of cooking, balancing tastes and flavours, experimenting with new methods and ingredients.
I have a cherished note-book with my granny’s recipes. Here is one of my favourites from the list.
Mint Mango Chutney
A bunch of mint leaves
1 green mango
1 tablespoon sesame seeds (roasted)
A small piece of jaggery
2 cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon of poppy seeds (soaked in water for 15 minutes)
1/2 tea spoon roasted cumin seeds
2 green chillies
Salt to taste
Wash the mint leaves
Chop the mango into small pieces
Add sesame seeds and blend for two minutes.
Add the poppy seeds with the water and blend.
Lastly add all the remaining ingredients and blend by adding water as required.
The chutney has a great taste. Blended finely it can be a dip or even used as a sandwich spread.