A few of my culinary night mares :
- The biryani recipe vanishes from the world. All we are left with is a memory of it with no way to recreate it ever again.
- Spices disappear and we are left with bland food that taste like starch.
- Me not being able to afford white tea. Not having access to lemons.
- Not having my mother on the end of the telephone to catch me when I fall. She is my Dr.Kitchen. She knows why recipes fail and when I get the techniques wrong.
- Not having Harsha around to cook with. No more being a team. No more eating suppers together.
- Me becoming allergic to rice. Everyone around me chowing down on it while I watch but can’t eat.
- No more home made ghee. My family has been making it at home for centuries.
Can memory be an ingredient ?
Ghee is often seen as an ingredient that serves its purpose by making everything else it touches delicious. Like wine, the ones who have been making it over a lifetime know the secrets. It has a flavor profile based on the bovine breed and its lifestyle. I come from a lineage of farmers who toil the soil and own cattle. We make our own. The legend has it that my great-grand-father, an Ayurvedic practitioner, would pour half a tea cup of it, into each of his meals. My great-grand-ma would frown upon the grandkids who would treat the tea spoon of ghee per meal as a guilty pleasure. Then came us, the great-grand-kid generation, who were practically fat phobic. The eldest of us lot, is on a perennial diet and likely to punch you in the face if you don’t served her fat-free sugar-free gluten-free dairy-free food. The youngest spews out “you old people know nothing of science” before she explains her latest internet search. My great-grand-ma would counter argue : “One has to eat belly full and do a good day’s work, everyday. That is good life”. She employed guerrilla techniques and intimidation to pour ghee on to our plates. She is a fighter, that woman ! She lived till 101 and was fiercely loved. While I live in a different time and lead a very different lifestyle, ghee will continue to be at the heart of my plate. It symbolizes pleasure and an innocent happiness. I shall have that tea spoon full and enjoy it without any strings attached. Great-grand-ma not only taught us how to cook … she had to teach us the art of savoring the meal.
( Some photos from my mother’s upcoming cookbook. )
Recommended reading : The Untold Story of Indian Ghee