Parvati away at Ernakulam, helper on leave – the two of us, father and son, have to manage things at home. I make Dosa and chutney for breakfast. K says,-’ Acha, nice dosas!’. I smile at him, though do not divulge the receipe. The thick batter was originally for idlis; I diluted it for Dosas, and as expected, it became too watery. Usually a little Atta flour would thicken the batter back, but I couldn’t find any. Improvisation is a key factor in home cooking. I found a pack of leftover Puttu podi; powdered rice for making that special Kerala breakfast item, Puttu. I boiled a little water, added the podi to it to make a thick paste and then mixed it with the Dosa batter. A sprinkle of turmeric powder, crushed ginger, a little Chicken Masala (Yes!) and the Dosas were transformed from their usual bland selves to something with a divine fragrance and taste!
Long ago when Parvati was carrying and exhibiting that voracious appetite typical of pregnant women, I used to make her delicious stuff, especially omlettes. To the eggs would go thick cream, turmeric powder, garlic & ginger paste, salt, finely chopped vegetables such as carrot, tomato, cauliflower, cabbage, coriander leaves etc, etc. The omlettes would come up golden brown and fluffy soft with Amul butter. ( If I believe in anything, they are turmeric, garlic, ginger and curry leaves) Parvati would oblige me by leaving not even a morsel and a blissful look on her face.
In the ensuing years, I would occasionally pop into the kitchen and make something. Chicken curry, Rava uppma, chutneys etc were my forte. One day Parvati asked - ‘How come the stuff you make tastes so good? You use much too oil, don’t you?’ How silly! She asks questions and answers them too! I tell her- ‘ No, there is a secret ingredient that I add last’. ‘What?’ I tell her - ‘Love’.
This is not to say that women of the house, who usually has the run of the kitchen, cook without love. But they don’t add it into the dish, you know. Cooking is part of the daily chores and they have only enough time to check the salt and spice and palatability of the food. When I go into the kitchen once in a while, I cook for my family and all the time I cut the vegetables or marinate the chicken or add masalas or fry onions – all the time I am thinking, is it going to be good, can I add a little of this and a little of that and would it taste all right? And then with a flourish I lay it before them and watch furtively for that first reaction and then heave a sigh of relief when they say, ‘Wow!’.
You see, there is a lot of love going into that.
*************** Balachandran V, email@example.com