“through the act of living, the discovery of oneself is made concurrently with the discovery of the world around us. . ."

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Kitchen Zen

Mustard seeds spluttered on merrily for a while and then tapered to an occasional apologetic cough. I broke a few red chillies and threw them into the pan. Curry leaves, chopped garlic and ginger waited their turn. As a symbolic protest to the spiraling high price of Onion, I had left them alone in the shelf.

Home alone and too lazy to go out to eat, I was in the process of making ‘whole wheat uppma’ – I don’t know its English equivalent. I had scoured the ‘fridge and kitchen shelves for the embellishments that I usually add – tomatoes, cashew nuts, coriander leaves, green chilles - in fact, I don’t cook to a recipe - I innovate, adapt; I improvise.

As P was away for a few days, the vegetable trough in the fridge contained only a few sorrowful looking pieces - of cauliflower, a cabbage of uncertain d.o.b, tomatoes ready for trash and a mixture of others who had transformed into strange shapes. I salvage a few; a piece of beetroot, carrots who had left its birthplace long long ago.

Lightly frying the vegetables in butter (I love butter), I waited in anticipation; I was hungry. Finally the wheat uppma began to take shape. I scatter grated coconut over it. Using the spatula, I create a dome of the uppma in the deep frying pan. It looks like a pie. A spoonful of Amul butter is dropped on the uppma and like a mason smoothening the thick cement paste, I lovingly spread the melting butter (what an aroma!) all over the dome. The flame simmering, I cut a tomato in the shape of a lotus and place it on top of the uppma. I garnish with wilted coriander leaves forming a design around the tomato. I close the lid and light a cigarette.

Sancho looks up at me for a piece of butter; we share similar tastes.

Not bad, finally. With lemon pickle and tomato sauce, I make a meal of my uppma. Life, I tell my uppma, is like you. Improvising with the leftovers, I bring in whatever colour and taste to it that I can. Life, I muse, is all about making do with what you have.

My friends! Thank you for your patience and tolerance of my rambling thoughts all these days. You have been a comfort and an absolute joy. I have always looked forward to your comments; never a day has passed without someone among you dropping a word or two. For even those who did not leave a note, I am content by looking at their exotic locations that I see in the feedjit widget; thank you for noticing me!

Its Christmas time. K will be home for vacation day after tomorrow. I will take a couple of days off, just to sit with him and perhaps we will watch a movie or discuss life.

May I wish each of you great joy and happiness in this season. May the New Year bring you a lot of cheer! And peace.

******** Balachandran V, Trivandrum, 23-12-2010


  1. “Mustard seeds spluttered on merrily for a while and then tapered to an occasional apologetic cough.”

    What an opening line, sir!

    Don’t you know the angrezi equivalent of whole wheat uppma? Very bad. It’s called ‘Whole Wheat Salt Mango Tree.’

    Wish you a very merry Christmas and happy New Year. Have a great time, take care.

  2. that was the best recipe i have read! :) happy new year to u too

  3. As Arun put it, I just loved your opening line - gala and extravagant :)

    The upma looks so yummy! I am sure you enjoyed it to the core; thats why this passionate post.

    Its been a pleasure to read you. You are one among very few intellectuals that I have met on this blog world. Keep writing. Waiting to read many more interesting pieces from you the coming year too.

    Merry Merry Christmas and Happy Happy New Year :)

  4. I thought one goes out to eat when one is lazy. In your case call it 'adventurous' trying to be your own gourmet.
    "Mustard , garlic, coconut oil, ginger, potatoes and green chilly, I guess life revolves around these "

  5. @Arun: Thanks for 'English' name! I had forgotten that! :)
    Happy New Year!

    @K: Which recipe? The one for Upma or the one for life?

    @Insignia: I learn from life- and recapitulate the lessons that I learnt on this blog page. I am no intellectual, B. They are the ones who are sure of themselves, who propound ideas firmly, unquestionably, with arrogance of authority. I am just a wishy-washy Charlie Brown!

    Thanks for your words. We are having hell of a lot of fun here, aren't we? :D

    Merry X'mas & Happy New year!

    @Anil: are you purposely ignoring the point? The post is not about Upma and the making of it- it is a take on my life - and that of many others. the moral is - as usual, to accept life and improvise with the available.

  6. Mr , B

    Just to let you know that i have been reading you and enjoying your writing...

    Wishing you a great year ahead and my regards to everyone!

  7. Oh! I am feeling hungry. Life, is all about making do with what you have. Really very true.

  8. what a beautiful post!your style reminds me of the prose of some essayist i cant place. shall fill in the blank when the eureka happens.

  9. Dey ,the Zen in the whole process is well noticed. The embellishments and condiments I mentioned is what would enliven the life. And with the constraints you have it fairly well enlivened , haven't you?
    The uppma which you have aint all that bad, and you have made the best you can always.

  10. Just came around to wish you a Merry Xmas & a Blessed year ahead.
    and the writing style of this post is very good. Enjoy the holidays with K..

  11. There was a drama written by C J Jose, we played during the school days.One of the characters says "Life is like a Parippuvada.The chillies,onions,curry leaves... all are the burning problems"

    We only have limited choices,even to improvise.If life gives you lemons, make lemonade!

    Wonderful post.Your style is almost professional.

  12. @Gymnast: Do not just comment, write in your blog, you are a very good writer! Happy New Year, Rini!

    @SUbramaniam: Thanks, Sir!

    @KPJ: Thanks, Ma'am, do let me know! :)

    @Anil: I wonder why we should write to each other in the blog, when we are talking to each other every other day! :)

    @Elizabeth: Thanks, Liz! Merry X'mas to you too!

    @DOC: Thanks, Doc! Well, I hope somebody would pay me to write a column, I am in hard times! :)

  13. Mouth watering picture... Thanks for sharing...

    ~ NRIGirl

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