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In search of the secret sauce

"A cook chops herbs into this cooking skillet on top of a stove in this kitchen in Debradun, India. With curry and coriander seasonings, this promises to be a healthy offering of vegetables, including okra, potatoes and peas. The kitchen is operated by Astitva, a local non-profit organization that helps abused women start small business and find jobs so that they can become economically self-sufficient. Two women operate the kitchen as a profit-making business. They prepare meals for staff, students in a day-care center and deliver tiffins to local business people at lunch -- as well as grind spices for a thrift shop."  

The kitchens in ancestral homes hold delectable memories

A trip to Malleswaram in Bengaluru, with its tiny masala shops tucked away in every nook and corner, is bound to awaken memories of a time long gone by — when my aunts would ready a whole array of spices and condiments for the brats who descended on the ancestral house from all corners of the country every summer vacation.

Dressed gracefully in their madisaru, the traditional sari, these ladies were the heart and soul of the kitchen.

Way back in the 1970s and 1980s, when television did not have cookery shows, cooking in our homes was more than just the prerogative of our maamis, as they were affectionately called. It was their sole, absolute area of expertise. How they lorded over the kitchen!

Yes, how many memories revolve around the kitchen, where we cousins would congregate, clamouring for murukku and seedai and piping hot dosai, our demands changing with the hour.

Our maamis were adept at dishing out delectable fare out of virtually nothing (accompanied by astonishing yarns conjured up from their brilliant memories) in quick time.

Back then, life was simpler, and we children spent time playing hopscotch, or just climbed nearby trees and jumped down from them with glee.

“Break time” meant rushing to our maamis, who were ready with kola vadai or vattal, those fried delectables, made “finger-licking good” with a secret mix of spices passed down from generation to generation.

In adulthood, when I once went back to our ancestral home, and asked my maami what went into the making of that vadai or sambaar that I had swooned over, I was a bit bemused to hear the reply, “Love… that’s the secret formula… for the rest, it all comes with experience, and you know what they say, ‘Experience is a hard taskmaster; it gives the test first, and lessons later…’’’

an_ra@rediffmail.com

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Printable version | Apr 3, 2020 7:42:23 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/in-search-of-the-secret-sauce/article30652010.ece

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