A flavoursome aroma would always waft across the hallway from paati’s (grandma’s) kitchen, drawing me like a magnet to see what’s cooking. I would peer through the sheer curtains and look with curious eyes. She’d turn around with her radiant smile knowing I was up for some tasting. She’d let me scrape off milk toffee from the spoon as she spread it on butter paper to cool. The cooled toffees would be filled in a jar that I could take from anytime I wanted. The magic that made these simple toffees of just condensed milk and sugar taste melt-in-the-mouth delicious was in the stirring. Only she knew how. I also loved the process of making sweet shells or gavvalu because I would help in shaping the dough into little shells and lading them with sugar syrup once they were fried. She made me feel that the shaping was the most important part of the recipe just to make me feel special.
In paati’s kitchen there was an old National mixer grinder. It was yellowing and with the sticker faded, anyone would have assumed it to be not functioning. But on the contrary, it ground her masalas, made restaurant style milkshakes, creamy batter for dosas and vadas. Living with her meant that each day of the week would have some treat- mostly innovations or recipes thought of by her. She never read a recipe book. I always wondered what was hidden in paati’s kitchen- some secret spice, something she brought from a faraway country or maybe tons of ingredients from Aryaas super market. I always wondered what made her drumstick leaf sabji have just the right amount of bitterness or how her rasam had all flavours blended yet very discernable. I wondered how her payasam looked like something I read about in books, and how the only time I ate carrots and beets was when she made them into sabjis that looked and tasted nothing less than exotic.
She’d tie her hair in a tight bun, put on an apron and march to the kitchen like a chef queen every morning. Bunches of coriander and pudina (mint) would be blooming in a jar of water giving out a refreshing fragrance. The morning sun would filter through the window, glowing on her bright face. She’d look around like an inspired artist about to create a master piece.
Before paati left us she wrote in shaky hands some of her recipes that she knew I loved. I was grown up by then. I read them expecting to see some ingredients that I may not be able to find but all I saw were simple steps and basic ingredients found in any and every kitchen.
Yet, I had found the secret ingredient inside paati’s kitchen- it was the heart and soul she put into her food and what wouldn’t I give to have her read this today and know that she’s one of the greatest artists I have ever known.
This post is part of Blogchatter Half Marathon