Everyday-spices lined up on the kitchen platform. Myriad ingredients filling the kitchen cabinets. Vegetables that crowd the refrigerator trays.
Harmless. But potent.
Every once in a while you reach out for them but end up opening a bigger jar…of memories. And you land up right in the middle of a moment, tasting forgotten flavours.
The pepper grinder that smells like weekday dinners of Daddy’s favourite Pindimiriyam, the flavor hitting the back of your throat. And Charu-Annam with Kandi-Pacchadi, their distinct flavours blending together in a magical combination. A crate of eggs bringing back a Sunday lunch of Anda Curry that Mummy used to make for Daddy because he liked it so much…prohibited pleasures. Even the sad excuse available in the name of Okra takes you to summer afternoons, lunch plates filled with Bhindi ki Sabzi, Aamras and Phulka. Fresh bunches of cilantro resurrect the surprisingly rare Dosa with Hari Dhaniya Chutney. The ginger you are grating into the evening tea hints at Bamma’s Allam Pacchadi served with Pesarattu. And then her Rava Payasam. Special invitation dinners over Attaiya’s signature Dum Aaloo. Fun evenings involving homemade Bhel. Festival lunches with Mummy’s signature Sevvaiyya Payasam and Attaiya’s Tomato/Imli Pulihora and Shrikhand. The Pav Bhaji made for Sis’s birthday every single year. Mango milkshake. Aam Panha. Puranpoli. Avakai. Dosakai Pacchadi. Bengali Khichdi. Baingan Ki Sabzi. Masale Bhaat. Pulusu.
Sweet. Sour. Bitter. Hot. And everything in between. The taste of nostalgia.
Food is memories.
- Hassan Kadam in The Hundred-Foot Journey.
I now realize that food is also luxuries…having people who love you always be there to cook up their signatures and your favourites…having people who even remember your favourites or ask the simple question, “What do you want to eat?” And one must carry the burden of these memories and luxuries for ever after.
A kitchen of your own is a gain in many respects. It is also a loss of these memories and luxuries. No one is going to whip up favourites for you or ask that question again. It’s your turn to remember favourites and cook them up. As for your own, until you can go home and answer the question, “What do you want to eat?”, they must be relegated back to the big jar of memories.