Sunday, January 20, 2013
When we first bought this place the minute Kitchen was the only drawback.The view however more than made up for it---cooking looking out at the beautiful Vegetable Patch made it worthwhile!!The Counter faced the window however the Counter Space was limited and so was the Storage.My Kitchen measures just 6' in width and 8' in length--surprisingly small for those days. Our ceilings are about 9' high--not really high ceilinged but good enough!!Those days with two very young daughters we preferred to keep a folding Dining Table in the Kitchen.It ensured that I could feed our children nice hot Indian Rotis or Flatbread right off the "Tawaa "or Griddle straight into their plates during their early Dinner.Those days Sudhir would reach home late--by 9-9.30 p.m. and I'd feed the girls a small Dinner to keep them till the main Meal--and that was when this Table would become really useful.Later it began serving as a makeshift Study Table--for I'd get them to do their Homework sitting there while I cooked the Dinner.
As they grew up and the Kitchen expanded--new additions in both Appliances as well as Utensils made their appearance I got it restyled in 1980.This was when Sudhir bought me my first Cooking Range.Those days these were very new in the Market and I wanted one because I'd grown up drooling over these in all the British Magazines my mother subscribed to when I was young.So it was a very dear Dream--and Sudhir bought me one as a surprise Gift to me on my Birthday.Bombay has a lot of Book Sellers--literal treasures can be bought for a Song on the pavements in Fort--Kalaa Ghodaa area.These include rare first editions as well--one just has to know where to look for these!!One day after we bought the Range Sudhir came home with a thick hard bound Cook Book--and within it's pages lay all those Dishes I'd dreamt of cooking up--in both Imperial and Metric measurements!! Then began a phase that was to last for almost 10 years--Breads,Cakes,Cookies,Biscuits and Puddings--you name it---I made it!!I became a really good Baker--and till today both our girls--more specially Sayali drool over the super light Victoria Sponges,Ribbon Cakes,Marble Cakes and Swiss Rolls I made.Bread was my speciality too and various Pies--but most of all Shepherd's Pie was the Family favourite.Roasts,Biryanis,Kababs and traditional Fish Dishes would all turn out finger licking perfect--till one day my Oven died on me!!The next to go was the Grill and no amount of coaxing or repairs could get it working again--so I was forced to let go of it with a heavy heart----and a new phase of plain Gas Stoves commenced.We aquired an OTG--short for Oven Toaster Grill which used Electricity instead of Gas but the size was much smaller so gradually my Baking petered out.Baking in small quantities was such a bore!!
Both the Girls loved eating Roast Chicken--but Sudhir would need a proper 5-6 course Indian Meal so I'd cook these Dishes for Dinner whenever he had to attend formal Bar Dinners at the Court.One night he rang the bell pretty early after such an Event--and asked for Dinner!!I was stunned--all I had was Roast Chicken with Roast Potatoes,Onions and Gravy with home made Dinner Rolls!!Luckily scrounging through our cavernous 'Fridge I emerged victoriously with Rice,a Vegetable Curry and Dal--enough to satisfy his appetite.I learnt a lesson that night--I'd always keep sufficient food for him in the 'Fridge--for it gradually became a pattern with him.He'd eat a light Snack around 7 p.m. just before he left and come back home later to a full Dinner.I liked to cook all his favourites for it was the only Meal apart from Breakfast that he ate at home on Weekdays.Weekend Breakfasts were special--cooked and served late with Bacon,Eggs and Bread cooked in a variety of ways--the most popular being Eggs on Tomatoes!!This is actually a variation of a Parsi Speciality.Among the Parsis Eggs are cooked along with a variety of vegetables.A base is prepared by sauteing finely chopped Onion with minced Garlic and Ginger in Ghee till the Onion turns transclucent.Then chopped Tomatoes,finely minced Green Chillies,Mint and Cilantro Leaves are added along with a a little Coriander-Cumin powder and Salt to taste.When the Tomato turns pulpy and Ghee shows at the edges,the heat is turned low and Eggs are gently broken over it.The dish is then covered and simmered over a low flame till the Eggs set--sunny side up.Many a time I'd add Minced Lamb to the Tomatoes or Bacon chopped up fine or sometimes Ham or Salami----this made a substantial Breakfast for us as Lunch would be late.You can also add finely chopped Spinach Leaves instead of the Tomatoes or even Okra cut up in small pieces.This Dish is eaten with crisp,buttered Toast--and very tasty it is too!!Sunday lunches were really special and while Sudhir did the shopping I'd make the necessary preparations.
Sudhir and his talkative Tail Sayali would leave to fetch the fresh Meat from the Butcher for the Lunch along with fresh Vegetables.Till they came back I'd make the preliminary preparations and my Onions--actually Shallots would already be frying in the Pan before they arrived home.There would usually be a Meat Curry,a Salad,one Vegetable Curry and if the Meat had a thick Gravy, then a Dal too to serve over the Rice.Sundays meant Pulaos--Rice roasted in Ghee till Golden, seasoned with Spices cooked with Peas or Vegetables with Salt to taste.The Dal would be special too--different Seasonings and Spices would be added and the cooking medium would always be home made Ghee--never Oil!!One thing was truly exasperating--the Girls managed to finish all the Meat pieces by evening--making it necessary for me to boil a dozen Eggs and add to the Gravy that remained!!Today those same girls are pretty particular about the quantities they eat--and I miss those carefree days---they were really great fun!!
Fish was our staple Diet--cooked every single day!!My Fisherwoman Jaya came to the Door everyday except on Mondays and certain Feast days when we didn't eat even Onion and Garlic--forget the rest!!When Sayali was very young this used to be a fun time.Sayali would greet Jaya like a long lost friend everyday---rush about getting her a glass of Water,finding her a comfortable "Paat" to sit on and once satisfied that Jaya was comfortable asking me to make a cup of Tea or Coffee for her----all this because Jaya brought the freshest Fish to our door.Then she'd pore over Jaya's "Paati' as we called the huge flat Basket of Fish Jaya carried on her head.This would be laden with a huge variety of Fish--huge Tiger Prawns/Shrimps,Pomfrets,Black Pomfrets,Kingfish,Mackerel,Salmon,Sardines
,Sword Fish,Shark--you name it she had it!!The funniest part is that Crows would appear at the Kitchen window sill, cawing away--a signal to Sayali that Jaya and her basket of Fish were on their way up to our Flat!!Jaya is the one who taught me to cook a large variety of Fish--and she introduced our Girls to a large variety of tastes.Clams,Mussels,Crabs, she taught me to clean all these and also cook them.Jaya is one person whom I miss for she was one of my soulmates--a truly kindred soul!!Today there are just memories left for she passed away 10 years back--and the taste of her Fish still lingers on in our minds and on our tongues.
It was in 1984 that Sudhir insisted on getting me the latest Kitchen at the time--and this Kitchen lasted me till December 2012--when I finally replaced it with the present one.Today I have come face to face with so many things I just bought but never used--and I'm winnowing out the Chaff from the Grain by getting rid of what I don't need.Vanita and Hira Bai are disposing off all that stuff which none of us need----but carrying home the good stuff I don't need or use anymore.I've finally taken out my prized new Tupperware--the older used Tupperware Vanita will be taking home---and that which is no good goes into the Dust Bin.Already I have cleared a lot of space by getting rid of the extra unwanted Tupperware,Crockery and Cutlery thereby keeping a Kitchen which I can clean regularly every 10 days to ensure that both the Kitchen and me remain in great shape!!