Friday, January 18, 2013
While Aaji's Kitchen was very clean it was always full of clutter and people---making it appear smaller than actual size,the Kitchen at Kolhapur where my paternal Grandma Akka ruled the roost was huge,meticulously clean and spotless!!This Kitchen was also well lighted--the Skylights set high in the Walls let in lots of Light but no Sun.The floor was a Cow Dung smeared one---another smell that I adored!!A mixture of Clay,Cow dung and water would be spread on it at night--so that it would be dry by morning.Surprisingly this kept the house cool and it's astringent and antiseptic properties kept Infections at bay.I still remember the smooth but slightly serrated feel of it under my bare feet--and another thing--the soles remained perfectly clean--for Dirt would come off it cleanly when swept up with a broom!!There were Wooden Alcoves set in the thick walls with wooden shelves.These shelves held a dazzling Golden array of different sizes of polished Brass Canisters--each holding different types of Grains,Flours,Pulses and an assortment of home made varieties of Papads.
The all pervading Coal fired Stoves were used here too--but while Aaji's Kitchen had individual Stoves called "Sigris/Angeethis", Akka's were built of Brick and plastered to the floor with the Cow Dung Mixture.While here too we sat cross legged on the floor on the inevitable "Paats" to eat there also was a Dining Table in another room--used mainly as a Study table by my father and his siblings while growing up.Akka would collect everything--all the Utensils,Ladles,Ingredients and Condiments--neatly arrayed in row in front of her--and then commence her cooking.This Kitchen too had a massive Grinding stone and Akka's one eyed helper--Parvatibai would do the honours of using it to grind the various Masala pastes fine.Parvatibai and Akka had been together a very long time--and were pretty close--but neither of them would ever admit that--even in a weak moment!!Both women would be in the Kitchen for atleast four hours each morning--but they always emerged from there fresh and sparkling--spotlessly clean with nary a pleat of their nine yard saries amiss!! One would never guess that they'd been toiling in the Kitchen over a hot Stove so long!!
The Cowherd would bring a Cow and a Buffalo to our door early in the mornings--Cow's Milk for the children to drink and Buffalo Milk for the Tea,Curds and other necessities would be milked fresh on the doorstep into sparkling huge Brass pots called "Kalashees".The Cowshed at the back of our "Waada" had been converted into a Godown and was choc a bloc with Firewood,Sacks of Coal and Grain.The smell of warm,fresh Milk and the taste of it in one's mouth early in the morning is another fond memory.In both Aaji's and Akka's Kitchens meals were cooked to feed a certain number of people--but so perfectly that there were usually no leftovers from the earlier Meals--necessitating the cooking of fresh Food for each Meal.Evenings meant a stroll down the steep narrow lane outside our ancestral home to the River nearby--and buying fresh bunches of Green leafy vegetables on the River bank.We'd walk along the River watching the Sun set--but were discouraged from swimming in it because it had a whirlpool in it's depths and a treacherous current.The fresh smell of the Earth rose up from the roots of each bunch--and all of us cousins would gorge on the simple Dinner that Akka prepared for us.Unlike Aaji, Akka believed in eating light at night--so Dinner would consist of freshly cooked Green Leafy Vegetable called "Paaley Bhaaji" eaten with freshly roasted large "Bhakris" made from "Jwaari/Zondhaley/Jowaar" or Sourghum flour. There would be a simple Dal to accompany the Rice along with the usual Pickles,Papads and fresh Curds--set in individual bowls.Then it was up to the Terrace to lie under the Stars gazing into the dark velvety depths of the night sky.
Aaji's meals were sumptous at each Meal--while Akka preached austerity at night.Both ate small Meals but where Aaji loved to feed people and coax them into over eating, Akka respected a person refusing a helping saying that overeating caused more harm than good!!Also she used just the right amount of Oil while Aaji was generous to a fault with it--along with a lot of other Spices!!Akka however encouraged us to gorge on Fresh Curds,Milk,home made Butter and Ghee saying that Ayurveda also extolled the virtues of such a diet!!Even today I can still remember subtle nuances of Aaji's fiery Konkani food--so very different from Akka's equally fiery Kolhapuri Cuisine--though both used the same Spices in different measures!!Both have left behind a wealth of Recipes that have made me a really good Cook--and while I try to reduce the Oil and some of the fieryness of the Red Chilli Powder--I still follow each one to a T to achieve a similar taste--for ours not to question why--ours only to follow the rules till we die!!