Days of Summer--3
Wednesday, May 01, 2013
Those lazy,blazy days are back--and today is May Day--the first of May!!Staying put in Mumbai can be swelteringly humid and hot--but there are certain perquisites that one enjoys--the juicy,yummy Summer Fruits!! Mangoes top the list--followed by the luscious deep Purple Java Plums--called "Jaamun/Jaambhaley" in Hindi and Marathi.Today these are wildly expensive for their anti Diabetic virtues are widely known--making this indigenous Tree a very popular source of various Medicinal uses unheard of in my childhood!!
As a child I have enjoyed a surfeit of this sweet,sour,tart but lusciously juicy fruit the entire Summer.Our Garden sported a few Trees that bore a generous quantity of Fruit.Daddy would spread out our old Bed Sheets under the Trees to catch the free fall of Fruit from above.These Trees would be so laden with Fruits that even a slight Breeze could cause a deluge!!The Bed Sheets sported deep Purple patches for the Juice leaves an indelible stain and were set aside only for that purpose.During our visits to my maternal Grandparents' home in Poona/Pune,many Hawkers would begin making the rounds since early morning--selling portions of this Fruit with a sprinkling of Sea Salt on it----my mouth waters as I write--many years have passed since but the divine taste still lingers on my tongue!!Sometime while I was growing up Daddy devised a safety Net to catch the Fruit--for it's falling to the ground would sometimes bruise the Fruit badly.We spent so many hours experimenting with the Net before giving up---for getting the Fruit laden Net down was an impossible task!!
Of Course we had our share of Watermelons,Musk Melons and Cantaloupes coming in from the hot Desert Sands of Rajasthan---very sweet and juicy!!There were also the fresh Figs and Papayas from our own Garden and because of this surfeit we'd grumble whenever we had to finish the Fruits!!We were ungrateful wretches--for today when I shell out a pretty penny to buy a far lesser quality of Fruit I always wish that I could just pop back into the Past just to pluck a few succulently plump Figs and sweet Papayas---- for the Fruit in the market rarely matches up to the memory!!Our proximity to Shimla and the Hills meant a steady supply of Fruits from the colder Clime----Cherries,Plums and Apricots.Mummy would be busy making Jam--the Mangoes and other Fruits from the Garden would all begin to ripen all at once--resulting in a splurge of Mango,Fig,Loquat and Mixed Fruit Jams from our own Garden.There would also be plenty of Jellies made with pieces of the Fruit , Fruit Juice and Gelatin---all set in our Icebox in the Pantry.Though the means were not sophisticated the results were truly superlative---in fact so good that they can still surpass many of the best today!!
There would also be huge Ceramic Vats of Mango Pickle---for the huge number of Mango Trees also ensured a steady supply of unripe Green Mangoes and these would be turned into huge Jars of spicy,hot Mango Pickle.Some would be turned into Mango Panna and Mango Squash-----and no matter how many bottles of these poor Mummy made we'd ensure that they'd be over as soon she turned them out!!Today when I glance back over the years and compare my childhood with that of my daughters and grand-daughter, I feel that I was truly blessed to be born in an Era when many things were still simple and pristinely pure--very much as God and Nature intended them to be!!One cannot truly forget the pleasures of Summer--the limited choice of Vegetables would bring out new depths to the way our Cooks thought.There would be some really superb dishes crafted out of the humble Bottle Gourd to add variety to our Menus.That is why I was surprised to learn that there were very few Vegetables that Sudhir actually ate when I came Bombay/Mumbai after our marriage.Living in Bombay meant that they had access to all Vegetables--Summer and Winter variety all year round.So Cauliflower and Green Peas were very much favoured in our home.So also were the fresh Variety of Seeds--the Green Kidney Beans and Green Field Beans being equally popular.The Winter variety of the fresh Lima Beans--shaded in pastel Pink and White were perhaps the most popular of all!!
Sudhir's Vacation meant that I just never cooked at home--he'd say that all of us deserved a break and so except the early morning and afternoon cups of Tea we never ate any of our Meals at home!!There was an Eatery in Girgaon region of Bombay called "The Virkar Velankar Aahaar Bhuvan" run by a Brahmin family.It was our most favourite place to eat our Lunches and Dinners at.Vegetarian only it served an exquisitely simple, unlimited,extremely homely " Thali" the taste of which was delicious and wholesome.Their Menus differed daily and they served a huge variety of Salads and Green Vegetables--my own personal favourites.Today if I can make a variety of different Raitas and Salads it is thanks to the amazing variety I enjoyed there!!Eating there also familiarised me with the huge variety of ways to disguise the lesser considered species of Vegetables into mouth watering Favourites---and Sudhir was a prime example of this for he began first eating and then later enjoying these Vegetables as much as I did!!For the Girls it was the way they served their Dal and Rice with a tiny bowl of "Ghee" in each "Thali".Also the many bowls of fresh Mango Pulp called "Aam Rass" downed with scores of hot,crisp deep fried "Puries" was something they never could get enough of!!The wonderful Faloodas and Ice Creams from Jai Hind Ice Cream Parlour in Nana Chowk,the chopped Fresh Fruits smothered in Cream at Batchelor's on Marine Drive,the divine Kulfi available in Matunga and Shivaji Park and the best freshly squeezed chilled tall glasses of fresh Fruit Juices at Sukh Sagar were to die for-----but then I'm forgetting those divinely refreshing wonderful,chilled,tall Punjabi Glasses of fresh Sugarcane Juice flavoured with fresh Ginger Root and Lime at Apollo Bunder--better known as The Gateway of India!!
Since my very early childhood Summer to me has meant the musky scent of Mangoes ripening in their bed of Hay pervading our home.That is something I have to admit has never changed over the years that have passed by--the very scent of Summer permeates my home each year since mid-March----and the musky allure of the King of Fruits is very difficult to resist!!