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In A Pickle Of My Own Making!

Discussion in 'Snippets of Life (Non-Fiction)' started by twinsmom, Dec 8, 2007.

  1. twinsmom

    twinsmom Silver IL'ite

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    ‘It is high time you showed signs of growing up!’ I admonished myself. I keep doing that, admonishing myself, I mean… though it hardly has any permanent effect. Anyway, I am not a defeatist, and each time, I tell my admonishing self that I shall not give it the satisfaction of getting back at me again… Well…as they say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions… and that is what this is all about.
    Every year, for the last decade or two, Amma has supplied me with my annual quota of pickles. Every summer when I go home on my annual vacation, an array of pickle jars would be ready for me to scoop out from, fill and seal into plastic zip-lockable covers that I present Amma with. Her Avakkais, Midis and lemon pickles are all out of this world and she goes out of her way to keep ready Maagaliberu and Aamtekkai pickles which are regional and rare varieties.
    This year, I did not go home for summer. As hot and humid days of <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:smarttags" /><st1:place>Middle East</st1:place> summer crawled by, I wallowed in self pity watching TV anchors waxing eloquent on Monsoon magic… ‘Oh get up and do something useful,’ admonished my inner self, and the gullible fool that I am, I decided to do exactly that… ‘What can I do that will be useful as well as satisfying?’ I wondered and then the idea flashed… Before rationale could put spokes in the wheel of my idea, I decided to make some pickles. Not giving a chance to second thoughts to pull the couch potato in me down, I got up and took a cab to the nearest Mall where I could get Indian stuff round the year.
    My heart skipped a beat or two as it often does when it perceives fresh veggies and fruits…( The same heart winces in guilt when I eventually throw neglected and shriveled veggies into the bin…) The vegetable section was a pickle- maker’s dream come true… There were raw mangoes ( for Aavakkai pickle) and fresh lemon. Armed with mangoes, lemons and a paraphernalia of spices and condiments, I reached home.
    ‘Now where the hell did I put that book of mine?’ I muttered as I started rummaging for my recipe book. Though there was time when but for boiling milk or making rice, I used to refer to my recipe book…about 12 years of reference had ingrained into my brain, the right combinations of spices to be fried and ground for sambhar or the modus operandi of ‘Pitlai’ or ‘Gojju’. This recipe book had been with me ever since I had got married. In the past quarter of a century, I had gone around pestering my mother, mother in law, grandmothers, aunts and other aged experts in our neighbourhood for their specialties and time-tested recipes. It was a leather- bound diary of 1983, the year I had got married. It had stains of turmeric and chilli powder on pages, oil smudges and thumbprints… and insertions of recipes cut from magazines, incomplete, hand written instructions jotted hurriedly down from cookery shows on TV. It had tips ( gleaned from my own disastrous cooking sessions) on the margins in a funnily cloned language of English, Hindi Tamil and Malayalam words… In short… it had my personality stamped all over it and now it was missing…

    I decided to surf the net for the recipes and spent a good hour or two wasting time as I have the habit of getting carried away by things that catch me fancy… You don’t believe me? Well… I googled Aavakkai and the first result was Aavakkai on Flickr- photo-sharing… Curiosity made me open that and one thing led to the other and I was happily clicking open pages and pages of delectable food photos before I remembered what I had googled for in the first place…

    Back….back….back….back….back… and I reached my Google result page. Option 2 Aavakkai ( Raw mango pickle Andhra style) “ The Yum Blog” seemed more like it! But as soon as I started reading it, I groaned in despair. The writer says she has been making aavakkai for 25 years and never measures the ingredients… Everything is “kannalavu” ( measured by eye…) for her. I gave up… She was not the one for me. The next Aavakkai was a restaurant in <st1:place><st1:placeName>Richmond</st1:placeName> <st1:placeType>Town</st1:placeType></st1:place>, <st1:City><st1:place>Bangalore</st1:place></st1:City>…but I struck gold after that… Quickly I took print outs of two or three recipes and then went in search of lemon pickles.

    Indian Food Rocks was the first blogger whose Lemon Pickle Without Oil ( picture intensive step by step recipe) was more a good read and had excellent visuals…. But her pickle hardly looked like the ones Amma made, so I gave her wide berth…The next one had a choice… Lemon Pickle 1 and Lemon Pickle 2… The first used red chilli powder and the second, green chillies. Since I had both, I cut and pasted both on to a new word document and printed the page. I was soon mesmerized by the variety of help this search offered me. There were 1,070,000 help sites for my simple two word query to Google “ Lemon Pickle”… Out of curiosity I decided to check on a few and went sampling lemon pickles from ‘Naked Chef’ to Tarla Dalal and explored fancy titles like Lemu Ka Achar and Limbacha Loncha and Elimichangai urugai and a Nimma Kava Vurgaya (which was boiled lemon pickle)… I was, but natural, side- tracked by sweet lemon pickle, Pakistani lemon pickle and those with and without garlic… By the time I realized the passage of time, the day had progressed considerably… and I realized I had better get down to business.

    Armed with printouts, I entered the kitchen… The sight of mangoes and lemon patiently waiting for me again put the fear of God into me… I decided to be decent to them and ran back to get my mobile. I placed a call to Amma and @ Dhs. 2.50 per minute ( full time rate…which hurts…) The moment Amma heard I am venturing into the field of pickling, she burst out laughing… My ego hurt….but this was no time for worrying about silly egos when time was spelt M-O-N-E-Y! I asked her if she could kindly leave the laughing bouts for Fridays and to give me her original, time tested recipe for Aavakkai and Lemon pickle and not leave out a single secret ingredient from her patented recipe… 32 minutes and considerable amount of Dirhams later, I had her recipes. Gleefully I returned to the mangoes and lemons and set about carrying out her instructions… I ignored the first one. She had said, ‘Pickles have to be made with madi’ ( the state of perfect hygiene…). I was hygienic enough… I washed my hands with soap and wiped them on a fresh towel… It took me the rest of the day to complete the processes so painstakingly written down… And by end of the day, I begged my better half to get takeaways for dinner as I didn’t have the mental strength to enter the kitchen, even to boil water…

    The next stage was traumatic. Waiting for the stipulated number of days to lapse before opening the ceramic jar in which I had made the pickle was like waiting for the foetus to start stirring inside you… A mixture of anxiety, anticipation and morbid fear that things may go awry ruled roost inside me! Finally the day dawned when I was to open the jar and inspect the contents…

    With nervous fingers I opened the two jars… I was expecting all those delectable pictures I had seen on many foodie bloggers’ sites… I remembered a fellow blogger , Baab Mallya and his jars that cried… Mine seemed to be like me – stone hearted… When I opened the lid, I realized something. I am not cut out to be pickle- maker … A blanket of white fungus covered the jar… It was messy as messy could be. What had I done wrong? I had carried out all of Amma’s instructions verbatim… I daren’t call her and listen to another burst of mirth… Quietly, I acknowledged defeat… and binned the whole stuff… Next time I go to the temple, I should pick up bottles of Thankam Pickles from Perumaal’s shop. Certain things are not meant to be… Like Prince Charles ascending the British throne … or Ram Gopal Varma out-sholaying Sholay… like Twinsmom’s new avatar as a pickle-maker of reckoning! So I am back to browsing blogs… even food blogs…they are more satisfying and less damaging to the purse… and er…ego!

  2. Nivedi

    Nivedi New IL'ite

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    I fell for that jar of sun-dried lime pickle in Indian Food Rocks. All summer I sat doing nothing. And began pickling in late summer. The pickle is still sitting in the window sill which fortunately gets good sunlight. I am waiting to relish it with a dollop of curd rice.

    Pickling is a year round activity in Indian homes. The whole house is filled with the aroma of fenugreek, red chilli and mustard. Amla, green pepper, Mahaani (in Palakkad lingo, guess it is Sarasaparilla in English), mango ginger, narthangai etc etc - all have their own place of pride on the dining table. The medicinal smell of Sarasaparilla mixed with lime juice is heavenly. Although there are die-hard haters of the smell too. There were ceramic jars just for pickles. And sneaking into the kitchen to reach for a half-soaked baby mango was a favorite summer activity.

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