In fact, it wasn’t just rice and lentils and vegetables and yogurt on the table growing up. My mom is an excellent cook. In the early days of immigration, there were lots of parties, and lots of food. My mom made snacks and sweets, and specialties from all over South Asia. Home cooks, my mother and her friends knew how to cook for the family and cook to impress, and traded ingenious ways to coax delicacies using Pillsbury products and Bisquix, in addition to what could be found from a trip to the Indian grocery store, hours away. This supplemented the foods my grandmother had prepared and paxcked in her suitcase, and later sent through friends. Savories like dried salted mango, homemade mango pickles, ready to fry pappadum.
My mom would use a hand held brass press to shape chickpea batter into hot oil where the complicated shapes would bubble up and solidify into preztels. There were pounds of carrots grated into halvah: that was my job, to grate the carrots. I helped shape the dough to transform into sugar soaked badushas and rasagullas, though my shapes were never as good as my mom’s. Her hands steady, the same fingers that made perfect rounds to fry into sweets also made dresses for me, and my dolls, not to mention the slipcovers and curtains. She had a BSc in Chemistry and Biology from india,and though her life centered around the house and us, she gave us dreams to leave and circle back.
She is in her eighties now, and doesn’t cook as much as she used to, and why should she, but she did make badushas for my niece to celebrate going to college. And I made a hot-milk vanilla cake,decorated it with rose petals and lavender, and put it on instagram. Unlike the beauty of the photo, the cake was less than great. I had over beaten the batter, and a rubbery streak ran through it when I finally cut into it.
Now I have eggplants sizzling in ot oil, stuffed with amixture of coconut and spice. Sounds good, right, if you like those ingredients. The result won’t be instagram perfect. but I’ll let you know how it turned out. I used Madhur Jaffrey’s recipe from her beautifully illustrated World of East Vegetarian Cooking.
And this video in Telegu uses a different recipe but fun to watch:
My brinjal came out okay. Like anything, these things take practice. And fall is always energizing.