Of Childhood Memories, Mangoes and Brinjals

It is indeed weird how we remember the strangest of things from our childhood that others have completely forgotten, all because it is linked to food. That could the case particularly for people obsessed with food like me. Perhaps it is this aspect of my memories that influenced why we engage in certain behaviors and have certain skills too.
One strange memory that I always carry, while all my other family members have no reminiscence of, was our first cook. She was a puny Bengali girl who was a servant at a neighbor's house, and started cooking and cleaning at our place to earn more and help her family back home. She was a fantastic cook, and introduced our Punjabi palate to several interesting experiments from her own cuisine. One of those was a fantastic raw mango chutney that she would cook. It is so ironic that no one remembered anything about it, though I searched for its reviews for years, and she had since long gone. Today, I found out the recipe, and as I cooked and tasted it, all my childhood memories came rushing back. It took years of cooking and exploration and to find it and discover why the best memories of our lives often tend to be the simplest - the simplest tastes, the plainest of colors, or the starkest of structures.
Additionally, as we learn what we want to, we keep adding more and more to our arsenal, to the extent that we can surprise people in crafting simple, plain looking stuff into lip smacking delicacies. That I discovered when I cooked a Sri Lankan style brinjal pickle that is ridiculously simple to cook but knocks you off your feet with its clean blend of tastes. Maybe it is flavors like these that future generations in my family may carry on their memories, which I shall gift to them. For now though, I shall share with you these simple things that I enjoy. Hopefully you shall too.

Kaacha Aamer (Raw Mango) Chutney
1 medium sized raw mango, chopped
1 chopped green chilli
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
2 1/2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp turmeric
2 pinches salt
Mustard oil

1. Heat the oil till it smokes well. Add the mustard seed tempering and let it splutter.
2. Add the raw mango and chilly into the oil and let it cool. Add the salt and turmeric to let it cook faster. Add about 1/2 cup water to the mango and cover to soften.
3. Once soft, add the sugar and mix well so that the sugar dissolves. Then add 1/2 cup water, mash the mango a bit, and cover till it thickensa bit.

Use as a side dish with any dal-rice or dal roti combo.

Wambatu Moju (Brinjal pickle)
1 big brinjal, sliced
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp salt
1 big tsp red chilli powder (I use Kashmiri as it's less hot)
1 sliced onion
6 cut and slit green chillies
2 tsp mustard seeds
3 tsp vinegar
Oil for deep frying

1. Soak the mustard seed in vinegar for half an hour. Grind into a paste.
2. Coat the sliced brinjal with turmeric and half the salt.
3. Heat the oil in a wok. Fry the brinjal slices till golden brown in color. Keep wis aside.
4. Once cooled, add the onion, chillies, remaining salt and red chilli powder. Mix well.
5. Finally, add the mustard paste and mix well. Store in a jar and let it sit for a couple of days. This batch can last for about ten days. 


Anonymous said…
Read Proust: Swann's Way: In Search of Lost Time, Volume 1 (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition)
Anonymous said…
"The sight of the little madeleine had recalled nothing to my mind before I tasted it...." but "....as soon as I had recognized the taste of the piece of madeleine soaked in her decoction of lime-blossom which my aunt used to give me .... immediately the old grey house upon the street, where her room was, rose up like a stage set to attach itself to the little pavilion opening on to the garden which had been built out behind it for my parents."

Marcel Proust (1871-1922)
‘Remembrance of Things Past’

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