Of elderly hell-raising aunts and insect diets!

It is some time in the mid ’90s. My mother has just come back from a two month trip to America with her sister. Overflowing with their zest for life and general joie de vivre, they have basically rollicked all over America, raising hell (both well into their sixties, by the way!) raising eyebrows, dust, hair and much merriment as they ‘discover’ Amreeka!

Even two decades later, their exploits are related to us by various cousins – with much glee! One of them tells us of their trip to Disneyland and their desire to go on the most hair-raising of the roller coaster rides, sarees firmly tucked between their knees and their happy squeals for “more”! The cousin, who has expected to escort a couple of elderly aunts who might want to chant “Krishna Rama” every morning and planned a temple itinerary for them, is faced instead with a couple of brimming with energy,wheels-on-their-feet brats, who pooh-pooh all temple visits and insist on being taken to amusement parks, casinos (with an unshakeable belief in their own good luck, they are pair of born gamblers!) and suchlike!

My mom comes back to India addicted to American soaps by the way and insists on her daily fix of “The Bold and the Beautiful” – as corny a soap as it can get! My daughter, who is about three years old, also watches it with her, very interestedly, even learning the names of the players in the highly confusing drama.

One day, she sits watching the act unfold, two fingers firmly in mouth. One if the guys, chap called Bruce-something is in jail on a trumped up charge. The jailor, who’s been paid off (K doesn’t know all this, of course), brings him his dinner – on a platter with a cloche covering it. ┬áJailor man hands it over, leaves and Bruce opens the cloche (cloche covered dish in a jail? Seriously??!) and finds a dead rat on it. He squeals. My mom echoes the squeal..

K, (at the stage where she wants to eat everything including cockroaches and crocodiles!), watches interestedly. Ah, the jailor seems to be a kindred soul, she thinks. Takes her fingers out her mouth (this happens only when she has an important announcement to make, by the way!) and inquires, “Amma, that jailor maama (jailor uncle) thinks that Bluce maama is a non-vegetarian, huh?”!! She is rather puzzled by our merriment but joins in – happy to have cracked a joke!

Her predeliction for insects and various other objects she thought were edible had us all on our toes constantly – to see that she didn’t put weird stuff in her mouth! Who ever thought she’d grow up be a strong PFA (People for Animals) believer??!

Here’s one for you, K… involving no livestock of any kind!

PALAK-CORN

  • Sweet corn – 1.5 cups – boiled with a pinch of sugar and a big pinch of turmeric
  • 1 large onion – chopped and pureed – about 1/2 cup
  • 1 large tomato – chopped and pureed
  • Asafoetida – 1 pinch
  • Jeera/cumin powder – 1 tsp
  • Dhaniya/coriander powder – 1 tsp
  • Garam masala – 1/4 tsp
  • Hot milk – 1 cup
  • Salt
  • Butter – 1 tbsp

FOR PALAK PUREE

  • 1.5 cups – spinach
  • 1 tbsp kasuti methi (dried fenugreek)
  • Fresh coriander – 3 tbsp – chopped
  • Garlic cloves – 2
  • Ginger – 1 ” piece – chopped
  • Green chilies – 2
  • Fried ginger juliennes for garnish – optional – 1 tsp

Combine all the ingredients for the spinach puree with a couple of tbsp of water. Cover and microwave (or cook on flame) for 3 minutes till wilted. Cool and grind to a smooth puree.

Fry the onion puree in the butter till pink.

Add tomato puree, garam masala, dhania powder, jeera powder and saute till the tomato smells cooked – about 3-4 minutes.

Add palak puree, salt and sweet corn and continue to cook for a few minutes more. Switch off.

Just before serving, stir the hot milk through, garnish and serve with hot rotis or puris.

Lefotvers? Cook till the gravy dries a bit and use as a filling for grilled sandwiches.

Or add rice and water and cook into an easy pulao.

No insects or rats or even cockroaches, i promise!