And once upon a time, very long ago… about forty five years ago or so, we – the three of us children – were being sent on a trip to Vizag for the summer. There was no one to take us there and drop us and the parents were very busy so, as was so easily and generously done those days (sigh… ), our neighbours – Auntie, mentioned earlier in these chronicles, offered to take us all the way to Kakinada where they were spending the summer and someone would take us on to Vizag from there. Or maybe someone else would come from Vizag and pick us up. Maybe. This sort of delightful vagueness was characteristic of most people those days – after all, journeys were uncertain things and what was the point in worrying too much. Something was bound to happen. Someone was bound to turn up. And if no one did, well, the kids would have had a holiday at Kakinada anyway!!
I must put a caveat here – this delightful vagueness is NOT at all a characteristic of people south of Andhra! In fact, my vagueness about plans and life in general was a source of great worry and complete and utter confoundedness in the family into which I married – how can anyone go through life without knowing exactly where they are going to be every minute of the next twenty years?!!! And of my own perplexity – how on earth does it matter that I don’t KNOW what i will be doing this weekend! Ah, but that is another story!
And so, back to my Kakinada katha. We set off, very happily, with “auntie” from downstairs, loaded with goodies for the journey – one needs fortifications for a journey of some four hundred kilometers,even if it is by train! The first delight at Kakinada – we were met at the station by a jutka bandi – a horse-drawn carriage, rather than a boring car! Immediate and secret plans were hatched about what we could do on horseback later – sadly someone read our faces all too well – and strict injunctions against climbing on to, hanging on to underneath or cutting the pony’s mane – were issued! Ah well, we’d find something else…
The house we were taken to was an old village style mansion built around a large courtyard – the life of the entire extended family was lived in that courtyard…
It was summer and as everyone knows, summer is pickle making season, or used to be, for every self-respecting Telugu household! Pickles of many varieties were being made. One of these was the sun dried mango pickle called maagai. Sour and salty, it was a guaranteed staircase to gustatory paradise. Tried one, then another, then another… finally decided it was a waste to get up from my perch on a tree where i was reading to fetch one piece at a time and munching away and took up a permanent seat right next to the drying pickles. Through that warm afternoon, when the world was asleep, I must have munched my way through a couple of dozen pieces of the semi-dried pickle – LARGE pieces.
The rest of my two or three days was spent primarily in a tiny room which served as the ‘outhouse’ recovering from the after effects of the marathon pickle eating session. I was game to try it again but the matriarch of the house put her foot down very firmly!
Decades later, “Auntie” on a visit to Madras, brought me this simply-to-die-for vegetable pickle… most unusual pickle – both the vegetables and the masalas…
KAKINADA VEGETABLE PICKLE
- Cauliflower – 1 large – cut into florets. The rule for buying these is “white and tight”! The flower should not be discoloured and the florets should be packed tightly. Wash the florets by soaking in salted water for ten minutes, rinsing out well and drying
- Dondakayi/kundru/kovaikai/tindli – 100 gm – washed, topped, tailed and quartered lengthwise
- Carrot – 1 large – sliced
- Bajji mirapakaayalu/thick green bajji mirchis – 50 gm – washed, dried, stalks removed and slit
Dry all these in the shade for two to three hours
- Juice of 6 lemons
- Tamarind pulp – 1/3 to 1/2 cup – depending on the amount of red chili powder
- Salt – 2 tbsp
- Red chili powder – 1 cup or less – depending on how hot you like it
- Roasted methi – 2 tbsp – powder roughly
- Sesame seeds – roast just a little and powder
- Sesame oil – preferably cold pressed – about 2 cups
- Garlic – 1 full pod – peeled and dried and chopped roughly – optional
Mix the salt and lemon juice and drop the dried vegetable pieces in. Add all the other ingredients except oil and mix well. In a clean, dry bottle, drop in fistfuls of the pickle, adding about a tbsp of oil after each such addition. Top off with the rest of the oil. Shake about a bit and cover. Mix well the next day and the day after – the pickle will be ready in two to three days.
Too much of this has consequences – if there is more than one of you and only one the little ‘outhouse’ thingies, don’t say I didn’t warn you!