Once upon a time (I ALWAYS wanted to begin a story like this!), there was a little girl with two slightly older brothers. She had just started school and had not quite settled into being away from home. Those were the days when live-in cooks were the norm for working couples (working couples were not the norm, though!) and this family had one – a wonderful guy called Narayana.
Narayana was a boon companion, very willing to play endlessly with us – the only thing he couldn’t do was cook! My parents, being the unfussy kind, didn’t care too much – so long as something was put on the plates! N used to make breakfast, send us all off to office/schools etc. and then get down to the job of making lunch. Lunch made, dabbas would be packed and brought to our schools. My school being about a kilometre away from the boys’, not to mention that I hadn’t yet learnt to eat on my own, I’d be picked up on Narayana’s bicycle, taken to their school and fed lunch along with them. Which was fine, except that I was used to a two-hour lunch and schools, in their wisdom, decreed that forty five minutes was quite adequate for children to eat, wash up and then play for a while!
My brothers had discovered the joys of eating quickly and running off to play with their friends – which was also fine except for the little fact that I hated being left alone and would cry – loudly and lustily – till Anand, my eldest brother, came running back to shush me so he wouldn’t be embarrassed in front of his friends! “Anu, please, Anu thinu (eat) Anu! Stop crying, please…” Poor chap, at the age of five and a half, having to deal with a three-year old brat couldn’t have been fun! Arvind was wiser and would run off to the farthest corner of the school grounds, where he could pretend he hadn’t heard me!
I also had to be dropped off at my school for the post-lunch session! All in all, it added up a very stressful lunch hour for everyone else except me! One of those days, it took me so long to eat lunch that my school had shut its gates (18-foot high they were – from my point of view!) by the time Narayana wheeled me back and he had to take me home…
On the way home, I must have been drowsy because I fell off the bike, landed on my feet though and suddenly found myself running alongside the bike. Between a pair of chubby three-year old legs (very chubby despite the hours i used to take to eat!) and a pair of wheels, the wheels won, of course and I was left behind! Luckily, those were the days when the traffic in Hyderabad could be counted on one’s fingers and toes almost and no other vehicle came past! Luckily – otherwise there’d be no one writing this blog!!
Some kind passerby waved down our distracted cook, pointing out that there was a little lump of lard trying to catch his attention by yelling after him! In the middle of all this, as I was running after the cycle, I had an unexpected gift – from an interested crow flying overhead, so excited by the scene unfolding underneath that it decided to… let go!
By the time Narayana turned around, came back to pick up a crowshit-spattered, panting little kid and took her home, the kid had had just about enough of a messy world!
A nap soon restored balance to the universe though, not to mention the fuss that my mom made over me that evening!
Fuss and food – so closely related!
Here’s the food with which a fuss was made over me – almost worth the whole messy day! And NO ONE could make this better than my aunt – Ameenakkayya!
JEEDIPAPPU PAKAM/CASHEWNUT BRITTLE
- Cashewnuts (whole)- 2 cups
- Ghee – 2 tbsp
- Jaggery – grated – 1 cup
- Sugar – 1/2 cup
- Cardamom powder – 1 tsp
Heat the ghee in a saucepan and fry the cashewnuts on a low flame till a very pale golden yellow. Immediately take out of the pan and set aside in a plate to cool.
In another pan, make a syrup of the jaggery, sugar and cardamom with about half a cup of water, stirring frequently.
Add the cashewnuts and continue to let the syrup thicken till the softball stage (that is, a little of the syrup taken out and dropped into a bowl of water should form a ball at the bottom of the bowl. If it melts in the water, the syrup is not yet ready). Cook for a few minutes after the softball stage is reached – almost hardball. Switch off.
When the syrup has thickened enough, pour out the pakam into a greased steel plate and let it set. This brittle is difficult to cut so you just have to break off bits of it (and the larger the better!) as you eat!
Moral of the story – please teach your kids to eat by themselves before you put them in school!