Thursday, March 06, 2008

Of Green Eggplant and Mustard Carp

The first morning I woke in this house, I found a large bowl of chicken marinating in yogurt. Oh, yummy, tandoori chicken! But what have we here? A huge platter of carp, marinating in a thick mustard rub. And yet more? Okra and young eggplant curries, cauliflower, prawns, cabbage in a creamy anise dressing, chapati everywhere and tamarind sauce on top and I'm hamfisted and butterfingered when it comes to eating without utensils but everything's forgiven by the time we pass the creamy caramelly candies -- demure little allusions to sweetness that they are. Unfortunately, A. M. prepares all this food in a great hurry and runs off without explaining a bit, as he is fantastically busy cheffing it for the first-class passengers of your favorite major airline in an enormous hangar of a kitchen. He said as a small boy in his village he never wanted the adventure or excitement of leaving home, but only to eat well. His wife has been in India for the nine years he's been off landing cutthroat-competitive contracts with his gracious shrug, fourth-grade education, and food that speaks for itself, thank you.

In other words, this little household hanger-on is left gasping in wonder with a plateful of curry three times a day. And butterfingered and hamfisted as I am, all I can do is take a knifeless, forkless stab at naming the turmeric and anise and cumin and ghee, yes, I've met you... but I'm struggling to transcribe this symphony on my tongue.

Shortly, my stay in South Indian ananda will close. Shortly I shall chortle apron-clad in my own new kitchen, flicking on&off the blue flames in my gas stove and flinging wide the funny little half-doors to the pantry (I have a pantry!) -- which shall all be bare and dry with one doleful moth fluttering out. For now, I'm told the whole refrigerator is my demesne, and damned but if I'm not going to make the rounds. The dal looks like it wants some reconnoitering.

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