The gray clouds look threatening outside my window; rumbling, spewing droplets and swooshing winds indicating an imminent thunderstorm. We are all warm inside. The children are tucked in the reading nook, in “quiet time” mode after running amok in the backyard for over an hour. Their father is on a call and his muffled voice reaches me thru the ceiling. I am settling back to my slack messages and code, when I realize I smell headily of turmeric and paruppu ( daal. yellow lentils ). I make a mental note to take a shower before bed.
But I welcome the smell. I draw it in once more, reminded of the last time I woke to the smell of my Periammai’s sambhar in California over two years back. I was asleep on the couch/bed at my cousin’s place, missing my little ones and probably dreaming about them 3000 miles away, when the aroma of sambhar boiling away in the perfect medley woke me up and put me in heaven. It reminded me of my childhood, of home, of Amma toiling at the stove; I felt safe and warm all at the same time.
I recreate that little pot of magic almost every week. Sambhar is a favorite at our dinner table and probably trying and failing at it multiple times has eventually helped me perfect it over the years. I cook like Amma now. If someone asked me to give a recipe, I would say “a little of this. a dash of that.. a heap of this. ” I don’t measure nor miss the quantity anymore. Its a beautiful art I have come to enjoy in its banality. And probably more so in the pandemic.
There is a rhythm to the madness. The meals, the leftovers, the carbs, veggies and proteins, the portion controls; all the while recreating the dishes you grew up on and fitting it into life so far away from where you learnt it all from. It’s a muse, that keeps us rolling. Tastes and memories, passed on to the next generation with love ( I hope )
Today as I tossed shallots, a little head of cauliflower, white pumpkin, daikons with Amma’s sambhar podi, I felt grateful, I felt humbled. I looked forward to our early dinner at 6PM which has become a new norm in the last year, when my older one will finger licking enjoy the meal, and N’s master class crispy dosais. I impulsively whipped up a quick ridge gourd and cilantro chutney on the side to save the veggies from turning bad in the fridge.
Another day has come to an end. The storm outside has passed and I still smell of tamarind and spices. Until the next meal beckons, when I toss impromptu ingredients and concoct a little taste of childhood or not. A little dash, a spoonful, a little sprinkle at a time.