Paavakkai crisps

Paavakkai crisps | Bittergourd chips

I am getting all tangled up trying to put down what exactly I want to do in the new year. My first line is about cleaning the combs and hair-brushes regularly, my second one is about writing a book and the third one is cooking a new vegetable every week. My canvas encompasses my home, the beings in it, the dust on the windows, writing a book, losing weight, worrying about all the plastic… I am mixing up things on so many levels, it makes my head spin. So I decided to take each area of interest and write down a list of resolutions for each. So I’ll start with my favourite place – the kitchen. These are my kitchen resolutions I will cook one new/rarely cooked vegetable a week. I plan to fast once a week or go on an all-fruit diet one day a week depending on my mood that week. I have seen enough whatsapp forwards to believe that fasting is good for the body and lemons can cure cancer. I will use up my exotic ingredients before I buy more exotic ingredients. I have some un-identified millets, a pack of phool makhana, a big jar of shrimp paste among many other things. I’ll plan the weekly menu every Sunday so that I am prepared through the week and we’re not forced to order in. I don’t want to deal with all those plastic containers and plastic covers. I will be more patient while frying onions and waiting for the oil to separate from the masala. It makes a lot of difference. I’ll try to cut down the sugar in my coffee and Horlicks, but I don’t promise anything. I will try a little harder to seek out the plumpest seetapazham (sitaphal / custard apple), the sweetest sapota (chikku), the best long-grained basmati rice. Many times, the big chain stores don’t have the best produce. The paati at the market has the freshest greens. I am going to try buying produce anywhere I see them like my maamiyaar. She will stop on a highway, on a jammed road and walk into unknown farms to get her hands on fresh fruits and vegetables. I’ve never bought Paavakkai before because I could not process that much of bitterness. I hadn’t devised a way to make it better. Until now. On a recent shopping trip, I thought I needed to...
Ragi dosai

Ragi Dosai

Exams over, a wonderful next week that looks rosy and peaceful with no-homework evenings and with tickets to 3 of the 4 movies released this week, I am tempted to sing “Idhu podhum ennaku, Idhu podhume. Vera yenna vendum idhu podhume…!” I saw Seethakathi this morning. I loved the movie.  One down, three more to go. I need to give a little bit of background before I plunge into the story I am going to share with you. Watching cinema is serious business around here. A Friday night movie is what wraps up a week for me. I drive bordering on reckless just so I don’t miss the opening “S” “U” “P” “E” “R” “S” “T” “A” “R”. I have no courtesy and I don’t wait for late-comers. I won’t give them a recap of the story so far. I make my kids go multiple times to the bathroom before we leave for the theatre so that they won’t disturb me during the movie. I don’t talk during the movie. Now that you have the background, here’s what happened. I went for a mid-morning show of Seethakathi which was half-empty. A big group of young girls and guys, likely college students were seated in the front rows. The movie was starting. As groups of guys and girls this age are wont to do, they were trying very hard and very loud to impress each other. I thought they were settling into their seats. Let’s give them a few minutes. The guys made a lot of loud un-funny jokes. The girls giggled excessively. We were well into the movie. I hoped they’d stop now. In the next 2 minutes maybe. I couldn’t hear the dialogue. Last chance – one more minute. That is it! I marched out to find the theatre staff. I told him if he didn’t tell them to shut up, I would. He promised to address the problem. I went back to my seat and waited. Two of the theatre staff walked down to the front rows and spoke to the guys and girls seated there. He told them that if they didn’t keep quiet he’d have to throw them out. Even better I thought. The group were offended that they would be “thrown out”. They argued with the theatre staff for a bit and the whole group then walked out in protest. Success! It’s surprising to me...
Milagai bajji

Milagai Bajji, 3 ways

You know that spring of joy when you look out the window and see rain? It’s hard to make sense of it. It’s almost visceral. Rain means happiness, that everything’s going to be alright, that this too will pass, that good things will happen. Whoever said “rainy is gloomy” watched too many Wimbledon matches. It’s like the rounded R’s that people mouth when they return from the US. It’s what we think we need to say. It’s not what we feel deep inside. Rain always, always means happy things. We’ve got it down to a well-worn formula in life and in cinema. Rain means traffic, so we can be late. Rain means cheery rain songs on radio & hot crispy snacks in the canteen. Rain means cancelled classes and school holidays. In cinema rain means heroine introduction, rain means a happy dance, rain means romance, rain means an important twist or the climax. These are the clichés that we love and cherish. For me rain means “Oho Megam” song from “Mouna Raagam” or “Vaan Megham” from “Punnagai Mannan”. Only those two and nothing else. My mind seems stuck in the late 80s. And only Ilayaraja songs will do. That’s just how it is. I am an 80’s child. Rain also means a big plate of piping hot, sinus-opening, throat-scorching Milagai bajji. I love the classic Milagai bajji – the entire chilli, seeds and all, dunked in bajji batter and fried to golden brown perfection. My nose may start running and I may appear to be weeping. But don’t take the plate away from me. It’s the kind of dare-devil things I like to do. I long wanted to try a few other variants of the milagai bajji. One was a potato stuffed bajji that I thought might be a milder, just as tasty version for less adventurous souls. In this one, I make a slit and scrape out the seeds from within the chilli and stuff with spiced potatoes. The third version is a mini milagai bajji bomb. If wolfing down an entire chilli seems forbidding, you can start with these mini milagai bajji bites. I cut up the chilli into little roundels and dunk in bajji batter and fry. These are like the bijli vedi (the little cigarette like single-shot deepavali cracker) – small and cute but still explosive. Last Saturday, I woke up to a cool, drizzly, cloudy...