You know the saying “Never try to buy the mother-in-law a gift”.
Never try to buy the mother-in-law a surprise gift
It’s something I forget from time to time, hopeful idiot that I am. I learnt long ago to keep the receipt intact whenever I am buying her a saree because she will one hundred percent want to go and exchange that. Somehow the one I’ve bought is the most wrong saree, the one saree she wouldn’t have picked from the entire store.
She’ll take me along with her and ask my opinion on the saree she selects. By now I realize my role. I have to agree with her but pretend that it’s my opinion. I promise myself I will never buy her a saree for a gift, ever.
I once buy her a saree and pitch it to her. I show her how it’s just like the one the woman wears in the advertisement, how it is a style and colour she doesn’t possess. She takes it and doesn’t ask to exchange it. I must be a natural at sales I begin to think. The next week, I see that her mother is wearing the saree I so neatly pitched.
I promise again.
For a recent birthday of hers, I take her to the saree shop and ask her to choose her gift. She chooses, I agree. She declares it’s one of the best sarees she’s received recently. I agree.
You’d think I’d have everything sorted out now.
It happens that I am a slow learner. Last week at the book store, I see a good collection of tamil books on alternative medicine. I immediately think of the maamiyaar, an avid acupuncture, reiki follower and pick up a couple of books on siddha medicine and home remedies. For a brief minute I see her enthusiastically taking the books and saying how useful they will be. I stand in line to pay for the books. I shake off my little reverie and see exactly what she’s going to say. I still go ahead and buy them. I tell myself that my intention is pure.
I give her the books and I see zero surprise. I pretend to be unaffected and flip a few pages, pretending to read. I look down at the book and actually read a few home remedies because I don’t know what to say when I look up at her.
I say “There are quite a few useful home remedies in here. Like for lice, you’re supposed to use karum..
Maamiyar: “Yeah karum Thulasi”
I: “It says, for colds, burning a bit of turmeric and inhaling the smoke can be effective”
Maamiyaar: I used to do this all the time when Jagan was a kid
I: “For constipation, it says a good home remedy is to boil dates in milk until soft and then blend and drink”
Maamiyaar: You can also eat dates as is.
I look down at the book and try very hard to find something that she doesn’t know, something that’ll intrigue her, something she’ll appreciate learning new.
Jagan tries to help and asks me: “Why don’t you take the book? You can read it and then give it back to her”
I say weakly “Although there are lots of things in this book that she already knows, there may be a few she doesn’t know and I think that might be useful for her”.
No response from Maamiyaar.
Nothing new, but it felt like I had reached a new high (or low) in being snubbed.
Principle to remember when buying cookbooks
I urge you to not look for a book that’s 100 percent new to you, which has nothing you already now. That’s usually not possible. I recently bought a book called “Dosa” by Geetha Padmanabhan and it’s all about Dosa. Our family eats Dosa every day of the year. This is the family that rented a car in the United States to go to a faraway Indian store just to buy “Dosa batter”. We make a lot of dosa and quite a few varieties of them. But I also know there are many kinds of Dosa that I don’t know of. This book has a few I’d love to try. I bought the “Dosa” book not because I don’t know anything about “Dosa” but because I want to learn more deeply about “Dosa”.
Mocha kottai rice
Remember this principle especially for cookbooks. Another gem of a cookbook is “Annapurni” by Sabitha Radhakrishna. I bookmarked about 20 recipes from the book that I want to try and that is a lot for any cookbook. This book is a real keeper. As promised, here is a recipe I made from Sabitha Radhakrishna’s book “Annapurni” – Mocha kottai Sadam/Mocha paruppu Saadam. This is easy to make, great for lunch boxes and a refreshingly new take on mocha kottai. It’s a flavour packed, protein rich rice dish that is delicious and filling. Serve with appalam or papad. Enjoy!
Mocha kottai rice
- Mocha kottai Dried or Fresh – ½ cup (soak dried beans overnight)
- Rice – 1 cup
- Water – 4-1/2 cups
- Salt to taste
- Shallots – 5 + 5
- Whole dry red chillies – 3
- Cumin seeds – ¼ tsp
- Curry leaves – 6
- Turmeric powder – ¼ tsp
- Oil – 3 tbsp
- Mustard – ¼ tsp
- Split Urad dal – ¼ tsp
- Curry leaves – 6
- Green chillies – 2 slit
- If you’re using dried beans, soak overnight.
- Rinse the rice and beans, add salt and water and pressure cook for 12 minutes or until rice and beans are soft and cooked through. Switch off and set aside.
- Grind the ingredients called for under spice paste. Add very little water to help along. Set aside.
- To a kadai/pan, add oil. When the oil turns hot, add mustard seeds. When mustard seeds splutter, add the split urad dal, curry leaves and green chillies. Roughly chop the 5 shallots and add to the pan. Fry for a few minutes or until the onions brown slightly.
- Add the ground spice paste to the pan and fry until the oil separates.
- Mix the fried spice mixture into the cooked rice and mocha kottai. Mix well and heat for a couple of minutes.
- Serve hot with appalam or chips. Enjoy!