Once upon a time there was a granny whom everyone called Mamma.
All week she would sit quietly at home. Looking onto the busy road from her veranda. Waiting for her granddaughter to drop by for the weekend when school was shut. Mamma would count the days and wait for her pet to arrive. The tiny girl would finally swing in through the door, fling her even tinier bag on the easy chair and breathlessly narrate all that the she had learnt through the week. Mamma smiled, and gasped at the right places, as her little bespectacled Red Riding Hood would tell her about her new discoveries.
As Mamma waited through the week she would make plans on what to feed her little weekend visitor. Coins would be taken out of a little red velvet purse. A bar of chocolate would be called for. She would then think up of what to cook. Dal was mandatory. But so were mutton kebabs and diced potatoes. But who would get the mutton? Mamma had grown up in a respectable age after all. An age where ladies didn’t go anywhere alone. Given her years only a visit to the doctor, or to a family marriage, was proper. So who would go to the mutton wallah? How could she get the mutton? A flight of stairs stood angrily between her and the road to the market. A distance which counted for nought in square feet. And yet tormented her. The demons of fear were fierce. The consequences of a fall scary. The fractures her childhood friends had succumbed to shook her.
Then she thought of the little girl. The way her face would lit up as she bit into the kebabs lost in potatoes.
And Mamma would take the first cautious step down the stairs. Fight the demons in her mind and take the next step. Each step less unsteady than the previous one. She continued on her great march down without looking back. Willing her tired knees and aching legs one more time. Again. And again.
She finally reached her destination after thirty two arduous steps. Rang the door bell. Handed over the carefully counted notes from her little red velvet purse to the neighbour’s outstretched hands. Their silent routine done she would begin the climb up. Step by step. Step by step.
She waited patiently on her easy chair till the own doorbell rang. She opened the door and held out her hand for the bag which the neighbour had got.
She headed for the kitchen with her booty. A strange spring in her ancient limbs. She opened the packet. Looked in. Smiled. Took out the minced meat. Washed it. Rolled it into balls. Chopped green chillies and onions. Peeled potatoes. She willed her hands to cease to tremble and shake for a while. She worked her magic. Fried the little kebabs in searing hot oil. Her weak hands lifting the heavy metal wok without a tremor. She tossed cubed potatoes with pepper, salt and more of her favourite chopped green chillies. Put them all together and waited for her princess to come.
Mamma looked out of the veranda and waited for her weekend treat. Her tired eyes finally spotted a little speck in the horizon. And soon she saw it grow into the smiling face she so looked forward to all week. Running down the gate. Up the stairs. Into Mamma’s arms. Kisses and hugs done with the two sat together and shared their week’s stories over kebabs and potatoes and rotlis.
And so the story continued. Weekend after weekend. The little girl grew up. The kebab and potato tete a tetes slowly became history.
This is the story of the potatoes in the photo. A poignant reminder of happy times.
But wait. The potatoes are incomplete by themselves. They have to be tossed with kebabs remember? Mamma wouldn’t recognise the shammi kebabs in the picture below. Mamma’s kebabs were little round balls. These are flat. And what’s with this chicken kheema? Only mutton mince would do for Mamma’s little princess.
Is this a true story? Well, as I read somewhere, ‘food is love’. And nowhere is this truer than when it comes to grannies.
What’s your granny story?
For those interested, here’s a modern interpretation of Mamma’s potatoes:
- Peel four potatoes
- Cube them
- Parboil them in the micro for four minutes. A newfangled touch to cut down oil
- Put two tablespoons of oil in a non stick pan. Let it heat
- Add the potatoes
- Sprinkle a teaspoon each of salt and black pepper powder. Stir. Add three finely chopped green chillies
- Cover the pan with a lid and let it cook on a slow flame
- Open the lid and stir occasionally
- Let it cook till the surface of the potatoes begin to crinkle and become a crisp
- You are done when the potatoes crinkle across all sides
This is best had with rotlis (Gujarati for rotis). With ghee smeared on them if Mamma had her way.
Note: I entered this for the food stories event at ‘Of chalks and chopsticks’