Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Magic Spice that works wonders!

Two days back I read about Dosa mela being hosted by Srivalli, and wanted to participate. But I did not have much time to spare. So I am reposting an article I once wrote in my travel blog. I am sure this would be an unique recipe born out of circumstances and blends well with this theme.So read on , friends, about the secret spice that works wonders......

He was feeling terribly lonely and upset, for this was the first time he was in his house without his wife. This was no more a home to him, without her around. For the first time he realized, how much he had got used to her. She had managed their lives with such skill, that life just flowed so smoothly for him. He was always welcomed home with the appetizing aromas from their kitchen, where she used to cook wonders! He was always eager and proud to invite friends and guests home for lunch and dinners, for he was sure she would present on their table her magical recipes, rich in color and quality!!!

The thought of her food made him feel hungry as usual. He involuntarily opened the kitchen cupboard where she used to store her goodies, home baked muffins and loafs. As he took his first bite he was transported into a different world,"yes, this is the taste of heaven!", he thought. Now he will have to spend two more days without her in this house. She was hospitalized for a minor eye operation. He was grateful to her for having prepared and stocked upon his favorite frozen meals and mouth watering raisin breads.

He recalled the day when he first set foot in their new home. The day was well etched in his memory. His mind had captured it like a black and white photograph. How could he forget their day of wedding!The day when this wonderful woman stepped into his life, and became his life itself. Those were nostalgic moments......laughter and music of bygone days still echoed in his ears.

He took a second bite of the coffee muffin......every thing his wife prepared was always special. He was not her only silent admirer. He had heard numerous praises for her culinary magical skills. He had worn each of her praises like a feather in his cap. As he took his third bite, his memory flashed back to a few years when he was helping her out in their kitchen. He remembered how adamant she was, giving him strict orders not to touch her spice box, which was a wedding gift from her mother. Even after all these years she still preserved it like a treasure. He had spied her dutifully opening it whenever she was cooking, and wondered what magical spice it was ...... it needed no refilling , and still served to be a major ingredient of all her recipes. By the time he was finished with the last bit of the finger licking muffin, he was filled with an intense urge to open the spice box and find out what contents it held."She was not going to find out any way..." he assured his guilty self.

He slowly opened the spice box, doubly careful, not disturbing any of the magical contents...He saw something he least expected. He was awe-struck.....He saw in it a white note which was at the verge of wear and tear. Was his wife hiding anything from him? His heart missed a beat...How he had dotted on her and loved her!!!He felt an ache in his throat.... what would he find when he opened this treasure of hers?... what was the secret that she withheld from him for the past 25 years...?He was totally blank as he opened the note.....He could well recognize his mother- in- law`s bold hand writing... it read"what ever you cook my dear, do not forget to add in this magic spice, YOUR LOVE..."


Now he understood exactly, how and why her food turned out to be so special.....



What does this story have to do with my travels, my impressions? I`ll tell how...it is this magical spice which came in handy for me, when I was a novice in the wonderful world of spices and flavors.



We were alloted a three bedroom apartment in Japan, which we had to share with two other team mates. Our team also occupied yet another apartment in the same building. So there were seven of us who made a real good team.....majority of us were vegetarians....and I could see that our team members were living on fruits and chocolates. My conscience pricked when I had to cook just for the two of us. I offered to cook for the whole team and I relished the look on their satiated faces.....They turned out to be my guinea pigs ,who readily obliged to every experiment that eventually was tested on their palates.


One evening I planned to make semia vegetable upma. Semia is a vermicelli or wheat noodles which I carried along with me from India. I cut all the vegetables, all set to cook : poured boiled water on my semia....I just needed to strain it , so that they don't stick to each other; and then season it with mustard seeds, jeera (cumin seeds), turmeric powder, green chillies and curry leaves, and blend it with the stir fried vegetables."Trrrng....Trnnnnn.g......rang the telephone...............................................................

......................after the long chat over the phone I completely forgot about the soaked vermicelli, which had now turned into a paste. Now what will I cook for dinner? I need to satisfy seven tummies..I could not afford to throw this over cooked vermicelli .... but feeding them this gruel would be definitely cruel and sacrilegious on my part. We could hardly get any Indian stuff in the remote country side we stayed...and each and every bit of groceries we carried along with us was of utmost value. “Annam Parabrahmasvaroopam”, goes a saying in Sanskrit, meaning food is God .I had been a fussy eater as a child giving infinite tensions to my mother....But here, in a land far away from home I realized the divinity in food.

So what do I do with the over soaked paste......Eureka!!!!!!A bulb sparked somewhere in my cerebellum and off I went surfing my cupboards for stocked up flours.....There was the wheat flour, semolina, all purpose flour and the rice flour.....I blended all these in equal proportions adding the overcooked semia and water to make a batter. I now opened by spice box(my mother gifted me !!!), adding a dash of pepper, turmeric,coriander powder and yes.. also an extra dash of that magical spice , love .....I stir fried the vegetables and seasoned it and added this to my batter making it look more appealing and colorful.


That night we had a sumptuous dinner, with vegetable vermicelli dosas and hot and spicy sambar. I was overjoyed to find that my friends shared an increased appetite that day. I experienced the joy of serving , the joy of giving......

When I met our team in Japan they were mere strangers to me..... but in no time we were sharing a roof and our food ... and here away from home I still had a family... I felt great. Yes ....magic spice works wonders!!!........

8 comments:

Happy cook said...

Indeed the magice spice worked wonders.
Loved reading ths whole post

srivalli said...

Nandita...thats quite a story!...thanks for the unique dosa!

AnuZi said...

Loved the story!! and excellent recipe dear.

Suma Rajesh said...

dosa looks really perfect with side dish sambhar....hmmm missing ur recipes.....but njoying ur given recipes at home.....

Maddy said...

at first look it reminded me of our spicy multi grain malabar ada or varadi (palghat) - vermicelli eh? should tell the begum saiba to try it out...

Maddy said...

hey nanditha - you can possibly post the famous konkani neer dosa recipe with its tomato chutney, i am sure that will be a unique one.. we used to enjoy it at our friend shenoy's place

Susan said...

This looks delish, Nanditha. And your stories (parables, really) always have that "special" ingredient which does, indeed, bring soul to your recipes.

Tell me: was the vermicelli completely pasty, or did it still have a little texture left? I know that in certain Indian puddings, you can still see some threads after the cooking.

Nanditha Prabhu said...

Happy cook,
Thank you ...

Srivalli,
Thank you for hosting the dosa mela .

Anuzi,
this recipe was born by accident:)

suma,
i know you are a wonderful cook suma..i am missing your kaipunyam too:)

maddy,
you should tell your begam saiba:)
i will come up with the ner dosas soon:)

Susan,
There was a slight texture left in the vermicelli ...which did add taste to the dosas. you could bite on to the crispiness here and there:)