Friday, June 28, 2013

Early cooking endeavors

Most of my childhood, atleast till I entered my teens was spent in Kozhikode a.k.a Calicut, a northern district in God's Own Country Kerala.

For nearly thirteen years we stayed in the same rental house. It was a three storeyed traditional Kerala style house with tiled roofs . There was a well at the back that was always filled with sweet tasting water despite the fact that we were hardly a mile away from the sea. There was a huge open space in front of the house in addition to a car shed,  which my mother used to decorate with Kolam(Rangoli) everyday.A sprawling mango tree grew in front that covered the whole of the front yard. It allowed just enough sunlight to light up the space and always kept the house cool. Apart from that there were a couple of coconut trees and a betel nut tree in the space around the house. The latter had a black pepper climber running around it.

A huge cowshed that no longer housed any animals stood between our house and the landlord's house and that used to be a primary play area for kids in the compound.

At that age I was not mature enough to appreciate the loveliness of that house. I longed to move to one of those modern concrete mosaic floored houses. Now sitting on the 4th floor of a multistorey concrete complex , with not many plants around, I would give anything to get back to such a home.

There was a huge washing stone near the well, that our maid used for washing our clothes. Every morning I would sit on that stone with the toothbrush in my hand thinking about God knows what, for almost eternity. Then my mother's 'Jaish, go brush' would slowly transform to 'You are going to be late for school, are you going to brush or not?' and I would carry on with my morning routine.

All the houses in the neighborhood had so many trees and plants and many of them housed beautiful gardens. I had so much to explore and a lot of friends to play with.

One of my favorite activities now is losing myself within the walls of my kitchen experimenting with food. Of course, the favorable results do have only a 50% probability.  My cooking interests dates back to my years in Calicut as a five or six year old. Oh, I loved pretending to cook. Three stones or brick pieces arranged  together housing some sticks was my stove. One of the easily available materials in the neighborhood was the coconut shell that served as my vessel. I would fill it up with water , add some grasses for the seasoning and place it on the make believe stove. Take an orange brick piece or a tile piece, dip it in water and rub it against a stone and it would give a red colored paste. This would add color and look to my curry on the stove.Sand mixed with water would be filled in some of the coconut shells and then turned upside down and emptied to give us what we called rice cakes. Above all, I would pluck the still young green black pepper fruits, smash them to a paste and add them to the water on my stove to give it a thick consistency. The cowshed had a guava tree and some of the yet to ripen guava fruits would also meet their end in my cooking endeavors.

Soon, the landlord came to know how his precious crops were getting sabotaged by a mischievous brat in the neighborhood and a warning came flying in my direction. Then I could not fathom what was wrong in plucking and grinding all those fruits. Now when I pay a huge sum in my supermarket bill for a mere 100g of black pepper or 3 guava fruits, I find myself reminiscing those days.

The years I spent at Calicut hold some memories very very close to my heart and yes, I had a very fulfilling  and exciting childhood in a beautiful and green town.

38 comments:

  1. Ah! How I too missing living in such a house. And you cooking tale - maasha-allah!

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    1. Ha ha and do you know the rent then was so low ? We would not even get a room for that money now and in the metros not even six feet of space I suppose !

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  2. It gives a very good feeling remembering childhood days.Your innovative cooking made me smile The pleasures of such pranks can be enjoyed only in childhood . Very nice reflections Jaish.

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    1. Thank you . Some memory lanes fill one with immense joy

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  3. Such a lovely memory of childhood times, Jaishree:) Beautiful writing which transported me back in time!

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  4. Loved the image of the house that your description painted .. How lovely it must have been ..
    And the sea within a mile! Then it should have been heavenly!!
    I've done my share of make believe cooking too :)

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    1. It was within a mile and my parents sometimes used to go walking along the beach and then bring back badams dropped from the badam trees along the shore :)

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  5. Wow! You lived at a beautiful place! As kids even we 'cooked' exotic dishes with mud and leaves. But then we graduated to actually cooking as we grew a bit older. During summer vacations we would have 2 teams with 4-5 kids in each team and we would get small quantities of raw material (flour, rice, potatoes etc) from our homes and make food. Then we'd visit the other team's 'home' for lunch and vice versa! Some fun we had then...

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    1. U mean real food or just pretend ? Sounds like fun :)

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  6. Sigh I too long for such a home Jaish. Its a different matter whether I will be able to maintain such a house.
    Childhood memories of make believe stories and ghar ghar khelna are so precious na. Do today's kids play such games??

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    1. Of course maintenance would be a huge challenge these days! I dont think today's kids play such games . Some schools do have cooking as an activity and charge exorbhitant fees on that account :D

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  7. Excellent post, so much so that it made me nostalgic. Though a Keralite, I've been to Kerala just a couple of times. Born in Kerala, but brought up in Ahmedabad, close relatives have become strangers now. Your post reminded me of my father's ancestral property(tarwad) in Quilon. Cowshed, houseful of cousins, full-grown mango tree & tamarind tree growing right next to the verandah, the lake etc, etc. I miss everything. But today nothing is left, but memories.

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    1. Those tarward houses are things of beauty! Thanks for the comments Jini!

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  8. Cooking was almost a full time job/ responsibility for the women in olden days.
    Things ave changed,gadgets have replaced human efforts.
    Living in huge bunglows is history now..With both,husband and wife working....it is the time for Apartment living.

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    1. Without all gadgets it used to take up most of their time as well and the women of yesteryears ended up cooking a wide spread array of dishes for every meal! Things do change with time. But if you see our mythology there are more men famous as cooks - Nala, Bhima etc :)

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  9. I would love to live in such a house too! Lovely reminiscing, Jaish!!

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  10. that was a wonderful read! actually, i read in my mail the day you published it.

    i live in a prehistoric house with all the trees, animals (few snakes as well), and birds around. but things have changed and living in a modern house would be more convenient these days.

    hey, i played that cooking game too when i was a kid.

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    1. Nice to know that Deb! Prehistoric house??? What exactly is that ?? :)

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  11. A stand alone home with its own beautiful garden is the stuff of dreams today. It is true, isn't it Jaish, that we never realise what we have till we lose it. Beautifully described.

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    1. Yes we seldom realize the true worth till we lose something .thanks for the comments

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  12. I was in Kozhikode last week. I wish I had read this post before I went. I want to see a black pepper climber. I wish I had peered into some house. I wish I had stopped at a well and listened. Maybe I would have heard stories of those days.

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    1. Have not been there in a long time bhavna! Wonder how much has changed !

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  13. How lovely, Jaish. In our childhood, we used young tamarind leaves, grinding them with a stone to make chutney. And "pottu kadalai" which we begged from our Moms. I remember we also used to keep tamarind seeds, and sometimes tamarind. Those were the days.

    A friend of ours in Mysore has a betel leaf and a betel nut tree with the pepper climber. Very pretty sight.

    I so enjoyed this post! Thank you for visiting my blog. I'll be back :D

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  14. How lovely, Jaish. In our childhood, we used young tamarind leaves, grinding them with a stone to make chutney. And "pottu kadalai" which we begged from our Moms. I remember we also used to keep tamarind seeds, and sometimes tamarind. Those were the days.

    A friend of ours in Mysore has a betel leaf and a betel nut tree with the pepper climber. Very pretty sight.

    I so enjoyed this post! Thank you for visiting my blog. I'll be back :D

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    1. Thanks for visiting Vidya. I remember once my dad gave me some lentils from the kitchen to play with :) Thanks for visiting and really glad to get comments from an experienced blogger like you :)

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  15. Those are such beautiful memories. We also played cooking cooking when kids with all kinds of materials.

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    1. Most girls would have done that I suppose...Just that today;s little ones seem to favor Barbies and Kens more than such little joys!

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  16. Such a cute nostalgic post, Jaish! I can almost imagine you sitting on that washing stone, with a toothbrush in hand :)

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    1. Thanks Deepa. We no longer have washing stones do we? Its only washing machines and pity I cant sit on those in the mornings!

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  17. Very sweet post Jaish. My in-laws also had a house which looked like a palace. in Tattamangalam near Pallakad. Every year we used to spend our vacations in that house, surrounded with vast paddy fields and flora and fauna all around. I was lost in old memories while going through your post. Very lovely post.

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  18. Very nice. Even I spent a year of my childhood in Kerala. Somewhat similar experience. You can check my post here.

    http://luciferhouseinc.blogspot.in/2008/10/lands-and-people-2-hunchback-of.html

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    1. I read the post TF . Funny anecdote :)

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  19. The innocence of childhood when everything around us fills us with amazement!

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  20. I'm glad that my Grandparents' house had a big garden and trees that we could run and play and enjoy. Independent houses are so wonderful :-)

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  21. There is not even a single thing in this blog which I haven't done in my childhood and after reading this, my "I want to go home" feeling changed to "I want to go home now". :) The atmosphere in my house was and is still pretty much the same. Few differences were: I had more vessels in addition to the coconut shells,the ones made by folding the jack fruit tree leaves. Had stolen the wheat flour in kitchen and mixed with water to make milk. and my own grandma and parents chased me for plucking the black pepper, guava, mango and flowers and also for spreading the sand around the lawn with my rice cakes and vessels :) :) Very very nice blog and thanks a lot for taking me back to my childhood memories.:)

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