Is 'passed away' better? Whenever I want to tell my daughter stories about people who are 'no longer with us', I'm always stuck at the point where she asks me, so where are they now, Ma? A 'star in the sky' is not really an option, is it? I did use that once, I must admit. But neither us were really convinced. So now, it's 'dead'. To her it just means people that we can talk about, think about, but can't see, nor have chocolate cake with. Now, the conversation goes like this:
Where is she, Ma?
We're good with that. For now.
She also knows that Bubulma is one of those people that we can only talk about. Bubulma is what she calls D's mother. Someone she will never know, but whom she could have a sense of knowing, through the stories we tell her. Through the photographs we show her. And through food.
When I said 'food can bring back the dead', I wasn't referring to lunch with Psychic Sally. I was talking about food that brings back memories of people you loved and miss. When I cook something that my grandmother used to cook when I was little, or use a recipe that my mother-in-law had perfected, I bring them back a little. I get a sense of the flavours they loved, the spices they had in their kitchen, and the crops that grew around them. And so I carry them forward, and pass them on. And my daughter gets a sense of someone long gone. The stirring of an old spoon.
Bubulma's Pea Tikki
This was one of our favourites from Bubulma's kitchen repertoire. She would make it every winter with freshly shelled peas. I made it recently for Chotto-ma's birthday party, and it was one of the most popular things on the table.
6/7 potatoes, boiled and peeled
5 cups peas
2-inch ginger, sliced
1 green chilli
1 tsp aniseed
1 tsp cumin seed, roasted
A small bunch of coriander leaves, chopped
4 tbs oil
Flour for dusting
Mash the boiled potatoes with salt and chopped coriander, and keep aside.
In a blender or mixer, put the peas, ginger, green chilli, aniseed and cumin seeds, and blitz till smooth.
In a flat pan, heat 1 tbs of oil, and add the pea paste. On fairly high heat, stir constantly till it becomes drier and tighter, almost like soft dough. Let it cool.
Once cooled, roll the paste between your palms to form several small, round green balls.
Cover each green ball with mashed potato, and flatten them into round discs or tikkis.
Dust the discs with a bit of plain flour, pat and keep aside.
Heat the rest of the oil in a flat, non-stick pan, and pan-fry the tikkis till they are golden brown on both sides.