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Monday, October 31, 2011

Pumpkin-Eater's S(o)uper Supper

It's one of those things that has become, quite without design, a seasonal ritual and a family tradition: pumpkin soup.

There's something so soothing about it, not too sweet, nor too spicy, simple comfort in a time of change. There's something cheerful about a cup of the sunny liquid in a smoggy grey day or as the light falls to an early dusk.

As the festival of lights and the sibling-bonding rites bring the high Hindu festive season to a warm close, aglow with flickering diyas and satisfaction, the natural seasons flicker through their own change of guards. It's time for migrating wagtails to bob along the window sill. It's time to contend with flu-bitten family members and with one's own scratchy throat (a little too well smoked from the frenetic fireworks of suburban celebrants). It's not quite time for the winter glut of tomatoes, cauliflowers, broccoli and cabbages; but it is the season of fourteen greens, of sprouted palms and apples and other exotic fruits (like raisins, once the purview of the kabuliwallah), and of the fat marrows, gourds, squashes and pumpkins of cooler months.

The sweet yellow pumpkin turned up in the five fried or frittered vegetables of the Durga Puja feasts. The ash gourd has been looking to meet up with a few coconut curls for a while. The small, round, speckled green pumpkins have been turning up whole in their youth, rather than sliced into the wedges that maturity enjoins. And the courgette or zucchini — name determined by a marketer's whims, being both equally foreign appellations in these parts — is at its green or yellow best now, though considered a springtime special in the temperate zones.

So it was for many reasons fitting that Hallowe'en lunch fleshed out the cliche of a carved-up pumpkin and a sliced-diced-spiced green courgette ... in a cauldron of soup.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Jetsetting to Supper

A scramble for supper.

That's what happens when you're trying to claw your way back to control over a haywire week.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Alpen Essen. Ich liebe.*

October always promises to be entertaining.

So it made sense that September was about armies marching to conquer the mountains of clutter.

And this army marched on bread and cheese, a la Schweiz.

Yes, the festivities of Sharath involve rather more than the usual rounds of eating, and hence occasions more cooking. But first comes the godmother of all cleaning. Because, of course, any sensible cook makes all sauber first. So before digging out the deghs and dekchis, we got to clearing the decks for the hour of the Dark Goddess and the Light.

First, we had to make sure we would be fed while the stove and oven were taken apart for their annual ritual purification. (Just kidding! But between us, neither you nor the goddess would believe how grotty it gets underneath the burner tray and behind the oven fans after a year of feeding the heathens.) And how Annapurna came through! With troops all the way from over from the Alps — we hear Mt Kailash got a bit shook up this year.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Tomme and her Wild Garlic Adventure

This story begins with the usual cheesy line: Once upon a time...

...there lived a little Swiss miss. Young Tomme was a soft-spoken lass. Her gentle, easy-going nature was legendary in the land.

A barnyard girl, if her milky complexion was starting to get a little wrinkly from the rustic straw she was made to sleep on, Tomme was never heard to complain.

And if some scared old men led by an old goat called Pasteur decided to scald her to make her safer for children and mothers to hang out with, while her sisters swanned around in all their native glory (blame their promiscuous ways on that cow, their mother), Tomme remained a biddable dinner guest and was still very pleasant to all visitors.

So how does this naive, gentle 17th-century maiden go and get tangled up with that pungent Wild Garlic person?

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Ode to a Tomato

The title's just a tall claim. I'm no poet, though this berry* made me wish I was. But since I can't rhyme to save my rind, I will stick to bald facts rather than even attempt blank verse.

It was as red as a pomegranate. Or a sunset. Rosy enough to send Snow White's apple into a sulk.

It was substantial enough to make sandwiches for two. Over four lunchtimes.

It was fruity. It was juicy. It was fragrant. It was meaty.

Seductively flounced though it was, looking all ready for salsa class, this was definitely no tart tomato. (If you made chutney of this berry, it would be a jam, certainly.)

It sashayed over from Switzerland in September, and found the perfect partner in an Appenzeller. But it was assertive, and liked to lead. (Good thing the cheese was meltingly pliant and the bread too well-bred to intrude. And if the mustard liked to spice things up, at least it was a good gossip and that's always welcome.)

Now that I'm done tom-toming the virtues of that tomato, I'm off to savour the last slice.

*A tomato IS a berry, botanically speaking.