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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.

She brought gendarmes with her: batons of Landjäger. And they were such troopers! We lunched together for nearly a month. They kept their temper even when hacked off, and in haste. Wonderful hiking companions they'd make, all soldierly and neat, even when we couldn't be bothered with cutlery.

The Leberwurst was sloppier: a coarser-grained rustic fellow happiest when allowed to shrug off that salt-streaked overshirt and mingle. Not precious at all, very low-maintenance, he would fraternize at ease with the brisk apple slices and the thin-skinned, upright cucumber sticks, and emerge the better for it. He didn't mind that an young and enthusiastic, if stinky, Tomme tagging along when he went to see that other old salt, the crusty, dyed-in-the-lye baguette de sils. And homely old Leberwurst, he was equally happy to lead the sweet young petit delice in a gentle two-step, chaperoned by a wrinkled old prune or three.

Yes, it was quite a hearty party. Even if we were deprived of hot meals for a while. Indeed, we were so ably entertained, we could hardly complain of our dusty travails and made quite an expedition of it.

So we scrubbed the burners, scorched the oven (all hail pyrolytic self-cleaning), and rubbed all the big brass down with tamarind. We crashed the cobweb parties above the cupboards. We slashed and burned in the overgrown backyard. We swept under the stairs, and oiled the chopping boards we found there...

Until we were finally there! All shiny and sparkling, just in time for Diwali and it's proverbially fussy version of the Devi. (As for Annapurna, she promised quietly to come again in the spring.)

To kick off the celebrations, then, we rewarded ourselves with the world's best truffles — Grand Cru and champagne — for a job well done. That was, I like to think, doing justice to the chocolate as well, which fluidly, meltingly demanded quiet timeeine Schokolade Pause.

Indeed, we were quite sorry when it was all over, if truth be told. Because if this is what they call cold comfort, I am happy to have seconds morning, noon and night.

And oh, Gruyere? Amit sends a postcard to say he misses you.

*Pardon my dust, er... Dutch. Erm. Deutsch, I mean. (Ouch. Also: Ach!)

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