My Tryst With Ghee, On Independence DayShilpa Godbole
There is something undignified about not being an everyday domestic diva. I know that because I am not one, the monotonousness that came with cooking everyday made me learn early on in my life that accomplishing a perfect meal day after day was not going to be my forte, I might be excellent at matching a thousand rupee cushion cover with an exorbitantly priced recliner, or writing a ten page document or sometimes making Chicken Kiev but things like paying extra attention to the right amount of 'gul' and 'chincha' to make the staple chincha-gul amti (Maharashtrian dal) expected from every good Koknastha brahmin woman was not going to my thing. In my defence while in the US for a good 12 years I had tried coming up with made-from-scratch meals, but somehow my culinary creations ended up looking and tasting unremarkable, like the tick inside the satisfactory box of a 7th grader's report card. I wouldn't mind being boxed under 'miserable' or 'gifted and talented' but let's agree that 'satisfactory' is a boring and uncomfortable place to be in. So right after moving to India I officially hung-up my cooking apron and hired a good cooking lady, someone who could make the softest of chapattis, an outstanding chincha-gul amti, bharli-vaangi, pohe, sabudana khichadi, ukadiche modaks, yes the simple Maharashtrian food festival at the table, everyday. And since then I have given-up on my dream to become a Martha Stewart in the kitchen. Many people give up their dreams right? Sometimes dancers have to accept that their bodies are too stiff, not pliable, so they find another job/dream. No one really puts them down for giving up dance, same with me, I am not made for slaving at the stove, I told myself. Except there was this one chore that my mother thinks not doing is a moral sin, for her it's crossing the ultimate work-ethic line, and that chore is, bringing from fruit to fruition the process of making ghee from the fortnightly collection of malai or saay in Marathi. As they say in Bollywood "suhagan ke sarr ka taj hota hai ek chutki sindoor" for my mother, "har aurat ka khwab hota hai making malai ka ghee".
My mother, you see is a perfectionist, she is the master of the kitchen a consummate chef and I am not just saying this because she is my mother. From making authentic Maharashtrian food to whipping up cakes, puddings and spreads, mom is the finest and brightest, in her kitchen there is no room for imperfections. So you can understand her disapproval towards my inclination to buy in the buy vs. build theory.
Also being a koknastha marathi mom, she is unflatteringly frank about her about her 44 year old daughter's indisposition at making ghee. Undertaking the job herself mom has left me no choice but to be embarrassed to admit that, she has been making tup/ghee for us for many years now. Every fortnight I send in a container of malai and lo and behold, I receive a container of desi ghee. Now, who would complain to be in this sort of a situation?
But mom underwent surgery last week and has been advised rest for 2 weeks. The enormity of the malai situation has fallen on my shoulders.
And it being the eve of an important day in history and all, anniversary of India's independence from the British rule, I decided I am going to go forward and unshackle myself from the tyranny of being dependent for ghee. I asked mom for her secret formula and she happily albeit some reservations parted with the seven important steps involved.
Today morning I wore my apron and looking dead serious started the process, the first step is the crucial one, mom had commanded. And at 5:30 am when it was still dark outside, as if I was in charge of launching the NASA space program I lit the stove.
Happy Independence day, y'all!