Night. Sweet melancholy. One of those dark, salubrious times when the wind gently murmurs through open windows. Bugs look pretty against the lamplight. Yet, something sinister tiptoes about. I wait for blood to trickle down the crack on the wall and make a crimson puddle-pool on a shiny tile.
I was feeling sad and angry for no apparent reason. It is a mood I get into when I don’t eat read meat for a long time. I wonder if it is genetic. Someday, perhaps, adequate self-loathing/ absorption will drive me to study minutae of my every mood. Then, I will try and determine why fifteen days without eating MUTTON (and none of that wimpy boneless stuff – I’m talking about crunching bones and sucking marrow) makes me hate everything that moves and talks.
I indulged in a few moments of quiet contemplation. Slowly, the white-burning hatred mellowed to a soft dislike. Now, I did not crave red meat. But I did crave for something chewy, slightly sweet and tender, little juicy textures, flavored with at least two or three sharp tastes. So, in times like this when my mind is vexed and demanding, I start cooking up recipes.
What I conjure up with my eyes closed is a fresh, prawn salad. Young shrimps would do as well. Then I think of wet little pieces of pineapples, something ice-cold, green, and crunchy – maybe lettuce or celery kept on ice for a while. And a nice, dark, full-bodied sauce. I’m thinking maybe peanuts ground finely and mixed with two spoons of thick, pasty black bean sauce. The shrimps must be boiled just right, so that its natural juices are retained. They must be reasonably salted, good enough to be picked on without the sauce. The sauce is really for the greens. But if mixed well (with wooden spoons in a large wooden salad bowl), it is a good summery meal.
Then, there is this dish that my mother makes for me when I go to Mumbai. A little background: My mother will be watching ‘Ba, Bahu, aur Baby’. I will cringe and ask her ‘What! Why!?’ In response she will point and laugh at Deven Bhojani. (The guy is remarkably talented, though.) Then I will tell her how I haven’t eaten tasty meat for so long. And sulk. She will shush me and go back to hearty chortling. After the funny episode is over, she will go to the kitchen and cook. And the reason I think no cooking compares to a mother’s cooking is this – she will not ask me what I mean by ‘tasty meat’. But she will invariably rustle up something that will gratify my palate unerringly. It is uncanny.
This dish is simply kheema steamed with green chillies, pepper, and salt. There is absolutely no oil added but the fat from the kheema is enough to make it tender. While the mince is getting steamed, a little oil (very little – a spoon maybe) is smoked with red chillies, very finely diced capsicums, and garlic. The kheema is then added to this hot oil and tossed till it is evenly covered. Served hot with long-grained rice and spicy, red chutney.
Hmm. I have a good time being sad.