my body racked with cough, my head throbbed. the mind wanted nothing, but, my tongue craved something sour, ekdum chatpata. add to that, 'mouna ragam,' my favourite-est tamil romantic movie was playing on one of the channels. this craving for the sour will be my downfall, i thought, sipping my cup of ginger tea, sighing in the momentary relief to my throat.
movie over by ten am, breakfast had and cleared, the long hours of weekly power cut loomed ahead. of course, the blackster must bark all the time someone sets foot on our floor. the quiet was now beginning to jar and bring on more coughing fits. the craving refused to subside. i did not have it in me to go out for pani puri.
i couldn't help but smile at how my seven-year-old daughter was a pro at eating pani puri. and, the meetha chutney is for wimpy kids! my fiery girl likes her plate with a bowl of the theekha pani. a Sunday ritual most weeks, sharing plates of pani puri after tae kwon do class.
that reminds me, last week, S told me she wanted to eat vada pav. i was ecstatic... but, she wanted the ones that children in her school bus ate to curb hunger pangs on the way back home. reminded me of the insane cravings and mind-blowing taste of the bread pakodas and imli chutney in my school days. fine, i said, ask how much it costs. one, two, three, four, five, six rupees, she said. the next day, she bought me half of her vada pav, telling me she knew how much i liked these things. though, i think, the taste did not meet her expectations ;)
oh well, these thoughts were making my cravings worse. i wanted to, i needed to relllish something real bad, real fast. instant flashback to bus stop two-three days ago followed, the tastebuds already playing havoc with the brain circuits! the friend from Jharkhand had shared am easy-peasy recipe for tomato chutney that she said would keep in the fridge for weeks.
let about a teaspoon full of cumin seeds sputter and smell wonderful in some heated ghee or clarified butter. put in coarsely chopped tomatoes and cook covered till the oil separates. add jaggery to taste and some red chilli powder, if you so want. let it all cook and simmer, with an occasional stir, till it is reduced to a jam-like consistency. add one crushed cardamom, stir it one more time. there, its done.
now, this cough and raspy throat and blah-some mood and all, i felt the need for some more punch. like it didn't hit me at the back of the throat very well. all i could rummage and fish out in my teeny pantry was sesame oil. a swirl of it in the chutney added a smoky flavor and a kick that reached right to the nose.
not only that, i felt tons better. cooking without exact measurements, adding according to the taste and smells, was almost meditative. i should do this often, i thought. no, not cooking up a storm without a printed recipe or proportions... don't be scared, am not that foolhardy. but, cooking in the quiet. without the drone and exclamations of the news channels, or the background music of the cheesy serials, or the medley of songs belted out in the new Sony Mix channel. cooking with my thoughts. right!