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The good dabba barter: At school, I traded my jam-bread for fluffy idlis and layered parathas

‘Come summer season, I might ask for a taller field of sandwiches, to have the ability to take greater than the same old two’

‘Come summer season, I might ask for a taller field of sandwiches, to have the ability to take greater than the same old two’

One effective day within the early ’70s, my technology of city children and their moms took to sliced white bread as if it was the one factor that had been lacking from their lives for generations. I suppose it was, actually.

And when it arrived, it knocked out all different nutritious and home-grown school-tiffin choices from many a house. My older siblings could have a dim reminiscence of being given poha, upma, sabudana khichdi, chappati roll, however by the point I got here alongside, steel tiffins had been quickly changed with plastic ones. And white bread had stolen a march over quite a lot of the indigenous fare.

There we had been then, strolling the varsity compound through the 15-minute recess, or sitting in tight little cliques — we had been maybe the forerunners, the precursors, to later generations of imply women — enjoying out delicate ways of inclusion and exclusion. Everybody had one factor in frequent although: the tiffin field was held in a sure means. The lid was at all times positioned at proper angles to the underside. I don’t know who taught us — college parampara maybe. This was perhaps a carry-over from the times when consuming in public was a self-conscious and uncommon factor. So that you positioned your meals in such a means that it was not within the direct line of imaginative and prescient of anybody. The lid served as a protect — from what? Hungry eyes? Prying eyes? Evil eyes?

Nobody is self-conscious about consuming within the open anymore. That fell by the wayside some many years in the past. In our and different households, consuming one thing whereas strolling dwelling from college or out on a stroll was thought-about wanton, brazen, shameless, hoggish, mannerless, craven — you select the adjective. Possibly a kinder catch-all phrase could be ‘inappropriate’. However our moms weren’t susceptible to utilizing kinder phrases. ‘Even canines take their meals to the aspect and eat it, and don’t stroll alongside and chat with pals khaat-khaat (whereas consuming),’ we had been advised. To which, for those who had been within the temper to begin a thrust-and-parry with an elder, you may give you the argument that the buffaloes strolling on the highway to the close by pond most definitely walked khaat-khaat. To which you may deftly be put down with an ‘Okay, then be a buffalo’.

However I digress. A few of us grew to become confirmed jam-and-breaders. Each college day. And so, a terrific barter system then fell into place. In some houses, bread had been stored firmly out. My South Indian pals nonetheless acquired ethereal idlis and two scrumptious chutneys, my North Indian classmates introduced layered wheat parathas with a bit of pickle that despatched out saunf and onion-seed aromas even earlier than the dabbas could possibly be opened; there was a smattering of luchi-aloo carriers too. As all of them hankered for jam-and-bread (at all times with that startlingly vermilion-coloured ‘combined fruit’ jam), whereas we had been hallucinating about idlis and parathas earlier than the recess bell went — the barter labored for us all.

Come end-March and April, I might ask for a taller field of sandwiches, to have the ability to take greater than the same old two. Jam-and-bread could be pushed apart by a seasonal, extra Indian, avatar. Uncooked mango and white onion chutney sandwiches. The white onions at the moment would come into the market in nice massive hanging bunches from Alibaug to our suburb of Chembur, Mumbai. A current go to to Alibaug noticed me coming dwelling laden with them. However they’re out there in every single place within the season, now.

Delicately soured

My mom would make this sensational chutney in her newly-acquired Rico Mixer — somewhat twister of a dry and moist grinder. The earlier evening, she would have taken every week’s price of top-of-the-milk cream (malai) which she had collected within the fridge, and added a dollop of curd (dahi) to it, preserving it out to set in a single day, such as you would any selfmade yoghurt. Within the morning, she would churn it (hand-mixers had not come but, she would use a picket churner) with some chilly water. Snow-white butter would rise to the highest, leaving delicately soured buttermilk beneath.

On the threat of sounding most parochial and beginning a riot, I’ve so as to add right here, that this sort of butter, for me, wins fingers down over the Coimbatore one, and some other contenders from any maakhan-chor area. And, after all, business yellow butter simply won’t do, on this specific sandwich. (In a phrase: Meh.)

The sandwich is then assembled so: A beneficiant portion of white butter that has been drained nicely of its water content material by hand, in order that it doesn’t make the bread soggy, is unfold on one slice of (unabashedly) white bread. Then a pleasant thick patina of kairi chutney is unfold on the opposite slice. They’re each put collectively. An open and shut case.

For the few weeks of college earlier than the summer season holidays started, the prospect of consuming these sandwiches critically interfered with our means to imbibe the three Rs earlier than recess. On prime of all of it, the looks of uncooked mangoes hijacked any scholastic leanings we’d have had, by inserting the thought bubble: if kairi is right here, can aam be far behind?


Summer season’s Right here Kairi Chutney


1 kairi (uncooked mango) cubed

1 medium white onion roughly chopped

Small lemon-sized lump of gud (jaggery)

1 tsp purple chilli powder

Salt to style

1/2 tsp any Maharashtrian mango-pickle powder (non-obligatory)

1/2 tsp complete mustard

1 tsp oil of your alternative


1. Put right into a grinder, kairi, with the pores and skin, in case your grinder is nice, peeled if it isn’t. Discard the stone or seed half.

2. Add the chopped white onion, or purple if white isn’t out there.

3. Add the gud or jaggery, damaged.

4. Add purple chilli powder.

5. Salt to style — I like to make use of the ‘khaday-meeth’ crystals — and the mango-pickle powder if out there.

7. Twirl in mixer by pulsing, and this fashion preserving it barely grainy and never fully pasty.

8. Mood with mustard seeds popped and crackling in heated oil.

(This chutney tastes unbelievable atop khari-biskoot, inside a chappati roll, with rice, with bread sticks, crisps, cutlets, vegetable wedges… and even for those who’re horribly wholesome in your consuming habits, do attempt it with white bread and white butter. Add some sliced cucumber or lettuce for those who insist on a wholesome twist.)

The author is a novelist, counsellor and music lover.

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