Wednesday, December 21, 2016

A bitter story

When a good friend ran out of bitter marmalade, she called me. I was the only person she knew who could be trusted to give her traditional marmalade. An acquaintance had gone on a trek last year, in the course of which he dropped in to visit Mian. His chief memory of that long day is that he had eaten whisky-laced marmalade at our home. In a few hours, two young men are coming over home so that I can teach them how to coax lemons into marmalade. So I have a bit of a reputation for making the stuff. And I make a LOT of it.

Which is  why it is surprising that I do not enjoy the jam-making process. Is it the tedium of chopping and stirring, you wonder? Is it the hours spent over a stove knowing that if you look away, the gloopy mess will suddenly burn? Is it the dipping of hands alternately into cold lemon pulp and hot water with disastrous results? Ye-es..all of that does have a place, but the real reason is different.

I detest marmalade-making because the process is the equivalent of the nosy neighbour who visits to pass judgement on your housekeeping. Marmalade making is the pious uncle who discovers that you used your 'no-aromatics' chopping board to cut onions because all the others were in the sink; the  aunty who spies the mustard seed you spilled into the sugar the day you were juggling chai and khichidi; the other uncle who points out that you have 12 jars and 8 lids; and worst of all, marmalade-making is the pesky brat who announces to everyone that you miscalculated the recipe and tried to cover it up by stirring hot water into half a jar of marmalade.

Thankfully, all these jars have lids..
For me, the source of distress all of last year was the case of the  Ginger-Garlic-marmalade. I had opened a fresh jar and immediately smelt it- ginger and garlic where there should have been only lemon and sugar. Hastily, I shoved it to the back of the fridge and opened another jar.

Many months later, Mian reached for a new jar and I watched his face change as he uncapped it. 'Oh is that the garlic one?' I asked blithely. 'That's for when we make sweet-and-sour pork.' Mian, bless the man, did not ask any more questions but put it back in the fridge. As our stock diminished, that jar became more and more prominent till I finally emptied it out, popped the contents into the freezer,and washed the jar.

For this year's batch, I had learnt my lesson. I used two buckets of hot lemony water to scrub every surface and every utensil in sight, I boiled jars and jar lids, I did not eat or cook anything till everything was sealed away. I even used a new dish sponge for the occasion.

One of the 5 batches..plain lemon and lemon + cocoa
And today I opened a jar and there it was..ginger garlic marmalade. Turns out that particular  jar is haunted by the spirit of Kimchi past. I had made it once, and it's ghost lingers in the plastic lid. I had to toss that. Thankfully, it is just the one jar and after 5 kilos, I have declared that marmalade season is Closed.

I've barely made a dent in the tree

A friend has bought me 3 kilos of cabbage. They want to try my Kimchi, they say..

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

I, damsel in distress

It was when I was already at Dadahu that I realized what I had set myself up for.  Even worse,  I had not called up the hotel and let them know I was coming.  

Sitting in the bus then I began frantically to look for their  number while willing the Internet signal to stay strong enough for this most essential of searches.

Head down, I was staring at my phone when someone tapped at my window.  it was the bus conductor.
'quick,grab your bag and follow me' he said. 'I found you a bus that will take you to your hotel.'

Not only did he take me to the bus, but he also handed me over like a registered parcel to a group of men and instructed them to make sure I got down at the right place.

These guys instantly took me under their wing. They gave me a seat and fussed around me. When I pulled out cash for the ticket, they told me on behalf of the conductor,' you hold on to your money. He won't charge you for such a short distance'. 

At my stop, I got help with my bag and many good wishes.

And the next morning, I met the kindest truck driver ever. But that is another story.