Providing context for the discussion – this was during the middle school era, which now seems like the Middle Ages leading up to my current condition of just having passed the mid-life stage, and eating seemed like something I was born to do. I could eat on a budget, like a king, an African refugee or someone who needs to stuff just to get through the day. The extent of my bhukkadpann notwithstanding, it was evident that I had some room for the overall quality of fare served to me, the ambience and the dining schedule [the lack of it actually]. Invariably, this meant that on some days, I could be as fussy as a post-menopausal cat, not listening to endless calls from my folks to try something they believed was good food.
During this phase, I had one big weakness – not the taste buds but the setting of it all – this happened to be the open kitchen that my Naani had. The landscape was rather humble. My Mummy Ji was not financially benefited, not by the farthest stretch of your imagination. Yet, her food was so warm, placating anyone in bad mood, helping us overcome the worst days.
During the winters and sometimes during the summers too, I would sit near her gas stove, carefully watching how she would spend dedicated minutes on each fold of the parantha, how her eyes that often had a veil of her limited means, could figure out which masala was missing at a single glance and how, eating, seated next to her would be the highlight of my summer vacations.