Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Pasta Simba comes home a Roti Bambi (Or the Thanksgiving story of a bird caught with the tail between its legs)

This Thanksgiving, our family bird is coming home to roost.
But if you’d told me last August that after 2008 AD this bird would come home with its tail feathers between its legs, I’d have accused you of trying to sell me (a staunch Indian American vegetarian) a turkey.

In the BC [Before College] era, mother-daughter conversations around the kitchen stove went something like this.


“I know. And yes, it’s South Indian. Again.”

“So you’re telling me that, for the third day in a row, your wonderful daughter’s going to be eating that South Indian mishmash of rice and somethin’ else? NOT happening!” The bird would fly off the handle and sweep off to her room in dramatic disgust. Mother hen would languish by the steaming pot, her feathers ruffled again for the hundredth time since the birth of her nesting instinct, oh, so many years ago.

Over the years Indian food would be in plenty. Hot rotis rolled off the griddle and onto her plate. Crispy dosas made their way to her room, because, after all, she’d soon be in a dorm, the poor thing, and who was going to be fussing over her like this anymore.

In the old days, the hawk would open the fridge most evenings and soak in the chutneys, the powders and the liquids. Then she’d turn around, her eyebrows arched as she held the door open, one arm on the door and the other on a hip which had widened over the summer with all that rice-eating, I presume.

“And who, in this frickin’ world, eats rasam and sambar night after night except someone like…like Dad?” she’d demand to know, her pupils rolling over so high you worried they’d not know to come back home into their eye sockets.

That was then. Join me now on a wet, leaf-strewn day in the San Francisco Bay Area in November AD [After Death - the death of taste buds resulting from famine and drought caused by repeat appearances of doughy pizza and shriveled salad on a flesh-freezing college campus where to get to food you have to swipe a card, pick up a tray and wait in line while praying that you can still make class on time].

During most of this last month our telephone conversations have simmered solely around the topic of soul food.

“So what’re you making me for lunch the day I land?”

“What do you want? Want to go to Ravioli’s?”

Stony silence. Did Verizon just lose its satellite or what?

“Mom? Mom! NOT funny. What have I told you? I don’t want to see pasta or pizza for the rest of my life.”

So I get my South-Indian order. Capsicum Sambar cooked with freshly ground and roasted spices and coconut. Tomato Rasam. And potato curry. And I should take care to roast the potato so part of it is karum-burum.

“You know what I mean, the potato must be diced fine and sautéed over a long time and be nice and roasted and crunchy.”

“Okay, what else?” I ask.

“And I don’t exactly mind if you want to bring it to the airport when you come to receive me tomorrow morning.”

Hakuna Matata. As you can see, this Thanksgiving, our bird is coming home - to be roasted, grilled and skewered.

And to all of you out there, entertaining birds of the same feather, a very Happy Thanksgiving from our home to yours!

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