My mother and I are finally settling down in the new flat. It is much larger then my previous one and since I have not bought any additional furniture, the spaces feel even larger. The kitchen is kind of established and we started cooking the first meals!
My mother is a pukka Kerala “pattar” and fond of her food. For the last fortnight she was making do with the relatively bland mixed fare at Mukta’s place. She is a sport and was enjoying the garam phulkas and the various vegetable preparations – but she was missing the “khatta” flavor, which is so essential to all south Indian palates. So, she was excited about my making a sambar this morning and then she saw the raw mangoes i had bought and suggested that i make a “thokku”. So I undertook the task under her continuous instructions…. since I had probably never made this preparation before.
She painstakingly peeled and cut the mangoes to which i added 3 whole red chillis and ground them together in the grinder. In a khadai, i heated gingilly (til) oil, spluttered some sesame seeds and kadi patta, and then added the ground paste. I added some heeng and salt and let it cook, stirring it all the while. She asked to taste it and since the mangoes had been really sour, asked me to add a piece of ‘gud’. And after a a few more minutes of stirring over low heat, it was all done. It took all of 10 minutes and we had a small jar of this delicious khatta, hot, chatt-patta mango thokku. It is a taste that could go well with rice or chapattis and both of us enjoyed it with our lunch. It took me back in time to the days when my mother was in charge of her kitchen – since I never cooked myself till I had to, after marriage, many a dish that she made, never got included in my repertoire.
Of course, there are many recipes for “thokku” available on the internet. But I would probably never have got around to making it on my own. Like the loss of the old guru-shishya traditions in the art of music and dance, the art of cooking is also losing from the breakdown of joint families. I hope i will be able to gather some more of the traditional preparations of my childhood while she is here and entice the youngsters to taste them and maybe even enjoy them. It would be sad if we lose these interesting dishes and shrink into the monoculture of pizza, Big Mac etc.