Sunday Slant

By Sumeru Raut

🙏🏽 Namami Umami





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Sunday Slant
🙏🏽 Namami Umami
By Sumeru Raut • Issue #45 • View online
Covid has a new variant. It’s called idgaf. Welcome to another delayed slant.

Hello friend,
Are you tired of Covid news? I freakin’ am. So we won’t talk about Omicron. Pfft. I mask, sanitise my hands, social distance and I got my vaccine (and booster shot!). Any expectation beyond that, like having to keep up with the latest mutant ninja variant, is going to fry my brain. So, thanks, but no thanks.
‘tis the last month of 2021. Sunday Slant will continue to be irregular through Dec, as I adjust to end-of-year feelings and ponder over new transitions. Thank you for your patience… please have chai and samosa before leaving.
Last week, I made the tastiest thing I’ve ever cooked—my dad’s family’s Chicken’s curry’s. I called him up and chatted in detail about the recipe. I was cooking meat for the first time. I never learnt to make meat dishes because I don’t crave meat; I’m mostly a vegetarian who ocassionally enjoys eating chicken. This curry I tested, turned out really well!
I was actually 'recipe-testing’ for a dinner, that my wife and I were going to cook for our landlords, this past Sunday. And I wanted to make something more ‘extra special’ than what I usually make. So, here I was, pleased with myself that this dress rehearsal had gone well.
For Sunday, we wanted to cook a big fat Indian meal. (And cook we did!) I don’t know what we were thinking, not only had we gotten overambitious with an elaborate menu (it was a table of ten), but we also grossly overestimated how much food everyone was going to eat.
guest is god country
guest is god country
We made a ridiculous amount of food! About 8-10 kg of channa masala, 6-8 kg chicken curry, 1.5 kg sprouted moong salad, 4-5 litre Saaru (Rasam), 3kg rice, 30 chapatis and 30 Gulab Jamuns. We had to stop at that and not make anything more. Because this absurd quantity could easily feed twenty people.
We cooked for twelve hours straight. Everything turned out well. Everyone loved it and, thankfully, took leftovers home.
Food has been an integral part of both my wife’s and my life, even before we met. My wife’s mother is a chef and I grew up in a home obsessed with food. So when we started dating, food became a major part of our relationship. We discussed everything at length—herbs, spices, recipes, rituals and our cultures around food. We cook often—mostly for ourselves and sometimes for those we really love. To use a cliched term, since I’m not exactly Chaucer: cooking is our ‘love language’.
Speaking of my own food obsessed family, my mother is a South Indian and father belongs to the western coast of India. Their food, by itself, was different. Add to it the fact that they belonged to different castes, made our kitchen ‘diverse’. My mother’s family are snooty uppercaste Brahmins who swear by asafoetida for “umami” in their vegetarian cuisine—the same asafoetida which doesn’t grow in India and can only be imported from Islamic countries like Iran and Afghanistan. (Woah, veered too close to politics there! Irredentists of Bharat, unite!)
My father’s family on the other hand, are so pedantic about their cooking that some of them would bring their own homemade food at family get-togethers.
In many ways, being an Indian is having a strong inconsequential opinion about food. (And also, ‘throwing shade’ at those who don’t eat the same thing as you.)
All that said, I’m grateful to my parents’ distinct backgrounds; I can easily navigate through most of India and not feel ‘othered’ by food, at least. I’ve witnessed the politics around food, on both sides, from the inside. It’s not exactly delicious.
My wife, who has travelled India more than I have and loves the uplifting flavours of South Indian food the most, wanted me to capture the food from both the sides of my family and we decided the menu together (which we didn’t really follow through).
The dinner was really special. Our landlords and their family are a fantastic bunch: warm, open-minded, welcoming and full of laughter.
We also went out for dinner with the parents of one of my wife’s dearest friends. They wanted to celebrate our marriage and treated us to a lovely dinner, a day after celebrating their own 41st wedding anniversary. It couldn’t have been more meaningful.
The love I have received from people who’ve met me for no more than 2-3 times, has made a marked difference in my outlook towards life. I think nothing matters more than being a decent human being.❖
Just before we made a mess
Just before we made a mess
(The is the most beautiful dinner table I’ve ever seen in a home.)
❤️ Things I liked this week
Cooking with Abhijit Banerjee (27mins)
Cooking with Abhijit Banerjee (27mins)
Did you enjoy this issue?
Sumeru Raut

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