Frozen sambar

Instead of the thick slice, it was liquid, rich, fragrant, and bubbling.

Thanks to the mother’s prayers to Hanuman, who is the patron saint of travellers they had a safe journey despite the snow-storms and blizzards. ‘Home again. Safe,’ they emailed to India, to the family waiting with anxiety for news. Except for the thick white blanket of snow, all was normal. They opened the front door and went in. A quick tour of the house. Thanks again to the same source the electricity was functioning perfectly. And the cars started at the first touch. So far, so good.

And it was only then that she remembered that she should see to their meal. She took some rice and put it in the rice-cooker and set it on its way. She then opened the freezer and took out a container which had some frozen food. She took a knife and cut a generous slice of it and put it in the microwave to defreeze it. She smiled to think of the  reaction of the servant at home in India to see the thick slice.” What on earth is that?,” she would have asked and when told it was sambar she would have disbelieved it. Then she took out from the fridge the ready-made salad and some pickle. ‘This should do for tonight,’ she thought. Again she thought of Yellamma, the head cook at home. She would sniff slightly. Nothing more?

She thought of the big dining table at home in India and the conversation and laughter of the family. Dish after dish would emerge from the kitchen, full of delectable food. All served by unobtrusive servants. All you had to do was eat it. Here of course it is all quite different. If you want to eat something fresh you have to cook it yourself. No invisible hands to put it on the table as in the nursery tale of ‘Beauty and the Beast.’ But we have our plus points, she thought. We can turn the tap and drink the water straight from it! No need to buy potable, safe water nor boil it first. And we have... she smiled and put the reckoning aside. She had work to do.

She wiped the table and set the plates, cutlery and glasses. There at home the table would be eight of everything. For the sweet dish after supper there was Mysore pak and dry gulab jamun and soft, boli. But for her, her favourite speciality was  those round besan laddoos. ‘If I cut them up in two I could make them last a month’ she had said triumphantly and did not see the sad look in the elder woman’s eyes to think that she had to scrimp a little to make her favourite sweet last longer. The  food was heated and all was ready. She called her husband to come and eat. She had opened a packet of chicken soup. That was one thing that was better here than in India. And they both loved it.

After soup the steaming rice was brought and with it the container which had the frozen item. When the container was opened a heady fragrance filled the room. “Ah! the sambar” cried her husband. Now instead  of the thick slice, the sambar was liquid, rich and fragrant, bubbling with small bubbles. ‘It looks good’ exclaimed her husband. And she remembered the compliment she had got the first time her sister-in-law’s husband tasted her sambar and pronounced it delicious. To get a compliment about sambar made  by you from a dyed-in-the-wool Tambrahm is quite an achievement!  Giving herself a small pat on the back, she sat enjoying their first meal at home after the holiday.

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