Creativity in pre-search engine era

The age before the arrival of the internet and the all-knowing search engine allowed a wide margin for human imagination, speculation, reflection and introspection
Last Updated 06 May 2022, 23:45 IST

The age before the arrival of the internet and the all-knowing search engine allowed a wide margin for human imagination, speculation, reflection and introspection.

Whenever anyone uses Conchiglie Pasta in our extended family we are always reminded of this home truth.

My mom always loves to look out for unusual things which she can put to use in an innovative way. It so happened that when she was strolling through Brigade Road in Namma Bengaluru six decades ago, she stepped into the Nilgiris. There, she chanced upon a small section of Pastas. The shell-shaped Conchiglie Pasta fascinated her. She was not sure what it was or how it could be used. The store help, fellow customers and even the store manager were in the dark about its use. However, all of them assured her that it was 'vegetarian' and edible.

The pastel dull cream colour, the perfectly chiselled ridges and its unique conch like shape held her spellbound. She longed to feel it with her fingers. However, it was packed. She fingered the shells by turning the packet over and over again. Did she know anything about it? Not a thing! Did she need it? Not really! The price on the label put her off. She went around the store once again mentally debating the necessity of buying her new fascination. Nothing else in the store seemed to appeal to her anymore. She came back to square one. One more look at the elusive yet enchanting item evinced a desire so forceful that she took it to the counter and got it billed before her mind changed.

The prized item was brought home with aplomb. The pasta was poured into a wide bowl and she turned them over again and again. It was stored in a transparent airtight container and assigned a place of honour in the kitchen. The new arrival in her pantry became a conversation piece. However, no one, at least in her circles had any clue about them.

She would pick one conch and work on it methodically. One was fried, the other was sauteed, another one was boiled, one was subjected to being pressure cooked and one was held gingerly over fire and roasted like a pappad. Nothing seemed satisfactory so the jar resumed to occupy its haloed space for a month or so.

That year, the conches were laid out as outlines for her colourful Rangolis at a festival. After they won her the due accolades, they were carefully picked out and returned to the jar.

One day, she made the traditional salted version of Kozhakattai. Some of the fillings were leftover. She cast a conniving look at her Conchiglie Pasta, one conch was dropped into boiling water laced with salt and then stuffed with the filling. She popped it into her mouth. It tasted just right. She quickly boiled some more water—you get the drift. Then seasoned them together. Lo and behold! her signature dish and pride of our family was born!

(Published 06 May 2022, 16:38 IST)

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