“Are you sure, paapa, that your mother asked you to get this?” the vegetable woman at the corner store asks me. I draw myself up to my full height of 4 feet nothing – as haughtily as an eight-year old can manage: “Of course. You think I don’t know what my mom asked for?!”
I pack the stuff and stalk off home only to return some twenty minutes later with my tail tucked securely between my legs and asking in a barely audible voice: ” My mother said she didn’t want one kilo of green chillies. She actually wanted a kilo of onions – so please can I exchange this?”
Having had my head in some Enid Blyton cloud, I hadn’t quite heard what my mother wanted and… bought the wrong stuff. Now if only I’d had the sense to mistake it for a kilo tomatoes or potatoes – of which we got through prodigious quantities, i could have wriggled out of a most embarrassing situation, but I HAD to choose green chilies instead! Considering how much I hated “khaaram” or spicy food when i was a kid, you’d have thought I’d know that it had to be something else but you’d have underestimated the cloudiness of a bookworm’s fuzzy brain!
End result: Gales of laughter from the other customers in the shop – thankfully no one from my school was around! The vegetable vendor, happily for me, happened to be mom’s patient and a very kindhearted soul in the bargain, so she hid her amusement till i left the shop – salvaging the dignity of an 8-year old is VERY important! I had tried to wriggle out of the exchange scheme: “Please, mom, can’t Lakshmamma (our faithful old retainer who’s saved me from many a contretemps!) go instead of me?” But no, my mother was a firm believer in clearing up after one’s own messes so off I went!
I still can’t handle the spiciness that any Telugu is supposed to be able to handle but yes, i do make green chilli pickles!
Green chilli pickle
(and don’t feed it to an eight-year old bookworm!)
Green chillies – 20- 25 – cut into 1″ long pieces
Lemons – 2 large – cut into eight pieces each (alternately the juice of 2 large lemons will also do)
Coriander seeds (dhania) – 2.5 tbsp
Aniseed (Saunf) – 1.5 tbsp
Mustard seeds – 1 tbsp
Fenugreek seeds (methi) – 1 tsp
Dried mango powder (amchoor) – 1 tsp
Turmeric – 1 tsp
Mustard oil (preferably) – 4 tbsp
Salt – about 1.5 tsp
Powder the spices together – not too smooth. Heat the oil in a pan and switch off. Let it cool for a minute and add the ground spices and mix well. Add the chillies and the lemons or the lemon juice and mix again. Bottle and store in the frig for a couple of days before use. This lasts for at least 2 weeks in the frig if you eat it sparingly. If you don’t go buy a kilo of green chillies for your mother!