“Jitin, Jitin, wait, I’m coming down,” squeal three excited young voices. Jitin is our neighbour, the “Big Boy” of the neighbourhood, lording it over all the smaller kids, who were expected to do his bidding like run errands and so on… in return, nobody was allowed to bully us! Oh no, Jitin was not a bully by any chance; on the contrary he was an extraordinarily kindhearted young lad who looked after all of us and generally could be trusted by the parents to see that we were kept out of their hair!
The excitement is because we’ve heard the tring-tring of the bell on the ice-cream vendor’s cart and know that Jitin would be there. Also that if there were little kids around, he could never buy an icecream for himself alone! Poor fellow, must have spent all his pocket money on ice creams for the neighbourhood!
Jitin wasn’t above ragging us a bit though. I must have been about five and had just learnt to write – letters to my dad in France on a long study tour were what I started with. Having no clue of geography, France could have been the moon, for all i knew! And so, one day, in the kite-flying season, Jitin, knowing my irrational fear of cockroaches (as strong as ever decades later!) tells me that if I write a letter to my dad and fix it to the tail of a kite, along with a cockroach, it will reach my dad in France!
Fear and longing wage a battle within a five-year old heart – who says kids don’t have troubles??! I am petrified but desperately want to send the letter. And so begins the cockroach hunt. Most of them chased me away but I managed to get hold of one – a very little one but judiciously sliding a paper under it and then quickly sliding it into a matchbox. School done, I come home to check if the cockroach is safe (it is) and then run with the box to the maidan outside – cockroach container in one hand and a letter in the other. Holding his laughter, the big boy says the cockroach is too small – it can’t possibly go all the way to France. I promptly start bawling, loudly and lustily. Neighbourhood aunties all come running. Jitin is given a shelling. I am comforted with an icecream and go home, trailing my letter with me. My mother, hearing the story, takes pity on me and posts the letter – surefire but very mundane way of reaching my Dad!
Ah well, one lives and one learns – even at five!
My dad comes back a year later and brings some strange new tastes with him. Cheese, for instance. I take one bite and gag, unlike my brothers who relish it. It takes several years for me to learn to like cheese.
Now i can’t have too much of it!
Here’s an unusual cheese starter which involves no cooking!
ROLLED CHEESE BALLS
- Grated cheddar – 1/2 cup
- Grated paneer – 1/2 cup
- Hung curd – 1/2 cup
- Finely chopped peppers – red, green yellow – 1/2 cup – shallow fry in a pan for 3 minutes, add 2 tbsp breadcrumbs, salt and pepper and set aside
- Basil or mint – finely chopped – 2 + 2 tbsp
- Green chili – minced – 1 or 2 (well, you might like them spicy!)
- Sugar -1/4 tsp
- Breadcrumbs – 1/2 cup +2 tbsp
- Walnuts – 2 tbsp
- Zest of one lemon with 1 tsp juice
Mix the grated cheeses, the hung curd, peppers,basil or mint, salt and pepper, one generous pinch of sugar with the green chili into a mixture which can hold together.
Pulse the walnuts and breadcrumbs with the lemon zest, juice, salt, one pinch of sugar and 2 tbsp of basil or mint for a few seconds. The nuts should break up but not be powdery.
Shape the cheese mixture into balls and roll in crumb mixture. Set them in a flat dish lined with butter paper, slightly apart so they don’t touch each other and refrigerate for at least two hours.
These are exotic enough and you don’t really need to kill yourself so just serve them with ketchup or pesto! 🙂