“Go to Sarrakkayya’s house this evening after your come home from school. I’ve fixed up for her to give you art lessons,” instructs my mother as she leaves for work. Sarrakkayya is my mom’s cousin and lives about half a mile away from us.
My heart sinks – not that I don’t like the aunt in question – I do! She is gentle and kind and fun and a rather talented lady who can do all kinds of things- sing and tailor and do smocking and knit and crochet and of course, paint!
We are also used to my mother’s “projects” – there is always something under “improvement” – whether it is the growing of a vegetable garden – we already have a thriving veggie garden but my mom always has ambitious things she wants to do to it – like the “involve the children in growing things by making them responsible for their own vegetable patches” project in which we participated enthusiastically – very enthusiastically! I dug up my carrots every single day to ensure that they were growing – till they quietly gave up their ghosts!
Or the “teach the kids enough cooking so they can manage on their own” project which started when I was at the ripe old age of seven! Rather a successful project I think – smirk, smirk! The key was that my mom taught us the few things that we liked – omelettes, parathas, rice, tea and a curry and then decided the mission was successfully accomplished! We of course, by then were fired by the zeal to learn more… maybe because she left us alone after that…
The “make them learn the value of money by earning it” project where we delegated the tasks we were given to a random kid off the street, paid him a part of what we earned – thereby learning the ancient and dishonourable profession of ‘commission agents’ before we were ten!
All these were great – fun projects that we loved and took part in enthusiastically! But when her gaze turned to us and she decided we were growing up like a bunch of uncultured hooligans and decided to take us in hand, then we were really in trouble! Being the youngest and maybe being a girl had something to do with it, also maybe she thought I needed the most improvement – but I was the worm that got caught more often that the other two who managed to sneak out to play cricket or karate or gilli-danda or whatever was the flavour of the season.
I got caught with music lessons – the bane of my life and the cross that my music teachers had to bear! The latest in the series was “art” lessons from said aunt.
So, mom fixes up with Sarrakkayya and I trail my way across the colony to her house. Any self-respecting snail would have beaten me hands down! As usual, I am tongue-tied with shyness. My aunt is very kind. Have I brought any paper? Crayons? Colours? No? Never mind, you couldn’t have known they were necessary supplies for an art class. But she can lend me everything I need. And asks me what I’d like to draw. I don’t know, of course!
She places a brown beer bottle on the table and asks me to draw it. I do. I believe, my aunt, for all her artistic talent, could not recognise the Picasso in the making in front of her – who could draw a brown square and call it a bottle… I must have unconsciously imbibed the spirit of Cubism – maybe in another incarnation!
Bang went art classes and I had some respite as my mother rested from her improving endeavours!
Rest and recreation usually means easy-to-digest food, right? Starchy stuff? Like this very delicious potato tava fry – crunchy on the outside, flaky on the inside and totally loaded with flavour!
POTATO TAVA CHOPS
Boiled potato – 500 gm. Peel, slice into 2 mm thick slices and place in a flat tray, uncovered, in the frig for a few hours or overnight
Oil – 2 -3 tbsp
Fine semolina/rava – 1 cup – roast for 5 minutes till you get a nutty aroma. Do not let it brown
Sambar powder – 1 tsp
Chili powder – 1/2 tsp
Dhaniya/coriander pwd – 1/2 tsp<
Jeera/cumin pwd – 1/2 tsp
Asafoetida – 1/8 tsp
Turmeric – 1/4 tsp
Curry leaves – 3 sprigs – microwave for 2 minutes till crisp
Copra/dry coconut – grated – 2 tbsp
Jaggery grated or sugar – 2 tsp
Tamarind powder – 1/2 tsp OR juice of 2 limes
Mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp
Ghee – 1 tsp
Heat the oil in a pan. Add the mustard seeds. When they splutter, add all the powders and the copra. Roast for a few minutes. Add the rava, jaggery, salt and curry leaves. Mix well with your fingers to a fine breadcrumb consistency.
Press the potato slices into the crumb and roast on a hot tava pouring a few drops of oil on either side till the crumb is crisp.
Or spread out the crumb-covered slices on a baking tray, spray a little cooking oil over and bake for 10 minutes at 200C . Turn over and bake for a further 5 minutes.
You could do the same thing with boiled arbi/taro/colocasia /chaamagadda/chepankizhangu slices.
Serve with ketchup!
Let the Picasso inside shine!
(Pic: Courtesy Narayan Kumar)