The fearful and the fearless – in children and in foods!

If you ever wondered how kids growing up in the same household, born of the same parents – could be soooo…different, I’ll hazard a theory on place in the family having a role to play in this.

Archana, my older daughter, was the scarediest kitten ever – terrified of dogs and cats and almost every four-legged animal. I think the only things she wasn’t scared of were ants! One Deepavali, a friend of mine got her a small toy pup – the kind which, when you wind it up, runs across the floor, turns a somersault and sits up and begs – and is all of six inches tall! Arch, just a toddler then, was so terrified that she climbed up on to the dining table and refused to come down till i gave it away – to the neighbour’s little boy! Ditto for a remote controlled police car – which whizzed all over the floor faster than she could run! My nephew Shriram was thrilled with the car. 

Kanch, on the other hand, was known as “K the fearless”! She wanted to do battle with the whole world – crocodiles (the story features in an earlier chronicle), rats, nasty, yappy Pomeranians, bigger, older kids who dared to scare her “Akka”, dark rooms and bathrooms (since she was too little to reach the switches, she just made do in the dark!) till her older sister told her that she’d better be scared of the dark because things could come at you in those places!

On another occasion, I opened a cupboard in the kitchen and found – a mouse staring out at me. I don’t know which of us was more scared but I had the advantage of being able to scream! Kanch comes running into the kitchen and scolds the mouse roundly – ” Lat (rat!), you bad girl…go scare your amma, don’t scare my amma”! Having satisfactorily dealt with the intruder, she puts her fingers back in her mouth and strides off – all two feet of her – reputation intact!

If, as Ayurveda says,you are what you eat, you need to eat a lot of iron to become a fearless soul. Gory tales from around the world talk of drinking the blood of your enemy’s heart, a tiger’s testicles, rhinoceros’s horn, lion’s hearts and so on…methinks there are foods out there that need a really brave heart to eat them – live octopus (no, not kidding – apparently the tentacles, if not removed, can bite you in the mouth as you’re chewing!), maggot cheese from Sardinia – and as a bonus- you get to bite on the maggots, Chinese twice boiled pee eggs ( what did you think they were boiled in to give them that yellow colour and the strong smell of ammnia??!), scorpions squirmng on a stick…!

Luckily, for most of us lily-livered souls, there are alternatives to all these – and still get to be a courageous soul.

Here’s one that I favour – drumstick leaves – one of the highest iron-containing foods on earth – and you don’t to go deep sea fishing to get these!

The easiest way to make it is a masiyal – a stir fry.


  • Drumstick leaves – 3 cups – washed and drained
  • Curry powder (koora podi) -dry roast 1 tsp each of toor dal, chana dal and moong dal, 1 large pinch of coriander seeds, 2 or 3 red chilies and a large pinch of asafoetida) and powder – 1 tsp
  • Turmeric – 1 pinch
  • Salt
  • Sesame oil – 1 tsp
  • Mustard seeds – 1/4 tsp
  • Urad dal – 1/2 tsp
  • Asafoetida – 1 pinch
  • Cooked toor dal (optional) – 1 tbsp
  • Grated fresh coconut – 1 tbsp
  • Red chili – 1

Heat a pan and add the oil. Add the mustard seeds. When they pop, add the urad dal, red chili, asafoetida and turmeric. Add the drumstick leaves and a couple of tsp of water. Cover and cook on a low flame for 5-6 minutes – the leaves will soften and shrink considerably. Add salt, podi, cooked dal and grated coconut. Serve as a side with sambar or majjigapulusu ( moar kozhambu) or plain dal.

The next easiest thing to Dutch courage, don’t you think?