"the greatest Goan curry...don't tell the world...!"
-by gasper crasto (19.03.2003)
story is sure to leave the reader with the taste of the 'great' curry. The anecdote is quite popular among
friends. Well...! What are friends for if they can't tell...!
It was years ago when I was just a kid. One night I
fell asleep propped up in bed. The problem is I was sleeping on my arm and when I suddenly woke up, my arm was still asleep
and totally numb. When your arm falls asleep, and you try to 'shake it' awake, it hurts for a few seconds as the feeling returns
and your arm begins tingling. This is what exactly happened to me. When I tried to shake my arm and hand awake, my hand hurt.
After waking my hand, I sipped a glass of water and crawled into bed again.
Just when I was about to put off the lights,
a cockroach skittered out from the bed-side table drawer and looked at me twitching its antennae. Before I could smash it,
the thing ran down to the floor and disappeared.
As I got off the bed, I saw another cockroach, or maybe the same one.
I trapped the little bastard under a drinking glass and watched him try to get out. "There...!" I thought, "You can stay there
till you starve..."
When I woke up next morning nothing had changed. I looked at the cockroach under the glass.
It was alive. I remembered my little rubber sling but I wasn't about to use it on the poor creature.
As I geared myself
to go to school, I saw my dad moving in the kitchen obsessively. "Your mother has fever...Don't wake her up please!" he said.
"What about breakfast...How can
I go to school without...."
"Here..! Eat this omelette...take the 'chapatis' I've fried..."
a 'chapati' from the container. "Looks good....nice shape...Why did you take trouble giving them 'star' shapes...?"
looked at me grimly as I took a bite of the omelette. "Yyakkk!!!...it's so salty..."
"Hey...No complaints please!"
he said, "Finish it quick...i'll get the milk..."
"For sure, I can't eat this...it's so awful...let's keep it
for mom to see...I think I'll ask her to make soup out of it in the afternoon..."
When I came back home from
school, mom was still sleeping. I found dad in the kitchen again.
"Hi..." he waved.
"I am hungry..."
"The food is getting ready...Will you just go and ask your mom to eat with us?" he said trying to act busy
with the cooking. "I've made a special curry for her."
Dad was not a bad cook and he delighted in tasting everything.
I guess I have picked up some of his cuisine skills. His cooking tips always come handy. There are many other things which
he taught me. Things I couldn't learn from anyone else. Be it any subject - from tightening a screw and sharpening a chisel
to functioning of a space rocket and operation of a share market, I just had to ask and he would explain in detail. I
remember his immense patience, exuberant temper and sense of humor. But most of all, I remember I loved him. It's hard now
to recall anything that made me sad when he was around. "Dad I love you so...you're with the angels now...show them how to
Much to my mother's chagrin was his preoccupation with her domain - the kitchen. He was always
cooking something, re-inventing old and still quite good recipes...adding ingredients and leaving the remains of his art everywhere
for mom to clean. She would always eat his over spicy, and over seasoned foods with tempered enthusiasm so as not to hurt
his feelings. Taste mattered little to me or anyone else in our home but my mother's tastes are still very aristocratic.
touched her hand and woke her up. "Are you alright?..." I asked.
She got up from the bed coughing uncontrollably but managed to shake her head meaning "Yes...yes...yes..."
don't want to eat?"
"I am alright......I'll just have some bread toast or biscuit and tea..."
she eat a little rice just to taste the curry he cooked. "It's a curry of plain dried prawns - 'sukim sungttam'....Also,
we have vegetable, fried fish, and mango 'miskut' if you want..."
"Alright...alright...let me see..." mom said
"It's good...super...nice color..." I said even before I tasted. "What do you call this curry, dad?"
kept funny names for whatever dishes he cooked. Sometimes I conferred titles for his menu suited for the make and taste, and
he found them quite amusing and memorable too like Bruce Lee crabs (Crab 'Xacuti' cooked in coconut gravy - this dish always
made me struggle to eat with both hands -- like a kungfu fighter); Jumping Chicken chilli (Frog chilli fry); Pork Rafael (marinated
and fried pork - dubbed in dad's name in line with the famous Goan dish - Chicken Cafreal); Tiger Roast (Beef Roast - named
Tiger Roast because of dad's habitual 'tiger growl' belch whilst eating this particular dish), Anddha Kanoon curry
(egg curry), etc.
"What's this curry called?" I asked again.
"This one is just a plain 'Bindda solam
koddi'...I am sure mom will like it..." he said appetizingly as mom helped herself to a small portion of rice, and curry.
"Like it?..." she quivered looking at her plate. "Look at this....the rice is floating on the curry...Is it
curry or just some 'masala' water?...Do you think I am going to eat this?...No way...Throw it away...!" she said pushing
Dad looked real disappointed with her comments. "What the hell..!" He retorted. "I took so much trouble
to grate 'ros' of two coconuts, sweated to stone grind the chillies, cumin, corriander and peppercorns to almost half a bowl
of paste to make it thick...and all you say...Oh, come-on..., just take a little more..."
He adroitly stirred
the curry afresh and was about to empty another 'chip' in her plate when she objectively put her hand in-between. The spoon
slipped from his hand with a flick and the curry was strangely splashed high up on the wall.
Dad barked angrily in a colorful language, "#!@#$%....You may go back to
sleep if you don't want to eat...but just don't complain about my cooking!...Go...get lost...!"
Luckily for dad, he wasn't within mom's kicking range. She just got up and left the table muttering under her breath.
I attacked my plate and continued eating. Dad tried to eat too but I noticed he just toyed with the food.
like the curry?" he asked me rather sheepishly.
"Ummm..." my mouth was full.
"Isn't it tasty?"
he asked again. I guessed he expected at least a sympathetic reply after mom's discontented outbursts.
if the taste made any difference to me. I was so hungry I could have eaten an elephant. I helped myself to another round of
fish fry and curry. It was not because of the curry taste at all as dad might have assumed.
I said casually.
He seemed doubly pleased with the compliment. "Have more..." he said and filled my plate with more
rice and curry literally serving me as if I was a 'fighter' buffalo. There was a limit to my eating and I wanted to say 'No'
but not to upset him further I forced myself to gulp down everything.
"Mom just can't make curries like you....this
is simply great..!" I concluded.
"See???.... Any five star would be proud to have me as their chef...but your
mother...she just cannot stand the fact I am a better cook than her...see what she has done."
He eyed the splashed curry on the wall. The splatter had dried up pretty soon and it appeared to have been plastered
with a design for display.
"Dad..., I suggest we keep it that way for all our relatives and neighbors to see....Let
them know about.... This should remain proof enough of your great cooking abilities..., Every time mom cooks something
flavorless, we can point out to this splashed curry and remind her you are a better cook...!"
He looked at me unsmilingly.
"Are you trying to kid...?"
"I am serious....we can even chalk down the date under the splash so we remember
the day it was cooked. Cook your favorite 'Ambot-tik' tomorrow, we can splash a spoonful of that too....we'll put a date
and name it as well..."
The curry indeed
remains splashed in my memory - not for its taste but for an incident that occurred the next morning. It was some holiday
and we didn't have to go to school. Dad was away at work. It was quite late when my mother interrupted me catching butterflies
and asked to join her for 'canji' or 'pez' as we call it.
"I want the curry dad prepared yesterday - 'kalchi koddi'...!"
I screamed back.
The clay utensil was steaming as I entered the kitchen. Mom always used this secret of making 'kalchi
koddi' yum-yum tasty by adding a little sugar before 'Attoi-ing' the curry till the water evaporated. My mouth watered as
I waited. The taste of any yesterday's curry, beautifully warmed and thickened surely beats all other tastes to this day.
It was indeed tasty. Mom too loved it despite her slender appetite to dad's dishes. She went along for a very
uncharacteristic second helping.
"That's it...I'll finish the rest..." I said and pulled the utensil closer.
purple-black 'bindda solam' or 'kokum' with the tamarind family taste gave an additional taste to any 'kalchi koddi'. The
best thing I loved was to suck a 'bindda sol' at the end of any meal.
"Dad can cook well...This curry is real
tasty." I said as I tilted the utensil to polish off the bottom leaving nothing but one 'bindda sol'.
you know what.., I am going to write a date under that splashed curry on the wall...We got to remember the taste...It's great..."
I put the last 'bindda sol' in my mouth and sucked. It tasted unusually different. Nevertheless, I sucked till
it was dry. Just before disposing, I examined the 'bindda sol' again to ensure it was fully drained. To my utter shock instead
of a 'bindda sol' it was a dead cockroach! For a moment it made my face look like Narsimha Rao's grandmother...
...No holds barred I rushed to the bedroom armed with my rubber sling.
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