The joy of cooking


What a South Indian traditional meal looks like

It’s close to midnight, my mother-in-law and I head to the nearest supermarket to fetch a can of whole milk. It’s been a whole day of prep work – grating coconut, sauteing cabbage, boiling drumsticks, and grinding ginger. Now there is just one last, but most exhausting, thing to do. Make the dessert.

We decide to make an Indian traditional sweet called Rabdi. This requires boiling the milk to quarter of the initial amount. A chore that takes a couple of hours. The clock strikes 12 am, but the milk teasingly spits out bubbles. Even as we wait for it to shrink, we munch on pecans and dates, while discussing the science of cooking. The mother-in-law, who is a nutritionist, talks about Mufa (Monosaturated fatty acids which are healthy fats)-rich Avocado, fenugreek arresting the fermentation in rice batter, and the detoxifying power of ginger. Every time the smell of saffron milk wafts towards us, we pause our conversation, stir it up with a ladle, and go back to talking about how fruits help absorb iron in the food.

An hour later, the milk shrinks into a yellow viscous mass, the saffron bits float in them like lost boats. The next morning, we are up with the sun, ready to squeeze some fresh lime into the salad, pour some coconut and chili paste into the boiled veggies, and roast some almond slices in clarified butter to go with the chilled Rabdi. 

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