Monday, February 16

Allium Sativum – For the Love of Garlic 

What could possibly go well for an incorrigible romantic, when love is in the air, and the flu, having taken its toll on the rest of the household, decides to assail one on the eve of V-Day? A lot, if you can momentarily forget about the raging fever that threatens to pound on your nerves, fluff up those pillows however feebly, slink quietly under the duvet, and relinquish the vapors of Vicks for a bit to take in the invigorating aroma of plump, lush cloves of garlic hitting a ghee-laced pan, intermingled with a hodgepodge of spices that not only make you go “Hmm…” they also clear up those sinuses and work a new magic on that inflamed pharynx.

Garlic has possibly never been associated with romance before, and to that I say - what a pity, what a laugh!

The affair this Valentine’s in our little household was intense and rather heated up, thanks to the pungency of garlic. For someone who’s always been an advocate of natural remedies, a stanch devotee of grandma’s recipes for homemade cures, it was only natural that I heed the husband’s pleas to make me a hot pot of garlic-magic. That’s not to say I otherwise trust his culinary abilities to appease my gourmet instincts; but this time I had little choice, thanks to the dreaded viral. So I gave in and the consequence was nothing less than dramatic. And in true drama queen fashion, I blew him a passionate air-kiss across the hall before curling up under the covers again to beat the flu blues and assuage my quickened pulse.

I can’t quite put my finger on it - but I reckon I was rather besotted with the idea that the husband, who’s barely shaken the flu off himself, would so completely involve himself in a stirring up a comfort brew for me on V-Day, instead of hopping over to the Soupery and grabbing me a bowl of chicken-noodle soup and sourdough bread. I’d never seen a man so passionately go over a rigorous self-taught, self-made method of creating a special concoction in the good old iron skillet, with the customary wooden ladle…with a sense of conviction, a manner of such flawless clout over the utensils, the spices, the herbs and the kitchen itself. All my memories of my dad venturing in the kitchen are tinted by the letters in my mom’s A to Z instructions written daintily in a vinyl-bound recipe diary. And I’ve had the husband cook for me on other occasions, but I have been conveniently absent during the course of it. So this was quite a revelation - indicative of sorts that love can, at times, be as fiery as most Indian spices. Although he refused to divulge the secret ingredients, I was able to gather a sense of what had gone into this excellent bubble broth, even with the clogged up sinuses that only started to let up as the taste buds actually took all the flavors in.

And my little one added extra zing to our affair with the rasam by animatedly scouring for, and handing me the special “soup” spoon. Not that it stopped me from slurping up the last driblets at the bottom of the bowl with my tongue, table manners be damned. While the flu is presently petering out, I survive on love and leftover garlic rasam. And the best part is not even that - it’s how, in all my South Indian glory, I have come to refer to it in my head as “ro-sh-oom” while the Madras-bred-Bengali husband eloquently says - your r-a-ss-a-m’s ready, baby. That, my dears, is my idea of the perfect Valentine-s - even if the only allusion to class and style is in the half-spent bottle of dessert wine picked up from a wayside winery in the Fall that stares back at one from atop the buffet table.

(Don’t care that much for the reek of fine garlic? Well, I might just be able to elaborate on that once I emerge smelling mentholated, fresh out of my natural eucalyptus clearing bath.)

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