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The Making Of Ghee On Independence Day

A tale of Swaraj in the kitchen.

18/08/2017 11:20 AM IST | Updated 18/08/2017 11:20 AM IST
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There is something undignified about not being an everyday domestic diva. I know that because I am not a domestic diva. I realised early in life that accomplishing a perfect meal day after day was not going to be my forte. I might be excellent at matching a thousand rupee cushion cover with an exorbitantly priced recliner, or writing a ten-page document or sometimes making chicken Kiev but things like paying extra attention to the right amount of "gul" and "chincha" to make the staple chincha-gul amti (Maharashtrian dal) expected from every good Kokanastha Brahmin woman was not going to my thing.

As they say in Bollywood "Suhagan ke sarr ka taj hota hai ek chutki sindoor"—for my mother it's, "Har aurat ka khwab hota hai making malai ka ghee."

In my defence, for a good 12 years I have tried coming up with made-from-scratch meals, but somehow my culinary creations end up looking and tasting unremarkable, like the tick inside the "satisfactory" box of a 7th grader's report card. I wouldn't mind being boxed under "miserable" or "gifted" but let's agree that "satisfactory" is a boring and uncomfortable place to be in. So right after moving to India I officially hung up my cooking apron and hired a good cook—someone who could make the softest of chapattis, an outstanding chincha-gul amti, bharli-vaangi, pohe, sabudana khichdi, ukadiche modaks—yes the simple Maharashtrian food festival at the table—everyday. And since then I have given up on my dream to become a Martha Stewart in the kitchen. Many people give up their dreams right? Sometimes dancers have to accept that their bodies are not pliable enough, so they find another job/dream. No one really puts them down for giving up dance, same with me, I am not made for slaving at the stove, I told myself.

Except there was this one chore that my mother thinks not doing is a moral sin. For her, it's crossing the ultimate work-ethic line, and that chore is the process of making ghee from the fortnightly collection of malai (saay in Marathi). As they say in Bollywood "Suhagan ke sarr ka taj hota hai ek chutki sindoor"—for my mother it's, "Har aurat ka khwab hota hai making malai ka ghee."

My mother, you see, is a perfectionist. She is the master of the kitchen, a consummate chef. And I am not just saying this because she is my mother. From making authentic Maharashtrian food to whipping up cakes, puddings and spreads, mom is the finest and brightest—in her kitchen there is no room for imperfections. So you can understand her disapproval towards my inclination to buy rather than build.

She is also unflatteringly frank about her about her 44-year-old daughter's indisposition in making ghee. Undertaking the job herself, mom has left me no choice but to be embarrassed to admit that she has been making tup/ghee for us for many years now. Every fortnight I send in a container of malai and lo and behold, I receive my quota of desi ghee. Now, who would complain about being in this sort of situation?

On the eve of India's anniversary of independence from British rule, I decided I was going to unshackle myself from the tyranny of being dependent for ghee.

But mom underwent surgery recently and was advised rest for two weeks. The enormity of the malai situation fell on my shoulders.

And on the eve of India's anniversary of independence from British rule, I decided I was going to unshackle myself from the tyranny of being dependent for ghee. I asked mom for her secret formula and she happily, albeit with some reservations, parted with the seven important steps involved.

So on the morning of Independence Day I wore my apron and looking dead serious started the process. And at 5:30am when it was still dark outside, as if I was in charge of launching the NASA space program, I lit the stove.

Happy Independence Day, y'all!

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