The other day I went vegetable shopping. Usually this is my husband's domain as he is the one who fetches the veggies armed with a list from me. Since I was not restricted by a list, I decided to let my imagination run wild and get something different. I noticed some fresh gooseberries (amla) and had a sudden craving to make pickle out of them.
However, once I returned home, my bravado failed me and I desperately needed some directions to proceed with my task. I had once tasted amla pickle made by one of my lunch group member's mom and it had tasted good. The amla had been grated finely. This was something that could be achieved easily albeit with some effort. So I set out to grate the half dozen amlas. Once that was done, I put it aside with a sense of achievement. I'd do the rest tomorrow I told myself confidently.
In the morning, I asked my cook if she knew how to make amla pickle. "Bibiji, I make very good aam ka achar. But, I've never made from amla before. If only you had told me yesterday, I'd have asked my neighbor - she makes all sorts of pickles. She left for her village today and now I can't ask her. I'll make it once you tell me how to prepare it." Frankly, I'd expected her to be a little more experimental and use her extensive culinary skills to recommend me a recipe. She had however smartly avoided a loss of face by throwing the ball back in my court!
I didn't lose hope. That day I met a couple of friends at lunch. Both of them are proclaimed good cooks and usually discuss recipes at length whenever we meet. I asked them both about the recipe for amla pickle. One of them quipped - "You know what, why don't you dry the amlas in the sun, then simply put some salt and make it into an after-dinner mouth freshner!" It was her way of admitting that making pickles was not her cup of tea. I looked to the other one. She looked at me with woe-be-gone eyes and said "I never have the freedom to use our kitchen at home. My mother-in-law monopolizes it completely and I only ever get to make tea or cook rice." She then launched into a woeful tale of how difficult it was to share a kitchen with the MIL.
Not to be distracted by these digressions, I called on my neighbor who is the proud owner of a stack of cook books and loves to refer to them whenever she cooks. I thought she might have the recipe by heart. However, she pricked my balloon by reprimanding me for grating the amla. "You should have talked to me first, you know. You need to first marinate the amla in salt water and then cut it finely. Also, where did you get the amlas from? I know a vegetable vendor who sells them for dirt-cheap prices. As a matter of fact I got 2 dozen amlas from him just the other day. If you had told me, I'd have got some for you too. I think that the best thing for you is to buy amla pickle from the xxx store." By now, it was clear that she was rambling on cos she didn't have a clue to my question. I deemed it wise to admit my folly and retire gracefully.
However, my neighbor had given me a brilliant idea. I dropped by the local grocer's and got Kepra's lonche(pickle) masala. I then followed the instructions and made my very first amla pickle. In the evening, I proudly served it to my husband with dinner. Smacking his lips, he commented - "So this is your new recipe? It look a long time, but turned out well. You should patent it before it gets stolen by others!"
I decided to keep my secret. I too had learned a bit of politics by then!
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