July 13, 2011
Ammachy vs. Delmonte
The other day, as I was scanning the aisles at a Mallu* grocery store in Queens, I couldn't but pick a bottle of Pineapple Jam (strictly made in adherence with CFTRI, Mysore norms). The ingredients seemed to be just about ok. Artificially flavoured. I got stuck there. I weighed my second option. To make it at home. Having been just a visitor to this country, I haven't invested in the right vessels. Making Pineapple Jam at home didn't seem encouraging enough. I finally gave in.
As soon as I reached home, I couldn't wait to inhale the pineapple smell! Its often the smell of food that takes me back in time. Memories and food smell- they seem so intertwined.
Pineapples grew aplenty in my Mom's house. I could eat one whole Pineapple by myself. I have memories of this little girl marveling Ammachy* meticulously cutting and carving the Pineapples. And then, in no time, I dig into the juicy pieces. I don't even spare the central core despite it burning my tongue. For that I keep scraped coconut ready. Ammachy's home remedy for burnt tongue. Just eat a few spoonfuls of freshly grated coconut if you over eat Pineapple!
Depending on the availability, and after everyone is done with their share of fresh feasts of the fruit, (I had the lion's share most of the time!) the kitchen is abuzz with Jamming! The big Uruli* in which Ammachy made Jam is as fresh as yesterday in my mind! I am seeing it now in the window of my memory. She had her own recipe - simple enough, but now I am getting high on the irresistible smell of pineapple jam simmering with cloves in her kitchen. Cloves - plucked from the tree just two terraces down the kitchen. I feel my senses opening up one by one. Now I hear the sound of the Jam boiling in the hot Uruli. And the clanking noises of the ladle scraping the sides...and stirring...
Often I volunteered to help her. My self-discovered incentive- while clearing the well-cooked/ slightly burnt jam-in-progress from the sides, help yourself to occasional interim reliefs! By now, I am there in the oldest kitchen that I have seen in my life....scraping the Jam from the sides of the Uruli and devouring it with a grin :)
The Jam is then packed into her set of earmarked bottles for various families. After the vacation, back home, Ammachy's home made Jam goes as the preferred accompaniment with all breakfast dishes. Ranging from bread to dosa to even puttu!
Along with Jam, we also brought in fresh pineapples with us. I eagerly planted the Pineapple heads in my courtyard and checked on them every other day. I remember peeping into the centre to see if there were signs of a fruit ready to head out!
Long journeys back in time. But, memories; they partner so well to reminisce fondly of a colourful, nutritious past...and inspire to recreate at least a few of those memories for my Children.
Far away from home and from home grown Pineapples, my other option to eat fresh Pineapple (mass cultivated, therefore with all the perils as well) is Delmonte. It almost looks artificial with all the fruits of uniform size, shape and colour. As if they were machine- manufactured in batches!
I realize there is really no comparison at all. Inspired by my childhood memories, whenever I had the calling and the urge, I have planted Pineapples and have made Jam from them as well. The carbon credits that I earn at my consciousness counter is inspiration enough to eat fresh. To dismiss processed food whenever I can. To nudge my friends to go back to cooking fresh.(There are some who have given up cooking for good!) To encourage the ones who plant their own gardens. To at least try to help nurture a healthier generation.
* Mallu - colloquial for - of Kerala origin
* Ammachy - Grandma in Malayalam ( language of Kerala)
* Uruli - traditional cookware used in Kerala made of bell metal
(Image courtesy: Wikimedia Commons)