A very good friend of mine in the Indian Foreign Services had sent across, for editing, a rather long and scholarly paper on international relations. He gave me barely a couple of hours to edit his paper, for it had to go to the publisher by the end of the day. So I skipped my breakfast, made myself some fine Darjeeling tea (Goodricke’s Casselton, Single Estate) and set myself to the task very first thing in the morning.
The paper, brilliantly written as it were, did not need much editing. All I did was to read it a few times, trim it down a bit and suggest a minor addition to the overall structure. Needless to say, the benefit of the editing exercise accrued more to me than to my friend, for I got to learn about the intricacies of a highly complex and troubled international relations issue involving four countries, three of which India had a significant stake in.
And then Ms. Adama, my Sierra Leonean cook who fixes delicious Indian vegetarian meals for me called to say that she was stuck and would be late. Editing done, feeling very hungry and left to my own devises, I ventured into the kitchen on the ground floor to find both the fridges empty.
Not a person to throw in the towel under such circumstances, I picked up a bowl, threw some locally grown organic brown rice and whole lentil into it, put some water, added some salt, thyme, rosemary and chilli pepper flakes and put it into the microwave for ten minutes. At the end of ten minutes, I added two large cubes of cream cheese and put it in the microwave for a further five minutes.
What emerged was a delicious, wholesome meal – some kind of a Desi (colloquial for Indian) Risotto or Italian Khichri as you like, sans the meat stock and white wine and with the lentil. It was some kind of a fusion between the Khichri and the Risotto – while resembling neither and probably because I was very hungry, tasting far better than both. I ate to my heart’s content, very pleased with myself and my culinary skills.
A Saturday brunch is of course not complete without a dessert. So I opened the fridge again and examined my rapidly dwindling stock of the best “kora paak, nolen gurer, jol-bhora shondesh” from Kolkata prepared by the legendary confectioners Girish Chandra. It was a large box of this traditional dry Bengali sweet (made from milk solids and palm molasses, tempered to perfect brittleness, with a core of watery molasses) which my mother in law, knowing well my predilection for sweets, had thrust into my hands just as I was readying to leave for the airport in Kolkata last weekend.
While the box was full to begin with, when I opened it this morning, there were just four pieces left. I picked one, ate it slowly, savouring every bit and then reached out for the second. Well now you know why the stock had dwindled so rapidly.
Beginning the day with reviewing a paper on international relations and then an eclectic brunch was in every respect good food for the brain and the belly. Not too bad I must say for a lazy and solitary Saturday morning in remote Freetown peninsula in West Africa.