The Cooking Cycle


We South Indians use a lot of curry leaves and coriander leaves in our cooking. Usually, when we run out of veggies, we describe the emptiness of the refrigerator thus, “There are no vegetables at home, not even a sprig of coriander!”

This happens once in about 10-12 days, when I have used up ‘all the veggies and all my creativity’ to make interesting dishes out of boring vegetables.

And this is the trough of the sinusoidal cooking wave in the cooking cycle.

When we hit a trough, it is reflected in the faces of my husband and kids; they realize that it’s the ‘boring cooking phase’, when mom is lackadaisical, and the food looks uninteresting.

And then, the cooking wave slowly moves upward. This happens when I go shopping for veggies and grocery.

I come back and stock my refrigerator to its brim. The fresh smell of mint, coriander and ginger is in the air! My fridge looks colourful with orange carrots and pink radishes, green chillies and yellow bell peppers vying for space in the cold confines of the fridge’s crisper.

Red apples, shining grapes, serious-looking papayas and cheerful oranges settle down on the fruit rack.

With my cupboards and fridge overflowing, my cooking cycle hits a peak. I am inspired! I am charged! I scour my recipe books, draw inspiration from recipes on social media and try out new dishes that I have tasted at friends’ homes.

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My family knows this phase, and they sniff in appreciation, as interesting aromas waft around the house. The dining table looks colourful and vibrant. We are spoilt for choice.

This cycle keeps repeating, like most other things in life…..!

Today is a Sunday, and I have hit a peak on the cooking wave.

We are going to tuck-in to a yummy meal. See you all soon!

The Vegetable Vendor


My husband’s parents live in a close-knit community of independent homes; where people have known each other for many decades.

The streets are always bustling with chit-chatting neighbours, children playing on the streets and vehicles weaving in and out. There always seems to be some excitement, amidst all this bustle.

Neighbourhood shops are a mere stone’s throw away, and one can pick up most anything from these self-contained shops that are tucked away all around the community.

What makes the atmosphere more vibrant are the street vendors, who have their regular ‘beat’ around the various streets.

Their calls, as they hawk their goods, are distinct. Each vendor arrives at a particular time – some on all days, some on alternate days, and some others on the weekends.

I am standing at the doorstep watching the goings-on in the street. The vegetable vendor arrives, parks his push cart outside our door, and calls out, “Tomatoes, beans, onions, potatoes…”.

The ladies saunter towards the cart, with their own bags. They carefully examine and pick and choose the veggies. The vendor’s eyes are hawk-like as he weighs, bargains, and closes multiple deals.

He throws in some coriander leaves, curry leaves and ginger for free, making every customer happy!

There is some personal banter – after all, he meets these people every day. Money and vegetables are exchanged. He takes a breather, someone brings him a cup of tea. He relishes it, while delicately balancing his cart.

I ask him if I can click a picture. He happily agrees. He smiles. His veggies look happy too!

He is on his way soon, to the next street on his beat.

My ‘Anjarai Petti’


I love to cook. I cook a lot of Indian, and a bit of Italian, Mexican and Chinese.

Most Indian dishes, especially the South Indian ones, use many different types of seeds – that are typically roasted, used for seasoning or ground into a paste with vegetables, to prepare chutneys or bases for different types of gravies.

While I cooked this morning, I realized that my kitchen needed an overhaul, too much clutter. I decided to make a list of things I really need, and the ones that I’d like to retire or store for future use.

My crazy brain then hyperlinked to another question – What are the things that I could not part with in my kitchen ?

I have a couple of things that I absolutely love. One is my humble coffee filter (I would die without it). The other is my Anjarai Petti (meaning box with five compartments).

This round box is used to store all the seeds I use in my cooking. Most Indian women have some form of the Anjarai Petti or other, to store spices or seeds or masala powders. Call it a spice rack or a seasoning rack.

I would be lost without this in my kitchen. As the name suggests, the box may have started off with five compartments, but most boxes these days have seven compartments. There are steel ones, wooden ones, and plastic ones.

Mine is a stainless steel one, which I use to store black gram, mustard seeds, pepper corn, fenugreek seeds, coriander seeds and cumin seeds. The box comes with a small spoon.

Here’s my Anjarai Petti, my ‘must-have’ kitchen resource.

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It’s easy and convenient, as most South Indian dishes start with sputtering mustard in oil and adding other seeds, before other things are added.

Do you have a ‘must-have’ kitchen list? I would love to know.