We Indians can pickle most vegetable & fruit, with our own unique blend of spices, depending on which part of the country one hails from. In most Indian homes, you can find pickles made from mangoes, raw mangoes, gooseberries, lime, citron, citron leaves, curry leaves, coriander leaves, bitter gourd, green chillies, red chillies, tomatoes, egg plant, garlic, gongura…the list goes on and on.
Like a million other people, I need pickle with my lunch and dinner. Steaming hot rice mixed with pickle and a dash of ghee (clarified butter), a lovely way to start lunch. The wonderful thing about these pickles is that they pack so many tastes in one single spoon – sour, sweet, salted, mind-numbingly spicy (this is my favourite), bitter, or a mixture of all these.
Be warned, Indian pickles can cause sensory overload!
I recently read a recipe to pickle orange peel. The Chinese New Year is being celebrated all around me, and during this season, Mandarin Oranges are available aplenty. So, I gave it a shot this morning.
After sputtering mustard in oil and adding a pinch of asafoetida, I added finely diced orange peel to the oil. Once the pieces of peel were well fried, I added tamarind pulp, chilly powder and salt, allowing this whole mixture to simmer for a while. Once the peel was properly cooked and mashed, I finished by adding jaggery (a coarse sugar made by drying the sap of the palm tree). The finished product was yummy and looks like it can be eaten with most anything – rice, dosas, paranthas or as a sandwich spread. (Recipe Credit – Ms.Bhama Narayanan)
As I tucked into my meal with my freshly pickled orange peel, I started thinking about how our lives can be likened to an everyday meal, & pickles.
Most days, we are comfortable with the way our lives cruise along; the same routine, the same newspapers, the same people at the tube station whom we nod at, the mechanical chores that are unavoidable; this is our comfort zone and we are mostly happy to be where we are, very much like our everyday meals. We are creatures of habit and do not get too adventurous with food, or experimenting with food on a normal day.
However, just like the dollop of pickle, which enhances the quality of what we eat, and makes us experience stronger flavors, our lives are spiced up now and then, when we meet interesting people, experience something different or have unexpected surprises.
These are truly life’s pickles – when we feel more intensely.
However, one cannot eat too much pickle everyday, just like how ‘everyday’ cannot be exciting and wonderful.
Most days are vanilla days…but pickle days, now & then are most welcome.