Life lessons from Indian Pickle

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A road-side vendor selling an array of mouth-wateringly delicious pickles, taken in front of Tipu’s Fort, Palakkad, Kerala, India, Picture Credits – Sastha Prakash,

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)

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Orange peel pickle – hints of sour, bitter, sweet, salt and spicy

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.


The World in Colours

The bright red of a heart, the red bindi on a woman’s forehead, the red of a rose, the shining red of a car, the red of an apple, the spicy red of Indian mango pickle, the red of lanterns announcing the Chinese New Year, the red of a cherry atop an ice cream, the red that says stop, the red of a clown’s nose, the red that rings in Xmas.

The orange of the evening sun, the soothing orange of an apricot, the orange of a life jacket, the orange of autumn leaves, the orange of a carved jack o’ lantern, the blazing orange of a fire, the orange of fragrant saffron, the orange of fresh carrots, the orange garb of a monk, the orange of a cosmos flower, the orange that teases your taste buds.

The yellow of mustard, the yellow of a baby’s toy, the yellow of a road divider, the yellow of egg yolk, the beautiful yellow of the sunflower, the shining yellow of gold, the yellow of lemons, the yellow of a taxi, the yellow of turmeric, the creamy yellow of fresh butter, the yellow of wholesome bananas, the perfect yellow round of a smiley, the yellow of corn, the yellow of rays of sunlight streaming into the house.

The green of grass, the green of jade stone, the green of a crunchy capsicum, the green of a frog, the green of a traffic signal, the green of herbs, the green of an emerald, the green of a raw mango, the green of a curling fern, the green of the countryside, the green of malachite, the green of Christmas, the green of lotus leaves, the green of a parrot, the green of spring.

The blue of the ocean, the blue of Delft pottery, the blue of turquoise, the blue of a peacock’s feather, the blue of the sky, the deep blue of twilight, the blue of ink, the blue of mascara, the blue of a blue berry, the blue of a swimming pool, the blue of copper sulphate, the blue of a uniform, the blue of the bluebird, the rich blue of sapphire, the blue that is business-like & formal.

The violet of the star-studded night sky, the violet of a formal evening gown, the violet of an amethyst, the violet of aromatic lavender, the violet of coloured hair, the violet of lilac, the violet of beautiful eyes, the violet of chocolate wrappers.

The black of formality, the black of black holes, the black of a shadow, the black of a stallion, the black of beautiful tresses, the black of a crow, the black of blackberries, the black of an espresso, the black of a formal bag, the must have black dress, the black of coal, the black of a panther, the black lines of a pencil sketch.

The white of purity, the white of cotton-puff clouds, the white of freshly laundered linen, the white of a swan, the white of a hospital, the white of milk, the white of an empty page, the white of a snow-capped mountain, the white of foam, the white of a bride’s gown, the white of a marshmallow, the white of the Taj Mahal, the white of a polar bear, the white of peace.

The world is a rainbow of colours – each of them beautiful, each of them vibrant; some colours define who we are, some reflect our moods, some bring back memories, some inspire us!