On the nines

Who can resist a post scheduled for 09:09 p.m. on 09/09/09? Not me! If I was really smart though, it would have been scheduled for 09:09 a.m. on 09/09/09. But since everyone thinks I am rather brilliant, we'll just go with the flow and ignore my overly honest, inner voice.

Dana asked me what the significance of all the nines was and if there was something special she should do today. Eat and drink, girl, cos it's the first day of the rest of your life and this date is not going to come around again in your life. Neither will 09/08/09 but let's not go there, shall we? I like dates that look like 09/09/09 - they're symmetric and very orderly; the exact opposite of me.

Nines also remind me of my Dad. He would always calculate the digital root of a number, drop the nines, and ensure that the final number was divisible by three. He was rather upset when he did not get the Volkswagen Golf with the registration number KQZ 873 but was allotted the one prior, KQZ 872. Both were blue, both were great cars but ours had a digital root of eight whereas the other guy's had nine. But, our apartment was A-3. Yay! I presume that some crazy numerologist along the way must have told him that three and nine were good numbers for him, just like the demented astrologer who told him that he would die a watery death at the age of 32. Because of this, he didn't go near a large body of water and he didn't let us either! Needless to say, I hate that astrologer who was off target by 20 years. I have no strong feelings for the numerologist except that I have this urge to start adding numbers - the street number for our house before we bought it (it's a nine! Dad would have approved!), our cars, important dates, birth dates, account numbers, you name it!

As I grow older, I look at all the baggage I carry with me and smile. Memories - of the people who molded us, from our parents to our friends to our teachers to chance occurrences on the street, even. Sometimes there is a hint of an aroma in the air that only I can smell and it propels me back in time to a memory that is so vivid, it could be real. Other times, it's a look on the face of a complete stranger. Is she... could he be... no! They're just passers-by in the walk of life but they leave me with the renewed joy of reliving an event that occurred over two to three decades ago.

Has that ever happened to you?

I'm sure it has! Have you ever taken that feeling and run with it? If it was an aroma or a flavor or even a déjà vu, have you tried to capture the essence of that feeling and tried to recreate tastes associated with it? I know I have. I hold on to it until I have to do something about it, especially if it is related to food. Sometimes just finding the right recipe is action enough, other times I have to do more. Like the time I saw a kid continue to gnaw at an already eaten cob of corn. He dipped it in some kind of sauce and sucked on the cob, over and over again. It brought back visions of a scrawny kid with thick eyeglasses sitting in a small kitchen, dipping her 2 inch share of a cob into a tangy green sauce and sucking the flavors off the cob. Over and over again. I had forgotten the distinctive, slightly garlicky taste of the palakachi amti that my Mom used to make. One that turned dinner time from being a total time-suck to an endless suck of the cob.

And, sure enough, there was soon fresh corn in the Louisville Farmers Market begging to be... er, sucked.

To be honest, the corn wasn't that great because the entire crop had almost been wiped out due to a massive hail storm in the Foothills. But, I bought it anyway because I had a memory that was itching to be recreated and I like to support our local farmers, especially when they are down.

Palak ani makkyachi Amti

Spinach and Corn Curry

  • 1 lb baby spinach leaves
  • 2 ears of corn, preferably fresh
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • pinch asafetida
  • 2-3 medium cloves garlic, julienned
  • 2 Thai green chillies or 2-3 dried red chillies
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 2 tbsp tamarind pulp
  • 1/2 tsp quick fix ground masala (optional) 
  • salt to taste

  1. Wash the baby spinach leaves well.

  2. Soak tamarind pulp in about 1/4 cup water, pop into the microwave for 20 seconds and mush it into a thick paste with your hands. Discard all hard fibers, shell and seeds. Use more water if you need to.

    About 1/8 cup fresh tamarind pulp
  3. Chop the corn on the cob into pieces that are about 1.5 in to 2 inches thick. About eight pieces is a good number.

    Chop with a sharp knife
  4. Heat oil in a large sauté pan.
  5. Add mustard seeds and when they pop, add asafetida.
  6. Keep your splash guard handy and then add julienned garlic. Stir until garlic becomes a nice toasty brown but take care that it does not burn.
  7. If using fresh green chillies, slice them down their length. If using dried red chillies, break them into 2-3 pieces each.
  8. Add chillies, followed by turmeric powder.
  9. Add baby spinach leaves and allow them to wilt completely, stirring every so often to help the process.
  10. Add tamarind paste, quick fix ground masala, if using and salt. Cook for another 4-5 minutes.
  11. Discard chillies, if desired.
  12. Use a hand blender to make a thick purée, adding up to 1/2 cup water to bring it to a consistency you like. Or add a few ice cubes to cool the spinach quickly and take it for a whirr in your blender.
  13. Taste and adjust seasonings at this point. If it's not spicy enough, feel free to add red chilli powder.
  14. Return the pan to the stove and add the pieces of cob. Dunk them into the thick green sauce so that they absorb all the zesty flavors as the corn cooks. Do not overcook the corn.

    Send the corn for a swim
  15. Serve immediately over long-grained steamed rice with homemade yogurt and Indian pickle.
  1. I think the roots of this dish are in a patal bhaji where the masala was ground with fresh grated coconut but I think my Mom stopped using coconut because of doctor's orders - reduce saturated fats in my Dad's diet. 
  2. I've made both with and without the quick fix ground masala. Medha prefers it with the masala, while I like it without. Her Dad doesn't care, as long as he has a pile of pickled jalapeño peppers sitting on his plate.

We decided to brave the mosquitoes and have dinner on the patio. It was interesting to watch both Medha and her Dad when they were served dinner.
He picked up his spoon

  She followed suit.

After a few bites, she looked at him,  then looked at me and did exactly what that child in a small Bombay kitchen had done decades ago: she picked up the cob and sucked on it.


With that, I would like to launch IFR: Memories. A series of posts that focus on mundane happenings today that somehow manage to send me into the past. I'd love it if you would join me for more than just the ride. Delve into what defines nostalgia for you: a picture, a smell, a thought, a setting, a landscape, a deja vu. For IFR: Memories, I'm looking for tastes you haven't sampled for at least a decade or more. I would like you to:
  1. Write a poignant post that includes a recipe. Your writing is what is of  importance for this event. It needn't be a tearjerker.
  2. Some guidelines:
    • posts must be in English.
    • avoid excessive use of "..." and exclamation points.
    • proof-read your post for spelling as well as grammar.
    • avoid run-on sentences. 
    • no smileys or emoticons, please.
  3. Link to this announcement.
  4. Send me an email at indianfoodrocks (at) gmail (dot) com with the following info:
    • Your name
    • The Name of your Blog
    • The URL of your post
    • The Title of your post
  5. You can send me two entries per blog, limiting it to two entries per person.
  6. Send me a basket of mangoes Send all this to me before midnight MDT, October 15, 2009.
I will post a summary of all your entries within the following week.

Looking for a logo for this event? You could use this, if you like.


Shaheen said...

Sweet memories! I didn't think about posting at 09:09 09/09/09. :( Now I think I should have. I like the palak and corn curry you've made. Never mixted tamarind with palak. Should try this the next time I get some.. I remember having a corn curry years ago at an aunt's place. She cut up the cob just like you did. I used to love it. Reminds me that I should probably track that aunt down and ask her for the recipe.

Srivalli said...

aww..manisha..!..that's a beautiful post..loved reading about your Dad. There have been many occasions, when a smell, a sight or even stranger's look transported me to past!!..I cringe thinking and trying to recreate..when it comes to dishes..of course Dad always says the dishes that we ate as kids, can never come back to life..maybe to do with the freshness of all things then..

whatever..its a beautiful event, hopefully I should be inspired to write something..

Srivalli said...

yes, after reading your msg..I was looking at the clock and as I said made a wish too..so my post was kind of delayed!..hehhe...lovely pictures of your family..cob looks delish!

sra said...

You know, I always wanted to do an event focusing on writing, but held back for various reasons - am curious to see the turnout. Have been planning one for my blogiversary, though it's quite different from this.

sra said...

Oh yeah, and I was wondering why the coconut hadn't made an appearance in the amti for a long time till I read further!

Meeta K. Wolff said...

Oh! I like this!!!! I like this!!!!!! an instant fave!!!!! Just kidding.

Seriously, I really do like the idea for this event and I might just have something for you - something that came to my head instantly. I'll have to see what I can do with it.

sunita said...

What a wonderful idea, Manisha. Nowadays, I am in a flashback mode, all too often. Might be able to send you something.

And yes, I loved reading about your memories too.

Shammi said...

You've hobbled me, Manisha. I cant use ... ... and no exclamation points either? *sigh*

Anita said...

Excessive is....err... relative! No emoticons?!! You must surely be kidding!!! [You asked for it... and you are going to get it!]

But, seriously, I am looking forward to 'writing' this. A recipe as well...hmmm. Good that you have allowed a lot of time.

But dear, where is the 6-ingredient express recipe?

Desisoccermom said...

Loved reading your (Corny) memories not to mention the rules for the event. hmmm... where is that exclamation kye? Ok, promise will be better with my entry. No puns, no smilies, no "..." and no !!!. If only they applied these rules to the blogosphere.

Kitchen Chronicles said...

Sweet Memories. It was nice reading the post. Will try to dig out my past and find something the way you are asking for.

Soma said...

Beautiful post! A great theme for an event. i always seem to live in the past since my mom passed away.. seems unreal sometimes, the past & the present... sigh.

There are so many things, so many memories & tears most of the time. Love the picture of medha chewing on the corn:-) thats the way to go girl.

Nirmala said...

You rock dear. Thats a wonderful event and count me in ! Love the pic of MEdha sucking on the cob. Pure indulgence with pure innocence !

Abhi said...

Hey Manisha, reminded me of Rishipanchamichi bhaji, that too had cobs and was patal. Do you make it or know the recipe? As an aside, I was in the office at 09-09-09 09.00AM, so guess what? I had 9 raisins on the dot at 9.

Nabeela said...

You demand more perfection than the professor from my technical writing class!! :)

Ann said...

I've seen people posting entries to your event, and came by to check it out. Sweet =)
And I think I have 10,OK,maybe 2 for you, though it'll be hard for me to stay away from the exclamation marks!

Aparna Balasubramanian said...

I think you extended the date to 31st Oct?
I posted this (http://mydiversekitchen.blogspot.com/2009/10/muthusaram-traditional-savoury-snack.html) on the 31st.
Am I too late? Does this post qualify for IFR:Memories?

Preeti Kashyap said...

am I late or can I still send my entry by tonight???

Indian Food Rocks said...

Preeti, I've been swamped with work and have had no time to even consider a round-up. Please send in your entry as soon as possible, if you haven't already!

Anita said...

Ha, look who's being the tardy host this time! ;-)
Life happens. Hang in there.

Unknown said...

Made this dish.. well, kind of. Just basic tadka onion tomato and spinach with corn in pressure cooker. Spinach does go very well with corn and it's fun to slurp the juices from the corn cobs. yum!