Thursday, December 4, 2008

Grandma’s Rasayana

I remember grandma scurrying into the kitchen displeased that there was not enough on the evening snack menu for her four sons, when they returned from work. This comprised of my father and my three dear uncles, all younger than dad.
She wouldn’t say anything to her daughters-in-law, she would instead amble into the dingy, cool corner in the store room and take the basket full of bananas perched on the topmost shelf.

She would then in a brusque, business-like fashion march back into the main kitchen and start chopping them into thick discs, and in the same breath, order my aunt to quickly grate some fresh coconut. I remember being called in to discard all the peels into the dustbin outside. I’d always ask if I could chop the bananas or grate the jaggery maybe, but grandma would flatly refuse—her way of minimizing mistakes in her culinary preparation.

The banana slices would inadvertently all be of the same thickness, and covered with a plate to prevent them from forming a brown surface. And she would tell me how even the simple act of chopping fruits and vegetables is an art in itself. My aunt would then start grating jaggery, into light, textured flakes that would melt immediately when in contact with the bananas. Ground cardamom powder would be prepared next.

All this culminates into the mixing-which really was the climax of this lovely food episode. Grandma would first add the jaggery and toss the bananas with a spoon. She would then throw in the grated coconut, and toss the banana once again, so you see a bowlful of beautiful, sunny-yellow discs coated with molten jaggery and fresh, white strands of coconut flesh. Finally, the black flecks of cardamom would be sprinkled and the bananas tossed one final time. And me, I would savor all the drama until I dribbled on to my clothes.

But, I would be sent back to get four bowls of uniform size, washed and cleaned till they sparkle and she would dole out large spoonfuls of fruit into them. I remember handing out the bowls to the four of them in various parts of the house, and rushing back into the kitchen for my share. As grandma would say-we had to eat it all before the bananas browned.

I don’t know about my father and uncles, but I thought this treat was simply kick-ass!

4 big bananas, ripe but firm
3 tbsp grated jaggery (buy the soft jaggery oval-shaped lumps that give into the grater easily, not the hard cubes which are tough to grate)
1 tbsp freshly grated coconut
½ tsp cardamom powder

Grate the coconut first. Grate the jaggery as well and keep the measured amount handy. Keep aside the cardamom powder. And finally, go for the bananas. Peel and chop them into medium-thick discs into a serving bowl (preferably glass so you can see it from all sides). Sprinkle the jaggery liberally and toss. Add the coconut and toss once more. Finally add the cardamom powder and give it one final swirl so it spreads. Eat immediately.

P.S. I recently tried replacing a tablespoon of jaggery with two teaspoons of date syrup. It turned out great! You could even warm this for 30 seconds in the microwave and serve it warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. This makes amazing dessert.

Tuck-in. Enjoy.

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