Saturday, October 21, 2006

Digestion, Absorption, Assimilation

I blinked at the contents of the clear glass bowl, that in my limited field of perspective could have equally passed off as either a large brown lump of overly soggy rice, or a large brown lump of dehydrated congee.

"It's rice mixed with some coconut, brown sugar, raisins, a bit of milk... it usually has cashews but I didn't have any on me today. They often make these in the temples too. You can try it and see if you like it." She spoke with that unmistakable ring of trustworthiness that goes hand in hand with motherly status.

"Cool... What do you call it?"

"In Tamil, we call it P__k__."



"Puh-, poo-k-... How do you spell it?"

"I don't think it's one of those things that is ever meant to be spelt out," Vig remarked endearingly.

Vig's mother had prepared a humble feast for Deepavali for a table of four this afternoon. Admittedly, it was one of the pulling factors behind my consent when Vig offered me his place for the weekend, for me to get some solitude he knew I desperately needed. Waking up to the smell of Indian spices was also an unforseen bonus.

"So, would you like to start with white rice first, or the sweet brown rice?" Vig's mother asked. Despite my overwhelming curiosity, I picked up the ladle for white rice and dug out my usual ration. Vig's girlfriend did the same, and proceeded with helping herself to the dhall curry.

On the other side of the table, I saw Vig's place... similar ratios of sweet brown rice, dhall curry and coconut chutney, all of which he had already begun to mush together with his eating hand.

Unwilling to allow myself to stay dumbfounded, I asked for Vig's girlfriend to pass me the brown rice. I scooped out two spoonfuls onto the side of my plate. I carved out a small chunk out of it and took a slow, deliberate nibble. The natural sweetness of rice slowly oozed out to blend with the brassiness of brown sugar. The rough caress of dessicated coconut against my gums, my incisors splitting the weakened skin of a raisin. I gave a nod of intrigue at Vig's mother, who was observing my first taste of the festive dish.

I was more gallant with my second bite, soon and easily forgetting that I should start a proper meal with my white rice.

Vig's mother exitedly handed to me the bowl of chutney.

"Now try it with this!"

My appreciation for the brilliant orange goop has never gone beyond it being consumed with thosai. My gastronomic courage promptly dissipated, exemplified with a slight drop of the jaw. Vig's eyes scintillated with encouragement.

I nervously took a teaspoon of chutney and spread it thinly over the brown rice, before bringing the new combined source of intimidation to my quivering lips.

Cold coconut fragments butchered the rice. Dried chili invaded the brown sugar. Ginger ambushed the raisins. Onion mugged the milk. A cultural riot exploded in my mouth.

Then I tasted gridlocks, negotiations, formal re-introductions. All eyes were on me. My tongue swirled in bewilderment...

And then I asked for more.

Vig winked, his girlfriend laughed, and his mother welcomed a new addition to her family.

Happy Deepa-Raya, everyone.


Anonymous Az Samad said...


11:21 PM  
Blogger Jo said...

Very sensual.


1:47 AM  
Blogger disco-very said...

it makes the world go round :) Hari Raya hugs coming your way.

always a challenge for me to write about cuisine. glad you liked it.

11:07 AM  
Anonymous damion said...

interesting write-up about how you had your first bite of the, what you call it? sweet brown rice?

overall, hope you had enjoyed a relaxing holiday.. :)

1:27 AM  
Blogger disco-very said...

you could leave it at that, i suppose. :) hope you enjoyed your hols too.

9:35 AM  
Blogger Fashionasia said...

you look great in the pic!! and i think FEMALE was sold out bcos I cant find find it in Times Bookshop 1U today...

1:40 AM  

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