AMMA KE AACHAR

8144663-home-canning--isolationOur  country  has  vast  repertoire  of  traditional  pickles.  Meat,  chicken,  vegetables,  fruits  all  have  been  pickled  in  India.   the  word  achaar  derived  from  Portuguese- ‘achi’-means  chilly/ peppers.   Indian  meals  are  incomplete  without  achaars,  it  is  through  pickles  that  Indians  discovered  preserving  techniques.

Best  part  of  childhood  was  going  to  grand mom’s  house  during  the  vacations..  The  pleasant  memories  associated  with  spending  time  with  the  cousins,  playing  hide  and  seek,  gazing  the  stars  on  the  moon-lit  night,  sleeping  on  the  terrace  and  listening  to  stories  of  ghosts.  In  the  day  time  sitting  on  the  jhulla (swing)  hanging  from  the  mango  tree  and  during  mango  season  eating  raw  mangoes  with  salt  and  red  chilly  powder  under  the  same  tree  was  my  favorite  past  time.

From  summer  to  winter  vacations,  the  food  ingredients  changed,  if  summers  were  about  kadi-chawal,  then  winters  was  about  the  sarso ka  saag  and  maki  ki  roti,  but  one  thing  which  was  available  and  same  throughout  the  year  was  the   presence  of  pickles,  the  faithful  companion  going  with  all  kind  of  foods,  whether  breakfast,  lunch  or  dinner  ,  the  pickle  complimenting   all.

The  tangy  smell  of  raw  mangoes  still  evokes  my  emotions   and  taste  buds,  there  is  something  nostalgic  about  it,  taking  me  back  to  my  childhood.

The  thought  of  home-made  pickles  still  reminds  me  the  open  spaces,  the  courtyard  of  the  ancestral  house,  the  raw cut  mangoes  being  dried  in  the  sun,  after  applying  salt  and  turmeric.

Travelling  by  bus  during  long  journeys  my  amma (grandmother)  always  carried  a  small  glass  bottle  of  mango-pickle,  and  kept  licking  the  small  piece  during  sharp  curves  and  turns,  as  there  was  no  avomine ( tablet  for  stopping  vomitting)  available  in  those  days  and  her  pickle  was  her  only  saviour  during  such  tiring  journeys.  It  had  therapeutic  effect  then.

While  returning  back  from  Summer  vacations  when  we  boarded  the  train,  amma  always  use  to  hand  over  a  bag  full  of  goodies  along  with  a  huge  martvaan (jar)  of  mango pickle.  How  can  I  forget  her  nicely  wrapped  paranthas  in  a  newspaper  with  pickle  inside  it.

Aloo-poori,  was  our  favorite  lunch-box  item  with  aam  ka  achaar  during   picnics.

When  the  food  tasted  bland  or  during  Sunday  brunch,  if  any  body  cribbed  about  the  tasteless  food,  a  spoon  full  of  pickles  would  raise  his  or  her  morale,  relieving  his   taste-buds.

Amma  would  generously  put  pickles  for  her  five  son-in-laws  according  to  their  tastes  ,  from  mango  to  turnip  and  lemon  to  carrot-cauliflower.  The  porch  of  her  house  proudly  displayed  huge  jars  with  all  kind  of  pickles,  soaking  the  sun,  in  regular  intervals  she  would,  add  mustard  oil  to  the  pickle  jars,  except  the  sweet  lemon  pickle.  Every  pickle  had  its  unique  ingredients,  some  had  feenugreek  seeds,  some  had  jaggery  added  for  sweetness  and  some  mustard  seeds,  each  pickle  tasted  so  different  from  the  other.

Amma  made  special  arrangements  when  any  of  her  daughters  or  daughter-in-law  was  on  the  family  way,  to  suit  their  tastes.

As  a  child   when  i  was  busy  consuming  those  pickles  i  never  realized  that  it  was  not  easy  but  a  tedious  job  to  prepare  the  pickles,  but  now  as  an  adult  i  realize  that  in  those  times  it  was  not  at  all   easy  for  amma  to  make  those  pickles,  ,  as  it  is  now,  when  every  thing  is  ready made  and  readily  available,  but  that  taste  is  no  where  to  be  found.   So  effortlessly  she  prepared  it,  despite  of  the  fact  that  it  required  hours  of  preparations,  arranging  for  the  ingredients,  months  of  saving  it  up  for  years  of  consumption.  She  would  herself  cut  the  little  mangoes  with  a  sickle,  the  handle  of  the  sickle  would  be  firmly  held  by  the  toes    and  with  her  hands  she  would  swiftly  with  great  speed  would  cut  the  mangoes  and  dexterously  removed  the  whitish  thing  encasing  the  young  guthli.   Further  she  would  spread  a  cotton  cloth  on  the  ground  and  at  times  on  the  terrace,  and  would  spread  the  mango  pieces  on  it.  Still  remember  how  we  as  kids  were  assigned  the  duties  of  guarding  the  pieces  against  the  birds,  dogs  or  cats  otherwise  it  would  become  unfit  for  consumption.

With  great  effort  amma  would  mix  the  roasted  and  ground  ingredients  to  the  pieces  in  a  shallow  container  or  thali.  Finally  after  addition  of  copious  amount  of  mustard  oil,  the  stuff  was  transferred  to  the  large  martbaan  with  wide  mouth  and  it  was  then  placed  in  the  sun  for  next  15  days.  Whole  day  after  basking  in  the  sun  the  jar  would  return  to  the  shelf  in  the  evening  and  again  the  next  day  it  was  put  in  the  sunlight  after  giving  it  a  rigorous  shake  for  uniform  distribution  of  mustard  oil.  Her  pickles  lasted  for  more   than  five  years,  if  consumed  in  bits  but  that  was  very  rare  of  an  occurrence.

From  dhabhas  to  hotels,  trains  to  planes  all  serve  pickles,  though  factory  made  with  extra  oil  and  salt,  that  may  trouble   our  blood pressure  if  consumed  in  huge  quantity   but  that  is  the  traditional  way  of  preserving  it,  and   pickle  should  be  consumed  as  ‘pick-a-little’  and  not  as  proper  meal,  then  it  work  wonders.

I  miss  amma  ke  achaar,  her  handmade  pickles  spiced  with  love  and  care  have  been  replaced  by  factory-made  pickle  bottles,  which  are  no  match  to  amma  ke  achaar.  Though  i  have her  traditional  pickle  recipes,  but  neither  i  have her  patience  nor  perseverance.  Her  pickles  have  been  a  holistic  expression  of  home-made  food  for  me.

Her pickle  making  process  was  a  meeting  point  for  many  ladies  of  the  village,  who  always  wanted  to know  the  reason  behind  her  great  tasting  pickles  and  with  rapt  attention  observed  her  making  it.

My  childhood  is  still  intact  in  that  jar  of  aam  ka  achaar.

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Author:

learn and live :) I like to keep things simple and easy and that is what my writings reflect. A gypsy at heart my six year old keeps me leashed. I'm a blogger @mycityforkids, @womensweb,@yourstoryclub, @unboxedwriters,@polkasocial, @blogadda