Everything with a pinch of salt and a pinch of spice,
especially those raw green mangoes stolen from the neighbour’s backyard or those tarty fresh gooseberries nicked from another neighbour’s garden.
Such thieves we were… wouldn’t even wait until the fruit was ripe.
We were climbing trees, jumping over fences, running away from clamouring owners. With scratched elbows, blood on knees, teeth all sour with a sharp kick from the sour fruit! Mouth sore from sucking on fibrous sugarcane till the last drop of sugary sweetness and tongues all blue and numb from abundant jamoons fresh off the trees.
We ate everything with a pinch of salt and a pinch of chili powder that we packed in small parcels when no one was looking.
That was my first mango pickle, prepared right there, on the rooftop, in a dusty plastic container. Salt, chili and stolen fruit! Somehow stolen fruit always tastes better!
We ate everything; sucked the nectar from every known flower, plucked petals off marigolds for the small white coconutty base.

We ate seeds, we ate leaves and we ate anything that looked colorful (It was a miracle we didn’t poison ourselves!). We were the adventurers of the culinary world; we were scientist busy trying strange combinations!

We watched our mothers in the kitchen; we dipped fingers, we licked fingers, we trained our pallete, we strengthened our gut.

We guarded pappadums drying in the sun, we watched our mothers mixing spices like magic potions. Like sponges we absorbed everything…we absorbed the spices of our culinary heritage.

Here I am now, with all those memories lingering in my head.

Here I am now, surrounded by millions of cookbooks.

Here I am now, in a foreign land, looking at new ingredients.

Here I am now, addicted to cookery television.

Here I am now, in my kitchen with my child as my sous chef.

Here I am now, with bag full of spices and a belly full of appetite!