BENGALURU: My maternal grandmother’s speciality was kozhakattais. The rice flour parcels as thin as Kleenex hiding roundels of poornam, would disappear within minutes of coming out of our pooja room once the obligatory offering to God was made. Of course everything else she made was superlative too. Even humble upma became a treat, and we would all clamour for the crispy layers or rava that would cling to the curves of the kadai once she was done.
My children are regularly treated to steel dabbas of laddoo, murukku, barfi and mysore pak by their grandmothers, and each woman has a special sweet she is known for. I have childhood memories of bowls of steaming hot, sticky kesari appearing magically post dinner, when the mood took my mother. My sister bakes bread, cookies and regularly tosses out pancakes stuffed with deliciousness before she heads out to work.
Me? I have our cook K Aunty on speed dial and some mean food delivery joints on my phone saved under ICE.
To feed our children is an innate instinct. From the first time you lift your newborn to nurse them or offer a bottle to quell their wails of hunger, we are programmed to want to put food in our children’s mouths. As they get older we puree and mash, coax and cajole, scream and bribe and even beg them to try new foods. And between the oats, sambar rice, dal and roti are the magical items of food we make to show the softer side of our love.
I unfortunately have neither the ability nor the inclination to express this soft love through food. I wasn't always like this. I used to be interested in cooking. I even scoffed when my husband offered to find a cook when we were newly weds. After some incidents with toor dal and recalcitrant pressure cookers, I gave in. In an attempt to develop these skills I have procured an entire shelf of cook books over the years and have even ventured in to the terrifying domain of food Instagram (tip: shoot from an angle and in black and white and no one will notice the burnt bits. Even better, buy a loaf of bread, removing packaging and post as your own creation #whocantell?)
There’s a part of me that wants to be that parent. It’s the same part that wants to be able to cut along a straight line, Mary Kondo my sock drawer and scrapbook. But, I will always be the person with mismatched socks, poor cutting skills and a mountain of random pictures sitting on a cloud somewhere.
I and my children (and perhaps one day, grandchildren) will have to make peace with the fact that I will never be known for a particular delicacy. That no one will be welcomed home to the smells of gulab jamuns frying or cookies baking. Burning perhaps. But not baking.
A few years ago my mother tried to persuade me to learn how to make Indian sweets and savouries. I recoiled from the idea. I think that by agreeing to learn, I would be acknowledging that I was no longer the child who would be pampered. I would have to become the purveyor of sweets. Thanks, but no thanks. Are there any kozhakattais left over?