It’s early morning here in Sydney and as I sit thinking whether I should attempt the writing prompt or again let it go this time, I realize I am already attempting. As I read the prompt that asks us to tell about some food that transports us to our bygone days and I can see I do have that food in my hand.
I sit with my left hand holding a cup full of my wake-up-drug tea while I use mostly my right hand to type. On a plate I have Parle-G biscuits that I look at with nostalgic fondness.
This ritual of beginning my day, not just with fragrance of cardamom or basil tea but also accompanied by some sort of light biscuit, takes me back to my childhood. One auntie of mine, my dad’s sister, got us kids addicted to having bed-tea. It helps children focus during early morning study hours, she would justify.
But another auntie who too was equally knowledgeable and equally vocal about health and life affairs, had sermonized once that we should never drink tea on an empty stomach. It’s a long fast, this food-break we have during our eight hours of sleep, so tea can harm the stomach lining. Hence, this habit continues till now, drinking out-of-bed bed-tea with biscuits.
As a child, I loved only plain and simple, no-fuss Parle-G glucose biscuits and I still do not like cream-filled biscuits.
For similar reasons, I prefer cakes without any icing.
Actually, this liking for unadorned plain cakes also goes back to my childhood, as we used to have similar tasting cake-rusks. Though I knew English language and I could read the wrapper, for a long time I did what many others around me did – pronounced them as ‘russ’ instead of rusk. There were two varieties those days which still exist even here in Sydney-Indian shops. The first type were softer, more delicious rusks made with egg, the second variety were hard crusty sooji (semolina) rusks. The first ones were my favorite and still are, for they taste like plain home-made cake. To get more and more of this specific taste, till now I bake such plain cakes a lot, and never ever do I make sponge cakes with pink icing or jam layers.
So that is the reason for my prevailing fascination with rusk-like homemade cakes. But my near aversion to white bread also kindles mixed memories, again from childhood.
During childhood, we mostly ate Indian bread, which is a parantha or poori or chappati for breakfast, lunch and dinner. But we also regularly consumed white bread. God knows how we ate that much! Of course, big families, lots of kids, lots of guests. Those days, brown bread was not the in thing. Although, once I started my own family and as soon as I became aware of the healthier versions of bread (brown, seeded, rye, oats), we hardly ever brought white bread home. Thus, bad-old-white-bread too kind of reminds me of my childhood.
There was no big-mall culture those days. It was the duty of my siblings and I, to go fetch daily bread and butter from a bakery that was down the road but accessible only after we had crossed a very wide and perpetually busy road. So, while crossing this hustle and bustle, we would stand very alert and watchful, and then simply run fast to the other end. Relieved at last. Yeaaah….made it! Victory!!
Last time I went to India, I happened to see that busy road after many years. This time the road seemed much less broader, and even with such an increase in Indian population, the road did not seem busy at all as it did back then.
Things do seem different when we are a child, don’t they? I remember, once I had sobbed for half-a-day because somebody mean had rubbed a slimy mango all over my doll’s pretty face. All I had to do was wash the face or get a new doll.
As a child we have small worries, we have problems that don’t even need any solution.
And now? Now, we have problems that have no solution.
In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “The Transporter.”