My mother made absolutely tasty traditional snacks. My favorite of all of them was her முள்ளு தேன்குழல் (mullu thenkuzhal.) It consistently had just the right amount of a kick in it, and just the right kind of bite--not too soft and not too hard.
When I visit India, I underplay a few of my favorites because I worry that mother would then want to make eats like this snack; there is simply too much labor involved. I scan through the shelves of stores and buy some hoping that they would taste as good as my mother's.
Mother has, thus, made life miserable for me--I have never been able to find that snack at that quality anywhere in Chennai. Thus, every visit, I end up buying that from yet another store, and take a bite only to set that packet aside. "Why do you buy that then?" my parents ask, and my father makes sure that the purchase is not wasted.
Maybe like how Anton Ego (Peter O'Toole's character) in Ratatouille got to finally taste the dish that was every bit as he remembered from his childhood, I too will someday get to taste முள்ளு தேன்குழல் that will be as tasty as I remember it. Hopefully, before I get way too old. Before, as the Bard put it, "Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything."
Life is about creating memories, recalling them, and sharing them. Some are pleasant and a few otherwise. Recalling a tasty food is not merely about the food. It is to recall the life we had. From the profound to the silly. Like the instance when my brother and I were eating some of those snacks, and a monkey boldly ran up to my brother, snatched it from his hand before he even knew what happened. Having tasted my mother's creation, the monkey, too, I am confident, could never again eat that snack from any other kid's hands.
Most dishes and snacks that we ate at home we related to somebody in the extended family because of how much a dish might be their favorite. To be able to remember people, often fondly, is nothing but experiencing life. It is not simply about the food. A cigar, as they say, is not just a cigar.
Perhaps ruminating like this is a sign of me getting old. So be it. I am glad I have all those memories to keep me going.
And hoping to create more before the curtains come down.
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