Manikkaka gets home a plump little cauliflower, august with its pompous crown of green.
I am elated.
We are still not in today’s age of crass consumerism when anything is available anytime anywhere, there are vegetables and fruits that are strictly seasonal and it’s a longing wait for the next year once the current season runs off.
And this is the first cauliflower of the season.
Cauliflowers arrive in the sleepy hamlet of Karimganj at the onset of autumn, almost heralding the arrival of Maa Durga and by the time the frenzied colours of Holi have been washed clean, they are off the local vegetable-sellers rickety shelves.
Only to appear the next autumn.
It’s an immutable law of the household that the first crop of the season, fruit or grain or vegetable, is exclusively reserved for Grandma’s pujo.
So the green plumes are trimmed (Didi cooks a mean kopi shaak bhaja for dinner), the thick stalks discarded, the cauliflower is washed thoroughly and pat dried and finally offered to the Gods.
What I patiently wait for though is the adorable feast that I have learnt over years shall follow.
So when Maa beckons me around mid morning, I leave my crayons and sketchbook on the floor and dart to the kitchen.
The luchis smile at me from the kansa thala glittering in pristine glory and before I even know, I have punctured the phulko luchi with a stab of the finger, let the steam trapped inside escape and tucked into those gorgeous florets fried in mustard oil with just a throw of kalonji and some wicked chilies.
Manikda, koi maach paowa jaache na ? (Are koi maach not available yet ?) Maa asks Manikkaka one day as he sets off for his daily sojourn to the vegetable and fish market.
Let me check, Manikkaka assures.
Koi maach is Bapi’s favourite and he adores the Koi Phulkopi Maa makes, fresh off-the-boat koi maach paired with autumnal cauliflower.
I am not so excited though, I have yet not mastered the art of dealing with the hard bones of koi maach.
And reminiscences of a nasty bone injuring my finger the last time Maa cooked her Koi Komola doesn’t fill me with pleasure.
Maa’s Koi Phulkopi. A song of the earth and the river.
Guaranteed to put a smile on your face.