The rooftop of the cowshed, just behind the kitchen garden, protected by the leafy canopy of the gnarled guava tree, is suddenly an oasis of pristine green. What, till very recently, was overwhelmingly red is now a motley throng of greens, every shade of green that an artist’s brush could possibly conjure, a frenzied confusion of shoots, leaves and tendrils of the incredibly enterprising pumpkin vine. All that is visible of the pompous red tiles are some tiny flecks of red, playing bo-peep through the canvass of green.
It’s unbelievable how in less than a year, the pumpkin seeds that Dada and I, at Grandma’s behest, had scattered near the cow-shed one mellow spring afternoon, have gone to conquer the rooftop of the shed.
Manikkaka had lovingly tended them though – watering them religiously every morning and evening, chasing away the birds and squirrels, keeping an alert eye on weeds that threatened to stifle the fledgling shoots as they arrived, guiding the adolescent shoots using wires that he and Dada had brought home from the hardware store, preventing them from going astray.
They are so full of exuberance and life, Grandma would remind us at times, bringing up a vine needs as much love, tenderness and care as it takes to bring up kids.
The vine too had displayed signs of promise right from infancy and in no time had reached the roof of the cowshed.
And then there was no turning back.
The leaves and shoots had conspired to conquer almost every square inch of the red tiled universe.
The fall of communism, Bapi in his usual jest had remarked, looks like the red bastions are finally falling.
And when there’s such a prolific abundance of kumro shaak (pumpkin greens), how could Grandma, who adored her greens, leave them alone.
Before long, delectable delicacies, showcasing kumro shaak, ones we could never even imagine were possible to whip up, started showing up for lunch and dinner.
Mourola maach (anchovy-like small freshwater fish) wrapped up in kumro shaak, dipped in batter and deep fried. (Makes me salivate even as I write this 🙂)
Kumro shaak stir-fried with moong dal. Spiked with chillies.
And then my favorite, Grandma’s Kumro shaak er chorchori.(Pumpkin greens with mustard and poppy seed paste). Delectable !!!
Kumro shaak er chorchori. Fresh pumpkin greens. The piquant zing of mustard. The earthiness of poppy seed paste. The fire of green chillies. The crunch of fried boris.
This indeed is food heaven !!