Christmas Countdown – 19th

Posted by admin | Christmas,Just Food Articles - writers invited | Monday 19 December 2005 7:11 am

December, 19th. I just finished re-reading “Smell” by Radhika Jha. It’s a must-read for anyone interested (read, obsessed) in cooking. The language is rich and descriptions really good.

December 19th.
I just finished re-reading “Smell” by Radhika Jha, a book I’d read almost 3 years ago. It is the story of Leela, a girl of Indian origin, cruelly lifted out or her native Nairobi, and deposited in France with an uncle who runs an Indian spice store and a reluctant aunt who has nothing to offer her except teaching her to cook. The book journeys through many aspects of her life, but particularly stunning is her love-hate relationship with food, cooking, and smells and odors that literally speak to her. I thought the end didn’t quite keep up with the rest of the book, it’s a must-read for anyone interested (read, obsessed) in cooking. The language is rich and descriptions really good.
Here’s an excerpt that more or less encompasses it…

    ‘I went over to the stove and grasped the flat spoon-like implement she was using. “Keep turning the onions till they become transparent,” she commanded and swam away to the other side of the room. I peered into the mist that arose form the pan. The steam wet my face like a warm kiss. I moved the little white cubes around gently in the frying pan. Suddenly a new odor hit me, completely different, an ugly death smell. I jumped away from the stove, as if I had been slapped in the face. The spoon slipped from my hand and clattered to the floor. Within half a second my aunt had crossed the six feet of space between us and was upon me. “What’s the matter?” she asked, “What happened? Did the oil burn you?”

    “No. No it’s…it’s just the smell, that’s all. I was surprised.” I felt a fool even before the words were out. Quickly I shut my mouth and looked nervously up into my aunt’s face.
    But instead of being angry, she smiled, genuinely amused this time. The smile transformed her face. “Isee now that your mother never did teach you to cook. I thought you were lying.” She grabbed another spoon and began to stir the onions vigorously. They had stopped making their hissing sound and were slowly turning brown. “But no matter. Your instinct was ight – listen to the smell, it will tell you things,” she said stirring away. “onions give off smell with water. That is what stings the eyes and makes them cry. So we fry them to get rid of the water.: She paused and looked at me.
    “To begin with the onions fight back. They hold onto their water, afraid to die. They sing a song, they shout at you and curse you. And they give a terrible smell. Then the fire and the oil have their way and they give up. The smell leaves the onions like a dying breath leaves the body, and it enters the rest of the food.” She paused dramatically, “the onion’s smell is the smell of dying.” I stared at her in surprise. Aunt Latha’s face had become soft and her eyes glistened in the afterglow of her smile. “you will be a good cook, my child,” she said.’

Needless to say I’ve never gotten the ‘smell’. Looks like I’m never going to make it to being a gourmet cook. Sigh.

Here’s today’s menu combo. Try that dessert, it’s my sister-in-laws favorite, she makes it really awesome. And it’s simple.

    MENU 6
    Bean and Ham Soup
    Spinach and Cheese Crepes
    Sweet, Potato Balls
    Caramelised Carrots and Parsnips
    Mocha Bavarian

Check out earlier Christmas Countdown

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