ever wondered why one person can't stand another's favourite food? has to be the way the taste buds are habituated in childhood, i'm sure. for a true blue "kuttanaadan" like me, any talk of food begins and ends with “appam”, “duck roast” and “karimeen fry”. my cochinite husband and malabari brother-in-law can’t for the life of them figure out what is so special about these.
anyone who has ever been to that part of the world as a guest to one of the Syrian Christian families would vouch for the relish with which these delicacies are served by the mothers there. when my sister got married, my mother’s main grouch was that the new son-in-law didn’t know how to eat “karimeen” properly. eating “karimeen” is an art in itself. the tail portion is easy. it is the head that beats a novice. a true connoisseur would leave back a clean and tidy skeleton, which would be the pride of any zoology lab.
then she got her second son-in-law, my husband, another big disappointment on this front. finally, the last one, from Alleppey – one after her heart. and his favourite – duck roast. you have to grow with the taste to enjoy it. it is a little difficult to acquire this late in life. for the city breds who are used to skinned broiler chickens, pieces of duck with the skin in tact and the fatty tissue just underneath are anathema. especially scintillating for us is that special aromatic smell of all those spices. the very same aroma, which is said to be disgusting to many. “kuttanaadans” in any part of the world would die for a Sunday breakfast of “appam and duck” .
talking about duck is particularly nostalgic for me, makes me think of my grand mother’s famous duck roast. talk of guests and the table is full, literally. and at the center, decorated in her inimitable style, a full duck, stuffed with all sorts of delicacies inside and roasted till golden brown. how I miss those days. having grown up like this has its own drawbacks. cooking for guests, I am almost paranoid about the taste and number of dishes. and of course, the table has to be at least half full.
even I make all the appropriate sounds of disgust when people talk about far eastern delicacies like snakes and monkey brains. the feeling must be the same for my vegetarian friends when I talk about chicken and duck and fish. again, it is the kind of food you grow up with. sometimes, we are forced to make conscious changes when our health doesn’t permit, couch potatoes that we are today. i sure do envy my grandfather at ninety who still enjoys the same diet that he used to have seventy years back.