Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Unforgettable lessons


A Marathi adage calls a time when mothers eat before feeding their children an apocalypse or the mythical kalyug - the “age of downfall”. Our mothers (and their mothers before them) have reinforced this tradition of feeding the family first in their very giving and nurturing ways.  To this day, since in her old age she needs to eat early, Mother feels remorseful that she has eaten before her kids.

When she (and we) were much younger, Mother would always place herself the last in the pecking order – only in its strictest and most literal sense, mind you! But I also remember that one time when my brother and I were once very surprised- no, make it shocked- when we chanced upon Mother delicately sipping at a lovely bright green coloured drink. Our first reaction was to demand to know what she was drinking and protest why she hadn’t offered us any. But she refused to give us even a nip, while sporting a very mysterious, mischievous smile. 

The more we pestered mother, the more resolutely, but pleasantly she denied us.

We were baffled. This was so uncharacteristic of her. Wasn’t she supposed to be the epitome of sacrifice and selflessness- it’s surprising how even as little kids, we have this expectation built into our genetic coding!  

When we wouldn’t give up, she agreed - though not without some hesitation and a by-now fast widening naughty smile. 

Exhilarated by our victory, blissfully oblivious to any possibility of foul play, we proceeded to partake the elixir. 

It was the bitterest briny brew ever! The juice of the bitter gourd, or bitter melon or karela that Mother had extracted from the vegetable with the help of plenty of salt, to relieve it of its bitterness before cooking. 

Before her guffaws and our squeals and rants and whines had subsided, we had learnt some very important lessons in the kitchen of life. 

Lesson No. 1 - Never discard the tender/edible seeds of vegetables like tomato, cucumber, bottle gourd and even bitter gourd (whose tough woody seeds are actually very tasty!). They add precious nutrition, roughage, texture and volume to the dishes. 

Lesson No. 2 –Ditto with edible peels of cucumber, potatoes, tomatoes, and the gourds, for their rich coloured skins can provide so much fibre, colour, and crispness apart from food values, and don’t taste bad at all? 

Lesson No. 3 – Ditto again with squeezing out the juice of vegetables. In case you have to squeeze the juice out for you don’t have the guts to go against the recipe, why throw it away? You can always use the essence elsewhere – cucumber juice can go into your sambar, whey from hung curd and paneer can go into a kadhi or used to knead dough, peels can be made into chutneys and condiments…

P.S.  Bitter gourd juice can be used to teach your children these lessons.


Tzatziki is a sauce or dip used in Greek and Turkish cuisine as meze or appetiser. It is made with hung curd (usually from sheep or goat milk) and mixed with peeled, grated or finely chopped and squeezed cucumbers, garlic, salt, olive oil and lemon juice.  Dill, mint or parsley are some of the herbs that season it. 

The tzatziki is well within our Indian comfort zone - for it is a second cousin of the kheerey ka raita and kakadichi koshimbir.

I have used all the ingredients without straining whey, peeling skins, discarding seeds and squeezing out juice. 

Remember the unforgettable lessons?


1 ½ cups regular yoghurt (You could use Greek yogurt if you don’t want the whey on your hands!) 
2 Lebanese cucumbers or kheera, grated (Don’t you dare discard the peels and seeds!) 
2 garlic cloves, crushed finely
1 tbsp lemon juice (or less if the yoghurt is quite sour)
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt to taste
Ground white pepper to taste
Rocket leaves to garnish

(You can add mint, dill parsley or coriander if you like - I added some rocket as that was the only fresh green thingie in the fridge for dolling up the dish for the photo!)


Combine yoghurt, cucumber, garlic, lemon juice, white pepper and salt in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate for a while.

Serve as a dip with pita crisps or warm toasted Turkish bread drizzled with olive oil, crackers and crudités (mind you- no peels to be removed!). You can even or pour it as a sauce on pita pockets filled with falafels. 

If you want to extrapolate and take away learning points other than those bitter lessons, add garlic to your "dahi ani kakadichi koshimbir".

This is my first entry for my blogger friend Preeti Deo's Ruchira giveaway event.


  1. Thank you for such a lovely post.Even I love the peels and seeds of my salads. Lovely presentation too...the third picture is ekdum dhantadan(bollywood style)!!

    1. Thank you Preeti! I am glad you liked it - and also happy to be the opening batsman for your event! Good luck with the event. Love the spirit!


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