Everyday feels different. Different in a different way. If I could be more specific, I’d say I’m constantly trying to remember how to be the Indian from Goa. Conversations with myself and imaginary cab drivers in Hindi/Konkani while walking the dogs, remind me sometimes. I remember how I could never have a “normal” fight with someone off the street. Anger made me forget the words and anxiety (plus wanting to plant the sole of my foot onto some passer-by molester’s pride and joy) didn’t help. I could bargain for some vegetables but the street smarts these women carry around in tiny waist pouches (and sometimes in their bras) were hardly something to mess around with.
“Bhindi, panch rupiya aadha kilo”
What the what?!
Okay, I deserve this.
I’m not a culture vulture. It’s never been something I made the effort to go out and learn. It just happened (or so I felt). The people were there, the experiences made nice safe spots in my brain and I did what I usually did. How do you belong to a place? How does every graceful movement become typical of us? I just haven’t thought about it.
But I am now.
How else can I explain not knowing what to say to a person I’ve met once or twice? I can ask a multitude of questions. Favourite books, colour, why the streets are cleaner here are some that might cross my mind. I speak but I still feel like I don’t know anything about you until I can ask: “Did you have your lunch?” Those exact words strung together. Variations include “Have you eaten?”, “What you ate?”, “I know you just had your lunch but there’s tea to be had…” I can’t pinpoint the exacts of this cultural derivation but nothing feels more home to me than food. We as people sew ourselves together with threads that we know won’t wear out with time. That is food, to me. Never an indulgence. This is something I know I can talk about and yet, I feel like I fall short when it comes to the “Indian-ness” of it all.
I can’t explain Indian food to people that ask because is there really such a thing? There isn’t. I can give the safe answer, laced with butter chicken and naan but I know it won’t be the right answer. I eat my naan plain, like a snack. Sometimes I used it to scoop up my fish-curry-rice, knowing very well I was doing it wrong and feeling like it was okay because I wasn’t trying to prove anything. Here, I sort of am. I have told Resident Evil, Dr Crazy Pants (his name is actually Matt) that “you don’t order rice AND naan. You choose one or the other”.
As if. I can’t believe I told him that. It’s true but it’s not forever. I somehow find myself becoming more and more responsible to hold on to this culture I was born into. I can try doing it with food but I know very well that I have always cooked from memory and rarely from a book. So while I know perfectly well how to squeeze the juice from the coconut thanks to motherly instruction, I cannot (yet) make myself a true Goan fish-curry. But yay, I can make rice!
And I can teach Resident Crazy how to say “chalo” and debate how it would be spelled (“I feel it’s more of ‘chulo’ than ‘chalo'”).
And make that annoying sound people make when they’re annoyed with something.
And say “Yah no”.
And put onions in EVERYTHING.
Is there really any other way to be?
This recipe is inspired by my sister who showed me how to make quick pickled carrots in almost the same way. I just took it and applied it to the radish bunch I bought last week. I do have a pressing question though. Is there a plural form of radish and is it radishes? Things I can clearly do an Internet search for #946. The pickle flavour gets more pickle-y as time goes by.
- A bunch of long red radishes (170 gms), sliced thin
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup white vinegar
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp sugar
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 dried red chilli, sliced in half
- Fresh cracked pepper (optional)
Cut up all the radishes into thin slices (like in the picture below), using your awesome knife skills. Put them in a non-reactive container (preferably glass and no metal or plastic) with enough room for the pickling liquid you’re about to make.
Put the salt, sugar, water and white vinegar into a pot and bring it to a boil, making sure that the sugar and salt dissolve. Multitask like a boss. As soon as it reaches boiling point, take the pot off the stove and add the garlic clove and dried red chilli (also the pepper, if using) to it. Let it sit for 2-3 minutes and then pour it over the radishes in the bottle. Try to worm the chilli and garlic in the middle of all the slices. Put the lid on and shake the bottle. Let it cool before storing in the refrigerator. Use on everything.
I mean it.