Friday, June 2, 2017

On My Love-Hate Relationship with Fruit

Lemon Blueberry Tray Bake

In the years at Deccan College I encountered many people. And among them was Mrs Misra, Dr V N Misra's wife. Dr Misra was the hubby's PhD guide and the hubby therefore spent a lot of time with him in his office, and at his house too. The ties were closer than that of the other students with their guides because Dr Misra had also been my mother in law's PhD guide - probably a unique occurrence among guides and students the world over.

My memories of Mrs Misra are of a typical Indian housewife immersed in her husband, her family, and her household. And like most women of her generation, immersed in her kitchen. It goes without saying that she saw a steady stream of students at her table over the decades and must have cooked countless meals and made gallons of tea! And of course I heard stories about her cooking.

What intrigued me the most was the fact that she was a staunch vegetarian but would often cook chicken when there were guests at her table, be they students or Dr Misra's colleagues. I used to wonder how she cooked with ingredients whose flavours she had no idea about.

A few days ago I'd baked this blueberry and lemon cake and on an impulse I took some over for my friend Deepa. She said something to me that somehow explained how Mrs Misra cooked chicken without knowing how it tasted. Deepa said she was amazed at how in spite of my deep dislike for fruit I looked forward to fruits of the season, sought them out, lovingly photographed them, cooked or baked with them, and in fact, enjoyed them so thoroughly without needing to eat them.

Fresh Cherries

The hubby loves fruit and desserts and I love baking and cooking. Somehow fruit would always get left out because of my dislike but somewhere along the way as I spent hours on Pinterest, friends' blogs, and various websites, seeing beautiful cakes and desserts my interest was piqued. Alongside my friends would get excited over the variety of fruit as the seasons changed - mangoes, berries, stone fruit, citrus, the list was ever-changing and endless all the year round. There they were squealing over cherries or mulberries, planning strawberry trips to Mahabaleshwar, posting pictures of rambutans and dragon fruit, going ga ga over mangoes and pineapples - I felt left out.

Fresh Apricots

And thus began my love/hate affair with fruit. The first fruity thing I baked was probably a banana cake - the hubby mashed the bananas and I was just this far from putting a clothes peg on my nose to keep from breathing in that banana-y smell (oh LORD!). But now you will nearly always find fruit in my house waiting to be flung into a cake, pie, or clafoutis, turned into a compote, zested within an inch of its life, or cooked in some form or other.

Plum Clafoutis

The journey is exciting. From learning how to buy fruit to learning how to prep, to anticipate flavours, think of combinations, and to finally create something edible - but with stuff I don't eat - the experience wasn't strange, I never felt handicapped. There's so much information out there to tell you what works and what doesn't. You just find that starting block and you go on from there.

Lemon Zest and Microplane

And now I understand how Mrs Misra did it. It made her man happy and yeah, it makes mine happy too. And that is the biggest motivation indeed.

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