Have you called your Granny lately? Alu Miri (Peppered potatoes)

Once upon a time there was a granny whom everyone called Mamma.

All week she would sit quietly at home. Looking onto the busy road from her veranda. Waiting for her granddaughter to drop by for the weekend when school was shut. Mamma would count the days and wait for her pet to arrive. The tiny girl would finally swing in through the door, fling her even tinier bag on the easy chair and breathlessly narrate all that the she had learnt through the week. Mamma smiled, and gasped at the right places, as her little bespectacled Red Riding Hood would tell her about her new discoveries.

As Mamma waited through the week she would make plans on what to feed her little weekend visitor. Coins would be taken out of a little red velvet purse. A bar of chocolate would be called for. She would then think up of what to cook. Dal was mandatory. But so were mutton kebabs and diced potatoes. But who would get the mutton? Mamma had grown up in a respectable age after all. An age where ladies didn't go anywhere alone. Given her years only a visit to the doctor, or to a family marriage, was proper. So who would go to the mutton wallah? How could she get the mutton? A flight of stairs stood angrily between her and the road to the market. A distance which counted for nought in square feet. And yet tormented her. The demons of fear were fierce. The consequences of a fall scary. The fractures her childhood friends had succumbed to shook her.

Then she thought of the little girl. The way her face would lit up as she bit into the kebabs lost in potatoes.

And Mamma would take the first cautious step down the stairs. Fight the demons in her mind and take the next step. Each step less unsteady than the previous one. She continued on her great march down without looking back. Willing her tired knees and aching legs one more time. Again. And again.

She finally reached her destination after thirty two arduous steps. Rang the door bell. Handed over the carefully counted notes from her little red velvet purse to the neighbour's outstretched hands. Their silent routine done she would begin the climb up. Step by step. Step by step.

She waited patiently on her easy chair till the own doorbell rang. She opened the door and held out her hand for the bag which the neighbour had got.

She headed for the kitchen with her booty. A strange spring in her ancient limbs. She opened the packet. Looked in. Smiled. Took out the minced meat. Washed it. Rolled it into balls. Chopped green chillies and onions. Peeled potatoes. She willed her hands to cease to tremble and shake for a while. She worked her magic. Fried the little kebabs in searing hot oil. Her weak hands lifting the heavy metal wok without a tremor. She tossed cubed potatoes with pepper, salt and more of her favourite chopped green chillies. Put them all together and waited for her princess to come.

Mamma looked out of the veranda and waited for her weekend treat. Her tired eyes finally spotted a little speck in the horizon. And soon she saw it grow into the smiling face she so looked forward to all week. Running down the gate. Up the stairs. Into Mamma's arms. Kisses and hugs done with the two sat together and shared their week's stories over kebabs and potatoes and rotlis.

And so the story continued. Weekend after weekend. The little girl grew up. The kebab and potato tete a tetes slowly became history.

This is the story of the potatoes in the photo. A poignant reminder of happy times.

But wait. The potatoes are incomplete by themselves. They have to be tossed with kebabs remember? Mamma wouldn't recognise the shammi kebabs in the picture below. Mamma's kebabs were little round balls. These are flat. And what's with this chicken kheema? Only mutton mince would do for Mamma's little princess.

But that's the thing about memories. They leave you hungry. In more ways than one.

Is this a true story? Well, as I read somewhere, 'food is love'. And nowhere is this truer than when it comes to grannies.

What's your granny story?

For those interested, here's a modern interpretation of Mamma's potatoes:


  • Peel four potatoes
  • Cube them
  • Parboil them in the micro for four minutes. A newfangled touch to cut down oil
  • Put two tablespoons of oil in a non stick pan. Let it heat
  • Add the potatoes
  • Sprinkle a teaspoon each of salt and black pepper powder. Stir. Add three finely chopped green chillies
  • Cover the pan with a lid and let it cook on a slow flame
  • Open the lid and stir occasionally
  • Let it cook till the surface of the potatoes begin to crinkle and become a crisp
  • You are done when the potatoes crinkle across all sides
This is best had with rotlis (Gujarati for rotis). With ghee smeared on them if Mamma had her way. 

Note: I entered this for the food stories event at 'Of chalks and chopsticks'


wow - what a story... so well written - i could picture it here...
Miri said…
Beautiful - very very touching!

P.S I still love my rotis with ghee :)
Moonshine said…
You write amazingly well..

Actually come to think of it, everything has a story around it..the delhi rajma.. the cold coffee in hot delhi summer sun.. the smokey tea in kerala, smokey because of the chullah .. mom's bread pakoras.. bread pudding.. biscuit ice cream..yes, everything has a story..

You know what, maybe you should think of writing a book.. seriously..
Kalyan Karmakar said…
Somoo (HCOF) - Thanks. Most of it is real. I just added some flesh and bllod to it. '32 steps' and the 'red velvet purse' wouldn't hold in a court of law

Miri - thanks... ghee with rotis is an alien concept for Bongs though. I used to specify 'sada' in my Punjabi P G too. Parsi rotlis border on being very thin parathas

Hey Moonshine, that's super sweet. Don't know if this qualifies as a story. I took someone else's memory, let my imagination wander a bit, and wrote this down.

I am not sure if fiction's my forte. Would love it to be. I heard a nice thought at Blog Camp where Idea Smith said that stories are all around us. Just need to pluck them. I so agree with this.
Lazy Pineapple said…
what a lovely story.A very unique way to tell the recipe that touched your/someone else''s heart :)
k said…
I started reading this post to double-check the recipe. I did not even read the recipe."That's thing about memories. They leave you hungry." And atleast fifty such lines had me choked.
I am certain even I could not have told my story better than you just have.
You have a gift.And with this post, you have given me one I will cherish always.
Sharmila said…
I knew this was a true story the moment I read the word Mamma .. u have written about her earlier. :-)
Beautifully written Kalyan! The potatoes remind me of my Ma's aloo morich ... I think I suggested that to you once. The snap looks tempting. :-)
Scarlett said…
Kalyan, many people have said this before me already but I'll say it nevertheless...you've written this so beautifully, I could picturize the entire thing!
Me! In words said…
Kalyan... you seriously have a way with words... This post is brilliant
Pinku said…
K ....

you were super lucky...


you wrote this beautifully..

thanks for sharing...
Ushnish Ghosh said…
Dear Kalyan
Enjoyed reading it...tomar lyakhar jabab nei ,,sotti...
I think I can try this Potato in my limited version of the kitchen..
I am still rotting in milano..you will know moment I am back , will take your phone No etc when Time comes.
Went to Bergamo today..50 km away , and was surprised to see a great festival going on there.
Bhalo theko
Ghosh kaku
Bong Mom said…
Beautiful piece Kalyan. The aloo reminds me of aloo marich, time to make some, maybe
Kalyan Karmakar said…
Hey thanks folks. Am really overwhelmed and embarrassed by your praise. I feel that its the story and the people in it who deserve it. I just put it to paper. In a manner of speaking

L P, thanks

K, to me it will always be her black pepper soaked boiled eggs. And the 32 that I had to eat before she approved of me

Sharmila, thanks yes you did. Alu is soul food after all

Scarlett, thanks. I had the advantage of knowing the two wonderful women

Ruthiez: Thanks

Pinku: thanks, yes we were lucky

Thanks Ghosh Kaku...I am sure you will enjoy them in Milano

Bong Mom/ Sandeepa...encore
Beuatifully written....I had tears in my eye....
Reminded me of a favourite childhood song of mine called 'Puff the magic dragon' ...never have I lstened to it with dry eyes...
I can almost feel her k's loss and pain
Beuatifully written....I had tears in my eye....
Reminded me of a favourite childhood song of mine called 'Puff the magic dragon' ...never have I lstened to it with dry eyes...
I can almost feel her k's loss and pain
Kirti said…
I must hand it to you for bringing out a completely different perspective on food.

So often we foodies live by the code of eating (exotic, expensive, dangerous food, how often we eat out etc etc) that we simply forget the love which goes into cooking for loved ones. Mamma here, is an epitome of grandparents, mothers, sisters, wives and others who cook with love. And, it's just not food but the companionship which marks the small but very significant moments in our lives.

Arthritis, gout and other geriatric problems seem insignificant. This piece is melancholic and, yet, strangely euphoric. Beautifully written!

What's love got to do with it? Everything!
Kalyan Karmakar said…
Ipsita, its really amazing what sparks of memories isn't it

Kirti, that was such a beautiful comment. As Mamma would say, 'tum khush to main bhi khush'
Hermit said…
I came across your blog thanks to the couple who mobbed you outside 5 Spice. The malai curry recipe seems very 'user-friendly'. And as many would have told you already, you have an amazing style when it comes to writing.... Really liked your blog :)
Kalyan Karmakar said…
Hey thanks for writing in Hermit. Any luck with the malai curry?
sra said…
So is this the story that sparked off Bong Mom's story that sparked off mine that sparked off Aqua's event? The image of Mamma making an effort to to get the mutton was very moving.
Kalyan Karmakar said…
@Sra: well I had a great subject to work on. It would have been as difficult to go wrong with this story as it would have been for Attenborough with Gandhi and Oliver Stone with the Doors (!)

Thanks for writing in. I was just an eavesdropper here. The story becomes really moving when K narrates it
SS blogs here said…
Nice read! Thanks! Look forward to more here. Cheers!