Mixed Marriages: How a Parsi lady ended up making omelettes in mustard oil for her Bengali son in law
|The omelette sandwich that my mother in law made me|
I didn't spend much time plating as I wanted to have it while steaming hot
Butter makes life better
"Kalyan tomorrow we can try making fried eggs in butter. Sometimes we made it in butter instead of in ghee and daddy (my late father in law - KK) loved it."
This is what my mom in law had to say when I told her yesterday that I had bought bread and eggs as we would not be able to go out for breakfast today. I was preparing for the siege on Holi when people would be out playing with colours on the streets. I loved holi as a kid but don't play it any more and prefer to stay in.
My mom in law is Parsi. She comes to stay with us on weekends and takes care of the house while she is there while my wife and I loll like beach whales.
My mother is a Bengali. She is a big believer in low oil cooking. She would be at her happiest if I had boiled eggs whites for breakfast. Forget butter or ghee!!!!!
The Facebook debate
There was a fair bit of mirth when I put this anecdote up on Facebook. There were people advocating butter, ghee and even bacon fat for eggs in the comments section. Someone said, 'when it comes to eggs, trust the Parsis'. A Bengali gentleman spoke about how mustard oil is good and got rather pedantic about it. A doc, and a food lover, chimed in about a 'corrupt academician' who had sold out to the sugar industry in the US 50 years back and had maligned fats.
In the middle of all this, my mother saw the post and commented, "this is because I want you to live long and healthy."
I had to rush in and explain that this was meant in jest! '#mothers' as my wife says.
Teddy takes charge
Moving on to this morning, Teddy (as K and I refer to my mom in law as she is fair and chubby) woke up and came to the hall while I was chanting. She gestured to ask me if she should make me eggs. I had planned to make my breakfast myself and offered to make it for her too but she said she would make it.
So I continued chanting while I heard her beat eggs in the kitchen. When I finished and went to check my phone, I saw Zenia Irani ask me if I was going to have eggs made in butter.
I went in to the kitchen and saw that mom in law had started making the omelettes as she had figured out that I was done. The pan seemed to have oil in it. Not ghee or butter.
Fusion breakfasts: Mustard oil makes an entry
The aroma that I got from the kitchen was that of mustard oil and not our usual canola oil. We Bengalis often use mustard oil to make omelettes. This is called 'mamlett' in Bengali. I didn't know that Parsis did so too.
I wondered if some anxious messages had been exchanged on the 'mommy hotline' and whether my mother had texted my mom in law urgently last night to ditch the butter.
This was unlikely though as my mother didn't use mustard oil when we were growing up as there had been a mustard oil adulteration scare in the 1980s. She used refined vegetable oils which were sold then as being healthy. As a result of this, I couldn't stand the smell of mustard oil till recenctly. Yes, I am Bengali.
After she put my omelette sandwich on the table, Teddy said, "rai (mustard) oil gives a nice taste I think.''
"That's what we Bengalis use," I said. "Do Parsis use mustard oil in omelettes too?".
"Not really. One day I couldn't find the regular oil, so I used this instead. Then realised it tasted good," said Teddy.
This took me back to a few weeks back when I told Kainaz that her mom had used mustard oil in the omelette and was then extolling its virtues to me.
K replied, "she must have been sleepy and not found the regular oil and used whatever was easy to get!"
Neither of our moms is a passionate cook to be honest.
The mustard oil omelettes have become a regular in our house since then, when my mom in law visits us.
She makes me an egg white omelette with tomatoes and tucks it into toast.
She then uses the yolks, because mothers waste nothing, and makes herself a flat round omelette with masala and no eggs.
The Parsis call this pora (plural for poro). In Bengali that means burnt!
Don't teach your grandma how to suck eggs
The moral of the story is, don't be stuck to the same way of doing things while cooking. Have an open mind and you might discover things in the kitchen which you might enjoy.
When it comes to 'authenticity' in Indian food in particular, I have noticed that it is often a case of 'my grandma is more noble and artisinal than yours. We don't have a tradition of documented recipes after all.
So here's my take:
Celebrate your grandma's cooking but be assured that she won't judge if you go beyond her pantry when you cook.
Incidentally, the mustard oil was bought when my mom visited us as she now uses mustard oil. So perhaps there was something to my 'mother's hotline' conspiracy theory after all.
PS I was going to write a shorter post and put this on instagram but I realised that a lot of these little incidents are getting left out of my blog as I post them on insta now. Will try to fix this. Would you be open to a flurry of 2,3 paragraph posts here? Here's me on instagram
PPS: Here's the link to the Facebook post and subsequent discussions there that sparked off this post