The lockdown taught us that it is time to return to the kitchen code that our grandmothers lived by.

Love your leftovers like your grandmother does

'It's funny how you keep a little bit of food aside from our meals like a grandmother and how it then surfaces the next day in a different form for breakfast, as a snack or mains," said Kainaz to me, with a twinkle in her eyes, a couple of days back.

Well, today's breakfast was an example of that. I made chicken liver tava masala last night. The Impact 50 Most Influential Women in marketing list had been declared in an online event earlier that evening and K was a part of the list.

Liver tava masala for the win!

I was so happy for her that I decided to make her her favourite liver tava masala for dinner and called in for lots of her (and mine) favourite Bavarian chocolate ice cream from Baskin Robins, which the Swiggy delivery person brought over despite the heavy rains.

I had the liver masala with thawed and tava fried Sumeru malabar parathas. K had it by itself.

When asked about her biggest lockdown learning in the acceptance speech, K said that it was 'learning to live with less.'

Which, might I add, was the motto our grandmoms lived by!

I used the liver I had kept aside from last night to make grilled sandwiches for breakfast today. With sliced tomato, black pepper, chaat masala and a touch of butter.

The sandwiches turned out to be nice and crisp and looked delightful. I was about to sit for breakfast, when the intercom rang. Someone had come to pick Mishti Debi, the cat in our building whom we are co-guardians of. She was to be taken to be neutered today. She delivers babies frequently and that is not good for her health. I had got a contact of folks (Kiran's) who do this and they had sent a young boy to help pick her. Sunny, from Pokhran in Nepal as I discovered while we spoke. A beautiful place I had been to in '99. Sunny did his job adeptly and caught Mishti and put her into the ambulance.

While I guided Mishti down, our neighbour and co-guardian of the cats, Erica came and picked Nimki and took him to our house (she has a full house with 2 cats). Nimki is the only kitten remaining from Mishti's last litter. As you might have guessed, I was the one who gave the Bengali names to these Bandra cats.

Mamma's boy

Nimki and Mishti came to greet me when I went down the stairs this morning. Nimki jumped on Mishti, like he always does. As if she is a trampoline. This time it looked as if he was hugging her and telling her, 'don't worry mummy. I am a brave boy. I will be fine here. You come back soon. I love you.' As if he knew what was going to happen.

Nimki and his mother are inseparable and it warms our hearts to see them together. Which is why we are keen that Nimki is well looked after till Mishti returns.

We had met them last evening too. It was raining heavily and we got the two of them home to feed them.  Let me tell you what happened next. It was rather sweet.

Mishti meowed sharply at Nimki as they entered our apartment. As if to say, 'we are guests here. Behave properly. Remember your manners. Eat what you are given. Do not jump or make a fuss."

I put some food out. Mishti sat and ate daintily. Like the lady that she is.

Nimki? He ran past her and went exploring the whole house. Mishti meowed at him to come to her, but he did not. Finally she went to the door and sat and peered at him and then looked at K and me most apologetically and embarrassedly. We had not seen Baby Loaf as a kitten and Nimki gave us a taste of how things would have been when he was one.

Frisky little Nimki

Nimki was quite at home today. Jumping around. Exploring. Using the litter box. Playing with cat toys. Upturning the sofa. Sitting on the wifi server (they like the warmth). He clung to K and rested on her lap when she sat on the sofa. Erica said this was probably because he sought his mother's warmth. He was quiet for a short while in the evening and K said that he was possibly missing Mishti at that point.

What about Baby Loaf today? He slept quietly through all of this but later woke and kept meowing. We finally allowed the two to meet and Loaf's tail puffed up. He was not pleased. I have a feeling that Loaf and Nimki are brothers. Being first born myself, I could empathise with Loaf.

I tried to complete this story after midnight. K was working too. Loaf was up and sitting by me while I wrote.

Nimki was with K. He was fascinated by her laptop and kept punching on the keyboard. Loaf is of course used to mine. The contrast between our rooms was palpable. Loaf's and mine was the serene 'writer's room,' while K and Loaf's had all the madness of an ad agency at work!

I finally opened the door of the study and let Loaf meet Nimki. The two circled each other warily, spoke to each other, hissed, scared each other. They did do a nose bump once and that gives me hope. The good thing is that like Baby Loaf, little Nimki knew what the litter box is for right from the beginning. Erica has got a spare one over and we are now trying to get him to stick to his so that Loaf has his own. K has taken charge of the project!

Little Nimki and Baby Loaf  remind me so much of my younger and brother and me when we were little. I was the calm one while my brother, who is 8 years younger than me, was the frisky one. Like Nimki, my brother was skinny as a baby, while I was the chubby one like Loaf. Like Nimki, my brother would cling to my mom. Our father passed away when we were very young, so my mother was my brother’s entire world.

Little Nimki has left the apartment since and been tucked in at his sleeping quarters. We will see him tomorrow again.

Cats in the hood

Erica had come over earlier in the evening with her daughter Gia to check on both Nimki and Loaf. Loaf loves them both.

It was a really happy day for mother and daughter as G had got to know that she had got into a college and subject of her choice. We were very happy too for them as they were really stressed about this. I told Gia that this lovely news was payback for all the love she showers on the kitties.

It is interesting to see the role that Loaf has played in bringing our families close. We are now linked by our cats. We share stories of our lives, our dreams and aspirations, our worries and hopes, with each other.

Just as my grandmother had done with her neighbours at Allahabad and then at Delhi, where my late grandfather used to work. She left Dhaka and joined him after she got married at the age of 16. She got to mix with neighbours from different parts of the country. Creating new friendships, enriching each others lives in the process. Kitchens too as they picked up kitchen skills from each other and added new recipes to their pantries.

It was different for K and I after we had got married. We kept to ourselves and would at the most nod at our neighbours in Mumbai and that was it. It is thanks to Baby Loaf that we now have at least begun to connect with a few of our neighbours, the way my grandmom did with her's.

So now you know with I am keying away this breakfast story well after midnight. I had my hands full with the cats all day and loved it. I did manage two good counselling calls in between all this if that counts!

Thankfully #BunkiBanu had come to work after her post long break short break! We did not have to cook lunch thanks to that and that was relief!

PS: Nimki is the name of a crunchy, savoury Bengali snack made with refined flour and my granny used to make it for us till age got the better of her. I love it as does K and didu always buys a pack for her when we meet.

Update: The morning after

Erica babysat little Nimki this morning and then brought him over when we woke up and by which time Baby Loaf had gone to sleep below the bed.

I was making breakfast then. Kolkata rolls with the parathas Banu had made yesterday and tava chicken with the recipe and spices I gave her. More grandma style #loveyourleftovers cooking. Nimki was his frisky self and thought of interning in the kitchen this time!

K was going to sit opposite me at breakfast but he took her seat and later shadow boxed with a squirrel which was at the other side of the window. He then got on the newspaper and looked at me as if to say, 'dude don't you read epapers.'

Then actively tried to participate in K's work calls while I went to the study to write while Loaf slept below the bed. Another neighbour, fellow cat parent and genius potter, young Inzia, then came to look after Nimki and take him to her house but he has stayed on for now. I fed him post which he went back to his favourite place, K's lap, and lay down while she did work calls. Which left me to answer the doorbell while writing. Luckily Loaf is asleep still.

Little Nimki is our team project as Baby Loaf once was and we all hope that Mishti and Nimki find a loving home one day.

Appendix: Good food stories

  • Our friend chef Hemal Shah, who is a genius baker, most kindly sent some treats to celebrate K's making performance on the Impact list. Most divine Olympic standard dark chocolate brownies and a fusion dessert of gulab jamun cheesecake. The latter turned out pretty good actually and the combination of the cheesecake and the gulab jamun worked rather well. We gave one to Gia as it looked like a little trophy and she did deserve one after her fabulous performance in the college admissions.

  • Chef Gaurav Gidwani, whom I know from his Mocha Mojo days, is one of the first chefs that I got to know as a blogger. He is a lovely person and a very talented chef. He has since then worked with other restaurant chains. He has recently started his own food outfit called Indian Aroma and had most kindly sent across some food for sampling. In the box was pindi chhole, tariwala murg, dal makhani, butter chicken, (bread) kulcha and phirni. This was the sort of 'no holds barred,' full flavoured north Indian food which seemed ideal at the end of a long day and in a rainy evening and which is why I shelved the home cooked chicken and parathas and went for that. The food had an interesting blend of 'restaurant-ish' taste and homelike simplicity and purity if you get what I mean. 

Here's the recipe for my liver masala. I do make minor variations each time depending on my mood and what’s around. 


Sanjay N Lulla said…
Congratulations @Kainaz. Well done. How was the victory dinner?

The Mishti Nimki reminds of a Gulzar movie Namkeen where a old Waheeda Rehman has three daughters Nimki, Mithu and Chinki😊.
Cats are singularly possessive of their hoomans and don't like to share.
A nose bump is a good sign of acceptance between Baby Loaf and Nimki.

Leftover makeovers are a delightful thing. One can get so creative. I believe that cooking is a scientific art. Woe to those who just cook for the sake of filling the tummies,ah the dummies.
Kalyan Karmakar said…
@Sanjay completely with you on leftover makeovers
You will be interested to know that Baby Loaf and Nimki managed to play together today without going after each other's throats!!!!