27 Apr 2021
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In India, we develop vast palates as we are exposed to a wide variety of cuisines. Our food habits are influenced not only by our culture or religion but by the local produce as well. Along with the food, we love toflauntourown array of condiments and pickles. Pickles are common in every cuisine in India. In olden days, pickles often substituted main dish in a meal. It was so commonly eaten and prepared that proudly, one or the other family members would have mastered the skills of making pickles.Starting from Raw Mango, lemon, chilli, tomato, ginger, garlic and many more, generations have successfully preserved their pickle recipes.

I am a pickle lover and I drool over any mention of mango pickle. The typical fragrance of raw mango, mustard oil and that earthiness of masalas is just irresistible. The typical pickle affair at my home would start in the early Summers. As soon the news of raw mangoes reaching the market broke my grandma would order me to get ready with sturdy jute shopping bags. We didn’t have to search a lot because my grandma would know where exactly was that heap of vibrant, green, fragrant mangoes waited for us. I loved picking those fresh, clean and tempting fruits. The same evening she would start making a list of masalas to be fetched from a local grocer. And believe me, she never compromised on the grocer as she thought he sold the perfect masalas needed for her pickle. 

So, the mangoes were washed, cut and ready to be kept in sun for drying. Next morning, she would bring her cleanest, white muslin dupattas and lay them symmetrically on the terrace. The mangoes were then evenly spread over them. We didn’t have any chopper or modern day cutters but I really  appreciated how my grandma sliced those mangoes so evenly.

Next few afternoons were spent on the roof, guarding our precious pieces of new fruits waiting to be turned into a delicacy. Then the masalas were mixed with hands and each mango slice was coated with it and made to swim in the pungent mustard oil. The huge jars full of this concoction then stayed under sun for days. Granny would sit on the terrace guarding her masterpiece. And I always waited for a chance to sneak in and go near the jars just to soak in that aroma of spices and pickle in the making.

We all waited anxiously for the day when grandma would declare it was ready to eat. In few weeks, the jars were brought down and along with them came few more empty small jars. She would then pourin some of the pickles in small jars for gifting to my aunts, neighbours and her own friends. Afterall, this was her secret recipe which she wanted everyone to relish it and praise her.

Next morning onwards, the jar opened at every meal. Our aloo paranthas had found a perfect accompaniment, khichdi got her best friend and Rajma rice its favourite addition. In fact, in between the meals too, we would simply savour the pickle with a ‘mathi’ or papads. My grandmother never shared the list of masalas with anyone including my mother and me. My mother made several unsuccessful attempts and I have never even dared making the pickle. Simply, because I don’t want these memories with my granny and her pickle to fade away.

Most of us have a childhood memory of pickling with their mothers or grandmothers, spices and jars, gossips and fun. Those memories are relived when we get that taste again. For more than twenty years now, I have missed that taste. I have never attempted making pickle myself. I satiate my pickle cravings with a store-bought jar, the one which matches closest to my granny’s magical taste. That one jar that takes me down the memory lane, the love of pickle making.

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