Mummy (my mother) was a super-cook and a gourmet to the core. Whatever she prepared had a unique, unearthly flavour and was extremely palatable. One of my cousins, Ajit, observed often that aunty had magic in her hands; but it was mummy’s hard work and dedication that turned even ordinary ingredients into delectable delights.
She believed in using very little oil, ghee, and spices. The vegetables she cooked this innovative way had their original flavour intact and were easy on the stomach. My father told me frequently to learn the nuances of cooking from mama, as he considered her an expert second to none. Thanks to her cautious cooking and eating habits, she led a healthy and active life of about nine decades.
Mummy was a tea connoisseur, too; very particular about the kind and taste of the popular beverage also called ‘the magical elixir’. She advised only two cups of tea a day, one each in the morning and the evening, and never on an empty stomach. ‘Begin the day with fruits,’ was her dictum.
This tale is from more than four decades ago when mummy would take a sparkling clean metal bucket from home to a nearby place where a family had a buffalo or a cow at home. They would milk the animal and sell her the required amount of pure, unadulterated milk.
Upon reaching home, mummy would keep a measure of raw milk separate, for later preparation of tea. She would percolate the tea leaves in a glass tumbler, kept exclusively for the purpose, and add raw milk to the leftover boiling water. After turning the burner off, she would add the percolated-tea mixture and some sugar. Sometimes for a change, she would add cardamoms, ginger, cinnamon, or lemon grass to the boiling water. Mummy claimed that the tea thus prepared had many benefits, for the aged in particular. She was selective about the quality of tea leaves as well.
I realised the real importance of mummy’s tea recipe only after my marriage, and I started using it regularly. The taste of the tea prepared with pre-boiled milk stands nowhere near the flavour of the one made with raw milk; one has to try it to believe it. Over the years, my husband, too, started preparing tea in the exact manner. Now as we ourselves are growing in years, when I am doing things around the house or preparing breakfast, the mere thought of the cup to be served by my husband cheers me up, taking away all my fatigue.
A nicely made cup of tea can probably restore normalcy to any situation. And I also look forward to the everyday evening event of enjoying the enchanting cup again. It reminds me of a few lines based on a Mirza Ghalib couplet that my father would quote often:
“Chai peene se jo aa jaati hai chehre pe raunak, Log samjhte hain, beemaar ka haal achha hai”
(Having tea puts on my face such a glow/
That people believe it to be sign of health after a while of being low).
email@example.com The writer is a Ludhiana-based freelance contributor