My most cherished food-related memory dates back to when I was newly married... In 2001, two days after we got married (much to our relief and after much drama!!), there was a terror attack at the Parliament. My husband having made the career choice he had was recalled...his leave truncated. The letter of intimation reached home, his native place, but the entire family was at my hometown for the wedding. So we remained (blissfully!) unaware of the recall. We were to proceed for our honeymoon to Dalhousie via Delhi and Jammu (to offload all the excess luggage) on the 25th of December. It was when he called up his regiment about his arrival in Jammu and further about his plans for Dalhousie, that the news was broken to him about reporting immediately.
All my dreams of setting up home, cooking scrumptious food and serving tea to my love of long were shattered. In response to my mom's request at taking kitchen items, my husband had said, "kya Mummy, Mess main khayenge ek-do mahine and then we will see about setting up the kitchen!!" And he was gone and I did not know on which of my very kind neighbours, my next meal depended. The Mess had obviously moved with the regiment to the forward location as part of the mobilisation.
Cope as one has to, I set about the arduous task of starting to set up my kitchen, in a totally alien city with strangers all around!!
Our forward location was not very far, so on a chilly January night, I heard violent knocking at the door of my single room accommodation...I opened the door and much to my surprise...I saw before my eyes, the one man I loved the most!!
He had been unaware of my attempts at setting up the home (read the kitchen!!) and was pleasantly surprised when I offered him a cup of coffee. (He was zapped to see the saucepan, the cups and the coffee!!) Having enjoyed the coffee we cuddled up and just as I was about to fall asleep securely in his arms, he told me he had to leave at 6.45 the following morning. My eyes welled up with tears, but I put up a brave front and asked him in 'yours' truly' manner, what he would like for breakfast...He said he would be fine with anything.
Now, sleep eluded me and all night I kept thinking what would be a befitting first meal that I should offer to him from 'our' kitchen.
Cut to 6 am.
While the man was busy putting on all his gear...(the uniform and the accessories he wore with it seemed almost like an astronaut getting ready for flight) I was furiously waiting for the cooker to let up steam to indicate that my first meal for him (his favourite dish!!) was cooked and ready.
At 6.30 I announced in a typically filmy style that breakfast was ready...and promptly served him the plate!! He ate quietly and I mistook his quietude to be the pangs of the impending separation and wept too!!
Years later, when he recounted this incidence to one of our common college friend that I realised my folly!!
In a bid to please him with his favourite dish as the first meal from 'our' kitchen, I had made khichdi for him without even thinking of the time of the day I was serving it at!!
Till date he teases me that I have never made a khichdi in all my 8 and a half years of marriage to parallel the taste of the first time I cooked and served it!!
So, a dish as simple and humble as khichdi makes for my most cherished food-related memory!!