Aunt closes the big oven door. In a few moments, her airy kitchen is filled with warm, aromatics of the casserole bubbling in there.
“You know, I love such one pot meals,” said I. “Make them regularly at home. I just throw in some thinly sliced zucchini.”
“Oh, you like zucchini?” she said.
And then, I saw a quick blur, as aunt whizzed past me, into her gorgeous home garden in a picturesque village in Nottingham, UK and came back with a long, emerald zucchini. In seconds, it was sliced and popped into the casserole in the oven.
My expression was ‘what just happened’!
Meet Superwoman Sunanda Chatterjee. My wife’s aunt. I have happily adopted her as my aunt. Nicknamed Bumble Bee, she is always buzzing around to make sure everyone is well fed and happy. She’s quite the thing – a qualified doctor by day, consummate home maker and a cook par excellence. Am trying to bully her to write her cook book.
One of the first things I noticed is her well stocked kitchen. There isn’t anything that you cannot find in there. Rosemary powder? Check. German shortbread? Check. Strong roasted coffee? Check. Teas from gardens of the world? Check. Peri Peri sauce? Check. I should have looked harder for a chef’s hat – would have found that too!
The other thing I noticed is her beautiful garden where she grows her English roses, honeysuckles and a bunch of other beautiful flowers whose names escape me. She scaped the garden herself and tends to it regularly. To the left is a fish pond. And farther left, is where she grows her veggies. That ripe zucchini, the one that was bubbling in the oven, came from there. She grows squash, brinjals, tomatoes, pumpkin, potatoes and maize. I am a huge fan of the style and rustic elegance (did I just coin that phrase) of Jamie Oliver. His series on cooking all across Britain using what he could get his hands on, is inspiring, mildly put. This felt just like his show. There are ways to grow a few veggies and making one’s own dry spice mix by sun-drying herbs. My mother used to grow tomatoes, Thai chillies, cucumber. We never had a garden but mum used to grow them in small pots. As a child, I used to be filled with amazement seeing vegetables grow at home. It added perspective as opposed to picking up what you want and when you want from the market. And now, I was in Superwoman’s vegetable garden, reliving my childhood amazement!
A day earlier, she went to another part of her garden and came back with a small basket of hand-picked cherries, raspberries and blueberries! I have never had such raspberries, considering that raspberries and I cannot get along in temperament. In fact, I polished it all off.
I realised exactly what ‘fresh from the garden’ really meant. It doesn’t get fresher than this. The soil and water plays an important role in how your veggies taste. For those that are inspired to start a home garden, here is a quick link, how to: http://www.bhg.com/gardening/yard/garden-care/ten-steps-to-beginning-a-garden/. I do peg home gardens as the next level of ‘foodie’ aspiration – to grow your own vegetables, even if they are just chillies. There is a little more fun than picking up a bunch from a plant than from a supermarket.