Dish-covering the World

The house was silent but Baba, typing away, knew this would change in a few minutes.  He had just sent off the last email when Sarika burst in, groaning, ‘Math is tough!’  Soon, Arjun staggered out to tell them about his wonderful history class. ‘But,’ he said mournfully, ‘I have two tests and I have to do something for World Tourism Day!’

‘Me too!’ Sarika yelped. ‘Something about travelling, I think.’  

‘Different ways of travelling and how they help,’ Arjun corrected. 

‘How can we do that when we haven’t gone anywhere for ages?’ Sarika wailed. 

Baba had been listening and now he exclaimed, ‘Your Aji’s travel stuff! You can use that.’ 

‘The stuff Aji collected when she travelled years ago?’ Sarika asked. ‘How will that help us?’

‘I don’t know,’ Baba shrugged. 

‘No harm looking at it,’ Arjun said while Sarika stayed gloomily silent.   

And so, the old suitcase was carried into the dining room. ‘Your Aji,’ Baba puffed, struggling to open it, ‘was a famous scientist, travelling around the world giving lectures. And this,’ he threw back the lid of the suitcase, ‘is what she brought back from her travels!’

The suitcase smelt musty and was filled with brochures, yellowing newspaper clippings and photos that had faded a gentle brown. 

‘Look at Aji!’ Arjun pounced on a photo. Aji was astonishingly young, her hair a startling black, dressed in a long coat, a smart hat on her head. Written on the back, in thin blue ink, were the words, ‘Washington, 1980’. 

‘Where were you when Aji travelled?’ Sarika asked Baba. 

‘Your aunt and I stayed home, with your grandfather,’ Baba said. ‘And Aji always brought back lots of toys, books and clothes for us!’

Still, Sarika thought, it sounded a little sad. She was glad Amma was working upstairs, and not somewhere far away.

‘Why did Aji bring back menus from her trips?’ Arjun demanded, holding up a faded card.   

‘We loved to read them,’ Baba laughed, ‘and imagine what those dishes tasted like!’  

Sarika was looking through a little notebook and looked up to say, ‘Aji even made notes about the food she ate.’


Ghevar – sweet dish (yummy) 

Dal Baati. (Not difficult) Must try with the kids! 

‘Here’s another,’ she turned the page. 


Donuts – must make! (Kids will love!)

Add powdered sugar (lots!) 

Arjun, reading with her, giggled, ‘These words in brackets are like secrets Aji was telling herself!’

‘Aji ate Shepherd’s pie in London!’ Sarika announced. ‘What did it taste like?’

 ‘Was it made of shepherds?’ Arjun demanded. 

‘No idea,’ Baba shrugged. ‘Aji wanted to make those dishes for us. But once she got home, there was so much to do that I suppose she just forgot!’  

‘Aji really travelled the world,’ Arjun sounded impressed. ‘Here are her notes from Germany.’


Quarkkaulchen – pancakes

Potatoes, raisins, served with sugar, fruits. (strange but tasty combination) 

‘She marked it with a star,’ Arjun said, ‘and…’

Sarika, who had slipped away to her room, came back to say, ‘Shepherd’s pie is common to England and was created to use leftover meat and vegetables. It’s also called Cottage pie. Shepherdess pie is the vegetarian version!’

‘Ooh,’ Arjun said. ‘Now her notes make sense!’


Shepherd’s Pie …Shepherdess pie (bland, needs tomatoes) 

Great way to get kids to eat veggies!

‘Yes,’ Baba nodded. ‘She wanted to remember the dishes and how to make them for us!’

‘But why?’ Sarika demanded. ‘Why did Aji want to cook these things for you?’  

‘I suppose,’ Baba said slowly, ‘she thought food was a way for us to travel, to learn about the world…’

‘What can you learn about a place from eating the food?’ Arjun demanded. 

‘You can learn a lot,’ Sarika said. ‘Didn’t we just learn something about the food and people of England?’

‘Yes,’ Baba laughed. ‘And Sarika presented the information like a report for a school project!’ 

‘Baba!’ Sarika gasped. ‘You were right- Aji’s travel stuff did help!’

‘How?’ Arjun demanded. ‘Don’t tell me we have to interview Aji or write a diary entry or…’

‘Even better,’ Sarika grinned. ‘We will research the food Aji ate and…’  

‘Noooo,’ Arjun groaned. ‘That’s so boring!’

‘And then,’ Sarika continued, ‘cook all the food she wanted to make for Baba and his sister!’

‘Cook?’ Arjun was suddenly interested. 

‘And eat,’ Sarika said. 

‘Cook all these dishes?’ Baba looked like someone had given him an unexpected gift. ‘That will be the best way of travelling and discovering things about the world!’

And it was! 


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