My Kids, India’s Food
Our son is a terrifically good eater, so long as we serve him food which is devoid of chilli or cumin. And hide the mushrooms. Oh, and don’t serve him drinks other than water (except for a small bit of juice with breakfast, and maybe some decaffeinated tea), or biscuits, or indeed any sort of snack other than fruit. And of course you can’t count the part of the day which falls after 3pm, or any meal on any trip away from home, or most occasions on which the novelist and critic Anthony Burgess is not sitting down to tea with us [17:35]. Actually, sometimes I think we should stop boasting about what a great eater he is.
In any case, despite his reputation, and our young neighbour’s assurances that food in Bangalore isn’t really spicy because it’s fried, I decided it would be best to make some small attempt to train his cumin-and-chilli-hating palate before our upcoming journey to India.
Tandoori and Naan
They say kids will eat better if they’re involved in the cooking. This seldom applies to naan bread, which will be scoffed regardless, but the kids are just fascinated by the way this guy makes the dough stick to the walls of the tandoor, and then peels it off again using long, metal sticks. I swear it tastes even better to them after they’ve seen it cooked. The North Indian stall in the newly-renovated Sedlap food court (Vivocity basement) was, therefore, an obvious choice, even before we considered their tandoori chicken and fish, samosas, and pakora.
…only we thought we’d cook a less spicy version to suit the children. So, ok, the main ingredient of this dish is roasted eggplant. It turns out that baingan bharta tastes awful without chilli, unless, for some reason, you really like to eat roasted eggplant. It seems obvious now. I don’t blame Ganesh Gopalan’s recipe, though – I blame the person (me) who decided not to follow it, despite the fact that removing the chilli makes it all taste a) very un-Indian; and b) a lot more like something my kids hate roughly as much as they hate chilli. Honestly, what was my goal there?
Next time I remove the spiciness from Indian food, I’ll make sure the food is something everyone likes without, you know, the spices – such as this tried-and-true paneer and potato curry, which is one of only two Indian recipes I can make passably (by which I mean edibly, at least in the technical sense of the word).
Seriously though, click through to see how delicious the baingan bharta looks when you actually follow the instructions. One night when we have a suitable store of kid-friendly leftovers, baingan bharta and I are on for a rematch, and I’ll be bringing the birdseyes.
Vegetarian Chapati (And The Magic Of Asking Someone Who Knows Indian Food)
Meanwhile, I thought it would be wise to outsource the Indian food intro once again. We headed for the Indian food stall at Vivocity’s Kopitiam food court (adjacent to the food court we visited earlier), where I ordered a vegetarian chapati set and asked the server to choose the dishes he thought my son was most likely to eat. With a casual rocking of his head, he served us this selection from which my kids really and truly ate lunch, even though P swore he wouldn’t.
Thus bolstered, I felt game to experiment with breakfast chapatis, which we backwardly ate for tea. P, who was lately on the receiving end of an embarrassingly shrewish breakdown concerning table manners, opened the meal by saying, “Mum, here’s my idea: let’s have a lively and interesting conversation over dinner tonight*, and not worry about learning how to use our forks and spoons.” This also suited T, even though she’s in the habit of reminding us that she has very good table manners (usually as P is getting in trouble for his).
What better opening for a lesson on Indian-style eating? We studied these videos:
…and discovered that the real way to make a five year old use his cutlery is to demand that he doesn’t:
I’m beginning to think we’re on a roll. Maybe we’ll even do a whole practice weekend (I could totally add a few cloves to everyone’s tea). If you’ve got any palate-training Indian recipes, now’s a good time to pass them my way – chilli, cumin, mushrooms and all. I’ll let you know how they turn out.
*He used these very words.