Nothing delights a foodie mother more than discovering her son’s growing love for food. But I am quite sure that this post is going to get a big nod of disapproval from medico father. Ideally, the post should have been written on luchi – a traditional puffed, deep-fried Bengali dish made from maida and white in color. Considering the fact that the boy prefers it deep-fried and slightly brownish made from whole wheat or atta, I can conclude that his choice is more akin to the national dish poori (I think poori deserves that status).
The first time that Tuneer was introduced to solid food, he rejected all kinds of food except anything that tasted sweet. So we tried tricking him into eating the regular dishes with a dash of sugar or jaggery in it. It didn’t take long for him to figure out the adulteration and we were back on the path of struggle to make him eat. On his first birthday, my mother-in-law prepared luchi from a mix of atta and maida with dum aloo as an accompaniment. His initial reaction was to refuse but once we could convince him to take the first bite, there was a glitter in his eyes that was enough to prove that there began a relationship that was going to stay for long.
During my childhood, luchi used to be a mandatory Sunday morning special breakfast. I would ask my mother multiple times on Saturday night about what kind of side dish she was planning to prepare along with the luchi. Honestly, it didn’t matter. I just needed to confirm that luchi was going to be the dish the next morning. I started waking up early every Sunday only to savor that perfectly round and puffed luchi with dum aloo, aloo sabzi or chana dal (Bengali favorites). And, if it was made on any other day of the week, it usually meant that either Ma had kept a fast related to some pooja or it was someone’s birthday. In the former case, the side dish with luchi was usually veg item and in the latter case, luchi was served with chicken or mutton kosha.
The scene was quite similar in Sr. T’s house except for meat that was barred in my marital home. As we grew up and started living in different cities, we had the option to explore a variety of cuisines eventually leading to evolved choices in food. The love for luchi had taken a back seat. Looking at Tuneer searching for frequent opportunities to have luchi, we were reminded of our own love for this item. While we humored him with homemade luchi once in a while (despite Sr. T ‘s lack of support), he craved for more.
In April 2018, Tuneer started his preschool. During the admission process, we were informed about the preschool providing a morning snack. The menu was finalized by the Principal personally every year and the dishes were different every day, though the weekly schedules were kept the same for a particular year. So Monday was for Dahlia, Wednesday welcomed pasta, Thursday meant noodles and Friday brought in sandwiches. Cut fruits and biscuits were given as side dishes daily. But what caught the boy’s attention was the dish on Tuesday as his father read it loud: poori sabzi.
Despite the fact that he enjoyed his time at the preschool, it took Tuneer a long time to settle down. Every day it took me hours to convince the boy to go to his preschool. He would often start crying or there would be emotional outbursts in different forms making the whole situation difficult for both of us. If there was an exception to this pattern, it happened every Tuesday morning when he went to school with a smile. Poori had turned out to be a bigger moral-booster than my love and encouragement.
During every parents-teachers meeting, his class teacher always praised Tuneer for never wasting food, a quality he had picked up from his maternal grandfather. He only took that much amount of food which he knew he could finish. She would then smile and tell me how that trait took an exception on Tuesdays at the sight of pooris. He was the one of the first few to learn the names of. And I am quite sure that the will to learn emerged from the desire to keep a track of when Tuesday arrived every week. Until then this was a question he had reserved for his class teacher and me daily. I had started dreading vacations or any holiday that fell on a Tuesday because he brought the house down with his demand to eat poori-sabzi just the way the preschool served.
In the last one year, we have taken him out for invitations, at restaurants and on holidays. His standard question to the outings always started with “Will they serve poori or luchi?”. If he received a positive answer, the next question was, “Will they give dum aloo or chana dal?”. If we had an answer to that (we generally cooked up one), the next one that followed was, “Will they give sweets with poori?”. And then the most deadly one sealed the deal with, “I want to eat two, no three pooris. I don’t want to eat rice or anything else.” And, in case there was no poori to be served, Sr. T and I looked at each other with terror-stricken eyes for the calamity that was to follow next.
Co-incidentally, it was a Tuesday when he started school this week. And the scary part was that the cook had been on a four-day leave which ended only yesterday. While discussing his tiffin preferences on a Monday morning, he looked at me with hopeful eyes and asked if I was going to make poori sabzi just the way he loved. He had long stopped saying luchi because it was poori sabzi that he had savored at every place we had traveled to in the last one year – Delhi, Mumbai, and Goa. Since his school had already given a standard set of rules related to Tiffin for the first two weeks (basically non-messy food items), I had a hard time convincing him for a sandwich as a snack on Tuesday. He finally gave in only after I let him eat home-cooked egg noodles for dinner on that Monday night after assuring him of a confirmed poori sabzi laden Sunday.
I shudder at the thought of a similar conversation happening after two weeks again and even more, at the thought of waking up at 6 am in a bid to fry pooris for him in the future. Whoever said life’s a little easy once the kid gets admission in school has definitely no idea about kids and their abilities. This is turning out to be yet another phase of life-changing experience each day that has just begun.
I sincerely hope that this post brought a smile on your face. I will be back with a post on ‘Q’ tomorrow. In the meanwhile, you can check out my previous posts here.