My aunt taught me the secret to a perfect breakfast: improvise

When i visited my aunt Sulu in India, she prepared three meals a day and wrote the plan of each on a sheet of paper that she kept by th...


When i visited my aunt Sulu in India, she prepared three meals a day and wrote the plan of each on a sheet of paper that she kept by the phone in her apartment. The idea of ​​such a plan suggests a certain rigidity, but no, it was a shared and living document. It included, for each meal, the company my aunt expected and the menu, no matter how simple, and it was constantly revised. Modification may become necessary to include someone’s favorite dish; or to make room for a snack we had forgotten we all wanted but which had popped up in the conversation; or to add the names of more passing friends; or to report a spontaneous trip in our favorite to chatter salesman, which necessitated a dinner later; or for the pile of ripe custard apples someone had brought home, which needed to be eaten immediately.

All day long, we referred to this schedule to stay on the trail she had laid out for us, and as the days went by, it had more and more scribbles, crossed-out words, loops and arrows – the days that we could have had, but didn’t, still visible. And he was listing the days we had. We have called the document, internally and affectionately, as the Program. And although I’m neither a breakfast person nor a morning person, I’ve always stuck to it. I made sure to get up early to have hot breakfasts at 8 in the morning, to put glasses and tea cups on the table, and to try to be helpful. But really, the point was just to hang out with my aunt as much as possible.

Upma can be a lot of things – home cooking, fast food, cheffy.

When I was a kid, there was no one cooler. She wrapped her hair in a silk scarf and rode an old scooter through the dusty and crevassed streets of Pune to her job as a school principal. She sewed all of her own clothes and then reused the leftovers. She played badminton with friends on weekends, enthusiastically and maybe even a little viciously. It looked like she knew how to do everything. And because she let me join her for anything and everything, I did.

I’m sure she never intended for me to feel nostalgic for the old programs, which is almost certainly why I do. The programs were ordinary and functional, efficient and useful. (What could be more emotional than that?) They were never kept in an album, but thrown away – more likely, recycled – at the end of the week or month. I don’t need to watch one to remember the breakfasts, however. My aunt almost always did some sort of upma for breakfast or, as she called it in Konkani, usli. Upma is a delicious South Indian staple made with seasoned and sautéed semolina, noodles and other quick-cooking starches. It can be a lot of things – home cooking, fast food, cheffi. Ten years ago, Floyd Cardoz won the title of “Top Chef Masters” with upmaupma worth $ 100,000, ”The Hindustan Times reported with a wink. He cooked semolina in coconut milk, and a lot, so the final texture was creamy and soft, and he surrounded the upma with wild mushrooms. My aunt was thrilled that a restaurant chef would win an American cooking contest with upma, of all things.

She did upma at breakfast based on semolina, rice flour and fine vermicelli, based on wheat, and sometimes rice. She did upma with sago, soft pearls made from palm starch, and pohathe almost translucent pieces of dry rice, beaten, hydrated in a little water. Each was different, but always had a bit of spice and dal, chillies, coconut, and maybe a little sugar, often with added vegetables, like fresh peas and carrots, or apples. of earth and tomatoes. When I do it now, usually on weekends like breakfast or late lunch, the plan is not a plan. The base temper stays the same and I build the dish as I go, adding everything I have on hand, from fried okra to a bunch of blanched edamames from the freezer, to a whole cob of sweet corn kernels.

Recipe: Sweet corn usli with vermicelli

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