Old Ghosts & New Ghosts (chapter excerpt & recipe)
Tendli/Tindora/Ivy Gourd Vine with flower still attached. Traditionally this mini gourd vegetable is grown on a overhead trellis.
(And) although The Farm needed more time, effort, and money than anyone had originally anticipated or planned for, everyone could see the many small rewards they had reaped. With each visit, they returned refreshed, confident, and happy to the city. Shaku was glad to have her own place, Gaju felt a sense of relief between the city and the village, and Bandu was happy to have a safe place for his family, away from the world of crime that consumed his days and his nights.
And of the two children, Ana seemed happier there than Sameer. She would spend each morning reaching over to pick little tendli (ivy gourds) from the overhead trellises, returning with baskets of the bullet-shaped green-striped vegetables, her fingers blackened by the sticky sap from the vine, her neck aching from the hours of endlessly looking through the tendrils to spot produce ready to be picked. If this task was not needed, she was collecting something else, fruits, or flowers for a special ocassion. Then came lunch, a short break to read or nap, and their communal afternoon cha. Ana was assigned her favourite job, to sit at the entrance to The Farm, surrounded by baskets of flowers, fruits, and vegetables.
The Farm provided a small farmer’s market worthy yield. At the peak of each summer, Ana’s little vegetable stand offered three varieties of large juicy mangoes with golden yellow flesh that oozed its juices into eager palms and mouths: the regional favorite varieties: Alphonso, Totapuri and Payri for eating, Totapuri and Rajapuri varieties for pickling, a small stash of wild mangoes, jackfruit, jamun, papayas, limes and lemons, Malaysian rose apples, guavas and star-gooseberries, or varieties of watermelon, and the leaves of mango and bel if there was a religious festival around the corner, not to mention an abundant selection of flowers. There were small harvests of ivy gourds to sell, jalapenos and sometimes eggplants, double braids of white onions, bottle gourd and ridge gourds, or even pumpkins, depending on the season, all carefully stacked next to a large metal scale. Dadaji had taught Ana how to cut out a wedge of watermelon to show off its red flesh to make the large fruit desirable, and improve the prospect of a sale. When they started growing the ‘Sugar Baby’ variety, Ana no longer had to cut out wedges. Ana’s vegetable stand was open in the late afternoon when men and women would be returning home from their day jobs. On most days, she returned with empty baskets. Earning between fifty to one hundred rupees each evening, a few days earnings from the vegetable stand paid for the salary of one or two farm hands for the month.
Mummy would promptly cook any remaining produce or distribute between the farm hands to take home. Shaku and Gaju came up with several different recipes for ivy gourd, pumpkin, eggplant, jackfruit, mango, coconut, and even onions as the main dish, ranging from stewed, stir-fried or deep-fried, to accompany parathas and pulaos, and quick dessert preparations with fruits. Dinners at The Farm were often made from the least popular produce of the day. They all wondered, if only they could show these people the many things one could make from the same old produce.
Ana’s reward for a day of being a farm hand was not the money. She earned for herself the choicest fruits and flowers from her produce baskets. She could pick and eat what she wanted, wear any flower she wanted in her hair, make offerings or garlands, arrange the flowers in haphazard forms in glasses and jars all over the house, decorate the doorway or make flower rangoli with the petals if she felt like it. This was nothing like her friends’ vacations in sunny foreign places that required special permissions and passports. This was her paradise, she never coveted those vacations again, she would not be denied again, never again.
Tendli Bateta-nu Shaak: Ivy Gourds with Potatoes
Trim the top and bottom of each gourd and slice into thin strips. Keep the gourd strips soaking in water before cooking.
Makes: 8 servings Cook Time: 20 minutes
2 tbsp oil ¾ tsp cumin seeds ¾ tsp mustard seeds ½ cup diced yellow or white onions 1 tsp ginger paste 1 tsp garlic paste ¼ tsp turmeric powder 1½ tsp cayenne pepper powder ¾ tsp cumin powder ¾ tsp coriander powder 2-3 cups trimmed Ivy Gourd 1 small potato sliced into wedges Salt, to taste 1 tomato, cut to wedges ¼ cup cilantro leaves for garnish (optional)
Heat the oil in a large wok. As it heats up, add the cumin and mustard seeds and allow them to pop. Add the onions and sauté until lightly golden. Then add the ginger and garlic paste and sauté until fragrant. Add the turmeric, cayenne pepper powder, cumin powder and coriander powder, give it a quick stir and add the potatoes, sautéing until their edges begin to sear. After this has cooked on medium low for about 2 minutes, add the ivy gourd, and mix until the spices are evenly distributed over the vegetables. Lightly cover the vegetables, allowing the steam to escape and let this cook for about 10-12 minutes. Stir every few minutes to ensure even cooking. When the ivy gourd is tender, season it with salt and add the tomatoes. Stir and cook uncovered for about 3-5 minutes more until the tomatoes soften a little. Garnish with cilantro leaves. Serve hot with fulka rotli.