A countdown

Numbers, standing in their natural order, are so ordinary. Look at them.
1,     2,     3,     4,     5
They could be anything. The number of toes inside your left shoe. The number of times you’ve pretended to have read A Brief History of Time. The number of cats in the house next door. The number of times you can sneeze in a row. The number of times you came that close to winning the lottery. It could be anything. Or nothing much.
Now, reverse the order of the same little numbers, and as if by magic, they become less ordinary. They become a countdown.
5,     4,     3,     2,     1
A countdown has a sense of drama, of anticipation. They tease you closer to something exciting. No one ever counts down to a non-event. Well, I certainly don’t remember counting down days to my dentist’s appointment.
But I do remember counting down to my wedding day. To the 20th-week scan when I was pregnant. To the minutes before our flight takes off to an unexplored city. To Durga Pujo, when we were growing up in Kolkata. I remember my 12-year old self, counting down to the birthday when she would wake up a teenager, and suddenly be taken seriously. (Yeah, right). And now, I see my daughter counting down before her spaceship blasts off into outer space.

Do you remember the last time you counted down the days? Or a momentous countdown from a different time, a different year?

I like my numbers backwards even more so this week. In another three days, Ma, Baba and my brother are going to be here. My house is going to fill up with family, and with warm, familiar banter. With bear hugs and arguments.
There really can be nothing better to count down to.
While I wait for the last few days to trickle down, here’s something adapted from Ma’s kitchen. It’s butternut squash, but with a personality. In Kolkata, we would use kumro (pumpkin) to make this. But here, butternut squash makes a great alternative.
Spicy Butternut Squash with Garlic & Cumin

1 medium butternut squash, cut into equal-sized pieces
1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp paprika
A bunch of fresh coriander leaves, chopped
1-2 green chillies
3-4 tbs oil

Heat oil in a deep pan. Once hot, turn heat down to medium. Add the cumin seeds.
As soon as the seeds turn a light brown (3-4 seconds), add the chopped garlic.
When the garlic turns a light brown, and lets off a nice ‘roasted’ smell, add the butternut squash.
Add the green chilli. Split it down the middle if you want it hot, or keep it whole with the stalk intact, if you want just the flavour of the chilli, without the heat.
Sprinkle the whole thing with salt and paprika, give it all a good stir, and cover. Cook for 15-20 minutes.
Then take the lid off, add half of the chopped coriander. Stir and taste for seasoning.
Cover and cook for a few more minutes if needed. The butternut squash should look a little bit mushy, with the pieces sticking together.
Transfer to a serving dish, and sprinkle with the remaining chopped coriander.

Serves 4-5

22 thoughts on “A countdown

  1. Ooh a really thought provoking post (that happens to also include one of my favourite vegetables! Squashes are few and far between here, and I have been known to pay £5 for one out of sheer desperation! That recipe looks great!):… I am currently on a 6.5 week countdown until we leave DK, but my son is forever counting down before he leaps off something (usually without paying attention to whether it's dangerous or not!)! Emma 🙂

  2. That looks really delicious! I love butternut squash, coriander and chillies … in fact, with all of those ingredients, this dish can only taste wonderful! Enjoy your time with your family this week 🙂

  3. Leaving DK? New country, continent? Sounds exciting Emma! I'm always up for a pack-up and change. Take the packing and unpacking away, and I'd do it every year. Oh wait, we do do it every year 🙂

  4. Hi anamika! Lovely to see you here. I just had a browse around your very professional looking blog, and really enjoyed myself. It's good to be doing something without a brief, or a client, isn't it? 🙂

  5. Now I am counting down the days when I can harvest my butternut squash. The “days to maturity” on seed packet is SO approximate.

    I love your photos ;-).

  6. What a coincidence! This is what I am going to make today for lunch but in a north Indian style with aam chur powder and sweetened with a little sugar. Yours looks so tempting.
    You have really made me think of how long it has been that I actually counted down to anything. Wonder if anything would ever make me as excited as the birth of my daughter?
    Lovely post as usual and great photos.

  7. I love butternut squash with amchur too! 🙂
    And I know what you mean about the birth of your daughter. My daughter was two weeks overdue, so there were endless countdowns every day!

  8. Yes, pumpkin would be perfect. I hope you enjoy it! Thanks so much for stopping by my space, and leaving such a nice comment 🙂

  9. Love, love, love it all. The photos are popping! I counted down to this day, 12 August, seven years ago — the day we crossed the pond with one way tickets. I don't usually have squash in the summer, but this recipe sounds too good to wait 'til next season. Thank you for sharing your beautiful writing. 🙂

  10. Your comment made me smile, Grace – on October 20, five years ago, our one way tickets brought us to this country. There are some dates you never forget, do you? Thanks for sharing that little bit. And happy crossing-the-pond anniversary 🙂

  11. Hey Pia, just stumbled across ur blog via Anita's page and I must say, you have a way with words! Love the way ur posts seem to start with some or the other random rambling 😀 that's totally my style too 🙂 great meeting you and looking forward to getting to know u better!

  12. aaah! a copywriter 🙂 just read your 'about me' section. that explains the wonderfully funny, whimsical writing i guess! or then again, maybe not 😛 hope you have a wonderful time with your family and bring back many more of mom's recipes and ur own stories to the blog!

  13. Daruun! Love the writing.. i do countdown every week , starts on Monday and stops on Friday night and then again on Monday 😀
    This is one of my fav vegi and I love it with macher matha 🙂

  14. kankana, great to see you here 🙂 and glad you enjoyed it. looking forward to getting to know another fellow blogger better!

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