In step

Our heaters are on now. There’s one right below our living-room window, behind the brown buttoned sofa. As the heat rises up the radiator and against the glass, it makes the bare branches outside wobble like trees through tears. Hot air, cold glass: and the world dances. It always takes opposites to be in step.

D and I had our first mulled wine of the season yesterday; Chotto-ma had a hot chocolate topped with a mountain of cream and marshmallows. It was in the same old cafรฉ, only it had twinkly lights hanging from its windows; it’s officially winter. I’m not opposed to the cold this year as I was the last. The grey light, cold wind and the shush somehow seems full of possibilities. In the way that silence has the possibility of song and conversation, or the ttup-ttup-ttup of a hammer. We had new windows fitted yesterday to keep the cold out, and now I can’t even hear the wind. The outside is playing out like a silent film, and inside, the three of us – she’s drawing a fish, D is playing his guitar, I’m writing to you.

We just finished lunch; on Sundays we always have a Bengali lunch. It’s my attempt at giving Chotto-ma a taste of our old Sunday afternoons in Calcutta. And we eat with our fingers, because there are some things that can be eaten no other way. You need to feel the texture, mix it with your fingers and bring it to your mouth like a prayer. Eating a Bengali meal with forks is like playing the piano in washing-up gloves. Chotto-ma now has The Art Of Eating By Hand down pat; she leaves her plate scraped spotless.

Today, we had a dal that Ma used to cook whenever she was in a hurry – a quick boil, a chop-chop, a sprinkle, and done. It’s perfect for the winter, and simple like most good things are. A combination of soft and crunchy, sharp and buttery, to bring out a flavour that dances just right.

Like I said, it takes opposites to be in step.

Ma’s Hurried Dal
A lemony, buttery lentil soup with raw red onions & tomato


1 cup red lentils
1 small red onion, chopped into little cubes
1 tomato, also chopped into little cubes
A generous dollop of butter
A generous squeeze of lemon
1 green chilli, chopped

Boil the lentils in one-and-a-half cups of water till cooked. Add a little more water if needed, but the consistency, when done, should not be too watery.
Take the boiled dal off the heat and throw in the rest of the ingredients.

19 thoughts on “In step

  1. Happy Winter… It is here too, and it won't be going anywhere for a while by the looks of things. It seems our lives have been in parallel for the past day or so. Today we too had our first gluhwein's at the Christmas market, and the children had hot chocolate topped with whipped cream. Then last night we went for Southern Indian Food in a great little place in Munich. We had the most delicious dal and I thought to myself, I really must make my own – must get a recipe. And now I have one. Thank you! ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Don't know if I ever said this before, but can repeat it again and again – You are my fav writer Pia. And I love your take on sunday lunch. This is how we blend and learn culture, and I am so glad you are giving it to Chotto Ma. Shotti, I should start this kind of trend too.

  3. It does sound like mine! And warming South Indian food in the cold of Munich seems just right. Chotto-ma is a fan of dosas, and we make monthly trips to East Ham to have dosa lunches.

  4. I add coriander too, Pratirupa, especially in the mustard-oil-drizzled version.
    I add coriander in most things for that matter ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. “The grey light, cold wind and the shush somehow seems full of possibilities. In the way that silence has the possibility of song and conversation” – just beautiful Pia. I repeat myself when I say, I come to your space to relax.

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