It was also Chotto-ma’s first stretch without Ba. She missed him so much that she finally decided to pretend he was in the bathroom. She also wrote him notes, drew him messages and licked his face on skype.
She wrote me a note too, and gave it to me (in an envelope) right after D left for the airport.
Yes, we can make a big soppy brouhaha about five days, which in Chotto-ma’s words ‘felt like sixty-five days.’ To hell with moderation, to hell with anti-mush. When he walked in through the door on Saturday morning, we were on him like cling-film on leftovers.
So how did we spend those ‘sixty-five days’? Well, apart from waiting for D to come back, we:
Overfed the ducks in the river.
Played hooky from school to watch Kung Fu Panda whilst eating dumplings.
Read books – she hers, I mine.
Had long conversations about life (it’s the coolest thing; the things Chotto-ma and I talk about now, cuddled up on the sofa with a blanket on our legs.)
Ate dark red juicy plums.
Brought in spring.
Danced to Fleetwood Mac.
Baked D a Crème Caramel.
In India, a crème caramel is called ‘pudding’. A pudding is a crème caramel. So, when we first moved to England that’s what I expected everyone to agree to. Pudding = crème caramel. But no. Here, pudding = dessert. Everything is a pudding: a sponge cake, a cheesecake, ice-cream with jelly, fruits with custard. Everything. This seismic food-shift, this pudding-shock, took more time to get used to than the British weather.
Bubulma, D’s mother, was known (far and wide) for her perfect puddings; her crème caramels were light, smooth. With firm feet and a jiggly hip. But the only time I ever tried making one: Disaster. That was years ago; my crème caramel collapsed like a Victorian lady, and no amount of sniffing salt could revive it.
This time, I was determined to do better. Not just I, but Chotto-ma and I. Chotto-ma, my little egg beater. My crème caramel conspirator.
And we did better than better.
4 cups of thickened milk (to thicken: gently boil 8-9 cups of milk till halved)
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4th cup sugar (I don’t like my puddings too sweet, so add more if you like)
4 tbs sugar (for the caramel)
Knob of butter
Heat oven to 150 degrees.
Beat the eggs well with the sugar.
Sieve the thickened milk, and mix it into the eggs. Add the vanilla extract.
Butter the sides of a round baking dish (mine was about 23 cm in diameter), and keep ready.
In a small pan, add about 1/2 cup water and the 3 tbs of sugar and put it on the heat. As the water evaporates, the sugar will start of caramelise. When is a lovely deep amber, but before it burns, tip the caramel into the baking dish. Swirl the dish so the caramel spreads and coats the bottom.
The caramel will soon cool and set. When it does, pour in the milk-egg mix.
Slip it into the lower shelf of the oven for 30-40 minutes (when you slide it out, there should be a firm jiggle, but not a sloppy jiggle in the middle of the pudding).
Take it out, let it cool and put in into the refrigerator overnight.
Next day, hold a serving plate on top of the dish and turn it upside down. The pudding should plop down, along with the lovely, caramel-y syrup.