“Have you lost your mummy?”
“Tumi aamar ma” (You’re my Ma.)
“What’s that strange language you’re speaking?”
“Eta strange na. Eta Bangla; Bengali.” (It’s not strange; it’s Bengali.)
“Bhengawli? Well, I don’t understand a word of it! Greek to me.”
“Oh, stop calling me that! Go home, little girl. Stop following me.”
This is Chotto-ma’s absolutelyfavouritest game, staged daily on the walk back from school. I started it, little knowing what I was in for. She loved it so much, it has begged repetition ever since. And every day if possible.
There’s me in my best ill-humoured-Edwardian-lady accent, and a little brown girl straggling behind. Ne’er has a play seen a more unsuitable cast. But apparently, it’s “hu-normous” fun.
Some days, though, when I pick her up from school, I feel like I haven’t seen her forever; which means I need to squish her too much to play the game. I squish her and I carry her as far as I can these days, slobbering her face with very noisy kisses – which doesn’t quite set the mood for Le Pathétique. On days like that, there is Option B.
In Option B, I play myself (thank god). But. I seem to be very confused about our way home from school. I drag her to all the wrong doors, try to take all the wrong turns, but Chotto-ma knows better, of course. So she rolls her eyes and pulls me in the right direction. She points to our house from a distance. Look Ma, there’s our house. No-no, I say, that’s Miss Havisham’s, an old lady who’s allergic to little girls. Nah, she says, that’s ours. Big mistake, I say – Miss Havisham’s going to stew you for supper.
And so we climb the stairs; me mumbling caveats about trespassers and dour old ladies, and Chotto-ma with her worldly calm, shaking her worldly head. When she reaches the door, she takes the key from me. She slips it into the keyhole. I’m aghast that our key fits Miss Havisham’s house. She turns the key and the door opens! She pulls me in, and I nearly pass out from the shock of it all – for it is indeed our house.
And so happy and relieved are we to find Miss Havisham missing that we flick off our shoes, throw off our jackets, and dive into the kitchen to bake a cake that would befit the fussiest Edwardian dowager.
Fig & Pecan Buttermilk Cake
3 large figs (1 quartered lengthwise; the other 2 cubed into 8 pieces each)
A handful of pecan, broken into pieces
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 cups brown, granulated sugar
3/4 cup melted butter
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Pre-heat oven: 160°C.
In a large bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt together with a wooden spoon.
Make a well in the middle, crack in the eggs, pour in the butter and vanilla extract. Stir it all in.
Add in the buttermilk a little add at time. Stir, add, stir – till the buttermilk is all gone and you have a nice, smooth batter.
Now, add the cubed figs and the pecan, and fold them in.
Pour the batter into a greased loaf tin.
Tuck in the other fig slices on top.
Bake for about 50 minutes, or till a knife inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean.