The Favourite Dish


One day, I asked my mother what her favourite dish was.

Nothing, she replied.

“But there must be something. Everyone has a favourite”, I persisted.

“Nothing, you silly child”, she replied. Mummy in her usual no-nonsense way had dismissed an important question about herself.

But her answer just caused more questions to pop up. I thought about what she said over and over again at dinner time. She served fried fish, eggplant curry and rice for dinner. The fish was fried crisp, that you could hear it crack as someone bit into it. Daddy liked his fish crisp. The eggplant was one of my favourite vegetables. And rice was a staple. So what was her favourite part of the meal?

I went to bed that night with the words playing in my head. My dreams were troubled. It must have been early morning 4 a.m. when I finally slept. When I woke up, it was already bright outside. I went downstairs and found my mother as usual in the kitchen.

She placed before me a cup of coffee. Made the way I liked it. Steaming hot. Sweet, thick and frothy on top. Mummy knew everything about my tastes. She knew I could empty an entire bowl of ‘kadala’ dish with my ‘puttu’ for breakfast. She knew her daughter never went anywhere near a bitter gourd and that the last egg puff in the box was always mine. Unwritten rule in the family book.

I knew only one thing about my mother’s preference in food. That she liked her tea cold. But all of a sudden I wasn’t sure if that had been a preference all along. Or was it because she never had the time to sip it when it was hot?

She stood by the stove as I watched, flipping dosas, urging me to eat while the dosa was still warm off the griddle. I had watched her, beside the stove for so many years now – flipping dosas, chapathis or pancakes, frying French toast or stirring curries. Never sitting down with the rest of us.

In all my 28 years, never before did I pause to ask, Mummy what is your favourite dish? Do you like beans? What about beef? Gravy or dry?

She had rearranged her spice preference according to us. Rearranged her appetite according to us. Rearranged her life around ours.

I looked at the spatula in her hand and I pushed my plate back.

“Why don’t you sit down and eat? I’ll make the dosas”, I said.

I knew the answer before she said it. Not now. Not hungry. Dishes in the sink. The potatoes must go into the pressure cooker first. A list of to-do’s before she rests.

She refused to give up the spatula and I am ordered to sit back and β€˜enjoy the dosas while they are warm’.

Mummy, today I have a ‘home-sickness’ feeling creeping up on me. Missing you and my kitchen table feasts back home.

And I swear to God, one day I WILL find out that Favourite Dish.

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10 thoughts on “The Favourite Dish

  1. Very well written. I am not sure whether i know my mom’s favorite either. Just got present to how self absorbed I ve become and have been all these years. Great reminder.

    Thanks,
    Arun.P.C

  2. where’s ‘pin it’? this should be pinned. i’m racking my brains too over mum and her ways.
    i had cold tea this morning as i forgot the brew in the midst of all the morning rush and this has become sort of routine now with me. Pinny friend, Priya

  3. Your musings always grab the string around the heart and tug a tug that ensures eyes getting moist… a post that will definitely make all it’s readers stop and think about what they know of their mums favourites… Thanks for sharing, love xxx

  4. The easiest way to find that one out is to ask your grand parents or maternal uncle/aunts or childhood friends. There is no way she will ever tell you her favourites.

    Such a shame, even I don’t know what’s my mom’s favourite food, colour, etc I am going to ask my maternal family this time for sure. Thanks for this reminder post.

  5. hey you made me sooo nostalgic…My mum was here a couple of months back and I got the royal treatment. Mums are like this everywhere. Thankfully I know my mum loves samosas πŸ™‚

  6. Hi Maria, chanced upon your space while I browsing through Aishu’s (Aishwarya Ananth) blog.
    Some very good writing there.

    This one is a lovely post and brought back memories of my home back in Cochin! πŸ™‚ Mothers everywhere are the same I tell you!

    And yes, Puttu-kadla is soul food as far as I am concerned! πŸ™‚

    Great Going!

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