The aroma of fresh vegetables being cooked in buttermilk filled the air as I walked into the courtyard of the house. Elder aunt was preparing my favourite lunch time dish, a preparation of vegetables cooked in buttermilk and flavoured with spices. As I walked to the tap to wash and get ready, I heard a knock on the door. I opened the door to find our neighbour standing with a covered bowl. My aunt an dour neighbour often shared their recipes as well as brought the cooked items to each other as a kind of goodwill gesture.
"This is for Hari," she said.
I looked at her inquiringly.
"Today you elder aunt is preparing vegetables in buttermilk which your cousin does not like. So she had asked me to bring her what I had prepared," she replied.
"What is it?' I asked casually.
"Bitter gourd sauteed with garlic and red chillies," she said.
"Oh, I love it," I blurted out.
"I did not know you were around or else I would have brought some more. Maybe you both can share," she smiled and told as she walked past me towards the kitchen.
"Thank you," I said.
Grandmother had stepped out into the courtyard. She had overheard our conversation. She took the bowl of preparation from the neighbour. They talked for a few minutes and then both left to continue with their daily chores.
Soon we we all seated for lunch. My cousin who had gone out running some errands returned exhausted and hungry and could not wait to start lunch.
"What is prepared today," he asked. He was a fussy eater and often complained about the food.
"Bitter gourd," my grandmother's voice echoed with a harsh undertone as she pushed the bowl of the preparation brought by the neighbour towards him.
"Oh, I do not like this stuff. It is so bitter. Why cannot you cook like the neighbour maa?" he asked and continued," she seems to be able to cook so well. You could have asked her to bring for something for me."
"She did," my grandmother replied. "But our neighbour made a buttermilk dish today. Since you do not like vegetables cooked in buttermilk, you are being served bitter gourd," my grandmother looked him straight in the eye.
"Oh, I can eat that. If she has cooked it, it must be tasty," my cousin replied.
Grandma pushed a bowl of the dish prepared by my aunt towards him.
"See how nicely she has flavoured it with fenugreek. Why cannot you cook like this? Then I have no problems with this dish," my cousin said.
"O.K. I will give a portion of the bitter gourd to both of you. It is good for heath," elder aunt said as she served the neighbour's dish to both of us.
My elder aunt looked at my grandmother who was smiling.
"You should make vegetables in butter milk like this maa," Hari said as he devoured the dish served to him.
"She will soon," my grandmother replied.
She knew how to run the family.