Isha teaches Hosh about Indian culture & gives tea cooking tips.
Informative story with delicious Masala Chai cooking recipe.
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"Ma, why do you always offer guests tea?" asked Hosh, "even when they turn up at our door unannounced."
"Nobody comes to our door because they can't afford a cup of tea themselves," Isha replied.
"They come because we make them feel welcome, by our words, our actions. They come because they appreciate our company."
"That doesn't answer my question?" Hosh was adamant.
"Because that is how I was brought up," Isha replied. "It is part of my culture to offer my visitors tea."
"Nowadays, people don't offer tea to every visitor," Hosh was still not satisfied with her generic answer. "They don't even offer someone a glass of water."
"In fact, some are even rude to their guests. They get pleasure out of being rude to market research interviewers, hawkers and preachers, who knock on their door."
"What people do, or not do, is their business, son," she answered. "I have neither the time nor the inclination to analyze their actions or reasons. They do, whatever they want to do. I do, whatever I want to do. And I choose to be hospitable to my guests."
"Am I culturally expected to do the same as you?" asked Hosh.
"Your father keeps reminding me," she laughed, "that culture is not a dead rule book that one has to live by. Nor is it blindly following the footsteps of others, be they your esteemed elders. Culture is a dynamic map of our journeys in life, and of our conducts as people."
"It is not just how we or our ancestors lived life. It is not a lifeless inheritance. It is a constantly evolving dynamic, a constantly developing progression of our belief and behavioral systems, that cumulatively define us."
"Our culture is being created right here and now, by you and I, just as much as it was created earlier by our ancestors. Your ancestors initiated it. Your parents fine-tuned it. And you, and your future generations, will continue to craft it."
"Culture is the values we choose to live by, whether we inherited them from our ancestors, or created them ourselves from scratch, or fine-tuned what we saw others do, including those others who were not of our own cultures."
"I want all the cultures of all lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible, Mahatma Gandhi had once said, but I refuse to be blown off my feet by any. That is the code your Pa and I live by, that is our culture. Why do you ask?"
"Umm," Hosh replied, "I was trying to ascertain if I must learn to make tea too, for my guests! Unlike Pa, who's never had to learn to cook his own tea because you've always been around to take care of him and his guests, I might not be as lucky as him, after I marry."
"So, this is what this was all about," Isha laughed. “You’re worried your future wife might not know how to cook tea?"
"Traditional spicy Indian tea," Hosh nodded and said solemnly, "the way you make it."
"Aww," she was pleased. "Come, I'll teach you how to make deliciously spicy Indian tea in a jiffy. Tea that'll blow your guests away."
"Careful Ma," he laughed too. "I don't think I want to go that far."
She quickly wrote up an ingredients list and recipe for him. The list had:
- 500ml water
- 4 teaspoons Sugar
- 1 clove
- 1 small piece of cinnamon stick (approx. 3cm long)
- 1 green cardamom
- 2 teaspoons loose tea, or 2 teabags
- 150ml milk (to taste)
They put water, sugar, clove, cinnamon stick, crushed cardamom and tea, together in a pot. Covering the pot with a lid, they brought it to boil. Then she asked him to simmer the pot for 3-4 minutes on low heat.
They put the milk in now, and brought it to boil on medium heat. After boiling it for a minute, they removed it from heat. They sieved it, poured it into cups, and served it hot to themselves with spicy samosas, which Isha had been cooking when Hosh had joined her in the kitchen.
"Did you know," she told him, as they settled in the bamboo chairs in their garden, "this Masala Chai is also good for colds in winter."
"You can use white or brown sugar, or even honey, to taste. If you use honey, add it at the end so you don't kill its goodness by boiling it."
"If your guests don’t like milk, or are allergic to it, just leave the milk out. Make Decoctions instead, leaving out the spices and milk, but adding a few drops of lime juice to the rest of the ingredients."
"Your brother loves natural flavored teas, with just the various leaves thrown in boiling water. Fortunately, there are so many of these available now due to trade globalization, that I could serve him a new flavor every single day of the year without any trouble."
"In fact, variety is good. It balances his intake of goodness from different sources..."
Mother and son sat talking late that evening. The sun was unhappy at the unusually scant attention they paid him today, and finished its weary march down from the heavens grumpily. But they had to get up and walk back into the house, when the garden mosquitoes came out to feast.
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