My mom tells me that when I was very young, I didn’t care for vegetables. I know kids rarely do, but it’s significant to me specifically because adult me loves them. I don’t know when exactly it began, but I went from preferring meals with no vegetables in them, to them becoming my favourite things on the plate. These days, I enjoy pretty much all varieties of vegetables, and meals feel incomplete without them. (For example, I much prefer to cook my pasta or spaghetti with tons of vegetables than to have it aglio olio.)
Growing up in a South Indian family, I was exposed early to vegetables that a lot of my North Indian and non-Indian friends have still either never heard of or never eaten. As far as I’ve seen, South Indian cuisine makes use of some of the widest range of vegetables, probably because being predominantly vegetarian, we need the variety more than others might. As a teenager, I was fond of the more typical stuff – potatoes, ladies’ fingers, cauliflower, brinjal – but as an adult, I find myself drawn to the less everyday stuff – beetroot, yam, pumpkin, etc.
A particular sub-variety of vegetables I really, really enjoy is gourd. There are many, many types of gourd, all with slightly silly non-vegetable-y English names – bottle, snake, ridge, ivy, ash, bitter – but each of which can be made in a bunch of different ways in South Indian cooking. They were all a regular part of my diet when I lived at home, but after I moved away for university, they became quite rare, mostly because I used my newfound freedom to eat out, and non-Indian cuisines at that. When I started working and consequently started cooking a bit, I stuck to the stuff available in the big supermarkets because I didn’t want to travel all the way to Little India to buy Indian vegetables. (Don’t judge – I know Singapore is a small country, but travelling still takes effort, OK?)
Anyway, a few years ago, I finally moved to a place that has an Indian mini mart inside the condominium complex, and found a few vegetable shops close by that actually sell a pretty good variety of the more uncommon stuff. Still, it was Mom coming to stay with me that actually converted those findings into actual yummy food. We’ve been having carb-free dinners, and in the past month, she’s made something out of practically every variety of gourd out there. She and I are usually on the same wavelength when it comes to food – except garlic, which we have very differing opinions about – so eating a more unconventional type of vegetable is never an issue between us.
They say home is where the heart is – but I think home is where Mom’s cooking is. These days, eating good
homemade Mom-made food, I feel like I’m a school-going teenager again, except now I actually appreciate what’s being made and the effort it takes to make it.
And good gourd, my tummy (and I) could not be happier. 😀