What the drumsticks said to me

Updated: Mar 31, 2020, 07:17 IST | C Y Gopinath | Mumbai

In this age of social isolation, I've not seen a human being for close to two weeks. But damn, my vegetables keep talking to me

I was about to close the vegetable drawer when I heard what sounded like someone clearing their throat. Pic/Istock
I was about to close the vegetable drawer when I heard what sounded like someone clearing their throat. Pic/Istock

C Y Gopinath It was bound to happen sooner or later. You don't talk to any human being for a few weeks and you start hearing voices from the fridge. I was about to close the vegetable drawer when I heard what sounded like someone clearing their throat.

I froze to see if it happened again, and it did. I heard a thin, reedy voice saying, "Hey Jude."

"I know Hey Jude!" I said, slipping easily into that paranoid state in which things talk to you and you can talk back.

Reedy voice again: "You've buried us under these cabbages, anyone would sound muffled." I shifted the cabbages and pulled out a miserable bunch of drumsticks. They looked like a gang of dacoits.

"So — you like the Beatles?? Really?"

"You misheard. We said Hey dude!" said a drumstick.

"You have my attention now," I said.

"We wondered how social isolation was going for you," said one which looked like a card sharp. "Enjoying being ignored?"

Before I could deliver a scathing put-down, a slightly over-boiled drumstick said, "Because we know what that feels like. We've been socially isolated by every other vegetable since — forever. It's a lonely life, being a drumstick."

So it was going to be a pity party. "You're breaking my heart," I said. "I might cry. What else did you expect when you look like a malnourished Mexican pickpocket, don't fit neatly into any shopping bag and have no known health benefits?"

"That's deliberately provocative, sir," said the biggest of them. "Do you know pregnant mothers eat drumstick leaves for nutrition? And give it to babies to prevent blindness?"

"I'm not a pregnant mother," I said.

"You don't even know what we're really called," said an elder drumstick. "You're just like the potatoes. You have no heart. And like eggplants, knowledge means nothing to you."

"I know what you fellows are called," I snapped back. "You're called Morning. . . or perhaps Morninga. I know! Morninga gloria!"

There was a crushing silence. "He doesn't have a clue, grandpa," said a baby drumstick.

"Not that you'd care," said the grandpa drumstick, "but it's Moringa oleifera. It's Latin, you wouldn't know it."

"Whatever," I said. "How may I help you today?"

"Well, we see you making soups out of everything," said a young rebel. "Pumpkins, peas, spinach, onions, potatoes, even those dreadful cabbages."

"So?" I asked.

"Why not a drumstick soup?" said a loser on the side.

"Because, you thugs, nobody likes having to chew and spit out fibrous junk while eating soup. Comprende?"

"Well, you could just take out our seeds and pulp them, couldn't you?"

I thought about it. He had a point. I could half-boil the buggers first and squeeze out the seeds. "Would you mind being mingled with some ripe red tomatoes?"

Furtive giggling ensued. Mentioning tomatoes might have made the drumsticks think about coitus. I changed the subject quickly.

"I'd have to use some spices," I said.

"Use!!" they chimed.

"You might be puréed," I warned.

"Do it!" said their leader. "We like rough sex."

And so it happened. I am pleased to present you with the recipe for the world's first drumstick soup, created for lonely humans living in utter social isolation.

Ingredients
Drumsticks, 3 thick sticks, cut into 3 inch lengths
Tomatoes, 4-5 ripe, medium sized, chopped coarsely
Jeera powder, 1/4 tsp
Small onion, finely grated
Bay leaf, 2 small
Nutmeg, 1/4 tsp
Cinnamon, 2 inches stick
Black pepper, 1/2 tsp freshly ground
Cloves, 2
Cooling oil, 1/2 tsp
Ghee, 1 tbsp
Cream, 1.5 tbsp

Method
1 Boil the drumsticks in water for about 10 minutes and drain out the water.
2 While the drumsticks cool, heat the cooking oil over medium heat and add the onions. As they turn transparent, add the tomatoes and continue cooking until the tomatoes are soft and mashed and all their liquid evaporated.
3 While the tomatoes cool, squeeze out the seeds and pulp from the boiled drumsticks. Discard fibrous outer coverings.
4 Once the tomatoes have cooled, puree them in a blender.
5 Heat a deep saucepan and add the ghee. When it's hot, add the cinnamon, cloves and bay leaf. Add the puréed tomatoes, powdered cumin and nutmeg. Add the drumstick seeds and pulp and bring it all to a simmer. Adjust the consistency to make it thinner if you don't like chunky soup. Salt to taste.
6 Experiment with garnish. Get a few grams of dried tarragon (available only in Food World, far as I know). Or be boring and use dhania. Or a little chopped fresh dill (suva bhaji to you).
If you like your soup thinner, use water, but then also add a few tablespoons of small cooked pasta — like orzo (looks like rice) or even mini macaronis.
Eat alone. Oh, and sanitise your hands before and after.

Here, viewed from there. C Y Gopinath, in Bangkok, throws unique light and shadows on Mumbai, the city that raised him. You can reach him at cygopi@gmail.com Send your feedback to mailbag@mid-day.com

The views expressed in this column are the individual's and don't represent those of the paper

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