The politics of Indian Pickles
As promised to you pickle pirates, this week I would like to let you know a little about pickling culture in India, especially the Indian mango pickle, and how I came to the recipes I use. So... When I say the word "grandma" - what does it evoke in you? Warm cuddles, comfort food, bedtime stories, maybe hand-knitted sweaters?
Well while that's all good and lovely, for me there's nothing more grandmotherly than the deep perfume of dark Indian mango pickle. And not just the way grandma made them, but how she defended them! You see, in India, pickle recipes change not only with regions, but with families, and the guard of each one is always that eternal matriarch; grandmother dearest. And I assure you, none were better at keeping their secrets than mine.
She was so strict in guarding her legacy that even being her grand-daughter didn't mean you could learn her secrets. In fact, not even her daughter, son-in-law, nephew, first cousin removed, stepsister.... you name it... could expect to discover her special spice mix. No... virtue of birth alone did not ensure her knowledge... You had to earn it! And that meant for many years participating in the annual "pickling" season.
The pickling season would start in early May when raw, tart mangoes would suddenly burst into abundance, and each member of our family would be assigned a different role in the production line. Mum would chop them, Auntie would dry them in the strong Indian sun, and I'd run around making myself useful wherever possible (mostly taste testing). All along, grandma would be running the show, while tactically keeping us ignorant of the spice combination, or the order they were added to the mix. Yes - grannie was a true gangsta when it came to her pickles!
And naturally it wasn't just her - this story is true for most grannies in India. So no matter what you do, never bring up the topic of the "best pickle recipe" with Indians. Because each one of us, strongly, truly and whole heartedly believes that ours is the best, and the only one worth enjoying. But in the case of Cheeky Food Co, our Messy Mango is actually the best though right?
Both Indian chutneys and pickles form an essential part of traditional Indian food.