The culinary delights of summer

Summer is my worst season. I really hate the heat. Indian summers, especially can be punishing. Right from Sankranthi in January when the cold starts reducing to Mahashivarathri when the cold is long gone and the heat really begins to settle in to Holi when the summer has fully and surely begun, Indian summers are not for the weak-hearted.

Many times, when I am outdoors, I decide that I am going to move to a hill-station. Sometimes, I zero in on Darjeeling (the tea would be a bonus!). At other times, I think Kodaikanal or Coonoor would be a better bet (I would get my fix of Idlis too!). But somehow, the whole move seems to big, too 'undoable'.

There are some good things about the summer as well. Swimming, for instance. Swimming has this ethereal property of making you cool enough to face every rigor of the heat. Until, mid April at least. That's when the children finish their exams and flood the pools in hordes. Thousands of them. Of all shapes and sizes. And they bring with them into the pools the dirt, the grime and other unprintable mess. Before this, you can see the other end of the pool from one end. After this, you are barely able to see your own hand inside the water!

Until mid June. Then the schools start again. The children go back to class leaving the pools to us. Slowly the water clears up.

For me the best part about summer is the food.

I love watermelons. But eating a cold slice of watermelon when it is 45 degrees celsius outside is something else. I still remember eating slice after slice of this delicious fruit many years back with a bunch of cousins in the peak of summer at Kalambole, a place close to Mumbai!

Summer also brings with it the king of fruits - the mango!

Breathes there an Indian with soul so dead who ne'er to himself hath said - heck, I love mangoes?

(Apologies to Sir Walter Scott!)

Mangoes take meals to an entirely new level. Lunches at our house are transformed. It first starts with the katki keri - diced raw mango topped with a little salt and red chilli powder. This adds a delicious, tangy flavor to the lunch! Once the bowl of aam ras makes it appearance, there is no question of a lunch without it until the entire season is over! It can be that addictive!

Kachhi households take this to another level. They relish the much-maligned karela 'like anything' along with the mango. The bitter gourd takes on myriad shapes, sizes and flavors in the quest for adding flavor to the meal - karela chips, bharela karela, karela pakodas and what-have-you!

The Ugadi Pachadi is another summer attraction! This delightful concoction of five different primary ingredients representing the five chief flavors is a mirror to what life eventually is -  a mix of different flavors! It is truly amazing how our ancestors thought!

So, as we get into another hot and torturous summer, let us savor the culinary delights summer brings with it. Hopefully our tongues will make the skin's job a tad easier!