I have had one of those blissfully ignorant childhoods where I thought tomatoes and potatoes are just vegetables.
And then I got married. And suddenly tomatoes and potatoes were way more than ‘just vegetables’.
So when you are just married and in a joint family, you try to do all those tried and tested things to get into the good books of everyone in the family. Imagining me as one of those sari clad Hindi soap opera heroines will only be a slight exaggeration I would say, because I may have checked everything in the to-do list of a good daughter in law.
As part of the exercise, I decided to be proactive.
Wrong decision. It is only later than I realised that proactive was ‘the ultimate’ word only in a corporate. On the domestic front you NEVER (well, almost never) do anything until asked to.
A few days into wedding when my entry into most territories at home was restricted (because I was under probation so I was expected to just observe everything and then get into the role gradually) I decided to please my MIL by buying veggies home.
It was May in India. Damn hot. I will save her the trouble of going out in the heat and buying stuff, I thought.
I just bought a little bit of everything from an air conditioned super market.
Came home and kept them in the sink to be sorted, washed and stored. (C’mon in a few days I at least realised that buying veggies and dumping them straight into the fridge was a big NO NO)!
She sees the veggies and does not show even a slight change in expression.
Picks up every single tomato and inspects. She then studies every stem and leaf of the bunch of spinach that I got.
Lets out a deep sigh and says: ‘These are no good. You have done this once but I expect you to do it NEVER again. We will finish them since YOU have gotten them.’
I hate disappointing people. I mean not that I am a people pleaser but when I do something to please them, I expect them to be pleased and not disappointed..
I summed up the courage to look at her – not quite into her eyes but all over her face, trying to fix my gaze at something – the mixer behind her, her earrings .. something!
‘Amma, what’s wrong with these??’
What ensued was a long lecture about :
- The different varieties of veggies and how they need to be handpicked.
- How vegetables are made to ‘look’ good in these supermarkets but rot as soon as they are brought home.
- How the vendors and shop owners cheat us of our health for petty money.
- Waxed apples, artificially ripened mangoes and grapes, endosuphane coated curry leaves etc.
- How there is that one vendor which promises to sell only home grown veggies and how only she can find him!’
Attention all the supermarket owners, the AC and the convenience doesn’t seem to appeal my MIL, so time to rethink your USP guys or you’ll lose out on one valuable customer!
She then drops the veggies in the sink looks at me in the eye feeling deceived and says: ‘What good is all the money you earn if you cant have a meal worth your tummy? You earn primarily so that you can fill your stomach with quality food, good food good health…’
So I got a agriculture-horticulture-dietician crash course in about 20 minutes.
Too much to handle. I phase out.
I had to listen to the disappointed groans every single time the food was served. I was like the outlet for any food made bad – ‘the sambar tastes awful – blame it on the tomatoes.’
Quality surpasses anything and of course MIL does better quality check than the food co-operation!
Now that I have a son and am training to be ‘The MIL’ someday, I am gradually acquiring the talent.
Handpicking the best quality veggies (and looking down upon your naïve daughter in law) seems to be the ultimate quality of ‘The MIL’
Am getting there, slowly but steadily!
Meanwhile I’ll just go to an ‘organic store’ and get everything from there.
There you go; take home lesson :
- Always let your MIL do grocery shopping.
- Healthy family happy family.
- Money that can’t buy quality food is no more than paper.