I stand in the ‘Oils’ section in a mall, trying to choose an olive oil that would be best for the kind of food we cook at home. I have a blissful smile on my lips when I realise that I have been deliberating between the four different types of olive oil – blackish, dark green, light green and transparent – offered by a particular brand, just the way Frances Mayes does in Under The Tuscan Sun.
I run my hands through the smooth contours of a big purple brinjal, ensuring that there are no worms. I am already dreaming of the baingan bharta I will devour with hot phulkas and curd.
I roll lemons on my palm to find the ones that are the most juicy and thin-skinned. The smell of fresh lemons sends me into spasms of deliriousness.
I choose the tenderest of French beans and ladies fingers, so that I can make OH his favourite araithuvitta sambar and curry. On a whim, I add a bunch of fresh, fresh, fresh mint to my trolley so that I can make some chutney, too.
The OH puts a bunch of payathangai into the trolley, with a puppy-dog look on his face. I grin, promising to make his favourite payathangai curry in a couple of days’ time.
I pick up four different bunches of coriander before I find the one whose smell is the best and satisfies me completely. It goes into my cart, too.
There are juicy red country tomatoes available for sale, and I pick up a kilo of them to make thokku, though I had no such plan initially.
The OH runs up to me with two corns-on-the-cob, asking me to choose one. I find a couple that hold the promise of freshness and goodness. I will boil them today as soon as I reach home, I think, and we’ll eat them hot, with wedges of lemons and chaat masala.
So, we make up our menus for lunches and dinners for the week ahead, based on what is fresh in the supermarket and what is not. This is how we city dwellers make up for not being able to pick up fresh produce from markets every single day, a la Mayes. This is how we attain urban nirvana out of as mundane a chore as vegetable shopping, in the midst of bustling aisles under the harsh lights of huge malls.