Table of Contents
This is a story about Ruskin Bond’s grandmother and her fabulous kitchen. She was a wonderful cook and would make many amazing dishes. The author tells us about some of them and the stories and memories associated with them.
Rusty– the narrator
Granny– Rusty’s grandmother, named May
Mohan– the gardener’s son
Uncle Ken– Rusty’s uncle and Granny’s nephew who was unemployed
Emily– Uncle Ken’s sister who was the headmaster of a school in Lucknow
Miss Leslie– a woman who ran a beauty parlour in Dehra’s shopping centre
Rusty and Mohan
Whenever Granny made fudge, she gave Rusty some to take to Mohan, the gardener’s son. Mohan did not eat meat, but he liked sweets – both Indian ones and Granny’s homemade English sweets. They would climb the jack-fruit tree and eat fudge or sticky toffee. Squirrels and fruit bats and a pair of green parrots lived on the tree. The squirrels became fond of Granny’s chocolate fudge too.
Mohan and Rusty could climb almost any tree in the garden, and if Granny was looking for them, she’d call from all sides of the house. There were trees on all sides, and it was impossible to tell which one they were in, until they answered her call. Sometimes Crazy the dog would reveal their location by barking under their tree.
Granny’s Amazing Pickles
When there was fruit to be picked, Mohan did the picking. He also helped Granny with the pickling. She was very famous for her pickles. She could pickle almost anything. Uncle Ken didn’t care for pickles, so Rusty was always urging Granny to make more of them. He himself liked sweet chutneys and sauces, but ate pickles too, even the very hot ones.
One winter, when Granny was running low on money, Mohan and Rusty went from house to house selling her pickles. Granny wasn’t rich. The house had come to her from Grandfather, but there wasn’t much money in the bank. The mango crop brought in some money every year, and there was a small pension from the Railways, but there was no other income. Granny’s wonderful meals consisted of only one course, followed by a sweet dish. But her amazing cooking turned a modest meal into a feast.
Selling pickles was great fun. Major Clarke, across the road, was Mohan and Rusty’s first customer. He complimented Granny’s cooking skills a lot, and bought three bottles of stuffed red chillies. They went to Miss Kellner’s house next. She couldn’t eat hot food, but she bought a bottle of preserved ginger and gave Rusty a little prayer-book.
Dr Dutt, who was in charge of the hospital, bought several bottles of lime pickle, and Mr Hari, who owned a garage and sold all the latest cars, bought two bottles of pickled onions. By the time they got home, the basket would usually be empty, and Granny would have earned twenty or thirty rupees – enough to buy a turkey for Christmas in those days.
Unemployed Uncle Ken
Uncle Ken stayed for Christmas and ate most of the turkey. Granny told him to find a job but he complained that there were no jobs in Dehra. Granny told him to go to his sister Emily in Lucknow. Emily was the headmaster of a school there and had offered to put Ken in charge of the dormitory. But Uncle Ken said he did not want to look after crazy little boys. Rusty commented that Uncle Ken was crazy too, and they had a crazy dog as well. Uncle Ken clipped him over the ear, and Granny told him not to be disrespectful, because Ken was just lazy.
Rusty lied that he had heard Miss Leslie say that Ken was eccentric too. He knew Uncle Ken was fond of her and wanted to tease him. Miss Leslie ran a beauty parlour in Dehra’s smart shopping centre. Uncle Ken asked Rusty when he had seen her. He answered that they had sold her some mint chutney the previous week. He had told her that Ken liked mint chutney. But she had said she’d bought it for Mr Houghton who was taking her to the movies the next day.
Even though Granny wasn’t rich, her great cooking skills made every little meal feel like a feast. Her cooking was appreciated by everyone, and is a fond memory for the narrator. Granny also always shared her food with other people. This story shows us how food can create beautiful bonds and memories.