I have been living outside India permanently since I was 21.My first posting was in a remote area in Sabah and the first thing I tried to make was some yogurt. The only “Indian” food I could think of. Rather, let me rephrase that, the only “Indian” food that I needed that would have made a somewhat  complete Malayalee meal. The Chinese shop sold Green grams and all I needed was some moru (yogurt curry) to take me right back to my grandmother’s home!
I couldn’t get fresh milk, only the UHT.
I couldn’t find any yogurt starter either.
Years ago, in the helpful hint section in vanitha magazine I had read that green chilli stem can act as a starter to make yogurt !! ( of all the absurd things..and I believed it !!!)
I warmed the milk to blood heat. added green chilli stems from the chillies I managed to get after waiting a  week for the tamu ( village market) to come to the place where I was staying.
Then I wrapped the bowl with milk and green chilli stems in my sweater to keep the temperature constant and kept it aside..I was tempted to check the progress, but I didn’t want to slow down the process.After eating Chinese food for breakfast, lunch and dinner, all I wanted was some kanji, payar and moru..
The next evening,with a pounding heart and salivating mouth I opened the yogurt bowl cover..there in the bowl was a foul smelling liquid that no way resembled yogurt.
For a 21 year old, that was really a hard lesson to accept that I can’t live outside India and still expect all things Indians..
Months later I managed to get some yogurt culture when I visited my cousins. And learned to make yogurt using milk powder!
But by then I learned to eat the same food..every single day..and being a vegetarian my choices were very much limited..

I learned to make avial with just potatoes, carrots and beans!! (  you will too, if those are the only vege you find at your grocer!!)
There are few Indian grocery shops in Brisbane area. I went to one such shop few weeks ago because I wanted to eat “real” kuthari kanji ( porridge). After all these years of living outside India, there are times I crave for something that would make me feel like a Malayalee and trust me basmati kanji  doesn’t look or taste like real kuthari kanji!
Last Friday it was very cold and I decided to make myself a bowl kanji .  I took a cup of rice in the bowl to wash. Only then did I notice the amount of weevils. There was equal amount of weevils to the rice in the pot.
And so did the packet of Atta ( flour moth) and curry powder!
I took the stuff back to the shop yesterday because I was just so mad.
And the first thing the shop owner asked me when I showed him the weevils in the rice
“How do I know you bought the rice from my shop?”
I showed him the bill!
He didn’t apologize, instead he looked at me with so much anger and disdain as though he was doing me a big favor by running a grocery shop and I must act as an Indian accept weevils and moths as the weevils and moths are very much part of Indian life.

The thing is, I have adapted so much..and still it isn’t enough.

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