The monuments had no allure for me at the time. Instead, I marveled at being allowed to yell in my great grandfather’s ear without reprimand because he was hard of hearing. That had never happened before! I chased fluffy chicks in my grandmother’s backyard and monitored tiny lizards (which I later referred to as dinosaurs) as they zipped across the wall.
Fortunately, our family visited the Taj and other historical treasures on subsequent trips. In Rajasthan, we peered through intricate marble screens that separate rooms at Amber Palace and dined at the Maharaja of Jaipur’s former hunting lodge. We trekked to the Ajanta Caves in Maharashtra to see ancient Buddhist paintings and explored the grounds of Padmanabhaswamy temple in Thiruvananthapuram.
I was better able to appreciate the history and architectural splendor of India once I hit double digits. And yet, what really appealed to me was the chaos that helps to define my parent’s homeland. Traffic stopped without warning because of the behavior of a wayward cow. Hulking lories weaved around chattering school children and overloaded scooters. The electricity came and went, slowing our movement and spotlighting the beauty of candlelight.
It’s common to wake up to the sound of crowing roosters in Kerala. By early morning, you’ll find them scritch-scratching in the yard with an entourage of chickens. Their eggs, which are as fresh as can be, are often used for Egg Roast. The full-flavored dish pairs well with savory pancakes (appam) or a serving of plain rice.
2 cups finely sliced onions
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
½ teaspoon cayenne
1/8 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 cardamom pods
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
3 tablespoons canola oil
1/8 teaspoon black or brown mustard seeds
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 cup diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon salt
10 to 15 fresh curry leaves
Place the eggs in a saucepan in a single layer. Cover with cold water. Bring the water to a boil over high heat. Remove the saucepan from heat. Cover with a lid and let the eggs sit in the water for 15 minutes.
Peel and score the eggs lengthwise at half-inch intervals.
Heat the oil in a medium-sized skillet over medium heat. Add the mustard seeds. When they begin to pop, add the onions, ginger, and garlic. Lower the heat to medium-low and and cook until the onions are caramelized, about 20 minutes.
Blend the coriander seeds, cayenne, turmeric, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom pods, and fennel seeds in a coffee grinder (used only for spices) or spice grinder. In a small bowl, stir the spices with 1 tablespoon of water to form a paste.
Stir the spice paste into the onions and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook until they soften completely, stirring frequently.
Add the salt and curry leaves and stir. Add the eggs and the remaining 1 tablespoon of water. Gently layer the eggs with the spiced onions and cook on low heat for five minutes.