I had followed my grandmother’s fried chicken recipe to the “T,” and using my tongs, pulled each bubbling chicken tender from the oil-filled skillet, one by one, placed them lovingly on a paper towel. As the crispy crusts cooled on the chicken, I used my brand new hand mixer to mush up boiled potatoes, milk and butter into a perfect paste of mashed potatoes. I heaped the glob into a serving bowl that matched our everyday dinner wear, another shower gift we had just opened. Peeking around the corner into the tiny living room of our apartment and I called excitedly,
“Dinner will be ready soon, honey.”
My handsome new husband sat on the sofa watching a soccer game, looked up at me and nodded.
A tingle flowed through my pink cheek, and I was confident that he would absolutely love our first home cooked meal together as husband and wife. We were finally alone. No mother-in-law, no friends, just us. Under the glow of candle lit tapers, I arranged the mound of mashed potatoes, topped with a pat of butter, the fried chicken tenders, and boiled, fresh green beans in the middle of the table. Oh, how those yummy smells took me back to Sunday dinners after church and to sweltering picnics at the lake, where I was surrounded by family, who dug in simultaneously, good-naturedly calling the biggest piece of chicken, and nudging each other out of the way.
We sat at the perfectly arranged stoneware place settings, which had been the first items I had chosen after he slipped the ring on my finger months before, and I gazed into his almond shaped eyes. His mocha skin glowed soft and warm in the light.
“Dig in.” My cheeks began to hurt from the huge smile on my face.
My new husband looked at me with those almond shaped eyes quizzically and asked,
“What are we eating?”
I explained that this was my favorite home cooked food, authentic southern fare, and I had been dying to share it with him. He dutifully served himself a dollop of potatoes, a small piece of chicken, and a few stringy looking green beans. I watched his mouth, happily, leaning in to him as he placed the first bite of potatoes in his mouth. No reaction. Then a bite of chicken. Nothing. His fork rearranged the green beans on his plate and then he lay it on the edge of the plate. He smiled lovingly at me, took my fair hand in his large brown one, and squeezed. He then stood up, opened the refrigerator and pulled out a large glass jar of his mother’s Indian mango pickles and a Tupperware container of his mother’s homemade, crunchy, cracker-like papadums. Avoiding looking at my wide-eyes and dropped jaw, he set them gently in the middle of the table, edging my serving bowls aside.
After heaping a large serving spoonful of hot, spicy mangoes onto his potatoes and chicken, he mixed them all together into an oily red-streaked amalgam of unrecognizable origin . Sliding the first forkful of the concoction into his mouth and following it with the crunch of a piece of the papadum, he once again squeezed my hand and finally said,
“Honey, dinner is delicious.”
If you are interested in trying mango pickles, nothing beats the kind made by Mom. But if you don’t have and Indian mom who you can claim as your own, you can find them for sale by the jar in the International aisle of many mainstream grocery stores. They can also be found in Indian grocery stores and online at Amazon.com.
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Whether you are in an intercultural marriage or not, there are always growing pains in the first few months, and years, of marriage.
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