The sky this morning was a steely gray. Outside the dining room picture window, I watched the trees in my in-laws’ yard whip around violently, signaling the arrival of an unseasonably early winter storm into our region. But, I was beginning to sweat. Safely inside the house, we all breathed in the hot, oily air wafting from the kitchen into every room, as we help my mother-in-law prepare to work.
Today was chevro making day.
Now, when I say my husband and I prepared to help her, I exaggerate. We moved chairs, we helped carry buckets. But she and my father-in-law were actually the ones working their magic with the production of the most popular Indian snack food in our household. Chevro, with its spicy and salty and crunchy deliciousness, is often a quick breakfast, a salty after-school snack, and a Friday night treat for our friends. It is a food fit for the gods.
Chevro is a cereal-like concoction, full of peanuts, four types of crunchy lentils, crispy flattened rice, fried curry leaves, all coated in a perfect combination of spicy and salty, with a hint of sweetness. My husband’s desire for chevro borders on addiction, and I have become hooked, too. But there was a time long ago, when I cringed when a new batch would show up on my kitchen counter, sometimes delivered by my in-laws when I was out running errands.
The way to my husband’s heart was certainly through his stomach. And I wanted that heart for myself. I rolled up my sleeves, and took on the challenge to win him over.
It was on!
Not an Indian cook, I worked hard to fuse foods I knew with comfort flavors he loved. Jalapenos in lasagna, masala on baked chicken, and Tabasco sauce on eggs. When his mom would cook and bring over her food, we both hovered around him, giving him our best sales pitch to win him over to our own presentation. Irritated and torn, he often mounded onto his plate gobs of biryani next to spaghetti, and chewed with discomfort, as we pushed more helpings on him.
But, alas, years flew by, more babies came, and I found myself exhausted and stressed, with little drive to win. My husband worked long hours, building his business, then came home to no rest, to help me with the kids. At one point, he and I had to band together, to conquer the mountain of work involved with raising four children under the age of five. At that time, we had three boys and one girl, who captured our hearts. And I reveled in the love I had for them. The love for a child is the closest feeling to God that I have experienced.
The dark circles under his eyes, and the exhausted look on his face, made me worry about him, and work harder to sustain him. Some nights, I had nothing more to feed him than swiftly prepared grilled cheese on a paper plate, before rushing baby twins and two preschoolers into bath and bed, before collapsing on the couch myself. That’s when I realized. It was no competition.
He needed his mom. And so did I.
As much as I enjoyed the comfort of eating my mom’s chicken and green beans, I know he enjoyed the flavors of his own childhood. The look of peace and relaxation when he chowed down on potatoes and rice, swimming in daal, made me rejoice. I loved that man, and I loved his mom for taking care of him, too.
Gradually, my taste buds began to crave the hotness of her cooking and I looked forward to her dinner deliveries. We’ve become spoiled by her. And I hope she loves it.
So, this morning, while she showed me how to combine the ingredients of the chevro, I paid closer attention than I ever have before. I know she won’t be around forever. And I want to learn how to keep her food in our lives.
I’ve rolled down my sleeves for good. No more competition between us.
But, you’d better believe, when the time comes, my daughter-in-laws won’t get off that easy!