It’s the simplest thing in the world. Tomatoes – lots of them - pressure-cookered to oblivion with tuar dal. Then mish-mashed, watered to the desired level of slurp-soupi-ness, seasoned with salt, rasam powder, lashings of curry leaves and simmered for a few gentle minutes. And finally tempered with a tadka of oil (some favour ghee), mustard seeds, red chillies and hing. Served with steamed rice, ghee and a pile of poppadum. Or then, sipped by itself with a dollop of white butter.
My best friend was pregnant; a precious event that came after 9 years of marriage, many wrong turns and much heart break. But, as with most pregnancies, the bouts of morning sickness made the first few weeks hard, especially so because she continued to go to work. We experimented with all kinds of food, of various degrees of blandness and don’t-make-waves-ness. But nothing worked and almost nothing stayed down. Some days, the very thought of food made her nauseous…
Then, it came upon me. Tomato rasam. I remembered my mother would whip it up for all kinds of ills from fever and cold to irate digestion.So I thought - why not? After all, we had nothing to lose but some more vomit.
Soon, a tomato rasam was bubbling gently on one stove, while the other had rice cooking on it. I opted for the version without the tuar dal because dals are considered a tad difficult to digest. I spooned some hot rice onto a plate, anointed it with circles of ghee and squished it up a bit. Then I flooded the plate with tomato rasam; a steaming, delicate, pinkly red, slyly spicy sea in which the assorted flotsam of curry leaves, bits of cooked tomato, mustard seeds and tiny sequins of oil. I squished the rice a little more into the rasam.
And then I fed her.
The first mouthful was tense…but promising. She loved the taste. And it stayed down. After a few minutes, we tried a second – that stayed down too. Then another and another. Until the plate was empty. We waited, in case the tomato rasam had a delayed up-chuck mechanism. It didn’t. We clutched each other happily and I thought – maybe the tiny foetus-prawn got a taste of the rasam too.
And so, till the morning sickness ebbed, tomato rasam became our doughty antidote. And ever afterwards, after that tiny foetus-prawn was born as a beautiful boy and many, many, many afterwards after that, I’d make tomato rasam and we’d both slurp a cup and raise a toast to….
well, I think that we toasted to possible-ness.