The Bullying. Stratford Landing Elementary School, Grade 2. In a suburb of Washington DC.
Ami used to make me sandwiches for lunch so I wouldn’t have to eat the horrid spaghetti in bolognese sauce from the school cafeteria. This “Italian” dish was usually made with meat which looked more like cat food, straight out of a tin. All the other children used to bring soft sandwiches smeared with peanut butter and grape jelly, and even though I pleaded for those sarnies, Ami said no. It wasn’t good for you- all that sugar and carbs.
So I’d come to school, carrying my red tupperware lunchbox with Ami’s Pakistani-styled sarnies. Some days there was a pulled-chicken toasted sandwich, layered with tomatoes and cucumbers, made from last night’s leftover murghi ka saalan; curry and other days Ami would make me kebabs and tuck them into pita bread. In all my sandwiches there would be a smothering of fresh mint and coriander chutney. There you had it- carbs, protein, and spicy tartness all wrapped into one.
Except the kids, egged on by the popular red-head in our class, used to sit miles away from me in the cafeteria, making faces at my food, and asking me, Is that green stuff shit your mom makes? or Are you eating mould? or Stay away, we might catch the foreign mould, they’d say. I was one of the only foreigners in the school. I didn’t have a heavy American accent, I didn’t celebrate Christmas and I didn’t go to the community pool during the summer. My family and I would travel to new countries for a portion of the summer and then spend the rest of it at home in Lahore or with our family in London.
Yes, I was different, I was weird. I didn’t eat peanut butter and jelly sarnies for lunch.
Saddened by the ridiculing, some days I’d eat in the library, behind the bookshelves, so as not to suffer the wrath of the kids. After all, I was eating foreign food. Plus, I spoke with an accent. Apparently, if one didn’t speak in an American accent, one had an accent. That one, I could never get my head around.
I still remember those years from Elementary School, and I know that if I had to do it all over again, go back in time, I would still ask my Ami to make those scrumptious chutney and kebab sarnies for me. And I would ask her to give me some extra chutney on the side.
I have no regrets about the Pakistani girl my parents brought me up as- eating kebabs, spending summers with cousins in Lahore, trying to knock down that raw mango from the tree to eat with lime and salt and chili pepper, learning Urdu calligraphy on Sundays when all I really wanted to do was read my Grimms Brothers Fairy Tales- and I thank both my Ami and Baba for that.
Ami’s chutney was a green one, but this is a chutney my paternal grandmother, Mader used to make, which I loved and is summer appropriate. Ami’s chutney recipe shall be “forthcoming, Fall 2011”.
This keeps for 2-3 weeks in the fridge
The texture is dense, but liquid-like.
*4 large red capsicum / bell peppers
*4 garlic cloves (if you are using large cloves, use 2)
*4 tbsp (approximately 60 ml) white vinegar or you can use apple cider vinegar, too
*3 tbsp sugar (approximately 40g)
*2 small fresh, hot red chillies
*salt to taste
*De-seed and chop capsicum into small cubes (these are going into the blender so the size does not matter).
*Chop garlic into small pieces (this is also going into the blender so the size does not matter).
*Transfer capsicum, garlic, vinegar and sugar into the blender.
*Add one chilli by chopping it with kitchen shears directly into the blender. Test for level of heat. If you are ok with it, add second chilli.
*Add salt to taste.
*Pulse in the blender till everything is minced, you want it to look slightly chunky, you dont want it to be completely smooth.
*Serve with kebabs, rice, smear on bread for a sarnie, or enjoy atop your favourite cheese and crackers.