Latest Spurts: Spinach and skimpy clothes

January 27, 2017

By Ekta R. Garg

Enjoy these Spurts from the last two weeks, readers!

Friday night in our house is movie night. The girls get to pick the movie and we watch while we eat dinner, which could be anything from leftovers to takeout. The only stipulation about the Friday night movie is that it has to be a Hindi movie. In the interest of keeping the kids connected to their cultural roots, we like to encourage regular viewing of Bollywood films so that they stay in touch with the language.

And, really, there’s only so many times the adults can watch Kung Fu Panda before wanting to perform some sort of martial arts on the DVR to permanently disable it.

Last week Eight chose Dhoom 2 as our movie for the evening. We’ve watched this flick a thousand times before but still enjoy the heist-driven film starring Hrithik Roshan as the thief and Abhishek Bachchan and Uday Chopra as the cops chasing him. If you’ve never seen it, I highly recommend the movie just to see all the fun Hrithik has in stealing stuff.

Bollywood rarely offers a movie without some sort of music, however, and in Dhoom 2 there’s a short interlude from the main story of a subplot where Abhishek Bachchan goes to a college reunion with an old friend. The reunion, of course, is the scene for a dance number in which most of the girls are wearing skimpy clothes.

We’re raising our girls with a modicum of modesty, so when they see actresses in minimalistic outfits both Ten and Eight cluck their tongues in disapproval. We also joke around about the choice of the wardrobe departments of movies. Our favorite joke is that the actresses couldn’t afford regular clothes and had to go shopping in the kids’ department.

As we watched Dhoom 2, Eight and I were commenting on the college reunion song “Touch Me.”

“The clothes ripped because they were wearing what they used to wear when they were kids, and some of the girls got taller,” I said to Eight.

“And wider,” Eight quipped with an impish grin.

*****

A few nights ago I served an Indian dish that consists of chick peas in a tomato-based gravy. Conversation around the table flitted from one topic to another. No one was really paying much attention to the food.

Out of the blue Eight held up her spoon to her eye level and examined it.

“Garbanzo beans are so cute!” she said.

Um, okay. Sure. Cute. That’s exactly why I cook them.

*****

On another night I served palak paneer, which is a dish comprised of shredded spinach (palak) and homemade cheese (paneer.) Eight loves paneer, as do I. Homemade cheese usually ends up softer and creamier in texture than store-bought cheeses.

She wasn’t as big of a fan of the palak, however. As my husband told her to eat what was in her plate, she made a face at her dinner and then at me. I asked her to show me how much she had left.

“Take three more bites, and then you can be done,” I said.

She scowled her way through three more bites then scampered off to bedtime. I started doing the dishes and remembered an incident from my own childhood. I couldn’t have been more than five, I think, when my mother made palak. There was no paneer in it to break up the slightly bitter ring that spinach brings to every dish, and I hated every bite.

I managed to make my way through some of it, and then I started to cry. Because food is held in such high esteem in Indian households, there usually isn’t much room for argument if an Indian kid doesn’t like what’s on his/her plate. You eat it, and that’s about the only option you have.

After trying to swallow several bites of the palak, however, I came to a decision. I went to my mother and told her through my tears that if she let me leave the rest of my palak on the plate, I promised I would finish my dinner for the rest of my life. I don’t have a clear recollection of Mom’s reaction, but I have a distinct impression of a softening in her body language.

I’d won her over, and for the most part I kept my promise as a kid.

As I cleaned up after dinner last week, I thought about that promise and the fact that my children both have fairly wide palates. They’ve tried and eaten foods in their short lifetimes that, when I was young, I didn’t even know existed. They ask for those foods over and over again. So, really, if once in a while we come across something the girls don’t like—Eight doesn’t mind cooked tomatoes but won’t eat them raw; Ten doesn’t like nuts of any kind in her food, including in desserts and pastries—really, if my kids make the occasional request to skip something, would it be so bad?

I didn’t think so either.

*****

Earlier this week my husband was on call. During dinner his pager buzzed at his hip and he went to the phone. After a few minutes he advised the nurse to give the patient in question some Pepcid.

“I didn’t know you were on GI call,” I joked with him, referring to gastroenterology. “I thought you just did cardiology stuff.”

“Does GI stand for Good Institute?” Ten asked in a goofy voice.

“No,” my husband and I replied.

“Yes, it does,” she said. “I’m so smart.”

“Ish,” Eight said. “You’re smart’ish.”

“Hey, it was a smart guess.”

“No, it wasn’t.”

“Yeah, it totally wasn’t,” Ten agreed with a grin, giving up the joke.

Glad we got that all straightened out.

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