When we went on holidays, my grandmother would cure goat meat for us to take back to Singapore. A young goat would be led into the backyard by the local butcher. Fat free pieces of meat would be cubed and cleaned with amazing precision and marinated in turmeric and rock sea salt. The meat cubes would be strung on twine and dried in clothes line fashion, outside in the daytime and inside during the night. Someone, with a fan in hand, would be posted close by, it to shoo the pesky crows away.
Eventually, after a reasonable time in the blazing sun, the strands sporting the dried cubes of meat, would be tied across the store-room, behind the kitchen and left to dry out completely. Later, the dried meat, the famous Attu kari Uppukandam, would be stripped off the string and packed into airtight biscuit tins, for us to take home to Singapore.
This happened every visit . She never paid attention, when my Dad protested.
Amma, we have the best lamb in Singapore.
Australian lamb, Amma
Is that right? she would reply, not looking up from what she was doing.
Is that so?
Uh Huh, Really ? she would say, humouring my dad , while she continued to do whatever she was doing .
The best of Australian lamb, did not impress my Annamal Patti . I doubt if she even knew where Australia was on the map.
We always took the cured meat back with us, respecting the love that went into the whole act. Her need to give it to us, was far more than our need to accept it.
In all fairness, I have never tasted anything as divine as dried goat meat grilled on an open charcoal fire, under a starry Singapore sky. The aroma and the taste like no other , came back to haunt me when I was expecting my kids and had bouts of pica. I used to spend sleepless nights fantasizing about the unforgetable flavours of my childhood I associated with a sweet lady who loved me so blindly .
Sam, who had never heard of Attu Kari Uppukandam in all his life in Hyderabad, was at a completely loss. He used to look at me with a strange look , convinced, that I was losing it.