Creativity in the pre-search engine era
The era before the arrival of the Internet and the omniscient search engine left plenty of room for human imagination, speculation, reflection and introspection.
Whenever someone uses Conchiglie pasta in our extended family, we are always reminded of this truth.
My mom always likes to look for unusual things that she can use in innovative ways. It turns out that when she was walking down Brigade Road in Namma Bengaluru six decades ago, she entered the Nilgiris. There she came across a small section of pasta. The shell-shaped Conchiglie Pasta fascinated her. She wasn’t sure what it was or how it could be used. Store help, other customers and even the store manager were unaware of its use. However, everyone assured him that it was “vegetarian” and edible.
The dull pastel cream color, perfectly chiseled edges and unique conch-like shape kept her spellbound. She wanted to feel it with her fingers. However, it was packed. She fiddled with the shells, turning the package over and over again. Did she know anything? Not a thing! Did she need it? Not really! The price tag discouraged her. She walked around the store again, mentally debating whether to buy her new fascination. Nothing else in the store seemed to please him anymore. She is back to square one. One more look at the elusive but enchanting object revealed a desire so powerful that she brought it to the counter and had it charged before changing her mind.
The precious object was brought home with aplomb. The pasta was poured into a wide bowl and she flipped it over and over. It was stored in a transparent airtight container and took pride of place in the kitchen. The new arrival in her pantry has become a topic of conversation. However, no one, at least around him, had the slightest idea of them.
She was picking a conch and working on it methodically. One was fried, another was sautéed, another was boiled, one was pressure cooked, and one was gently held over the fire and roasted like a papad. Nothing seemed satisfactory, so the jar resumed its haloed space for about a month.
That year, the conch shells were arranged as the outlines of her colorful Rangolis at a festival. After they had earned him the accolades he was due, they were carefully selected and returned to the jar.
One day she made the traditional savory version of Kozhakattai. Some of the toppings were leftovers. She glanced conspiratorially at her Conchiglie Pasta, a conch was thrown into boiling water with salt added and stuffed with the filling. She stuffed it into her mouth. It was just good. She quickly boiled some more water – you get the drift. Then season them together. And There you go! his signature dish and pride of our family was born!
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