I distinctly remember that birthday when Paati had made vermicelli paayasam. I felt so special, as you do on birthdays, and got really excited to have some of this dessert made in my honor. She served me some in a steel bowl and put the steel spoon inside. As she handed it to me, I picked up the spoon and dug into the milky noodle mixture anticipating all kinds of yummy-ness. I put the spoon into my mouth, removed it, closed my mouth to devour it all. In that moment, I learnt an important lesson about one particular spice- cardamom is not my friend.
I could feel my mouth fill up with the taste of that awful spice, engulfing all the sweetness from the milk and vermicelli. It was an invasion of the worst sort. Spitting it out and making a face didn’t make it stop. It felt like the pungent, bitter, yucky taste had lasted all day. Nothing I ate had made it go away.
Since that fateful birthday, I have been very careful about eating, making sure I comb through every morsel of savory and sweet to make sure another one of those don’t camouflage themselves and land on my taste buds. When I started cooking, I actively avoided using cardamoms in recipes that needed it.
But now, more than a decade later, I dare to use it (just one, even if it’s biriyani for five). It may not be my spice of choice, but I know now, after cooking for a couple of years, that even the cardamom has its role to play. We might have our differences, but I respect the flavor it brings when blended with other (nicer) spices. Time has softened my revulsion if not healed my wound from that one spoon of paayasam all those years ago.
Besides, this carrot halwa wouldn’t have been quite as yummy if not for that pungent green pod: