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Bloody Mary, Shillong style

Kishore Singh | August 04, 2005

For months, we will not hear from my uncle and aunt in Shillong, and then they will make up for the lapse with a spate of calls, sometimes in the space of only a few hours. Such as recently when, "Hi," chirped my aunt, "it's raining here."

"It's raining here too," I said, "but surely you haven't called to discuss the weather at five in the evening."

image At this, my aunt had the grace to titter apologetically, "I know it's working time for you guys in the plains, but things haven't been so good in Shillong these last months, so our parties tend to start a little earlier than usual."

"Such as?" I asked.

"Such as now," she said.

"Now," I exclaimed, "surely you mean tea parties at this time of afternoon!"

"Er, no," said my aunt; "what with the trouble and all, we've started holding our dinner parties around this time."

Having mulled this over for a while, I asked, "So why have you called me?"

"How silly of me," said my aunt, "but the guys at the bar want to know what to do with the bottle of Martini Rossi your cousin has got us from Canada?"

"You might try drinking it," I suggested.

"Precisely," confirmed my aunt, "But how?"

Having hung up after explaining how it's served, I had barely got back to work, when she called back: "Hey, it tastes good," she said.

"I know," I said. "though I find it offensive that you're drinking alcohol at tea time."

"Offensive-shoffensive," she slurred, "here, your uncle wants to talk to you."

"Hey," said my uncle by way of greeting, "how do you make a Bloody Mary?"

"Nice talking to you too," I retorted coldly.

"Yes, well, I've got guests," he said, "so get on with the recipe."

I got on with the recipe. "But I don't have tomato juice at home," he said. "Can't I make it with..." his voice petered off… "pineapple juice or orange juice instead?"

The phone was ringing off the hook again 15 minutes later.

This time it was their friend. "Listen bozo," he said, "the ladies want a drink, so what can you make them?"

"A cup of coffee," I suggested, "I'm dying for one."

"Get this smartpants," he said, "we've got pineapple juice and orange juice, now what cocktail can you make with that?"

Turns out, besides the bottle of Martini Rossi, and some whisky, there had nothing else to boast off in their bar. "Swig the scotch," I told him, "and gulp some juice. And now, if you'll excuse me, I must get back to work."

But a half-hour later my aunt was on the phone once more.

"C'mon yaar," she said in an un-aunt like manner, "tell us how to make a Bloody Mary willya! I've got some" -- hic! -- "tomatoes."

So, because I had get on with the task at hand, and because in their state of inebriation they probably wouldn't know any better, I dedicated the Shillong version of the Bloody Mary to my relatives and the friends.

"Chop the tomatoes and add to the orange juice," I suggested. "Add any other fruit, lemon juice, pepper, chilli powder, Worcestershire sauce and whisky."

"And rim the glass with salt?" my aunt asked anxiously.

"Yes, sure," I agreed, "cheers, and bye for now."

Another half-hour later, my aunt's sophisticated friend was on the phone. "It was an odd kind of colour at first," she explained, "but we added lots of tomato sauce to it, so it looked kind of red. And gotta hand it to you kid, it kind of tasted nice too. But, hey, tell us how to make Irish Coffee. We have lots of coffee, but we're out of whisky...."

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