"You shouldn't have, really!", protested mother as she eagerly accepted the huge box her brother-in-law had just handed her. Our uncle had come from abroad and we had all gathered to witness the annual gift-giving ritual. Preparations for this day would start weeks ahead. Friendships would be forged and bets traded on the mystery gifts that the relative from abroad would bear. And with the arrival of his bulging baggage, furious speculations would begin. Tiny hands would caress the sides of his luggage hoping for tell-tale clues. Elders would stand around and gape at the baggage wishing they had x-ray eyes. And the hours before the suitcases were due to be opened, excitement would reach fever pitch.
"This", said uncle pointing to mother's gift, "is a curd maker". He paused for effect before elaborating, "It makes curd". He said it with such flourish that some of us broke into spontaneous applause. The curd maker came packed in a shiny, brown box which had an image of a stunningly beautiful woman with even teeth and impossibly golden hair.
Mother opened the box delicately to reveal a smooth round container with several small glass jars inside. "You pour warm milk inside", explained uncle, "stir in a teaspoon of curd and leave it covered overnight. The next morning, you have pots of thick curd like you have never tasted before". The gathering was stunned in disbelief. "The things they invent abroad!", said grandmother. "I tell you, these foreigners are so clever!", said father. "Let's put it to test", suggested a neighbour.
So under our uncle's watchful eyes, we poured lukewarm milk into the little bottles. We fought over who would spoon in the curd until it was decided we would all have a go. With nervous hands, we carried out the task with extra diligence. Then, the all-important task of putting the lid on the container was entrusted to the guest-of-honour. Casting an appreciative eye over the crowd, he clicked it in place. "And now", he said, "there's nothing to do but wait".
The next day, at the crack of dawn, we gathered around the mystery contraption that had been at work while we slept. "Are you ready to taste heaven?", asked our uncle. Tantalising us where there was no need to. Several heads nodded in unison. And so, with the utmost care, he opened the case and brought out the jars. He shook one of them gently and the curd inside trembled. He scooped out a spoonful and held it aloft for all to see. And then with our eyes trailing it, he slid the spoon inside his mouth. He closed his eyes and savoured it. Several seconds passed before he opened his eyes and said "Perfect!".
We never used the curd maker again. Mother said it was too much trouble cleaning. Plus, what was wrong with the old way of making curd? It worked perfectly fine, she reasoned. But every year, whenever our uncle came visiting, she would bring the appliance down from the loft, dust it, clean it and display it prominently in the kitchen. "It makes such wonderful curd", she would lie to him.