Food and Memories #BlogchatterFoodFest

Food carries memories. Nostalgia. It brings back those mornings when Baba would cut veggies for Maggi that I would be preparing. Mama would do other chores at a relaxed pace till lunch time. And Cherry, my sister would grudgingly wake up at the wafting smell of Maggi masala. Baba swore by his veggies, and so did I, much to the disbelief and horror of my mother and sister. Capsicum, carrot, beans, potato, cauliflower, cabbage, onion, tomato, beet, green peas, even parwal went into our Maggi. It is delish, just try. Even mustard oil gives that Indian kick to Maggi. Years later when I prepare the same for me and my husband, it’s no news that he complains of too many veggies.

It brings back those evenings when Mama prepared jackfruit cutlets to be had as snack with puffed rice. Power cuts and summer heat and breezy terraces. Chai cups and bowls of puffed rice with cutlets on top. Mama’s prepared cold coffee, custard, and Baba’s bel sherbet.

It brings back those days when we sisters experiment – making momos, baking cookies, steaming dhoklas, boiling milk for coffee, and frying Korean potato pancakes. It was fun. I miss those days. Never did we consciously think that meeting would now be once or twice a year.

We become finicky as adults - want our sandwiches to be prepared just that right way, no innovations allowed. We can’t have chai without ginger or black pepper. Elaichi is a strict no-no. Spinach should be prepared with dry red chilies, panch phoran, ginger, tomatoes, potatoes, and a little more water. Drumstick leaves with cooked moong dal. Pakhala needs to be paired with a mishmash of boiled potatoes, roasted tomatoes, brinjal, ladies finger, and raw onion, garlic, green chili, and mustard oil. Fish needs mustard-based gravy. Ridge gourd with potatoes and cashew onion paste. It is just a way of keeping the comfort of the past alive. Memories are comforting. This food grounds us., shifts the focus from the busy world into our own shelves.

Again, after marriage, the cuisine changes. In-laws like mushroom in a certain way and I do like in a certain way. Habisa dalma in the month of Kartika. Assimilating new food in life, appreciating new dishes, learning new recipes, catering to choices of new people in her life, a daughter feels overwhelmed as a daughter-in-law. Catering to one’s own choices slowly takes a back seat. But she ensures, once in a while she has her way, cooking just as she was fed as a child, and relishing the food, and the memory.

But with the humdrum of life and the busied pace of our days, we forget recipes, we forget what gave us so much comfort and solace. With the fast-paced lives food kind of takes a back seat. Take-aways, order-ins, dine-outs, cooks employed, we cook hurriedly, with a ticking clock in the background. We try Mexican, Korean, Japanese, Chinese, but at the end reach back to our roots, seek comfort in the known territory of spices, hot gravies and lip-smacking chats tangy chutneys. We ring up our mothers, now in a different city, to teach us that particular recipe, and we note it down, prepare it again and again till perfection, and miss the old days of yore. With each recipe learnt and tried, we try to recreate our childhood, drawing back our old shelves one dish at a time.

Bou kahuthile. A food series in Odia I had come to love. Much recommended. Storytelling is beyond words.



Queeristan by Parmesh Sahani

  Queeristan (Amazon Link) Thanks to Audible Free Trial I listened to this amazing non-fiction on LGBTQ inclusion in Indian workplaces. Author Parmesh Sahani identifies as gay Indian, working closely with Godrej higher management and employees for years to create an inclusive workplace, both legally and in spirit. This book is a result of those years of experience, research, collaboration with individuals from difference spectrum of the society and organizations who has successfully transitioned into a queer friendly one.   Indian history is inclusive. From the Khajuraho temple architectures, to Konark to the Rig Veda, there is existing proofs even 2000 years ago of Indian inclusiveness of queer. It’s the draconian British law that criminalised it, which was scraped in 2009, came into effect once again following a sad judgement in 2013 and eventually was scraped off for good in 2018. I am in awe of the lawyers who fought this legal battle- colleagues and partners – Arundhati Katju

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