In Kashmiri, Vegetables, Vegetarian on May 8, 2013 at 5:36 pm
As we move to bigger urban centers, and into smaller and smaller lots and apartments, we are removed more and more from the food we eat, from the act of growing our own food. Much of what was once common in every home garden is gradually getting lost, at least to us city folk. My parents maintain a small garden patch in their urban lot and even in that tiny space my mom forages for amaranth. Yes, forage; they don’t grow it from seed, it just volunteers! When we were younger and had a large kitchen garden inside the IITD campus, kulfa (purslane) was another green found growing wild.
My father and his brothers are avid gardeners. Even in the constraints of their urban homes, you will find them pottering around. My uncle, in Pune, gardens out of huge planters on his rooftop growing runner beans, and Kashmiri favourites haak, sotchal (common mallow), and monjji (kohl rabi). I have been very lucky, despite an urban upbringing, to have grown up in a home with a garden, and knowing a little about how food makes it to the table. In my own typical city house I grow herbs in pots, I have a curry leaf tree and a lime tree, and grape vines that climb up the pergola on my first floor terrace.
Many wild greens used to be part of a regular Kashmiri diet – abuj, vopal haak, vasta haak, hund, to name just a few. Today, I would be hard pressed to even identify them.
Sotchal (common mallow), on the left, foreground. Photo credit: Kritika Walia
In This and That on May 2, 2013 at 8:18 pm
I am an unashamed television junkie. There is a lot I could do instead if I didn’t spend about 2 hours a day watching TV. My days are packed enough with work, including teaching and preparing for the lectures, that by about 7 o’clock all I am good for is sitting on the couch, staring at the TV and sipping tea. These days it is a couple of episodes of some cooking show or other, followed by the Australian series, Packed to the Rafters. Food Safari, hosted by Maeve O’Meara, is by far, my favourite food show. Fox Traveller is also the lone channel that my cable fella still airs in English, the rest (History, Discovery, and Nat Geo) are now available only in Hindi in my hood. Believe me, it is weird to hear Nigella speak in Hinglish. Still, some shows and documentaries are interesting enough that I don’t mind the language. Don’t get me wrong; I have nothing against any language, least of all a language I have grown up speaking. But, you will be hard pressed to follow this Hindi dubbing unless you know English very well! The dubbing, especially for the cooking shows, seems to retain all the verbs, adjectives, and most nouns, in English – there is little that is truly translated!
I do think, though, that the voice-over for Jamie (Jamie’s America, and Jamie’s 15-Minute Meals, on TLC) is rather good; that is how he would sound were he to speak Hindi! While surfing I have also caught many episodes of David Rocco’s Amalfie Getaway on Fox. This time around he was being marketed more for his good looks than for the cooking! Anyhow, I got an opportunity to meet the Italian-Canadian actor, producer, and host of popular food and travel shows, in person last month! ITC Maurya had organised a lunch meeting with him for Delhi food bloggers at their West View restaurant. The restaurant does enjoy expansive views of the Central Ridge and its green forest cover, a view seen by but a few! Unfortunately, currently it is open to service for dinner only.
In Maharashtrian, Traditions and Customs, Vegetarian on March 25, 2013 at 12:21 pm
Have you heard of Champa Shashthi? In my Maharashtrian side of the family it is associated with a ceremonial pooja the beginnings of which are somewhat obscure. This winter I was visiting friends who celebrate this day with special prayers. In their family, the day of the pooja marks the end of a period of abstaining from certain foods such as eggs and meat, and brinjals (eggplant). Minor ceremonies are observed on the two days preceding Shashthi as well.
The celebration of this festival in our family has an interesting story. This festival is not traditional to the Konkanasth Brahmin community to which my husband’s family belongs. A long time ago, and I mean a really long time ago, traveling was an activity associated with uncertainty, hardship, and unknown risks, undertaken only for essential business or pilgrimage. At such a time, a family embarking on one such pilgrimage handed over the Champa Shashthi Puja to their neighbour and friend in the village, V’s ancestor, like a precious thing for safekeeping. They never returned to claim it back, and that is how we have this untraditional ritual as our heritage. Our family continues to fulfill a promise made a very long time ago. I remember my mother-in-law asking me if she should perform the udyapan, a special puja to mark the end, but I assured her I wanted it to continue. How could I not want to be part of this beautiful legend, our very own legend!
We, my husband, son, and I, are hardly religious people but I do believe that without religion, you may end up distancing yourself from what is your culture. Food is very strongly tied to culture and religion. One day, several years back, I realised we had not cooked sabudana khichdi in a very long time (years!). Since my mother-in-law’s passing no one in the family was observing any fasts anymore! We brought back the Janmashtami fast and now observe it as a family. The much loved sabudana khichdi is on the menu at least once a year.