For many of us dal-chaval constitutes the ultimate comfort food. It is hard to come up with food that is simpler or more satiating. One such version of dal-chaval is the Maharashrian sada varan-bhat.
Many Sundays during our courting days I would visit V at his home for lunch. Varan-bhat was frequently on the menu – it was a Sunday favorite with the family. Sunday used to be the day of the weekly veggie shopping from the Shahadra mandi in the days before Mother’s Dairy Fruit and Vegetable Shops and Big Apple marts appeared in every neighbourhood. Often I would arrive to find V and his father still not back from the market. With fresh vegetables yet to arrive for re-stocking the fridge, varan-bhat must have been not only the logical meal but also one that would allow time needed for the sorting of the soon-to-arrive green-groceries. I remember my MIL following a regimen of washing and drip-drying all the vegetables before stocking them for the week. Bundles of greens (spinach, coriander, and methi) were untied, picked over to remove damp or rotting stems, and then packed into bags; other vegetables were trimmed and washed and spread on a cloth to dry off for a while. If I got there before it was all done, I too would lend a helping hand. That is when I learnt to do a quick job of picking methi (hold a fistful of the leafy-stems in one hand and pull at the stem-ends with the other!), and that stems could be left in while using green coriander!