Tag Archive | food

Bonding over morsels

‘That is enough for you?’, asked my team leader Shravya as I bit into my sandwich.

‘ummm, yes’, I said.

She scrutinized me and said, ‘Really?’

Well, I couldn’t blame her. People usually assume I eat truckloads looking at my figure.

‘Yes’, I said and watched as she took out her dabba. It had two layers. One had roti-sabji and the other had some sort of rice.

The aroma was tantalizing. How could I tell her that no the sandwich was not enough for me. But my budget only allowed me that. I stayed in a Working women’s hostel which fed us nicely morn and night. Afternoons we had to fend for ourselves. I had my educational loan installments to pay and had to support my younger brother with his school fees and also had to send mom some amount for the household expenses. Our father had departed the previous year.

I sucked in my breath. I love Gujarati food and the aroma was too much for me to bear.

Shravya and me shared a very difficult relationship. We had not yet discovered whether we loved each other or hated. She hated that I was a Management graduate while they all were from an Audit one. The Boss had taken me in so that I could give a management angle to their Internal Audit firm. So we had our tiffs.

‘Aditi, you don’t know how to make a simple report’, she would shout.

‘I know but I don’t know how Auditors make reports’, I would retort.

She believed in finding faults, I believed in making the team work. And the Boss had a merry time watching us.

But then she was our team leader I had to obey her.

Being the introvert type I would be stuck in my cabin. Cabin being the place were internal auditors were given space in the client office. As soon as it was 6 p.m I would leave. ‘Stay a bit late, strike up a conversation, get some info’, she said one day.

‘I may miss my train and if I do I may miss dinner at hostel’, I replied

‘Why’, she asked.

‘The refectory opens at 7.30p.m. If girls are real hungry food gets over by 8’, I said. She never asked me to wait after that.

Soon after I started taking rotis from a Gujarati lady for afternoon. 3 chappatis and some sabji. If you know Gujaratis, then you may know that they make tiny chappatis. And so when I put the first bite inside my mouth, Shravya raised one eyebrow and was about to ask, When I replied, ‘enough for me’.

She shrugged. No wonder… since that morning we had had a massive showdown in the … ahem.. loo. In case you get ideas, let me clarify.. since we work in the client’s office we could not argue/fight in front of everyone could we. In front of everyone we were the perfect team mates.

Next day she brought an even larger dabba. I seriously wonder how she managed to be so slim after eating so much.  ‘Here have some undhiyu’, she said.

‘No, no, I have had enough’, I made a feeble protest.

‘Ma has packed a lot for me, I can’t have that much, at least help in finishing this dabba’, she said.

I had memories of my own mother who never found me fat and fed me to her heart’s content.

I took some and had. After all who can resist undhiyu.

It became a regular affair. She would always get something extra. And I would gladly eat.

It was the fest at Mahim Church. I went along with my hostel mates. Shravya was there too with her mother.

She introduced me to her mother. ‘Is she the one who loves my cooking and for whom you take extras’, she said.

Shravya expertly changed the topic.

Next day I asked her, ‘Why?’

‘What’, she replied.

‘Why do you bring food for me?’, I asked.

She let out a sigh and said, ‘I really couldn’t see you starving Aditi and don’t you see after I started bringing food for you, your work has improved!!’

She was right.

I didn’t have words, I just hugged her.

As Amitabh says in the Daawat ad, we Indians really bond over food.

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I am taking part in The Write Tribe Festival of Words 8th – 14th December 2013 and today’s topic is food.

Write Tribe

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Rasam woes

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5..4..3..2..1.. she muttered and then with a deep breathe marched out with the vessel to the dining room

Lavanya belongs to the Iyengar Kannadiga clan of Mysore. Meaning that her family actually belongs to the Tamil Iyengar family who live in Mysore. And so they have their own unique language and food habits. Her husband Jagadish too belongs to the same clan but then are two families similar? And while she has adjusted well to her new family, she has failed in one aspect-making rasam the way Jagadish loved it.

‘Luv, everything you make is perfect but not this rasam. I mean it is good but not like amma makes it. Amma makes it tangy, spicy and mmmmmm’, he would say.

And Lavanya would walk crestfallen back to the kitchen. It was not that she had not asked his mother, she had but the wise old lady had refused to divulge her secret.

‘Oh that, I would just boil the tomatoes,  then grind it in the mixer add any sambar powder and then temper it afer boiling it nice and long’, she would say.

‘Any sambar powder’, Lav had asked.

‘Yes, any’, the wise old lady had said.

And now Lav’s kitchen had about 7 varieties of opened sambar powder packets and about the same amount of rasam powder packets. All opened and used once.

Everytime Jagadish had said, ‘Lav it is good but not the taste that Amma made’

The wise old lady would grin at her son and  grimace at her daughter in law. But would she come into the kitchen any day and say, ‘Lavanya  I will make the rasam today’ or that ‘come I will teach you how to make rasam’. No.

So Lavanya was morose. For the past one week they had gone rasam ‘less’ and she knew she had to make it that day or face wrath, when the phone rang.

‘Hello, Athe’, she said happily. It was her Shantu Athe, her father’s sister.

They gossiped for a while when Athe sensed something was wrong. The wise old lady was nearby, so Lav said nothing.

Afer sometime Athe called her on her mobile and asked what was wrong. Lav took the mobile went to the terrace, leaned far from the boundaries and slowly told her rasam woes.

Now Athe was a smart lady and what is more she and the old wise lady had lived in the same lane in their younger days and that is how the match between Lavanya and Jagadish had materialised. ‘Lavanya I think I have the solution to your problem, just give me an hour’, she said.

In 45 minutes the doorbell rang and Athes Man Friday was at the doorstep with a packet.

5..4..3..2..1.. she muttered and then with a deep breathe marched out with the vessel to the dining room.

The first two courses of dal with rice and sambar with rice were over. The third course of rasam with rice was about to begin.

Jagadish poured some rasam on the rice, mixed it and then put some of the mixture in his mouth and said, ‘Mmmm Lav, the same taste, the same aroma…Magic’, he said with his eyes brimming with joy and love’.

The wise old lady had meanwhile tasted the rasam and now was sitting in shock and silence

Lavanya smiled shyly and with a look at her mother in law said, ‘someone sent me the magic potion’ and thanked Athe mentally for sending the rasam powder made by her ex-neighbour.

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This post is a part of Write over the weekend, an initiative for Indian bloggers by BlogAdda. The theme being This weekend your post should begin with, ’5..4..3..2..1..’

Image courtesy The Indian Food Court

Glutton

Kavita was very happy. Today she was going for the dinner buffet at the Ramada. Her maid was on leave for the past one week and she was in no mood to do the dishes. Also she had heard that the buffet at Ramada was good.

So she decked up and waited anxiously for her husband Ravi. Now Ravi doesn’t like to eat out. Whether it is because she cooks better or because he doesn’t want to spend on exorbitant prices at Restaurants, she has not been able to understand even after their 10 years of marriage.

And so she awaits his arrival. As soon as he arrives, he looks at her, sighs, freshens up and sees that she has kept his suit ready which normally she never does.

And so they leave.

Looking at the miles long buffet table, Kavita shudders. Her appetite vanishes.And she has visions of what is going to happen later.

They start with the starters. And though she is happy with the hara bhara kabab. Ravi has piled his plate high with varieties of veg and non veg starters.

And then it is main course. She nibbles, he eats.

The dessert, she skips, he gorges.

And then she leaves the place, he waddles.

And then he burps every now and then in the car. Looking at her disgusted look, he says ‘Gas’ and shrugs.

Once they reach home, she changes and then goes to the kitchen.

Comes later and gives a glass to her husband, ‘kadha’  she says and prepares herself for a long, long night.

* Kadha- kasaya, a home ready to ease indigestion, cold, cough etc

** image source- Google images

Going nuts over the coconut

We Konkanis love our coconut.  The morning begins with the sound of garr garr i.e the scraping of the coconut and then the mixer goes whirr with it  being ground for the chutney. In earlier days, once breakfast was over the women would oil their hair with yes…some coconut oil and then plait it. Next would be the turn of the kids. As soon as they were caught their hair was oiled and then it was the turn of their massage. Yes, kids were massaged  with oil regularly till they were 10 or so. And I believe that it is for that reason my ma-in-law, & my parents still have healthy skins even though they are in their 70s.

And then again started the process of garr, garr, the scraping of coconut for the lunch. The process of scraping coconut comes naturally to us. I never remember our elders ever teaching us how to  scrape coconuts… we just knew. Coconut is used to make chutneys, in gravies, in desserts. My mom I remember used to panic if there were no coconuts in the pantry, ‘how will I cook’, she used to scream.

So dependent on coconuts we are that the very first thing that the women used to do whenever some land was bought, was to plant saplings of the coconut. Men would just have to build their buildings around it.

My earliest memories of my tryst with coconut for personal grooming is when my mom would call me to oil my hair. I would do my best to avoid her. And if I got caught I would keep screaming, ‘enough’. So there was no scope of oil massages but then I went to hostel. Few months gone and I understood with the state of my hair and skin, that indeed I needed something. With my hair I was not that adventurous and stuck on to the good old coconut oil. But for skin I did. I tried everything that my hostelmates did, ripened banana, papaya, egg whites (ughh) everything and then realized that there was no need for all that. The family potion was good enough. And just before bath, applied some oil to myself and rubbed it nicely. Not for me the packs of egg whites and messy papayas. I was  fine with my coconut oil.

And then post delivery, my ma-in -law arrived with some special oil. It was of course coconut oil with some added herbs. My mother used to apply it liberally and then bathe me with boiling water. It was torturous then but my skin … it was soft and glowing.

Today I am a busy mom juggling too many things. And I do not have the 10 minutes required prior to bath. So what do I do, I just reach for my Parachute Advansed body lotion. Result a soft and glowing skin which does not need any more botheration.

This post is a part of Women’s Web Goodness of Coconut contest

Deprived

Deprived? I never felt that way. Ours was a family where everything was shared. Happiness, sadness everything. Ours was a family where papa after mealtimes, would check which mango/es had ripened, then take out the knife and divide into five and distribute. When the going was tough, there were 3 shares for my sister, me and my brother and nothing for them-the parents. That’s the way it was. Never was my brother given more because he was a son, never were we given less because we were daughters. But then arrived a family in our street, a family with three children, same like us. Eldest the ‘prodigal’ son, the other two daughters. The best was always kept for him, the best fruit, the largest portion of food, the best clothes. No bother if he was doing badly at school and busy learning ‘goondaism’, no worries if he was already at 12 addicted to ‘Pan parag’. The other two girls excelled at school-studies, sports everything and came home to homework and housework and minimum food. Why? Because after all they were girls and there is always a risk in giving ample food and good food to girls…… they matured faster. That meant that there figure matured too and then that would mean better clothes and they would have to begin groom hunting too. And then care would have to be taken for their safety too. Such a bother isn’t it. Better to keep them undernourished.

The eldest girl was my classmate, she arrived one day when I was throwing a tantrum because the food was not to my liking. She saw me and said , ” Itna accha khana aur tu chilla rahi hain? Maa naaraz nahi hoti?” (Such nice food and you are screaming. Won’t your mother get angry?). For her a girl throwing tantrum for food was a shock.
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This happened in the 80s. But for some girls in some families the situation still continues. When will we understand that girls are humans too?

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However the girls did well, the last that I heard was that my classmate became an engineer, the younger one an IAS and the boy…….well he is somewhere in Bihar with a lath in his hand

The History and Geography of Food-II

In the last post I had written about the connection of geographical location and food. In this post lets see the history.

Contrary to beliefs, cooking does take a lot of planning especially in the olden days when there were no cold storages, transportation was not good and so women had to plan ahead especially for the monsoon times.

The monsoon especially in the coastal areas of Konkan regions are long and wet. As i mentioned earlier, there were no cold storages and neither was good transportation available to transport vegetables. Fishing would also be off-limits. And so the preparations would start from the summer itself. Onion and garlic would be bought in bulk and hung in bunches in the pantry. Ashgourds would also be stored similarly. Rice and all types of grain/ lentils would be bought aired and stored.

March would arrive with its tender mangoes and the pickle making season. Before that the redchillies too would be bought dried and stored. The fish eaters would dry fish.

If I am not wrong at the same time the cashews would also ripen and would be dried. In a konkani household some cashews are husked and some are not. The unhusked ones called as ‘bibbe’are used for making certain delicacies especially to make stir fry with Ivygourd (gherkins/tendli/kundru). This is a highly desired dish especially during festivals.

After this part was over, then it was the season of making papad and vadis (odis) would arrive. On an average there would be about 10-12 varieties of papads that would be made. Some bland, some spicy, some sweet. You may ask why such variety? For a joint family so much was needed especially when no vegetables were available. SO a staple diet in the monsoon were rice, dal, pickles and any of these papads. These papads would be either deep fried in oil or just plain roasted on fire.

You might wonder that the women of those times were burdened with work. Yes they were but then it was team work. They were helped in the grinding (on big grinding stones) by the men. The younger generation would look after running of the household, looking after the kids etc and the older generation with all these chores.

The rolling out of these papads would be done by all the women of the neighbourhood akin to pasta making in Italy. Usually the days of the week were fixed for these rolling out. Like rolling in House A on Monday, in House B on Tuesday and so on. The chores would thus be reduced and also the women would enjoy exchanging ‘news’ joking, singing etc. It used to be the time to connect.

And thus would start the monsoon season.

I have concentrated on relating what used to happen in the monsoon season in the Konkan area as that is what I have witnessed. I had a wonderful type reminiscing and narrating these activities, hope you had a nice time reading it.

History and Geography of food

I love eating. But mind you the food should be Indian and vegetarian.

No, it does not mean that I do not like My Pizzas and Pastas, I do. But I am much more comfortable eating Indian food.

Ever wondered why the same vegetables are cooked in different styles in our country.

Growing up I remember my Bengali neighbour cooking food in mustard oil and us cringing our nose in disgust. The smell of mustard oil is so strong. But the chorchoris, the gobhi fry were so tasty that Till date I like my gobhi fried in mustard oil only (provided that it is cooked by someone else in some other home 🙂 ).

Us being Mangaloreans love food cooked in coconut oil but in those days in Bhilai (that’s where we were in those days) coconut oil used to be very scarce and so was reserved to cooking for festival days. And those days the neighbours would cringe.

Our food is so very related to our location culture isn’t it. Most parts of North India use Mustard oil as a cooking medium because of its abundance there. Karnataka, Kerala uses Coconut and coconut oil in abundance because of its abundance there. Maharashtra and Andhra uses groundnut oil for similar reasons. Of course nowadays it is usually Sunflower/ Canola oil in most households for its health benefits.

In our home rice was the staple diet being a Konkani home. Rice in the form of dosas in the morning (and of course Coconut chutney), rice in the noon and night. But because I was born in the North I have this love for wheat too. I often wonder why it was so, was it because the five elements of Bhilai unleashed this love for wheat or was it because apart from rice, rotis too were a constant in our homes.

And then there are the sweets, I love the basundi of Maharashtra, the khajas of AP, the rasmalai of Bengal and of course the payasams down south made with rice, jaggery and coconut milk. Again it is to be noted that the sweets of the north will be milk based made with sugar and those of the south will have coconut in some form and will have jaggery. Usually that is. It is not that in the North there are no sweets made with jaggery and South Indians do make sweets with sugar.

But all said and done, food has a history no doubt but the fact remains that food cooked even with the most basic ingredients will taste heavenly if made with love.