The next Monday after this post is Holi. It is a celebration of values like the triumph of good over evil and associated with many different legends, the most prominent being the burning of the eponymous demon Holika. However for me and countless others, it means bright colors, water fights, Gujiyas & Thandai. It was by far the most fun event of my life while growing up. The frivolty is intoxicating.
Holi is becoming more known to people far abroad in recent times. Here’s how it looks like,
This is of course largely due the festival occurring at the start of Spring in India. While gentle winds blow and the temperature is just right. The sun isn’t so harsh as to burn though the its warmth, felt on the back while being drenched in color water is soothing.
Meanwhile in Stockholm….
I have been for past few days been missing home. There are the little things about my previous life that I miss and there are major things, like food! I have overpowering cravings for the Mughlai I ate every weekend in Allahabad. The dahi vada, samosa, gulabjamun, papri chaat I had in the evenings. Even, aloo gobi and paneer paratha are missing from my life. Finally, my all time favorite ‘arhar dal tadke laga ke, aur chawal‘ has been absent for months :/ Just collecting these images has plunged me into immense agony.
Indian spices have been considered valuable in Europe for millenia. From the ancient Romans to modern day, Indian food is considered exotic, flavorful and hot. Spices have had an important role in our history. From the first global trading networks to the rise of colonialism, it was all driven by the riches derived from Indian spices.
Having eaten spicy food all my life, I had never really understood the fascination for Indian food from people who are not used to it. Infact, for me all food Indian or otherwise cannot be separated into categories. As I sit here drinking coffee and eating a fantastic spinach, bacon sandwich.
I think about the relative lack of flavor in my food. A lot of meat, bread and pasta dominates my diet yet apart from the standard ‘garam masala‘, I haven’t really leveraged my heritage. The curry mixes as expected do not hold up to the definition. So, I decided that it was time I took my cooking initiatives one step further.
A week ago, I made the bold decision to buy baigan/egglpant/aubergines/brinjal, whatever term you prefer. I then proceeded to buy mustard seeds or ‘rai‘ to replicate the essence of mustard oil used in almost all fancy cooking in India. The results were spectacular. I made two great dishes, ‘baigan bhaja‘ which is a Bengali dish made by frying sliced baigan and ‘baigan ka bharta‘ which is a Punjabi recipe, made by roasting, then mashing the veggie. Unfortunately, I was too busy eating to consider snapping my achievements.
When I bit into the slightly crunchy, oil laden slice I experienced an epiphany and a catharsis of epic proportions. The rich taste and aroma of mustard lifted my spirits as I gulped down my creation in a frenzy. I, having lived for almost 8 months without this precious flavor, was a man quenching his thirst after journeying through the desert. The tremendous satiation I felt made me realise why good food is a central pillar of a satisfied life.
The amazing thing is that there are many, many more experiences of rediscovery awaiting me as I explore the rich diversity of the subcontinent’s gastronomical delights.