Food and me have a pure love relationship. I am told that as a child, I would be just walking up the staircase leading to my home, I would promptly recognize the aroma of the food my mother had cooked for the day and ask her to serve it to me. That is how I connect with food even now.
As a seven-year-old, after an unending and tiring train journey, I woke up to an aromatic fragrance. Upon closer inspection, it was the comfort food for many, a simple rice and lentil curry with a cauliflower and potato vegetable, fresh salad and hot chapati’s. We had arrived at a yet another new city because my father who was with the Armed Forces had got posted to a new place. We stayed at the mess; a place that was a stop-gap temporary accommodation. You stayed there with family till you moved to your allocated homes.
Once we moved to our own homes and waited for the luggage to arrive, it was the time when the army wives took over. Till the kitchen was set up, meals arrived from different homes laden in trays that were neatly set. From the scrumptious horse radish stuffed breads to peas pulao and simple vegetable curries and salads that accompanied it. There was something new every day to savor. I waited patiently to discover the taste of the next meal. Yes, food and me were quite inseparable!
Food and me: A personal essay
Food is an important element that defines cultures. We, inadvertently took a part of the local cuisine with us as we moved cities. As I grew up, the taste of the food was more predominant than just the aroma. From dishes being labelled as Chacko auntie’s sambar to Baathsaab’s kadhi chawal, or the grated potato infused egg curry recipe borrowed from another neighbor, my mother meticulously wrote down the recipes and followed it to the T, ensuring the same flavor stayed with us even after we moved cities. The memories of the people who shared the recipes may have blurred as time passed by, but their recipes associated with them stayed with us becoming an integral part of our own food style.
On an aside, I am told that as a child, I would be just walking up the staircase leading to my home, I would promptly recognize the aroma of the food my mother had cooked for the day and ask her to serve it to me. That is how food and me connect even now.
Adopting Local Cuisines
Today, in my 40’s, I realize how adopting to a local cuisine has made my life a lot simpler. I am more open to experimenting with food. On my maiden trip to the other end of the world, I was advised to carry local food items that would last and help me stay connected with the Indian food. I am glad that I didn’t heed that advice, else how would I have discovered lefse; a sweet flattened bread that has a hint of cream, powdered sugar and cinnamon? Or the cooked to perfection roasted beef with the rightly spiced black sauce that my uncle had mastered in the years he stayed in Norway. Or the mildly spiced minced pork with sticky jasmine rice that was a part of at least one meal when I travelled with my boys to Vietnam.
We enjoy the local poha laced with the Indori poha masala that I discovered at a local food joint as much as we like the English breakfast complete with crisp ham and eggs. There’s a sense of nostalgia as I remember the taste of aloo puri at the New Delhi railway station or the most delicious mooli parathas that the cook rolled out in Bareilly. I haven’t tasted the gobhi shalgam achar ever we bid adieu to the Northern part of India. That simple peaches and cream dessert that was made at the army mess at Joshimath. And I’m yet to master that lip smacking moru curry that became my comfort food during my month long stay at Kerala when I was on a self-healing journey. It was also when I realized that pineapples were not merely a fruit!
Recipes that stayed with me
Adopting a cuisine is like carrying on a legacy. Yes, we have to eat in order to survive, that is the basic requirement for us. But to make it a part of our lives, handing the recipe down to generations and keeping it alive is what makes it incredibly special.
One dish that stayed with us was the grated potato egg curry which soon became a sort of a comfort meal. Easy to cook and paired with anything! I don’t quite recollect where we ate this first, but my mother and her knack of dissecting a dish and talking to the cook ensured that the recipe was written in her diary.
Try the Grated Potato Egg Curry Recipe
- Eggs – Boiled 6
- Grated Potato – 1 large
- One med sized chopped tomato
- One med sized chopped onion
- 1 tsp of ginger garlic paste
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 cloves
- 1 cardamom
- ½ inch cinnamon stick
- Salt to taste
- Turmeric – ½ tsp
- Red chilli powder – 1 tsp
- Garam masala – A pinch
- One slit green chilli
- Handful of curry leaves – optional
- ½ tsp of cumin seeds
- Oil – 2tbsp
To cook the dish
Boil six eggs and let it cool. Toss these into a pan with 1 tsp oil and add to it a pinch of salt, turmeric and red chili powder. Keep aside.
In the same pan, add some more oil, add curry leaves, cumin seeds, bay leaf, cloves, cardamom and the cloves. Sauté for less than 15 seconds. Add the chopped onions and slit green chilies with the ginger garlic paste. Sauté for a about two minutes on high flame. Add the grated potatoes and mix well.
Cover the pan with a lid and cook till the potatoes are half done. Add the chopped tomatoes and give it a quick stir to mix all the ingredients. Now, add the remaining spices and cover the pan and let it cook till the oil starts to leave the sides and the potatoes and tomatoes are completely cooked. Toss in the eggs and little bit of water and let this curry simmer for about 10 minutes in a low flame.
Garnish with finely chopped coriander leaves and serve. This goes well with hot phulkas, parathas and steamed rice as well.
This post is a part of Blogchatter Half Marathon.