Continuation of our series, see previous post.
If you are born in India, to parents from different cultures, chances are you celebrate almost every festival in the calendar with equal gusto. In fact, I have memories of even celebrating festivals that had absolutely no connection with either my mother’s or father’s beliefs!
My memory of celebrations, whether festivals or birthdays, are simple celebrations which are all intertwined with memories of home and the kitchen!
Holi meant malpua and hot puran polis with tuup (ghee). Easter meant painting used eggshells oh so carefully and building little goodie baskets filled with home made almond rocks and marzipan. Eid meant amazing biryani at a friends house(we used to be able to smell the biryani from two blocks away!). Ganapati meant freshly steamed modaks brimming with saran(made from freshly grated coconut and jaggery). Durga puja and Navratri meant numerous invitations to homes to eat puri channa and halwa (or sheera). Diwali started one month before the actual festival, planning and prepping pharal.
I would come back from school and volunteer to help with all the different things being made and steal all the cashews and fried coconut! Christmas meant a meal that could break the table, all cooked at home, finished off with my mother’s unmistakable rum soaked chrissy cake. And then there were birthdays, we had the best birthday parties, with paper streamers, homemade sandwiches, homemade chips and the piece de la resistance was my mom’s fancy cakes. She would allow us to choose a cake from her Australian Women’s Weekly Cake book every year and then she would painstakingly execute the whole thing exactly like the picture.
The one common thread that tied all these different celebrations at my home was always how everything was made in our kitchen. That was truly the heart of our home. I don’t remember a single celebration growing up which was catered for. Not one Diwali where the pharal was store bought. Our birthday parties weren’t grand, but those cakes were just the best. Christmas was an open house and still we never ran out of food! Everything came out of that one kitchen. Maybe that’s why simple things from that kitchen are etched so deeply in my heart. The beautiful cut glass jars that held spices, the huge glass jars that held pulses, the smell of freshly made tuup wafting through the air. Waiting to eat the caramelized milk solids (called beri) at the bottom of the pan. I grew up in that kitchen, licking bowls of batter and stealing yummies that were to be stored away for later. The best gift my mother gave me was to nourish my body with love from that kitchen, I don’t think she knew she was also nourishing my soul.
A few years ago I looked at my own kitchen and lamented: How do I replicate these memories for my daughter. In today’s world where festivals are outsourced, where birthdays are handled by event managers, where everything is so ready made, how do I ensure that my child knows how much love comes out of a kitchen?
How do I teach her that food made with good intent and love can never be bad for you? That you don’t have to worry about the extra dollop of tuup, ever. There was only one way, to go back to my own roots and go back into my kitchen. So while my mind is boggled with how my own mother managed, I decided to keep celebrations simple but homely. It is not easy, but it is so fulfilling. Convenience often raises its ugly head and tempts us but we keep trying.
As with all things in life, baby steps always help.
Celebrations are a time of love, more than anything else. They are not about the gloss or even the food (blasphemy!!). They are about creating memories. So this year, trying going down the simple soulful way… try homely, simple celebrations.
Next post from the series: A Simple Life in Difficult Times