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Since this generated some interest, let me share that it took me a lot of growing up (and world travel) to start appreciating my family’s food. I say family, because just like language, there is no #Bihari food. This is the story of my grandparents n food n let me say it briefly
She was 13, raised by a young widow who had 2 daughters. No man in the house meant no proper cooking. So milk and rice was a decent meal and gur was a great dessert! He was 11, eldest son of a beautiful, arrogant, eccentric (she went stark mad when they lost the estate) woman.
His mother was known for her cooking and famously boasted that she could cook grass (we did have a lot of the glam variety, but she meant the humble grass) and the diner wld chew his fingers! They got married. He continued to get his mama’s food, she anyway got leftovers!
The twist came when the widowed Nani adopted my Dad as heir to her humble farm. Baba had lost his estate by then. He n his four brothers, (named after precious gems) were preciously useless n he found the easy way out to settle in his sasural with my dad, their only child.
Baba was handsome, had no skills to earn money, or save or even retain it, but he was very charming, esp outside home. Mama (my grandma) was intelligent, insisted that my Dad got education, my mom got a job n loved to see her granddaughters wear pants! Great storytellers, both.
So when we all moved out to work/study, they were a rare couple living by themselves in the village. And food became the conflict zone. She tried to cook, but had low spice tolerance and never cooked or ate non vegetarian. He set up a small non veg kitchen n had someone cook.
But he needed good food daily. And she cared less as they got older. Always providing, but not bothering to please. What I learnt frm her kitchen was use of different material-earthen, baked clay, stoneware, wood, iron, silver, copper, bronze, alumunium, steel...each with its use
She ate truly simple-a thin buttermilk-rice or mango syrup with rice in summer, ghee-roti-salt dinner. Even her halwas felt light in sugar/ghee n vegetables retained crunch n flavor ‘coz all they got was a li’l mustard oil n seasoning-methi, panch phoran, red chili, aam khatai.
He tried to cope, but it was hard. So, he took matters in his hands. It started with the chokhas and chutneys. I learnt frm him that u can fire roast (almost) any vegetable, crumble n sprinkle rock salt, fresh lime juice (we had a lime forest n his lime n chilies were picked
fresh for each meal), green chillies n cold pressed mustard oil and it is perhaps the best way to eat most vegetables! Or, grind (raw/roasted)?on a stone with rock salt, chillies n a sprig of mint (we never ate dhania, it was always fresh mint) and dried mango, drizzle mustard
Oil and lime juice (always lime, no lemon) and voila! Its a chutney. He even did this to guavas and grapes. Or, there was the sun dried instant pickling of every form of vegetable for every season. All of this sustained him for a while, but at some stage, he wanted to do more...
So the man decided to cook. It was a big problem. Because if maids saw, they wld gossip. And Mama wasn’t letting herself be tarnished because her daal did not live up to her man’s standards. We were little. Our parents sent us to the village n stayed back at their jobs. He began
On a memorable day, he told her he cld convert anything into a tasteful curry (she hated curry!). As an example, he went to the cowshed and brought some sweet potatoes (we were so dumb, we only gave that thing to the cows)and said he could cook that! It was scandalous! But he did
I learnt the power of freshly ground mustard, garlic and red chillies (soaked) on that day! It was an amazing curry with deep fried strips of sweet potatoes. So bloody contemporary!!! Anyway, that curry became a feature and we then had in it brinjal, potatoes, yam, saag koftas or
Even tiny ripe mangoes that fell from the trees we did not prefer. Always with rice for my Baba, but with millets or corn meal rotis for Mama (and I loved it). He cooked sometimes and we just loved to witness their fights and their jibes at each other and often mediated.
Good thing was that she never felt bad about us taking his side and praising his food. I learnt from him fish roe pakods, shrimp pakora with rice flower and various other things. He hated milk and milk based foods. It was such an incredible househhold of two completely different
People. And yes, all their lives, they spoke their own language; she spoke a form of maithili, he spoke bhojpuri and yes, he made littis...around the fire while telling us stories of kings and princesses and food. #lockdown #memories #food #living
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