Life during Covid 19 – Anxiety,adjustments and everyday life…..

Seeing people queuing up for hours outside hyper markets for essential foodstuffs overlooking health hazards and norms of social distancing and also suffering from pangs of anxiety on how to keep the kitchen fire on, I remembered the 80’s when most middle and upper class households had ration cards and weekly visits to the ration shops yielded sugar,whole wheat flour, the Bangalipi copies in specific quantities allotted to every member of the household. With the 90’s we were flooded with choices and with mushrooming of departmental stores, the rationing system went out of popularity among middle class households in the cities. Open racks displaying a variety in consumables, prospect of credit card payments etc made us forget the possibility of being able to live on limited supplies.We began buying indiscriminately, stocking up and often wasting stuff.We became addicted to high sugar,high calorie and preserved foods thereby increasing our sugar and cholesterol levels nationwide as well as worldwide.

The advent and rage of novel Corona virus changed all such consumption patterns worldwide and in a sense changed people across nations. Anxiety about the unknown, an explainable fear,social distancing,separation from loved ones in cities across nations and continents,jumbled emotions and a high incidence of stress are common worldwide irrespective of social or economic status. Anxiety about aging parents living in a different city, complaining kids and sulking friends is making things worse.The challenge is two fold – to build up stores during the days of the lock down,to maintain the supplies and then to cook two meals for the family using as little of the fresh vegetables,chicken,fish, dry provisions so painstakingly stocked up. With the entire family around and helping each other it is always good to see a smile in their face at the end of the day and a smile is best got from a hearty meal.The meal I am cooking is following a general rule that it should not be elaborate using exotic ingredients, it can be a one pot meal providing the daily dose of calories from carbohydrate,proteins and minerals and the lunch can be doubled up as dinner throwing in certain variations. Someday a brunch is ideal saving up on one meal.To use up left overs,to think rationally when planning a meal,to use oil,butter and eggs judiciously, to innovate and be creative is all that we need in the kitchen now.

Yesterday when my milk and bread stores were nearing depletion, I thought of nations subsisting on rationed provisions for years during World War I and particularly during World War II.Living on less is difficult but not impossible.If we survive the Corona ,the world will be no doubt a bit different.We will be better individuals learning to respect little pleasures,little boons and small blessings. We will probably start counting our blessings.History has taught that nations do survive on less and come out stronger out of it.

The commonplace neem leaves, potato and brinjal fried….lockdown menus

Reports in the social media about supermarts like TESCO in UK rationing goods like antibacterial gels, wipes and sprays, dry pasta, UHT milk and some tinned vegetables made me study the history of food rationing. The rules of rationing are applicable in stores as well as online.While Waitrose, Marks & Spencer, Morrisons, Iceland and Lidl have not made changes to their opening times, several of the supermarket chains have introduced dedicated shopping hours for the elderly, vulnerable customers, NHS and social care workers. Sainsbury’s is allowing customers to buy a maximum of three of any single item, while Morrisons said it is limiting purchases across 1,250 lines. Asda also announced that it is restricting shoppers to three items on all food and Aldi has already introduced limits of four items per shopper across all products. In essence all such measures amounts to rationing and probably soon in India too we will toe such rules of limited buying.

A LOOK BACK – During the beginning of the Second World War, Britain imported about 55 million tons of food a year from other countries. The Germans used battleships and submarines to hunt down and sink British merchant vessels on sea. With imports of food declining, the British government decided to introduce a system of rationing. This involved every householder registering with their local shops. The shopkeeper was then provided with enough food for his or her registered customers.In January 1940 bacon, butter and sugar were rationed. This was followed by meat, fish, tea, jam, biscuits, breakfast cereals, cheese, eggs, milk and canned fruit. In the summer of 1940 the government established a committee of nutritional experts to advise the War Cabinet on food policy. The committee issued a report claiming that each citizen could survive on twelve ounces of bread, a pound of potatoes, two ounces of oatmeal, an ounce of fat, six ounces of vegetables and six-tenths of a pint of milk per day, supplemented either by small amounts of cheese, pulses, meat, fish, sugar, eggs and dried fruit. Allowances fluctuated throughout the war, but on average one adult’s weekly ration was 113 gm bacon and ham (about 4 thin slices), one shilling and ten pence worth of meat (about 227 gm minced beef), 57 gm butter, 57 gm cheese, 113 gm margarine, 113 gm cooking fat, 3 pints of milk, 227 gm sugar, 57 gm tea and 1 egg. Other foods such as canned meat, fish, rice, condensed milk, breakfast cereals, biscuits and vegetables were available but in limited quantities on a points system.The food rationing system gave people the opportunity to obtain a balanced diet and as a result the health of the nation improved during this period.People were encouraged to provide their own food. The government’s campaign called for every man and woman to keep an allotment. Lawns and flower-beds were turned into vegetable gardens. Chickens, rabbits, goats and pigs were reared in town gardens.

Clothing too was rationed from June, 1941. A points system allowed people to buy one completely new outfit a year. To save fabric, men’s trousers were made without turn ups, while women’s skirts were short and straight. Frills on women’s underwear were banned.Women’s magazines were packed with handy hints on how, for example, old curtains might be cut up to make a dress. Stockings were in short supply so girls coloured their legs with gravy browning .In May 1943, the annual clothing coupon allowance was cut from 48 to 36 per adult.

The situation was same in America too.As the 1940s dawned, Americans faced the looming threat of World War II with warfare and food shortages spreading throughout the European continent. During World War II Americans responded quickly to the government’s calls for soldiers and adherence to a host of home front programs established to support the war effort. Food rationing, as one of the first civilian programs established after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, became a central component of the American home-front experience. Women made conscious and sometimes difficult choices to support elements of the government’s food rationing program. Yet, women rationed their family’s food on their own terms and for their own reasons.

 Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin’s famous maxim “tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are” hints at the connection between food and identity. Identity emerges as a result of both the types of foods one consumes and the thought behind the action of consumption. Beyond mere personal tastes and preferences, food choices disclose an individual’s station in society; food is given significance by how it is narratively framed and by its significance within the community or nation. Sugar and Red Meat served as linchpins of American identity and held distinct meanings for consumers in the 1940s. Amy Bentley’s Eating for Victory succinctly argues that wartime Americans held engendered views of these two items. The rationing of culturally feminized sugar meant limits on purchase amounts, and home front baking and preserving, challenged housewives’ ability to maintain the prewar standard of a full cookie jar. In a modern sense, cutting sugar intake seems prudent. However, in the 1940s sugar was regarded as an important energy-giving substance and even nutrition experts agreed with widespread consumption. Likewise red meat, considered the bible in healthy eating during the 1940s, also held strong connotations. Red meat conjured masculine discourse which meant many felt it vital for those actively fighting or producing for the war.

As American women sought to negotiate the strictures of the OPA food rationing program while remaining true to their commitment as preservers of American culture, some inventive efforts aimed at redefining cultural meanings so as to make unappealing items more acceptable occurred. Perhaps the best example of the transmutation of food meanings on the home front comes from the journey of ethnic foods into the mainstream diet. Many cookbooks and women’s magazines pushed the housewife to attempt feeding the family with exotic ethnic cuisine during the war because these ingredients were often more available and ration friendly. While these newly discovered foods didn’t necessarily appeal to the American palate in their most authentic forms, recipes underwent some alteration with respect to taste and meaning. Foods once considered true expressions of immigrant culture that carried negative connotations were reborn as patriotic experiments from the kitchen. Eating broccoli , mustard greens gained value. Molasses became fodder for patriotic cooking. Molasses gained widespread acceptance and even started a craze over spice and molasses cookies during the war became popular. Many Americans saw molasses as an ethnic food from the American South, but embraced it’s strangeness as it allowed women to bake without the use of sugar. Propaganda messages regarding directed at influencing housewives to ration food in accordance with the OPA program became state directed.The general goal of this propaganda remained the same throughout the war: convince housewives to cheerfully adhere to the food rationing program by using patriotic and democratic imagery. In 1943 the Office of War Information published a propaganda poster aimed at convincing housewives to democratically share available foods, especially the much hoarded coffee. A poster depicted a young white serviceman wearing a combat helmet, smiling and holding a large tin coffee mug. The taglines on the poster read “Do with less- so they’ll have enough!” and proclaims “Rationing gives you your fair share”. Within weeks of American entry into World War II coffee became the first commodity to disappear from grocers’ shelves and tempted many women to hoard coffee as they remembered the drastic shortages endemic to the First World War. The final, and perhaps most revealing series of OWI food-rationing posters, which met with housewife support, addressed the issue of canning foods and vegetables.

Propaganda pushed housewives to can foods instead of buying canned food at the grocery store .Many Americans living in rural areas, and the working poor already planted gardens and preserved foods for future kitchen use. Gardening a portion of one’s food supply, either as a part of traditional lifestyles or as a necessity began during the Great Depression and remained popular throughout the war years. By 1944 Americans tended over twenty-million individual gardens which produced 40% of all vegetables grown in the United States. Secondly, canning and preserving foods remained an almost entirely female pursuit. By canning, women demonstrated their mastery over the domestic sphere and simultaneously insured food stability for the family. The message on the poster “Can All You Can” is emblazoned across the label of an empty quart canning jar sitting atop a variety of luscious fresh vegetables.

Women’s publications encouraged a communal relationship with food. Just as the OPA’s announcements, radio shows, and posters worked to inspire adherence to food rationing programs, cookbooks and magazines also served a basic purpose. Cookbooks have long been a vehicle for women to express their beliefs, culture, and build authority on domestic affairs. While many larger national publications, such as the American classic The Joy of Cooking, could not totally rearrange and restructure their books to discuss rationing, they did make sizeable efforts to touch upon the issue. These national publications created wartime supplements with advice and supposedly ration-friendly recipes, alongside new introductions which acknowledged both the role of women in the war and the uniquely female understanding of patriotic action popular among housewives. The largest publications, such as the Good Housekeeping Cookbook, tended to marginalize their response to food rationing by building war sections or special addendum to their normal cookbook content instead of integrating their advice throughout the cookbook. Some cookbook authors chose to highlight the war and food rationing through the recipes they published during the war years. these authors shared basic meal planning and points planning advice. They echoed varying levels of support for the OPA’s food rationing program, mimicking propaganda from the first two years of the war that emphasized the democratic nature of rationing. Marjory Mills’ Cooking on a Ration brightly proclaims “food is still fun” in the face of rationing and fears of food shortages. Mills begins her cookbook by admonishing her readers to have faith in food rationing and reminding them to stick with the childhood lesson of sharing. She tells her readers, “we’re relearning that lesson now where food is concerned, only it’s global sharing of the chocolate bar, the juicy steak, the can of soup.”

Sugar rationing and shortages caused stress for housewives. Corn syrup became the most common sugar substitute in most cookbooks, although author’s disagreed upon the exact amount needed for an equal exchange in recipes. The Gardeners’ Cook Book argued a proper substitution called for two cups of corn syrup for every single cup of sugar. Conversely, the cookbook Cook’s Away, which targeted those learning culinary arts for the first time or those going without a cook due to labor shifts caused by the war, called for substituting half the sugar in a recipe with corn syrup. Another author advocated an equal swap of syrup for sugar, but cautions “this will not be as sweet”. Gertrude Voellmig’s Wartime Cooking Guide advises housewives “baking and cooking of other sweets can be managed if sugar substitutes are made to help stretch rations.” Cookbook authors also suggested alternative methods for producing desserts without the use of any sugar at all. Harriet Hester’s book devoted to saving sugar reminded housewives to use fruit juices from canned fruit as a sweetener for gelatin and to cook with dried fruits in order to add sweetness without sugar.

With the OPA order to ration meats under the rather complicated red point scheme, housewives found another mealtime and cultural staple threatened. Meat held great cultural currency for wartime families, who had just survived the economic rigors of the Great Depression. Sitting down to a meal built around a juicy steak, pot roast, or baked chicken symbolized a return to normalcy and affluence for the middle class. Even Norman Rockwell’s famous painting “freedom from want” depicted the ideal of a roasted turkey on every American table. Nonetheless, when meat became rationed, housewives responded positively and searched out methods for maintaining family standards while contributing to military needs by reserving the abundance of American produced meat for servicemen. When Saidee Leach’s son wrote her from his Navy ship in the Pacific and expressed his happiness with eating steak in the military mess hall, she optimistically replied “No, I am not envious of your eating steak, for we want you men to have the best.” She then continued in her letter to describe her success in wrangling a piece of utility grade meat into an edible dish with the assistance of ketchup. Cookbooks offered recipes and ideas for extending meat such as adding vegetables, sauces, cereals, noodles, or biscuits and dumplings to complete a main dish. Ground beef became perhaps the thriftiest, and yet still acceptable meat choice to emerge during the war. In one recipe for beef loaf, Gertrude Veollmig included four variations using different flavorings and meat stretchers. These sort of recipes remained popular as they required only a pound and a quarter or so of ground meat and promised to yield six to eight servings. Voellmig’s Beef Loaf included suggestions for the addition of bread crumbs or oatmeal or cornmeal to the ground meat in order to provide taste and texture variations and allow the housewife to serve this meal repeatedly. Some cookbook authors harkened back to the shortages and slogans from World War I for ration recipe inspiration in the 1940’s. Meatless Mondays reentered the American lexicon during World War II as a solution for housewives unable to restrict family consumption. Ruth Berolzheimer, the director of the Culinary Arts Institute, edited The American Woman’s Meals Without Meat Cook Book. This cookbook offered suggestions for main courses which featured mostly fish, pasta, or eggs.The cookbook then suggested these central dishes be supplemented with vegetables and savory sauces to create well rounded nutritional meals. The Settlement Cook Book offered five variations on a vegetable plate and a cheese blintz dinner menu for “meatless days.”

Oils and fats became perhaps the most unexpected food item to join the wartime ranks of rationed foods. In the spring of 1943, about a year after most staple foods came under the supervision of the OPA’s food rationing programs, butter and some other cooking oils became scarce. The Good Housekeeping Institute counseled women that they had the same two main options when dealing with butter shortages as they did with meat: substitution and stretching. Cooking fats such as bacon grease or vegetable shortening could be used for sauteing, margarine or vegetable shortening replaced butter in baking, and both still provided the nutrition . Nancy Hawkins’s book Let’s Cook even told women to use lard or suet as acceptable butter substitutes in cooking, The Settlement Cook Book suggests women end a meatless vegetable plate dinner with an artfully served frozen can of peaches.

All of us experiencing this lockdown has been dong it for the first time.The only thing which can give solace to our frayed nerves is a hope and a trust.A hope for brighter world free of disease and a faith on our health care professionals and government to bail us through this utmost crisis. History has seen pandemics like the Plague, man made as well as natural famines where humanity at large has been able to adapt, change and survive.So the next time we feel stressed about the empty egg tray think of potatoes substituting, when we feel tempted to visit the market for a fresh supply of chicken think of the jar of mixed legumes and the soyabean lying unused for months.Cheese can be done away with, start doing your own curd for the dip, instead of the noodles use the pack of instant noodles and throw away the water in which it is boiled and do it noodle style.If you are less stocked up on your masoor dal and wonder about the proportions for the khicdi, use the less consumed lentils lying sadly on kitchen closets….you will have the most tasty khicdi eaten for a while.Cook once a day for the brunch or lunch and extend it to dinner with certain variations.Use the peels and greens of the vegetable in tasty soups and other dishes. Enjoy the time as leisure, rediscover your hobbies of school years, converse with your spouse and children over issues we hardly talk call up friends as well as foes. After all we will not die of hunger , we need to survive the virus.Emerge stronger and united as a family,nation and world at large.

The noodle soup using left over veggies and two pieces of chicken and boiled eggs …dinner menu

The Orange Wonder-The tale of the Pumpkin.

My love affair with Pumpkins began when I was about ten years old.The passion for pumpkins was not however spontaneous,it was out of compulsion.The compulsion was rather funny.Constant headaches and inability to see the blackboard at class made my mother to take me to an eye specialist.By the end of the visit I was rewarded with a spectacle and my protests against the spectacles led the doctor to suggest that if I would have boiled carrots and pumpkins for the next year everyday I might not need the spectacle.Not a day went after that for the next two years that I did not have carrots and pumpkins and till date at mid 40’s I do not use spectacles. Boiled and mashed pumpkin with a dash of mustard oil or a blob of butter on steaming rice with a green chili was my staple plate before I went to school.Still today when I am on my dieting sprees mashed pumpkin is my best pal.Love for pumpkins is also in my blood I suppose.Heard stories from my mother that my grandmother would never have her lunch without boiled pumpkins even if it meant going to the market and getting it and lunch getting delayed till late afternoon. So here is my little tribute to the gorgeous yet underrated vegetable which has been so important in my life.The orange colour of the vegetables spreads a cheer in the cart of the vegetable seller.It makes easy forays into the Indian as well as the international kitchen.

Etymologically the name pumpkin can be traced back to the the Greek word “pepon”which means large melon. “Pepon” was changed by the French to “pompon”. The English termed it as “pumpion” or “pompion”. American colonists are credited with spelling “pumpion” as “pumpkin”, the name by which this vegetable is known in modern times. Archaeological evidence suggest that pumpkins and winter squash were native to the Americas from the southwestern part of what is now the United States through Mexico and Central America and south into Peru, Ecuador and Colombia. Pumpkins have been cultivated since about 3500 B.C. rivaling it with maize (corn) as one of the oldest known crops in the western hemisphere. Native Americans are said to have roasted long strips of pumpkin on an open fire and then consumed them. They also dried pumpkin strips and wove them into mats. Archaeologists working in Central America found remains of pumpkin rinds and seeds in human settlements dating back to 7,000BC . They also discovered the oldest domesticated pumpkin seeds in the Oaxaca Highlands of Mexico. The first pumpkins however had very little resemblance to the sweet, bright orange variety we are familiar with now. The original pumpkins were small and hard with a bitter flavor. Rather than using their nutritional and readily available seeds, pre-Columbian natives grew pumpkins for their flesh. They were among the first crops grown for human consumption in North America. Pumpkins proved ideal for storing during cold weather and in times of scarcity as well.But early modern Europeans didn’t see, grow, or taste pumpkins until they came into contact with the “new worlds” of the North, Central, and South Americas at the end of the fifteenth century.

When early modern Britons first encountered the Cucurbita pepo, they named it “pumpion”. The orange squashes were first mentioned in the English language in a plant book printed by Peter Treveris, called The Grete Herball, published in London in 1526.In metropolitan Britain, pumpkins were seen as a special food, expensive and exotic. But in the British Atlantic colonies pumpkins, pumpkin leaves, and pumpkin seeds appeared in the bowls and on the tables of many different kinds of people. They continued to hold a valued role in the diets of indigenous Americans, and they were consumed by rich as well as poor, white women and men. Enslaved women and men ate pumpkins too, growing them in their gardens.Northeastern Native American tribes grew squash and pumpkins and roasted or boiled them for eating. Settlers were impressed by the squash or pumpkins when they had to survive their first harsh winter and about half of the settlers died from scurvy and exposure. The Native Americans brought pumpkins as gifts to the first settlers, and taught them the many ways they used the pumpkin. The pumpkin pie was cooked about 50 years after the first Thanksgiving in America.Both the Pilgrims and members of the Wampanoag tribe ate pumpkins and other squashes indigenous to New England—possibly even during the harvest festival—but the fledgling colony lacked the butter and wheat flour necessary for making pie crust. Moreover, settlers hadn’t yet discovered an oven for baking.According to some accounts, early English settlers in North America improvised by hollowing out pumpkins, filling the shells with milk, honey and spices to make a custard, then roasting the gourds whole in hot ashes.

Pumpkin is one of the most versatile vegetables and is eaten as both savory and sweet dishes, but arguably the most popular use for it in the Anglo-American tradition is by cooking it in a pumpkin pie. Creamy, sweet, and custardy, pumpkin pie appears on most Thanksgiving tables across America over time. One of the earliest recipes for pumpkin pie can be found in the Folger Vaults: “To make a Pumpion Pie”, which appears in a seventeenth-century cookbook written by Hannah Woolley. American colonists relied heavily on pumpkin as a food source as early as 1630. Colonists prepared pumpkins as they sliced off their tops, removed the seeds and refilled the inside with a mixture of milk, spices and honey. The resultant concoction was baked in hot ashes and is said to be the origin of our modern Pumpkin Pie.Columbus took pumpkin seeds back to Europe. However pumpkins are warm season vegetables that require a relative long growing season. Thus they never gained popularity in northern Europe and the British Isles where the summer temperatures were not conducive to their growth.

Food historian K.T. Achaya points out that pumpkins were a part of Indian food tradition from ancient times, and were grown on the banks of rivers in village outskirts.“Long before the intervention of man, the ability of gourds to float in sea water while retaining seed viability must have carried them across the seas from continent to continent. The so-called winter squash or red pumpkin of America is called urubuka in Sanskrit; today it is known as lal kumra, kaddhu or kumbalakayi”. Chinese traveller Xuan Zang, who visited 110 of the 138 kingdoms in every part of India between 629 and 645 AD, mentioned pumpkin, ginger, mustard and melon. Ibn Battuta noted that pumpkins grew in the dry river beds adjacent to the Sindh desert.

Francois Pierre la Varenne, the famous French chef and author of one of the most important French cookbooks of the 17th century, wrote a cookbook called Le Vrai Cuisinier Francois (The True French Cook). It was translated and published in England as The French Cook in 1653. It had a recipe for a pumpkin pie that included the pastry: Tourte of pumpkin – Boile it with good milk, pass it through a straining pan very thick, and mix it with sugar, butter, a little salt and if you will, a few stamped almonds; let all be very thin.  Put it in your sheet of paste; bake it.  After it is baked, besprinkle it with sugar and serve.By the 1670’s, recipes for a sort of “pumpion pie” appeared in English cookbooks as the The Queen-like Closet. To make a Pumpion-Pie – Take a Pumpion, pare it, and cut it in thin slices, dip it in beaten Eggs and Herbs shred small, and fry it till it be enough, then lay it into a Pie with Butter, Raisins, Currans, Sugar and Sack, and in the bottom some sharp Apples, when it is baked, butter it and serve it in. In 1672, John Josselyn included a pumpkin recipe in his book New-England Rarities Discovered. This was one of the first recipes to come out of the United States. The side dish called for dicing ripe pumpkin and cooking it in a pot over the course of a day. Once finished, butter and spices were added. This early recipe sounds a bit like our modern preparation of mashed sweet potatoes. It was in 1796 that an American cookbook American Cookery by Amelia Simmons was published.  It was the first American cookbook written and published in America, and the first cook book that developed recipes for foods native to America.Her pumpkin puddings were baked in a crust and similar to present day pumpkin pies: Pompkin Pudding No. 1.  One quart stewed and strained, 3 pints cream, 9 beaten eggs, sugar, mace, nutmeg and ginger, laid into paste No. 7 or 3, and with a dough spur, cross and chequer it, and baked in dishes three quarters of an hour. During the 17th century,cooks challenged themselves in the kitchen by developing unique and tasty new ways to serve pumpkin.Today, the most popular way to prepare pumpkins is undoubtedly pumpkin pie. This trend first began during the 1800’s when it became stylish to serve sweetened pumpkin dishes during the holiday meal. The earliest sweet pumpkin recipes were made from pumpkin shells that had been scooped out and filled with a ginger-spiced milk, then roasted by the fire.

Pumpkins can be carved, painted as well as cooked in myriad ways across the world. A roast Pumpkin Soup with some croutons could give you that instant warmth.A Pumpkin Spinach Pie could well be a comfort main course. A baked Pumpkin Fondue, a Pumpkin Cheesecake and a Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookie adds variety to the pumpkin repertoire. Pumpkin pies are perhaps the most popular and most eaten pumpkin dish across the world.Few of the festival foods can claim deeper American roots than pumpkins. Pumpkins also feature in Southern European cooking.In Spain pumpkin is used both sweet and savory – Alboronia ( a pumpkin and chickpea stew),Bunuelos de Calabaza (a fritter and a cross between Churos and Donuts).Pumpkin in Italy is known as Zuca and Risotto de Zucca ,Pumpkin Ravioli and Gnocchi are popular.Mexico is known for its candied pumpkins known as Calabaza en Tacha as well as Pumpkin Empanadas.

In 1903 Circleville mayor George Haswell started an autumn produce festival, and pumpkins became the centerpiece of the event. The canning company shut down during the Great Depression, but the festival continues till date.Known as the Pumpkin Show, this event celebrates pumpkins in many forms. One can expect a variety of pumpkin-flavored treats including pumpkin donuts, burgers, taffy and ice cream. The festival also holds a contest for largest pumpkin, largest pumpkin pie and a Miss Pumpkin Show pageant.

When the Pilgrims sailed for America on the Mayflower in 1620, it’s likely some of them were as familiar with pumpkins as the Wampanoag, who helped them survive their first year at Plymouth Colony, were. A year later, when the 50 surviving colonists were joined by a group of 90 Wampanoag for a three-day harvest celebration, it’s likely that pumpkin was on the table in some form. In 1654, Massachusetts ship captain Edward Johnson wrote that as New England prospered, people prepared “apples, pears, and quince tarts instead of their former Pumpkin Pies.”A 1653 French cookbook instructed chefs to boil the pumpkin in milk and strain it before putting it in a crust. English writer Hannah Woolley’s 1670 “Gentlewoman’s Companion” advocated a pie filled with alternating layers of pumpkin and apple, spiced rosemary, sweet marjoram and handful of thyme. By the early 18th century pumpkin pie earned a place at the table, as Thanksgiving became an important New England regional holiday. Amelia Simmons’ 1796 “American Cookery” contained a pair of pumpkin pie recipes.

It was in the mid-19th century that pumpkin pie rose to political significance in the United States as it got linked into the country’s tumultuous debate over slavery. Many of the staunchest abolitionists were from New England, and their favorite dessert soon found mention in novels, poems and broadsides. Sarah Josepha Hale, an abolitionist who worked for decades to have Thanksgiving proclaimed a national holiday, featured the pie in her 1827 anti-slavery novel “Northwood”, describing a Thanksgiving table laden with desserts of every name and description—“yet the pumpkin pie occupied the most distinguished niche.” In 1842 another abolitionist, Lydia Maria Child, wrote her famous poem about a New England Thanksgiving that began, “Over the river, and through the wood” and ended with a shout, “Hurra for the pumpkin pie!”After the Civil War, Thanksgiving—and with it, pumpkin pie—extended its national reach, bolstered by write-ups . In 1929 Libby’s meat-canning company of Chicago introduced a line of canned pumpkin that soon became a Thanksgiving fixture in its own right.

Over the course of the next two centuries, pumpkin pie and its fame grew with the rising popularity of Thanksgiving. But it wasn’t until the release of Amelia Simmons’ cookbook American Cookery (the first real ‘American’ cookbook) in 1796 that the pie became nationally recognized as an American Thanksgiving hallmark – the book contained two recipes for pumpkin pie, one of which closely resembles recipes widely used today. Legend has it that in the early 18th century, a small town postponed its Thanksgiving for a week because ‘there wasn’t enough molasses available to make pumpkin pie.’

Pumpkin pie even found its way into the workings of the Civil War. By the time Abraham Lincoln established Thanksgiving as a national holiday in 1863, Southerners were already in dispute, stating that ‘this is an annual custom of that people, heretofore celebrated with devout oblations to themselves of pumpkin pie and roast turkey.’But this didn’t have an effect on the spread of Thanksgiving (and pumpkin pie) across the nation. Many women’s magazines featured recipes for pumpkin pie, and shortly after, Libby’s meat-canning company developed the first line of canned pumpkin – releasing it in 1929.Putting pumpkin pie on the table at Thanksgiving became that much easier, sealing its fate as an all-American tradition.

Pumpkin has been used across India in almost all regional cuisines sometimes spiced up and many a times made into a desert.For Bengalis Pumpkin or Kumro is used both in vegetarian as well as non vegetarian dishes. The sweetness of the pumpkin blends it well with several vegetables and greens.Be it the Kumror Chokka – pumpkins cooked with a tempering of Bengali five spices,bay leaf,spiced up with ginger paste and finished off with grated coconut and some boiled Bengal gram or the Pumpkin cooked with potatoes and gourd or a simple Pumpkin stir fry tempered with nigella seeds and fried onions.All of these are great sides and are served with Luchi or Paratha. Pumpkins are also part of mish mash of vegetables and greens like Palak or Pui. For Bengalis from East Bengal pumpkins are used in several non-vegetarian dishes.Pumpkin,brinjal potatoes are cooked with fish head.Pumpkins are also cooked with Hilsa in a typical Dacca household. One of my favourite way of incorporating the sweet taste of the pumpkin is by using it in a spicy dish made with dried fish like prawns or Bombay Duck.

In North India Pumpkin or Kaddu is used in a pumpkin curry as well as cooked with chickpeas.Pumpkin is also used in a Raita. Pumpkin is also made into a halwa as well as made into a kheer during festivals as Navratri. Most of the southern states have their own sambars but most of them use pumpkin. Pumpkin Sambar known as Mukkala Sambar is offered in temples and is popular in Andhra Pradesh. Pumpkin Oambal from north east cooks boiled pumpkin with tamarind, jaggery and is tempered with red chilies and mustard.Pumpkin Erissery from Kerala is a dish of pumpkin,red beans,grated coconut ,curry leaves and is served with Kerala red rice and Kanji. Avial another popular dish in Kerala and Tamil Nadu uses pumpkin among other vegetables .

Pumpkin one of the most common everyday vegetable is as versatile as it can be to a cook.Dried pumpkin seeds are now regarded as super food,the pumpkin leaves can be used in a vegetable pish pash or chorchorri what the Bengalis call it and can even be stuffed and steamed.The pumpkin pies remain inextricably linked with the American life and culture.Carve your pumpkin,paint your pumpkin or cook your pumpkin but do love the commonplace pumpkin.Remembered a childhood rhyme about pumpkins-

“Pumpkins by the barn.
Pumpkins by the house.
Pumpkins by the wagon.
Pumpkins by the mouse.

Pumpkins by the fence.
Pumpkins by the cat.
Pumpkins by the scarecrow.
Pumpkins by the hat.,

Pumpkins by the table.
Pumpkins by the chair.
Pumpkins by the door.
Pumpkins everywhere!”

These are a few of my favorite things-Winter love

Winter,the mellow ones, experienced in Kolkata is warming to both the mind and heart. It is not only about colorful, fashionable trench coats,mufflers and ponchos, it is also not only about chapped lips and cracked heels, it is also of a palette full of colors encompassing our life. Colors in food, colors in the fair grounds,colors in life in essence.The foodscape and landscape of Kolkata is drenched in colors and gaiety.

The list of my favourites in cooking in winter is never-ending. When the vegetables look inviting,the prawns look fuller,the apples look flawless I thought of listing the simpler of them. My list would include a Carrot and Peas pot,Cauliflower and green peas Tehri, an Apple cake,Palak paneer,Dhania gosht,Chicken roast,Crepes with Nolen Gur or liquid Date palm Jaggery and coconut filling what is known as Patishapta and a Bread butter Pudding with some drizzle of brandy. This favourite list is not however static,it changes every winter.

Winters are also intrinsically linked with childhood…winter holidays,end of examinations,picnics and picnic hampers,oranges and it’s freshness,winter holidays by the sea, nolen gur payesh,pickle making by mom and grandma, fairs across the city and balls of colorful wools and images of my Pishi’s fingers moving swiftly with knitting needles.Lot of such nostalgia still remains,some muted,some in new avatars and some lost permanently with the loss of the persons associated with it.Winter holidays are still there but much rationed, examinations do end for kids but that does not anymore mean a month without books,picnics also happen but now they are catered by caterers,no chopping vegetables, no running around and no serving.Oranges are seen for a fortnight but the small oranges from Darjeeling hardly appear,fairs happen but has shifted to the new city,winter holidays are destination holidays,not a simple Puri or Digha. Nolen Gur payesh is now available at sweet shops,they are still made at home but the Nolen Gur is hardly pure.Pickles are hardly made at home now,images of glass and porcelain jars on window panes with pickles to be sun dried are lost.It is very difficult to find shops selling yarns of pure wool and handful of grand moms and moms knitting delicate paisleys on the cardigan.

Cooking is very pleasant during this time of the year.There are also a lot of options laid out by nature.Winter is synonymous with vegetables and among the wide spread available my favourites are carrots and tender peas in pods.Both are versatile and can be dishes in themselves.A thick carrot soup with croutons would be an ideal appetizer on a winter evening.And the ever popular Gajar ka Halwa is a perennial favourite winter desert. Carrots can be made into pickles too and for this choose the local orange variety and just dip them in brine.Tender peas in pods are my crush. Love everything associated with peas. Peas have an association with childhood afternoons. My Dida used to sit peeling the peas. And I never waited it to finish,picked up and popped the peeled peas straight amidst protests by my mom and dida. Karaishutir Kachuri,Karaishutier Ghugni has been my favourites over decades.Now I love the pea soup too.I also love carving out a simple peas and potato cutlet and sometimes simply saute peas with soft fried onions paired with a bowl of puffed rice is a must in winter evenings with a cup of full-body Assam brew with milk and sugar. But my list of favourites will feature a dish which will have both the carrot and thè peas together.

What entices me to the Carrot and peas curry is the symmetry of colors,its simplicity and the freshness.Its quite simple to go about it,one needs fresh carrots and peas.The carrots has to be diced in small cubes.If its winter comfort food desi ghee is a must.Add whole cumin or jeera into the hot ghee,wait to splutter,but be careful not to burn it.Add to it a paste of ginger,tomato and onion.Keep onion to a minimum.When the masala leaves the ghee, do add corriander powder,turmeric,red chilli powder, asfoetida or hing and salt.Once the masala is done,add the carrots and peas.Stir well to coat the vegetables and splash water as required. The pan has to be covered,let the steam do the magic. Once the vegetables become soft,do away with the lid, add fresh corriander leaves and some lime juice at the end.Enjoy the winter dinner with a roti of your choice.It even pairs well with a crisp slice of toasted bread.

One pot meals are sheer love. They are best when you feel lazy,they are your rescuers when you have sudden guests with whom you would love to share dinner but you have nothing much to offer. My mind races in those times and just about when my smile is on the verge of a frown the saviors are one pot meals. In winter it has to be a Cauliflower and peas Tehri cooked the simple way. Tehri a staple in Eastern Uttar Pradesh has many varieties in the region itself.There are also contradictory histories about its origin.Love cooking the Tehri in my own way though I do not deviate much from recipes of regional cuisines-the storehouses of authenticity.Forthe Tehri I soak long grained Basmati for half an hour,cut potatoes in small cubes and fry them light brown in mustard oil. For Tehri,there is no substitute for mustard oil,more pungent it is,the Tehri will be more tasty. I add bay leaves, cinnamon stick, black peppercorns, cloves along with black and green cardamoms.Once the fragrance of the garam masala fills the air, chopped onion is added to it and I cook for a while.Slide in some ginger, garlic and green chillies and stir for about 2-3 minutes for the flavour to come out.To this masala paste I add cumin powder, coriander powder, turmeric powder and red chilli powder, followed by hing water and salt.Vegetables like carrot, cauliflower, beans, peas and fried potatoes are added and stirred till the masala coats the vegetables. To this I add whisked curd, coriander leaves and the soaked rice.After frying the rice for a while I add double the amount of vegetable stock and let it cook till rice is done and the grain retains its shape. Some fresh coriander leaves for garnishing.Pair the Tehri with a bowl of Raita or a Coriander-mint Dum Aloo.

Kitchens are often are a reflection of the person who owns it,who makes the kitchen an intrinsic part of the home. Some kitchens are quite cosy,some has an air of unattachment. When I redid my kitchen I did it in warm shades of yellow and blue,for me the kitchen is an extension of my self.My kitchen becomes most happy during the winters for it gets me for a much longer duration than any other season.If its winter then my kitchen will witness an apple cake being baked besides the normal orange and rum filled ones.For my apple cake , I choose good apples which I peel and grate them soft and smooth.To the apple puree I mix some lime juice to retain the color as well as to give a tangy taste to the puree. For the standard pound cake I take 200 gm of refined flour, sugar and butter.After creaming the butter and sugar using the cut and fold to incorporate air, I add the flour and the baking powder.Then I add four whisked eggs and continue the cut and fold till the batter becomes light and bubbly. To this I add the grated apple and mix well. The flavor of cinnamon and winter afternoon warmth is synonymous to me.I add a generous spoonful of ground cinnamon. The apple cake needs to be baked for 30 min approximately at 190 degree centigrade in a preheated oven.I often bake my apple cake in the afternoons to be served warm with the evening cup of tea.

The very name Dhaniya Gosht is laced with memories about my Baba. It was during the 90’s when my Baba heading the marketing wing in India of a multinational pharmaceutical company had to travel around the country.He was a foodie and loved to cook as well. Both my Baba and Ma had very separate cooking favourites.Babas niche was Chinese,North Indian and roasts. Ma’s were a typical Bengali fare,cakes and continental. In every star hotel Baba used to put up, he used to befriend the chef and learn some new dish. He used to try them out at the kitchen without fail. One such dish was the Dhaniya Gosht which he replicated with finesse at the kitchen.And then it became his signature dish. Whenever guests were at home, be his Australian and British colleagues and my Russian students, apart from family and friends,Dhaniya Gosht was a regular at the table.
Dhaniya Gosht is one of my favourite ones to cook. Both because it smells of my Baba and I visualise Baba in the kitchen marinating the boneless mutton and grinding the fresh coriander leaves every time I get to do Dhaniya Gosht at my kitchen.
I marinate boneless mutton in curd,green chiili paste,coriander powder,ginger garlic paste overnight or for six hours.
I use desi ghee. To it I add whole garam masala, garlic chopped. When browned I add tomatoes and when mushy, slide in the marinated mutton and required salt. When the ghee separates and the mutton acquires a brownish colour,I add the coriander leaf and green chilli paste.
After sauteing for a while till the oil comes out,the mutton is transferred to a pressure cooker till done.
Once done I mix in garam masala powder,fried onion slices and a dash of lime juice just before serving. Remember not to reheat after adding in the lime juice. Every winter cooking Dhania Gosht is an express ride to the best of times of my life.

Paneer is not on my favourite list, however if its Palak Paneer I do not compromise. Palak Paneer made an appearance at my home a decade ago when my house help who was from Bihar used to make it often.During my days at Amritsar, Palak Paneer and Baingan Bharta became a favorite. Palak or Spinach is quite versatile,it can be used with ease in regional as well as international cuisines.Spinach is said to have originated in ancient Persia and came to Europe in the 11th century when the Moors introduced it in Spain.Spinach in England was known as Spanish vegetable .A favourite of Catherine de Medici , she took spinach to France when she married the King Of France.Dishes prepared and served on a bed of spinach puree began to be called “a la Florentine”.Spinach or Palak blends beautifully with all kinds of cheese.Be it a Palak wala Daal or a Palak Poori or a Spinach Poriyal or a Bengali home style Palong Saager Ghonto or a creamy Palak Soup or a Baked Spinach with Mushroom and White Sauce or a Spinach stuffing in a Chicken breast roast or the authentic Spinach pie called Spanakopita or a Spinach Cannelloni or a Ravioli or the Chinese Crispy Spinach.The list of what one can do with Spinach is never ending with a space for innovations,fusion and blending.Winters are replete with fresh spinach – baby leaves with a vibrant green color.Spinach is a regular during my biweekly market routines. Love making spinach and paneer kebabs and a spinach mish mash with carrots,green peas and pumpkin.

Palak Paneer is a favourite for dinners when I want something out of the ordinary fare.For Palak Paneer I blanch the palak leaves and when at room temperature make a puree out of it. I cut the paneer in long fat slices and season it with salt and red chilli powder and let it sit for some time.My recipe for this is very simple and often I do it without onions.Winters and desi ghee is synonymous,and since garlic does best with ghee,I use ghee as the cooking medium.To it I add whole garam masala,lots of crushed garlic and wait till it gets a brownish tinge.Add crushed green chillies as well to it. Some cumin,coriander powder ,salt and let it saute for a while.To it I add chunks of tomato sliced ,let it just sweat,I do not want the tomatoes mushy. Once the skin gets done, I add the palak puree and let it be for a few minutes.Once the raw smell is done away with I add the paneer ,which I do not fry before.The paneer should be soft enough to soak the flavour .Add salt and a bit of sugar. To retain the green color,I cover the pan and let it cook in slow flame.Once done I add garam masala powder,some ghee and a generous amount of lime juice at the end.Sometimes I garnish it with fried onions.Serve your palak paneer on a wintry night with plain paratha spiced with a bit of ajwain or a missi roti made healthy by the addition of some methi or fenugreek leaves.

What is Christmas without a Chicken Roast and some home made Mulled Wine.Over the years I prefer a quiet Christmas eve dinner where while marinating the whole chicken I thank the superpower above for all that he allowed me to do the year around. Chicken roast has had a long culinary history and tradition.Chicken roast has a diverse significance across disparate cultures and religious traditions.While there are very traditional Chicken roast recipes across Europe, the Middle Eastern world makes chicken roast using a different set of spices.The recipe for my chicken roast as well as the accompanying sauce are as diverse as possible. Sometimes I roast the chicken in the most simplest way using pink salt,lime juice, some paprika and mixed herbs stuffing it with boiled eggs and bacon rashes.For the sauce it is often a barbecue sauce mixed with some apple cider.Sometimes I marinate the chicken in orange juice and port wine and some garlic chives.For the sauce I use a caramelized orange sauce.If its winter and I want an Indian style roast chicken I marinate the chicken with mint and coriander leaves paste, crushed garlic and some olive oil.For the stuffing too there can be as many as variations as one may think.If I do boiled eggs sometimes, at times I pair pineapples with shreds of bacon,sometimes I put in cranberries and if I want it simple some whole onions do the trick.Whatever style I roast the chicken in, there are a few rules I always adhere to.I take a smaller chicken and always with skin.The fat in the skin melts making it crisper at the outside. I always marinate the chicken for over three hours and slash the chicken with fine gashes.I make it a point to roast the chicken in a grill over low temperature for the first thirty minutes.For the color and crispiness I put the chicken over high temperature at the end.

For the chicken roast I would like to point out that pre heating the oven is a necessity.
I rinse and pat dry the whole chicken with skin.
I combine olive oil, melted butter, white wine and lemon juice,salt and white pepper together, rubbing all over the chicken, under the skin and inside the cavity.
The chicken is seasoned outside and inside with salt, pepper and parsley.
The minced garlic is rubbed over the chicken and under the skin. I do this separately as the last step to maximise the garlic taste.
I stuff the garlic head into the chicken cavity along with the rosemary sprigs and the squeezed lemon halve. You can also use sprigs of Thyme or any other herb.
I put the chicken into marination for three hours and roast the chicken while I baste the chicken half way through cooking time, until cooked through.Adjust the oven temperature to the size of the chicken.I serve the chicken with sauted whole onions,baby potatoes sauted in butter and parsley and some lemon sauce broiled in white wine.

The mellow winters in Kolkata are made special by the availability of jaggery or gur in various forms – be it nolen gur (liquid form with a transparent golden hue) or Patali gur (the solidified date palm jaggery).Though it is mandatory to make a pitha or rice crepes during the Sankranti in the month of January in Bengali households as in other parts of the country,I often make patishapta (a thin crepe made of various kinds of flour ,stuffed with coconut and jaggery filling) the entire winter and make it a point to serve it with a bowlful of nolen gur.My love for nolen gur started when I joined a government college located in an area which was famous for its jaggery.Most of my students knew to collect and make the nolen gur to the right consistency. They taught me to source the gur on the second day of several sunny days and never to buy it after a foggy day.Now I have a discerning eye for nolen gur and can easily grade its quality by seeing and smelling it.The key to good nolen gur is that the consistency should be translucent and nothing should sit at the base of the jar of nolen gur.It stays well over a month if refrigerated.For my patishapta I use refined flour and some semolina which I soak in water for a while.I make the batter with the soaked semolina( the proportion of semolina should be 1/3 to the refined flour or maida),the refined flour and lukewarm milk.To it I add liquid date palm jaggery to give it a sweet hint.The nolen gur should be used for just a tinge of sweetness.For the filling I add Patali gur pieces and let it melt in a pan over slow flame.Then I add the desiccated coconut to the jaggery, some khoya and stir till its sticky and thick.I let it cool before I start the actual making of the Patishapta.For the crepes, I add a ladleful of batter which is not either thick or runny on a hot oiled pan,The batter should be of consistency which can spread by itself in an even round.The gas flame should be medium and once you see little pores on the crepe ,you can add the filling on one side and roll it like an omelette. After making every crepe, clean the pan with a wet tissue and brush some oil every time. You can also cover the pan for a while after sliding in the batter to get it well done. The crepes are done on one side only.Do not turn the crepes on the pan like a paratha.Serve the patishapta either with nolen gur or a bowl of kheer by the side.You can substitute the coconut jaggery filling with a khoya filling alone or make a savoury one by adding a mashed green peas filling or a fish filling to the rice crepe.If you do that don’t add the nolen gur to the batter, instead just add a pinch of salt.

Of all the deserts I cook during winter my favourite is a simple Bread and Butter Pudding.If I suddenly have a sweet craving and want something fancy, a bread and butter pudding is the easy fix.Bread pudding is all childhood and conjures up in my mind something brown and moist with mom’s love. I remember school tiffin bread pudding that tasted of nutmeg and dried fruits with a sprinkling of demerara on top. As a greedy child, I liked these bread puddings to the extent they made my heart sing.Childhood puddings were made from sliced bread, overlapping in a dish. Taking stale bread and turning it into something comforting and new was a skill my mom knew.Just because bread puddings were a product of thrift does not mean that they were made carelessly. The simplest of all bread puddings is also known as eggy bread: bread dipped in egg, fried in butter and sprinkled with sugar. The name comes from the French ‘pain perdue’, meaning lost bread. A 15th century recipe tells the reader to start with “fair bread” and “fair yolks” and to “fry him up” in “fair butter” before laying on sugar. And “serve it forth”.

Bread pudding has the most plebeian of origins, While bread pudding is still a way to use up leftover bread, it has gained a reputation as a comfort food and is a featured dessert item in fancy restaurants having shed its humble origins.Since very early times it was common practice to use stale bread in many different ways…including edible serving containers (Medieval sops, foccacia), stuffings (forcemeat), special dishes (French toast) and thickeners (puddings). In the 19th century, recipes for bread pudding were often included in cookbooks under the heading “Invalid cookery.”

” The likely history of the pudding can be traced to the medieval practice of using a hollowed-out loaf as the container for a sweet dish…variants of bread pudding could be eaten hot as pudding or cold as a cake…an Egyptian dessert which bears a marked similarity to bread and butter pudding, and which was originally a simple dish in rural areas…is called Om Ali and is made with bread…milk or cream, raisins, and almonds…Another Middle Eastern bread sweet, Eish es serny (palace bread), is made by drying large round slices cut horizontally through a big loaf to make enormous rusks, which are then simmered in sugar and honey syrup flavoured with rosewater and coloured with caramel. Traveling further east, an Indian dessert in the Moghul style, Shahi tukra, is made with bread fried in ghee, dipped in a syrup flavoured with saffron and rosewater, and covered with a creamy sauce in which decorative slices of almond are embedded.”
The Oxford Companion to Food, Alan Davidson [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 1999 (p. 103)

One of the oldest available Bread and Butter Pudding recipe is by Eliza Acton in 1845.
Give a good flavour of lemon-rind and bitter almonds, or of cinnamon, ir preferred to a pinto of new milk, and when it has simmered a sufficient time for this, strain and mix it with a quarter of a pint of rich cream; sweeten it with four ounces of sugar in lumps, and stir it while still hot to five well-beaten eggs; throw in a few grains of salt, and move the mixture briskly with a spoon as a glass of brandy is added to it. Have ready a thickly-buttered dish three layers of think bread and butter cut from a half-quartern loaf, with four ounces of currants, and one and a half of finely shred candied peel, strewed between and over them; pour the eggs and milk on them by degrees, letting the bread absorb one portion before another is added; it should soak for a couple of hours before the pudding is taken to the oven, which should be a moderate one. Half an hour will bake it. It is very good when made with new milk only; and some persons use no more than a pint of liquid in all, but part of the whites of the eggs my then be omitted. Cream my be substituted for the entire quantity of milk at pleasure”.

Modern Cookery for Private Families, Eliza Acton, 1845 facsimile reprint with an introduction by Elizabeth Ray [Southover Press:East Sussex] 1993 (p. 359)

I do the bread and butter pudding the simplest way.For one pound of bread cut into halves after removing the crusts I use 250 ml of milk and 200 ml of thick cream and 3 whole eggs and one egg yolks.I butter the bread slices both ways and arrange them in a greased pie dish.The arrangement has to be in layers but you can be as creative as you want.After each layer I add raisins and black currants.Once the breads are arranged, I warm the milk,cream,whisked egg and sugar mixture. Be careful not to boil it.The amount of sugar depends on your taste.I add vsnilla essence or vanilla from pods.I pour this mixture into the pie dish and allow the bread to soak for at least 30 min,For the brownish crust I add some brown sugar and dollop of butter at the top.In a preheated oven I bake it at 190 degree centigrade for 30 min.Serve it with a drizzle of brandy.Refrigerate it for a while and it tasted divine. Spoonfuls shared actually seals friendships for life.

You tend to love something more which is short lived,something which you crave for yet you get it for a while.Winters in Kolkata are that whiff of fleeting romance for me every year.Keep awaiting it in bated breath, enjoy its warmth while its there and when its gone be nostalgic about it. Just when the winters bade goodbye and it was time to put away the woolen clothes I thought of recollecting the favourites which I cooked this winter to keep the season etched in memory.Only this winter I did not have my Ma to pack boxes for her whatever I cooked .

Romancing the Bombay Duck….Bombill for your taste buds.

Sea fishes do not top the favourite list of fish lovers in the Eastern part of India, unlike Western coasts where sea fishes are much valued, tasted and experimented with.During the last couple of decades or more sea fishes like Pomfret,Sardines,Mackarels and what we call Loitta in Bengali is seen in the Kolkata markets with regularity as well has gained in popularity. Loitta in particular has been an delicacy with the Bangals for ages. Loitta jhuri (scrambled Loitta) and dried Loitta has been a favourite with the Bangals (people who migrated from modern Bangladesh during Partition of India in 1947) and in the north eastern part of India.What we call Loitta is known as Bombay Duck or Bombil in the western coast of our country.They are much loved along the entire Konkan coast.

With an ancestry from East Bengal and married into a rigid Bangal family, Loitta is one of my favourites. Spiced up,dry with oil oozing out and with a generous addition of vegetables Loitta jhuri continues to be a delicacy in my house.My recent trip to Bombay where I saw the love for loitta, known as Bombay Duck or Bombill made me realize that distinctions of language,culture can be easily transcended by taste.Tastes are often similar across various distinctions.Labelled as ‘lizardfish’ on Wikipedia, Bombill has a special place in the hearts of the Bombayites.

This soft fish has a mythological story associated with its evolution.. Legends say that when Lord Rama was building a bridge to Lanka, he sought the help of all the fishes in the sea. With the exception of Bombill all of them obliged. Lord Rama was angered at such an errant behavior and he threw them into the seas near Bombay but not before crushing it in his palms. This physical torture crushed all its bones and it lives devoid of a backbone for ever. Govind Narayan in his autobiography,- ‘Govind Narayan’s Mumbai: An Urban Biography from 1863’ narrated the story.

Etymologically Bombill is also linked to the Indian Railways during the colonial period. When the rail links started connecting Bombay to Calcutta, Bombill was transported to the Eastern part by the railways. Since the smell of the dried fish was overpowering,the Bombay Mail (or Bombay Daak) smelled fishy.”You smell like the Bombay Daak” became common in use in the days of the British Raj. Bombay Daak eventually was spelled as “Bombay Duck”. However the Oxford English Dictionary dates “Bombay Duck” to 1850, two years before the first railroad in Bombay was constructed.The word could also have been an anglicisation of the local Marathi name for the fish, bombil, used by the Maharashtrians that the British couldn’t spell correctly. Or perhaps the name is born from the Marathi bazaar cry, “bomiltak” (“here is bombil”). British-Parsi writer, Farrukh Dhondy, in his book “Bombay Duck “ wrote that the name came from the British mail trains that delivered orders of dried fish from the city to the interior of India. These wagon loads of fish became known as “Bombay Dak”.(The word dak means “mail”.)

According to some historians,the term Bombay duck was first coined by Robert Clive, after he tasted it during his conquest of Bengal. He is said to have associated the pungent smell with that of the newspapers and mail which would come into the cantonments from Bombay. In his 1829, “Book of poems and Indian reminiscences”, Sir Toby Rendrag notes the use of a fish nicknamed ‘Bombay Duck’ and the phrase was used in texts as early as 1815.

The following definition is from Hobson-Johnson: A glossary of colloquial Anglo-Indian words first published in 1886, by Henry Yule (1820-89) and Arthur Coke Burnell (1840-82):

(1903 edition)
Bummelo. A small fish, abounding on all the coasts of India and the Archipelago; Harpodon nehereus of Buch. Hamilton; the specific name being taken from the Bengali name nehare. The fish is a great delicacy when fresh caught and fried. When dried it becomes the famous Bombay duck […], which is now imported into England.

The first known mention of this fish is found in A new account of East-India and Persia, in eight letters being nine years travels begun 1672 and finished 1681 (London, 1698), by the English travel writer and doctor John Fryer (circa 1650-1733); when describing Bombay, he wrote the following:

On the backside of the Towns of Bombaim and Maijm, are Woods of Cocoes (under which inhabit the Banderines, those that prune and cultivate them), these Hortoes being the greatest Purchase and Estates on the Island, for some Miles together, till the Sea break in between them: Overagainst which, up the Bay a Mile, lies Massegoung, a great Fishing-Town, peculiarly notable for a Fish called Bumbelo, the Sustenance of the Poorer sort, who live on them and Batty, a course sort of Rice, and the Wine of the Cocoe, called Toddy.

The name Bombay duck is first recorded in Paddy Hew; A Poem, from the Brain of Timothy Tarpaulin (London, 1815), by A. Clark and William Combe:

To live there always on the rack
[…]
My carcase there did hourly waste,
Like Bombay duck and quite as fast,
When native strings him up by gills
And reeking fat runs down in rills,
Until it be reduc’d by sun
To shrivelled muscle, skin and bone.

Reverend Abram Smythe Palmer (1844-1917) explained in Folk Etymology: A dictionary of verbal corruptions or words perverted in form or meaning, by false derivation or mistaken analogy (London, 1882), that Bombay duck

is one of a numerous class of slang expressions—the mock-heroic of the eating-house—in which some common dish or product for which any place or people has a special reputation is called by the name of some more dainty article of food which it is supposed humorously to supersede or equal. Thus a sheep’s head stewed with onions, a dish much affected by the German sugar-bakers in the East End of London, is called a German duck.

Bombil also is irrevocably bound with caste preferences in food. According to Shailaja Paik’s Dalit Women’s Education in Modern India: Double Discrimination, “While some elite Dalits found the pungent smell of Bombil nauseating, others experienced a waft of Bombil and Sukat (small dry fish) as particularly appetising. In other words, bombil-bhaakri was a delicacy for lower-class Dalits…”.

Bombill or Bombay Duck is considered to be a delicacy across many communities. Bombay has eternally romanced the Bombay Duck, and it is a favourite of almost all the ethnic communities like Malvanis.Konkanis and the Parsis.An early morning visit to Saason Dock gave me an idea of the popularity of the fish both for domestic consumption as well as export. Bombill is commonly found in stores across Canada and England and is known as Bomello.Koli fishermen in the dock have been salting and sun-scorching them on bamboo stilts called valandis for hundreds of years.These dried variety is eaten during monsoons and stewed into curries or dry-fried as an acompaniment to dal and rice. Koli fishermen smear them with Koli masala, and cook them in a coconut gravy.The Konkanis rub the fish into a vinegary chutney and grill it,sometimes stuffing it with small prawns. Some Maharashtrian communities fry it into a bhaji (fritter) while others add tamarind to the Bombill curry.

In 1795, a Parsi businessperson, Seth Cawasji,presented half a ton of dusty Bombay Duck and 30 dusty Pomfret fishes to a administrator of Bombay. Navroji Framji’s 1883 recipe book, Indian Cookery for Young Housekeepers, calls the fish “bombloes” and offers two recipes: one, a dried fish stew with tamarind, ginger-garlic, chilli and fried onion; and the second, a chilli-fry of dried bombloes cooked with turmeric, coriander, pulped tamarind and green chillies. In 1975, Parsi musician-composer Mina Kava gave musical shape to the community’s love for the fish by writing a song called Bombay Duck, which begins:”Here’s a story simple / of a duck with a little dimple / he’s the strangest little duck / this little ducky never clucks.”

Parsi cuisine has a large repertoire of dishes using Bombill like Sookhi Boomla Ni Akoori,Sookhi Boomla Ni Cutlets,Sookha Boomla ni Chutney and Tareka Boomla.Had a taste of Tarapori Patio while I was in Bombay last month. Loved the sweet sour tangy taste of the soft fish.

Managed to get an authentic recipe of Tarapori Patio from Daren Hansotia in Kolkata.Tarapori Patio is best had with khicdi,pav or bhakri. Sweet and sour in taste ,the dish originated from a village called Tarapore in Gujrat. For making the Patio one needs Bombay Duck cut into pieces. One has to grind garlic,cumin seeds and red chilli powder in a paste. In a pan in hot oil,the chopped onions are fried till golden brown. The paste is added and stir fried till oil separates. The fish pieces are added. After sauteing for a while salt and vinegar is added to the gravy. After cooking for about five minutes some vinegar soaked jaggery and water is when the gravy thickens and becomes coated to the fish it can be garnished with corriander leaves and remember to keep the flame low after the fish has been added.

Malvani and Konkani communities too have their signature dishes using Bombill. The most popular one is Bombil Fry in a crust of rava and rice flour.The crispiness can be best achieved by taking the water out of the fish perfectly.Some fry the fish whole and some prefer fillets.Other popular dishes include Bombill Kalvan which uses kokum and curry leaves apart from garlic and coconut. Bombill in Green Curry too is a popular dish.A complete Bombill meal will include crisp Bombill fries.Rasa,Sol kadi and Bhakri.

Tasting authentic Malvani and Konkani cuisine was a highpoint of my Bombay visit last month. Bombill fry at Soul Fry in Bandra stole my heart.Fillets of Bombay Duck were crisp in the rava crust.A relaxed lunch at Sadiccha next day with whole Bombill fries along with a rasa and a Sol Kadi will be remembered for long. The Bhakris were soft and when dipped in the typical Malvani gravy, they soaked in the flavours perfectly. My bucket list includes several other restaurants which I would definitely visit in my next trip. Gajaale, Highway Gomantak,Mahesh Lunch Home has to be ticked off soon enough.

Be it the Loitta Jhuri or the Shutki Loitta or the Bombill crisp Fry or the Tarela Boomla,food unites layers of diversities.Whats in a name,it may be different, but what is important is the unity of taste across the country. Bombay Duck unites disparate communities and cultures. Be it the shores of the Arabian Sea or the shores of the Bay of Bengal the Bombay Duck makes its way across regions.

The story of Pancham Puriwala….an eatery with the longest history in Bombay.

Bombay is a city of contrasts in all spheres of life. Food is no exception.While there are posh,curated restaurants of the like of The Table at one end, the other end of the spectrum has eateries like Pancham Puriwala which believes in good food sans the decor and the frills.It was past 8 PM on a weekend and all I could see was a queue in front of the oldest operating restaurant in Bombay. The queue was fast moving,the eatery was an open one,it had no glass doors,no airconditioning and no plush seating.Yet the people who came out after their meal had a smile on their lips and looked satiated.The buzz at the restaurant was overwhelming. This is Pancham Puriwala,established in 1848 ,even before the Sepoy Mutiny and the Church Gate station was built. Pancham Puriwala is undoubtedly heritage both in terms of age and in taste.The yearning for a crisp puri any time of the day among the Indians live on. Puri can be had for all the three meals as well as a quick snack.The charm of a puri in various forms though remains unscathed.

Puri or Poori is a traditional breakfast served in most parts of India both in homes as well as a street food. The name Puri is derived from the Sanskrit word Purika meaning filled. Puris are known by different names and differ in taste in various regions and are served primarily with a potato sabji which too differs in taste and texture. Khamiri green peas Puri, Bhedawi Puri,Khus khus Puri,Farsi Puri, Thunka puri are some of the various varieties of puris across India. Puris are also served with non vegetarian Naharis for breakfast as well as dishes like Keema matar. While Puris are rolled out of whole wheat flour in the northern regions,in the eastern part of the country Puris known as Luchi use refined flour. Puris have stuffed variety too like Matar stuffed kachori and Lentil stuffed Radhaballavi or Karai shutir kachuri(green peas) in Bengal. Gur stuffed puris are also a regional speciality. Innovation has entered the world of puris too as they are now being stuffed with beetroot,spinach or palak, cheese and even chocolate. Puris are also served with Halwas of various kinds and Kheer too.

Puris have traversed countries too. Puris went to Mauritus with the indentured labourers and came to be known as Dholl puri. The Dholl puri is however not deep fried ,it is cooked on a tawa or griddle and has some lentil stuffed in the refined flour dough with salt,turmeric and roasted cumin powder as seasoning. Dholl Puri is also eaten in Trinidad but is known as Buss-up-shirt as the texture resembles rags. Europe too has its varieties of deep fried flat breads.In Hungary it is known as Langos made from flour,milk,yeast and salt.Deep fried,the Langos are stuffed withsour cream,mashed potato and yoghurt. It is eaten fresh and warm ,topped with cheese,sour cream or with garlic butter.

The eatery located on a busy corner of Perin Nariman Street,not far from Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus has a fare of only different kinds of Puris.The variety however is unlimited- Chole puri,Alu Palak puri,Alu mutter puri,Alu Methi puri, Ali Gobi puri,Alu Bhindi puri,Masala puri and so on.One can choose from a Saada thali ,a Jain thali and the bestseller Pancham thali. While the flour doughs are constantly being rolled and deep fried in oil ,stocks of fried puri hardly builds up.They vanish as soon as they are drained out of the oil.After waiting patiently at the queue with tastebuds going for a toss as I sniffed the aroma and was practically salivating .Chatting up with the fifth generation owner I was amazed to know that he had not taken a break in the last two decades,to the extent he did not have time to get married.

Pancham Das Sharma who started with a nondescript stall selling ordinary breakfast fare hailed from a village called Adhet,in Tundla near Agra. The details of his journey are hazy but he definitely carried his art of puri making and the technique of rustling up a dry alu sabji to go with the puri. There are stories that he travelled to Bombay on a bullock cart ,as it was the age before the Railways.When Pancham Sharma first came to the city, Perin Nariman street was known as Bazar Gate Street or simply ‘Bazar Gate’ and had no street lights.

According to old city maps of Bombay there was a pond called Gibbet’s pond–locally known as Fasi Talao–facing Pancham Puriwala which was a popular spot for public executions. Popular stories in the Sharma household narrate that large crowds would gather to witness executions and afterwards they would drop in to eat poori-bhaji.The eatery today serves a social purpose too…food truly is a class equalizer. At Pancham Puriwala a white collared corporate honcho shares the table with a migrant labour picking up the pickled green chillies from the same bowl.You cannot book your table and therefore you are at liberty sharing food as well as stories.Pancham Puriwala in a sense erased class distinctions and reiterates food creates no distinctions…a gulp of the Palak puri dipped in the Kaddu sabji or the runny potato gravy tastes as heavenly as to a person residing in an apartment in Peddar Road as to the one who sleeps by the Churchgate station after a grueling work day.

We got a seat upstairs and shared the table with a group of migrant labourers from Bihar who were a regular there for dinner.We ordered a Pancham Thali. The thali was huge- an array of five kinds of puri including a plain one,a Palak stuffed, a masala stuffed spicy puri, a Beetroot puri and a Paneer puri. Went overboard with the variety and rustic authentic taste of the accompaniments. A dry potato sabji with generous spluttering of cumin and hing,a runny potato sabji which reminded of childhood Sunday breakfasts,a pumpkin sabji which tasted sweet as well as fragrant with the five spices,a traditional kadhi pakora,a matar paneer sabji. A chaas to finish it off and offcourse the hot Gulab Jamun.The mixed Pulao was also good with each grain of rice separate and fragrant of fresh vegetables and garam masala. We also ordered a glass of a Kesar Lassi on the recommendation of the owner. The kesar syrup was home made and the lassi thick.

We finished the thali in about 15 minutes and heard the owner who managed the crowd and the tables with a great finesse announcing as the last two orders.We quickly vacated to make space for the next lot. No finger bowls, we made ourselves happy with a basin for washing our hands and bunch of paper napkins.No frills but full on taste and comfort.For the countless people making Bombay their home ,the puris at Pancham were a dollop of home and love of their mother or grandmother.People keep coming back for the runny potato and kaddu sabji so much home,so much own.

Migrating from the north of India the family made Bombay their home for over a century and more,satiating thousands with the every day food of puri and sabji. The oldest eatery in the foodscape of Bombay ,still flourishing and charting new courses.Good food, unabated quality, service and love for their work permeates every corner of Panchsm Puriwala. The next morning demanded an extra couple of kilometers walk but was worth every morsel I had at Pancham Puriwala. At once I was transported to the days of train journeys to Delhi where Tundla was a junction station and my father would always jump down at the station and come back with some puris and a potato sabji in a sal leaf tokri where the puris went mushy in the potato gravy.The aroma of the hing flavoured aloo sabji which was a childhood memory came back that evening at Pancham Puriwala. Food is undoubtedly emotion,nostalgia,memory and offcourse acculturation.

Chai by the sea…The story of the Irani tea houses in Bombay

Irani_chai

It was a trip to Bombay I made after twenty years though I am a Bombayite by birth.It was many many autumns before I was born in Bombay in a nursing home beside the Chowpatty Beach.My parents relocated and I left the Arabian shores without much of a memory. Many years later in high school Bombay became my summer vacation escapade as my Baba had again relocated to Bombay.Bombay now seemed lovable and beautiful.Memories were built around Wilson College,Campion School,Napean Sea Road, Haji Ali.Began loving the Footlongs,the custard by the sea at Haji Ali,the seascapes of the city of Bombay. The last trip I made there was also my Baba’s last trip to his favourite city,the city which gave him professional excellence as well as the city which told him in an autumn in 2000 that maybe his days were numbered.I did not feel like going back to the city all these years. A sudden professional engagement and a need to re see the city where my parents began their life and career got me back to the city and a new affair has definitely began with the city of contrasts.The city is not a city of high-rises or high lives alone, it is also sometimes a city emanating the fragrance of old times,the stone buildings whispering stories,the shaded lanes of Colaba standing mute spectators of rolling times.The city clings on to its rich culture-its multiculturalism, respect for communities and belonging for their city continues unabated.Bombay has blended in beautifully the archaic,the old an the priceless with the new and with a price tag.Bombay is not always hurried ,it is also laid back ,enjoying its cup of chai and bun maskas with little worries about the world.

Bombay does not have winters,but a coolness overpowers the city in January and there I was in the city after a long hiatus,the breeze from the sea seemed comforting as I strolled around the lanes and bylanes of Colaba soaking in the pulse of the financial capital of the country.However businesslike it may seem,the city is also emotional,clinging on to it’s very own old run down but precious Irani restaurants in the Colaba and the Fort area which began its journey serving chai to the myriad people of colonial Bombay.

Established by the Zoroastrian immigrants from Iran in the 19th century, they served as some of the earliest public places for people to gather and eat outside home in a growing metropolis. It is said that the Irani cafés were also places where freedom fighters met to discuss plans of activism and movements.

The Zoroastrian community left Iran in two waves. The first group left in the early 8th century to escape religious persecution and are called Parsis. The second wave of migration occurred in the 19th century over fear of persecution during the Islamic revolution of Iran. These immigrants are called Iranis. Though both the Parsi and Irani communities share the same faith, they diverge culturally. The Irani community speaks Farsi , while the Parsis mostly speak Gujarati. It was this second set of immigrants, the Iranis, who met over hot cups of chai to fondly remember their family and friends. Haji Mohammed Showghi Yezdi travelled following the route from Kerman province down to Nav kondi then Quetta and Karachi, to reach the shores of a city then known as Bombay after a eight-month journey. Stories say that he carried a large sigdi– a tumbler with flaming coals at the bottom to maintain heat as he sat at Apollo Bunder, by the Gateway of India and sold Irani chai (tea) to the busy port. The popularity of chai among Bombay’s migrant labour and the working classes led to the mushrooming of tea stalls around every street corner of the Appollo Bunder area. Hindu merchants considered corner premises inauspicious and hence let them out to the enterprising Iranis at a cheap rate and thus the Irani shops began their journey.

The later immigrants, both Zoroastrian and Shia,from the drought-hit provinces of Yazd were part of the caravan network of the southern Silk Route. Its residents were mostly horticulturists but were also known for their coffee houses which however sold black tea.It is said that the Irani cafes in Bombay built on the coffee houses of their homeland.The large influx of Iranians into Bombay and the opening of Irani tea shops and restaurants in the late 19th  and early 20th centuries changed the way citizens ate, socialised and shopped. Items such as toiletries, over-the-counter medicines, detergent and other knick-knacks, were available at the Irani shops initially.

With a very minimalist decor of marble topped tables and comfortable chairs these shops began selling– crusty brun, sweet buns or soft pao, served  buttered, with milky, sweet tea.Thus the iconic Bun Maska was born.The salty taste of the butter and the sweetness of the tea gave the metropolis a new taste.However buns and milky tea were not specialities in Iran, where it was customary to drink reddish-black tea without milk. Traditional Iranian bread too is actually a flatbread, the oblong-shaped naan, made from barley flour, which hardly resembles the city’s Irani bakery breads.The adaptations, such as brun and pao, evolved from the locality where the first Irani restaurants opened. This was Dhobi Talao, where Kayani & Co, possibly the oldest existing Irani café in the city was located. Dhobi Talao was home also to a large number of Goan Christians, the bakery experts.The pao or pav of the Goans who were hired at the Irani shops evolved into the buns or bruns.

The oldest cafe Kyani & Co founded by Khodram Marezaban in 1904 shifted to it’s current premises at Jer Mahal building near Metro cinema.The cafe retains its old world no frills charm with red chequered table cloths, large wood and glass cabinets,glass covered tables,a large central mahogany counter and a grandfather’s clock. At one corner there is a portrait of Aflatoon Shokri who took over the eatery in 1957. The portrait was done by the legendary M F Husain, who was a regular visitor at the cafe. Kyani Cafe still has a wholesome breakfast within Rs100/- of their delicious Akuri  – a traditional Parsi dish of scrambled eggs on toast — with a cup of cardamom flavoured Irani Chai.

Once I got an invitation to attend a seminar at the city which breathed life at every go,I was sure to explore its heritage eateries.I decided to stay very near to Gateway of India .In my free time I walked about,sometimes getting lost in the maze of lanes of Colaba.Getting lost amidst such iconic buildings and paved roads was an experience in itself.To loose yourself in the unknown is like the moon suddenly losing it’s way behind an assemblage of clouds in a dark night.Google map became my constant reference point as I typed in Kyani&Co one morning after my daily walks around the Gateway and Radio Club. Took an Uber which went past the Mumbai University,the iconic Bombay High Court building ,past the Fashion Street and Bombay Gymkhana to the Free Reading room of Cowasjee Jehangir Building.Kyani is just opposite to the statue of Cowasjee Jehangir,the philanthropist who built Bombay in its splendor.

The hall at first sight was busy and had a din of people.I saw waiters moving about the tables briskly and taking orders for breakfast.Being a Sunday it had a family crowd chatting over wooden tables with glass top and Bentwood Chairs.The walls had pictures of famous people as well as iconic landmarks.The counter was made of mahogany wood and had a board saying ” Cash Only”.The old grandfather clock ticking away was evocative of the days of past colonial Bombay.The writing on the pillar that “Singles and Doubles be considerate and learn to share to share a table” was quite innovative.

The menu was on the table itself with a glass covering. I knew what I wanted to have,the aroma of the mutton left me salivating.My order was of a Kheema Ghotala ,a Bun Maska and an Irani Chai.While I could imagine the look of a Kheema Ghotola but could never in my wildest dream knew about the bun maska. The buns were cut into halves across the middle,smeared with butter and looked dainty on my table.The soft buns with the salty taste of the butter were dipped inside the plate of Kheema Ghotala and my senses were transformed in a flicker. The mutton minced into fine cuts was melt in mouth,the egg were soft and blended effortlessly.As I went about finishing the kheema,kept a portion of the bun for the chai. Looked around the place and from the take away counter I ordered a packet of Shrewsbury,the famous Mawa cake, the Glass Mawa cake,my favourite Date and Walnut loaf too.The counter had an assortment of cakes ,pies and savourites including brain cutlets, patties and biscuits like Shrewsbury, Coconut,Almond,Butterscotch,Mango and a host of jam biscuits.The jam biscuits with a dollop of mixed fruit jam in the middle got back childhood memories.

The popular items of Kyani include Mutton Salli Boti,Chicken Leg Farcha,Masoor Ghost apart from Dhansak and Pulao Dal. Do end your meal with the biggest portion of Caramel Pudding that I was ever served in any restaurant and offcourse their chocolate mousse.

The Irani chai intrigued me.It was rich,creamy and the generous sprinkling of cardamom was perfect for the mild winter of Bombay. It left me energized and fresh.The salty butter of the Bun Maska acted as a perfect accompaniment to the sweetness of the chai. Managed to learn a recipe of Irani chai from one of the Parsi women I met at the seminar.

For the chai you will need- 4 cups water,2 Tbsp of Black tea, 4 cups of whole milk,3 Tbsp of mawa,sugar to taste and sone Cinnamon powder.Prepare the chai in the manner mentioned below-

  1. Bring the water to a boil . Add the tea leaves and reduce heat, then continue to boil for about 20 minutes until the volume reduces by half. Remove from heat and strain.
  2. In a separate large saucepan, heat the milk on medium heat and bring to a boil. Stir constantly until the milk is reduced to 1½ cups. Whisk in the mawa, khoya, or dry milk powder until smooth and continue to cook until it thickens slightly, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat.
  3. Mix the filtered tea and the reduced milk mixture. Sweeten if desired, divide between two cups, and serve hot.
  4. Add ½ teaspoon of ground cinnamon to the tea when brewing,or before serving.

Once you are in Bombay do visit B Merwan at Grant Road for its freshly baked Mawa cakes,Yazdani Bakery for its Apple pies in the afternoon, Jimmy Boy near Kala Ghoda for a complete Parsi feast (Lagan nu Bhonu),Brittania at Ballard Estate for its famed Berry Pulao,Fresh lime soda and the Raspberry Soda.

Fell in love with the Irani eateries as I thought that at the end of it all quality,taste and service matters not the decor.The run down eateries with peeled off plaster is overlooked as people across strata and age makes a beeline for either the Chai with a glass Mawa Cake or the Berry Pulao or the Dhansak or the Salli Boti anytime of the day.

With people, food too travels across rugged terrains,food migrates too but retains most of their tastes and adapts to some extent to the new homeland.An interesting story of amalgamation and synthesis…..food continues to bind people,nations and makes space for love amidst diversities.

Sangria – The Pitcher of Happiness.

There are few things more soothing to the eye and the mind than to see a pitcher of sangria being readied with care and precision. Red wine, orange juice and a medley of fruits,infused for over eight hours, some and lots of passion. The Sangria will spread cheer for sure.

While Americans first tasted this red wine punch at the 1964 World Fair in New York, the history of Sangria can be traced back to 200 BC in Spain. The historical sources however has contradictory opinions on the origin country of Sangria.

Spain began planting vineyards for wine making and trade with the Romans. Wine became the most popular drink across age.The popularity of wine drinking however had its origins in medical science.Water was thought to be full of bacteria and unfit for consumption.Any liquid with some alcohol infused in it killed the bacteria making it the beverage of choice. People who lived near the vine yards added other fruits and spices to the wine, giving it a different flavor. These ingredients together paved the way for the traditional Spanish red wine punch- Sangria.Sangria had another twist during the 1700’s and 1800’s when the British and French got a taste of it. The new base of the punch became Claret (the British term for the French Bordeaux).Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot were often added to the mix to be finished off with a mix of fruits.A jar of Sangria began to be found at every party from Cadiz to London.

While America does not have a legal standard for the drink, European Union does. It is defined as,“a drink obtained from wine, aromatized with the addition of natural citrus-fruit extracts or essences, with or without the juice of such fruit and with the possible addition of spices, sweetened and with CO2 added, having an acquired alcoholic strength by volume of less than 12 % vol. The drink may contain solid particles of citrus-fruit pulp or peel and its colour must come exclusively from the raw materials used.” While Sangria is more often a red wine drink, white can be used too. A variety of fruits like oranges, apples, pomegranates, peaches are used. The most obvious component of Sangria remains the wine. While there is definitely some room for variation on all of the other ingredients, there is no Sangria without wine. While one could make a Sangria with a different sweetener and a plethora of fruits, wine must be an ingredient, so the history of wine is forever tied to the history of Sangria.

Historically Sangria was preceded by Hippocras which was a spiced and sweetened wine that could have been served warm or cold. Any sort of spice or flavorful stuff was added to it. It was filtered through a filter named “the sleeve of Hippocrates”, hence the name. The name of this drink thus comes from the bag that the drink was filtered through. Some historians point out that the origin of Sangria dates back to the 14th century and can be traced to Ecuador or the Caribbean Antilles Islands. The European Union passed a decree that the name Sangria is under exclusive rights to Spain and Portugal only, similar to what the French have done with Champagne in Spain; one cannot call it Champagne in Spain, instead it is called Cava. Legends say that some Spanish sailors started calling it Sangria, which means bloodshed, because wine is the body of Christ, and must not be altered or tampered with, initially they would have been up-hauled watching Caribbean locals mixing fruit juice with wine, but it eventually became popular.  Although one associates sangria with warm weather months, it is equally as delicious in winter.The first day of winter in America is celebrated on December 21 as the National Sangria Day.  Till 2008 it was illegal to serve Sangria in Virginia because of an antiquated law that prohibited mixing wine or beer with spirits.The law was written in 1934 just after Prohibition ended and was repealed in 2008 by the Virginia General Assembly.

For me Sangria is refreshing any time of the evening. A tall pitcher with colors and friends with laughter.My tips for assembling the sangria. One will need decent red table-Wine,Cointreau Orange Liquor or Rum or both, Orange juice and the juice of one lemon, Sugar, but not too much, fruit slices of your choice such as lemon, orange,apple.Using a muddler or the back of a wooden spoon, muddle the fruits with the wine. Stir to combine all ingredients. Stir the sangria then cover the top of the pitcher with plastic wrap. Place pitcher in refrigerator and chill several hours or overnight.  Serve in festive glasses with a lime slice garnish. Choose a wine that is fruity but dry. Make sangria a day ahead of when you are going to serve it so that the flavors in the sangria can infuse.

Sit around a table with friends, help yourself out of the Sangria pitcher and share the happiness and warmth. The flavor lives on in the cheer the Sangria spreads.

This was a picture taken at a gathering of the Historical Society. The medley of fruits in the Sangria after the wine was finished off.