Saturday, June 08, 2013
Kaanda (Onion) Bhaji
There is a slow but steady increase in the Monsoon--still a gentle,peaceful pace but very much there!!The funny thing is that I was only worried about my hip pain worsening---instead surprisingly it has eased a bit !!If I recall correctly the Pain began in April and as the Heat escalated up and up so did the Pain. Now I'm trying to find out whether extreme Heat can also cause the Pain???The reason may anything--Weather,Medication,Excercises--o
r maybe all 3 combined but I AM feeling much better both physically and mentally for being crippled by Osteo Arthritis is not what I want to be looking at!!
I love India during the Rains---the body feels cool and rested and the nights are definitely more relaxed and one does sleep better.The only real problem is mobility because a lot of areas which are low lying turn into Lakes!!In my childhood I'd watch the torrential Rain from my maternal Grandparents Balcony in one of the low lying areas and after an exceptionally heavy downpour the Fisher Folk could be seen plying light Canoes to ferry people across to the Buildings in the vicinity.Everything would come to a standstill---and we'd have a wonderful impromptu holiday---with my Aaji cooking up a steady stream of Food in her Coal fired Kitchen.My Aazoba would want all his favourite dishes for Breakfast and Lunch and the afternoon Snacks would be large platefuls of crisp deep fried Onion Fritters with a spicy Coriander Coconut Chutney---the perfect mating of a hot,crisp,spicy savoury taste!!The Onions would be very thinly sliced into slivers which would then be seasoned with Salt,a pinch of Sugar and some Coriander-Cumin Powder in the morning and covered and left in a cool place to sweat and release it's juices.In the Afternoon ,finely chopped hot Green Chillies and Fresh Coriander leaves would be added to the Mixture along with some Chick Pea Flour to make a dropping Batter--thick enough to just bind the Slivers together and provide a crisp coating.No Water was added for that would thin the Batter too much.Large tablespoonfuls would be dropped into the hot Oil and within minutes platefuls of the "Bhajiyas" would be served--literally disappearing into thin Air within moments of it's arrival!!On the days we did not eat Onion or Garlic,thin finely sliced Cabbage would be used instead---another truly yummy substitution!!
It was only after I began producing an unending supply of the same for my family that I realised the effort it took to churn out these fast enough to keep the baying family quiet---a truly Herculean task!!!Luckily both Aaji and Mummy had Cooks to help out--Aaji did most things personally and though similarly minded, Mummy would have to relegate most of these things to the Cook for Daddy wanted her to sit out in the Verandah with us and enjoy the Weather.In my case I preferred and still do--doing my own work.Despite having helpers in the Kitchen I need things just so--and therefore do some of these preparations myself----which does irritate my Kitchen helpers I must confess--nobody likes to be treated as an imbecile!!However I am now learning to let go of this obsession of mine--with Sudhir not there anymore a lot of things have ceased to matter.
Saturday, June 08, 2013
The Vegetable Market
The Samovar at Kaalaa Ghoda,Fort
The Fresh Catch
A Traditional Marathi Thali on a Banana Leaf
The Monsoon brings an end to the long,hot,sweltering Summer heat---and also brings a lot of Fresh Vegetables and some Fish.The Boats go fishing only when there is some respite from the Gale force Winds but this is when Fish from the Gulfs come in.Mackerels,Bombay ducks and tiny grey coloured Shrimp called "Javalaa" are available for a limited period during the Monsoons.
Basically the four month Fast of the Marathi Hindus also starts during the Monsoons.Some do not eat even Onion or Garlic for the entire four months--but the reason for this Vegetarianism is the belief that the human metabolism slows down during this period and as Vegetarian Food is lighter to digest,it is preferred.Besides the entire period is choc-a-bloc with various Festivals and Religious Ceremonies and that is when Food is traditionally served on Banana Leaves.I used to love those days and yes I used to fast too!!Unfortunately the advent of Diabetes in 1996 forced me to give up that 4 month Fasting period and since then I am battling my weight problem.That period during my childhood was awesome--specially in my maternal Grandparents home in Bombay.We'd be served our Lunches and Dinners ceremoniously with "Rangoli" drawn in delicate patterns around each Leaf by my aunts.The food would be served from left to right beginning with the ceremonial pinch of Salt followed by a wedge of Lime, the Pickle,Chutney ,a spicy Condiment called "Panchamrut" and a Salad.Then there would follow the Vegetable Curry,a dry Vegetable Dish,a Bean Dish called Ussal and then the Dal Curry,a Sweet dish and finally the" Kokum Kadhi" all served in individual Silver bowls.The Rice would be served in the middle in two small moulds--one bearing a simple,sweet tasting Dal called "Varan" eaten with a dollop of Fresh Ghee or clarified Butter.The rice would be flanked by "Papads" and "Bhajiyas" or Fritters and deep fried Whole Wheat Indian Bread called "Puries".The Thali in the Picture also features "Alu Vadi" or a Taro Leaf Savoury made with of Taro Leaves layered with a Chick Pea Flour spicy paste.The Leaves aren then rolled up tightly and steamed before being cut in rounds and shallow fried.The Thali also features triangles of "Puran Poli" made with sweet Chick Pea concoction stuffed in All Purpose Flour dough and rolled out as thin as possible without breaking the outer covering shell.These too are eaten with dollops of warm,home made Ghee dribbled over them drenching these into simply delicious morsels!!In my childhood there would be many more dishes on the Leaf but today we just cook the mandatory Menu specially during the Hindu month of "Shraavan/Saawan" which has the maximum Religious activities!!
For me today the ambience of those days made Mealtimes special--the Incense twirling around in the still Air swirling upwards,the appetising aroma of the Food and above all the bonhomie and the camaraderie that was evident in all the jokes and teasing small talk exchanged between all the Men and children eating while the women served the Food with love and a smile--dressed in beautifully draped nine yard Saries with Gold motifs and borders--oh yes!!those were the days!!
Friday, June 07, 2013
The Drenched Vegetable Patch this Morning
Fresh Java Plums--in Season now
The Mumbai High Court--The Place where Sudhir practiced Law
The heady scented "Chaaphaa" Flowers
Intoxicatingly perfumed "Bakuli" Flowers
At last,finally last night the Weather broke !!There was a heavy downpour--not the usual one with loads of Attitude--the clashing,flashing kind but a much gentler,quieter steady downpour--and that really has brought up our spirits!!Of course I missed the awesome and glorious Fireworks but then the Heat and Humidity reduced considerably ---for which I'm immensely grateful as this makes for a very pleasant Climate change.There is still a long way to go for the Summer Heat to cool down to just warm---but the sweltering,blistering Heat has lessened!!
The Rains bring out all my hoarded Songs--Saxophone,Guitar and Piano instrumentals as well as the Oldies of Harry Belafonte,Frank Sinatra,Cliff Richard and Hollywood Film Themes.Both Sudhir and I loved "Singin' in the Rain" and that song would play at top volume after the first Showers all through the day.During the Rains we had a tradition of going out for Soups and the places we loved eating these was at The Wayside Inn and opposite it The Samovar---both situated at "Kaalaa Ghoda" so called because a statue of King George astride a Black Horse stood there before Independence.That the name has survived despite the removal of the Statue long back shows the kind of tendency we as a Country have of clinging to both our History and Past!!The one place I really miss visiting in the early days of the Monsoon is The Taj.
Since childhood Apollo Bunder or the Gateway of India has held a special place in my heart.Vacations in Bombay meant rides in the Horse drawn carriages called "Victoria" along the promenades of Apollo Bunder,Cuffe Parade and Marine Drive. The Marine Drive ended at Nariman Point and this was a long strip that stretched into the Arabian Sea.Here there was an open Air screen that showed various Documentaries.Next to it was a Stall selling yummylicious Vegetable and Chutney Sandwiches,Ice Creams,Cold Coffee and Sweet spiced Milk known as Masala Milk.Later the Land was reclaimed and by the 1970s the World Trade Centre complex and the Oberoi Sheraton--today called The Trident came up.
Atya,Sudhir's mother was my paternal aunt and they lived at Kemp's Corner while Gopal Kaka, my paternal Uncle lived in the Colaba----both being part of South Bombay--today called SoBo. Many of my evenings have been spent walking the Promenades,riding Victorias and eating the fabulous Mutton and Chicken Patties as also the excellent Fish and Chips at the Taj.Those were the days when the remnants of Colonialism still held sway.So Formals were a regular part of dressing up--casually dressed people were often than not turned away by the Hotel Durbans at the doors themselves!!When Sudhir and I got engaged we'd spend most of our evenings at the Taj or a tiny new Eatery called The Samovar.This was then a new addition to an Art Gallery called The Jehangir Art Gallery and was an arty affair set up in the long corridor like Verandah. The Verandah was completely open on the side facing gardens of The Prince of Wales Museum--and even today the ambience of Samovar in the Monsoons is awesome.
Sudhir and I would sit there for hours---holding hands under the table ( he didn't like to display emotion in Public) gazing out at the view of the heavy Rains turning the the parched Grounds into slush!!The huge Gardens are filled with many varieties of Flora and Fauna--and seeing the Water cascading off the folded leaves of the Rain Tree always made us smile.The Air would be redolent with the Scents of the wet Earth mixed with richly perfumed Flowers and wet Greenery was a deliciously intoxicating interlude!!
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