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!!