Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Simplicity at it's finest- Achaari Aloo

I find it pretty amazing that most of my "memories" of people and incidents are somehow also linked with food. Even when food is not the central focus in that memory; it is still prominent.  Not only does my mind take me back to the day that I'm reminded of, but sometimes the feel and smell of the day is revoked as well.  

Traveling with food comes naturally to most of the families from the Indian sub-continent. My MIL packs a stash of "Pooris" and a boiled potato.  After peeling and chopping the potato, she'd mix in some salt and pepper and it was ready to eat with her Pooris. My parents, and my grandparents before them, always travelled with their traditional  potato preparation called "Achaari Aloo" along with wonderfully crisp "Parathas".  As soon as the "tiffin" opened, the smell of this mix between an achaar (pickle) and a subzi permeated the whole train car.  I have these elaborate memories of us sharing our food with whoever happened to be our neighbor in the train car, or got drawn to our berth by the mouth-watering aroma of Achaari Aloo.  Not even my mom could make this dish taste like my grandma's. Towards the end of every summer vacation at my naani's, we'd get a letter from my dad (this was the pre-telephone era in India) requesting that she send him some of her Achaari Aloo and parathas. Naani always did. And daddy got to the food the moment we got home, and ate it all up. If, per chance, there was some left over, he'd tell my mom that he wanted it for breakfast - this from a guy who never ever liked leftovers......

Friday, January 18, 2013

My "cook" shelf is growing...


A quick note...to break the monotony of all the other writing I've been doing today....

Last week A came back with a bunch of books for me from the library's bin-sale.  Apparently he thinks that since I write mostly about food in this blog, I have a keen "interest " in cooking.  Little does he know that the best vacation I ever had was the one where all the food came with the lodging, so all I had to venture out was from the pool to dining room :-)) 

At any rate, now I am the proud owner of 5 cook books- the first one is going back to the library bin since it has almost no vegetarian dishes, the second one are "slow cooker" recipes- again mostly meat. But doesn't matter since I don't own a slow cooker- yet.  I  doubt if I even glanced at the other ones. The one that caught my eye and I most certainly intend to use is the one that is sort of like a diary where you can jot down the name of the restaurant you dined in, along with your order and comments.  Going through the month of December in this diary I found a whole page with printed matter.  Curious, I went through it....

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Daily Dinner (15): Rajasthani Thali

There were times when my mom categorically, adamantly, insisted that her children never inherited any form of "Rajasthani-ness" from her.  When she was really mad, she'd use her limited vocabulary of the Haryanvi dialect to announce that we were all born Haryanvis (there is that subtle underlying disdain in my soft-spoken, Rajasthani part of the family for my loud and boisterous paternal family.......). That is when dad would point out "pointedly" that she technically herself was a true-blood Haryanvi; and that her Rajasthani-ness was just an effect of her being transplanted there as a baby. And all of this drama, because we three criticized her most cherished meal of Rajasthani Baatis as...well...dirty....

But let me back track a little bit here.  So the way baatis were cooked in my grandma's home in Rajasthan was in a chulha - a little area on the kitchen floor outlined on 3 sides by a clay wall about 6 inches high. Naani used pieces of wood in here to create a cooking stove.  More often than not, the high temperature required for the first spark of flame to burst out of wood was achieved using uplay underneath the wood.  These little sun-dried cakes of sawdust and (please ignore the grossness that follows) cow dung smolder, rather than flame, and reach temperatures high enough to light up the kitchen fires for a long time.  And baatis were buried deep underneath inside the chulha to cook. You just brought them out, dusted them off, and ate them with the inevitable daal, churma and ladles of ghee.  Us city dwellers, instead,  turned our noses up at Naani and her "dirty" baatis, and opted for rotis instead.