Pujas are a routine part of life in India. A puja is ceremonial prayer ritual performed to honor a deity, or to spiritually celebrate an event (so now you know what my name means).
Have you ever thought about how nice it would be to live across the street from a farmer’s market? How nice would it be to just pick up the fresh vegetables you need that day and not have to worry about them wilting and rotting in your refrigerator?
When I was a kid living in India that is exactly the convenience we had. Every day my mom would give me a handful of rupees and send me across the street to pick up some tomatoes, onions, or “green masala” – a mix of cilantro, curry leaves, green chili, ginger and lemon. As a little seven year old, I walked the maze of the little farmer’s market on the streets of Bombay.
Parathas are a staple of food in the Indian diet. You can eat them plain, or with some yogurt and pickle, or as a flatbread to pick up different shaak (“curries”) with. They are so easily transported. Just put them in a pile and wrap some foil around them, or put them in a container. They are one of those high energy foods that gets people through their day.
I love looking at the bright yellow turmeric next to the deep red of chili powder and the neutrals of cumin and mustard seeds in my masala dubba. Turmeric is indispensable in any Indian kitchen. So many of my favorite Indian comfort foods, like a big bowl of yellow Kadhi or my Grandma’s Gujarati Dal, just wouldn’t be right without turmeric.
Dal was a big part of my childhood. Pretty much every time my grandma cooked for us, there was dal. And she cooked for us a lot. Her dal was different than my mom’s. While mom’s dal was spicy and comforting, grandma’s dal had a whole different flavor profile. Grandma’s dal was sweet and spicy and tangy all at the same time.
My blogger friends Barbara Cooks and The Seaside Baker coordinated a challenge with Melissa’s Produce. Everyone who wanted to participate got a handful of ingredients in the mail from their farm. The challenge was to use 3 to 4 items from the box plus 2 to 3 items of your own choosing to create a dish and blog about it.
We ate a lot of guavas while growing up in Mumbai. We called them peru, their Marathi name, because that’s what the street vendors called them (the Hindi name is Amrood and the Gujarati name is Jamphal). As the weather started to cool down, the streets would start to flood with guava vendors. Everywhere you look, there were men pushing carts with giant piles of guavas and women carrying baskets full of guavas on their heads.
When I was about 11, I developed an obsession with Jeera Rice. I refused to eat anything unless this rice was on my plate. Not long after I learned how to make simple basmati rice, I quickly learned to make Jeera rice for myself and for a good three month period I made it nightly. Often, when I was being picky and didn’t want to eat the family dinner, I would just have this rice and some yogurt for dinner.
A few days ago I was talking to my mom and she mentioned that the past few days had felt like living in India. She is totally right, it’s rained so much that it almost felt like the monsoons. Non-stop all day long rain is so very rare in Southern California. I love the rain though. While it was raining, I sat out on our balcony all morning with the babies (the dog and cat who spend more time on the balcony than either Steve or I) and watched the rain pour down. I was nostalgic.
I remembered the warm monsoon rain and going for walks at my boarding school in rain so heavy that we couldn’t see more than 5 feet in front of us.