My blogging still hasn’t lost its erratic behavior even though I have been in Munich for exactly four weeks now. Excuses?
- Having to wake up at an ungodly hour because of #1
- The days getting shorter and shorter, which means that #2 seems even more difficult.
- Then I looked at my calendar and realized, WHOOPS! Deadlines alert! And I haven’t accomplished anything.
So do excuse my tardiness.
Today is the first day of Durga Puja, a festival that we Bengalis loooove! Even the one who hasn’t been in India, forget about Bengal, to experience one for the last five years. And if I count my years in the USA, well then make that about twelve years because hey that blip in 2010 does not count!
I do get nostalgic around this time, just thinking of the good times that I had growing up in Madras Chennai. The excitement started months earlier…with dance and theatre rehearsals, because Bengalis cannot welcome the goddess without some art and culture! And the four days of Durga Puja was sheer heaven on earth, at least for us kids and teenagers because all we had to do was put on our new clothes, hang out at the Puja venue, chat with our peers, eat a lot and then in the night, after all the cultural and intellectual immersion had been taken care of, watch a good old movie from the black and white era of Bengali cinema. All of that required a tremendous amount of planning, organizing and execution but that was of course handled by the grown-ups who also claimed to have a lot of fun.
Let’s admit right here that the religious/spiritual aspect of Durga Puja was completely lost on me and my parents were agnostic enough to not talk about it at all. So even though Durga Puja celebrates the time when Goddess Durga came down from her husband Shiva’s abode in the Himalayas to visit her parents, and the whole story is basically another example of how idioms have been used since ancient times to illustrate yet another weighty spiritual topic, I treated it like just another fairy tale. One which came with lots of show and tell in the form of food, clothes and entertainment, what’s not to like about religion?!
Today I am planning to make a traditional puja meal for dinner…which according to tradition has to be completely vegetarian. It would usually be a khichuri, a side-dish of mixed vegetables, some sour fruit cooked in sugar syrup to chase the main course down, maybe some papad. Bengali khichuri is always made with rice cooked, but I felt like adding some variety to our grain intake. So I made it with millet instead of rice.
Check out the recipe at the end of this post. It is tasty and comforting! I tried it while it was cooking, like I always do, but don’t tell the old Indian ladies that.
We will have it for dinner with some zucchini pakodas that I am planning to make. Should be good, I can barely wait! The next post will feature that recipe.
Have I talked about the summer trip to India at all? I did? But c’mon one can’t summarize a six week trip in one blog post, right? So here is my offering to you, in the spirit of the festive season. I will post a picture each day with a short description, so that by the end of …I don’t know maybe some weeks? You will have a good idea of all that India has to offer. Deal? I hear yes, so I am starting right now:
When I visited Bangalore this time after eleven years, I had to make it a point to visit Malleswaram 8th Cross. This is a street which has always bustled with energy and chaos. I love the bright colours of the fruit, vegetables being sold cheek to jowl with sandals and clothes. This woman is selling marigold by the handful, or by the kilo if you so desire. That’s one thing you probably won’t see in many places around the world, flowers being sold in casual heaps everywhere. I sometimes fret about it here, where I can only get them in sad looking bunches and bouquets in supermarkets or overpriced arrangements in flower boutiques, and I am like, I just need a handful to brighten up my day, you know?!
MILLET AND LENTIL KHICHUDI
1 cup of red lentils
1 cup of pearl millet
1 small dried red chilli (optional, more if you like spicy)
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp oil
1 tsp turmeric
5-8 cups of hot water
1 cup of tomato puree or 2 cups of chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp home-made ghee
salt to taste
- Wash lentils and millets three times or so.
- Heat oil in a large pot
- Add the chilli and mustard and let sizzle
- Once the mustard starts to make popping sounds, add the lentils and millet, turmeric and the water.
- Bring to a boil and turn down the heat to a simmer
- Add salt – a tsp at first
- If you are wary of spicy food, then take out the chilli.
- Cook until the lentils are cooked and falling apart – depending on your lentils atleast 20 minutes. Careful! Lentils have a notorious habit of sticking to the bottom, scrape with a ladle at regular intervals e.g. every five-ten minutes
- Adjust consistency till it’s like a thick porridge
- Add tomatoes and simmer for a couple of minutes.
- Adjust salt to taste
- Add the ghee.
- Enjoy hot with something cruncy and deep-fried for best results!