They say that some things and memories you pick up as a child shape you and your personalities mostly in very unknowing ways. My childhood was no different in this aspect. One major part of my childhood was Food – good, healthy and nutritious food. Both my mom and dad made sure that the habit of eating healthy was a fun thing to do. We also occasionally indulged in fast food, but we knew early on that these are occasional treats and you don’t necessarily have them everyday.
The other fact that was very common to us was that you can make anything at home and enjoy it too. My mom and dad were and still are big patrons of creating everything from scratch at home. Both of them put in time and effort to make exotic things at home. Being vegetarians, these experiments included dishes such as Pav Bhaji, Pani Puri, Chole Bhature, Ice Cream and many more. All of this was happening in an era where there wasn’t access to the internet. Now that I think of it, I realize that the process of getting the recipes would have been such a challenge. The only sources were either word of mouth or the Sunday newspaper.
I grew up believing that I could also make and create things for scratch. Thus my interest and love for creating and experimenting with food started very early on. It was truly fascinating!
So what is my relationship with Food? When I sat down to write this, I realized that they are just way too many memories, hence I have decided to break them down in shorter pieces.
Food and Stories
The best part about evenings in my childhood was my dinner time. My sister and I looked forward to it eagerly. We would sit down on the steps outside my house and would gaze into the sky and wait for it. My mom would feed us mostly at around 7 PM. The routine was to gaze at the stars and listen to different stories which she always had. ALWAYS! The dinner itself would consist of rice with a combination of a vegetable curry, rasam and curd. She would make these different kinds of chutneys at least once a week. I would be so fascinated by its color. I would like them the most and still love them to date. She would take turns to feed us and my sister and I would very peculiarly fight for the last bite. I don’t know why!
The full moon days were our favorite. On this day, the stories would usually be around the moon and the moon god. My sister and I were just so fascinated and curious by any new information we heard. Perhaps a clear sky, the starts and the moon still fascinates me to this day.
This routine of ours lasted for many many years but was only over too soon, I guess!
My mom was a big time baker when we were young. She baked cookies, cakes, biscuits and bread. I vaguely remember that once she had baked a birthday cake on my sister’s birthday. That wait to eat that cake was just so long!
One memory that has been etched in my mind is that my mom was beautifully dressed and was bringing the cake finally out of the kitchen. It was so exciting. I weirdly don’t have the memory of actually eating it though. Strange what your mind holds on to and what it doesn’t.
This is a fancy memory for me as I believe that the joy to understand and comprehend that “THE CAKE” was made by my mom gave me immense joy. Up until then, maybe I always believed that it was something that was supposed to be bought and not necessarily could be made. But when my mom made it at home, I was really overwhelmed with joy and as a result the thing that I previously thought required me to visit a fancy bakery but now was being made at home, made me compartmentalize this an earliest fancy memory, indeed.
Moon Light Dinner Memory
My first moonlight dinner was when I was 7 years old. It is a really fun memory, though, that it makes me laugh out loud even today. So brace yourself for some laughs.
I grew up in a very diverse community and hence the outcome of it was that I was introduced to a lot of different regional foods of India. Be Gujarati, Punjabi, Rajasthan, Tamilian and Keralian to name a few. I am sure there were more. Added to this, my parents themselves are from two different States – My dad is from Andhra and my mom is from Karnataka. So there was naturally the dishes from these places as well.
So now coming to the moon light dinner itself. It so happened that all the aunties in my apartment had decided to do a potluck on a full moon day. So many evenings were spent meeting and deciding who is making what and how much. There were multiple iterations and demands put forth by each other until they finally narrowed the list down.
THE DAY had come. As you rightly guessed, my sister and I were so excited. My mom had was entrusted with the task of making “Bisi bele bhath” a famous dish comparing of vegetables, lentils and rice. Oh by the way my mom loves cooking for people, she just loves it. She also likes making everything from scratch. For this particular dish she had to make the masala, which sure takes time. And then there is cleaning and cutting the vegetables. On the other hand, my sister and I continued being excited as the time was nearing. We took the liberty of checking on each and every aunties progress from time to time to see if they were on track and reporting it back my mother, diligently and asking her to pick up speed. And then it was 7 PM, finally.
The food was prepared, the kids were ready to gorge and everyone met at the spot which was decided. But, only to see that the moon was NOT visible. It was HIDDEN behind the clouds. My sister and I were still hopeful, wishing and praying that the clouds clear out.
Well, after a long wait, everyone decided to change the location. The decision was made to sit outside my house in the porch area with our lights ON! This was just so unexpected!! The moon was barely visible and naturally the excitement was only as much as it was for my daily dinner. I still can feel how I felt then, the only difference is I laugh about it now.
All in all, these were some really exciting times. I had the opportunity to truly develop a taste for good and healthy nutritious food early on. It has only helped me immensely as I got older and moved to different places. I always used to cook not only for myself but also for and with different people I lived and worked with.
And most definitely my relationship with food has only evolved and I am immensely grateful for this to my parents.
*Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com