Of Mango Blossoms and Ambadichi Bhaji

Most people wait nine months to have a baby, while some people wait years. I waited for more than ten years to have my newest baby  –  a cookbook which took almost forever to see the light of day.

Like most things in my life, this started accidentally and went from a simple collection of recipes into a veritable documentation of the culinary traditions of my community. It all began when I mentioned to my mother that my first attempt at a Diwali spread was going to be a Kolhapuri Mutton Curry. Despite being broad minded enough to eat meat, this was something that stuck in her craw. How could her daughter do something so blasphemous as cook meat on an auspicious day like Diwali let alone eat it???????

Well, being young and foolish and only too ready to cock a snook, I went ahead with my dinner plan but something did niggle at the back of my mind. Was there a connection between God and food? Why was it necessary to have a salad at every meal? And was there really something about the food I was brought up on that I should strive to cook it in my own home?

Thus began my journey into the culinary traditions of my community, a community that is not only dwindling in numbers but also in danger of  becoming extinct with large numbers of my ilk  marrying outside the community and those marrying within, blithely abandoning their traditions and ditching their puri bhaji for pastas and cheese. I thought I owed it to the spirits of my ancestors to at least record their recipes rather than continue transferring them by word of mouth. So I started recording quantities and measures of ingredients, noting down menus for different days and functions and finally attempting to make a book.

I came upon Popular Prakashan purely by chance and met with Rita D’Souza who encouraged me with my idea of actually publishing my recipes as a book. Eventually it was Armaity, a young enthusiastic editor at Popular who actually sat me down and sorted out all the ingredients teaspoon by teaspoon and in order of appearance.

Just as it takes a village to rear a child, it took a whole load of people to help me with this book and without wanting to offend anyone with names inadvertently left out, I preferred to thank all those who helped me with a generic thank you. Undoubtedly it did take a lot of aunts and uncles and friends who helped me with their culinary memories and shared their knowledge of food and festivals to make this book possible. There will be many who will find faults and possibly some omissions but this was an effort to record and not offend. So for all those who have helped and supported me during this long and interesting journey (you know who you are) my deepest and heartfelt thanks for your assistance, tolerance and faith.

p.s.

My father who still finds it hard to believe that I can cook sent me this anecdote along with his congratulatory message which I’d like to share :

Ambadichi Bhaji
We had an Uncle (Mama), a good doctor
(he had spent 11 years in medical college), an inveterate bachelor who had no
home of his own (firm believer of “Vasudhaiva
Kutumbakam”) and no care in the world. A large part of his life he spent in
our house and later with our aunt. He used to practice in Mahabaleshwar. His
schedule was practice from October to June at M’shwar and spend the rest of the
year with our aunt. He was a great foodie.

One evening in October 1950  before departure for M’shwar he came to our
house to bid good bye and have a meal. My mother told him to postpone his
departure by one day. He was reluctant saying that he has already reserved a
ticket by the bus next morning. My mother told him to cancel his ticket and
come over the next evening for a meal where she would serve him Ambadichi Bhaji
with Lasnachi Phodni and garam garam
Bhakri.

He gladly agreed, cancelled his bus
ticket for the next morning, and had a great promised feast.
Unfortunately he never reserved his
bus ticket for the next day. And continued to stay on in Pune at my aunts place
till 1953 !

My aunt never forgave my mother for
tempting the Uncle with Ambadichi Bhaji with Lasnachi Phodni and garam garam Bhakri !!

Ambadichi bhaji is one of those sweet and sour leafy vegetables that are particularly eaten in the monsoon. You can find the recipe in my book and the Bhaji in the local market. All you have to do is buy both and enjoy!

Unishta

A granny who always sees the humour in life and tries to do things differently. When others make cupcakes, this granny makes banana fritters. When she’s not busy chasing her grandchildren who love making her run around, she indulges in her passions of reading, writing, meeting friends and watching movies. And somewhere between all this she enjoys travelling and cooking!

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