Growing up with great cooks

I think our generation – that grew up in the 70s and 80s was the luckiest. Besides experiencing the thrill of getting one’s own land line phone, a black and white and then a colour TV to trailer buses and double decker buses [ for us who lived in Bombay at least] we lived less isolated lives. Popping into our neighbours’ homes unannounced, playing till all hours of the evening after dark, exchanging dishes and recipes and living in a multicultural environment was de rigeur. That in turn exposed us to multiple cuisines from different parts of the country and more importantly, we were never bored. There was always so much to do in our spare time and lunch and dinner were never food only from our own community.

Thus, I grew up living next to a vegetarian family from Andhra Pradesh, in my maternal grandmother’s house with Sindhi grandparents, aunts and uncles. And with my dad’s family being Kutchi Jain, we got to eat traditional Gujju and Kutchi food at festivals and weddings. On a daily basis, it was Sindhi food with generous doses of Andhra, Tamilian and Maharashtrian food [with recipes taken from neighbours on other floors] thrown in. The Makhija biradari* Sunday lunches once every few months were a treat with Sindhi curry served with sweet boondi and mattha [raita made with yoghurt and salty boondi] and moong dal halwa, brown rice etc.

Add to this, the fact that all the women in my family – my naani (maternal grandma), my mum, maasi (mum’s sister) and maami [my mum’s brother’s wife) were all great cooks. So was my Telugu neighbour, Susee aunty. [Till I moved to Hyderabad, I honestly thought all Andhraites were vegetarian like her.]  One of my mum’s cousins is I always say, the best cook in the family. She can make the most boring vegetable taste divine.

So, the five of us kids [my two cousins, my brothers and I] grew up as fussy eaters. Fussy not in the ‘I won’t eat greens’ or ‘I don’t like beans’ way but in a ‘We know tasty, well cooked food when we eat it’ way. Today, looking back, some of my fondest memories are about the food that was cooked at home, by the experienced hand of my grandmum and aunts and my mother – who would go to any extent to get a recipe for a dish any of us would have eaten and liked elsewhere. [She has no stamina to do so today but will still write down recipes from TV shows and ask me for the recipe if I rave about a certain dish. And then try and make it too of course.]

So, though I was a skinny, sickly kid, I have enjoyed tasty food ever since I can remember. And it has shaped my choices and love for food no matter what part of the world it comes from. Today, I wouldn’t call myself a great cook – though I am reasonably good even if I say so myself – and so is my cousin – whose love for good food rivals that of the rest of us four who grew up in that one bedroom apartment in central Bombay.

It is this love for food and my innate curiosity that finally got me blogging. I hope to post several of my food based adventures here. And I look forward to feedback and suggestions. 

                      *[Every Sindhi sub caste like Shikarpuris, Hyderabadis, Sukkhars, Amils etc have further divisions based on the surnames called biradaris – or communities, and our Sindhi side being Makhijas, we attended the meetings held by the Makhija biradari followed by lunch that were held every few months. It was a great way to socialise, meet up with relatives (other Makhijas) and enjoy tasty, traditional Sindhi food.]

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