A taste of faraway comes alive in a cookbook

first_imgJyotsna Surase, 27, from Yavatmal district, came to Thane two years ago with her husband, who had made the move in search of work. To help with family finances, she also works outside the home, cooking for three families in apartments near the tenement where she lives.She turns out the daal-rice-vegetable meals they ask for, but for her this is just work, with no soul. Her heart belongs to the dishes she remembers growing up with. Like the freshly-extracted sugarcane syrup that would greet her and her siblings when they visited their grandmother’s village every Makar Sankranti. Their grandmother would also feed them dhirde, prepared during Paush, the 10th month of the Marathi calendar, which ends with Makar Sankranti; women traditionally fast for five Sundays during Paush and break their fast with this wheat-flour flatbread.Dishes meet memory“Grandma insisted that we have this at least once a year, as she believed it was good for health,” Ms. Surase says. Of course, being with cousins and uncles and aunts all in a festive mood only added to the fun. “You don’t get that even in weddings in Mumbai,” she says. “The fresh village air, the fights for sugarcane syrup, running to the fields to pick guavas… dhirde is all these memories,” she says.Anita Saha, 30, left something similar behind when she, her husband and three children came to Mumbai two years ago. She remembers the monsoon back in Begusarai district, Bihar, especially during Bhadrapada (the sixth month of the Hindu calendar), when women break their fast with kheer and puri. “My mother taught me how to make it when I was 17 years old,” she says. While her mother-in-law makes this treat too, she misses the kheer puri her mother makes.You will find such family recipes, from different parts of the country, in Food Memories of Migrant Women, an ebook published by Mumbai Mobile Creches (MMC). The NGO has been implementing onsite education and healthcare programmes for children living in many construction sites. The book’s introduction says, “Through a series of personal recipes, narrated poignantly by the migrant women themselves, we wish to highlight the fascinating expanse of culinary traditions within India, and the importance of these traditions in preserving and celebrating each migrant family’s cultural identity.”A hearty connectionSays Shiny Varghese, MMC’s health coordinator: “We wanted to connect with the migrant community. What better way than food?”It took almost two years from concept to fruition. “The women were apprehensive and shy,” Ms. Varghese says. “After two to three meetings, and telling them that their photographs may appear on a global platform, they started to open up.”Even so there were hitches. Getting the right ingredients and implements was another challenge. Ms. Varghese says, “Back home, the women use tools that are found naturally in their surroundings, which are hard to come by here.” Like the right mortar and pestle to grind the ingredients for aapal, a dish from Telengana; iron rods used on the construction site came in handy.The book is more than just recipes. Stories of poignant struggles emerge too, in the voices of the women. Kashibai Kamble remembers how huggi, a white wheat pudding, was a luxury back in Gulbarga district, Karnataka. It was made only during Nag Panchami or Deepavali. She says, “We used to work in others’ fields, and whenever the owner had leftovers of wheat, he used to give them to us and we made kheer.”last_img

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