Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Me and my food.

                                    Food has always been a great passion in my life. Somebody has said"We eat to live". So its important for living, to keep oneself alive . It may be that it is other way round for someone too. Anyway its food ,what we enjoy when we want to celebrate our happiness, our times. Dictionary says a foodie is a person" who has ardent or refined interest in food". so here I am, a foodie.

                  Any one can be a foodie. To be a foodie is not only to like food, but to be interested in it. All you have to do is like food, learn about food and most importantly eat food. I love to cook food, learn about new food and eat food. Being born in a typical Odia family, my taste buds are dominated by Odia cuisine.  However I like eating Thai,Chinese ,Mexican too, like yellow curry with steamed rice, chili coriander fish and sticky rice, chipotle ..tell me the name and am game for it. And then I can also mention hot spicy sambhar, Hyderabadi biriyani, Mangalorean fish fry , Goan  curry, Maharastrian vada pav,aloo paratha,dal makhani,chhole bhature,lassi as my favorites
                                     In Odisha we eat fresh water fish more than any sea fish. When I stayed in Maharashtra for seven long years, I got some very good friends from different regions and having different cuisines. I had my first taste of sea fish there. And it too tastes awesome.
                   People of Odisha love to eat vegetables. All the seasons have something to offer. Summer vegetables are different from winter vegetables. When you live in a Metro, it is the same season always , when buying vegetables. But the winter grown cauliflower ,coriander and spinach have a unique taste from the frozen ones . They have different taste, smell and charm.
                          I was  born and brought up in a district, which is close to West Bengal and Bihar. So our food is fusion of both the regions. We eat a lot of mustard oil, mustard paste, posto in our day to day cooking. We Odia's do believe in "na tiana, chha bhaja" or nine curries and six fries. the spices we use during cooking makes it different from other region. Potato is a main ingredient in all of our day to day meal. I remember my mother cooking delicious mutton curry with big fried potato and green papaya chunks. We put potato while making chicken, mutton, pulses, vegetables, and in fish. In general an odia family can live with a simple dal, chawal and potato meal.
                           My district in Orissa is famous for "Mudhi". There is a belief  in odisa that if any girl is getting married in Mayurbhanj , for the feast you should brought mudhi to feed the "barati" or the accompanies of the groom.  After the main course with rice ,we prefer eating a small quantity of mudhi with the mutton. it may sound very odd to anybody , but we do love to eat that. Mudhi can be relished with anything and everything.  You name it and we eat it. Mudhi mansa, mudhi machha, mudhi tarkari, mudhi aloodum, singada aloochop mudhi, ghia mudhi, dahi mudhi, mixture mudhi and list is endless. Try it once and ,who knows,you may start to like it too.


Monday, December 13, 2010

My childhood days.

      "Maa kole dekhithili janha,
                                                  Rupa deha tara chhana chhana
       Hata thaari dakichhi mu kete,
                                                    Manepade aaji pila dina."

                                                                  Whenever I listen  to this song, I get nostalgic. though its not the full song. I never knew who the writer is,but i always loved this stanza. It always reminds me of my early childhood days, part of which I spent in a village with my grand parents. My foundation of Odia language was laid there. My grand father was a very knowledgeable man and had a great affection for his mother tongue. I learned to write and read Odia with him. He was my first teacher. Every week he went on his bicycle (which was a treasured thing in those days) to shop groceries in the near by market,what we called as" hata". Along with all the groceries,fruits,seasonal vegetables,and occasional treats for me, he always got a surprise for me. And it was a book.  Outside the verandah of our house, I used to wait eagerly for him and for that invaluable gift . At a very early age and under his supervision,  I started reading odia. To pique my interest in Odia,he took out a subscription of "Jahnamamu" for me. At that time "janha mamu" was a treasure box for all the  kids. With some beautiful stories,it was an addiction to me. Nowdays, sadly, "Jahnamamu" has disappeared from many Odia households . I still remember that there was a competion going on about the "kings of our mythology." My grandafather filled every issue's forms on my name,and entered them in the competition. Though i am never lucky in winning lotteries, but it was still an excitement to wait for results.

                           In summer days straw houses are a relief from the heat. I remember our village was surrounded by numerous trees. After october 29th 1999, the day of the super cyclone ,its not the same anymore. During the summer holidays, we children from the "sahi" used to enjoy it to the fullest. It was a rule for us to take a nap in the day time after lunch. But we escaped from their sides after all the elders took the siesta. And near the river bank,in the shadows of big trees was our playground. Making the tamarind water,and drinking it with the jackfruit leaves was the main pastime. Somebody will climb on the tree to get the ripe tamarinds ,someone will get the salt by tiptoeing to his /her house,green chilies from the fields near the riverbank and green scallion or the garlic scape, and the recipe for a delicious tamarind water is ready. I remembered sitting with my friends eating raw sour mangoes with salt and chili powder,our lips burning and our tongues smacking because of the tartness. I remember stealing mangoes from my neighbor's tree and biting into them with the relish of a theft well done.

                                     My Aja knew many sanskrit slokas. Before leaving the bed early in the morning, he used to chant all the mantras and offer prayers to different gods. I also learned all those slokas from him. He taught me to love nature. We have huge orchards of mangoes and coconuts and also have ponds for fishing. I accompanied him several times with the coconut picker to get coconuts. Occasionally the picker will cut a few raw coconuts to drink them in the orchard. My grandma preserved coconuts  in our home in a very strange manner. Keeping a wooden pole in between,she made a tree like structure with the coconuts,and as per requirement,she used those coconuts. I have seen my grandfather making coconut oil in our home to oil our hair.While making the coconut oil,he used to take out some creamy like substances as residue,and I savored it heartily. We had bee hives in our house. And we got pure honey from those hives. I have seen him cultivating honey too.He was a big supporter of kitchen garden. and whenever he came to our place in the town,he implemented the same thing for my maa. He sew the fishing net by hand.and I accompanied him several times for the fishing in the river "Hansua". Eating the freshest catch has a different taste and feeling. Every festival,and every ritual was different in his time. He took all the pain to organize everything. With large lands to look after and patients to give medicine,he was a voracious reader too.
                I lost my Aja,whom i called as "bhai"few years back (i dont know,why we called him "bhai") but after he is gone,I miss him.As the eldest grand child ,I spent the maximum quality time with him other then my siblings and cousins.He taught me so many things,which I will never get to study anywhere. He was a good homeopath, farmer, loving caring person. He was the "babu"to his people.  He was the first chairperson to the village school. I never realized how much he meant to me,till he was gone.Whenever i think of odia language, i  think about him because he is the reason behind all my keenness in the language.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Odia Festivals .

                                   We Odia 's celebrate 13 festivals in 12 months,there goes the saying for that  "Bara mase,Tera parva". So there is no such period,when you won't find the ladies of an Odia household preparing for something coming up or something going on. It is most often known as Land of Festivities. Every part of Orissa has something to offer. Be it is a cultural festival or a religious festival or a tribal festival ,it is celebrated with enthusiasm and fun.

                                    Some part of my childhood was spent in rural Orissa.  And my most memorable festivals are "Raja Sankranti" and "Kumar Purnima". "Kumar Purnima" is celebrated during the month of october or november on a full moon day. Kumar or kartikeya, the handsome son of God Shiva was born on that day . As he is the Eternal bachelor and the God of war ,all unmarried girls keep fasting and worship Him to get a husband like Him in life. Before the day breaks, girls take their purificatory bath to worship the sun god,which is known as"Anjuli teka".The offerings are made by fruits and "khai". In the evening when the full moon comes out in the bright clear autumn sky girls get ready to worship the moon. With fruits,flowers ,ukhuda and other sweet offerings, we believed that if one saw the moon late and made a late offering , she will get an old husband, as the moon was "old" now.the evening sky was full with noise of the conch shelland hulahuli .Though sometimes i have made late offerings ,am thankful to Kumar Kartikeya for granting me a young husband. Among the offerings my favorite is the mixed prasad or the "chanda chakata". it is made with khai, chhena(cottage cheese),fruits,yogurt, jaggery. Miss all those beautiful times. When we are small, we become impatient to grow up and later on we want to go back in time to enjoy a few more good old golden days. As a human being, we are never satisfied.

                              To celebrate the advent of monsoon,the joyous festival of "Raja sankranti"is celebrated for three days. Though celebrated all over the state,it is more enthusiastically celebrated in the district of Cuttack, Jagatsingpur,Puri, Khurdha and Balasore. Raja is a special festival celebrated by girls. It is celebrated  for three consecutive  days. During this festival, Mother Earth is supposed to be in her menstrual period. So this festival is a time of rest for her.  It is an agricultural holiday for the farmers,as all the agricultural operation remain suspended. During these three days, women are granted a break from the household work.Young men enjoy good food and play strenuous games on the eve of the onset of monsoon, for they will not get a minutes respite for practically four months and making them one with mud,slush and relentless shower.

                                         Food cooked during that time was always awesome. My grandmom (Aai) used to make some mouth watering, always to remember kind of, "poda pitha".Which is the Raja special. At that time  i can remember that she used to make those in clay pots("mati handi"), and food cooked in clay pots are taste very different than those cooked in regular utensils. Sometime just siting beside her near the furnace or "katha chuli" ,i used to wonder how she is manging to stir, fry and cook in such a delicate thing. She used a very different kind of spoon for those pots, a dried coconut shell,pierced by a not so thin bamboo stick . In those pots she  cooked  mutton or known as"mansha",pulses(dal), leafy greens(saga) and every possible dish which needs to be stirred continiously. But i have never seen her break a clay pot while doing so. And the pots lasted for years unless and until there was a death or a birth in the family,on which occasion, all the old pots were thrown away and new ones bought. During raja, my grand mom used to make nice and big poda pitha. All the ingredients required are already made before the "saja baja" day.For making the rice flour   "dhhinki",a wooden version of mortar and pastel was used. Few women from the "sahi"or community used to come together for that flour making ceremony.We children generally sat there and had fun while listening to their day to day gossip. And siting there I was amazed to watch their hand movements during that process. If you are a bit absent minded ,your hand will be smashed under that heavy wooden "dhinki". In fact, I can pen down some occasions when I was injured by the very safe and so called mixies while making some masalas and with my mind flying somewhere .But they were so skilled to stir the yet to be powdered rice ,while chatting with other ladies,without any injury. Poda pitha is made one night before to the Raja Sankranti  s first day or known as "Pahili Raja".  As it takes a long time to cook,its left overnight over the wooden fire from the previous evening. The main ingredients required are rice flour,camphor, jaggery,coconut and ghee. Later on it is wrapped with a banana leaf to cook over night.

         For the very first day,we all rose before dawn ,smothered  our bodies with turmeric paste and oil and  then took the purificatory bath in a river or a pond, as bathing for the rest two days was prohibited.  During those three days, unmarried girls didn't walk bare foot,did not scratch the earth,did not grind,did not tear anything apart and did not cook.During these three days we dressed up in the best of dresses  and decorations,eating cakes and rich food at the houses of friends and relatives,spending long cheery hours,chewing pan, enjoying on improvised swings,making the village sky colorful with our merry songs .Those days are precious in my memory and they will ever be.

                            Life was fun those days. Life was easier those days with joint families and community living. Someone was always there for someone else's help and needs. We are progressing,we are making developments and living alone in big cities. It is,anyway, difficult to manage our day to day life. Neither our children come to know about our culture,nor do we have the time to do so. And when we do take them home, we try to create a city atmosphere there to make them adjust to the short holiday . In some parts of the world they are again going back to community farming, community living.So where are we? Where is the progress we have already made,where is the development? Pesticides, GM foods,new diseases ,short life span is all that we have gained. Our life still dwells on the village,and hopefully we all will realise so someday.



Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Odia Food

      Food pattern in Orissa is simple yet mouth watering. Delicious aroma and beautiful look will bring water to any of a food lovers mouth. The way of using different kind of spices makes it different from all other region.

           Rice is used in all most all dishes as a main entry . Being born and brought of in a tribal district my food palates are basically dominated by rice and forms of rice. "Pakhala" is very popular food in Orissa. it can go well with aloo chatani(mashed aloo with tadka,or aloo chokaha),sajana saga bhaja(fried drumstic leaves), badi chura,aloo bhaja(fried patato),chingudi chhecha,sukhua poda  and last but not the least is ambula pani. Ambula is basically the dried mangoes what we store for rest of the year aftr its made in summer. Basically my favourite with pakhal is sijha tarkari(boiled vegetable with the garlic tadka) and sijha harad dali(boiled tuvar dal). Just put some raw sliced onion,few drops of mustard oil,some cut green chillies,cilantro(coriander leaves) in the boiled dal and the mouth watering side dish is ready for "Pakhal".

           As a big lover of fish,i can eat that with anything.Due to the vast shore line and number of rivers flowing across, fish is a very important part of a meal in any oriya home. The most famous dishes among the local people and outsiders are the dishes made from crab,prawns and fishes. Mustard paste is basically  used  as the main gravy for making fish curry or fry.

              One of the most famous vegeterian dish of Orissa is "Dalma". Its my all time favourite. Though i started cooking it since past few years,but i relish what my mother makes.  Dalma goes well with arua bhata( basmati rice or any indian white rice will do), tomato or ou khata,and some bhaja. During my childhood days we used to wait for the shraddha(death anniversary) of some of our ancestors . That day used to be a feast day for all of us kiddos ,with all relatives and friends coming over,and after the rituals, together we sit down to relish the hot Arua bhata,Dalma,khata,and bhaja with ghee and lemon. We used to get that day off from studies as elders used to be busy in preparation of the feast .Those days were some of blissful days of my life. During the auspicious month of Kartik, maximum odia families cook this Dalma without turmeric. "Dalma" is known to be very nutritious for its ingredients(lentils boiled with vegetables and later on fried with ghee and spices).

          Odia people are fond of sweets. Though i didnt have a sweet tooth in my past,after falling in love with a sweet loving guy,i embraced his likings also. If you are talking about odia food ,its not possible you will forget" Rasogola" or "Rasogulla". Khiri,payas,chhena payas, chhena jhili, chhena poda, kakara pitha,manda pitha are few to be named here. These dishes are also considered as festival specials.

       The city of Cuttack is famous for one of every odia's favourite "dahibara aloodum". Among the street foods singada ghguni,aloochop,bara,gupchup and chat  are named to be few. its a kind of fusion food. Though every region of Orissa has something to offer .