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There is hunger and then there’s the Indian winter hunger

A winter Sunday favourite was aloo-puri, a curry of potato, tomato, garam masala, and ginger, and fried pieces of bread. It was complete with homemade pickles, especially mango and lemon, which would now be ready to be consumed

There is hunger and then there’s the Indian winter hunger. And the latter is for those with large appetites, and still larger cravings for all things heartwarming. As a child, when I’d soak in the sun on the terrace and bite into generous portions of slices of radish and cucumber (I didn’t know the French word, crudité, for such servings), all I knew was that rock salt or chaat masala sprinkled on the slices made my winter afternoons shinier. Sitting on the floor or on wicker chairs, I’d snuggle up with a book, as I chomped on; my elder siblings and I taking turns annoying each other with the loudest of chewing sounds.


Looking back, I realise how I never described my share of winter food with regular adjectives like tasty, yummy, et al. Each of the snacks, beverages and meals consumed was christened with the story and emotions behind it. There was the besan-wala doodh, a gram flour, milk and nuts preparation, which looked pretty unpalatable if I were to describe it today, especially with a layer of ghee floating atop — yet, it was the beverage that we waited for all through the year. Mum would make it only when it got real cold though, as she’d explain what went into its making. It was our, ‘tucked-in quilt’ night treat. The ‘sticky-sweet-gummed’ dessert was its strongest competition. A blend of gur (jaggery), peanuts — this homemade treat would leave our hands sticky, and the only reason we would eat it slowly was that it would be served piping hot.


A winter Sunday favourite was aloo-puri, a curry of potato, tomato, garam masala, and ginger, and fried pieces of bread. It was complete with homemade pickles, especially mango and lemon, which would now be ready to be consumed. It was our ‘eat-it-fast’ lunch, as mum-dad would insist we eat it quickly whilst the puris were still puffy. The other pickle, which could be made only in winter was the one made with carrot-turnip-cauliflower. This semi-sweet achar (pickle) tasted best and still does with paranthas (flatbread), stuffed or otherwise. While there were no set rules on how many pieces of pickle we could savour, we were advised to limit the intake. I am thankful for that, for one specific reason. Our little tummies needed to keep space for another cold month’s favourite ­— the unbeatable one — saag and makki ki roti. This green curry (made of all things healthy and of course, green leaves) was not something a child would sample if only the child had eaten how mum prepares it. Really heavy on the stomach, especially when eaten with roti (a corn dough preparation), dollops of ghee, and a chunk of gur —one could do only one thing after eating, fall into a ‘deep slumber of contentment'.


My winter continues to be dotted with aromas, spices and sights that I absorbed, relished, over-consumed, and now imitate in my kitchen, whenever I can. Ask me what do I love about winters. I’d say being home, in New Delhi, eating a bowl of choori. Wondering what that is? Well, ‘only-dad-can-make’ dish with leftover rotis, ghee and sugar.


This piece was first published in Khabar.





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