Food can instantly connect us to our roots. From birth we are fed by mommies and grannies with love and affection. The culture of a country can be embraced from the kind of food people eat there. Each nation has a cuisine specific to its origin. Cooking and following mom’s recipes makes me nostalgic especially over holidays and traditional events. The aroma of curry and spices takes me back to my grandmother’s kitchen in India where all my cousins would fight to get the first plate from the food cooked by her. As we get older we start peeping in granny’s cooking methodologies. Slowly and steady we make an effort to imitate her but fail in the first few attempts. Then we try again and begin to learn, and the excitement we get when the first dish that we cook has the same kind of aroma like granny’s sumptuous cuisines. That moment we feel like a professional and confident enough to boost off our ancestral skills.
For me it’s not just the food but the memories attached to it that makes it even more special. The occasion when mom cooked this particular dessert or when she prepped a wholesome flavorful meal for the entire family takes me back to those family gatherings of past. Now continents away, I miss it so badly and I long to go back in time and relive all those fantastic days. Thinking of all the homely tasty treats, I am bubbled up with nostalgia and to live in the moment I start with the pan in one hand and my phone in the other. I call mom and ask for the easy and quick Indian recipes and from the other end of the receiver outpours a big list of palatable foods. In addition, I also get some clever tricks from her to cook it faster and try a more convenient way. Before I end up talking to her, there is always a big list of caution that mom pours out. When she knows that her child is all by herself in a foreign land and is going to toil with stove-heat-fire and what not, she is bound to be worried and that is when she gives out her “mandatory’ caution manual.
As an international student, one has limited time for other activities apart from studies. I can’t afford to invest half a day in cooking Indian food like mom does but I can build up shortcuts to devour the same kind of cuisine. Although there are great restaurants nearby, it’s impossible to eat out every day. Neither does it keep the budget happy nor does it satisfy my taste buds. When I think of cooking at home, I only have my Indian dishes in mind. I do think twice before I start because I know it would take longer to cook curry than to just eat a chopped salad. But I only have to think of the satisfaction that my heart would get upon indulging in the curry rice and home cooked tortillas. Plus, its nutritional value can’t compare with a budget-friendly burger at McDonald’s, I choose the former and leave the latter for some lazy snowy weekends. Yes, Indian restaurants might seem to be a ray of hope but the prices are typically very high. Just one meal at a so-called “authentic” restaurant is equivalent to a month’s groceries at the supermarket. Conquering mind over heart has indeed made me learn quite a few of those Indian dishes and now I manage to cook them all at ‘mom’s phone call instruction’ ease.
Here are a few of those challenging Indian cuisines that I bravely dealt with and savored them even being countries away from home.
Picture 1- Masala Chole (Hot and Spicy Garbazo Beans)
Picture 2- Chilly Chicken
Picture 3- KadhiChawal (Rice with chickpea flour and curd soup)
Picture 4- Vegetarian Manchurian
Picture-5 Spicy Potato Wraps
Aanchal Tangri from India is pursuing degree in English at Truckee Meadows Community College in Reno, Nevada.