“A recipe is a story that ends with a good meal”
While attending primary school in Pune, I used to have two breaks – ‘Short Break’ and ‘Lunch Break’. The highlight of my day would be asking my mom what food she was going to pack (fondly known as dabba) me for both breaks, soon I stopped asking as I realized that the element of surprise made the food tastier.
My mom specialized in Dabba (tiffin box) packing for the delicious food she had prepared. She could make Idli’s look like they were the Pizzas of breakfast – she would make these munchkin sized idlis , add gunpowder on top and place a toothpick on top of each, so I would’t get my hands greasy. But before I could even get my hands on them, my classmates would have finished a majority of my dabba.
The attraction towards my mom’s dabba was consistent throughout the years. Her mind blowing Pudina (Mint) Chutney Sandwiches were a staple snack during all sleepovers. A hilarious instance I always remember was a parent – teacher meeting back in 8th grade. My mom and I were walking up the stairs to get to my class when a classmate of mine started to scream “Pudina Chutney Aunty!” from the floor above. It took us a few minutes to realize what was happening! From inimitable nimbu paani to mouth watering Masala Bhaat – all the recipes have one thing in common – Maa ka Pyaar! (Mother’s Love)
When I moved away to pursue my bachelor’s, yummy ‘dabba’ was still accessible through my mom’s younger sister, Reeta. Things got real when I had to start living on my own, and ‘dabba’ became a dream. I would call up my Amma and ask her what she made for lunch everyday and wish it would magically appear in front of me.
It was not until I moved back to India from Abu Dhabi and was working on my fitness that I really started to cook. That’s when I started preparing my own dabba(s). I would have to plan ahead for the six – seven meals that I would eat every two hours. Growing up with Amma’s dabbas had given me the training to be decent at it.
However, things changed a little bit when I moved to Switzerland and then New York. The former had inaccessibility to most Indian ingredients making it hard to cook the kind of food I had consumed, and the latter had too much of everything (frozen food) available, making one lethargic to cook from scratch. We were also 7 people sharing the same kitchen – more on that later.
After having binge watched Modern Love on Amazon, I decided to listen to the podcasts. The first one I heard was “Need to Find Me? Ask My Ham Man” penned by a woman named Catherine Down, who beautifully expresses the constant conflict one feels within themselves, of being away from home, wanting to be home, but at the same time finding joy in creating a life elsewhere – and having a best friend in the next door Ham Man! What struck me about the podcast was that, instead of dwelling on romantic relations it reflected unusual friendships and the relation between a mother and daughter and how it is never easy for either to be apart, but love has a delightful way of keeping them connected in everything they do.
Getting to present day , locked down India – I have ingredients, I have a kitchen to myself, I have the time, and I have Maa Ka non – stop Pyaar. Having craved my mom’s food for the past two years, I am happy and grateful to binging on it more than Netflix.
This interlude in all our lives right now has come in different forms. In mine, it was a break I was intending to take – turned into a necessary one. I would imagine myself reading books in Central Park and baking stuffed mushrooms at the hotel, having the perfect night care routine and meditating.
Bill Bryson and PG Woodhouse are not in quarantine anymore and those mushrooms could not be happier to be popped into the oven, meditating with that bath and body works candle seems like the therapy I have been seeking all along.
So giving my mom a Dabba break and indulging her in my cooking, I experimented with a few dishes! I have added pictures and recipe links if you would like to try them out as well:
- Roasted Parmesan Zucchini : https://www.wellplated.com/roasted-zucchini/ Tastes even better when paired with some wine!
If you are feeling more creative: You can try the Zucchini Pizza Bites: https://www.foodahead.com/2019/06/zucchini-pizza-bites.html
2. Oats Manchurian (Yea, you read that right!) – With an excess availability of Oats at home, I looked up recipes to make better use of it, and found this one to be perfect – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NSUpHX7eQKk
3. Egglplant Parm – https://www.pinterest.ch/pin/267260559125621092/ – My new favourite, healthy wholesome meal!
4. Corn Flakes Bhel – Since I have been trying to go back to my routine of eating smaller meals more regularly, I am always looking for quick easy ways to prepare healthy snacks: https://www.pinterest.ch/pin/493777546625518684/
5. Stuffed Mushrooms or Roasted Garlic Mushrooms:
https://www.thekitchn.com/stuffed-mushrooms-22956024 – Made this as a fun cooking experience with my cousin, and we thoroughly enjoyed gobbling them!
https://www.closetcooking.com/balsamic-soy-roasted-garlic-mushrooms/ (I was unable to add balsamic vinegar since there was no stock, but I am sure it tastes even better with it!)
To end on a sweet note, here is an eggless cupcake/brownie recipe: https://www.cookingandme.com/2013/05/09/eggless-brownies-eggless-brownie-recipe/
All of the recipes were made with ingredients that were available at home. I understand this can be a tough time to procure even the basics. I would love to hear if you are experimenting with the stock that is accessible to you and if you have stumbled upon some exciting recipes! I also urge you to share whatever extra food you have with whoever maybe in need of it or if you have the opportunity/ability to prepare food for them, nothing like it!
In the meantime, stay home, stay safe, and if you are with families and loved ones, bring them a cup of coffee/tea/wine – whatever they prefer – so they can be wrapped in that warm, fuzzy feeling that we are all seeking!