In traditional India, ‘Rasoi’ is where the heart of the home is. In translation, ‘Rasoi’ is the kitchen. It’s the magical space where everyone gravitates. Like many of you, our family spends much of our ‘together’ time in the kitchen.
It’s the place where the day unwinds, where homework gets done, heartaches are discussed and many problems are solved. It’s where the first light switch gets flicked on in the mornings and typically it’s the last one to go off at night.
Ours is a Rustic Rasoi. Rustic because food from our ‘rasoi’ is homey, simple, wholesome and hearty (yes, butter is involved). Nothing pretentious or extraordinary.
Having left India at an early age I cannot really claim that my cooking skills come from exotic travels to all the wonderful parts of the country. That would make a perfect story but our India trips have always been bound by occasions – weddings, milestone birthdays or anniversaries.
My husband and I intend on some demystifying missions quite soon – now that our son is a little older.
Food is always a big deal when my family and I visit India. It starts early in the morning with steaming cups of ‘chai’ followed by a 3 course breakfast which fuels us through our shopping expeditions. Of course, shopping is not complete unless we stop for some street-eats and then some freshly squeezed ‘anaar’ (pomegranate) juice. Dinner is always a sit-down, family affair with lots of discussion and lots of …. Food!
Whether in India or here in my adopted home, Canada, our weddings, birthdays, anniversaries are all marked with an abundance of food which symbolizes warmth, closeness, comfort, nostalgia, and above all, tradition.
Family generations have passed on recipes, cooking techniques and tips and variations. What my maternal grandmother must have cooked 50 years ago may not taste the same as how I make it today. I don’t have the coals and bricks she used to light a tandoor and I doubt she had my electric slow cooker!
Time, technology and lifestyles have definitely added some variation but the basic essence of the recipes is still engrained and remains true.
Me – The Indian girl.
My siblings and I were brought up with tremendous exposure to both Eastern and Western cultures. Our parents never bound us by tradition. We had the freedom to explore and the values to remain grounded to our roots.
Our home celebrated Diwali in November, Christmas in December, Easter in March and then Baisakhi in July. This freedom is what pulls me back to my origins and pushes me to explore and learn more about my roots.
With all the diversities in our home, food remained a constant. There were no real restrictions on our meals and we often took turns in the kitchen to experiment.
Many of my mom’s Western recipes were Indianised. Our mashed potatoes were ‘spicy’ mashed potatoes; the lemonade was spiked with Indian masalas! We even put masalas on our watermelon to cool off on sweltering, hot, summer days.
When I got married, my mother in law inspired me to become ‘adventurously’ confident with my Indian cooking. One of her house warming gifts to me was a round, steel spice tin. It may have been a subtle hint to feed her son properly but it contained a few simple spices that are now the life-line of all my Indian cooking.
Over the years, my culinary skills have graduated from ‘trying everything in the book’ to simple, quick and wholesome meals.
Apart from Indian food, our kitchen is open to recipes from cookbook collections, magazine finds, restaurant favourites and just trial and errors.
Feel free to walk with me as I build my journal of Rustic Rasoi adventures that I have either found, created, recreated or just simply inherited.