Bombay Showcase

The joy of community cooking

Rushina Munshaw Ghildiyal remembers watching her moti mummy (grandmother) dole out instructions to her mother and maasis as they sat in the kitchen. One person mixed the batter for fafdas and another manned the stove for frying. In a corner, the tedious process to create ghughras would be under way.

“Preparation of sweets and farsan for festivals like Diwali, Ganesh Chaturthi and others began weeks in advance in our Gujarati home.” says Ms. Ghildiyal, food writer and consultant and chief foodie at APB Cook Studio.

“The ladies of the house got together to prepare them, dividing work while indulging in some gossip and leg-pulling. We kids were allowed to hover, watch and listen.” She says culinary traditions in India are about cooking together and sharing. “Also learning from our elders and passing on food knowledge. [But] we are too busy to do that anymore.”

In a bid to bring people together to revive these customs, Ghildiyal joins hands with India Food Network, an online food content initiative, to host a series of Community Cook-ups. The first one, focusing on the preparation of modaks ahead of Ganesh Chaturthi, will be held on September 1.

“We want to host gatherings to celebrate festivals through traditional food,” says Ghildiyal. “Anyone who has grown up in India has been part of or watched women make pickles, sweets and savouries together at sanhja chulhas where communal ovens are created. We don’t do that anymore, and even in my maternal home, the Maharaj has taken over.”

At Ghildiyal’s upcoming cook-up, three home chefs will conduct a demonstration and workshop of modaks made in their respective communities. Archana Arte will demonstrate how the traditional Maharashtrian ukadiche modak is made. “I learnt them from my nani,” Arte says. “The important step is steaming the rice flour. The dough, which should be really soft, is the crucial step. If it is not consistent, the modak will fall apart. We stuff it with a filling of shredded coconut and jaggery.”

Roopa Nabar takes over the kitchen to make patoli, a sweet pancake prepared in the Western coast of India, and Preetha Srinivasan will whip up the uppu kozhakattai, a savoury modak made in Tamil Nadu.

Srinivasan says: “Sweet modaks are popular, but Tamilians also make a savoury offering as part of the five different modaks made during [Ganesh Chaturthi].”

She adds, “It is made using urad dal, green chillies and salt, which is steamed and tempered with a flavouring of hing (asafoetida), curry leaves and mustard oil. Some also add a little lime juice. I hail from Madurai, and it is pretty popular there, but it is made in Andhra as well.”

Participants can try their hand at making the delicacies and devouring them too. The next cook-up will be around Diwali.

The author is a freelance writer.

Ganesh Chaturthi Community Cook-up, APB Cook Studio, Saki Vihar, September 1, from noon to 4 p.m. The event is free. Call 9920902605 to register.

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Printable version | Apr 22, 2021 8:24:04 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/entertainment/The-joy-of-community-cooking/article14599862.ece

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