It’s been a while since I last blogged, as I’ve been busy researching with fabulous dadimas (grandmothers) for my cookery book. This blog is short and sweet, inspired by a recent visit to my quirky nanima (nan), to celebrate her birthday. The focus is on the importance of quality ingredients when it comes to cooking for the ones we most love.
Last weekend I visited my gorgeous nanima, and she knew all too well that the plan was for her to be wined and dined, and taken OUT for dinner (something she rarely does, as she cooks so well). As I kind of expected, I opened her kitchen door, warmly greeted by the comforting aroma of black lentils simmering in the crock-pot. Before leaving for work, nanima had rustled up some of my other traditional favourites and laid them out in pots on the cooker – all on her birthday morning!
She looks at me innocently and says: “Anneeka, I know it’s my birthday, but you know I love cooking for my grandchildren – one day when you grow up you’ll understand!” (I’m still not grown-up in her eyes). This line made my heart melt, and pause to reflect on how much she enjoyed such cooking rituals, even on her special day. On a more serious note, she tells me with her cheeky grin, “Don’t waste the food as I’ve used the best ingredients for you!” Nanima breaks into a short story of how she visited three different stores over two days after work, in search for good quality mustard leaves to make the traditional saag dish – my absolute favourite. Mum tells me that she ate tubs of it from nanima when she was pregnant with me. I was touched at how much effort she went to to find the ingredients after a busy day at work, when her health is not particularly great either. I hope one day, I’ll have the same level of energy when cooking for my children and grandchildren.
I’ve decided to stop telling her that she doesn’t need to go to such an effort every time her children and grandchildren visit. I realise that each of her quests for ingredients, early morning cooking rituals, and standards for good quality ingredients and food, all contribute to the stories behind her excellent dishes. I love my nanima’s saag, not just because of the taste, but because of the love and effort that she invests – the food stories create a special bond between us as grandmother and granddaughter. Nanima – I’ll keep visiting you, on the condition that you keep on cooking and teaching me your wisdom.
Over to you – what’s the cooking ingredient that you would not compromise on? How does it translate into cooking quality food for you or your loved ones?