Alongside my nanima (nan), my dadima (gran) is a key inspiration behind the dadima’s brand. Not a celebrity chef, but her food is heavenly and famous in our extended family. We appreciate and love her little quirks, particularly her fussy approach in choosing the finest ingredients, and her obsession with knowing the precise list of ingredients in any dish that she eats. Last week, I spent a pleasurable day with dadima, experiencing her cooking rituals, beginning with the grocery shopping shenanigans. We laughed & joked throughout the day, as dadima has a great sense of humour without realising it. In my 12th blog #WednesdayWisdom, I share some of our precious shopping moments as dadima and granddaughter. Hopefully you’ll understand what I mean by ‘quality control at its finest!’
Like an eager beaver, I rocked up to dadima’s early in the morning, with my apron, camera and notebook, ready to learn recipe secrets from the master. It wasn’t until early afternoon, though, that we actually made a start on the cooking! I should have known better- shopping for ingredients, dadima’s style, is a pleasureable, leisurely and mindful ritual. My dadima has sharp skills of observation, where she makes it her business to find out what foods are ‘trending’ (without any Twitter & social media). Dadima has limited English skills, and relies on old-school tricks to gauge food bargains and ‘gimmicks’. She loves coming home with the best bargains, without compromising top quality food!
This particular ASDA store catered for a multicultural demographic, so dadima was familiar with all the wide range of Asian products. A tower of ghee tubs beckoned us, with the red promotional price tag – dadima was of course quick to pick one up. As I’ve stated in a previous blog (see blog on moderation: “Everything in moderation, including moderation” (Oscar Wilde)), my dadima cooks with ghee (clarified butter). A lot of the health benefits recently revived in Western media, have been known to her (and many other dadimas) for many years. I’m all for cooking with this natural fat in moderation. Dadima makes the purpose of this ghee purchase loud and clear to me: ‘Anneeka, I won’t use this ghee for cooking because I make fresh ghee. But it’s good to have it in the house just in case’ (she’s the master of ‘just-in-case’ back-up supplies!).
At this point, I whipped out the shopping list, suggesting that we focus on the aisles we need things from, and then head home quickly to start the cooking. Dadima then says, what I kind of expected: ‘Now that we are here, we might as well browse all of the food aisles properly and see what’s new!’ When we eventually arrived at fresh produce, the quality control inspection commenced! These veggies better be prepared for a grilling! The okra had to pass the texture test – apparently, they weren’t firm enough as they were bending too easily. Dadima cherry-picked a friendly shop assistant and encouraged me to ask him for a fresh crate. Dadima approved, as they didn’t give easily when pinched and snapped, and were firm enough for cooking (thank goodness the shop assistant didn’t tell us off- not that she’d bat an eyelid!). A similar quality test took place with the ginger, in order to check the inside stringiness of it. Whilst she prefers not to use stringy ginger in her Indian cooking, my resourceful dadima doesn’t waste, and freezes it to make ginger tea.
After perusing the World Foods aisle, approving of some new entries, and stocking up on eggs and meat (being vegetarian never stops her cooking non-vegetarian food for her children or grandchildren), we approached the spices area. I was about to hand dadima the bag of ready ground garam masala, when I remembered that she prefers to make her own. When I lived away from home in Madrid, I would try hard to replicate the taste of her dishes. It was quite a sad epiphany for me to learn that my dadima grinds her own spices, rather than using the ready ground powders (she’s clever at keeping secrets up her sleeve). Her little secrets are what made us crave her food, and want more!
If there’s one message I took away from shopping with dadima, it was her obsession for knowing exactly what goes into your food- and this did not focus on superficial calorie counting or food fads. Instead, my dadima believes that time must be taken in choosing quality ingredients (not necessarily expensive), and food should be cooked with love and a mindful approach (mindfulness is not new to her). The simple connection she makes, is no rocket science – food goes into your gut, and the quality of that food affects your health and mind. It’s a simple mantra, yet she’s never read any books or websites, or used statistics to prove it. She’s a natural master. It’s a mentality and lifestyle approach that she has embodied, passed down through generations, and worked through humble roots: “Anneeka, if there’s one thing you should never scrimp on in life, it’s your health and wellbeing. New clothes, make-up and shoes will come and go but you have one body for life, and you must look after it.” My precious dadima – quality control at its finest!