Close your eyes for a moment and imagine your favourite home-cooked meal. Why do you like it so much? Is it that someone special taught you how to make it? Is it that this dish takes you back to a comforting time, place, or person? Why is it that this dish makes you smile?
Dadima’s is all about that ‘why’. It’s that wisdom behind the home-cooking we all know and love. As I write in the Introduction to Dadima’s book, I’ve been fascinated by stories since I was a little girl – those of my dadima, nanima, my elderly neighbours, or people I met on holidays- I could talk, and never tired of listening. As a child, I didn’t attend any pre-school nursery, as I lived in the extended family, and dadima looked after me when mum was at work – I was spoilt with love, stories and traditional Indian cooking. My extra-curricular activities included exciting day trips to Hounslow High Street, or tube rides with dadaji into London – the best nursery education I could have wished for. Having spent my early childhood living with dadima, her captivating bed-time stories are still memorable. She would narrate (and almost perform) Indian folktales to me before bed, continuing the oral storytelling tradition of her own mother. When I learnt to cook from her, she would never just speak about what she was doing- that was just a side note – every recipe had an accompanying story and lots of spices. You can read more about this angle in the Introduction, but in essence, the style of my upbringing was the inspiration behind dadima’s cookery book.
I have many food stories from my elders (as I’m sure you do). Over the next few weeks, I want to share them with you. Some of these stories feature in the book. However, dadima’s is about connecting generations and sharing wisdom – as such I’m more interested to hear your food tales – in all shapes and sizes.
One of my favourite stories from Bholi (pictured above) is the story behind her gajrela (carrot halwa), which I write about on p.75 of dadima’s book. I was fortunate to hear this running family story when Bholi’s son commenced with “mum, do you remememer the time when we asked you to use a little less ghee in your gajrela….” (Bholi takes immense pride in preparing this traditional dessert and coats the carrots gently in ghee (clarified butter). When Bholi’s son jestfully asked her to use a little less ghee, sweet Bholi went away, entertained her dear son’s request and experimented. Bholi’s ‘gorgeous gajrela’ was not to her standards (it still tasted delicious!) and she told me that she was never going to take her children’s advice on cooking again! That little bit of ghee was mindfully added for a reason. Bholi’s children and grandchildren adore her gajrela, so she lovingly prepares a batch in advance of their visits and greets them with a warm slice of it with ice cream.
I am really keen for you to submit the stories behind the food you love. If these stories connect generations, even better. You may even have some funny grandparent food stories (let’s try and get more grandfathers on board), memories with your friends and family, or stories of cooking with your little ones. It’s all connecting generations! Let’s preserve your legacies and stories – send them to me along with a photo at email@example.com or use #dadimaswisdom so that I can share them.
Have a great end to the week.