Mummy ke haath ka Khaana & a Dabba full of Memories

Food is something that consumes every mommy’s mind. From the moment you give birth to that little cherub, you want to make sure that everything consumed by her is nutritious, unadulterated and wholesome, helping this child grow stronger. That’s why, world over, nothing tastes as great as “Maa ke Haath ka Khaana”, whether the Ma is Italian, Hindustani or Sonia Gandhi (the perfect mix!)

In SoBo, the two most prominent mums are the Gujarati mum and the Marwari mum (due to the infestation of these communities in the area). One of the most beautiful things about our country is how people still reflect their ancestral culture, despite living in cosmopolitan cities.

Being Maru, I see that these two kind of moms are very opposite in their approach about food (and I’m stereotyping here, so if you are an exception, don’t write to me): Gujarati households tend to be more self sufficient and no matter how wealthy people are, usually the women are actively involved in the kitchen and/or cooking. Marwaris tend to feel a bit at sea if they don’t have an army of servants lobbying around them at any moment. The ratio must be 1:1 (minimum) for any self respecting Marwari to feel secure at home (and the minimum ratio is only existent in Holi Season when all the servants decide to go to their village together, also known as Black Holi-day in most Marwari Houses).

I have found that Gujju moms tend to be involved in coming up with elaborate menus that they bring to life often with their very own hands because they wouldn’t entrust the hygiene and nutrition of their infants’ food onto anyone else. Us, Maru moms, have great trust on our Maharajis (home chefs) and are superb at writing down our needs and delegating to them. After all, MJ knows best!

I see with the Gujju moms, that from the first bite that goes into their children’s mouths, they want it to be exotic, packed with nutrition and delicious- all at once, and so they painstakingly make really fancy dishes for their undiscerning infants to eat. Their objective is to foster a versatile and evolved palate from an early age. I had one Gujju mommy friend who told me her week’s menu for her 1 year old and it went something like this

Day 1- Broccoli and Cheese Paratha
Day 2- Pumpkin and Bell Pepper Soup with Foccacia
Day 3- Minty Paneer Lifafa
Day 4- Alphabet Pasta in Alfredo Sauce
Day 5- Stuffed Chilla made from Oats
Day 6- Cheddar & Swiss Cheese Sandwich
Day 7- Nachni Dosa with Tomato Chutney

My only thought with my Maru brain was, “Why would you waste that on a one year old who thinks biting on your elbow is way more tasty than into a Swiss cheese sandwich. Save that food for me instead!” Also, I compared (silently, of course) my weekly menu for BabyA which was

Day 1- Roti, Dal, Chawal (Rice), Sabzi (Veggies).
Day 2- Roti, Dal, Chawal, Sabzi.
Day 3- Roti, Dal, Chawal, Sabzi

You get the drift! RDBS as the Gujjus call it (Rotli, Dal, Bhaat, Shaak), almost like its a bad word (MC,BC) or some really dangerous substance that one must stay away from (RDX). But whatever the Gujju moms may think of me, that’s what my kid ate (and eats).

From very early on, she had to eat whatever was made for everyone else. It wasn’t even spiced down for her (although, our food isn’t too spicy to begin with). After all, I don’t want her growing up to be a Princess because Princesses have a hard time adjusting to different situations (did you hear about the crazy one who could feel a pea through 20 mattresses?) My husband was brought up the same way, and I’m definitely happy to be married to someone whose only demand is that he be provided simple, home-cooked food at home (no delivery/ take away business)- whatever it may be. And he doesn’t complain, even after eating aloo ki sabzi (potatoes) 5 days in a row. I know because I subjected him to that when we were living in Pittsburgh and Maharaji couldn’t get a passport.

But I do admire these Gujju moms a lot. A very good friend of mine (pure Gujju-blood and bred) has been whipping up all kinds of delicacies for her kids since they were born. We would salivate as she would tell us what cuisines she was preparing for their school tiffins. I could only imagine how much they must have been bullied; tiffins being wiped out before they reached back to class after morning assembly, but when we asked her about how lucky her kids must feel, she said, “They complain all the time. They hate their tiffin. They say, ‘Why can’t you be more like so-and-so’s mom? She gives him such yummy bhindi-aloo while I stare at my mushroom and bean burritos”

This reminds me of my school experience. My mom was the quintessential Maharaji-dependent kind, and our Maharaji’s repertoire extended as far as besan toast (a.k.a bread pakoda) in snacks and pav bhaji in food. He didn’t cook anything with cheese as he considered it Mansahari (non-vegetarian-wherever did he get that notion from?), so I had the most boring dabba in the world. Every day, I saw my Sindhi friend open her dabba, filled with Rainbow Sandwiches and Aspic Salad, while my Punju friend got yummy Noodles from Paradise Restaurant or Vegetable Patties from Radio Club. And my Ismaili friend often got canteen money (She was the luckiest! None of our moms would have ever trusted us with the huge sum of 10 rupees every day) and bought us all fried rolls and channa-bread.

But now, when we sit around and chat about school days, everyone remembers how much they loved my tiffin, especially the chutney sandwiches I used to get. My chutney sandwiches? I remember the chutney as being too strong and the bread as being too hard, but that’s not the way they remember it!

So I guess all in all, no matter which mom we are, we must all relegate ourselves to the ultimate truths of motherhood:
1) Our kids will complain, no matter how much we do,
2) They will always take us for granted, and
3) They will usually view the grass to be greener on the other side.

But the saving grace is, that when they sit around at reunions, and reminisce about their childhood, they will be reminded of how hard their mothers tried and how much they have been loved!

Happy Mother’s Day!