Simple and Sumptuous “Daal-Chawal”

Amma would prepare daal in a special “bhaddu” and it would be a sight to sit around the “angeethi” and watch the daal simmer. The froth and the vapours would rise up and would make the lid on the “bhaddu” dance and then after a while the water will slide down from the sides of the container. It would produce a very eerie kind of sound when it would touch the hot red charcoal burning beneath in the angeedi. Amma would put off the lid from the bhaddu and apply some oil to the lid of the container so that the froth from the simmering and boiling daal would just dance at the lid and it won’t come out. We though amma to be so clever and intelligent, she had a cure for all problems. We would wait patiently for the daal to be cooked and having attained a consistency that was desired. It was amma to decide it when she would with a long handled ladle see for the consistency of the daal. The aroma of the daal would fill our small house and we would be waiting for her to get down the bhaddu. Amma would give us some cloves of garlic that we were to skin off and give back to amma. This would be used while she would saunter the4 daal. The smell of the garlic would be strong and our hands would smell of it for a very long time though we would have pealed only 6-7 cloves of the garlic! When she would get the bhaddu down, she would put on fire another patila for preparing rice. The rice would also boil and simmer till amma would decide to drain the excess water from the rice. Rice was always cooked in this manner when the excess water would be drained off. Amma would hold the hot patila with a cloth,  balance it at some suitable height and tilt it to an angle, holding the lid tightly, to drain the water. If by chance she would carelessly release the pressure on the lid, some rice would come tumbling out and be a part of the liquid being collected in some vessel down there. We would be so happy to see it as this liquid was relished by all of us before taking the proper meal. The liquid would be mixed with salt and some cooked rice and sipped gradually the same way as people sip soup before the meals these days. We would keep the katoras ready to have a helping of rice liquid which was called “peechh”. The meaning of the word seems to convey “what was left behind”. While we would be enjoying small sips of “peechh”, amma would be making preparation for sauntering the daal. She would put a little clarified ghee in the same ladle with a long handle and balance it on the red hot charcoals. When the ghee would be hot she would put first put a red chilly in the ghee and then would add the pieced cloves of skinned garlic, a few coriander seeds, a few fenugreek seeds. The sputtering sound when the whole seeds of coriander would be fried in the ghee would make our mouth water. The whole of the house would be full of an aroma that was so refreshing. With a dexterity that only experience can give, Amma would move the lid of the daal a little and swiftly put the ladle full of ghee and the spices in the daal, coviering it again with a swift movement. It would make a grrrrrrrrrrr sound! Ah! At last the almost ritualistic way to prepare simple daal and rice would be over for the evening and dinner would be ready to be served. Meanwhile we would have spread a cushioned long material on the floor and kept four thalis ready. The shining glasses full of water and a lota of water kept nearby would complete the setting of the dinner. Amma would sprinkle a little of daal and rice on the hot red charcoals and then would add a few drops of water as well to complete her offering to Agni! Then only she would put rice in out thalis and would ladles of daal. Sometimes she would add spoonful of ghee to our daal and we would be so happy taking the dinner. Looking back I can see and understand how healthy, hygienic and fresh the food was. How ceremoniously it was prepare and laid down. Even though simple yet it had mother’s love as the major ingredient in it that would make it taste so good.

And these days when I prepare rice and daal it is so robotic and mechanical that all the sweetness has gone out of it. I just prepare some daal and rice to fill my stomach and not to fulfill my cravings for a sense of fulfillment which such a simple task would give in the earlier days!

4 thoughts on “Simple and Sumptuous “Daal-Chawal”

  1. aarkay

    Thanks again for transporting us back to life in Shimla, in the distant past. The scene prevailing in our kitchen of those times came alive . Angithee , Bhaddu , Patila, have become history now. The peechh was a delicacy for us also especially when lal chawal called gharu chawal were brought from the village . The pinkish peechh always tasted better. I volunteered to drain the peechh , of course the white one , as I needed it to soak my shirt collar, to give it an elegance as no readymade hard collars were available to tailors those days . In the later years. it took us quite some time to get used to pressure-cooked rice. Using masala – onion, garlic, haldi, dhania etc- pounded in a kundi always added to the taste. The thicker side of the garlic clove was rubbed against the floor , so that it was easier to peel off the skin. Readying the angithee for use in itself was an elaborate ritual , as it would take 15-20 minutes after lighting it. It was common to hear a neighbour hood boy/girl calling out to his/her mother – Beeji , githi pakh gayi je , andar le awaan . Cooking and serving food were enjoyed like any thing. Only you could have written this nice piece, nostalgic , yet, realistic and matter of fact .Daal and chawal definitely tasted better perhaps because much labour of love had gone into preparing them.

  2. Hmmmm. THis is what I liked about Gulzar always. And this description of the daal, the bhaddu, and the pinkish peech, and the eerie noise and the splattering noise of daal on the koyla, is all sheer poetry and a descriptive painting, which is coming alive in front if my eyes and transporting me back to my village.

    The tadka in the daal with the kadchee on the charcoals and the sound it would make, when it’s back in the bhaddu…

    Why did I mention Gulzar here? Because he has the knack of painting this kind of imagery reel.

    To add to what’s been already said, the first right of the ‘peech’ was for new mothers in the house, as it was believed that the peech would help the new mother lactate better.

    I remember, as a joint family, consisiting of over 60 members, about 25 years back, it was a tough deal to prepare food for a big kunba. And the lady who is incharge, took pride in her job and had all the authority of the kitchen. Any other woman getting closer to the choolah, would put the wits of the lady-in-charge out of the bounds of repair.

    However, when the feast for the evening was non-vegetarian, the eldest male member got the opportunity to step in the arena. Cooked meat pieces would be culled out from the gravy or better known as ‘tari’, and thence divided equally in the thaalis of all the members in the house. Care was taken that all got an equal share irrespective of age and gender. The share of any member who was not present was to be kept aside for the day he/she would return.

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