Staple and Special culinary practices in Simla of the Sixties
Our small mohalla in the lower Bazaar Simla comprised of families from different parts of Himachal as well as outside Himachal. But when it came to eating practices…..almost all households had similar staple diet. Though Sood families, like ours, had daal chawal every day, the Khanna family from Patialia relished Chawal as a speciality on rare occasions. Sundays were the days when the menfolk whether involved in running shops or service class, like my Bauji, would be home, so meals would be a special treat in the family
Sundays would be special for more than one reasons in humble mohalla of Lower Bazaar in Simla of the Sixties.
There would be no hurry to run to school and Amma would, happily, let us buy “Double Roti” from the vendor and prepare a special breakfast of some delicacies made of bread….bread pakoras or sweetened bread pudding. Sometimes we would have bread and omlette but that would be not so often. Not because we didn’t like to see the puffing of egg mixture when put on hot ghee in the frying pan but because of the aroma of omlette that could not be bound inside the small kitchen, rooms and the aroma would waft through the door and to the entire neighborhood….
Amma was so anxious for not putting the Dal-chawal eating fraternity to discomfort of sniffing their nose at, what we thought aroma and they thought stink of eggs being fried. Most of the god-fearing neighbors, from Kangra, Mandi, Una or even Patiala would not, as much as, eat garlic….and eggs and mutton…..God forbid….never ever
And Bauji loved to have mutton on Sundays…it would be his day. After having bread and eggs and a light “lunch” he would have his siesta and then freshen himself with a cup of tea. Freshened and excited, he would move towards the Sabzi Mandi, I would be tagging around for full excitement coming my way.
Stopping by the fresh green coriander sellers he would select the best of green coriander leaves, adrak, green peppers and done lemons. These would be garden fresh and a treat to eyes and nostrils. Then moving ahead, not stopping at the vegetable shops which he ordinarily did on other days, he would straight was go to the mutton market. He would ask me to stand outside while he went inside to purchase mutton. I would peep through the iron gauze and would avert my eyes instantly out of aversion.
Bauji would walk home where Amma would have kept onions peeled and garlic pods ready. While Amma would lit the Angithee Bauji will turn onion, garlic, adrak and hari mirch along with dry masalas to a fine paste. And the fragrance of masala would fill my nostrils. The kids of generation Z are seriously missing the pleasure of gratifying olfactory senses….ah what a smell and the taste to match… The electric grinders have robbed us of so many little joys of life. I would touch a little of it with my finger and lick it for the tingling sensation! Heavenly it would be.
Bauji would put the thick panned Bhaduu on Angithee and start with his cooking. It would be such a beautiful scene to see Amma and Bauji reverse their roles on the divine Sundays. Having done with the frying of masala he would add mutton pieces and then would let the whole summer over the fire. The small vessel put over the Bhadduu would be filled with water and the water drops would condense from its bottom mixing with the mutton being roasted!!!! What a color and aroma it would produce!!!!.
But Amma would be worried that the neighbourhood “Bhenjis” and “Bobos” would catch the smell of mutton. There were a few families who would not as much as touch onion or garlic and to think of mutton eating family was nothing less then being sacrilegious. So it had to be hush hush affair like an illegal activity. But try as much as you can the small home would not be able to contain the aroma from waffling out…..
Even in schools, girls would ask each other” di you eat onion?”
“Do you eat garlic? ”
And if someone would say “yes”…..many of the girls would make faces and crying “Chheeeeee” much to the chargin of some innocent fool! I could not understand the logic but started believing that we the Rajputs can eat and others cannot!!!!
So when one of the daughters from the mohalla visited me at Hamirpur some 10 years ago and my husband, in all excitement, proposed preparing chicken as one of the dishes …I said a big NO. But imagine my surprise when she asked for an eating place where they could get some non-vegetarian specialities!!!!
I nearly fainted of cultural shock….. How could she start taking “prohibited” meals??? Times had, indeed, changed but my view of the old world charm of Simla in the Sixties had remained the same!!!