Friday, October 25, 2013

Notes from an Immigrant's Kitchen

My home is in my new country,
The culture, people and language still unknown,
Missing the familiarity of the Old,
Yet there is a growing sense of belonging,
As I build a brand new set of memories
It was hard to land in a foreign land with two bags containing all your belonging  (a sum total of your existence for  two dozen odd years)...I carried two baggy business suits (stitched by my Bapa's tailor) and a number of new clothes, stuff I wasn't comfortable wearing but deemed appropriate for the new lands. Tucked into my suitcase was a bottle of homemade mango pickle, a kilo of Moong Dal and a packet of home-made masala. I lived for the first 6 months in DC with two bachelors (my brother and his roommate - Kevin Babu). My first introduction to their kitchen was an empty fridge with just an expired milk carton, a Chinese takeout box (growing suspicious stuff) and a bottle of expired mustard. The cupboards had a half-finished carton of pringles and some generic brand of instant coffee. I spent my jet-lag in a haze of Jerry Springer, stale pringles and black coffee. 

From eating Dal, Subzi, Chawal on most days to maybe a grilled cheese sandwich (made the indian way) or on a really inventive day Desi Chinese to moving to an Amrikan city (Washington DC ) which lived and breathed diversity. I remember wearing a salwar kameez to George Washington University the first day I went in for an Orientation meeting and I don't remember feeling awkward, stared at or conscious. My first meal at school was a chicken hotdog at the  stand by the was a revelation of flavors - the spice of the mustard, the bite of the onion and the crunch of the Hot Dog...all enveloped by a warm bun. I explored Mexican, Lebanese, Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese, American, Italian, Ethiopian, Turkish and many other cuisines all in that period of twenty months in college and from each one of those cuisines I took a little something that I stored somewhere in the far recesses of my mind. 

The reality is this country embraced me with a fervor that I reciprocated...I have morphed into a sum total of my experiences...both Indian and Amrikan. My food reflects this wonderful past Indian heritage (albeit confused between South-Indian and Oriya and exposed to Maharashtrian), my healthy inclinations (chia seeds, Farro, Barley, Kale, Dark Chocolate...need I go on) and my present cultural dispositions (which is nothing short of least my son has simple tastes that run to Pizza, Pasta and Chicken Tikka Masala...I would probably need 200 pages just to jot down my food cravings and likes). I would be totally lying if I say I crave Dalma and Ghanto everyday yet there are days where I would want nothing better than to sit down to a hot bowl of moong dal and the familiarity of a Baingan the chill hits the air and I sit in my pink socks (did I tell you I hate hate socks with a passion, but gave in to wearing them to avoid chilled feet, now I wish someone made nose socks :( )...I made myself a bowl of Moong Dal with Lauki (get the recipe here) and Baingan Bharta with a healthy twist-  I put about a 1/2 pound of Edamame in my Baingan Bharta (Egg Plant Mash).

The reality is everyone (or almost everyone I know) loves talking about Food. Food evokes familiar memories...for me it takes me back to the uncomplicated times in India with Bapa...and for a moment I feel just a tad bit closer to him.

What are your weekend plans? I plan to do some Yoga at home with K2 tomorrow...and then look forward to Chai and a English Muffin smeared with almond butter and marmalade.


  1. You have come a long way from stale Pringles. This post was like a journey through food of the world. Your posts, like an Enid Blyton story, tends to make one hungry.
    Btw, I would gladly knit socks for you as I am sure they would end up being nose socks :)

  2. I remember your trip to the Bay Area...we had a fun time (even with our food adventures) :)...remember the Animal Rye Muffins that we made...precious!