A Jammu delicacy goes international

Anu Bakshi
I am originally from Punjab and got married in Jammu. After marriage many of my husband’s relatives invited us over for a Sunday lunch. The one dish served at every relative’s home was Rajma, rice and pudina and annardana chutney.
If we spent Sunday at home my mother in-law would be cooking the same as well. I was confused and shy to ask, why the same dish every Sunday?
As a new bride, I went to kitchen to cook for family. In our community it’s a special day when newly wed enters kitchen to cook first time for in-law’s family. And guess what? It was Sunday and I thought I will please them by cooking something else like Kadhi, Channe, Mutter paneer, Chinese or whatever I could cook the best.
Out of respect, I asked my Mother in law, what should I cook today? She looked at me if I was insane and she said “it’s Sunday , I said “yes mom I know it’s Sunday but what should I cook today it’s my first time”, she looked at me strangely if I was talking gibberish (making no sense). She saw me standing there, all confused and said it’s Sunday and Jammu families only cook and eat Rajma Chawal and that too with chutney. Finally, in my mind the mystery was solved why Jammu families were serving me, the newly married Punjabi girl the same dish from last two months in Sunday lunches.
I didn’t stop there and I asked my Saroj Mummy (Mom in law) why the whole city eats the same dish on Sunday? My mind didn’t stop there. Is there some kind of state Law or a King has started the tradition that Jammuites have to follow? She looked at me, smiled, and said that she had asked the same question to her Mother in law when she got married, (Saroj mummy was from Punjab the same state I came from) I will tell you when my Mom in law will give me the answer and we both smiled. I didn’t say anything and happily followed Jammu tradition because I am one of them now.
A couple years after, when we moved to USA and it was my 5 years old daughter Ganishka’s school parent/teacher meeting day. We went to her class and looking to Ganishka’s art work hanging on the wall, Guess what was the topic : “what is your favorite dish”? We were so surprised and happy to see it was Red beans and rice our very own Rajma-chawal with a picture, illustrated by Ganishka. White rice were spread nicely in the plate and red beans sitting on the top of rice the way she has seen her Dad eating it not to mention Jammuites have typical way to eat it too. Teacher came to me and asked what is Rajma/chawal? I told her she calls this dish Rajma not red beans. I told her teacher, this food is in her blood and the story how whole city eats it every Sunday. Her words made us so proud.
I have now been living in Toronto, Canada for the last decade now and run my software company as the CEO, but I still cook Rajma, rice and pudina chutney for my family. If I am out of the town or the country for business meetings, the moment I land back, the first dish my family demands from me to cook –is you guessed it right, Yes, it’s Rajma-chawal. Even here in Canada whenever our Jammu friends invite us over, Rajma is always on the menu.
Moreover, we have a “Jammu in Toronto group” here and we all meet twice a year. We try to impress each other by cooking Jammu’s favorite dishes like Ambel, Oriea, Halwa, Kulche and Channe etc. But the star dish is always Rajma.
Now Jammu is famous for this dish globally. These red beans have a special look– small in size and dark red colour. How I came to know of this, if you go to No-frills our local grocery store you will see a packet of red beans which says “Jammu red beans”.
My whole family was happy to see that our city is famous over here too. I must say Jammuites eat this dish religiously every Sunday wherever they are in the world.
Now enjoy today’s Sunday lunch Jammu wale Rajma, Chawal and mint chutney!
Yum Yum!!!