Grandma’s basics in the time of lockdown

With the prolonged lockdown and many ingredients people were used to disappearing from the market, homemakers and cooking enthusiast are looking back at recipes of old which belonged to a simpler time, finds Anju Munshi.
Have you been cleaning your book shelves and drawers in these endless days under lockdown? You may have then stumbled on your recipe collections, granny’s old recipe books and hurriedly penned down notes on recipes stacked carelessly between the pages. Why not try them out, you wonder, with a touch of nostalgia.
Well, you are not alone. The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed the pause button on life taken for granted so long. On the plus side, the lockdown is offering an opportunity to dig out memories of aromas and tastes that belonged to the kitchen of childhood.
It will be an understatement to say that our home-menu has changed dramatically since the coronavirus pandemic. Making the best out of limited supplies at home since going out isn’t a choice anymore is a challenge too. Old family recipes that emphasised minimalism and nutrition have been rediscovered.
There is another reason too – a need to build immunity to fight the virus which can sneak in unexpectedly. Besides, there is more time to experiment and introduce the younger generation to good old grandma’s recipes.
Sutapa Mishra who has a home delivery unit finds that due to the uncertainty and apprehension of contamination many people are avoiding eating out. “The comfort factor and comfort platter are now going together. Seasonality is in. People are getting more aware about immunity, hygiene and nutrition and want simple ghar ka khana.’’ She strongly advocates seasonal produce and refrains from using frozen ingredients.
Less is more seems to be the kitchen mantra today. Hence local cuisine and ingredients are getting an upper hand.
“Going back to the past by way of food is nothing new,’’ says chef Sanjay Kak, director of Culinary Arts at the International Institute of Hotel Management (IIHM), Kolkata . “It was there on social media already but what has brought it to our homes today is the limitation of ingredients and an acute need for building strength and immunity.
Things like asparagus, red and yellow capsicums, broccoli were not relevant to us some fifty years ago but over the years they had occupied our plates and palates. These are adopted vegetables that need interstate or international transport, hence expensive. Most people are now wary and just want the local produce , so much like in the pre-globalisation era when the focus was on fresh ingredients and minimal and that did not involve exhaustive cooking.’’
The pandemic has taught homemakers and cooking enthusiasts at home to use up the leftovers too.
Reena Chopra finds that each childhood recipe has a story and it feels good to go back to pleasant food memories. She calls up her family in Delhi to ask for grandma’s recipes. ‘’Simple things like aloo parathas and dal had a distinct flavour when my grandma used to make it,” she recalls. On checking up she realised that the cookware was different. Food cooked in Teflon coated pans and non- stick cookware does not taste the same she finds, who incidentally is a promoter of slow cooking in earthen and stone wares. She finds the taste gets enhanced in these traditional pots and the lack of chemical additives are among the other qualities that make it her top choice to cook in.
IIHM is a part of C2S2 (Conscious Caterers Sustainable Systems) partnership programme which researches sustainability, local produce, carbon footprint, etc. Their research says that toxicity in food can come from the choice of cookware. Earthen, copper and silverware are alkaline in nature and they neutralise the acidic element in food making it much easier to digest.
Garima Sharma, a cooking enthusiast, says that non-stick cookware has been a forced concept and highly avoidable. She prefers iron cookware, copper water jugs and simple slow cooking.
People are trying to reconnect to that era when things were completely and effortlessly organic, she finds. Home- made bread, Pressure cooker cakes and steamed bread puddings are slowly getting resurrected after living in oblivion in an era of fast living and hi-tech gadgets.
With a clear sky and less pollution, drying potato slices, masala wadis (lentils and gourd with spices) in the sun has become a big favourite with many ardent home cooks. In Kashmir, in the olden days when heavy snowfall in the winter would shut down the roads for a long period thus cutting down supplies from the rest of the country, people relied on dried vegetables.
In summer, they used to dry vegetables like bitter gourd, bottle gourd, chillies, capsicum, tomatoes , brinjals and weeds and lotus stems plucked from the famous Dal lake which used to last till the next summer. These dried vegetables are an intrinsic part of Kashmiri cuisine and have a distinct taste, flavour and texture .
With the bright sun and cleaner air during the lockdown , many have gone back to reviving this age old practice . “Within a week of drying we consume and then dry the second lot, no need to even store,’’ says Khshama Wattal, a Kashmiri homemaker settled in Gurugram. The old coin does not lose its shine, as they say. (TWF)