It was always a great day of celebration and piety – Ganesh Chaturti. While for me, as a child, the Pooja wasn’t so important, it was the food that lured me, and I’d wait patiently till we all – my parents, sister and me – would finally settle down at the dining table for a feast. As it is known, Lord Ganesh is a lover of food, which is probably why he became my ‘favourite’ God, come to think of it.
Lunch or naivedya during Ganpati Pooja would involve a feast for all the senses. Just before the Pooja, Amma would whip up some Amchi (Saraswat) style food complete with rice, Dali Toy (quintessential Konkani Dal preparation), Batata Bhaji, Upkari (vegetable stir fry) and a Kosambari (salad), while Annu (my father) would fry up some crispy, crunchy, mixed pakoras. And, that is where my eyes and nose would follow – potato, capsicum, chilli, sweet potato, cauliflower and breadfruit would all be dunked into their batter and then slipped, one by one, into the hot oil in a huge kadai. It was all I could do to prevent myself from grabbing one before the Pooja was over.
Amma would prepare the sweets in advance – the ever loved Tallele Modak (a sweet moneybag filled with coconut, jaggery and chana dal) and Nevris (commonly called Karanjis in India – pastry filled with jaggery, coconut and cardamom) were common appearances. We would eat to our fill, and happiness was guaranteed. I can still picture the four of us, in my mind’s eye, settled around the dining table that would be almost creaking with the food it was carrying.
Why this has come up? Well, today is Ganesh Chaturti. After 2002, I haven’t spent even one day of this festival with my entire family. I’ve come home today, to my mum’s place. And, time has flown. Now, it is just Amma, my sister and me. Those days of running around arranging for the Pooja, watching my dad fry those pakoras and devouring the food have long seen the end of day.
I came home to some lovely Modaks and Nevris today, and the memories came flooding back, and with that, the nostalgia of a family that was – however brief – and the realisation of how long ago my love affair with food had started.
I don’t have a recipe or a review to share. Just these memories and a picture of what Amma made this year.