Diwali: Then and Now

IMG_2672 ⌘ Picture a little girl, shaken awake in the pre-dawn darkness by her mother, shivering before a “head bath” with a pail of steaming hot water from the big copper water heater in the kitchen. Squeaky clean, her hair dried and braided into long mogra flower-laden plaits, she puts on some pretty gold bangles (from an ever-expanding stash of jewelry destined for her future bridal finery) and dresses in a brand new, long skirt of Kanchipuram silk , the traditional and sacred fabric of southern India. After excitedly holding a little sparkler on the balcony, she joins her family for a Diwali feast, full of sweets and special treats that last all day long, while explosions of crackers and the acrid smell of smoke fill the city air. IMG_2670 ⌘ Fast-forward many decades later, and the little girl has given up the silks and bracelets for a disciplined life of an academic scientist, transplanted into a distant western land.  It may be Diwali, but she must fly from one coast to another, evangelical in her passion, poring over 200-page reports on the plane and happily rolling polysyllabic words into hour-long lectures. But wait : just before leaving, there is time to whip together a simple family breakfast of beaten rice (“poha”) with crunchy, tangy, comforting and colorful notes. Today, the sweetness comes from dimly-recalled memories of childhood and the sparklers are in the bright eyes of the family who will welcome “madamescientist” back home 🙂  To all those who celebrate, Happy Diwali !

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Clockwise from top: boiled, diced potatoes, chopped onion, chopped cilantro, whole spices for tempering (urad dal, dry red chilies, mustard seeds), poha with spices (turmeric, cayenne, salt and pinch of sugar), half a lemon.

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After the tiny mustard seeds pop in a tablespoon of oil and the urad dal and chilies release their flavor, add the onion and lightly saute.

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Add the cubed potatoes and let them develop a little bit of crunch.

Meanwhile, add a cup of water to 2 cups of beaten rice. The rice will rehydrate and plump up. Mix in spices and coriander leaves.

Meanwhile, add a cup of water to 2 cups of beaten rice. The rice will rehydrate and plump up. Mix in spices and coriander leaves.

Add the poha mixture, cover and steam for a few minutes to let the flavors meld. Season with lemon juice and top off with peanuts and grated, fresh coconut.

Add the poha mixture, cover and steam for a few minutes to let the flavors meld. Season with lemon juice and top off with peanuts and grated, fresh coconut.

A simple breakfast, enjoyed with a hot cup of coffee.

A simple breakfast, enjoyed with a hot mug of coffee.

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Late blooming November daisy from the garden. Enjoy the fall colors, my friends!

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This entry was posted in Diwali, FOOD, Indian food, Vegetarian and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Diwali: Then and Now

  1. I love your post…I can picture that little girl. Instead of describing the breakfast as simple I would say it was a delicious start to the day.

  2. First off, Deepawali greetings to you and your blog and your Google+! 🙂

    And, as always, many thanks for the wonderful dish! Poha/Chiwra has always made it to the favorites-list in breakfast items! And, your pictures and the preparation with its explanation are amazing as ever!

    🙂

    Best regards & Thanks for the post!

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