Category: winter

The warmth of fat old quilts

The warmth of fat old quilts

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This winter we decided to change our quilts.

It was like the passing of an era.

For years we’d used the ones I’d carried from home when I moved to Delhi for my first job, decades ago. These wren’t the light fluffy ethnic creations one finds these days. Nor were they anything like modern comforters.

These were big fat heavy cotton quilts encased in old-fashioned paisley patterned cotton cloth.

Up in the North seasons are well defined – winter is winter and summer is summer and the twain barely meet. Sometime after October when the days began to get shorter and the nights slightly cool, it would be time to pull out the quilts. Quite a ritual, that was! We waited for the massive storage boxes to be opened and the quilts taken out, officially heralding the arrival of winter.

They’d be laid in the sun for a day to rid them of the smell of naphthalene balls. Then encased in crisply ironed white cotton covers they were ready to be snuggled into. When you pulled one on, not the slightest whiff of a draft dared enter. They were the best partners to have on long winter nights when your teeth chattered and your feet refused to warm up.

If the rain gods decided to visit, the quilts would be out all day. We’d sit long hours wrapped in them, despite the heater burning bright. We’d munch peanuts with coriander garlic chutney and tell endless stories. And when it was time for bed we’d shake them off to rid them of peanut husk and cuddle down for the night. The faint smell of naphthalene balls mingled with that of peanuts and mum’s Lakme moisturiser and lull us into the best sleep ever.

After years of use, the cotton would gather together in bunches becoming a thick, tough, heavy mass. Then it was time to look out for the rui dhunane wale who roamed the streets calling out ‘rui dhunwa lo’ accompanied with the twang of their instrument. They’d get out the cotton and bit by bit transform it back into soft and fluffy balls to be refilled into the case. Freshly filled it would be carried up to the terrace or laid out in the courtyard. Then, our grand moms would sit for hours in the afternoon sun, their daily chores done, gossiping about friends and family as they threaded the quilt. Once done it was ready to use, good as new.

Those weren’t just quilts, they were a bit of my childhood, perhaps that’s why I clung onto them for so long. But then, old has to yield place to new, and so we finally gave them away. As we turned in for the night in our brand new comforters the Husband said, so very rightly, ‘Woh baat hai nahin in me. They’re just not solid enough!’

For more winter nostlagia do drop by my older post here.

Eat Seasonal, Eat Local

Eat Seasonal, Eat Local

I never really was fond of winters. They’re just so cold, no? (Reminds me of Ross who doesn’t like ice-cream because it’s too cold!) They’re supposed to be cold I know, but that’s just me.

The one saving grace was food. And I’m not talking of Nawabi winter desserts like malai pan or malai makkhan I grew up on.

I’m talking regular everyday food.

Winter brightened up our daily dinner table

There was delicious matar aloo, my absolute favourite, peas and potatoes in a thick rich tomato gravy. Or we had peas simply sautéed with ginger and topped with lemon and coriander that could be had a side dish or a snack. Sometimes they teamed with carrots for the sweetish gajar-matar.

There was cauliflower made with potatoes or cooked elaborately into a dum gobhi. There were green chick peas to be made into an aromatic nimona or just roasted to be ready to munch on.

We had capsicums and tomatoes stuffed with paneer or potatoes and baked to perfection; not to mention a variety of greens – spinach and fenugreek and mustard greens made into a saag.

Even the salad dish looked brighter with brilliant white radishes, sweet with a tiny hint of bitterness, deep red beets, tomatoes and carrots.

There were peanuts to pass the time and til laddoos or gajak for dessert.

The rotis tasted better too. Besan ki roti with gur and ghee or makki ki roti with sarson ka saag were couples made in food-heaven.

It was such a relief from the entire gourd horde of the summer – bottle gourd, sponge gourd, bitter gourd, white gourd – lauki, torai, karela. Seriously!!

So why am I talking in the past tense?

Because it isn’t so any longer.

Now we get everything in every season

I find cauliflower throughout the year, the red carrots might disappear but the orange ones happily take their place and we have frozen peas if fresh ones get too expensive. And wonder of wonders I can even get kairis, raw mangoes, in December if I want to make a chutney.

However, it isn’t the same, is it? The peas aren’t as sweet, the carrots not so flavourful and the radish not crisp enough.

The other day I was at a hotel and they served watermelon for breakfast. I didn’t even feel like going close to it. Come  summer and it becomes the fastest vanishing fruit in our refrigerator. The Husband would go to the wholesale market and stock it up because we just couldn’t have enough of it.

There really is something to be said about having food in the right season. Click To Tweet

I’m not going to launch into a lengthy ‘Why’ of it because it is quite obvious. Seasonal food is fresher, cheaper, more nutritious and with fewer preservatives, as also so much more delicious, when had in the correct season. In the larger perspective, it is often sourced locally and good for your local farmer. Besides, half the excitement of it all is not getting it all year through.

And while on that, I have to take back the insults I heaped on the gourd family. They are perfect for the summer – cool and light and easy on the stomach.

It’s rather sad that the children don’t even know that specific vegetables are available in specific seasons, except perhaps mangoes. And that is why they remain an absolute premium fruit for them.

I’m no cook but prompted by Rachna’s recipe I tried sarson ka saag. It turned out really easy to make once I got all the ingredients together and absolutely scrumptious. Wonder of wonders, the children loved it, tucking into it with gusto, first with the makki ki roti and then with rice. It is set to become a regular at our table.

The makke ki roti looks like tiger pugmarks. I struggled to keep even this small a roti together.

Do drop by Rachna’s blog if you’re a non-cook like me and are looking for easy-to-make recipes.

Do you have a favourite food memory linked to a season? A favourite winter staple, perhaps?


Linking up with Shilpa for #FlavoursomeTuesdays

Welcoming Winter

Welcoming Winter

Winter it is.. finally. However here in this quiet Western part of India, it hardly comes to stay. Even so, I find myself disliking it more and more. I never was a winter person and have gotten worse over the years. Age is catching up, perhaps.

I go around shutting doors and windows, yet it makes sure to find that one window I forget to shut and comes rushing right in. I find myself shouting at the kids to wear chappals and jackets. I find myself secretly wishing they wouldn’t go down to play. I am reluctant to go down for my evening walk. I have to admit though, that when I do go, I quite like the little nip in the air which is all we can boast of here.

The kids don’t seem to mind the cold at all, don’t seem to even notice it. ‘Was I ever like this?’ I wonder. Like I said I never was a winter person but there are some things about it that I truly loved. Here are a few..

The bonfires

There’s nothing like a North Indian winter to teach you the fantastic camaraderie between a bonfire, roasted peanuts and hot chilie garlic chutney. That sounds just so Chinese – Let me put it this way – Lehsun aur mirch ki chutney. That’s more like it! What a cosy threesome that is! We’d sit around shelling peanuts, eating and chatting for ages by the light of the bonfire. How we loved watching the fire flare up when we threw in a bunch of peanut shells, to be half heartedly reprimanded by our mum or dad.

Makkhan malai

Then there was Lucknow’s own answer to the videshi souffle – the fluffy, frothy, light as air makkhan malai that would melt in your mouth. It was such a Sunday ritual for us. We’d wait for the bhaiyya to come around on lazy mornings. He’d weigh it out and hand it to us in earthenware plates. We’d compare for ages who’d got more, not believing for a moment that 100 gms had to be the same on each plate. One of my more enterprising cousins would shamelessly ask the bhaiyya for an additional dollop and, to the chagrin of the rest of us, he was never disappointed.

The sunshine

And of course there’s the sunshine. Winter in Lucknow came with the warmest sunshine ever. We’d lay out a rug on the grass in our garden and settle down with a book for long hours of lazy reading. The asparagus creeper would be in full bloom and it gave out a sweet sickly scent that seemed to be a huge hit with the flies. They came in hordes and hung around the creeper all through the time it bloomed. Their buzzing had an oddly soporific effect. That and the warm sun would make sure the book fell aside within the hour and we were lulled into the most delicious sleep ever.

And there were other pleasures..

Snuggling into huge heavy cotton quilts with a hot water bottle when temperatures fell.

The thrill of waking up in the morning and wondering whether it was still night. How grown up I felt!

The delicious smell of fog.. quite like that of the first rain showers.

Coming from school and mum handing over freshly ironed still warm clothes to wear. Bliss!

Blowing ‘smoke’ from imaginary cigarettes. We would try for hours to form rings like we’d seen the villain doing in the 70s flicks. The rings never came but the ‘smoke’ was fun enough.

I do miss all of that. Maybe winter wouldn’t be such a bad idea if I stopped trying to shut it out. I’ll go now fish out my woollens, dress up to the T, and go to meet winter in all it’s glory.

On my other blog: Beat About The Book

Ghosts and Writers #BookBytes 12

Ghosts and Writers #BookBytes 12

I am currently reading Eating Wasps by Anita Nair. Here’s a quote that caught my eye, specially as a writer. “Ghosts and writers are more alike than you think. We can be what you want us to be. We can hear your thoughts even if you don’t tell us. We can read the silences and […]