The other day I was writing something on coffee to be published on “Coffee day”, the 29th of September. It just struck me how now, everyday is some “day”, which is a great concept no doubt because it brings to light, aspects touching our lives that we would normally not stop and take notice of, in these busy times. In my mind, the day still missing from this repertoire is the “Joy of cooking together day”.
Having grown up seeing village women gather around the Sanjha-chulha in the evenings and create deft magic over folk songs, I firmly believe that those feelings of celebration and joy (some of it from gossip) got transferred to the rotis made. Now let’s look at temple cooking, Prasad or langar gets made when multitudes of people get together in good faith and celebration, most of them haven’t much clue about cooking in volumes yet they create that magic.
Even royalty understood the simple pleasures of collaborative cooking; days of shikaar in Rajasthan used to end with conversations over a bonfire with the game skewered on their swords. The refined Nawabs of Lucknow after fishing out a large Angler from their royal reservoir (referred to as “Mahaseer Shikaar” to keep the royal activity in perspective) jacketed the mahaseer with Multani Mitti and buried it in a hole with only the head coming out.
The fish was surrounded by lit coal and the nawabs sat around the fish with “Durust” or purified ghee and waited, as the fish cooked the moisture escaped through the mouth causing the mouth to open, the Nawabs would then pour a spoon of the ghee and the fish would close its mouth, quite interesting right ?
This technique of “Gil e Hiqmat” I thought, was a legend till I observed and participated in it with Nawab Masood Mir Abdullah and Nawab Zafar Mir Abdullah, last of the Nawabi lineage of Awadh. The conversations were memorable; the bliss of eating that fish is a food memory forever. Such conversations, joy and extreme emotion can only come when the objective is none other than cooking together selflessly.
Here’s where the food Sufi in me comes out and appeals …In this world of competitions and cook-offs, lets put our agendas and busy lives on the side for a day and let the objective just be cooking and conversations….let’s discover the Joy of cooking together.