The colorful festival of Holi has always held a special place in my heart.
Reason? Make a guess… What would be a better reason for a foodie?!
Though this festival holds a spiritual significance – triumph of good over evil; but for me, Holi is important because I get a special treat of delicious Dal-baati this day. It’s not that I am not allowed to savour this mouth-watering treat on other days of the year, but this particular day brings nostalgia to me.
I grew up in a suburb of Bhopal city. When young, I spent most of my years near woods and agro-farms, in the town named Berasia. Every year on the day of Holi, we were invited at Sharma Uncle’s farm house along his other family friends. His farm was spread over nearly 60 acres in area with two farming divisions. One was the fruit farm, where they raised mangoes, guavas, jujube, and gooseberries. Separated by a muddy pathway in center, another side was the conventional crop farm whose stretch seemed endless.
After dabbing our faces with dry colors, the whole noon for us youngsters and our respective dads meant cricket. Near the warehouse, which was just behind the residential quarters, there was a huge open space of around a football field in size. It served as our playground. Now, when I go back in my memories, I guess elders purposely made us sweat for hours on that giant ground – so that we devour the food served!
I don’t know what ladies did this whole time, but I always heard lot of giggles from the quarters. So I guess for them it meant long gossip sessions and, not to mention, cooking. Late noon, our mothers prepared Tuar-dal (Pigeon Pea lentils), which I still remember had Sharma aunty’s special ghee fried-seasoning (tadka) of asafoetida (hing), garlic, mustard and fennel-seeds (Rai and jeera); from which floating burnt chilli, curry leaves(meethi neem) and coriander leaves could not go unnoticed. Along this Dal; they cooked yummy mashed eggplant (baingan ka bharta) and freshly grinded tangy chutney of raw mango, mint and coriander which altogether took the taste to heights of deliciousness.
With Dal and host of veggies, we were served with Baati, which happens to be hard – oval bread made of wheat and yogurt. It was especially cooked on dung-cake fire and then dipped in pure-ghee to enhance its flavour. This desi form of barbeque was done by our beloved Sharma uncle.
After everything was ready, we used to dine with nature – in the fruit farm, near a well, under the tree shades. Even for serving, eco-friendly dona-pattal (dishes made from dry leaves) were used.The ruckus made by birds & squirrels and sun’s hide & seek altogether made the whole experience indescribable.
After this mouth watering treat we had rava (semolina) ladoos for dessert. Locals also refer to it as choorma. I always ate them more than my appetite, and yet desired more.
Such treats were not only limited to Holi, but were frequent. And now I know why I was so fat back then!😋
Now, we no more reside in that town, and we don’t get to see such farms often; but tradition follows. Now the desi-barbeque has been replaced by home ovens; and the baati became baafla (a softer version), but the flavors seem missing.
Now it’s Holi again, I’ll tickle my taste buds again, but the joy is lost somewhere in waves of time.