There have been no Christians at our Christmas dinner, solely Hindus and Muslims.
With the specter of Covid looming giant once more, most of our Christian pals had opted for quiet household celebrations. However Christmas was a lot part of our lives that we felt we needed to not less than have a small get-together, particularly to maintain alive the thought of an India that every one of us had grown up with.
As we regretted the darkish flip our nation had taken, considered one of our Muslim pals—whose center identify is Kumar—defined how he went to a college the place he studied the Bhagavad Gita and knew it higher than many Hindus. I recalled how I used to be by no means requested to even learn a Bible throughout my faculty life—which apart from 5 years was spent largely in Christian establishments—the place academics got here from a wide range of backgrounds and my classmates had been from households of native grocery house owners and autorickshaw drivers.
As I’ve usually written, our youngster has grown up in a neighbourhood that celebrates, each in private and public areas, its numerous non secular cultures. We worth and treasure the invaluable life classes she—and we—obtain from Richards City. This doesn’t imply that we’re freed from bigots, simply that they’re nicely hidden in a panorama adorned with shared values, tolerance and the ties that bind. Whenever you reside collectively, you study acceptance and adjustment extra simply—generally, there is no such thing as a alternative.
I bear in mind how a Muslim good friend from Bihar stared on the Christian-run chilly storage promoting its pork bellies and sausages a stone’s throw from the native mosque; how beef fry was freely marketed (it’s nonetheless accessible however not as freely marketed) by eating places close to a temple and everybody bore with persistence the annual clamorous Christian procession and the heaving, noisy meals road of Ramzan.
Certainly, whereas meals is usually a degree of divisiveness throughout this maddening nation, additionally it is a locus of contact between its numerous cultures. That’s how some Marwari classmates in school snuck off to eat khuskha or ghee rice and hen curry at lunch time; some Muslims had been courageous sufficient to eat pandhi or pork curry; and a few Hindus wolfed up beef chilly fry with parotta. The Christians, after all, ate all the things.
Meals was my entry level into the myriad cultures of the northeast, every providing a smorgasbord of choices and revealing to me how these decisions outlined the individuals who cooked that meals. It was by first consuming Naga meals that I sought to know extra about its variety and the individuals who cooked it, because it was with Manipuri meals, which may be as numerous because the subcontinent itself.
Rising up, our entry into Hyderabadi Muslim, Gowda Hindu and Mangalorean Christian tradition was made potential by shut pals. Since I’m penning this column at Christmas time, I can not assist however bear in mind by mother and father’ pals who all the time invited us to a Christmas feast the place the lights had been dimmed, and a rum-soaked cake set alight, its wavering blue flame all the time alight in my recollections.
I bear in mind Fifine aunty, Josephine Sequeira, as a result of my love for sannas—these fluffy idli-like rice desserts made with fermented rice batter—comes from her house, as does my penchant so as to add liberal portions of rum to my meats. That’s what I did on the Christmas dinner this yr, liberally dousing my roast hen in Previous Monk.
Roast hen, roast turkey, greens in coconut milk and my mom’s prawn pulao made up for the absence of our Christmas tree, which we needed to take down after the cat determined to wage a relentless, private battle in opposition to its shiny baubles and plastic branches.
It wasn’t intentional however I spotted the dinner menu mirrored our syncretic culinary backgrounds. The roast turkey got here from exterior, a whisper of our colonial previous and persevering with, fashionable world engagement. The greens and prawn pulao mirrored my household’s Konkan traditions, and the roast hen was only a comfortable mélange of my travels and experiences with cultures as far-off because the Maghrib.
On that balmy, Bengaluru night, our little second appeared far faraway from our grim nationwide realities and provided hope that what was as soon as, nonetheless is and—with effort from all of us—may nonetheless be.
Roast hen with walnut-bread stuffing
1 complete hen with pores and skin
2 tsp sumac
2 tsp za’atar
(if both or each of the 2 spices are usually not accessible, use a light chilli powder and cumin powder)
1 tsp five-spice powder
2 tsp ginger-garlic paste
2 tbsp rum
Salt to style
Slash the hen pores and skin and marinate with all of the elements above. Put aside for 4-5 hours after wrapping in foil.
For the stuffing:
2 slices of bread, roughly chopped
2 tbsp walnuts
1 sprig of rosemary
2 tsp softened butter
Combine the stuffing and pack into the hen. Pull the pores and skin over to cowl and use two toothpicks to safe.
Preheat oven to 150 deg C. Place hen in tray and roast in foil for two hrs. Gather liquid that flows out throughout this time. Open the foil and improve warmth to 200-220 deg C and roast for 45 minutes, basting each 10 minutes, till it turns golden however ensuring it doesn’t burn. Stick a knife in deep—if it comes out clear, your hen is cooked.
Take away and use a knife and fork to carve. The meat ought to come cleanly off the bone.
Our Each day Bread is a column on straightforward, creative cooking. Samar Halarnkar is the writer of The Married Man’s Information To Artistic Cooking—And Different Doubtful Adventures. @samar11
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